Friday, May 25, 2012

My next race


I can hardly believe that my next race is a month away. I remember the day where doing one race was a big deal and also very much a rare occurrence. Now, it's a lifestyle. I'm a runner. I'm an athlete. I race.

Why? I don't race to win or to prove my awesomeness. Compare me to others who join in on the very same races as I do, I'm a middle-of-the-pack average runner with nothing awesome to prove whatsoever. But the very act of choosing to race, training to race, finishing my races, and lacing up to race over and over again, I'd say that in of itself is indeed awesome and makes me stand-out in a crowd Racing keeps my running focused. I run for joy and I run for health. If I had no races to prep for, I would run for these reasons and be perfectly content. But when there's a race to prepare for, there's a goal to be set. And thus one other reason to run comes about organically: I run to continuously improve.
My next race is on June 24th - The Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. I am very excited about this race for a number of reasons. Oh so excited!

I have run this race twice before: in 2003 and in 2004. When I ran these races, I was a much different fitness level than I am today in 2012. Oddly the 8 or 9 years that have passed and "aged" me have strengthened me and made me fitter, leaner, and meaner (but still kind-hearted, don't worry). Running my first and second half marathons when I was younger was such a big deal for me. I remember how proud of myself I was. And it was the fact that that pride never faded that I was able to convince myself a few years ago that I had it in me to get fit again, run again, and accomplish the same, if not greater things as a runner. If I could do it then, I most certainly could do it now. And I have indeed proven that so.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Product Review: CEP Compression Socks

Love my socks!
I know a lot of people are skeptical about running with compression socks. And when I wear mine, I certainly get a lot of funny looks from those that don't understand. But since getting myself a pair of CEP Compression Socks, I've noticed such a world of difference in my longer distance running. I can't imagine going without them now.

No, I don't wear them as a fashion statement. But I have to say that I'm pleased that wearing them is something that's respected and understood amongst endurance athletes. As someone who has a medical reason to wear compression socks, I'm so glad that it's possible to get some that are breathable, fashionable (they come in all kinds of funky colours), and completely functional to wear for sports.

Yes, I have a medical reason for wearing compression socks. You may recall me writing about how in October 2010, I had surgery on both of my legs. This was to correct inefficiencies in the circulation in my legs, removing problematic varicose veins, and relieving the pain I had in my right leg as a result of a scary blood clot incident I had earlier that year. This was one heck of an uncomfortable experience! Of course, having surgery means that the problem has been corrected. But the doctor also advised me that it's best to wear the compression socks I have any time I am going to be doing things that are harder on the legs such as standing long periods of time, being on an airplane, etc. This will allow proper blood circulation and prevent discomfort, swelling, and future problems down the road.


So it makes complete sense that if I'm running long distances, the same rule applies. Running is hard on the legs. Running is extended time on one's feet. I was skeptical about trying a sporty version of compression socks, knowing how my medical socks (i.e. not at all sport and fashionable socks) fit and what difference they make for me on days I'm on my feet. I couldn't imagine something that could be bought without a prescription, but in the accessories department of a sports store, to be so effective. I thought it was some sort of weird trend only attempting to make something scientific cool. I was wrong. They are scientifically sound and cool.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pain is temporary, pride is forever

After just under a couple weeks of recovery, I am back into training mode. It feels good to be back and to refocus on new goals and new challenges. Training for the upcoming half marathon means I don't need to do the mileage I had been doing to train for the marathon. The focus is now on specific adjustments to my training for going faster over a shorter distance. It's quite exciting :-)

The last two weeks have been great. Every now and then I catch myself remembering the feeling of crossing the finish line after 26.2 grueling miles and I can't help but smile. I did it. I really did. And I have the memory of seeing my family there smiling at me at the finish - one of the most special moments of my life. And it's something I will never ever forget. No matter where life takes me, how many marathons I end up running, and whenever the day comes that I can't run that distance again, I'll never forget my first marathon. As hard as it was, it will always be special. And no matter what, I will always be a marathoner.

To celebrate my victory and give myself a permanent reminder of how far I've come, look at what I did :-) Yes, it's real. It won't wash off.

I don't want to ever slip back into the unhealthy lifestyle I once had. This will be a reminder for me always of the pride and happiness I feel now, knowing what I have achieved. I don't ever want that feeling to go away. I want it to be permanent too.

Since the race, the official photos from the race taken by Marathon Foto were released. I was so pleased with the photos, I splurged and bought the whole digital photo package. Here is just a small sampling of the many photos they took of me. I think it summarizes the joy I experienced. Hope you enjoy them too!
Somewhere around the halfway point
Approaching the finish line and getting really excited!


Crossing the finish line, at last!

Overcome with joy, I did it!


The "official" bling photo


Friday, May 11, 2012

Looking Ahead

It's been five days since the memorable marathon day. I opted to take the entire week off of running to allow my legs to recover a bit before I start training again. Soreness is gone, the blisters are almost healed, my appetite is back to normal, and I'm feeling much less tired. I'm ready to run again.

It feels a little strange being where I am now. Since January 1st, I've had my sights set on one goal. I ran 4-5 days a week in preparation for meeting the goal. Now suddenly, the goal has been achieved, and I've not run in 5 days. Something's up. Something's missing.

I wrote a long time ago about the emotional rollercoaster ride of being a runner who enters races. You work up to a goal, achieve a goal, experience a high / adrenaline rush, then it's over. One can run the risk of feeling a bit blue once that adrenaline rush wears off. I think this is part of the reason why running is so addicting for me. It's not so much the adrenaline rush that I crave, but more a reason to be driven, an end goal to keep focused on, and the feeling of accomplishment. And I think this is why I keep entering races, so I don't have too much of a void to wonder, "what now?"

Let me clarify - I am not feeling blue. The rush hasn't ended. I haven't forgotten that I just ran my first marathon. I just simply look forward to the next step. I'm itching to get back in the game.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Race Report: BMO Vancouver Marathon - Sunday, May 6th, 2012

I'm a MARATHONER!

I did it! I completed my first marathon, the BMO Vancouver Marathon. It was not at all easy. Not that I was expecting it to be easy. But I wasn't expecting it to be as hard as it was.

I can find all kinds of ways to explain what went wrong. But after hearing from others who experienced some of their own hurdles today, I've decided that it was the full moon, that crazy big "super moon" we had last night.

I started out feeling strong and running effortlessly. I wonder if I started out too fast, but it felt effortless and I kind of forgot that I was running. I was enjoying the sights of the beautiful new course, showcasing some of Vancouver's finest areas, on a gorgeous sunny and warm Sunday morning. I was also enjoying the fun atmosphere - all the runners having fun; friends, family, and community members out cheering; lots of musical entertainment including a guy who sounded exactly like Michael Buble, and so on. I felt good.

I finished my first half of the marathon in what felt like an effortless 2:12:11. Being the second fastest I've ever run a half marathon distance, and being that it felt so effortless, it gave me huge confidence for a strong finish to today's marathon. It also got my hopes high for the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon I am running in June to finish there with a personal best. Stay tuned! It's going to happen!

But shortly into the second half of the marathon race today, things changed. Somewhere around the 23K mark, both of my thighs seized up into massive cramps. I was in absolute excruciating pain. I knew there and then that it was unlikely I'd finish within the time I thought I could. There was no way I could maintain the pace I was at. I had almost 20K still to run and could barely walk, let alone run. I was moaning in pain. Kind runners around me asked if I needed help as they passed me by. I said no, thanked them, and did my best to move forward, one foot in front of the other. 

Again, I can't explain why this happened. I trained smart. I followed a fueling strategy that worked like a charm in my training. But bad did happen and I had to suck it up and keep going. Giving up and getting a DNF was not an option. I had no idea how to stretch out my legs. I did try, a few times but nothing seemed to help except for walking. I just had to keep going. Believe me, I was tempted to seek help, but too stubborn in my faith in myself to go down that road.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Tomorrow!

Race day is tomorrow. What can I say - I'm psyched. I'm nervous. I'm thrilled. I'm in utter disbelief.

I'm trying to think of it as just any other long Sunday run. It will seem less daunting that way and enable good rest. But who am I kidding? It isn't just any other long Sunday run. It's a big, gigantic race, a distance I've never run in my life, and a big party with 15,000 athletes - 5,000 of which are running the same distance as I.

I look forward to writing my post-race recap here. I hope and pray it's one filled with joy as I describe a big success. Of course I fully expect it to be that way. It simply comes down to how I define success for tomorrow.

Over the past week or so, I've been asked on several occasions what finish time I'm expecting to achieve. Of course I know what I should be capable of, and what finish time I really hope for. And I had to estimate a time so those who plan to catch me at the finisher's area know approximately when to expect me. But really, I'm just looking to finish the race. Just crossing the finish line with a smile on my face is a big success in my mind. Simply crossing the finish will put me in the group of the 0.1% of the world's population who has finished a marathon race. And then I'll know what I'm capable of, and be able to set finish time goals for my next marathon (FYI, I'm thinking it'll be Victoria in October...at the earliest). But of course, if I finish within a good time too, I'll take it! I've worked hard enough to get there, so I shouldn't underestimate my ability to get there. I just don't want to set myself for any kind of disappointment.

So by this time tomorrow, I should be making my way around UBC or so, and have over half the course to still run. But that doesn't scare me. I've run the course, I know what to expect, and I'm strong.

Thank you to all for your support and encouragement!

love Zahida

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

5 more sleeps, and learning to let go

5 more sleeps until race day. I am starting to get over my taper demons now and am simply enjoying the extra rest. While it's weird to have all this extra time, running much less now than I was in the peak of my training, it's been refreshing at the same time. It's a bit of a vacation or retreat from training: a nice break for my body. I'm priming myself for the biggest physical stress I've ever put on my body in my entire life. Sounds like awesome fun, doesn't it? It's getting excited about doing this though that makes me truly feel like the athlete that I am.

I'm focusing on rest, hydration, more rest, and good nutrition. Drinking lots of water and having lots of vitamin C rich food to mitigate risk of getting sick after the race as running such a distance is likely to tax my immune system. I'm having lots of protein and carbs, to allow my muscles to heal after months of stress and for them to be fueled and ready for the stress of race day. And I'm making sure every night, I get at least 8 hours of sleep, as there's a good chance that the night before the race, I'll get minimal sleep. My plan this Friday is to go to bed really early, as the sleep 2 nights before race day is the most important one of them all.
As for the mental part of the game, I'm finally learning to let go. After some emotional times, and several moments spent over-thinking the details of my training, I've finally realized it's time to just rest my mind too. Why rest my body if I continue to stress my mind? That would be counter-productive, right?... Exactly. That's what I thought.