Thursday, July 19, 2012

A special interview with Tanja!

I'm excited to announce that I have another interview to share! Like Monica, my good friend, Tanja, recently ran her first ever half marathon at the recent Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. We ran into each other very soon after her quick arrival at the finish line. She was absolutely glowing - I've never seen such an amazing smile on her face and it's a smile I'll never forget. It was a beautiful reminder to me of why I love running.

So make yourself comfy and enjoy another great read! Here is the lovely Tanja!
Tanja and I with our race bling!
ZJ: Again, HUGE congrats on the awesome race! You set a goal, you achieved it, and kicked butt! For me it's so nice to witness - another reminder of why I love running, and how it can transform. Seeing your giant smile reminds me how good running makes me feel, but more so, how achieving a goal makes me feel. There are times when training is hard, I'm too tired to lace up, and contemplate making excuses to not work out...being reminded of how positive running can be (or sport in general!) is something we can all use. Including me! No matter how much a running nerd (or "runnerd") I am, there are still days when I need a reminder. :-) I think my readers would appreciate a fresh story - one not about me,  but about someone I care about - YOU!

TB: Congrats to you on your run too! You looked AMAZING! It was hilarious how much I hated running when I started - the first 6 weeks sucked. But once I got to the last 3 months, I loved it. The high you get at the end of a run is tremendous ... I have a hunch that you know what I mean.

ZJ: Oh I sure do! No other workout gives you the same feeling! So tell me about your running or general activity level before you decided to train for a half marathon.

TB: Before I started running, I was moderately active. I would swim once, maybe twice a week and then bike a few times as well. I wasn't very strong at scheduling exercise though so I would have some weeks where I'd get out 4-5 times and then others when I wouldn't do much of anything.

ZJ: What made you decide you wanted to train for a half marathon? How did you feel about making this commitment?

TB: I DID NOT want to start running at first. A good girlfriend found herself on the board of directors of Wish Vancouver who were one of the charities involved in the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. She asked me to do the run to bolster the team and I was a sucker for the combination of a friend asking nicely, plus a good cause. I did plenty of whining about running when I first signed up and threatened to walk the half marathon for the first 4 weeks of my training.

ZJ: Sounds like a great reason to start, and you're hooked now! None of this walking business! Tell me about your experience training: what was the best part of training? what was the hardest part of it? And how did you keep yourself motivated and on track?

TB: The first few weeks were tough. I started in March when it was pretty cold and rainy - to be honest, the only reason why I kept going was because I knew that I had some residual issues with one of me knees as the result of a leg that I broke years earlier. I knew that if I didn't train properly that I could do some pretty bad damage to my leg and wanted to make sure that I would still be able to go back to biking and swimming at the end of the race. After a while though, it started to feel GOOD at the end of the run. 

There is something about ending a run, covered in sweat and breathing hard that makes you feel that you've left all of the day's stress behind you. Also, around the 6 week mark of training, it started to get sunny and beautiful - my typically run took me around Vanier Park and over the Burrard Street bridge to somewhere around the area from the Inukshuk to the Stanley Park wading pool.  I also noticed that running was improving my stamina when I went hiking which was another huge bonus and one of the reasons why I'm committed to continuing.

ZJ: A gorgeous route indeed. We're so lucky in Vancouver to have such great places to run. And yes, running is a huge release. I think of it as a cleanse of all things negative. All physical and mental challenges just sweat right out of you! No matter how I feel, a run will make me feel better. In fact, it's commonly said that running is very much a mental sport as much as it is a physical sport. What's your take on this?

TB: So true. I had a honeymoon period with me training from the 6-12 week mark when I could go 1.5 hours comfortably and feel great at the end of my run. Unfortunately, about a month before the race, I went for my longest run ever with my little sister (who is to put it mildly, psycho in her ability to more or less sprint long distances). I ran 17 km (4 laps around Mundy Park in Coquitlam) on a HILLY bark mulch trail. Typically I run at a pace of around 6:15/ km but for that run, I held a pace of 5:30/km. Because of my earlier training, I thought I could get away with it.  Instead, in one run, I blew out all of the hard work that I had done to keep my knee in good condition. I could barely walk for three days after and, even though I had the sense to go to a physiotherapist after, I had to really, really slow down my running for the 4 weeks before my race which was a huge bummer. I did manage to get things back into good shape just in time for the race though but learned a HUGE lesson for next year (start training earlier, go slow, don't get cocky, go slow, go slow).

ZJ: Injury sucks. No two ways about it. Sorry you had a go through it. But I've learned from experience that bouncing back after injury makes the finish line even sweeter! It's proof you overcame! And I'm ecstatic you're already thinking and talking about next year!! More on that later. Now I want to know more about this recent race! What were some highlights? Lowlights? And of course, how was crossing the finish line?

TB: My friend who got me into the run is a long time athlete and warned me not to go too hard for the first half of the run. Between that and my concerns about my knee, I spent the first 10 km - to put it mildly- meandering along. The first 10km of a race are strange to behold. I think some people don't train at all and go out expecting to run. I saw medics helping someone at the 2km mark which made me a bit nervous (would I make it to 3km?!). However, when I got down the hill and hit the 10km mark, I realized that I was barely sweaty. Then this really awesome feeling of 'OK it's go time' took over and I started hauling pretty quick. My partner met me at the 15 km mark to cheer me on and he said from 15-20km I kept getting faster and faster and that I practically sprinted over the Burrard Street Bridge. 

I do think that I put a hair too much into that, at the 20 km mark I was pretty tired but I kept pushing right until the end - I don't have kind wishes for the person who hid the finish line behind a blind corner, I was looking for it big time the last 500m. Crossing the line was hilarious. I was exhausted and my partner had snuck out to get me flowers and missed me crossing because I went faster than he thought I would. My dad thought the finish line was earlier down the road and couldn't find me. So you cross the line, get you medal and then have this moment when it's like now what? 

Mentally and physically I was exhausted and debated finding a tree to nap under until one of my people found me. Luckily, I found one of my people (haha, YOU) accidentally and seeing your excitement was when it hit me - I JUST RAN A FREAKING HALF MARATHON IN 2 hrs 11 MINS!! SERIOUSLY?! Thankfully, my dad and partner showed up right at that time when i was in the elated DID THAT JUST HAPPEN frame of mind. It also didn't hurt that my partner brought me flowers and homemade gluten-free cookies so that I could carb out to my hearts content.

ZJ: Amazing!! And what a sweetheart to bring you flowers and Tanja-friendly cookies! Well-deserved. I'm so thrilled I got to be a big part of your post-finish-line victory celebration. What an honour! Again, I repeat, you looked so gorgeous with that giant smile on your face. I can still picture it. So tell me, Tanja, now that you've completed your first half marathon, what's next for you?

TB: I've been biking to work the last month more or less everyday. My knee is pretty delicate right now and I've been going to physio & a podiatrist to make sure that I'm in a good spot. I'm hoping to start up running again in 2-3 weeks and plan to start with 3x30mins runs a week. I'm debating doing the half marathon again next year or ... maybe ...even a mini-triathlon for fun? The one thing that has been amazing about the training and the race is that it really makes you realize the importance of prioritizing exercise in your life - whether it's biking to work, climbing the Wreck Beach stairs at lunch, or skim boarding on the weekends. When you're first starting out it can take awhile to feel the 'high' of pushing yourself physically. Once you do though, it's a feeling that you never want to lose I can tell you that!

ZJ: Awesome Tanja! It's always a good idea to take a rest after a race and then gradually work your way back up. You gave the race a good effort, so treat yourself to the rest you need. Hope your knee feels better real soon. But the important thing is that you know the importance of active living, and it's going to be a permanent fixture in your life. Congrats on your race, and I look forward to hearing about your upcoming race plans. I'm partial to running of course, but a triathlon would be nothing short of amazing, and hey, you do get to run across the finish line there too. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me and to my readers! You're a joy to know, and I couldn't be happier you've discovered something amazing in running. All the best to you - keep on thriving! 

A couple of kids high on the runner's high!


  1. Oh Z, you put that together so well! Thanks so much for featuring me :)