Thursday, September 19, 2013

Race Report: Vancouver Eastside 10K - Sept 14, 2013

This past Saturday I ran my 2nd 10km race of the year at the Inaugural Vancouver Eastside 10K race. The very moment I heard of this race, I was excited to sign up. An event put on by Canada Running Series, who do an excellent job of organizing first class races across Canada, a race close to my birthday (which became a little birthday party among some of my running friends as a result), and because it is a very different race from every other race I have done in Vancouver. It seems that most races are on the commonly run routes of Vancouver, along the water, around Stanley Park, at UBC, or places otherwise scenic or along the beaten path. This here was in the Downtown Eastside, areas that I have run before but not frequently, an area that many choose to 'avoid' day to day, and perhaps a place people would least expect a race to take place in Vancouver. But this was a run to fundraise for charities benefiting the residents of the area, and a great idea indeed!

I was originally hoping to run this one for a good finish time. I know I am very capable of a 52min 10K based on training and running two solid 41min 8 km races this year. But after the last couple months of minor setbacks (the low iron and the injury), I've had to reframe my goals and reset my attitude and my body. I'm only really getting back into my regular running routine again, getting back into twice a week strength training, and fitting in other activities like swimming where I can. Yup, back to 6 days a week of working out! But it's been a transition and runs are only starting to get longer again.

Knowing my next longer distance run that 'counts' is next month, I said yes to an opportunity to take part in a virtual bootcamp / health challenge this month through Go Fit Gals. I'll write about it specifically when I'm done with it, as the experience has been very positive, but essentially it is a 3-week program with the goal to learn ways of eating cleaner/healthier, and to boost my workouts. This wasn't something I planned on before I signed up for a Sept race. In signing up, I knew it would mean food I'm not quite used to and probably less calories than I'm used to as well, meaning it might not be compatible with having the fuel I need for some of my longer running sessions. No, this isn't a 'diet', but anytime one changes up their nutrition routine, it can and often will impact their training. I knew that I might be sacrificing a good race result here by doing this, but I wanted to take it on to help me reset myself, and because I saw real benefit in what I could learn out of this experience.

So far on the plan, I have shed close to 9lbs. I know I said I didn't feel I needed to do this anymore, but I also don't mind this at all as a little off the love handles has made some clothes look better on me and eventually being a bit lighter might help me run a bit faster. I currently am taking in much less carb calories than I normally would and so my fuel stores that I would normally rely on for those longer workouts are not what they used to be. Don't worry, this is only temporary, and I've been working with Risse from GFG on a plan that'll ensure I maintain these positive results but get my energy levels back where they need to be for the longer workouts that are upcoming. I know it's not the iron anymore because I have a lot of energy and capability in both the shorter and the higher intensity workouts. Also when you lose that much weight in that little time, clearly your body is trying to also get used to itself and a high stress situation like a race isn't going to be easy. So while some of the long workouts have been a slog and I called into question my fitness level, I actually feel very strong and healthy in a way I haven't in months. I believe I'm the lightest in weight I've been now since grade school. I'm wearing clothing I never expected to. Reset successful. Ideal racing body though, not quite, but almost there.

The course was quite flat, and although there were some hills, they were all short and manageable, ones the usual me would power up quickly and get them over with. I started out very strong, on pace for about a 53 min finish crossing the mats at 5km in just over 26 min. The pace I was at felt manageable and familiar. I didn't at all feel like I started too fast, but rather that I eased my way in and found a groove. I was confident I could maintain it and even try for a negative split. My breathing was calm, my legs felt strong, everything felt right.

But at about the 6km mark, the needle on my fuel gauge went straight to zero and suddenly; I progressively got slower and slower until I was at such a slow pace for me that got angry at myself, determined to finish somewhat near what I did at Summerfast this July. But too little too late to get going again, alas, I came in almost a few min slower than that at 57:26, a disappointing time to say the least considering I often complete my 10km training runs in less time than that. I know that this race done again under different circumstances, I could totally kill my finish time. There will be other opportunities to do better in future 10K races and at next year's same event which I now definitely plan to do. And while part of me was running this race for time, most of me was running this race for the benefit of running this race - having fun an enjoying running for the love of the sport, and enjoying a race for the love of the running community.

The race itself was really well organized, which of course, is to be expected of Canada Running Series. I feel it was seamless, which is quite a feat for a brand new race in the community, with so many details to get right. This includes the beautiful finisher shirts, awesome dog-tag style medals, recovery jackets for all finishers, well thought-out course,  perfectly placed aid stations, great volunteers, very little waste, a very capable field of elite runners including Olympic marathoner Dylan Wykes....I could go on and on about all the things that this race did right! In addition, the community we ran through embraced the event - there were people out on the street cheering and encouraging us. A highlight was when I needed a quick walk break to reset my breathing up a hill, and this fellow shouts at me, "Oh c'mon girl, my money's on you, don't start walking now!" I laughed and promptly found the energy for running strong in my legs again. It was a great experience.

But what made this race truly special was that so many of my friends came to join me, knowing that a running race is the way this girl here, the running nut, would want to celebrate her birthday. Running to me is like a party, and a race has such a positive atmosphere.

With Monica at the finish line

Perhaps the most special moment of the race was when my sister, Sabana and her other half, Victor crossed the finish line. Unlike many of the races out there that have a big contingent of race walkers, in this race, they were the only ones. I'm super proud of my sister because she set a goal of completing the walk to just under 2 hours, and they crossed the finish together well under this goal in approx. 1:54. Being the last finishers out on the course, the race announcers rallied everyone to the finish line to cheer them in. My friends and I were front and centre of this crowd and so the personnel at the finish line gave me two medals to present to them when they crossed the finish line. As they approached, I could see the emotion and pride on her face, I got quite emotional myself as I gave them each their medal and hugged them to congratulate their finish.

An unforgettable moment!

So yes, I'll be back next year! In fact, I'm thinking I'll do all three CRS races in Vancouver next year, as the Scotiabank Half Marathon is a favourite of mine I'm eager to do again, and I've never done the Spring Run Off 8km.

In the meantime, I have a bunch of races to come to tide me over for what remains of this year. 3 half marathons, a 5km, and a 9.5km race. Maybe something else will come up too ;-)

And look out for a very special blog post soon about the Steve Nash Fitness Clubs Success Stories contest. I'm sure you may have heard, but I'm this year's winner!!!!!!! So I have LOTS to report! Stay tuned.

Thank you all who ran with me at the Eastside 10K. Let's do it again in 2014!

Friday, September 6, 2013

What It's All About

I think I'm officially done with injury (touch wood). Yes, the whole situation was frustrating and uncomfortable. And I lost a lot of sleep trying to get comfortable at night, during a time of high stress where sleep was needed. But, it's done. I couldn't be more thrilled!

Returning from injury has been a great experience, for more than the obvious reasons of getting back to activities I enjoy and getting back on track with training routine. Prior to injury, I was stuck in a rut with my training. I was getting frustrated with my lack of endurance in the time I was struggling with low iron. I was dreading my long runs. I was daunted by the thought of the marathon and whether it was realistic. It was the day after I decided I was dropping from the marathon to the half marathon in Victoria that injury hit. I recall my reaction to this as frustration as I decided something consciously, to slow down and take a break, before my body had to send me the very obvious "time to slow down" message of an injury. This message wasn't needed as I was planning a break anyway.

My first run back, I realized why getting injured was fortuitous, somehow. If I had taken a break from running and simply resumed a week or two later, I'd probably still return with a bit of a poor attitude, still discouraged and sad that I had to let this marathon go. I'd probably be inclined to slack off in my training while feeling like I need to push myself all at the same time. I'd think about what distance I need to cover to maintain my endurance to be OK for the 3 half marathons I'm doing this fall and somehow be disappointed in myself for it not being anything close to the mileage I was pulling before. But because I was injured and forced to stop completely for 3 weeks combined (2 weeks at first, and another week later), I came back hungry. I came back craving a run, needing to run, absolutely desperate to run again. I am not me without the run. I had to get it back.

No matter how slow I was moving that first 6km back, it didn't matter. I didn't even put the Garmin on. I didn't look at the clock when I left home or when I got back. It was one of the best 6km runs in a long time for that reason. It wasn't about accomplishing a training goal, but just to feel how amazing it was to move again, to feel strong, to propel forward, breath and sweat heavily, and watch the pavement move rapidly under my feet. It was a run for the sake of the run. I did experience some discomfort this first run back so I kept it short at 6km, and planned a 12km for my next outing. This one was flawless - good pace and zero pain. And I think I was probably smiling the entire time! It was nothing even close to what a long run would be if I was still training for the marathon. But somehow it was the most satisfying run I had experienced in a long time. I was out alone for much of the run, out on some trails in Stanley Park and a rainy seawall. I felt truly alive. I felt I conquered something extremely important. I was reminded of the sheer joy of running and how amazing it feels to be healthy and capable of running long when a few years ago, such an activity was an impossibility.

And that's what it's about. Yes, I will do another marathon and soon (I have an idea for what that'll be), and many more after that I'm sure. But until then, my goals to improve my performance at shorter distance races are respectable goal. My most important goal of it all is not at all a specific running goal. It is to not lose sight of the most important; I cannot forget of what it's all about and has been about all along - my health and my happiness.

This week has been amazing too, and another reminder of that same lesson. I not only am back again after a second (and related) bout of injury, and now truly training without pain, but the excitement with the Steve Nash Fitness Clubs contest has increased. I was contacted on Tuesday this week to let me know the launch was rescheduled and is now on Sept 17th (my birthday!) and to schedule an interview and workout filming that happened this morning. On the same day I noted the changes to the web site that showed some of what they did with the photos from the shoot last month, an ad of me running and "going for the gold" appeared on the web site along with my story, and in posters plastered in Steve Nash gyms all over the place - one particularly large one at the entrance to the gym I work out at in North Vancouver. 

To say the least, this has been a really big ego boost and an exciting time for me. I've been sharing this excitement and joy openly with friends, family, and other members of my community via social media, and in general conversation. I've gotten so much positive support and congratulatory remarks. I've had an outpouring over the last few years and even more now of people contacting me in one way or another to say my story has inspired them and their own journey. It has felt really good. It has humbled me. But I had a thought today and a realization, especially after giving the interview this morning and being asked to offer advice and inspiration. I realized for how many years I held myself back, my confidence was silent, and I didn't feel like I had a voice. Now I realize I have a voice, I have a story, and I'm so eager to let it all out and share.

But I wonder if sometimes me being so open, so candidly excited, so willing to share, if it annoys some. If some don't want to hear my story of success because they struggle. There are some people I'm surprised haven't commented at all to me about the whole thing even though I've mentioned it in person (they somehow changed topics). I guess I expected they might be happy for me too. But then I realized that a lack of reaction doesn't mean they don't care. In fact, if I have annoyed them, that shows they do care - they just haven't been able to turn that reaction into something positive. I don't feel I share in a way that shows off. I am conscious of maintaining my humility. My motive is not attention or compliments. I share to simply share. I share because I believe our world needs more happy stories. I share because a smile can be contagious. I believe a story of success, no matter what type of success it is, is worth sharing. I'm not responsible for the reaction others have. If anyone can understand feeling frustrated with a health struggle, it is me. I know when I was the former version of myself, I too had a poor attitude toward those who succeeded somehow when I couldn't. I probably reacted in less than positive ways when they told me about all the great things they were doing that I simply wasn't or had no perceived hope of doing.

My goal for sharing is this - this is what's it's all about: to be an example of how realizing a goal, no matter how big, is possible. Anyone can change their life. All we need to do is lose our fear and it certainly doesn't hurt to dream a little. We can't let positive stories of success annoy or brew negativity. Instead we must allow them to be a reminder of what our own story could be if we'd only pick up the pen and start to write it, not letting go of that dream that started it all.

I'm afraid I don't know the source of this quote as a friend posted it up on online as not her own words (I will edit this post when I find out who to credit).  But anyway, I feel it sums up so beautifully my perspective:

"Far too many people are fearful of the unknown, comfy with putting in the least amount of effort, and not willing to put up with short-term pain for long-term gain. Don’t be one of them – you know better than that. You know that growth and progress require discomfort. Every time you stretch your emotional, intellectual, and physical muscle groups, discomfort arises just before progress is made.

In all walks of life, by committing to continuous, small uncomfortable steps forward, you are able to sidestep the biggest barrier to positive change: Fear.

Also, remember that growth begins at the end of your comfort zone. Not only is it important to accept the discomfort of taking steps forward, it is also necessary to let go of comfortable routines and situations from the past. Holding on to the way things were, prevents you from growing into who you are now, and who you are capable of being."