Friday, October 11, 2013

Happy Runniversary

A quiet evening tonight in Victoria, after an eventful day - day 1 of the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon weekend. This is my third year in a row at this event, and I proudly look ahead at Sunday's race as what I am calling my 2 year 'runniversary'.  Two years ago, in 2011, I ran the half marathon event at this race. It was an incredibly special and emotional day for me, completing my 'comeback race'. It was my first half marathon in over 7 years, one where I beat my previous half marathon finish time from 2004 by 28 minutes. It was a race that set my running obsession on fire, as I worked so hard to get to that moment. It was training for that race that sparked the idea of starting up this blog, to tell the tale of this ordinary girl who struggled with her weight her whole life, lost a bunch of that weight, and then had this crazy idea of running a half marathon. One of the best outcomes of setting this goal back then was that I trained with and raced with one of my dearest friends, Patti. It brought us even closer together as friends, and through her, I discovered what it meant to be part of the running community. And now looking back, having run in 9 other half marathon races and 3 marathons since then, and working and living in the running community, it seems odd that it's only been two years since this all happened. Two very life-altering years.

With Patti after finishing the half marathon in 2011
Last year, in 2012, I returned to this race, this time completing the full marathon challenge. It was a tough race, not just because it was twice the distance (haha!), but because I ran it with flu-like symptoms, and it was also an unseasonably warm day. But it was my 2nd marathon finish of the year, knocking off 7 minutes from my previous finish, and a day I won't soon forget. I also quietly ran this race for Dad, it falling the day after what would have been his 70th birthday, 5 years after his passing. I was very proud of my accomplishment at the race this day on this very emotional weekend.  

A moment of intense pride in 2012
And now, I'm back again for the 2013 event. I signed up for the marathon option again the moment registration opened, I can't even remember when. Given I had such a hard go at it in 2012 and I was now familiar with the entire course, I had to try again. I'd been excitedly looking forward to the race ever since. It was, as a result, a very difficult decision to make when I had to drop down to the half marathon distance after the training setbacks this last while. If it were any other race, it might not have been so hard. But this race, there's a whole other pile of sentimentality tied up in it. But considering the journey these last 2 years has taken me on, perhaps returning back to the half marathon distance is in fact what I should be doing. I have many future opportunities to do the marathon, perhaps even in 2014. Sure in 2012, I completed 2 marathons and 2013 will only give me the one I did in June. But last year I ran 6 races, and this effort on Sunday will be my 13th race of 2013 (with at least 3 more to come). I'm quite pleased with the diversity of race distances I'm now challenging myself to, trying to discover a faster runner that must reside somewhere within me.

This race has become a bit of a tradition, and perhaps something that will continue to be so every year (or many years anyway). The fact that Victoria is Cam's hometown means that participating in this race makes for a very special weekend where we can visit family for Thanksgiving as well. I'm here in our hotel room, in the same hotel as the previous two years, right near the start and finish lines. In fact, the room is identical to last year's (maybe the very same room!) and feels very much like home as a result. I just returned from the same grocery store in James Bay I bought my pre-race groceries at the last two years. But this year, it's all very much different. 2011's race I did with my friend (and training partner) Patti, but last year's race was a solo run. This year, I can't even count how many people I know who will be there running on Sunday. My friends Nancy and Sean (running the full) will be sharing our suite in the hotel tomorrow, Joe (running the half) will be joining for Thanksgiving dinner, several people from my Tuesday interval clinic are here, including our coach, and there's a whole pile of TNT people here too. I'm that much more into this running culture and running community now. This runniversary is to celebrate that too.

My goal this Sunday is simply to have fun. Yes, I have a quiet finish time goal in mind. I know I can achieve it based on current fitness and how recent training runs have gone. But I also know that I didn't put in a complete training cycle, I only really started focusing training on this race again in early Sept, so I can't expect all the pieces to be in place. I am not letting any of that get in my head though. I'm going to give it what I got, but if things don't go well, I won't let that get in my way of enjoying myself and I won't beat myself up. But I have every confidence I can and will do well. I know the course inside out, every turn, every hill, up or down, every milestone, and where exactly I can push hard because I know that finish line approach oh so well. And I also know the emotion and excitement of the event will be something I can feed off of positively. Coach John gave me some great tips for the mental game for this race. With every race, there's more strategy to learn. Every effort, I add a little something extra to my toolkit. Experience and maturity have every bit to do with success as training. I'm ready to take this on.

After setting up the TNT booth at the race expo and working my first shift there, I went for a quick run this afternoon. I didn't get my run in yesterday because we got last minute free tickets to the Canucks game.  I was feeling rather exhausted after a late night last night, an early morning this morning, and then the physical labour of setting up a race expo booth alone. So I figured a short run was the perfect remedy for this (followed by an excellent 90 minute nap!). I headed toward Beacon Hill Park and then down to Dallas Road, following that all the way back around the final 3km of the marathon and half marathon route, to where the finish line will be in front of the Legislature on Belleville. I wore my finisher shirt from 2011 with pride, and took a trip down memory lane of this race. I was pleased at the number of runners out doing the same route, smiling to acknowledge me, perhaps on their own journey to mentally prepare themselves for the event on Sunday

I passed the point on the course where last year I had lost hope after many kilometres of fighting muscle cramping. I remembered what it meant to see Cam there, smiling and cheering for me, and how that turned my outlook around. I passed the mark where 2 years ago, Patti asked me if I was ready to turn it up a notch with only a couple km to go and together we went onward to a strong finish. And I passed the corner where last year, delirious from the marathon, I got way too excited over a group dancing to Gangnam Style (I don't even like the song, but in that moment I did...), one jumped out to cheer me on and high five me, and from that point forward, I ran hard and fast, picking off every runner ahead of me I could still see on the course, one at a time. And then I passed the finish line area, quiet this afternoon with a only a few strolling the Inner Harbour, recalling the emotion of crossing the finish line the last two years, and visualizing the crowds around me: the cheering, the cameras, and all the post-race fun awaiting me.

Sunday, I'm ready to take you on! Stay tuned for my race report. 

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