Sunday, February 9, 2014

Race Report: Kajaks Steveston Ice-Breaker 8km Road Race

A week ago today, I ran my first race of 2014, and my 3rd ever 8km race at the Kajaks Steveston Ice-Breaker 8km Road Race. It was a great day, and I came out of this unexpectedly with a new personal best for an 8km race.

This race is described as a great speed tuner before the First Half Half Marathon that takes place 2 weeks later. It's also the first race of the Lower Mainland Road Race Series, attracting quite a fast field of runners. Being an out and back race on a flat course, it's both fast and inspiring as you get to see the elites zip past you after the turn around point and get a sense of who is competing.

I was introduced to this race in 2013, choosing to run it on a whim with its low registration fee, the fact it takes place in Richmond, the town I grew up in, and knowing the 8k distance isn't one I had had previous experience racing. At the time, I hadn't really done a lot of higher intensity/speed training, so signing up was for fun to see what I could do if I pushed myself. It was hard, but I had a great time doing it, and left feeling very empowered about finishing in 41:33.

Since then, I started to actually work on speed, but being plagued by injury and illness the last several weeks before the race left me with little confidence about running this race well. In fact, even the drive over to the start line, I was battling negative self-talk, telling me I'd injure myself worse if I pushed too hard, warning me I wasn't ready, suggesting I should have stayed home. I jokingly told myself, "whatever you do, don't be slower than 2013," fearing inside that I wouldn't make any improvement to a race result I achieved with no speed training. I won the battle in the end, and told the negative-talk gremlins to take a hike and told me, "seriously Zahida, just focus on having fun today, but give it your best shot no matter what"

I am really proud of my approach to this race. I recalled my success in the Cunningham race I completed in October 2013, my fastest race result to date. The secret to my success was a lengthy pre-race warmup and minimizing the amount I looked at my watch during the race. I knew there was a possibility my pace wouldn't be anywhere close to what it was at the Cunningham, so why obsess over it and look at my watch, possibly being disappointed by what I see? I arrived at the Steveston Community Centre just before 8am, found a corner and a workout mat to do some warm up muscle activation exercises, then I hit the pavement and ran for 20min. I had 10 min before the gun went off so after finding the washroom one last time (c'mon, we all get pre-race jitters!), I headed to line up at the start, but kept my body moving the whole time.

The challenge I'd been facing leading up to the race was intense sciatic pain every time I'd start or stop running, anytime I'd turn a sharp corner, or go down a hill. So unless I was going straight, I was in discomfort. I wanted to start running this race strong but I knew that there would be challenges along the way and I'd experience pain at least a few times. I refused to let that awareness disarm me. My warmup run felt really good and smooth, and I knew I could get that feeling to sustain itself during the race if I didn't stop moving after the warmup and if I took the first few hundred metres slow and easy. When everything loosened up after those first few hundred metres past the start line, I went for it, didn't look at my watch until the turnaround point, and then again at the 7km mark, just to see how I was doing. I was thrilled to see I poised for a personal best, even though literally every single turn in the road was painful and the turnaround required me to turn the corner practically walking. I allowed myself to express my pain in the moments it came, and powered through the moments I felt strong and smooth.

Gritting my teeth as I pushed to the finish line.

I finished the race in 40:58 which is a personal best for an 8km race. I know I can shatter that time though and I will as I continue to get healthier and be able to run hard without pain. But this was a great confidence boost to start the season. It was also wonderful to be back in the running community with the excitement of a race and the ability to catch up with friends at the finish line. I'm looking forward to a fun 2014 of achievement.

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