Monday, April 4, 2016

Race Report: BMO Sunshine Coast April Fools Run - Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

Well, the moment I'd been waiting for was a success. Yesterday was the BMO Sunshine Coast April Fools Run. It was a wonderful excursion to the Sunshine Coast, a great chance to socialize with friends, perfect weather, another flawlessly planned event, and I accomplished what I set out to do. I finished the race without any pain! I feel as though the injured version of me that I knew is working itself slowly but surely into my past. I completed my 21st half marathon, and my 5th April Fools Run event.

My day began at 5:30am when my alarm rang. I got my gear on, double checked the bag I packed the day before, made breakfast to eat on the ferry, and had my morning coffee. This was a good chance to breathe, and remind myself to be kind to me that day. This was not going to be a half marathon for breaking any personal records. My one goal was to cross the finish line comfortably, upright, and smiling!

I met up with my friends Mary and Christian in West Van at 6:45am to travel together to Horseshoe Bay together to catch the 7:20am sailing to Langdale. Like I've said before, I love that this race is out of town but can comfortably be accomplished as a day trip. These dear friends decided to join me this year for their first time after hearing me regularly promote the race. I guess I can be rather persuasive! The ferry ride was fun - beautiful views, a lot of familiar faces of fellow members from the running community, great company, and a chance to enjoy my carefully packed peanut butter and banana sandwich - a true runner's breakfast!

Once the ferry docked and we off-loaded, shuttle buses were waiting along with a race volunteer or ferry-greeter dressed as a fairy  - the ferry-fairy (how appropriate! and she was very very sweet). The buses were waiting to take us to the start line. The transition was seamless and we arrived at the Gibsons Community Centre with lots of time to change outfits, check bags, use the bathroom multiple times (runners' nerves!!! C'mon, we all experience this!), and wish fellow runners well. In addition to the friends I traveled with, I knew a number of people taking part in the event, including many who are much faster than I am and it would be unlikely I'd see them during the event or even at the finish line if they weren't to stick around.

I even had a very kind lady stop me to ask if I was the one who writes the blog. She thanked me for writing and made me very happy in the process. At this point though I was in a bit of  rush to get back to my things as we were nearing the start of the race, and admittedly, I was also left a bit shy and speechless in the moment, so my socially-awkward side came out and I didn't stop to talk to her further. But in case you are reading this, I hope you had an awesome day yesterday, and thank you for your kindness and for reading this modest blog.

9:17am rolled around, and it was game time! Thanks to Mary's convincing, I ditched my gadgets. If I wasn't running for time, and every km of the course was marked, I had no need for my watch. It would only get in the way of running by feel. If I were to be slow, my watch would only make me aware of it. And this way, I could be surprised by my finish time.

My goal was to finish, and I estimated it would take me about 2:30 based on my training runs. The plan was to go no faster than I did in training. Since it was my first half marathon in a while, I wanted it to be about completing the distance, and training was merely about regaining my endurance. Should I feel I'm ready again in the future, I can then think about working on speed and bettering times. But I wasn't sold on 2:30 anyway. If I needed longer, no big deal. I also knew I was capable of faster if I felt good. 2:30 was to offer me a walk break or slowness buffer.

And I felt great, enjoyed every step of the way, enough to spark conversation with fellow runners as we passed one another, enough to say hi to every volunteer. Well, this was fine, until the 13km mark. My left leg started to cramp, from my calf right up into my quad. I quickly grew very intolerant to the slight camber of running on the left side of the road. Every stride was greeted with an ouch. My first thought was immediate frustration. Cramping AGAIN? I thought I was over that? I thought one possible reason for cramping was running too fast and fatiguing? But I crossed the halfway post in 1:08, so I was clearly NOT going too fast. I didn't do anything different during this run or in the days leading up to it that differed from my training. Was it the recovery period I had? Was it too much? Was it insufficient? Or was it simply the amount of downhill before this point in the course and/or the camber in the road? Neither of these are really factors in the routes I regularly train on.

I'm proud of myself because even though my first thought was immediate frustration, I didn't allow myself to go there for long. I slowed to a walk and when I was ready, hastened that walk to a brisk walk that was fast enough to pass other walkers I saw ahead of me. I would think of my friends and how they'd definitely get to the finish line before me and be forced to wait a while for me, and then I'd quickly return my focus away from feeling bad, and toward the moment at hand. I could tell that brisk walking was doing my legs a world of good and giving them a nice gentle stretch.

I made a decision after walking from the 13K to the 14K mark that I'd keep walking. I wasn't fully ready to run continuously, my left leg was still rather sore, but improving surely. The next 3 kms would be uphill and a slow jog at best anyway in the shape I was in. Would my nice brisk walking pace be that much slower at this point? Likely not considerably enough to risk the end of my race. I walked and walked and paid attention to who was passing me. I walked until I could see the 17K sign and by this point, my legs were feeling nice and "fresh" (it's all relative...). I found something to lean up against and stretched my calves and quads and could see some cheering spectators ahead. It was time to get moving for real and give them a high five as I flew by. I made it my mission to catch up to as many of the runners who passed me. While I wasn't in this for any level of competition, my competitive side fuels me. I needed to pass these folks for my own sake at this point, and I am happy to say that I did. I got my form back, my confidence, and my swagger. From the 17K mark to the finish line, I let nobody get ahead of me. My ego had been hurting a bit and it got its needed boost. I trained so why did I have to walk so much? I proved to myself in the late kms that I was fit and was ready for this event.

The good news is, despite this ego bruising. I did not get me down. In fact, earlier today I registered for the BMO Vancouver Marathon's half marathon event on May 1st. I'll be even more prepared for this one, and the long runs and work I need to do between now and then do not intimidate me in the least. I'll use the same approach though - just finish and have fun.

When I got to the finish line, at about 2:36, Mary and Christian were there on the sidelines cheering me on. Both of them had great performances at this race, and I'm very pleased that they had a great race. Christian had a personal best of about 4 minutes, finishing in about 1:33. He had about an hour extra at the finish line to enjoy the festivities to wait for me! I find those who can run that fast so inspiring. I just teased him about how his race wasn't very long so I had more right to be tired!

After stretching, catching the kids run, enjoying some refreshments, enjoying the views at Davis Bay Beach, and using the changerooms, we hopped on the shuttle bus back to Gibsons.

The shuttles stopped in front of one of the hotels many runners who stay overnight at. We opted to get off there as we saw there was a pub across the street - the Blackfish Pub. The idea of brunch went out the window when we saw the array of other tasty treats on the menu. We had a great celebratory meal filled with laughter and caught a cab to the ferry terminal with moments to spare - we barely squeaked onto the 2:30pm sailing, but we made it on time.

I'm really happy with how yesterday went because I think of how I felt at the end. I wasn't completely spent. In fact, I could have kept going. So the little cramping hiccup happened, but it didn't stop me. And most importantly, I kept a cool head about it, and didn't do anything stupid like drop out, or try to run through the pain and hurt myself as a result. I was smart and listened to my body.

I'm fit, I'm happy, and truth be told, I can't stop looking at the photos we took at the race because they look like me -- a version of me I haven't seen in about a year. I'm officially down 9lbs now and I just ran a half marathon. Zahida is back!

Thanks for indulging me by reading this post.
<3 Zahida

1 comment:

  1. Congrats Z! You look so radiant & happy in all of your photos. I am glad that you didn't stay too discouraged for too long -- sounds like a beautiful morning, race (for the most part) and awesome social and celebratory lunch to mark your return to the half! <3 I am excited to follow your journey to your next Half on May 1st! Way to go!