Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Race Report: North Van Run 5K - Oct 1st, 2017

This past Sunday, I ran the inaugural North Van Run 5km race. It was very likely my last run for a little while, and definitely my last race of 2017. It was a great time and an event I truly did not want to miss for several reasons:
  • The event was put on by my friend Kirill, the mastermind behind the West Van Run and whose commitment to creating a true running community is admirable. He has made a genuine impact on the North Shore (and beyond). I wanted to support him, first and foremost.
  • The other two events that Kirill directs, the West Van Run and the Ambleside Mile, are very well organized events I've enjoyed participating in, so no doubt this would be a great event too.
  • I have lived in North Van since 2009 and have never participated in a running event locally, in my own town. I have always had to travel somewhere to get to the start line. North Van is more known for trail races, which aren't something I've taken to. The only road race I'm aware of is a half marathon that is no longer, that took place the same weekend as another race I was always doing instead.
  • I would be 37 weeks pregnant on race day, and thought it would be a nice way to close my "baby-on-board running season".
  • Related to the previous bullet point, my first race after I learned I was pregnant was the West Van Run that took place in March. So its sister event in North Vancouver made sense to be my 10th and final race for this journey.
As with the Eastside 10K race, I opted for a rather last minute race entry. Not that I thought I was going to give birth early, but it was certainly a possibility. It was more that my running slowly progressed to less and less frequent. Perhaps I should say, my running has "regressed" over the past few weeks. I simply didn't want to commit to overdoing it until I felt confident that doing it wasn't overdoing it. Walking the entire race was certainly always a possibility. But you know me, I'm a runner, and I want to run my events, even if I have to take extended walk breaks.

With a couple days to spare before race day, I was informed that there were only a limited number of bibs left. So I registered, having faith that baby would stay put inside me a bit longer. The thing was, I had no idea what my race plan would be. It was a "try to run and see if it feels OK" approach. If it felt fine, I'd continue until I felt like stopping. If it felt bad, I'd switch to walking immediately and walk the whole way. So it was tough to set a goal or make a more definitive plan. But I suppose just showing up and committing to finishing the thing is enough at the stage I was in.

But silently, I made a goal to run at least 3 of the 5km and to finish as close to 40min as I could, although I wouldn't be watching the clock closely to check if I was achieving that time goal. The 40min goal was just something to aim for, based on it being a little slower than previous recent efforts, proportionately slower to the amount of time that had passed since those efforts, with a buffer knowing I may walk up to 2km. Same approach was followed at this event as all my runs of recent days - follow my perceived level of exertion, look at the heart rate on my watch and keep it at or under the level I'm comfortable with, but not look at any performance-based stats (pace, elapsed time, etc.). This is for the sanity of my competitive-self, so I don't feel bad or discouraged for being the turtle at the back of the pack. I've been told by many how the fact that I'm there doing is inspiring and badass, which I do now believe. I should not let myself get obsessed with time. I can do that later when I'm not running with a watermelon attached to my body!

I started race morning with a bold coffee, cold water and pre-natal vitamins, and some peanut butter on toast. Breakfast of a sleepy pregnant champion! I was all ready to head to the start line early, allowing myself lots of time to get there as I wanted to avoid not being able to get through road closures and having an issue with parking. Also, pregnant ladies have a tendency to need a bathroom regularly, so I wanted to make sure there was plenty of time to wait out a long line for the ladies at the start line. 

Of course, being that this race was right here in North Van, something had to go wrong for me to foil the plan. After the above social media moment where I photographed my race bib next to my cup of coffee, I promptly forgot to include said bib with the gear I took with me to the race. I drove myself almost all the way to the start line, and then it dawned on me that I left my bib at home. I pulled over, checked my bag and confirmed it was time to U-turn myself around and go home to find my bib waiting for me on the placemat next to my empty coffee cup. Thankfully, home was only 5 minutes away, but again, I was fighting the clock to get to the start line before road closures were in place. It ended up not being an issue, but I arrived with a jolt of "way to go baby brain" rushing around like a headless chicken type of adrenaline! 

The next dilemma was realizing it was warmer outside than I assumed it would be from looking at weather reports the day before. My confidence that I'd be running more than walking at this stage made me realize I'd be too warm in the long sleeve top I was wearing. I had the shirt in my car I planned to change into post race and decided to change then instead. I managed to get back to my car and change outfits with 2 minutes to spare before race start. Trouble was, the shirt I packed was not what I intended to run in as it's too short to cover my belly support belt, so I was self conscious all run of the fact that this ugly belt was visible for the world to see. I should have brought a different shirt as a backup, but didn't think that through. The most important thing though was that the lighter layer kept me comfy running, and I was likely the only one paying attention to my belt.

I started the race at the back of the pack, running well, managing to pass quite a few runners and boosting my confidence in the process. There was a fair chunk of hilly in the middle of the race, a couple uphills and a rather steep downhill after. I find uphill hard on the compressed lungs and downhill hard because of gravity pulling the watermelon down. So I opted to walk most of that section. In total, I think I walked about 1.5km total. I ran the whole last km and again, managed to pass some runners who had passed me when I was taking my walk break. That was good for the ego! I pushed a little harder at the end, excited to see the beautiful finish line at the end of the Drie Dock on a perfect fall morning, blue sky above and the Vancouver skyline in the background. I came in at 40:30 for my slowest 5km event of my life, but one of the most satisfying!

Finish lines don't get much prettier than this!

Me and my watermelon at the finish line.
It was a good time at the finish line, of course, catching up with other running friends and West Van Run crew members there to cheer and photograph the event. I enjoyed the adrenaline rush of my accomplishment for a little while and then remembered, at 37 weeks pregnant, it was a good idea to get home to a meal, shower, and some rest. I took a race-provided shuttle back to my car, and headed home.

After a brief outing after the race, I started to feel very tired, so I went home and changed in my PJs to rest. My belly was achy for a few hours, likely from overtaxed round ligaments that had to hold my belly through the race. I felt fine lying down or walking around, but it was enough to have me realize that maybe it's now time to stop running until after baby. If I could be this sore after running maybe about 3.5km, which isn't far at all, I should switch now to walking. I'm comfortable with that decision. It's time. I don't need to prove anything further to myself. I ran 10 races in my pregnancy, and ran for months longer than I thought I would. I have kept my body and my cardiovascular fitness strong. Transitioning to running after baby will be that much easier because of this. Labour should hopefully be much more tolerable too, because of this. Why make myself uncomfortable by doing this for too long. I'm looking forward to my long walks I'll be doing now going forward. I'm proud of all I accomplished in the 37 weeks of uncertain times. A couple months off from now until doctor clears post-partum exercise will be just fine.

It's now only 2.5 weeks until the big due date, and I'm so thankful for my health through this process. Thank YOU for your support and encouragement in this journey. 

<3 Zahida

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