Thursday, May 30, 2019

My learnings from my recent half marathon

I did it, I ran another half marathon this past weekend at the Oak Bay Half Marathon. I mentioned in my previous post that this was a bit of a big deal because, while I have run many half marathons before, this was my first one in about 3 years, since before I was pregnant with my daughter. This was a comeback to the distance, so to speak.

It was also special because of who I was running with. My sister in law, who was running her very first half marathon of her life, was my training partner. This race was very much also about celebrating her success. And then two of my girlfriends from Vancouver whom I met through running decided to come for the weekend to visit and run with me, so that made it all the more special too!

Me with my girls Karen, Sigrid, and Michele (left to right)

How do I feel about the race? It was fun to be with my girls, a beautiful course, and I did it. My friend Karen never left my side and it was so lovely to spend so much time with her. She kept my smiling with every soul-crushing km that I struggled through. It was amazing to be there for Michele and her big accomplishment of her first half. I am feeling ever so loved and appreciated to have had friends visit from Vancouver to be with me for the weekend. It was a weekend of awesome. But the race itself, well, I foreshadowed the outcome by calling it "soul-crushing".... Yes, I cramped (again),  I was slow, and I felt defeated, deflated, and I did not have a good experience at all, from a running perspective. It was awesome from a social perspective and I suppose I still got a good workout out of the deal.

I really don't feel like rehashing the event, talking about what causes or doesn't cause my cramping (because believe me, I have tried everything) or talk about finish times etc. I'm proud of myself for doing the event, for taking on the challenge, and for not giving up when it got tough. I am proud of myself for not letting my current weight or body image challenges get in the way of me trying. I am proud of myself for recognizing how badass I truly am, and even though I'm not as fit as I was pre-baby, I'm still way better off than the Zahida we all knew even 12 years ago.

I did not give up - I finished the damn thing, even though there were very few people behind me still when I crossed the finish line. But then again, when have I ever given up? There's a reason why I keep returning to the half marathon distance, even though it so rarely goes well for me. But it's finally time to hang up the towel. I'm ready.

No, don't be silly. I don't mean I am giving up on running all together. It continues to be my favourite sport and likely always will be. It feels good, it's fun, it's full of community. I left this race feeling like the feel-good aspect of running has not been part of the equation for some time now when I run half marathons. So why do I keep putting myself through it? I am going to walk away from trying this distance.

Instead I am going to focus on running distances that feel good and that empower me - distances that are achievable for me without having to do grueling long distance training runs, and that are enjoyable to complete. I will not run longer races than 10km, at least not in the near future. This way I can focus on enjoying my race experiences, be out of the danger zone for cramping, focus on improving my physical health, and possibly, get faster at running too since I love doing speedwork ad now I have incentive. It's so much more fun when you take the pressure off of having to achieve something specific on the workout. It's more about just doing it, not selling yourself short while doing it, no. I will ensure I'm still challenged and improving myself, but I am not adding pressure on myself to be an overachiever.

So what's next? Since the race I've done a a couple stroller runs with my daughter. This weekend we are lacing up for The Goddess Run 10K this coming weekend. I'll be running with my daughter in her stroller, and some girlfriends will be there too. Should be fun and all about girl power! It's also right in my new local community, so will be a great one to experience.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

1 week to the Half Marathon!

Gasp! We're now just 1 week away from the Oak Bay Half Marathon. This will be the first time running a half marathon since before I became a mother - so in October 2016 (as I was pregnant as of January 2017). I'd lost count how many half marathons I had run in my life up until 2016 (somewhere around 30??), but this one, being about 2.5 years later, feels very much like a first again. It's just been so long and my body has been through so much since then. Yet because of past experience, I am filled with both confidence and fear/doubt about how things will go on race day. I know what readiness feels like, yet I also know I am not the athlete I once was. It's a week away, so all I have time for now are happy, positive thoughts.

This race will be very special for various reasons. First, what I mentioned above. It's me taking on a big athletic goal after a big life event that my body went through. Sure, I am not even close to the fitness level I was pre-baby, but I am still pretty badass. I never stopped running, except for about the first 4 weeks after childbirth. I've come a long way and I know I am strong, just a little slower and carrying a little extra weight still. No big deal though in the grand scheme of things. Hopefully the race will go well enough (I don't have big lofty achievement goals, just to complete), and I will be inspired with confidence to keep at it. The one thing I know about running is that it doesn't disappear with age. I have seen many women return or discover for new a higher fitness level once their body is finally recovered from child birth. I honestly believe mine is still in recovery mode (probably because I was somewhat geriatric to begin with, relative to other moms). So getting to a point where running distances is easy again and desirable will one day come if I keep at it.

Second reason why this race will be special is Michele, my wonderful sister (in-law). I saw "in-law" in brackets because over the years, we've become super close. She's my friend and sister, who happens to be my husband's sister. She's running this as her first lifetime half marathon. I've seen her fitness and running ability really improve over the last while training with her, and I am very proud of her and excited for her to achieve this. It's been great to train together, doing our long runs together almost every weekend. I have loved seeing her achieve distances she's never run before in these training runs. As it's a first of sorts for both of us, having support and someone to keep us motivated, accountable, and on task is really important. We've seen so much of Victoria together as a result, as we've taken turns planning routes. We do something a little different every week, so it's also helped me get to know this wonderfully beautiful part of the world that is still new-ish to me. Victoria is a runner's paradise, and I know this well now. This race will be our victory lap after months of training and we look forward to crossing that finish line, and celebrating. Then it's anyone's guess what we'll do as runners.

Atop Christmas Hill with Michele for a photo opp during one of our long training runs in March.
Third reason are my girlfriends, Sigrid and Karen. They are coming over from Vancouver to stay with me the weekend and run this race with me. These ladies are friends of mine because of running; we met through running because of groups we trained with. So it's only fitting that running be the excuse to bring the three of us back together. While I've loved my time in Victoria and now feel very much at home here, my friendships with any history backing them are mostly now long distance friendships, them in Vancouver, and me here on the Island. It means so much to me and helps me feel less far from my old home to have these ladies coming for a visit. They are both much fitter than me too, so having them to push and motivate me in a friendly and loving way on race day can only do good things. And then all us girls, plus my husband and daughter, can all enjoy a celebratory brunch together after. Running is an individual sport yes, but it's so much about the people you run with, share similar goals with, and can celebrate victories and accomplishments with. I love my running community.

With Karen (left) and Sigrid (right) at a race finish line in Vancouver once upon a time!
Fourth reason is this city. I can't claim that I am new here any more, although I haven't yet lived here a year. I'm getting to know the city well, rely less and less each day on GPS and directions (I have much of this place figured out now), and I've participated in races I've never run as a result, giving me a chance to get to know the run community and what it has to offer here (answer - it offers a lot). So I'm looking forward to doing a half marathon I have never done before, exploring Oak Bay, and earning some bling to add to my collection.

With one week left to go, it's all about rest now, trusting in the training we've already put in, trying to regain some flexibility (I have been spending extra time with my foam roller now to get out all the kinks and ouch), running just for fun and to prevent my legs from going stir-crazy, and staying hydrated. The work is done and supposedly, I am ready. Gulp....

I will also mention that since my last blog post, I ran another race! The Times Colonist 10K (TC10K) took place in late April and I ran as part of Michele's corporate team called "The Young and the Rest of Us". It was really fun! Admittedly, I was a little unsure I wanted to run this, mostly because I was picturing it to be nutty with crowds like Vancouver's Sun Run. But while this race is huge in Victoria, it's to the scale of a smaller city like Victoria. It was big, but not unmanageable big. Just the right size to engage a lot of people and make for a great running atmosphere. After the first few kms of weaving around crowds, it got easier to run. It was a really fun energy, a beautiful course that included scenic Dallas Road, and started and finished at the iconic BC Legislature. It was nice to take a break from the hard long weekend runs and "only" run 10K for a change too. I hope to run this one again next year for sure.
With Michele waiting in the TC10K start line corrals

Wish me luck at next week's half marathon, and hopefully I survive the ordeal of 21.1km and can report on it here for you. Thanks always for reading, supporting, and believing in me.

- Zahida