Friday, July 06, 2007

Half Marathon Report

Quick overview

Official chip time: 2:18:06
mile - pace (minutes / mile)

1 - 28:43
2 - 10:02
3 - 10:02
4 - 12:34
5 - 9:43
6 - 8:46
7 - 10:02
8 - 10:14
9 - 10:24
10 - 6:32
11 - 7:58
12 - 8:31
13 - 10:11
Finish line pace - 6:32

Pre-race report

The week before the race was up and down, full of doubt and fear, as well as anticipation and giddiness.

A couple of days before the race, I went to Dr. Mike for a chiropractic adjustment. As I was laying on the table we were talking about the race and he said, "I can't even believe we are talking about this... not considering where you were when we started."

Took me back to memories of my first visit with him about 14 months ago... Knee brace, not running, not even walking comfortably, in pain and frustrated, spending many private moments in tears. Seems like a long time ago now.

As I was about to leave the other day he stopped me and said, "If I can offer you one piece of advice..."

Now, I have to say that being someone who's run multiple marathons and qualified for Boston, when Dr. Mike offers running advice, I listen.

He continued, "... just one piece of advice: Enjoy it. Enjoy every stride. Don't worry about the time. Just enjoy. You've worked hard and you deserve that."

Good advice, I thought.

I did my last run before the race with my trainer, Kevin. It was a hot afternoon and we ran pretty hard. Well, let me qualify that. I ran pretty hard... wheezing and gasping while he happily chatted away. Show off!

Needless to say, my race pace will be considerably slower than we did that day, I thought, but in any event, the last training run let me burn off some stress. After we talked race strategy and I got a bit of a pep talk, which helped calm me down.

The next day I found myself back in the same spot I was last year, volunteering at "race central". Dawn had e-mailed a while back to ask if I'd help out again. I agreed and this time, I got to volunteer with her, working with the crew who handed out packages and T-shirts to the course marshalls and other volunteers.

I was thrilled to see my good friend, Alia, when she came in to pick up her volunteer package. She's among the normal humans who just don't get the insanity of running. Even though she thinks I'm strange for wanting to run, she wanted to support me and decided that the best way to do that would be to volunteer for the race. What a great friend, eh?

A few runners came in dejected and said, "Registered. Can't run. Injured. Need any more volunteers?" We signed them up right away and I was able to say, "I feel your pain. I was in your position last year. It stinks being injured, but we sure do appreciate the help... and so will those who are running on Sunday."

It was a fantastic way to spend a Friday evening! Dawn's already got me booked to volunteer again next year.

Race report

As is perfectly normal, I woke up with the jitters, afraid that a million things would go wrong. My room mate, Gord, had appointed himself to be my race support for the day, bless his soul. It's great to have such supportive friends and I owe them a debt of gratitude.

Gord was already up eating breakfast when I got up. He kept me in one piece before we parted at the start line and carried all my stuff while I ran and took care of all driving. Am I lucky, or what?

The race itself was fantastic! I had run most of the course in my training and so I knew more or less what was coming. The race went through the grounds of the Calgary Stampede and yes, it's Stampede time, folks! Even though the grounds were not yet open to the public for the day, lots of people were there and the energy levels were high. I was a bit worried about the smells of corn dogs and mini donuts upsetting my tummy, but most of the fryers weren't up and running for the day, so it was all good.

Then, we went through the zoo. This is the part of the course that I had not done in my training because normally you would need to pay to get into the zoo and I'm not sure it would be good zoo etiquette to go running through the crowds of people visiting the animals. Anyway, this turned out to be my favorite part of the course - the greenery, the animals and the zippy little parts of the trail that zig zag sharply up and down hills. I wasn't too keen on the gravel parking lot bit at the end of that section of the course, but it was OK.

After the zoo the course went back to city streets. There were lots of course marshalls and supporters along the route. I remember thinking a couple of times, "God, this is the best run, EVER!"

I had been hoping for a time of 2:45. Then I saw the pace bunnies for a 2:30 finish and slipped by them. I felt strong and it was the second half of the race, so I just kept going. I doubted I could catch up to the 2:15 pacers, but thought maybe I could get in around 2:20, if I was lucky.

I saw Alia marshalling at around km 16 or so. Gord was standing with her, taking pictures. I gave her a hug, thanked for volunteering as Gord joked, "You're wasting time... Get moving!"

I found myself slowing down a bit around mile 12, but then I thought, "You're not giving up now, girl!"

In the very last kilometre there's a short, but brutal hill before the finish line. Lots of people were walking by then. At that point, I was grateful for my hill training, even if it had messed up my knee a bit. I thought to myself, "I love hills! These legs were meant to run hills." I was happy that I did not stop to walk, though it did slow me down a bit (hence the slow split time near the end).

At the very end I was able to kick it across the finish line and I crossed the finish line doing a 6:32 min/mile pace, which made me happy. My Garmin said 2:18:10 -- better than any of us expected, by a long shot.

Receiving the finisher's medal was definitely a hightlight of the race, too.

Medical report

My knees held up! I think the taper definitely helped. My right knee is a bit sore as I write this, but that's to be expected. Overall, I'm thrilled!

My gut behaved! I avoided both dairy and fruit in the 18 hours before the race and took the Pantoloc the doctor prescribed. I'm very happy to report that I did not puke. I did not even come close to puking. In fact, after the race Gord, Alia and I went for breakfast. All I could think about was "Coffee.... Where's the coffee???"

After the race I was sitting on the grass for a bit and noticed my shoe.

"Oh, shit," I thought. "That's blood.

I went over to the first aid tent and grabbed a couple of band aids for what turned out to be some monster blisters.

I felt them coming on during the race, but didn't realize they were bleeding. I'll spare you the photo of the feet. The sock says it all. But really, what's a running event without some kind of medical issue, right?

Post race
Gord's plan was to meet me at the finish line and take photos. In the event of something unforseen, we had a rendez-vous point in the parking lot at the finish line.

I didn't see him when I came in, so I walked around for a bit. I went and got some recovery food and went to the rendez-vous point. I sat on the grass and stretched out for a bit. I didn't have my cell phone with me, so I borrowed one to call him. But I got the number wrong, so I just decided to wait.

After a while I went back to the finish line. A first-aider was handing out foil blankets to runners who were finished. He offered me one and I took it.

Still no sign of Gord. I heard that the first woman marathoner was about to cross the finish line, so I waited around and saw her finish.

Then the most unexpected part of the race happened for me. I started bawling! I hate crying. I hate crying in public more. But I just couldn't help it. All the emotion welled up from somewhere inside me. I walked back to the meeting point and sat on the grass again, with the silver blanket wrapped around me sobbing and sobbing.

A few people asked if I was OK. "Yes," I sniffed. "Just a little emotional."

Among them were the 2:30 pace bunnies - the ones I'd passed. They stopped and chatted for a few minutes (to make sure I was OK, I think.) They told me that they'd both cried at races, too. They shook my hand and congratulated me on finishing and then they went on their way.

After I composed myself I got up again and walked along the finish line until I found Gord. I had been done for well over an hour by that point. When I saw him he said, "How did I miss you?" I smiled and said, "Cause I came in over an hour ago!"

He was ticked that he missed his finish line photo op, but we got one anyway:

All in all, I am thrilled. The experience was fantastic. The medical issues were minor. I felt totally supported by two amazing friends who were rooting for me from pre-start to post-race. My time was better than anything I'd done in training and much better than I hoped for. And I came away thinking about what the next race would be.


Turtle Guy said...

You did it!

This is one of your biggest victories, well deserved!

You must feel like one of those Olympic athletes who train for a lifetime for that once-in-a-lifetime shot. You'll do it again, no doubt, but I can only imagine what it must have felt like to cross that finish line! The last two-plus years of blood, sweat and tears have made it all worth it.

I'm proud of you. Enjoy England and a good long rest.

Downhillnut said...

Way to go Sarah! You overcame a lot to accomplish this goal. Savour your victory!

Madcap said...


Alia said...

Sarah -- You were absolutely awesome today! I know I only saw you from my course marshalling position, but I have to say you looked totally relaxed and elated at the same time when I saw you. There were runners who looked like they were in pain. You weren't one of looked awesome!!

I'm so proud of you. It's been a long journey to get to this point and you did it. Not only did you do excelled at it, you set a personal record in your first half marathon, and you had did it!

You can do anything you want ... including each and every one of the next races you're planning!

You're such an inspiration and I'm so grateful for having shared some of your day with you today.

ipodmomma said...

well done! so exciting to read all this...

hope the blisters heal quickly and looking forward to the next race report...

Backofpack said...

Absolutely awesome Sarah! No tummy problems, a fast time and cool war-wounds to show off - what more could a girl ask? Loved the bloody photos - you earned those puppies!

Anonymous said...

Way to Go!!! Congrats on an awesome finish!! And WOW, great pace ... bet you never thought you'd be doing that!! I knew you could ... its amazing what the excitement and adrenaline of a race does!

I'm so proud of you :) Look forward to seeing you in the morning :) Suz.

psbowe said...

Hey congratulations! YOu pulled through and made it! The nasty blisters proves that you're one tuff one!

Dawn - Pink Chick said...

Awesome and congrats! Yikes about the foot, hope it heals quickly. Thanks again for your help and for the cookies. I really enjoyed working with you on Friday.

craig said...

I'm so thrilled for you. You worked through the difficulties of injury persistently and in the end it all paid off. It's a great comeback story. Made my day.

robtherunner said...

It's been a long road and I've just been reading about it for the past couple of years. I remember the emotions finishing my first marathon although I started to cry the entire last mile before I finished. You earned those tears and they are well deserved. I am so happy for you and it does not surprise me one bit that you were faster than expected. You're a true champion. Enjoy your victory.

olga said...

OMG, Sarah, that is just great! The time, the cry, and the bloody socks - all of it!! A huge congratulation on kicking butt!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. I'm really happy for you that you were able to achieve your goal and have fun doing it.

I hope your visit to England is equally rewarding!


Sarah said...

I read your report when you first posted but forgot to comment! Wow, nice job. You really smashed your expectations! You have so much to be proud of! Can't wait to hear about your next race. : )

Robb said...

An amazing thrill ride! I never questioned your spirit as I know where you come from.

Congratulations on a great race, excellent time and here's to the next one!