Sunday, November 11, 2007

Last chance half marathon report

The conditions for today's half marathon are excellent. Partly sunny and cool. It's supposed to be between 0 and 2 Celcius (just above the freezing mark) for the duration of the run, with varying amounts of sun. Once again, my inexperience in racing shows, and I am unsure how to dress. I layer up with a tank top, long sleeved training shirt and then a fleece. I wear shorts, with long pants over them to keep my legs warm until I get to the start line.

Alia arrives at 8:45 a.m., leaving us plenty of time to arrive for the 10:00 a.m. start. As we are chatting I tell her that I had a nightmare. Like many people, I don't sleep well the night before a race, but I also don't often have nightmares that wake me up in a panic. In the dream I am living in an apartment building. I come home to find my front door is open. I can see there is a man inside.

I start to run. I see a girl I know (no one I know in real life) and tell her we have to get to her house to call the police. She lives further than I anticipate and we are running hard. The man follows. I wake up, unsettled... and uneasy.

I tell Alia that I figure it is symbolic... Things that are beyond my control leave me feeling helpless and afraid. The conversation meanders on to other topics.

We get to the race with plenty of time to spare. The start / finish line is near a trendy, upscale market in the downtown area. That means... indoor washrooms! Sweet!

I shed some layers and we head to the start line. I see a running friend there and we exchange hellos.

The gun goes off. My Garmin and iPod go on. I start with my friend, but move ahead after a few hundred metres.

Nausea settles in fairly quickly. It is to remain with me for the remainder of the run. At one point I almost hope I will throw up, just to get it out of my system, but I have no such luck.

I run hard... start out too fast again. But I won't know this until much later in the race. The run is entirely along city pathways, not roadways. I find myself annoyed with runners who travel in packs, taking up the entire path, making it difficult for others to pass.

After about 6 km, I feel the not unfamiliar gush of fresh, bleeding blisters in my right shoe. There is still a long way to go. I notice that my shoe laces have loosened, which I think will make the blisters worse. I pull off to the side to re-tie them.


A cyclist rams me in the hip as I'm about to crouch down. I shriek. He looks at me as if to say, "Stupid cow!"

These are public pathways and we all have to share them. This guy is obviously not associated with the race and, from having lived with a competitive cyclist, I can also tell he is not a "serious" cyclist... His bike and attire tell all... not to mention his lumpy figure. Luckily, he has not hit me hard. I watch him pass me and then crouch down to retie my shoes.

I run hard, wheezing and gasping as I usually do in races. I am down to my tank top and shorts now, having discarded my gloves (a cheap pair of "magic gloves") at the first water station, and tied the long sleeve shirt around my waist.

There is a girl in a short sleeved T-shirt and vest not far ahead of me. I wonder to myself about what it would be like to run in a vest. I have a couple, but I've never run in them.

She and I will battle for the lead between us from about the 7 km point (1/3 of the way) to the end of the race. There is also a senior citizen who is power walking, but moving at what seems to be an incredible speed for a walker... He also passes me at one point.

I think to myself, "I have to get past him. If for no other reason than my mental sanity. I will not be beaten by a walker!"

I push past him. The girl in the vest and I continue to jockey for the first place between us. In the last 4 km I feel myself slowing down. She catches up. We are neck and neck. I push hard. She falls back.

Next thing I know, she is beside me again.

We are in the final 2 km now. I think to myself, "OK, you wanna do this? Then let's do it." I push harder. I am winded. It taking everything I've got. She's good competition for me. She falls behind again.

I keep thinking to myself, "There's a girl on your heels who wants to beat you and a power walker not far behind her. Do not stop now!!"

Everything is burning. Aching. I really want to throw up. I see the finish line.


I think to myself, "What?? All this pain and I'm not even close to a PR?? WTF??"

I cross the finish line and accept the finisher's medal. I turn around. The girl in the vest finishes right behind me. I turn around and congratulate her on a good run. Without her, I would not have pushed it to the end.

I see Alia and I cannot contain my disappointment, "Too slow" were the first words out of my mouth. She starts to tell me that I was not slow. The words float vaguely through my head. I interrupt her... "I think I'm going to be sick."

She gets me to a bench and I almost collapse onto it. I know I ran hard. I can feel it. My gut feels awful. I am wondering about the blisters. Before the race, I had finally rid myself of them and had nice new skin there. That is no longer the case. The sock is drenched in blood. It has soaked through to the shoe. The socks and shoes come off. If nothing else, it will distract me from my nausea to tend to them. As I pull my foot out of my shoe, an involuntary, "Dyuggghhh!" escapes my mouth.

Alia hands me the supplies I need. I disinfect the blisters, lance them, put ointment on them and cover them in bandages and fresh socks.

We meet up with my running friend and head for the post-race buffet. My tummy is upset, but I am hungry. I eat very, very slowly. Still, it's the wrong thing to do. Not long after, I feel sick again. They sit with me patiently and wait for me to feel better.

By the time I make it home, the fresh socks are no longer fresh. They are also now drenched in blood. I don't care. I'm too tired and I feel too bad to care. I plug in my Garmin to find out that I was a minute and some slower than last time... but my average and maximum heart rate were slightly higher. That means I was working harder, but the results did not show it.

I have started to pay more attention to heart rate training. I see that in today's race, I spent a good 11 and a half minutes in zone 5. The rest was in zone 4, save for a couple of hundred feet.

I scroll through my training history. Only twice before have I ever spent that long in zone 5. Both times I threw up. Today, I managed to avoid that, though barely.

I am spent... completely and utterly spent. I grab a blanket and huddle under it. I'm too tired to shower even... and too sore and nauseous to care. I spend the next several hours under the blanket wondering many things... and trying to come to grapple with the concept of what it means to be "good enough."

Thus ends my first season of racing.


Backofpack said...

Your time was excellent! 2:08 is fast! Congratulations on gutting it out and finishing strong.

The sad truth is that not every race will be a PR. You are right - there are times you are working so hard and feel so miserable and still don't get one. But you also know that you gave your all yesterday. You gave it your best on that particular day, and that is all you can do. You are also right in that your next goal is to work on pacing - learn to hang back, at the beginning and set your own pace rather than taking off with the crowd. Hopefully, when you do that, you won't feel nauseous from the beginning, then you'll be able to run better. Did you take in any fuel or drink during the race? And one final suggestion - once your blisters heal, cover the new skin with some kinesio tape (order online) or duct tape. Sometimes that new skin is just too tender to withstand the distance.

ipm said...

love, I find all of this so utterly fascinating and just want to tell you what a great job you are doing and will continue to do in the future!

I still can think back to your knees giving you fits and that one guy saying you would never run.... sometimes it's hard when we aren't where we'd like to be, but remember each race has a purpose...

Sarah, well done!!!

Sarah said...

You may not have gotten a PR, but you beat that girl! You've definitely got the competitive spirit. You'll get that PR next time. : )

Journey to a Centum said...

Nice recap of the race within the race. Heck you got hit by a bicycle and still finished with a 2:08. Sounds like you didn't leave anything out on the course.

Backofpack is the queen of blister care. Hopefully your feet will get a chance to heal up now that your running season has come to an end.


Robb said...

I don't know whether to rejoice or sob...sounds like it was the best of races and the worst all in one. I need to tell you that you ran a good race Sarah. You really pushed yourself to the brink and toughed out a mini-victory over the vested-one.

The blisters must really piss you off. I have no advice on that front.

Rest up and soak it up. You ran hard - like a maritimer would. I'm proud of you.

Downhillnut said...

Girl, you are AWESOME! The clock is not the only measure of your effort, as you see from your HRM, your nausea, your feet, your competitive drive, and your passionate reflection on the whole thing.

You gave it your best, and that inspires me. I will run "Sarah hard" in my next race.

Speaking of which, it sounds like you could use a nice, social, short but still challenging, beautiful, distracting race course sometime in the next 19 days or so. One with soup and cookies afterwards, perhaps...

olga said...

That is some recap...I can see how much it meant to you. I was so hoping you'd say the clock was broken or something - but if not, who cares?! You ran a great race, left everything on the course (sans the gut, good for you) - be proud!

A said...

It sounds like Time is not the only measure of your performance during a race. This time, you worked harder than last and overcame more obstacles (nausea, new blisters, psycho cyclists). You also got to battle it out with the most natural race buddy...AND you won (of course). These are all successes to take into account.
You've had a phenomenal season Sarah. It started with the goal of finishing one half marathon. FIVE races later, you've just finished the third half of the year!!! Only the best and most driven people go to such lengths. I honestly don't know anyone else who is so committed and successful.
You rock!

Downhillnut said...

To distract you while your blisters heal (and maybe send a few more readers your way), I just tagged you in a blog game. You're it :)

Dawn - Pink Chick said...

Consider all that you went through, I'd say your time was pretty dang awesome.

As for vests. I have both nylon and fleece. I love running mine.

robtherunner said...

You left it all out there, Sarah! That is an accomplishment to be proud of. I remember when I used to have the goal that at the end of the race I want to know that I had nothing left. It seems like the opposite for me these days. I am not sure that is a good thing. You've come a long way. Congrats on a great race.