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.