Sunday, April 27, 2008

The best of times in the worst time

I ran the Calgary Police Half Marathon today! I think everyone was happy at the start line because it was the best day we've had weatherwise in a while. Yesterday was nice and much of the snow melted. By today, more of it was gone and for the most part, the race course was clear of ice and snow, except for one little patch going down quite a steep hill in a shady area of the park.

Before I get to the race report, I'll give a quick follow up to the last post. I had my monthly consultation with my doctor about the Accutane. I got to the point where I had made an executive decision that I was quite hesitant to tell the doctor about, figuring that it probably drives them nuts when patients do what I did, which was to adjust my own dosage. I cut it down by 1/3.

When I told her about the side effects, she nodded and said she had a lot of athletes, especially runners and dancers, who were particularly affected by the muscle and joint pain and some had to stop the meds altogether. Instead of being miffed with me she said, "Good, I'm glad you did that. If you need to reduce it even further, go ahead. Don't mess around with it, not this stuff."

I was happy and relieved to hear her say that! I was also quite pleased that she considers me one of her "athletes"! :-)

By cutting down the dosage by about 1/3, the pain was cut down by almost 2/3, or even 3/4. I still have other side effects and there's some pain, but I can live with it without daily doses of Ibuprofen just to get through the day, so I am much, much happier!

Due to the health issues that have popped up since January, and the fact that I had to take 7 weeks off running in February and March, my goal for this half marathon was to finish before they closed the course after 2.5 hours.

And to keep my shirt on.

Some of you know about my tendency to overheat. I have this tradition of ripping off my shirt part way through a race. I thought I'd start with as few clothes on as possible today and see how it went. It was around 3 C (37 F) when we started, I think. I was in shorts and a tank top and that was perfect for me. I am getting to know myself and my running style enough now to pay attention to what works for me and not just do what I think I "should" do.

I was the only person that I saw at the start line in a tank top, though by the end of the race, many people had stripped down and had layers tied around them. I did contemplate taking off my tank at one point, but then decided against it. I didn't think it would have made that much diference, so I opted not to.

The time I had to take off due to the infection in my foot affected my fitness and it was definitely my worst clock time ever. Having said that, it was also the best time I've had as far as enjoyment goes. I knew people who were running and we had agreed to try and meet up either before or after, to say hello and offer encouragement.

My friend Alia, who has supported me for every single half I've ever run, was at my house to pick me up at 6:50 a.m. She is now "experienced crew" and was offering some words of wisdom to the fiance of another friend who was running. It was the first race for both of them and I'm quite sure they appreciated her words of support.

In addition to the half marathon, there was also a 5 K race. I had heard that Dawn was running it, but I didn't see her there, despite keeping an eye out for her. I also learned later that Leana not only ran the 5 K, but she had a PR. Woo hoo! Way to go, Leana!

Leslie, a girl who works at the gym I go to, was running the 5 K as well. We had pre-arranged to meet up at a pub after for lunch, along with some others and that was something I was looking forward to.

Two other girls who work at the gym, Linsday and Nate came out to support the two of us. They ran with Leslie her for race, which started a half hour after the half marathoners, gave her a hug at her finish line and then ran backwards along the course to find me and ran with me for the last 12 K of my run!!

Essentially, they ran the entire half marathon course (in much less time than I did, I might add!) and they were not registered racers. Their entire purpose for being there, starting at 8:00 a.m. was to support the two of us. I was floored! In part, I thought it was nuts that anyone - much less two people - would do that. I don't train with either of them. Linsday is a high level track competitor and I'm quite sure that her warm up speed is faster than my speed work. Nate is a competitive swimmer who has also competed at high levels. Both of them are super, super fit and way, way out of my league!

They said it was fun for them because there was no "race pressure". They just came out and had a good time.

At km 15 or so, I had another nice surprise. I saw chalk writing on the pathways and thought to myself "Hhhmm... that's one of Karen's trade marks. But I don't think she's volunteering here today." She was not a registered volunteer, but went out to support people and cheer on runners. She strategically placed herself at the bottom of the most brutal hill of the race. I saw her and we had a quick hug before I tried to catch up to Lindsay and Nate again. I ended up walking part of the hill, but without the support, I'm sure I would have walked the whole thing. Many people did.

I was so grateful for Lindsay and Nate. The joint pain was getting to me in the second half of hte race. They ran, kept me talking (well, I listened more than talked, as I was quite out of breath) and cheered by saying stuff like "Look! We're at kilometre 17! Only 4 more to go! You can do it, Sarah!"

I'm not sure I would haved finished at all without all that today! So in that sense, it was definitely the best time I've ever had racing. I felt so supported and encouraged, I had a great time.

My clock time was my absolute worst ever, though I did meet my goal of finishing before they closed the course at 2.5 hours. I checked the Garmin stats when I got home. My average heart rate was a solid 160, with a maximum heart rate in the 170s. That's about what I've done in other races, so I know that I was pushing hard today. I was slow. And I gave it my all.

Despite the high heart rate, my gut behaved, which was also wonderful. I has some nausea during the race, but nothing serious. And after I had no issues at all, which made it even better.

My bunion got its usual big blood blister, but it didn't break during the race. I was able to lance it and patch it up after the race on my own. I decided that it's much better to do that than have it burst during the race.

I have always been grateful for the support I receive for races, especially from people like Alia who make a special effort to be there. I'm not exactly a high level athlete, but running is a big part of my life and it means a lot to me.

I have been an official, paid up member of a local running club for almost 2 years now. I've never really run with them, thinking that I was not good enough. It's a mental thing that I will work through.

Today helped push me a little further down that path. This is the first time that I've ever been at a race where I knew so many people, said hello to running friends, felt bad that I missed seeing others and had unprecedented levels of support and encouragement from friends - both old and new. I am starting to let go of the idea that I am not good enough and learn to enjoy running as both a fitness and social activity, without feeling too intimidated to associate with others who are more advanced than me. I told Lindsay and Nate that one of my running goals is now to get out and pace for and encoruage other runners when they need it, so I can pay their generosity forward.

Today was the worst clock time I've ever had. And the absolute best time I've ever had at a race! And managed to keep my shirt on, too. :-)


She Who Makes Waves said...

WOW! Congratulations!

Your will power and determination shown brightly today! What a wonderful circle of support you have. They all know you are an athlete.

You are an inspiration and have a wealth to pay forward.

PS With a goal of finishing upright with a smile on my face, I was happy with 2:15:50.

angie's pink fuzzy said...

YAY!!! you made your goal, you had fun, you had fanTAStic support; what more can a runner ask for?! WOO HOOOOO!!!

Backofpack said...

Aren't friends the best? That's what our running group is all about too.

Hey, I've greatly reduced the blister on my bunion - I've even run a couple marathons without getting it, including yesterdays. Eric whittled away some of the insole under the bunion, then smoothed it out with a nail file. It works great. Maybe it would work for you too?

Sarah said...

That's so awesome! Goes to show that it's not always about the time, but the experience. Glad you had a great day, athlete! : )

Downhillnut said...

Um, Way to keep your shirt on! :D

And great job on that race. I know your training wasn't what you wanted, but you found a way to git'r'done.

Thanks for the hill hug - cheering is a very rewarding experience too.

I hope to see you out at a club run soon. Not only are you better than good enough - we/they need you!

Runner Leana said...

Congratulations on your race!! I'm so sorry I missed seeing you at the start. I sounds like you have some terrific and supportive friends. I'm glad you met your goal of keeping your shirt on too! This running club things sounds like a good idea...maybe I should investigate?

Anonymous said...

When I read that your heart rate was between 160 and 170, it caught my eye. I've often wondered about that. Granted, I am much older than you, and mine is not supposed to get that high according to the "rules". I regularly run at that heart rate but I feel very comfortable with it and I am nowhere near out of breath. I don't think I fit the normal 220 minus your age sort of thing.

ipm said...

sounds like a great day all around!

let go of those negative connotations and have fun!

Turtle Guy said...

...there you go.

You're an athlete.

Congratulations on the finish and all the steady stuff - looks like you're a runner after all! ;)

(and after all you've been through, I dare say a darned fine and determined one!)

Dawn - Pink Chick said...

I ended up starting the race in my tank top and got a few looks. I just laughed and said I get hot

Sorry we didn't "run" into each other.

Legs & Wings said...

Glad that you're back out there and finished in one piece. Excellent fun - and great support. Nice tribute to your friends along the way. Take care.

Journey to a Centum said...

I thought I was going to have to toss you some beads or something but you kept your shirt on!

Sounds like a great day! I'm glad you enjoyed it and happy that your doc seems to have some common sense. Good call on the meds!

Trail Scat

robtherunner said...

Congrats on the race, regardless of what the clock said. The best of times is the important part.