Tuesday, April 26, 2011

my lead pack

What a day.

I ran along a winding country road on Saturday, my first day in shorts and a t-shirt, no gloves, no toque, no arm warmers. Looking past the expansive green farmers' fields, bright red barns, the odd stationary horse or cow, there were impressive mountain ranges covered in snow and at the same time the sun was warm on my back.  Despite all this, I was still feeling pretty sorry for myself, having caught a nasty virus which appeared to be reaching it's peak of annoyance.  Running was, however, making me feel a little better (this is relative to feeling like hell).  I felt I had at least accomplished one productive thing that day.

I was somewhat stuck in the rut of feeling sorry for myself, that is, until I hit a certain bend in the road and all of a sudden had a total shift in perspective.  All of a sudden I had a rush of new thoughts that seemed so familiar.  And then I realized I had been in this exact spot before.  And when was that time?  I realized I was running down the road I ran in my first marathon.  My first real race for that matter.

All of a sudden all the pieces fit into place.  I remembered looking ahead, across the field, seeing other runners ahead of me, running down the long, slow incline they ran up Headquarters Rd.  Remembering the man I just passed and chattily tried to talk to - he didn't talk back (a theme that would be enforced the faster I got, the more I realize men don't like talking to you).  The Country Roads Comox Valley marathon in 2004 - now defunct.  I don't remember a single negative thought about the whole race, although it was almost 7 years ago.  But all of a sudden I remembered what it was like to be in the race, running along that road, to my amazement, running a 'marathon'.

I don't remember much of my training back then, except that I seemed to run a lot, and once a week I would run a 'long run', longer than the run I ran a week before it.  Most memorably during that training I remember running 21 kilometres, and being the most proud I had ever been in my running career.  I didn't have a training plan, I certainly didn't have a coach, but I definitely had some help, and more than enough encouragement along the way.

Therefore, this short story is directed toward my 'lead pack'.  The group of people most influential to my running career, and everything that comes along with it.

Two of the most influential people in my running career, Chris Round and John Elson, are not surprisingly, also runners.  Both were teachers at my high school, and both were involved the local running community, so I no doubt drifted towards them for advice, and good thing I did - because I really had no idea what I was doing.   Lucky for me, running is simple.  Ha.

When I was visiting them both some point early that summer, I announced that I was going to run the marathon.  I do quite clearly remember John saying, "That's ambitious!" in a very kind, yet motivating way.  Chris just kept feeding me every time I visited - another important lesson I learned - how to eat (lots!).   I think they questioned me a little and asked perhaps if I wanted to do a shorter race first just to get that under my belt?  Not really, I said.  Clearly this displayed my lack of understanding of anything to do with running.  So, I learned from this lesson when I chose to do a 1/2 Ironman before a full Ironman, as my first triathlon.  Who says you can't teach old dogs?

The first piece of advice?  "Do you drink any water on your run?".  I said, "No".  And they gave me a spare hydration pack of theirs (I have it....somewhere, and I should return it!).  That was a miracle.  Often I ran up to 2 hours without any water (and certainly nothing like a gel or sugar of any sort).  If I had to stop and tie my shoelaces, when I stood up, I got dizzy.  At times I saw little coloured spots towards the end of my runs, but it really didn't distress me.  Having fluids was a godsend.  I don't know if I had gels or not at this point - maybe I did....I know I did for the race.  At least one, maybe two :)

Conveniently Chris and John lived about 15 km from my house, so I am willing to bet that running to their house (where they often loaded up my bottle with gatorade and gave me an extra glass to drink while I was there) was my longest run ever completed before the marathon, there and back, about 30km.  They were such good sports for putting up with my pestering them every couple of weeks or so during that summer.  I really didn't have any doubts that I wouldn't be able to finish, nor did I get that impression from then - I just had no idea how long it would take me  (it took me 3:35:35 - not bad - and then I had to ask somebody the question, "What does a 'Boston Qualifier' mean?)

A lot of time has passed between then and now, and I feel so lucky to have these two supporters in my corner.  I have now run enough miles that I'm getting closer and closer to some of John's race times - something he probably hates, but something that I hold in quite high regard!   Also, I won't lie, something I would like to try to beat (who didn't expect that?). I sense, although Chris is the least likely person to brag about her accomplishments as a runner, that she ran at the top of her class amongst her peers - something I strive to do regardless of pacing or race times.  These people have been true mentors to me in every way and if I chopped up my medals at the end of the race, they'd be getting pretty big chunks of them.

To be honest, I'm not even sure why I picked the marathon.  I had always run for fitness and had success and happiness as a competitive soccer player in high school and university.  I wrote before that the marathon was my first 'real' race.  I had in fact done a race before, in high school, the girls' soccer team was combed for girls with fitness that could complete a cross country race.  I don't think we were told how long this race was, but were strongly suggested to attend (we would then get more points for our high school 'team').  And, we got to miss a day of school.  Sold!

This is where, I think, running & racing could have gone solidly downhill for me.  You are lined up to compete with girls who (gasp!) have trained for this, and doubly against you, know what they're doing.  Looking back now, I am sure they even had spikes, we had running shoes (although some of us might have run in our cleats?).  So although I really couldn't have called this a 'race' for me, it was more of a task for completion, I actually liked it (I also remember sucking wind BIG time - I was a fast starter - and we all know how that ends....)

I think I actually attended 2, if not 3 races in high school, but I can't remember.  I don't know where I finished but it wasn't first or last.  Another reason this task of running (which is usually used for some type of punishment in most other sports) turned out to be something fun, is that we had one heck of a positive guy leading our pack.

Many runners on the Island will know and remember Karl Klein.  Here was a guy that was more than accepting of us 'non-runners' into what seemed like such an elite group, not totally dissimilar to the antelope at the zoo - graceful and fast - we soccer girls were more like the rhinos of the group - sturdy killers.  He told us we'd do great, and told us to have fun.  There wasn't a lot more instruction than that- he didn't make it complicated.

It would be a few years later until I truly appreciated Karl for all his positivity and kind words, as I raced beside him in a handful of local Island races.  He was often the only person I knew at races, a venue quite unfamiliar and at times a bit uncomfortable, to me.  But if Karl was there, he was chipper and all smiles, and put my fears at ease.  He helped me like road racing.  I feel very lucky to have had him as one of my most influential runners in my life.

On consistency and hard work, I also now realize I had the opportunity to learn from a young teacher in my school, Lisa Cooke.  She was my volleyball coach and somehow was able to put up with my totally over the top energy levels (and most likely mood swings - we're talking high school here...).   I looked up to her and envied the size of her calf muscles.  She was healthy, strong, and tough -  and a great role model for me.   Lisa lent invaluable support to everything else that came after learning how to run and going to the races.  And yes, she is, like the other three, a runner.  We've run together at times, she cheered me on at local races often when she too was running, and to this day she is still wonderfully supportive of my efforts.  I don't take it for granted!

Now thinking back, I'm really lucky to have had these people in my corner since high school.  Whether I see them now or not, the lessons I've learned from these people are always with me every time I line up behind the tape for a race.  I've met many wonderful people since, I've had different coaches and mentors that have taught me all sorts of things, but these people are the four people who have been with me the longest.  I think I've always known this, but as life goes along and you get involved in the present, sometimes the past fades a bit.  As I was running along that road, with the memories of runner's silhouettes across the field, all of this came flooding back into my mind.  And as I was busy stuck in the moment of feeling badly for myself, sneezing so violently that I hoped I didn't twist my ankle while running, I was suddenly redirected to something much more important.

Running is often measured and put down in the record books as times, wins, losses, events.  When we narrow down on a target race it's boiled down to the essentials - this is your pace, these are your shoes, that is the course.  I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity, and the time, to reflect a little deeper and remember the people who have really taught me the essentials, and you can bet that those will be coming to the race with me next Sunday, May 1st.

There are a lot of people running a race on May 1st.  I hope they have the chance to remember what got them there, when they toe the line.

Good luck and run with heart.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

set adrift on memory bliss

Well, it's that time of year.  Christmas for runners.


One year ago I was getting ready to board the big bird and fly to Boston to run the marathon.  Now, as people get ready to depart and newsy bulletins rule the interweb, I can't help thinking about Boston this week.

Bill Rogers said, "The marathon can humble you".  Simple.  True.  I agree.

Anyone who knew me last year may have already read this race report.  It's long & colourful, and although slightly out of date, this race is really timeless.  Maybe it will give someone inspiration on their way to Hopkinton, or right to the guts of the race on Boylston.  Who knows.  

I have a lot of medals on my wall (most of them "Finisher" medals, don't get your knickers in a knot..) but the blue and yellow one means a lot to me.  I am learning that faster times do not equate a greater sense of pride or satisfaction.  The race is what you make it.  This race meant a lot to me, and I think it is deserving of a race report re-post.

Read on, & grab a snack.  This ain't no short story kids.

April 20, 2010

Hi everyone,
 One big storybook for everyone to read!  If you 
want....you certainly don't have to.  I promise it will take less time to read this than it did for me to finish the race.  I'll cut and paste it below but if you don't want to read it - the important thing is it was awesome, I ran a PB @ 3:20:10, and I was able to work hard with amazing support!

Here's a recap of the race ( I am still tired & on holiday so hope this makes some sense):

The day started with an early 4:35 wake up, drink 2 small cups coffee and a dry bagel.  Looked out the window - not a cloud in the sky.  Huge relief as it had been cold, stormy, and near snowing the past couple of days.  Good sign #1.  

 I had packed and triple checked everything the night before so fairly confident I had everything.  Chip on shoe, number already pinned to shirt, bag with number, wearing shorts, shirt and had shoes in bag so was ready to take a quick cab to the T (subway).  Wonderful Boston cabbie, pointed out to me that my # 9632 was a good one because 3 x 32=96.  He said he'd go buy a lottery ticked that day with that number.  Good sign #2.  Shawn woke up early and came with me all the way to the buses - what a guy.  Organized all the bags and transport and crazy subway riding and made me able to just think about running - awesome!

Slowly as we got closer and closer to the downtown, more and more yellow bagged runners got on the T.  When we got to Boylston Station, and walked up the stairs it was like a Return of the Zombie Runner movie.  Every one was walking in droves, quite truly 10's of thousands to get the school buses to Hopkinton.  It was so well organized.  I waited maybe 5 minutes, got on a bus, and we were off on what seemed like the longest bus ride in history.  Cool though to be bombing down the I-95 in a 10+ bus convoy at 100+km an hour.  I started to get nervous, so I ate a banana, put on the ipod and tried to relax.  

We got there about an hour or so later from leaving downtown, got directly off the bus to pee (waited in line for a while).  It was chilly out, but sunny, so just bundled up in everything I had.  The Athletes Village was crazy - two football fields with undercover tents (not needed really) and various tents with coffee, gatorade, water, bagels, powerbars.  Tons of other sponsors but this was not the time to be spending extra time on my feet.  Grabbed 2 cups gatorade & 1 powerbar (honey nut is actually not so revolting a powerbar), drank, ate and lay down on my newspaper filled garbage bags.  It was sunny and you could feel it on your face - so nice!  People were milling around like cows on Red Bull.  I waited and waited and eventually succumbed to the portapotty lines, came back, put on compression socks, put on arm sleeves, put on shoes, and then it was time to march up to the baggage buses before heading to the start line.  The 2 hours in the village went so fast.  No complaints there.  I would have been complaining had it been raining.  Yuck.  But it wasn't.  Yay.

Dropped bag at bus, put on nice garbage bag top to keep wind away - at this point it was super windy and making me a little nervous.  Visited a mostly male pee stop off the side of the road on the way down the to the start.  As one guy pointed out as I was returning back to the road, "Awesome - co-ed bathrooms!".  I smiled and kept running.  You walk 0.7 of a mile (seems long) and then you're at the bottom of an uphill road with corrals.  I was seeded in the 9th corral (#9632) and jammed in there, again, very much like a cow.  But people were mooing and volunteers were laughing and it was funny.  People were nervous - you could just feel a buzz.  It was starting to feel really warm at this point and I could already ditch my throw away shirt as we walked to the top of the hill.  The gun went off and our line started moving - I think it was about 10 minutes until i got to the start line.

The start: was crowded.  And the first mile opens with a 8% grade downhill.  I'd been reading about this course for weeks (I think I knew it better than Victoria before I had even run the course) and knew what was coming so I just held back and tried to enjoy everything around us.  I could say it a million times but it would get repetitive - the crowds here are unbelievable - it takes running to a whole new level to be a part of it here.   I couldn't get over it - especially when I got to Heartbreak Hill - but I'll get there in a minute.

I can't remember all the names of the towns but I remember most miles.  I chose to pace by miles, which was new for me but I now know I like it better (there are less of them, for a start).  It was hard to keep consistent splits (my plan of 7:38 min/miles), as the downhills would come I'd have a 7:22 then a 7:48 (and I was trying to run with quick turnover, short strides to save my legs on the downhill).  You come down some amazing # of feet on the 1/2 half of the marathon so I was trying to conserve.  

Somewhere along the first half I saw Santa Claus (not bonking at this point I'm sure), and not too long after, a very flirty transvestite (cowgirl, riding a horse - not bonking at this point either).   Then it was Wellsley College - an amazing amount of super attractive girls pleading with runners to kiss them.  You couldn't not watch the guys with huge smiles on their faces as they tried to kiss and run.  There was this huge surge of energy after this leading up and into Wellsley itself, the half way point and a huge crowd of screaming spectators cheering you on.  It was funny not to turn around at the half way point, nice actually to just keep going.

The 3 compliments I received in this race were:
1. Girl holding sign over her head that read "DRUNK": shouted militantly at me, "GO 9632, 9632, 9632!" (in loud low woman voice)
2. Man coming out of aid station beside me, "You spit like a man".  Still drinking I gave him the thumbs up and then replied, "Well trained", which is sort of a lie - no one taught me to spit.  Then I spat again and ran past him.  He was really encouraged by my abilities, and no lie it was motivating.  
3. Although I didn't know it was directed at me at first, I must have passed some man in the last 4 miles who liked my pace, because he shouted "Great running white".  I was a bit bonky at this point and it took me a while to realize I was wearing nearly all white.  Thanks guy.  Now hopefully this wasn't a shot at my compression socks, which I have received before from nerds on bikes in West Van.  "Hey nice socks".  Who insults a runner girl, honestly?  


I was feeling pretty good - hit a 1:39:50 half marathon split and was happy with my time.  Splits still were uneven due to ups and downs but whenever I hit a couple of straight miles my times were close to what I wanted, maybe even a little faster by a few seconds, but I figured I would lose those back in the hills.  I still felt good, quite hydrated, on top of nutrition.  They had fluid stations at every mile, which was really nice and made a big difference, especially in the last 4 miles.  I started to tell myself little stories about how much I liked running up hills.  Really, I was excited to do it.  If I can do nothing else, I can run hills.  I have the hamstrings to prove it.  Thank you soccer.

So just kept pushing on and made my way over what I thought was the first Newton hill but when I made the famous right hand turn into Newton I realized I had just gone over the I-95 - it was a BIG overpass.  So, going right, into Newton, Hill #1.  Nice hill, lots of fans (over 500,000 fans on the course that day) and up and over in not too long.  Relief, longer hill but gentle grade.  Hills # 2 and #3 were sharper.  I then encountered one of my favorite spots in the race.  Where the fast guys start bonking (sorry guys).  I feel for them and then I feel better for myself because I feel stronger.  It's wrong, I know but it gives me a boost.  So I just kept going up, fuelled fuelled fuelled.  It was getting harder to drink but I was getting thirstier.  

Heartbreak Hill.  Honestly.  I get it now.  It really could be a Heartbreaker.  You approach it, and you watch it curve up fairly steeply and out of your sight.  Barf.  But so many people on the sides of the roads with cowbells screaming at you and you just can't stop (they had signs, "Don't stop, people are watching you").  You just go.  Short quick strides and lifting your shoulders up and looking ahead and passing TONS of people on your way.  Boston College also coincides with this location and the college boys and girls were out in full form, cheering like champions, drinking like champions, and it was awesome.  Little kids constantly line the roads with orange slices or water cups or signs that tell their Daddy to keep running.  Shawn was here but I didn't see him - I sort of had tunnel vision - but he managed to get a clip of me running up the hill - I haven't over analyzed that one yet.  You are almost at the top and people are just going nuts and you start going a bit faster and then you realize you're there and it is truly awesome.  Getting that injection of pride at mile 21 ish is so motivational.  I managed about 7:45-7:50 mile splits on the hills - I was happy!  Now, you have to go downhill....

It is steep!  To try to avoid smashing my thighs into kibbles n' bits, I kept my turnover quick.  I definitely took charity water from a lovely woman with bottles drank two big gulps and poured some on my head (it was probably about 14 deg outside, perfect weather, occasional head or cross-wind) to cool down after running the hills.  Felt amazing.  Love water.  Decided I couldn't stomach more gels but knew there were lots of stations with gatorade for sugars.  Love 1 mile aid stations.  You go down and down and down, make a big left turn at Cleveland Circle, and now you on on the outskirts of the Boston subway line, and you start running to town.  

As you come off the left line you see a beautiful old church - a big one - and it helped to see something that pretty at this point.  I was just focusing on trying to keep from slowing down.  I almost didn't want to look at my split at the 23 mile mark - but I was still on pace (I am always falling off pace at this point, feeling a little discouraged) and wanted to keep it that way.  I went through a barrage of positive thoughts in my head, just continued to repeat them and make myself believe them and get through the rolling hills that the course throws in at the end (going up any more hills, even small ones, took guts at this point, and there were at least 4 seemingly big lumps to run up and over.

  Between miles 23 and 26 I passed an amazing amount of people, a slow steady stream.  I didn't even pay that much attention, just needed to find a relatively clean line to get through without slipping on a billion paper cups at an aid station.  I started to get little twinges in my calves at about mile 24, reminding me I had run out of a suitable supply of electrolytes.  So I kept my stride short, and kept turning over as quickly as I could.  Swinging arms became a good distraction for a while.  I also counted steps to 100 at one point to distract myself from an onset of pain.  That was about mile 24.5.  Then you see the Fenway CITGO sign, run up and over the overpass of the Mass Pike (I walked over this before and it was no big deal - not the case now).  You did not hear the Red Sox fans cheering because they lost 8-2.  Sorry socks.  But thousands of fans were cheering for runners!

As you run down Commonwealth Ave there are people everywhere, there are cops lining the other side of the course, you honest to god feel like a rockstar (well, a rockstar in pain, but aren't they all....?).  It's deafening.  And you're not even done yet.  You have one brief respite where you go down under a ramp and it's quiet for about 30 seconds.  And it was so peaceful, then you run back up (up, ugh) and back onto the street and then you're at this famous point, "Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston" and you're about a half mile to the finish.  I stopped looking at my watch but figured I had a shot at a PB, and a shot at 3:20, the time I wanted.  I turned up Hereford and then a big left onto Boylston and it's an amazing sight - the finish line is still about 600 ish metres away but you see crowds stacked 10-15 deep and you see a blue banner with yellow and you're really happy.  I gave it all I had without losing control of my calves and just kept watching the sign get bigger and bigger. 

 I don't remember the bleachers at the finish line, but I did put my hands up (difficult task at this point) and that was it!  I had finished.  I was so happy.  Even happier when I checked my watch and realized I had PB'd.  I had got 3:20:10.  I felt more emotional at this point than I have ever felt at a race before.  I was pretty close to tears but tried not to cry because I didn't want to get sent to the medical tent.  I just tried to keep walking.  I could tell my legs were going to feel this later.  But people all around congratulating each other.  I talked to a nice man from Ottawa and he was happy and I was happy and we made our way to the space blankets, the medals, the gatorade, the lunchboxes and finally out to the baggage buses.  Again, SO well organized.  If the Boston organization ran Canadian Government....

 It took a couple text messages back and forth but Shawn came and found me, cold and bonky at the family meeting station.  Thank god it was still sunny, making it easier to stand around (or shuffle around).  Then we were off - picked up our bags at the Taj Boston and changed into dry clothes, and we were off to the subway, massively jammed packed but eventually we made it to the trains, to this lovely B&B in Rockford, Cape Ann, MA about an hour later.  

 Able to shower quickly to rinse gatorade residue off my sticky legs, the very nice Howard of our Inn drove us to the Fish Shack (and picked us up).  I had a delicious lobster roll and was just totally on cloud nine.  And that's that.  Bed.  Slept like a champ.

 So this is more novel than note but hopefully for anyone who wanted to know about it, I wrote down as much as I could remember right now.  This race was really a wonderful experience and I am so glad I did it.  This is an amazing city and the fans were the best.  People in this city are some of the friendliest people I have ever met.   

I love this town.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fool's Half Marathon Race Report

Hills, hills, hills.!  I wonder if anyone has ever counted how many hills are on this course!  The Fool's Half Marathon was the setting for this year's BC 1/2 Marathon Championship, on April 3rd, 2011.  I had been looking forward to racing a half as I've been trying my best, but feeling slightly lost, on the recent 5 and 8 km races.  The race didn't go exactly as I expected, but I'm not complaining - I was very happy to finish in 3rd place overall!

The pre-amble:
We arrived in Gibsons on a sunny Saturday and got to explore the cute little town, find lunch, and drive along through Roberts Creek, Davis Bay,Sechelt, and up to Secret Cove - such charming little areas all along the way.  Picked up my race number at the ever well organized community centre package pick up area from friendly volunteers, and finally met up with our small contingent of VanRunning 1/2 marathoners for a delish dinner at the Gumboot Restaurant in Roberts Creek.  Yum.

I would say, the downside of sleeping in your Westfalia would be that sometimes you park in an area where local youth decide to party all night (yes, all night) and drive their trucks (BIG trucks) back and forth (doing burnouts each time) right behind your van on a gravel road.  Unfortunate for us, but that's just life.  I think I may have slept a good, um, 3 hours?  Not consecutive hours, mind you.  I was also slightly scared these youth could crash right into our van.  So, generally sub-optimal conditions but not being too stressed about the race, I just shrugged it off and got on with things Sunday morning.

So, a short drive into town, a Tim Hortons coffee to reunite with my east coast roots (I don't think I've had a coffee from Tim Hortons since 2004) and some quiet time (finally) in the Van reading magazines and eating bananas while Shawn got a little extra sleep.  I encouraged him to just leave after the race start and go straight to Davis Bay to get some more sleep.  It's hard enough being a supporter, let alone with no sleep and an early morning wake up.  Such a trooper.

I was hanging around the race start when fellow racer Amy introduced herself to me - this was so nice!  You run with people all the time but never really know them.  So it was great to say hello to her, and as we've been coming into the finish line relatively close to each other (her first, me after) we knew we were aiming for similar times.  This was a nice reminder when we saw a few women shoot out in front of us that we were pretty confident we could be faster than.  It's sometimes hard on your own, and you second guess yourself, but when there's evidence right beside you, you feel a bit better about your race plan.

So gun was off and compression socks starting flying down Park road.  A nice change from the last time I ran the course, the start is not uphill, but that makes for some very keen starts by some racers - it's a long race and Amy and I ran together for the first 7km of the course, and commented on how it was fun to sort of sit back and watch what goes on in the lead group for the first part of the race.

I however, dropped off and Amy owned the downhills once we got to about 7km - way to go!  I wasn't quite feeling it and stuck to my rhythm for the Roberts Creek rollercoaster section of the course, about another ~6k or so.  When we had started, there's always such a flurry of people at the front, and I was able to spot one girl who I didn't know, and a few other women I recognized, but once I was on the middle section I really wasn't too sure how many women were in front of me.  So, running my own race, I just slowly (felt like glacially) made my way along the lower part of the course wishing I was feeling fresher, realizing that was an ever diminishing pipe dream, and just trying to be positive about what I had on the day.

Then the uphill section.  I love this course because it's technical, it's challenging, and it makes you be thankful for the flats.  There is very little flat section running in this course, except for a little bit at the beginning, and it's definitely flat for the last 1-2 km.  After getting up the last big hill on Marlene road, I was ready to refocus and get into the last 5km.  It's still not flat once you're at the top of the last big hill, but it's flat enough, and with it comes a thundering downhill (that has subsequently punched up my quads) and it's a fast flat or slightly downhill cruise to Davis Bay.

At the top of the hill, I had only 2 women in my sight and they were further away than I wanted them to be, so, cranking up the pace a bit, I was happy to find that I had a little saved in the tank (note to self - running your 'own' race & rhythm has its benefits) and I just put my head down and started working.  With the first pass, I really didn't want the girl to come back and she was running quite well and was not super easy to pass - so as we aproached the big downhill section I just let LOOSE and did my best attempt at fast downhill running while avoiding something resembling the cheese rolling competition.
Watch the video - there's even a big uphill - so maybe this half marathon is good training for this competition:
Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling
 (really, you have to watch this....)

So now I was approaching the bottom of the hill and there was only one woman left and a whole lot of no man's land - big gaps between runners and really no one in front of her for a long time.  A spectator told the woman in front of me she was 4th, then told me I was 5th.  I watched this woman running for a long time and really it looked like she was comfortably running along so I was a bit nervous to pass.  But I did what I've been having the hardest time doing in racing so far, getting up the guts to pass people (because the ego side of me does not like to be passed back - but really, who does?).

I just told myself I could do it and went for it.  I ran a hard km and then looked back (I hate looking back and almost never do) just before going over the bridge (approx 400m left) and there was no one on my shoulder - phew!  That did not slow me down though as I still was running with enough fear to stay in top gear all the way to the line.  There was nobody else around, no one in front and it was me alone all the way to the line - and because the path was so clear, I finally paid attention to the race announcer, especially when he said I was the 3rd place finisher!  Wicked!  I had done that last fight to the line, in my head, for 4th, and I was quite proud of that.  So 3rd was icing on the cake!  Results here.

In the end, all things turned out smiles!  I did not PB, but knew that wouldn't happen from about 10km on, so no distress there.  My VanRunning teammates all did though - so congrats to them - what a tricky course to do it on too!  Great work on their part.  In the end, the women's race was quite strung out, with the young (I can say it because I'm OLD now compared to her :) girl (Keddi-Anne) from the Interior taking first,  in 1:18 something and Amy taking a solid second in 1:22 something.  My friend Rachel ran her 1st half marathon on this course and did great!  Perhaps one of the harder ones to pick but she'll love other (easier) courses when she does another one!

And it was nice to see a lot of familiar faces and some of the triathlete crew out there working hard as well - great job guys!  It takes a little extra effort to get to this race, but I highly recommend doing it - it's got a great feel, a step away from the flashy-flashy big races and a great hometown feel, more like racing where I started running back home (on the island).  Now only if BC ferries could have extended their BC Sport partnership to help with fares....a girl can dream.

Happy enough with my 1:24 something, I was more happy with my beautiful AG winners mug (I drink a lot of liquids) and a little bit of prize cash (thank you Fool's Half & thank you BC Athletics!).  I ate my face off in yogurt (but only after I let everybody else get in there and get some :) so thanks also to the food sponsors who provided much needed warm drinks and great post race food.

After the race, when the stiffness kicks in, we dawdled around Roberts Creek and Gibsons before deciding that with less than ideal weather, it might be nice to sleep in our own bed (and not in a hell on wheels parking lot?), so we skipped back on the last ferry home.  And yes, it was heavenly to sleep in a real bed, not that I don't love our little home on wheels, but when you're sore, extra space and more cushioning in bed is a great thing.  I slept 12 straight hours and woke up feeling much, much more rested than the night before.  If only BC Athletics ranked sleep times too....I have no doubts in my abilities there.

Back at home and now back to telling myself I am both a runner and triathlete.  It took all the energy I could round up to get to the pool and do an easy swim.  Doesn't help that the weather has taken a nose dive and it's chilled significantly.  A few easier days on the schedule and a return to the land of marathon training in not too long.

The next race up is the Vancouver Sun Run - should be exciting!  I am actually quite excited to run a 10km, my oldest most familiar distance (I have run more 10ks than any other distance) but I now get to do it with an actual pace goal and am quite confident that I will finally break the 40 min mark, something I had tried for the last 2-3 years before and never reached.  That will be fun - and I really hope I'm not jinxing myself here.  Unless I fall off one of the bridges or reach a book in the portapotty, I am confident I can do it.  It will also be the BC 10km Championship - and it is going to be COMpetitive!  Can't wait!

The A race looms now only being less than 4 weeks away.  Talk about competitive.  I picked a great year to race with speedy women.  From what I've read, there will be a fair amount of American women running Eugene gunning to qualify for the Olympic Trials.  I think that means sub 2:45 or 2:46, not entirely sure, but it means FAST.  Definitely good luck to them, but I will be gunning to chase from a distance :)

Weather is not confidence building so it's time to bottle up, snack up, and load up a movie to watch on the bike trainer.  I can't believe I never used one of these last year while training for Ironman, but I'm sure glad I do now.  I would also really like to be biking outside, but I would also not like to crash my bike on a slick road either.  My 22 degree house helps me pretend warm temps are coming.

So here's to the next 2 hours of watching Hilary Swank bash and get bashed in Million Dollar Baby.  I'm hoping it will give me more incentive to do push ups (although today's daily total is 60, not bad).

April showers bring May flowers?  I'm getting a little sick of "this month weather sucks but next will be better talk" but I have no other options than to remain positive.  I had a dream I biked in shorts and a jersey last night....something to look forward to.  I will just have to continue creating my own happiness, usually coming in the form of a cookie ;)  No complaints about the sun on the Sunshine Coast though - who could complain about these views?

Happy training and for anyone interested in joining a running group, check out VanRunning - existing both in Vancouver and Vancouver to the North for details of new clinics coming up this spring/summer.