Yesterday’s half marathon effort was a personal best in so many ways. Oh my goodness the pride and joy I am still feeling today; seriously, the endorphins are in major overdrive.
Despite spending the last 15 weeks training for a half marathon, I wasn’t planning on running a half marathon. I was still pretty jaded from my last half effort, and had promised my body we’d concentrate more on conquering the 10k than the half… for awhile at least. But then the UBC run study happened. A study that, despite being targeted for “beginner” runners, had a killer training program that, not to gloat or anything, I was killing! How could I not see if the solid training would translate over to a solid race? So, two weeks ago I managed to secure a bib for the Vancouver First Half half marathon.
Days leading up to the half I kept going back and forth on music; do I run with it or don’t I? I had never raced without music, but for the last 15 weeks, I haven’t run with music. Could I survive the push without Eminem telling me to lose myself, or Green Day hitting me with Saint Jimmie, or Lady Gaga assuring me I was born this way?
I sure hoped so, because race morning it simply came down to the annoyance of ear buds, the possibility of them falling out, or being uncomfortably jammed in my ears, or my arms getting tangled in the cords. It had been more than 15 weeks of not dealing with that, more than 15 weeks of happy, solid running. I couldn’t risk the music, no matter how many times it’s gotten me through a run, messing with that.
Standing in the washroom line, for like the umpteenth time, I ran into two of my favourite run study chicks, who happened to be aiming for the same finish time as me. “Hey! We should totally run together?” Yes, yes we should.
I have been running for several years now, and as many of you know, I’ve had a few favourites over the years. But never have I ever run a race with any of them. It’s always been all about me. I generally shoot out the start gates and hope to keep going that way right to the end. But you know the thing about “me” when the “me” starts breaking down, as it inevitably does when you’re exerting yourself so far beyond your state of comfort, if there’s no one else around to help you keep that push going, nine times out of 10, if you’re not Ms. Champion Marathoner, or even just made up of the same mental fortitude fabric, slowly that nasty little devil on your shoulder takes over and slows your pace. At least, for me, that’s how it’s generally been. No matter how hard I’ve trained, when the hurt comes, I haven’t been able to dig deep enough to fully battle through it.
But yesterday? Yesterday was different. I had two incredible runners next to me. Each of us taking turns to pace the others. Pushing each other forward when our legs slowed, or voicing reminders to ease up through the start. Checking in every couple kilometres, making sure we were feeling good, or at least not dying. And talking – talking about the sights, the beautiful sights, the endless rays of “god-lighting” greeting us every which way we turned; the fog still hovering across the pathways, and lifting from the Pacific Ocean with the rising sun; the two white swans hanging at the side of the Seawall as we passed, their heads arced together in a perfect heart; and hey, look at that heron over there chilling with the pigeons; and the signs: “How about those nipples?” “Suck it up Princess!” “You paid to do this;” and the people, the cheers, the encouragement. Before we knew it, we were 10 km done, then 15, then just a few more to go.
It did not feel like any other half marathon I have done. It was fun. It was social. I was pushing myself. I was maintaining a fantastic pace. And for three quarters, it did not feel like work.
But then, at about 1 hour and 17 minutes in, I took my last 2 shot blocks and my stomach revolted. It was two too many. Instantly I felt the nausea. My stomach had a stitch full across the abdomen. I got burpy. The dark cherry was desperately trying to escape back up my esophagus; some of it did. I’ve been here before. Not with shot bloks, but with gels. Previously, my pace slowed, my gumption faltered, my hopes for a fantastic finish dashed.
But this wasn’t previously. I kept going. I wanted to stop. I wanted to slow. But my girls were still there and our plan, if we were all still together in the end, was to run across that finish line, feet charging together, hands clasped in the air together. I had to keep pushing.
Early on in the run we made a plan, that if we were still feeling great, with about 4 km remaining, we were to push the pace up to lactate for the remaining. Unfortunately, I was not feeling great. My girls, however, were. They pushed. I did not. But I also did not back off my half marathon pace. I maintained. THAT was huge.
This race, as beautiful and mostly flat as it was, was somewhat evil. There was a hill, about I don’t know 800 metres in the final stretch. That hill, pure, nasty, evil. Pretty much, I cursed it from bottom to top. But as soon as I crested it, I knew I was there, I could hear the people, see the crowds, I was just about done, my eyes started darting from side to side looking for my Rings, as soon as I spotted them, suddenly the nausea was nothing. My pace shot up, as did the smile on my face. And then, I saw the clock.
HOLY FREAKING HELL, I DID IT!!!!!!!!!!
PERSONAL BEST BABY!!!
OFFICIAL PERSONAL BEST!!!
SIGNIFICANT PERSONAL BEST!!!
NO TRAINS TO TARNISH THIS PERSONAL BEST!!!
Vancouver First Half half marathon, I love you ❤