Archive for September, 2011

My first step into the world of half marathons – Dinosaur Half, Drumheller, Alberta 9/11/11

Posted on September 21, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

First of all I’d like to apologize for delaying this post.  I was hoping that the race organizers would have their pictures posted by now.

Before I completed anything other than a 5K, I could see myself completing a half marathon.  Crazy, right?  Don’t worry – I have been contemplating seeking professional help.  It’s just that I’m in the process of altering the focus of my life to actually doing activities rather than just talking about them.  So instead of spending months discussing the possibility of doing a half marathon, I registered for one.  The Dinosaur Valley Half was coming up in September AND the medal had a dinosaur on it!

I began working on a training plan, but I did too much too fast and ended up sitting on the sidelines for a week with a back injury.  When I healed up, I slowed down and tried to focus on pushing my boundaries a little bit at a time rather than pushing them so far I fall off a cliff.  I don’t train with a group or really have anyone here that I could ask for advice.  You can imagine how happy I was to meet AnnMarie also known as “My fitness soul mate/international running coach”.  She’s helped me immensely not only with training and but by all the support she gives.  Unfortunately she lives in Wisconsin and not Calgary.

I managed to talk Sarah into running this with me.  I was quite excited to have a running partner for the race.  As race day drew nearer, Sarah and I hammered out the details and logistics of the big day.  We would go early and Brandon was going to come over with the kids later that morning so they could watch us finish.  While determining how we were going to pick up our race
packages, I mentioned that there was a 10K race.  Sarah was very curious why we signed up for a half marathon when there was a 10K race that we could have done.  I tried explaining that the medal has a dinosaur on it and that was a big part of my motivation to entering this race.  She just laughed and shook her head… I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the 10K participants received a medal as well (although that medal would not be adorned with “Half Marathon”).

About a week before the race, Sarah told me that she would not be able to run with me.  She’s been having some medical issues and her doctor advised her to take it easy until test results came back.  I will be on my own.  That’s ok – I generally run by myself, and I knew she would be there in spirit.  However, I lost my ride to the race so I will have to take the truck.  Therefore, Brandon and the boys won’t be able to come over later in the morning.  We had family visiting and they were scheduled to leave race day.  I didn’t want Brandon to have to leave super early and not see his sister off.

My fitness soul mate/international running coach and I had a discussion about my goals for this race.  I hadn’t given it much thought before this.  I knew I wanted to finish preferably upright and of my own volition.  AnnMarie said I should have 3 goals (A, B, and C).  I thought about it and came up with the following (I even came up with a fourth goal):

A: To finish     B: in the time allotted      C: upright       D: and smiling

My real goals for the race were:

                                                 A: To finish     B: by sticking to my intervals   C: with a sub 4:00 time

AnnMarie kept telling me how I could do it under 3:30.  That became my secret goal.  I was afraid to voice it out loud because if I didn’t make it I would be so disappointed.

The night before the race, Brandon made the decision to go with me.  I felt guilty for making them get up so early, but was happy that they were coming.  Knowing that my boys were there to cheer me on meant the world to me.  I didn’t realize at the time how much it would mean to have familiar faces there.

Our day began at 4:30am.  We got up, roused the boys, loaded the truck, and left.  We arrived in Drumheller around 7am and located the Community Hall where race packages could be picked up.  The swag bag had a picture of a T-rex that Zachary loved.  The race t-shirt was very nice, but the wrong color – not sure why they chose burnt orange!  We had some time to kill so we drove through the badlands looking at the scenery.  A little before 7:45am we arrived at the start line.  I was starting the race at 8am with the walkers and slow runners who wouldn’t finish it in 3.5 hours (the official start time of the race was 9am).  I began to worry when the clock read 7:55am and no one could be seen.  Panic began to set in.  “Am I in the right place?”  “Am I the only one that is doing the early start?”  “Did the cancel the early start for some reason?”  My nerves calmed down a bit when the shuttle bus arrived and other participants got out.

There were about 30 of us waiting for the issues with the timing mats to get sorted out so we could begin.  While waiting to be called to the start line, I reflected on my training.  This seems to be how I work – I did the same thing waiting for my triathlon to start.  Today would have been my 22K long run so I should be ok.  Even still, I had some trepidation.  Here I was, about to start my first half marathon, and I’ve never gone this far in my life.  To top it off, I had only been consistently training for 6 weeks – not an ideal situation, I assure you.  I visited with a couple of ladies who had driven the course the day before.  There were two bad hills early in the course and after that it wasn’t too bad.  The terrain behind me in the picture is where I was headed.

We were called to the starting line.  I could see Brandon on the other side ready to take a picture as we took off.  The man with the air horn gave a short speech about the meaning of September 11 and asked for a moment of silence.  Tears filled my eyes as I bowed my head.  I wasn’t expecting another country to remember what happened 10 years ago.  I said a short prayer for all who were affected by 9-11 and had brief flashbacks to where I was when I heard the news.  Wiping my eyes and regaining my focus, I stepped up to the line.

The air horn blared and we were off.  It didn’t take long to realize that I was not going to enjoy the terrain.  We were on a gravel road that wound through the park.  I tried to stick to my 2:2 intervals, but had to throw them out the window.  The ladies I visited with didn’t give accurate description of the hills.  They were ginormous and super steep.  I ended up walking up both for two reasons: 1). the road was gravel and let’s be realistic… if anyone is going to slip and injure herself it would be me, and 2).  did I mention that the hills were ginormous and incredibly steep?

The scenery was amazing, but I didn’t get to look around as much as I wanted.  Being on the gravel road, my feet would occasionally slip and I wanted to make sure I didn’t roll an ankle on the uneven, unstable terrain.  There was one steep downhill stretch that I switched my gait to a walk.  I was afraid I would end up skiing the rest of the way down – which in retrospect probably would have been a faster way to get to the base of the hill.

I reached the halfway point before being passed by the faster runners that started the race at 9am.  I kept chugging along and as each person rushed past me I marveled at how comfortable they were running on gravel.  I watched each foot raise up and come back down and wondered why my feet had so many problems doing such a seemingly easy task.  Many who passed encouraged me to keep going.  “Way to go, Girl!”  “Keep it up, Girl!”  “You’re doing great, Girl!”  The scientist in me noticed that it was the men rather than other women that encouraged me along the way – and evidently I had a tag on my back that stated, “Hello – my name is Girl”.

Around kilometer 14 the course followed the highway.  I was so happy to get off the gravel and expected my running to improve, even though I had to stop listening to music for safety reasons.  It was at this point I realized how much I was hurting.  My knees were screaming at me.  I also had a pain in my non-bionic ankle.  I tried to shift my run:walk ratio from 2:2 to 1:1.  I still had trouble keeping this up.  Oh man, AnnMarie is not going to be happy with me for ditching my intervals…

There were a couple of stretches along the road that I almost stopped.  I was extremely tired and sore.  I didn’t want to go on.  I wanted Brandon to come pick me up and take me back to the house so I could go to bed.  I guess it was a good thing that he broke his phone – I had no way to contact him.  I kept going.  At times it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other.  I realized I was walking too much.  I was glad that I kept the 3:30 time goal to myself.  *I did not run on track as smooth as that pictured – those are the 5k and 10k racers*

I didn’t think I would make it but was still optimistic that I would finish sub 4 hours.  I didn’t realize how doing this alone would make me insane in the membrane.  Throughout the race I found myself talking to AnnMarie.  I know it sounds crazy, but there were several occasions I needed someone to be with me.  We chatted about run intervals, the Galloway running camp in Tahoe she wants me to go to, and the possibility of her moving to Calgary (the weather can’t be that different from Wisconsin).  I also pictured Sarah running beside me – where she was supposed to be.  I wasn’t running this race by myself… there were three of us running side by side – just my “imaginary friends” and me.  I couldn’t even begin to dream what people thought as they passed while I was steadily holding a conversation with thin air.

Finally I reached the turn off to the bus parking lot (and the finish line).  I was taking a walk break when a woman (the first one to say anything to me) passed: “Don’t slow down now!  Only 200m to go!!”  Okay, let’s do this… I picked up my pace and ran around the corner and into the parking lot – the GRAVEL parking lot.  Seriously?  What is up with all the gravel?  I had to slow down quite a bit in the home stretch.  I definitely did not want to fall and break a leg so close to the finish.  I scanned the sidelines and didn’t see any familiar faces.  Where was my cheering squad?  I turned the last corner and ran across the finish line.  I checked my time – 3:14:22.  Wow!  That’s faster than I ever thought possible.  A quick glance of the crowd revealed no sign of my family.   I was given a bottle of water and my medal.  So cool!  It has a dinosaur on it!

I was trying to keep moving but my body just wanted to collapse.  I was so happy to be done; it was such a surreal moment.  It’s one of those moments in life where you question your own sanity during the process, but once you’re finished, you’re left with happiness and the unfaltering belief that it was totally worth it – like giving birth or going to graduate school.  My body was hollering at me and my mind was racing, but there was a sense of peace (or relief) that came over me. The only way I finished this race was by hearing encouragement from friends and family in my head.  I imagined the hugs I would receive from the boys.  I thought about how proud my husband would be; how proud my dad would be – I am still Daddy’s Little Girl.  I thought about AnnMarie and all that she’s accomplished in the past year, about Sarah’s excitement at running the race with me, and her disappointment when she couldn’t.  So many people “ran” through my mind during those last few kilometers.  It took each and every one of them to give me the nudge I needed to keep going.

When I found my family, Brandon was surprised to see me.  “I still have 15 minutes before you cross the finish!”  Jackson came and gave me a big hug and told me how proud he was of me.  Hearing those words from him meant more than I realized.  Zachary had been rehearsing his lines “You did it, Mommy!”  “Good job, Mommy!”  “Way to go, Mommy!”  I would have never guessed how happy I would be to see them.  Of course Zachary wanted my “Dinosaur T-Rex” medal.  Sorry little one – give me all the big puppy dog eyes you want; you aren’t getting this dinosaur.

It didn’t take Zachary long to crash on the way home.  Before his eyes closed for a much-needed nap he once again said, “You did it, Mommy!”  He’s right.  I did it.  I did something that I never thought I’d be able (or want) to accomplish.  I finished my first half marathon faster than I ever expected.  I don’t know if I’ll ever want to do a gravel course again, but I am happy I did it this time.  It was harder than I expected which makes crossing the finish line that much sweeter.

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