The future is foxy!

We’ve written before about our friend Rachel’s new cycling team. See Another win for inclusive sport: Introducing Foxy Moxy Racing.

Now things are really getting under way. Rachel’s been sharing the following pitch on Facebook and Instagram and I thought I’d share it here too.

Good luck Rachel! We’re cheering for you.

 

Hi there! I’m Rachel. I race bikes. This year, I co-founded a team, Foxy Moxy Racing, with the vision of promoting radically inclusive sport for trans and gender non-conforming people (gnc). That means showing people that trans/gnc people exist, and helping build a community for current and potential trans/gnc athletes. Sport is a human right. That’s in the Olympic Charter as the very first of the Principles of Olympism. But trans and gender non-conforming people have struggled to find a home in sport. I want to change that.

I’ve chosen to race this year as an openly trans woman, at some of the highest levels of women’s cycling in the US and Canada. I’m hoping you can help, though: racing bikes across the country (and across the continent) is really expensive. So I’m reaching out for help funding my summer of racing for trans and gender non-conforming inclusive sport.

I have a full race calendar planned. It started with the Pro/1/2 stage race, the Tour of the Southern Highlands. I was thrilled to win the Stage 2 circuit race. Here’s where I’ll be:

March: Sunshine Grand Prix (FL)

April: USA Crits Speed Week (SC, NC, GA)

May: Winston-Salem Classic (NC)

June: North Star Grand Prix stage race (MN)

June: Canadian Elite Road Nationals (ON, Canada)

July: Intelligentsia Cup (IL)

August: Crossroads Classic (NC)

September: Gateway Cup (MO)

I’m seeking funding to help with travel and race fees. This schedule will cost over $1500 in race fees alone. I live in Charleston, SC, and I drive everywhere to keep costs down. Every little bit you can contribute helps! Thank you!! #thefutureisfoxy

You can find me on Instagram: @mckinnonrachel

You can find Foxy Moxy on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FoxyMoxyRacing/

Donate here.

Hi everyone! Today is launched a personal fundraising campaign to help with my season of racing for trans and gender non-conforming inclusive sport. Please consider helping me with this project: https://www.generosity.com/sports-fundraising/rachel-racing-for-trans-inclusive-sport This year, I co-founded a team, Foxy Moxy Racing, with the vision of promoting radically inclusive sport for trans and gender non-conforming people (gnc). That means showing people that trans/gnc people exist, and helping build a community for current and potential trans/gnc athletes. Sport is a human right. That's in the Olympic Charter as the very first of the Principles of Olympism. But trans and gender non-conforming people have struggled to find a home in sport. I want to change that. I've chosen to race this year as an openly trans woman, at some of the highest levels of women's cycling in the US and Canada. I'm hoping you can help, though: racing bikes across the country (and across the continent) is really expensive. So I'm reaching out for help funding my summer of racing for trans and gender non-conforming inclusive sport. I have a full race calendar planned. It started with the Pro/1/2 stage race, the Tour of the Southern Highlands. I was thrilled to win the Stage 2 circuit race. Here's where I'll be: March: Sunshine Grand Prix (FL) April: USA Crits Speed Week (SC, NC, GA) May: Winston-Salem Classic (NC) June: North Star Grand Prix stage race (MN) June: Canadian Elite Road Nationals (ON, Canada) July: Intelligentsia Cup (IL) August: Crossroads Classic (NC) September: Gateway Cup (MO) I'm seeking funding to help with travel and race fees. This schedule will cost over $1500 in race fees alone. I live in Charleston, SC, and I drive everywhere to keep costs down. Every little bit you can contribute helps! Thank you!! #thefutureisfoxy You can find Foxy Moxy on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FoxyMoxyRacing/ #girlslikeus #transinclusivesport #inclusivesport #lgbtq #transvisibility #socialchange #transrightsnow #allbodies #allgenders #strongertogether #cycling #strava #outsport @podiumwear @lazersportusa @everymanespresso @performancesci @madalchemy

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In Transition: A Non-Expert Chimes in about T1 and T2

transition set-up, Kincardine Women's Triathlon 2014 -- running shoes, bike shoes, ball cap, bathing cap, socks, gel shots, bike helmet, race bib on belt, small towel, on a half towel beside my bike.

My transition set-up, Kincardine Women’s Triathlon 2014.

As Kincardine approaches, a couple of my friends who are doing a multi-sport event for the first time have asked me about the transitions. People spend a lot of time talking about multi-sport training, but I remember like it was yesterday when, two years ago in the lead up to my first triathlon (also the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon) it dawned on me that I needed to “set up” my transition area and I had no clue what that meant.

Enter a whole new thing to worry about.  So, in the hopes of fending off worries for some of the newbies out there, today’s post is about setting up the transition area and about managing the transitions as swiftly as possible (in relative terms — there will be nothing here about a running bike start in bare feet with the shoes already clipped into the pedals).

But before you get to the transition, it’s a good idea to have a checklist of what you need to pack. This one is liberally borrowed and adapted from a checklist that a friend of mine who joined a triathlon training group at our local Y gave me. I’ve added some of my own notes in square brackets and though I do not know who the author(s) of this document were, I am grateful to them for providing some guidance and for much of the content that follows (yes, I’m an academic).

For the swim: wetsuit [if you’re wearing one], goggles, swimsuit or triathlon suit, swim cap or race cap (in your race kit–you’ll only need both if the water is chilly), 2 towels (a set-up towel and a drying towel–[I have found that a small towel is good for drying]).  [Note: I also need very good ear plugs because excruciating ear aches took me out of swimming for a number of years until I discovered ear plugs for swimming.]

For the bike: bike [with adequately inflated tires], helmet, socks [if wearing], bike shoes [if clipless pedals, otherwise running shoes], sunglasses, shirt if you’re riding in a swimsuit, with race # pinned to the front [I recommend a race belt because ideally your number will be in the back for the bike, the front for the run], a pump, portable flat kit on the bike [assuming you know how to change a tire, of course, since it won’t do you a whole lot of good if you don’t know how to use it], full water bottle on the bike in your water bottle holder.

For the run: running shoes, hat

Also recommended: sunscreen (sport style), water, energy drink, banana and whatever other race nutrition you like to have on hand for pre- and post-race, as well as during, duffle bag or triathlon bag for carrying everything, jacket if it’s cold, body glide (for helping with the wetsuit and also for bike shorts chamois or other sensitive areas where you might get chafing)

Optional: race belt (attach number), quick-tie shoelaces, GPS watch, garbage bags in case of rain or wet ground [I also pack a shoe horn and it saves me time because I can pre-tie my running shoe laces]

Okay, so that’s what you need to bring. I have an excellent Zoot triathlon backpack style tri-bag for toting everything. It’s got multiple compartments including a special spot for the bike helmet and another for the wetsuit.

Now it’s when I saw that list that I started to panic. But maybe you’re one of those more reasonable people who can keep in mind that knowledge is power, and knowing what to pack puts you in a better position to handle race day well.

So, as promised, here are the goods on transitions, based on my limited experience over the past couple of years.

Set-up

1. When you get to the race, the first thing you will do is rack your bike. The racks are usually grouped by event (triathlon/duathlon) and by either bib number or age group/gender.  Find your rack and pick a spot. Hook your bike on the cross bar by the seat, and if there is a bike beside, hook yours in so it’s facing the opposite way (so you’re alternating sides of the rack and aren’t on top of each other during transitions).

Get a visual bearing on your location — both the location of the rack (e.g. fifth rack on the right as you come into the transition from the swim, lines up with the trash can over there) and the location of your bike within the rack (e.g. the first bike after the third post). Some people put something neon or otherwise distinctive on or near their bike so they can see it when they come in.

You also want to be clear before the race start exactly where you come in from the swim, where the bike exit is, and where the run exit is.

2. Fold your ground towel in half and lay it on the ground right beside your bike. Space is limited and you are expected not to take up a lot of space. If you look at the picture at the top of the post, that’s about all the space I had.

3. Place bike helmet, straps open and hollow side up, either on your handlebars or on the towel beside your bike, and put the sunglasses in the helmet with their arms open, ready to put on.

4. Water bottle on bike, full.

5. Shoes and socks on towel, laces undone and ready to put on (or, if you’re like me, laces done just how you want them, plus a shoe horn).

6. Shirt on towel with bib pinned to front OR if you’re wearing a suit have race belt ready with the bib number attached and the belt open, placed on your helmet or shoes.

7. Put your drying towel on the set-up so that it’s easy to grab when you get back from your swim.

8. Put your running cap or visor with your running shoes.

9. Race nutrition if needed should also be on the towel or already on your bike, ready to go. Sometimes I put an extra water bottle on the towel to grab a quick drink before heading out but I’m not sure that’s recommended since it takes up valuable transition time.

T1: Swim to Bike

1. As you’re coming out of the water, start running towards the transition. Put your goggles on your head (leave goggles and swimcap on so you have two free hands). Peel your wetsuit down to your waist. Finish taking it off when you get to your set-up. Leave it, cap and goggles on the ground beside your bike (not on the rack — that’s not allowed).

2. Step on towel to dry feet as quickly as possible (they don’t need to be perfect!) and then pull on your socks.

3. Put on your bike shoes (or running shoes)

4. Put on your t-shirt or, if wearing a tri suit, your race belt with number to the back.

5. Put on your sunglasses.

6. Don the helmet and do up the strap — you must not touch your bike until the strap is done up (doing so is grounds for disqualification).

7. Run with your bike to the “Bike Out” and when you get to the “mount/dismount line” (and not before!), cross the line, get on your bike, and ride as if someone is chasing you and you don’t want to get caught.

T2: Bike to run

1. Dismount at the dismount line (do not cross the line on your bike or you may be disqualified) and run with your bike back to your transition spot.

2. Re-rack the bike.

3. Remove your helmet (make sure you do this in the right order: re-rack the bike first, remove the helmet second)

4. Change your shoes if you’re wearing bike shoes

5. Switch your number to the front if you’re wearing a race belt

6. Grab your hat

6. Run out the “Run Out” chute. I find this is a good time to bring in positive self-talk, smile at people, and remind myself of my awesomeness for being out there and doing this!

Finish Line

The Y-group’s checklist and transition guidelines sheet says this about the finish line:

Big smile for camera and FANS You made it!! Enjoy the moment; congratulate yourself and your fellow competitors. You are now a Triathlete!

Yay you!

The finish line is for hugging friends and loved ones and fellow competitors, for photo-ops, for re-hydrating, and for finding some post-race food. At Kincardine, they always serve sausages, which, as a vegan, I don’t eat. But there is also a little snack hut on the beach and they make awesome fries. So that is my post-rate “nutrition” after Kincardine.

I hope this annotated overview helps to alleviate some stress for anyone who is doing a triathlon for the first time, including my newbie friends who are joining me at my favourite event of the season, The Kincardine Women’s Triathlon, Saturday, July 11th, 2015.

Other tips and suggestions are more than welcome! Please comment with them if you have experience to share! 

Mississauga Marathon 2015 Part Two: Tracy Runs and Runs and Runs and Runs Some More (Race Report)

[warning: this race report is interminably long–my apologies. TI]

Why do people run marathons?  This thought flashed through my mind somewhere between 30 and 32K on Sunday, as I ran the Mississauga Marathon, my first full distance marathon ever. And quite possibly my last. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: it’s one thing to be fast and cover these distances quickly, quite another to be slow and plod along for almost six hours. That takes its own special kind of underrated endurance.

I got to Mississauga the day before the event. The minute I got up to my hotel room I heard a baby crying in the adjacent room and another child who sounded like perhaps a toddler vying for parental attention.  It took me about 30 seconds to assess the situation and call down to the front desk for another room. They obliged. Whew!

I had dinner plans with my friend, Vicki, and she got there just the second I got the new room.  We did a quick shopping trip to the fancy Square One Mall, and then headed out in search of pasta.  Alioli exceeded my expectations for what kind of Italian food I might find in a mall neighborhood of a Toronto suburb.  You can feed me crusty white bread and Alioli’s jumbo ravioli stuffed with mushrooms and smothered in their marinara sauce every day.

After dinner we went for a walk because not only did we have a bit of time, but the weather was perfect as perfect can be on the weekend. We have suffered through the relentless winter and then soldiered further through what’s been a disappointing and unreliable spring.  And this weekend the weather gods delivered on Environment Canada’s promise of “the nicest weekend so far.”

Catching up with Vicki and wandering around on a warm evening in late spring kept my mind off of the reason I was there: to run 42.2 km in the morning.  As soon as we said good-night I fired up my laptop to check on some race details, like the exact location of the starting line, the frequency of water stations, and (though meaningless to me because I don’t know Mississauga at all), the route.  The route looked unforgivingly long.

Mississauga Full-Relay-and-Half-Route-I made a decision about shoes, clothes, accessories and laid everything out on the other bed so I wouldn’t have any decisions in the morning. I wrote myself the following note: 6 a.m. eat breakfast, 6:15 shower, 6:45 make way to starting line for the 7:30 start.

Lights out. Unsettled night of sleep but no screaming children.

Rise and shine. I woke up feeling rested enough and pretty excited. Put my cereal together (something with Chia seeds and dried fruit and soy milk that works well for me as a pre-race meal and is easy to pack for travel). Ate. Showered. Dressed. The temperature was still on the cool side, around 11 degrees C, but warm enough that I didn’t need a throwaway sweater. I could leave in my running tank and shorts, not a problem.

When I got down to the lobby a few people were headed out to the starting line. This is the first time I’ve been to a race out of town where I knew no one.  Gabbi, my triathlon coach, and Miriam and Mary, both from the club, were all in town but I didn’t have a plan to meet up with them and the starting line is kind of chaotic anyway.  Not knowing anyone can be both lonely and liberating. I experienced both as I walked to the starting area and waited for the race to begin.

I had one main plan: to cross the finish line. My longest run ever before Sunday was 30K, so it’s not as if I fully trained for the marathon. That kind of concerned me, but I knew that even if I had to slow down considerably, I would be able to get to the end.

My other bits of strategy included turning off the pace and distance fields from my Garmin so it would only show me how long I’d been out there.  This was so I could do it more intuitively. I knew there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about pace. I knew that at a certain point it would be enough just to keep moving forward. I thought that being hyper aware of my pace might feel demoralzing. Gabbi agreed and suggested that the only reason even to use the Garmin at all on race day was to have a data record to analyze later.

I set the Garmin to 10-1 intervals and committed to sticking to them. Gabbi had suggested doing water station intervals instead, that is, run between the aid stations and then walk through them. But with the stations being 4km apart and my pace being in the 7-7:30 km range, I thought that would deviate too far from how I’d been training. That might be something for another day.

I felt like a pack mule trying to fit all of my nutrition into my fuel belt and another little pocket thing I had.  I stuffed one package of shot bloks, some coconut covered dates, and a cliff bar in the pocket thing, 2 vega gels in my fuel belt zipper pocket, and slid another package of shot blocks into this elastic loop on the outside of the fuel belt. Between the fuelt belt and my phone belt and my bib belt I had more going on around my waist and hips that is probably recommended. But I don’t know how people organize themselves. I also had one small bottle of water that fit into my fuel belt so I could take sips on walk breaks when I wasn’t at water station and refill as needed.

Two further decisions: (1) no music and (2) practice some chi running focuses, specifically the column posture, peeling my feet of the ground, the midfoot strike, and the lean.

I divided the race into 4 parts: 0-12K, 12-22K, 22-32K, 32-42.2K.

The Mississauga Marathon is that great kind of race where they put your name on your bib.  As I was waiting to cross the street I saw a woman whose name was also Tracy. We high-fived, with “Tracys unite!” She was with a friend who was wearing a pink wig and had a dog. This will become relevant later.

I love the buzz of excitement at the starting area of a race, and this one was no different. A band was playing and people were milling about. I’d made enough trips to the loo before I left the comfort of my hotel room that I spared myself the line-up at the port-o-pottie. I’ve done enough races now that it’s the line-ups, not the port-o-potties themselves, that I want to avoid.

At the start and haven't yet lost my mojo!

At the start and haven’t yet lost my mojo!

As I walked through the starting area I got a bit choked up. I get emotional like that sometimes.  I think the enormity of what I was about to do hit me. I wanted to be near the back of the pack because I knew I was going to be in the slower group. What I hadn’t prepared myself for was that the slower group sort of gravitates towards the half marathon. Very few people near the back had the blue and red bibs that indicated the full. That kind of worried me. I was in for a lonely race.

Hazel McCallion, who was mayor of Mississauga for 36 years (until she retired last year at age 93), said a few word of welcome. Then we sang the national anthem. And then it was 30 seconds to the start, then we all did a 10-second countdown and I almost cried again. And we were off.

0-12K

I thought I would finish in 5:00 to 5:30.  They say to take your half marathon time, double it and add 20 minutes. My half last October was just under 2:30, so that seemed like a reasonable estimate.  My biggest worry was that I would go out too fast.  So I hung back and paced myself easy, at what felt like around 7:20 or so, for the first few kilometers.

I took my walk breaks as scheduled even though I didn’t feel as if I needed them yet. I took in the cool air and the excitement and energy of the others around me. At about 4 km I saw a woman with pink hair and a dog at the side. She hollered out, “Tracy!”  And I couldn’t remember where I’d met her — I looked perplexed. She then shouted, “The other Tracy’s friend! You got this!”

And at that point, with almost one tenth of the race behind me, I felt like yes, I got this!

I plodded along at a slightly faster pace once I got a bit warmed up. At one point I sort of tripped over something that felt like a plastic candy bar wrapper or something. I didn’t bother to look down even though I wondered how it was that I could have tripped over something that I hadn’t seen, since I was alert and aware and had a clear view of the road.

At 6K when I reached down to grab my first shot block from the package in that elastic loop, it became clear to me why I hadn’t seen the thing I tripped over.  Okay. Half of my primary nutrition strategy was lying on Burnhamthorpe Road, unopened.  I can’t eat a whole lot of different things and shot blocks go down easier than gels do (for me–I know others are different). So: damn, that sucked. It also meant more Gatorade than I would usually take, but thank goodness they had Gatorade instead of Hammer Heed, because Heed doesn’t agree with me.

By then the mall-suburbs had given way to a scenic, forested area of Mississauga, and soon we entered the picturesque campus of University of Toronto, Mississauga. Maybe it’s because I’m an academic, or maybe it’s because I have two degrees from U of T, but I felt strangely comforted by those surroundings even though I have never set foot on that particular campus of U of T before.

I’d settled into a little group of people who were sort of catching up, passing, catching up, passing, based on different walk-run interval schedules. There was one woman in particular who was power walking the whole thing at an amazing walk-pace. I passed her whenever I was running, but not by much because she caught up with me on my one-minute walks.

We were a couple of kilometres winding through the campus and then we ended up in a stately and elegant residential area on the tree-lined Mississauga Rd.  Some of the locals were out cheering us on, and the race had amazing support from volunteers and from the police, who had a major presence at all intersections. The perfect weekend weather also brought out the cyclists, who were for the most part fine but got annoying later on when I hit the loneliest stretches of the marathon towards the end. But we’re not there yet.

Just before 12K I started looking at people’s bibs and that’s when I realized that almost everyone in my little group was doing the half, not the full.  Finally I caught up to an older man who was doing the full, and felt immediately relieved. He asked me what I was aiming for timewise. “Between 5:00 and 5:30. You?” I said.  He was aiming for six hours.

Six hours! I somehow had never even had in my head the idea that it could take six hours.  Good Lord.  But at that point 5:30 still seemed achievable. He talked about the “double your half and add twenty minutes” formula and I found that reassuring.

By the end of 12K I was feeling light and happy. We’d been in shade most of the time and it was still early in the day anyway.  I had no injuries or even niggling physical symptoms of any kind. And I was still apace with the amazing power walker, which I found both comforting and worrying (because she was walking, but don’t underestimate what some people can do pacewise when they’re walking).

12-22K

I was over the loss of the shot blocks by now and had opened the other package, eating one every time I hit a walk break at first, and then I rationed by switching to my dates, of which I had five to spread out over the race.

We were all clipping along nicely on more of the tree-lined shady residential streets of Mississauga, not yet down to the lake but it didn’t matter.  The shade kept it cool enough and in any case we were only expecting a high of 24C, which is so bearable compared to what it’s like in mid-summer when it’s much hotter than that and humid.

The moment of truth came between 14K and 15K, when the half marathon route veered off from the full:

Where the half marathon and the full marathon parted ways.

Where the half marathon and the full marathon parted ways.

When I did the Scotiabank Half last October, the part where they marathoners had to go a different route really demoralized me because I felt as if there was no way I could do what they had to do. I had to mentally prepare myself for that this time, and also because almost everyone went straight when I had to turn.

I soon caught up to a woman who was walking and listening to music. I asked her how she was doing. She took one of her earbuds out and said,”This is the loneliest marathon ever.” Her last one had been at Disney, and there is nothing lonely about that one. People everyone. Musicians along the side, all sorts of spectators.  Not like that in Mississauga. And we weren’t even halfway home.

Never having done a marathon before, I hadn’t really thought about it until she said it. But when I looked around I could see she was right. There were huge gaps between the runners. Then my walk-break was over and off I went.

At my next walk-break I caught up to another woman who was taking a break.  By now all of our emotional defenses were down. By the time the one minute we were walking together was over I knew that she had suddenly and out of the blue got her period one kilometre into the race. She had to stop at a convenience store to buy some supplies.  She had cramps. And she had had her last period only two weeks prior.  “Maybe it’s peri-menopause?” I suggested. I was just launching into my story of menopause when the walk-break ended and I started to run.

I made a commitment to stick to the walk-breaks as they came along but not to extend them.  I knew that once I started to mess around with the intervals, it would become all-too-easy to add a minute here and two minutes there.  The woman with her period and I played catch-up and pass for at least 15K, right up until I hit the wall at 30K.

22-32K

At 22K the course went into a quasi out-and-back portion.  There were lots of runners coming towards me who were then turning right (my left, their right).  But I still had to get to where they were all coming from, which involved a 4K stretch through a hot, treeless industrial area, then looping back with a short stretch along the water. This part of the route was, for me, one of the more soulless expanses and it just seemed to go on and on and on. Where in the heck is the turnaround? If I’d studied the map more carefully I’d have known. But I hadn’t, so I didn’t. That whole bit challenged me for almost 7K. The path along the lake felt quiet and idyllic, to be sure. But by then, because of the out and back, I could see clearly that there weren’t a lot of people behind me. Just a handful, nothing like the apparent hoards that were streaming towards me when I first began the “out” part of the out and back.

At the water station at the turn I took Gatorade and water. I dumped the water in my hat and drank the Gatorade. There was a band of drummer on the corner, about 6-8 older men in uniforms of some kind all playing different types of drums. The beat  boosted my spirits for a few moments, much-needed after the ordeal I’d just completed over the past 7K.  It seemed like a good time to use the bathroom, what with no line-up and the band of drummers.

I went into the port-o-pottie, probably more for the rest than anything else, and it turned out that I really didn’t need to go.  45 seconds wasted, but it was nice to be off my feet for a bit.

When I got out into the sunlight again, my friend with her period was just passing me.  Then there was a hill. And as I approached the 30K marker, I looked at my Garmin and saw I’d been out there for close to 4 hours already. I did a quick mental calculation and it became clear to me that there was no way I was going to make 5 hours, and I would be pressing my luck even to make 5:30.

That’s when I got a serious case of the “fuck-its.”  30-32K were the lowpoint of the event for me.  I gave myself a break and take an extended walk-interval and tried to get a more positive attitude. An older man running in sandals passed me as we entered another residential area that would eventually take us down towards the lake. We greeted each other and as he passed me he said something about having long come to accept the fact that he’s slow.

32-42.2K

At 32K I was about 4:30 into it and I had no idea how I would squeeze out another 10K but I kind of knew I was going to, one way or the other. By now, the woman with her period was out of reach. There was no way I would catch her again. The guy in sandals was still in sight.

Somewhere in this stretch the pylon truck started coming along to collect the pylons. I have to say, if a race has a stated limit and that limit isn’t past yet, and if you are within the pace that they said is required, then I just don’t think they should be collected the flipping pylons ahead of you. It’s demoralizing and it also makes it difficult to know if you’re going the right way.

From 32 to 38K, the route took us down into the park along the lake twice. By now, because remember it was the first beautiful weekend of the season, people were out in droves. Not spectators, just people enjoying their Sunday in the park — kids on scooters and skateboards, guys kicking around a soccer ball, families barbequing and picnicking, women and men out for their long Sunday run (not in the event!), couples strolling, people walking their dogs — you get the picture.

Although a few people encouraged me as I slowly passed them — they said stuff like “good job” and “way to go” — at this point I was having struggling with “when is this going to be over” and wasn’t in much of a mind to be able to interact all that much. I smiled and said thanks when I could, but in the end, I just wanted it to be over.

The 39K sign was the last one I saw. I was desperate to know how close I was to the end and people kept saying, “you’re almost there,” but either they removed the rest of the markers (bad form) or they never had them there in the first place (worse form).

The final 2K took me past the Port Credit marina, where I had fond memories of spending some time on a friend’s boat with Renald one year, along a pretty boardwalk and then into another lakeside park. This time, tons of people with race bibs and medals, adults and kids both, were streaming towards me leaving the finishing area. I guess they had a kids’ event at some point before the marathon was over, so it was just packed.

These people especially were telling me I was “almost there.” But I honestly had no idea at that point what that meant.  One kid, who had to be under 10 and I have no idea what kind of coaching he is used to but it must be fierce, hollered at me as I approached him, shouting “let’s go!” as if he was a drill sergeant and I was in boot camp.

Finally a guy said, “less than 500m” and then another guy said, “less than 400m.” Somewhere over that home stretch I passed the man running in sandals, both of us as if in slow motion.  I could see the finishing chute and I actually managed to pick up my pace a bit for a little burst at the end because I just wanted it to be over as fast as possible.  As I entered the finishing chute and ran towards the arch to cross over the timing mats, I started to sob a bit.

Then I noticed that there were race photographers all trying to capture my big moment. When I got married I sobbed all the way down the aisle and I have to say, the photos from that “special moment” aren’t pretty. I remembered that. So I pulled myself together. It’ll be something between a smile and a grimace I’m sure.

I had enough energy to throw my arms up, victory style, as I crossed the line.  I got my medal and then I put the wrong foot up on the step for the timing chip guy to remove my chip. He’d clearly removed enough chips that day and was probably annoyed at the late finishers, so that didn’t amuse him quite the way it amused me. I don’t think either that he realized how hard it was to get my foot up there in the first place. Anyway, I got the other foot up and he snipped the cable tie and took the chip.

As I made my way along, I was surprised that Gabbi, Mary, and Miriam had all waited around for over three hours after the half for me to get to the finish line. They all came up and congratulated me and hugged me and said how awesome I was.

The kids had eaten all the bananas (who needs a banana after a 2K fun run?) — I think the race organizers should do better to make sure that those of us who limp across the finish line after hours and hours and hours and hours and hours get a banana. Anyway, I got a bagel and a box of cereal and Mary gave me half of her banana. And I had a Clif bar in my pouch.

In the finishing area, water in one hand, box of cereal in the other, medal around my neck.

Gabbi offered to drive me back to my hotel. Her car was about 2K from the finish line and they kept reassuring me that it was a good thing to keep moving my legs after such a long run. I knew that but still. Longest 2K of my life, from the finish area to Gabbi’s car. Grateful nonetheless.

Time: 5:50

Would I do it again: too soon to say for sure, but I’m leaning towards a “no.”  Still, here I am the next day, with my race t-shirt and my medal, feeling pretty pleased to have completed an epic run, still smiling.

In my orange race t-shirt with my finishers medal.

I Did It! Reflections on Achieving What Once Seemed Impossible

possible_imageOn Sunday morning I ventured out with two other women, Anita, whom I’m training for a half marathon with, and Julie, whom I know from my 10K training group last winter and who is now in Anita’s half marathon group at the Running Room.

The run was an LSD–short for “long, slow distance”–20K at a leisurely pace with 10-1 run-walk intervals. We committed to a pace that was supremely conversational.

That meant 2.5 hours of chat.  Within the first breezy, chilly 5K of the morning, Julie told us about a friend who completed an Ironman this summer. So impressive!  Hardly imaginable. “But she always knocks herself down by saying she finished near to last,” Julie said.

You know how sometimes you hear a thing and it makes something in your head go “click”?  I heard myself in Julie’s friend.  Not the Ironman part. The part about knocking myself down.

I ran a 10K race!  But I could have done it faster.

I did an Olympic distance triathlon! But I almost came in last.

Even though I tried to be positive whenever I blogged about my races over the past little while, and I always ended on an upnote about how “at least” I did it, I’ve never truly allowed myself to soak in the magnitude of my physical accomplishments over the past little while.

The closest I got was my birthday post, where I talked about how far I’ve come since we started the blog. But I don’t think even there that I fully appreciated what the two Olympic distance triathlons actually mean for me.

It’s not about where I placed. It’s about finishing what I started.

Here’s some perspective:  Sam re-posted my first 5K race report from two years ago (October 2013).  The day I did that 5K, 5K was the longest I’d ever done! I felt nervous as hell–and the race didn’t even have timing chips!  I’d been running less than a year and the very thought of ever doing triathlon was about as remote the possibility that I may one day climb Everest (ZERO–no desire and I don’t understand why people do that).

When I dipped my toe into triathlon with my first Kincardine Women’s Triathlon in the summer of 2013, it lit a fire in me, but Olympic distance?  Impossible.

But that impossible goal supplanted my pre-triathlon fittest by 50 goal of running a half marathon. I re-jigged my training, started swimming with a coach, and even joined a triathlon club.

Before the snow from our polar vortex winter of 2014 melted, the impossible began to come into view.  I told my coach that was the distance I wanted to train for. I made public declarations about my intention.

When I was at my computer, instead of working, or even procrastinating from work on Facebook, I read and re-read websites detailing the summer events within driving distance of London.

By the time the first flowers of spring were in bloom, I’d committed to Bracebridge in August and Lakeside in September. For me, paying the money meant no turning back.

I trained.  And trained. And trained. I hauled myself out of bed for 6 a.m. swims in Sharon’s Creek.  I forced myself to ride the road bike (here is where I would normally add in some kind of complaint about how much I detested it and how little progress I made, but I refuse to go there today). I ran as early as possible to avoid the heat of the day.  Once, I came home from work at noon and did a brick workout to test my capacity to run in the noon heat just in case I ever happened to be doing that on race day (and I did, in Bracebridge).

So that’s triathlon. And I’m feeling awesome that I did it.

About running.  Back in the spring when I did the 10K in the Forest City Road Race, I watched the half marathoners with awe.  It seemed unfathomable to me that anyone would be able to complete 21K.

Then, after a little coaxing from my friend, Anita, the goal just didn’t seem all that out of reach.  She wanted someone to run the Toronto Waterfront Half with her on October 19th. I checked my calendar.  Available. I signed up (remember: once I pay, I’m there!).

With just over a month between the Lakeside Olympic distance and the Toronto half, I had a month to shift my attention to running. I love the long chatty runs. But a couple of weekends in a row I had to do long ones — 18K — by myself. And I did.

Which brings me to last Sunday, on our leisurely 20K, chatting and watching our pace and logging the distance one step at a time.  What once seemed impossible had the character of an unhurried coffee date with friends. Yes. 20K. Like going for coffee.

I’m really liking this thing–this thing of doing the impossible.

What have you done that once seemed impossible?  I’d love to hear about it! If you can’t think of something, how about making a decision to work towards a new, seemingly impossible goal?

You’ll feel kind of pumped once you do it.

 

 

Cambridge Sprint Triathlon Report: One Woman’s Sprint Is Another Woman’s Endurance Race!

Tracy in her wetsuit and bathing cap, all ready for the swim portion of the Cambridge Triathlon.  Happy and relaxed!

Tracy in her wetsuit and bathing cap, all ready for the swim portion of the Cambridge Triathlon. Happy and relaxed! Photo credit: Renald Guindon

I did my first triathlon of the season on Sunday in  Cambridge, Ontario.  It was technically a sprint, but it was a longer sprint than many — 750 metre in the open water followed by 30 kilometres on the bike and a 6 kilometre trail run through the woods.  It was more than double the distance of the longest triathlon I’ve done so far.  I trained super well for the swim, reasonably well for the run, and pretty much not at all for the bike. And it all showed. Here’s my race report.

Shade Mills Conservation Area is in Cambridge, about an hour and 20 minutes from London, Ontario. Check-in began at 7:30 and I like to be early, so Renald and I left London at 6 a.m. on a perfectly clear, sunny morning. Not hot or humid. Just right.  I got all organized the night before, with my bag neatly packed for each leg of the race.  The pre-race report said the water was 67 degrees F, and I was excited to check out my new wetsuit for real.

I had two bikes in the car — mine and our friend and colleague, Chris’s. She was doing the duathlon (run-bike-run) and wanted to make space in her car for her cheering squad — partner, Emma, who has blogged here about her treadmill desk, and their kids Finn and Una.

The days leading up to the event I felt tired.  If I wasn’t already officially menopausal, I would have sworn I had PMS.  From the 400 times or so I’ve had it over the course of my life, I know the PMS symptoms well: tired, legs that feel as if someone filled them with lead, emotional, and a particular sort of lower back pain that I only ever got right before my period. But I am menopausal, right?  Haven’t menstruated since January 2012, right?

Well wrong.  It felt like PMS because, surprise!  It was!  Perfect timing that the crimson tide should make a guest appearance just in time for my first triathlon of the season.  I’d also been nursing a sore throat for a few days, gargling with warm salt water whenever the chance arose.

This is all by way of saying that physically, I was not at my strongest on Sunday.  And still, I felt excited and even kind of relaxed when we arrived at the site.

Earlier in the week I had met with Gabbi, the coach from Balance Point Triathlon, who I’ve been swim training with since September. She had urged me to arrive early, give my bike a quick ride to make sure it was all in working order after being transported, get all set up, familiarize myself with the location of my stuff in the transition area, the various entry and exit points, and to get down to the water in time to do a warm-up swim in my wetsuit, and get a visual, from the water, of what the swim finish looked like.

This was the first year for the Cambridge event, so it was a nice manageable size, with only 219 participants (159 men, 60 women, and only 6 women in my age-group category of 50-54).  The transition area was mercifully small, and my rack was especially roomy, which is not always the case. I racked my bike and had plenty of space to lay down my towel and arrange my stuff all out for smooth transitions.  I mentally reviewed how each transition would go.

Renald was waiting for me down at the beach. I applied body glide to my arms and legs (I should have put some around the bottom of my neck at the back too, which is where the wetsuit rubbed the worst). I pulled the suit on, grabbed my bathing caps (double layer for warmth), and made my way down to the water for my warm-up swim.  The water felt just fine. The wetsuit kept my body toasty warm, and unlike the frigid dip in Lake Erie that I had the weekend before, my hands and face and feet could handle it without any trouble. As you can see from the top photo, I felt pretty good after the warm-up, ready for the starting horn for my wave (wave 4).

The Swim (750m)

I had a bit of a rough start, struggling to find a position where I could swim comfortably, stay on course, and strike a good rhythm.  It took me the first third or so of the swim to do that. In the pool when I’m training I have no difficulty breathing every third stroke. But at the beginning of the race, I lost my breath and had to breath every two strokes for quite awhile. I’m good at sighting, which is a necessary skill for open water swimming when you can’t follow the blue line on the bottom of the pool.  But instead of rolling into my breathing after a sighting the orange markers (which we were to keep on our left), my stroke and rhythm got all messed up.

But as we rounded the first corner to the far side of the island that we were swimming around, I started to relax into the swim. My breathing got more steady and I felt strong and confident. By that time, I’d started passing people from the previous wave, recognizable to me from their blue caps. This bolstered my confidence even more and made it possible for me to stay calm even though there were lots of weeds that were getting all caught on my face and in my hands–that would normally prompt minor hysterics because sea life in general, be it weeds or fish, throws me into a panic.

But I kept my focus and made it out of the water in 17:48.  Not the fastest but also by no means the slowest time. I was definitely in the top third of swim times. Yay for that!  It shows me that my training has paid off big time.

T1 (2:50)

I bolted out of the water and ran across the grass (quite a distance) to the transition area. I peeled off the wetsuit the way Gabbi had told me to do–down to the waist on the way to the transition area, then to the knees, then step on one side while I pulled the foot out of the other and vice versa. It was a bit chilly, which I hadn’t prepped for, so I pulled my new race t-shirt on over my wet clothing. I put on the helmet and clipped the chin strap, put the sunglasses on, then shoes and socks. Unracked the bike and ran out the other side of the transition to the mount line. Samantha and Jeff had arrived by then and were cheering me on at the sidelines as I hopped on the bike, clipped in, and rode off.

The Bike Leg (30K)

Here’s what went well on the bike leg.  I wasn’t nervous because I had done it a couple of weeks before with Sam and Chris.  I had a good supply of Clif Block Shots in a little pouch that I attached to my handlebars, as well as my water bottle which I am now able to drink from without stopping.  So I was able to keep myself nourished and hydrated.  It was also perfect riding weather — clear and dry, not hot but not cold either — and the course was well-marked and well-monitored, with OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) at major intersections so we could ride through safely.  They also had clear markers at 5K intervals.

But I lost a ton of time on the bike. It started with a climb that didn’t bother me at all on our test run, but left me completely winded and gasping this time around.  The descent that immediately followed kind of scared me, and I felt myself reaching for the brakes a couple of times instead of just letting fly. I did pass a few people at the beginning. But for the most part people blasted past me.  Psychologically, I admit that this kind of demoralized me when it happened.  It’s not just that I got passed. It’s that people were maintaining speeds that I can only dream about at this point. So the negative tape in my head started to play about how slow I am, and then I just stopped really pushing myself. I kicked into gear on hills, telling myself that they were meditations. That got me to the top of the only really challenging climb of the course back.

I had estimated I could do it in about an hour 20 minutes.  I came close, at 1:23:58, one of the slowest bike times of the race.

When I came back in Sam, Jeff, and Renald were all at the bike dismount, yelling “Go, Tracy!”  I unclipped and dismounted without incident. Grabbed the bike and ran to the transition area.

T2 (1:54)

 Someone had racked her bike where mine was supposed to go and that threw me for a brief few seconds.  I racked my bike over a bit, removed my helmet and my extra shirt, kicked off the bike shoes, donned the hat, grabbed the shoe horn to slip on my running shoes (I had the laces set exactly where I like them already), grabbed my fuel belt (I hate being reliant on the water stations) and ran to the transition exit.  On the way out, as I tried to turn my race bib number to the front, I ripped one of the holes and it was hanging askew. I tried tucking it in without much luck as I ran to the run course.

The Run

I ran without any gadgets at all — no Garmin, no watch, no music. This meant that I had no idea what kind of time I was making, but I knew it was slow. I had to lose 30 seconds to re-pin my number to the belt (a makeshift belt — I want a real one).  By now the sun had risen quite a bit in the sky. Thankfully, the run wound through a beautiful, cool wooded trail.  I saw a few people at the beginning of the run, but other than a couple of women whom I passed (and who were younger than me by 20 and 30 years!), I ran alone.  It was so shady in the woods that I had to take off my sunglasses.  The marker for the first kilometre came up quickly. That felt like a good sign but my energy started to wane.

I felt like I was shuffling along by now, hardly picking up my feet.  I did a mix of running and walking. By now, I knew there was no question of not finishing. In fact, that hadn’t entered my mind at any point.  One of the women I passed earlier passed me on one of my walk breaks as we approached the 5K marker. I wanted to run the last kilometre.  I probably could have but my mind kept telling me to walk. Anyway, my run pace was dreadful — at 7:56 per kilometer it was well over a minute slower than the pace that I train at!  Run time: 47:36When I got the finish chute and approached the finish line, Renald, Sam, Jeff, Chris, Emma, Finn, and Una were all at the side cheering me on!  I felt like I had nothing much left but I think most of that was in my mind. I kind of breezed to the finish line. Smiling.  All in all, it was a fun race.

Debrief

The race felt long. And for me, it was–the longest I’ve done so far. Just a little bit shorter than the Olympic Distance coming up in August.

Renald commented that most of the athletes, by the look on their faces, didn’t look like they were enjoying themselves. For me, there is no point if it’s not fun.  I have to confess, though, to feeling somewhat disappointed with my result.  It’s not that I feel 2:34 is a terrible time. I was actually pleased enough with that.  It’s that in comparative terms, it feels kind of shitty to be 6/6 in my age group and almost last in the race (yes, only 5 people came in after me and 2 more didn’t finish at all).

Sam made me feel better in a couple of ways. She suggested that this year I complete, next year I compete.  She’s also quite sure I can improve my bike speed with some effort.  I can tell you this: I will not be taking another full winter off of cycling. I’m getting a trainer and I also plan to do spin classes.

And finally, I need to work on my running stamina. The walk breaks are fine, but I want to run faster when I’m running. And if I’m going to take walk breaks, I want them to be at regular intervals, not just when I feel like it. Why? Because the more tired I get, the more I feel like it. And much of that is just in my head. A few times during the run I just took stock of what was going on with me. The answer that came back was revealing — there was really no good reason for me to slow down to a walk.  That kept me going through the last K.

Next up is the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon on July 13.  I’m now signed up to train with the Balance Point Triathlon Club for the rest of the season, and will continue with them through the winter.  My summer is a bit broken up with travel, and I’m not sure how much regular training I’m going to get in between now and the week before Kincardine. But as Sam said, this summer I’m completing, next year I’m competing.

And I am enjoying myself quite a bit. Here’s the picture to prove it:

Tracy crosses the finish line at Cambridge. Photo credit: Renald Guindon

Tracy crosses the finish line at Cambridge. Photo credit: Renald Guindon

Next time I’d just like to cross the finish line before all the food is gone.

New Race Strategy Pays Off

forest city road race 2014.1On Sunday morning I ran the 10K in the Forest City Road Races. What a great event!  The weather gods cooperated with a sunny morning and moderate temperatures. The usual race-day buzz filled the air. And I loved the route–familiar roads well-supported with police at intersections, guides to point us in the right direction, and cheering squads along the way.

I went in with a modest goal: to beat my last 10K time enough to take me in under 70 minutes.  To know just how modest that actually is: the top finishers get to the end of the race in less than half that time!

I have a watch-style GPS that tells me my pace.  I knew going in that if I could maintain an under 7 minutes a kilometre pace, I should be able to beat my previous time. I met up with Sam’s friend Helen at the starting line. She said she planned to run at her usual pace, which typically brings her in at around 66 minutes.  The only difference is that her race plan doesn’t include walk-breaks. Mine so far is all about the 10-1 run/walk system I learned at my 10K clinic.

I also had a new strategy on the table on Sunday.  Are you ready?  Here it is: push myself!  Sam laughs when I tell her that I don’t like feeling uncomfortable. But it’s true. Most of all, I get a bit panicky when I feel out of breath.  This makes her laugh even harder.  “How can someone who races etc. not want to be out of breath or uncomfortable?”

True, pushing ourselves to discomfort seems to be what racing is all about. That’s why race day is not the day for the slow, easy run.  No.  Race pace is another thing entirely. In my case, I just haven’t done enough races to know what my race pace is.  But I set out on Sunday prepared to push beyond my usual running comfort zone.

This strategy started to materialize during the Run for Retina. During that race, I engaged in quite a bit of reassuring self-talk along the lines of “it’s okay to be out of breath. Push yourself a bit harder. The end isn’t all that far away.”  That sort of thing.

In the two weeks between these races, I consciously adopted it as my race strategy. I would ignore that voice that wants to stop at the first sign of discomfort and push harder instead.

Running alongside Helen during the first ten minutes I felt strong and energetic.  When my timer told me it was time to walk, I ignored it and committed to running through to the next walk break, 11 minutes from then.  By the time that one came around, I felt as if I could probably run through it too. But we weren’t even half way yet. I didn’t want to sabotage my goal by hitting a wall from pushing myself too hard too early in the race.

I watched Helen trot away from me.  Her neon pink top kept me on pace when I resumed my run less than a minute later.  I amended the 10-1 plan a bit, never taking the full minute for walking. I just walked enough to take a few sips of water.

That was the other element in my race strategy on Sunday: bring my own water and drink when I felt like it, out of bottles that were easy to sip from.  That paper cup thing at the water stations just doesn’t work for me.

At the halfway point, I could still see Helen. My pace stayed in the range it needed to be for me to hit my goal.  I hauled out some of the focusing techniques I read about when I was studying up on chi running.  One is to keep your eyes fixed on a high point way in the distance — the top of a tree works best for me.  Another that I like is to think of your feet coming off the ground the way self-sticking postage stamps peel up off of their backing. When I do that, my ankles always loosen and relax.  Finally, I remembered that the chi running folks say to tilt the whole body slightly forward, sharpening the tilt when you want to pick up speed.

All this kept me much more focused and present than music ever has. I am pleased at my decision to leave the music at home on race day.

So all that, as well as regular glances at the pace on my watch, kept me focused on what I was doing. Meanwhile, each kilometre was well-marked.  So I knew as I came up to the 8K mark that if I could maintain my pace and not take up the next walk, I’d make my goal.

When I came into the home stretch, with less than a kilometer to go, the route took us past the Symposium Cafe on Central Ave. Renald and my mother-in-law and our friend, Peter, were standing outside to cheer me on.  Renald, who had been planning to meet me at the finish line at 11:10 (because I told him that’s about when I’d be crossing, and I had admitted to him the day before that it would mean a lot to me to have him there), yelled out, “You’re early!”

I picked up my pace for the final two blocks.  I felt a bit tired, but coming into the home stretch of the race, running on Wellington down the long side of Victoria Park, I let my strategy kick in.  I no longer had to worry that I would hit a wall before the finish line.  The line was just around the corner.

I approached the arch and heard “Hey Honey!” in what sounded like Renald’s voice. But he’d just been at the Symposium, so how could it be him? When I crossed, the clock said 1:08:08!  Yay for me! It’s times like that that you really do wish to have someone you know there to share the moment with you.

As I stopped down to get my medal, Renald shouted out again from the sidelines.  He’d run down from the restaurant to meet me and take pictures.

All in all, it was a really fabulous morning. I implemented the things I’d learned from the last race:  bring my own water and leave the music behind.  And best of all, I embraced the idea of discomfort on race day.

Next time, I’m going to get even more uncomfortable. I’m feeling hungry for an even faster time.  New goal: sub-65 minute 10K.

 

 

 

First 10K Race

Tracy after crossing the finish line at the 10K Run for Retina.  Big smile, medal, happy runner.

Tracy after crossing the finish line at the 10K Run for Retina. Big smile, medal, happy runner.

On the weekend I ran my first 10K race in London Ontario’s annual Run for Retina Research (which also has a 5K and a half marathon) and what a great time I had.  I’ve been working up to this race for months, sticking it out through the polar vortex of a winter we had.

But I hadn’t done much very recent training. Since the 13K long run more than a month ago when my left knee started giving me grief, I’ve taken it easy. I managed two slow 8Ks with the run club (hanging happily at the back with my running friend, Fatima) for the two Sundays before the race, but not without knee pain and not with a lot of other mileage each week. So I had reason to be uncertain (not exactly nervous) about how the race would go.

The weather cooperated, with some cloud cover and a warm-ish morning. It was mild enough for shorts and a light long sleeved T that I could wrap around my waist if I needed to go down to the tank top underneath. It was the first morning this season I could leave the house for a run without gloves.

The race started down in Harris Park at the Forks of the Thames (yes, our little London has a Thames, even a Covent Garden Market!). Sam was running the 5K at 9:45 and I ran into her about 10 minutes before my race began at 9:30. She too had concerns about her left knee.

Pre-race is such an exciting time. There’s always a palpable anticipation in the air and everyone is in a good mood. The half marathoners headed out at 8:30 and I would see some of them run past me a but later when they came back from the other direction and overlapped the 10K route.

I had a simple strategy and goal. Stick to the 10-1 run-walk system I’d learned and practiced in the 10K training clinic I did with the Running Room through the winter. My goal was a modest 70 minute 10K. If you’re not a runner, you can get an idea of just how modest by this: the announcer asked the people who were going to finish in 30-35 minutes to go to the front of the pack at the starting line!

I tuned to Fatima, ‘People actually finish in 30-35 minutes?!’ Seriously, that’s a good 5K time for me. These folks are twice as fast as I am. But they weren’t my competition.

I have a specific goal, which is to be able to do the 10K run of my Olympic distance triathlon in August in under 70 minutes. If I’m going to do that after swimming 1.5K and biking for 40K, I need to be able to do it by itself. Actually, the coach says I should be able to do 15K if I want to do a comfortable 10 in the triathlon.

At least 200 people crowded at the starting line, maybe more. I stayed near the back.  My timing chip would only start timing me once I crossed the inflated red arch over the start/finish line. Just seconds before the race began, I took off the long sleeved T-shirt and tied it around my waist. Good call — it got hot quickly.

After a slow start as everyone jostled for a position and before we all spread out, I found my rhythm.  I wanted to maintain a 6 minute 30-45 second/km pace for my 10s, and I didn’t pay much attention to the pace on my 1-minute walks (probably a mistake, in hindsight).

I ran with music this time, which turned out to be my undoing in the end. It kept me company, but the playlist needs refreshing. I skipped through too many songs and the music stopped just when I needed it most — in the last kilometre!

Overall, I had an energetic run at a comfortable pace.  I engaged in quite a bit of self talk to try pushing myself at times. I hate being out of breath, but I kept reminding myself that it’s not like it would kill me. And, as cliche as it is, learning to be uncomfortable will make me stronger.

The spring in my step gave way to a more labored and ambling effort at the turnaround.  Not once did I think I wouldn’t do it, I just questioned whether I would do it in under 70 minutes. My Garmin Forerunner told me that my pace had slowed in the second half. Everything I’ve ever learned about the benefits of negative splits came back to me, and I tried to pick up the pace.

The water stations didn’t help much.  I mean, I felt grateful to have the water, but I can’t run and drink. So every time I hit a water station and wanted to drink I had to walk through. I wasn’t with a crowd of people most of the time so I have no clue whether this is the same for everyone.  I found it awkward.

I have been experimenting with gels. After 20 minutes I popped a Vega sport endurance gel. I should have done the other one 20 minutes later but I opted against.

A little before the turnaround the half marathoners started to pass us. Every time one of them did, I thanked the Universe that I’d only signed up for 10K.

My legs began feeling heavy with about 2K to go (it was hard to tell because–and this is the one criticism I have this otherwise excellent race–all the markers after the turnaround gave the half marathon distances, not the 10K distances).  My mind started telling me the time didn’t matter that much.  I recalled a study that said the mind bails out long before the body needs to.  That helped me push a bit harder.

If I really pushed the last 1.5K, my watch said, I would make it in about 70 minutes.  But that would mean going all out for longer than I ever had before.  Then the music stopped.  It was a toss up. I could forget the music but I worried that it would slow my pace.  So I slowed to a walk, fiddled with the iPhone to get the music going again, and hoofed it as fast as I could through the final stretch.

Time: 70 minutes and 40 seconds. The 40 seconds longer than my goal was just about the time I spent messing around with my music. Silly, silly.  Next time I’ll be better prepared. Ideally, I should probably just leave the music alone altogether. I train without it most of the time anyway.

I met Sam at the finish line. She made her 5K but her knee had a rough time.  The sun came out. Fatima finished not far behind me despite her back pain. Our friend, Azar, who’d done the 5K, found us. We took a few photos.  Everyone felt good about their race.

What I’ll do differently next time:

1. Take my water belt. The bottles are easier to drink from than paper cups, and I can time my own water to coincide with my walk breaks rather than having to slow down at the water stations.

2. Run without music or have an extra long playlist with very zippy music the entire time. No ballads.

3. If I’m running with music and the playlist ends, keep going without it!

4. Do some hill training and more interval training to build speed and stamina (as well as comfort instead of dread on hills).

5.  Run the 10K in under 70 minutes. I know I can.

Next up: the Cambridge Triathlon (750m swim, 30km bike, 6km run), Sunday, June 15th.

P.S. No knee pain!