*This is going to be a very long post so prepare yourself!!
In January I decided that I wanted to run another half. My reasoning was more to do with my mental struggles with running than physical. I am not a fast runner & don’t pretend to be. I wish I was faster, don’t get me wrong, but last year I started running again after taking two years off and set unrealistic expectations on myself. I went into the 2015 GoodLife Half wanting to finish in under 2:10:00. When I started walking before I even hit 7km, I knew that goal was gone so I gave up trying. I finished in 2:19:?? and spent a long time crying and being generally ridiculous about it. I quickly signed up for the Niagara Women’s Half Marathon the next month and only Anson knew about it. I was honestly embarrassed and felt like I was trying to pretend I was a runner. I didn’t want anyone to know I was trying again. I ran Niagara in 2:16:17 which was still well above my goal time but I had a slightly better spirit after the race. I had a few other shorter distance races scheduled for the year and when the last one finished in September I stopped running completely.
I talked to my friend Phil who is a trainer in Texas and he suggested that I take time to write down the thoughts I have during a race & then the thoughts I have after. It was an interesting assignment as I wrote down things like “no one cares about your time so it’s okay if you walk a little!” in contrast to after race thoughts of “why did you give up? You always quit!” I learned a lot about myself while writing those thoughts out.
After a few months of not running one single step I decided maybe I was ready again but only if it was different this time! I made the conscious decision that I would not allow myself to be distracted by my race time so much that I would hate the run. If I couldn’t enjoy it then I wasn’t going to do it! I spent January & February doing a run/walk method to try to get some more time on my feet. I met some other runners, heard others stories and as usual, learned things about myself! I logged a 16km run early in February and started to think seriously about running the Mississauga Half. I didn’t commit to the race until a few weeks before race day but I did find a training plan and stuck to it for the most part! Some of my runs leading up to the race were great and some weren’t but I felt much more prepared than last year so I was pleased.
Pre race thoughts
I had decided months before the race that I would have very small goals. I didn’t want a repeat of last year. I decided that any time under 2:15 would be enough to make me pleased but that my main goal was to not quit mentally. Running the 10k the week before the race really boosted my confidence that maybe I could think a little about pace and hold myself to a goal. Deep down I really wanted that sub 2:10 time, so the night before the race I checked what pace I would need to average (9:50/mile for 2:09) & I decided to go for it but would not be disappointed if it didn’t work out. It was supposed to be raining, windy and cold and who knows how that would affect the day.
My alarm went off at 5:15 and I turned it off. I finally got out of bed at 5:33 and promptly tripped over something in the dark and fell into the corner of the bed smashing my knee. I stood there for a minute on one foot thinking how this day was obviously going to go wonderful. Anson was dropping me at the start so he was up too and let me know that we were out of coffee. I had a small panic attack because I always have coffee! Not today tho! I made myself two packages of instant oatmeal, guzzled a bunch of nuun water, took a quick shower, got dressed and we hit the road a little after 6. When we got to Square One, it was a sea of people with rain ponchos or garbage bags over their clothes! I sat in the car until my phone charged to 100% while reading some messages from friends saying they were praying for me and they hoped the race went great! I stuck my phone on airplane mode (I get anxiety thinking of my battery dying while running!!), gave Anson a kiss and headed into the rain.
I quickly found Carmy and Cathy with their coach, Michelle and a few other runners, so I talked to them for a few minutes. I was freezing cold and dreading taking my hoodie off, but I needed to get my stuff to bag check! I passed my bag in (which was very efficient!) and headed for the porta potties in my tank top and poncho! They had so many bathrooms which was amazing!! I hardly had to wait at all!
After I went to the bathroom (twice!), I headed for the start line. I happened to see Melly, Andrea and Kristen right in front of me and was so glad! I hate standing in the sea of runners so was glad to have people to talk to! Cathy and Carmy (and Carmy’s pacing crew!!) appeared as well and Cathy snapped a quick pic before we all spread out!
I ripped off my poncho, got my phone into multiple plastic baggies and crossed the line!
The First 10km
I tend to bolt across the start line and use all my energy before I get very far, so I was determined to NOT do that again! I learned from the Oakville 10k that I do, in fact, have the ability to force myself to slow down, so that’s what I made myself do! I just wanted to get through the first half and then I would see how I felt.
I didn’t find myself trying to get around people too much in the beginning which was nice! The beginning was downhill with some smaller hills thrown in. I did my best to just stay steady and not let any hills distract me! I remember crossing the bridge and seeing the clock underneath the 5km sign and being pretty excited that it hadn’t gone over 30 minutes yet!
I was having a little trouble focusing because I thought I really needed to go to the bathroom. As we got into the more wooded areas of the course I saw so many men running to the trees to go to the bathroom! I was really jealous but kept on running hoping the feeling would go away (it did….).
The course was really beautiful around the 9km mark but I just kept looking ahead trying to see the hill that was coming. When I finally rounded the corner and started up the hill I saw Edison with his camera about halfway up! I felt like I had my motivation as I repeated “just get to Edison! Just get to Edison!” over and over! I smiled (hopefully) for a picture and got a thumbs up from him which helped get me up the rest of the hill! Thanks, Edison:)
The Last Half
Immediately after making it up the hill we turned a corner and headed right into rain and wind! I was not thrilled as the rain had dwindled to a drizzle earlier. I stuffed my phone back into all my plastic bags and tried to keep the rain out of my eyes!
After I made it to 11km I could feel myself slowing down. I always struggle between 12-16km the most so I tried to tell myself the race was only 15k! I counted down every kilometre and tried to make my legs move at the same pace!
I turned my phone off airplane mode to see if I had any messages because I needed a distraction. I had a message from my sister and snapped this award winning shot of the 15k marker and sent it to her!
After I sent her that pic I cranked my music and tried to focus. When I saw the clock under that sign I realized that I was easily going to hit 16k before 1:40 and I got all emotional about it. Lol. I hadn’t allowed myself to slow down even though I really wanted to & I was just so pumped about it!
We headed by the lake just after 16k and there was a clif station passing out chews. I took one because why not?! I ate one chew and felt like it was taking me hours cuz it was so dang chewy!! I tossed the rest. As I ran along the lake I was really unhappy with the wind. I felt like I was gasping to breath and struggling for every step.
Suddenly up ahead I saw Melly & Luc and was really surprised! I knew Melly had a time goal so I immediately felt sad for her and wondered what had happened. As I got closer to them I saw the blood down her legs from her epic chafing! I ran with them and chatted for a few minutes before we parted ways.
Kilometres 18-20 were a struggle. I was just tired and ready to be finished already. We ran through some subdivisions before hitting the lake front again.
When we had a kilometre left I pulled my phone out and called my sister. She answered and I said, “talk to me!” She started laughing and asked where I was! I told her and said I was dying to which she started laughing and said, “but you’re almost done!” I saw a photographer and attempted a (fake) happy picture. You can see that my phone is on a call if you look closely!
I told her I could see the finish but that is was all the way on the other side of the water! (That is very cruel of the race organizers by the way!) A man out cheering told me it was just one lap around the track to go! It didn’t really help but it was nice of him!
I saw one final hill ahead and with less than 400 meters to go I walked it. I knew I was getting sub 2:10 & I didn’t care anymore!! As soon as I got to the top of the mountain (it was probably not even a hill!) I hung up the phone and sprinted like a crazy person. I passed 7 people, stuck my arms in the air and crossed the line in 2:07:18
I got my medal, stupidly declined a heat sheet & headed for the exit. I got some water and a banana. They had Panera bagels but I already had too much stuff to carry so I didn’t bother. I wish every race would prepackage the food into small bags. It’s so hard to finish a race and try to juggle all the stuff that’s passed to you!
I started to get really cold and headed for bag check. I put my hoodie on, some socks on my hands for gloves, took a few pictures and then walked the seemingly longest walk ever to the shuttle bus!
I realize that 2:07:18 is not considered a fast time for a half marathon but for me it is! I took 9 minutes off my previous time and I am so happy about it! I worked harder than I ever have but I worked the most on my mental game. So many people say that running is 90% mental and only 10% physical and I believe it. I am prone to being depressed and last year I let running have a spot on my list of negatives instead of making it a positive. This year I let running have a second chance & I am so glad that I did!