Redemption

“Hello fear, thank you for being here. You’re my indication that I’m doing what I need to do.” -Cheryl Strayed

On Sunday morning at about 8:25am I hurried into a crowd of people as it rained down on us. I was cold, shivering, wet and incredibly tired. I had slept about 4 and half hours the night before. I had acid reflux from the generous glasses of red wine I had the night before. My stomach didn’t feel quite right, my left contact was bugging me and I felt a little twang of pain in my right knee.

Fast forward to 2 hours and 15 minutes later, I’m soaking wet, super hungry, my makeup has run down my face, my right knee is throbbing, I have a terrible stitch in my side and can feel about 3 pulsing blisters on my feet. Yet, I am overjoyed. I just crossed the finish line of my 4th half-marathon, my second in 2 weeks, and I finally beat my PB from almost two years ago, something I’d been chasing ever since.

After my mishap in Montreal last week I kept oscillating between wanting to quit running and wanting to fight back and train harder. A lot of my running friends were running the GoodLife half marathon and I was honestly feeling a little jealous. I wanted to give it another go and be out there  on the course running with them. The course has a pretty big net downhill which appealed to me and I was kicking myself for running Montreal when I should have just signed up for GoodLife, on home turf.

“Why don’t you just do it?” a running friend asked me. No, that wasn’t a good idea, was it? I had just run a half marathon a few days ago. But….I wasn’t sore. In fact, I barely felt like I had been on a long training run (probably because I walked so much). Her voice was in my head all week. I couldn’t possibly do it could I? Was it really stupid if I did?

Something you may or may not know about me is that I am relentlessly determined, or maybe we could say stubbornly relentless (just ask my husband). Once I have an idea in my head, I can’t let it go. And so, I found myself toeing the start line on Sunday morning for the GoodLife half.

I cared a lot about this race, only I also didn’t really care at all. I was so terrified that it was going to be another disaster that I didn’t really tell anyone (me, not tell anyone? about running? unheard of). My fear almost kept me in a zen-like state. I figured I didn’t really have anything to lose though (except my pride, my ego, maybe my knee…) and did it anyway.

Of course I was hoping for that PB, but I honestly just didn’t really think it would happen after last week. After only really committing to running the race on Friday, I tried to approach Sunday with little to no strategy. I didn’t set any reminders to drink water on Saturday. I didn’t monitor what I ate. I drank wine. I went to bed late. I didn’t take any pre-race photos of my outfit the night before, or even really get my clothes ready (of course I threw together an outfit shot the morning of). I didn’t chug a bunch of water on Sunday morning. I didn’t eat what I normally would before a run. Instead, I ate what I wanted. An egg, a piece of toast to go with it and a half a piece of toast with peanut butter. The weather sucked, it was raining, grey, windy and pretty cold.

Haphazard Outfit Shot

Haphazard Outfit Shot

I drove up to the start line with two running friends and my friend Rachel and I decided that we would start together and hopefully stick with each other as long as we could. Before I knew it, we were off. We took it nice and slow, chatted away and in my head I was just treating it like a nice easy long run.

I had broken down this race into 3 separate parts and I had a plan to get through them all. Part 1 took us from the start line to km 6, Yonge and Sheppard to the area where the sporting Life 10k starts. The first 2km or so are gentle with a steep decline, BUT around km 3, that becomes a steep incline. This hill really is the only tough part of the race and I was pretty nervous about it. To me, this was going to be the biggest challenge and I just wanted to run it without stopping. I figured once I was over this hill, the worst would be behind me, and I was right. My plan for part 1 was to take it nice and easy and not stop. I had never run this stretch of Yonge and wanted to conserve my energy. I made it up the hill without walking. It was a doozy though and seemed to never end but oh man it felt good to reach the top. From there, I kept it slow and steady until we reached the Yonge and Blythwood area.

Once we reached the same area where the Sporting Life 10k starts, I knew it was time to coast. I was familiar with this area having run it many times (going both south and north) and was excited to have it fly by. I called this part 2, a nice easy downhill from about km 6 – km 15 or so, ending at King and River, right around my neighbourhood. This was my time to gain some speed and pick it up a bit and I did just that. In what felt like no time we had reached Rosedale Valley Road and km 11. I started to tire a little bit, but nothing extreme. The weather, while not ideal was actually feeling kind of nice at this point. It was cloudy so there was no sun beating down (I hate that when I run), and the rain had turned into a nice mist. Around km 13.5 I started to feel a bit light headed and started eating the banana brownie I had packed. At about km 15, the end of “section 2” where the Bayview Extension meets the King East area, my knee started feeling really off. It wasn’t bad enough to stop, but it was painful. I knew it was going to be an uncomfortable finish but didn’t think I’d be putting myself in any danger by continuing on. I tried to stretch it out as best I could as I ran by doing some weird hopping kicking movements that I can’t even really explain.

At about km 15.5 I saw Hubs smiling face and he jumped on the course with me to pace me to the end. This was part 3 for me, which spanned from King and River to Ontario Place. I knew this meant it was time to push it and finish strong but I tried to approached it nonchalantly, almost as if I were going for a 6k tempo run through my own neighbourhood as I would on any given day. I knew the route well and knew how quickly it would pass. I also knew this was going to be the hardest part for me. I have always struggled around this mark in any race. I saw my dad at km 17 when I was getting pretty tired and doing a sad limp run from my knee pain. His cheering definitely helped. I had to take it back a notch a few times during this part but I didn’t walk. I was so close to the end. Of course, at about km 19.5 I got a terrible stitch but I was so determined to run through it after making it so far. Right around the 20k mark it was almost unbearable, but it faded away to a dull ache after a couple hundred metres. Zach left the course just after this and I knew it was time to give it my all. I always try and sprint the last 500m, but this time I took off with about 700m to go and I don’t even know where I got the energy. I literally left everything out there on the course. This is always my favourite moment of a race and it always feels like the crowd is there roaring for just me. I knew I had achieved that PB and I pumped my fists up in victory as I crossed the line. I think I maybe even yelled “YES!”

I quickly realized that not only was this a PB, but I also had run a half for the very first time with NO walk breaks and even better, if my calculations were correct- I ran a negative split! It felt amazing!

I waited in line for my medal and immediately realized as I cooled down just how awful the weather hard turned again. Very quickly, I began shivering uncontrollably and I noticed that the wind was nearly  blowing over everything in its path. Still, the smile couldn’t be wiped from my face.  I obviously enjoyed a post-race coffee and butter tart to celebrate 🙂

Frozen but overjoyed

Frozen but overjoyed

Once home I was VERY happy to have a hot bath and the run already started to feel like a distant dream. Did that REALLY happen? It was such an amazing day and I continued the celebrations with a pizza and two beers on the couch in our cozy condo.

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Thank you to everyone for believing in me and for the congrats! I’m having a nice week of recovery and only running a few times because I am also running the Sporting Life 10k next week! It’s such a fun race and pretty much a guaranteed PB every year. After that, I’m going to step back a bit from running (maybe do a long run and an easy run every week) until I start my training for the Chicago Marathon in June. I figure this is a good time to really work and focus on my core strength (hello bathing suit season!) and maybe figure out what’s going on with my knee!

Sometimes, you just have to tap into that fear and show it who is boss.