Saturday, May 21, 2011
First off, I will start with the stats: I ran the Goodlife half marathon last weekend and won in 1:16:43. My previous personal best was set on the same course, 6 months ago, off a great taper, in 1:19:00. Before that, my PB was 1:21:45. 5 minutes in just over 6 months? On tired legs? Let the questioning begin! It's been six days and I'm still not sure I have an answer.
On Saturday night I tossed and turned and hardly slept a wink (rule #1 to a great race?!). It was pretty frustrating and I ended up getting out of bed for good at 3:45AM. After a heavy dose of Usher and Lady Gaga and some Zoolander dance moves (yep - this is now rule #2 - pre-race dance party: essential), I headed over to the Marriott to catch the shuttle bus. I did a light warm-up, strides, and met Nic at the start line for a few words of advice.
"All I have to say, is every second counts!" Nic said. [Translation: you had BETTER break 1:19:00!]
"This is very true!" I agreed. And that was that. I did one more stride and lined up on the start line. I had seen Lucy Smith just as the race was about to start and wondered if she would take the lead or was in shape to run a fast race. I settled in behind her for the first km, which we went through in 3:47. I had planned to go out in 3:40-45 but I didn't want to get too excited too soon, so I tried to pick it up on slightly. Unfortunately, the next km was 3:50 or so, so I passed Lucy at this point and tried to pick things up a little more. I felt strong but by no means fresh, so I just decided to stop looking at my watch and focus on running a hard, steady effort.
Early on: gloved and capped (let the striptease begin)
The first 10km included several good downhills, which I tried to take advantage of, as well as some uphills, where I put in as little effort as I could. I approached the 10km mark near St. Clair and looked at my watch: 36:20. WTF? I had scribbled some splits on my hand in my usual thrifty way and my 10k goal was 37:10. Ya. At this point I realized that I would either blow up and die or perhaps run a big PB. I was working, so I really didn't know what would happen. Once again, I resolved to not look at my watch anymore regardless of how fast or slow I was running, since it was only making me anxious. My new mantra? Run blind - or more blunty - run stupid. I didn't want to be a slave to the watch, and slow down because the time seemed too fast. I was feeling strong.
It was very motivating to have such a big support crew down Yonge street that included friends on their bikes, some of the angels, and even people from my work. I loved hearing Dedi yell "JANE! YOU ARE NUMBER ONE! YOU ARE THE WINNER!' at about 5k. I knew I didn't have the win in the bag yet but it definitely made me push a little harder to gain more ground on Lucy since I had no idea how far back she was.
Striptease #1: Gloves. OFF.
Heading down Rosedale Valley Road
Once we got to the base of Rosedale Valley Road I was approaching 16k and starting to work pretty hard. The course flattens out at this point and to make matters worse, there was a strong headwind from here all the way to the finish. Luckily, I was about 50m behind Hugo Reyes, who was running the race as a training run and who signaled for me to tuck in behind him. I kept alternating between running behind him and veering out to the side in order to push the pace even harder. I felt strong and wanted to run as hard as I could, but every time I did this I immediately regretted it. The wind was much too powerful for me to fight on my own. I hadn't looked at my watch at all and I thought I was probably going to run somewhere in the low 1:18s or possibly sub-1:18. I heard Nic's voice in my head yelling 'Every second counts!' and hoped that if I was close to 1:18, I'd be able to dip under this time. Then Hugo interrupted my thoughts: 'Stay behind me for 3k, then go - you can go 1:16.' 'Huh?' I exclaimed in bewilderment. He had to be wrong. There was no way I was going to run 1:16! Was he crazy? Or just really bad at math?! I pretty much just ignored his comment (I literally just didn't believe him) and kept running.
Once we turned up University, the wind got even worse. I fought for every second in those last 2 kilometers. Hugo was beginning to gap me as I was beginning to tire, and the wind was sneaking in. I saw AZ on the sidelines screaming her butt off: "GO G.I. JANE!!! You look awesome!' Then I saw Mauricio from my lab, who did a double take when he saw me then yelled 'You are f*&^#ing KILLING this! Holy &%$&!' I had to laugh at that one. That's when I really got it together and realized I had 1500m to make this race the best it could be. I buckled down and went for it. I glanced at my watch at 20k and all I saw was 1:12:xx, and for the first time realized Hugo was right: I could run 1:16. I couldn't believe it. In a dramatic wave of emotion, I threw off my hat (the practicality of this move in the last 800m in lost on me, especially since I really liked that hat and didn't want to lose it) and made my way around Queen's Park circle. When I saw the clock I was overcome with joy, and I crossed the line well under the mark this time, in 1:16:43.
Striptease #2 - sans cap
Finish. Unfortunately striptease stops here.
The first person I saw was Jebs, who seemed even more shocked than I was. 'What the?' is all she could say. 'I know! What just happened?' was all I could respond. Before I knew it, an awesome dude came bursting to the sideline, waving my hat frantically in his hands. 'I've got your hat! I've got your hat!' I thanked him for running my hat all the way to the finish and then continued down the finishing chute. One of the volunteers - a kind older woman - seemed unusually overjoyed to see me and asked for a photo. I obliged, then invited her to be in a photo with me. When she passed her camera to someone to take the photo of us, she began to tell everyone around her that she was my grandmother. It was the cutest thing ever!
I went home for some food and a shower before returning to watch the marathoners come in. I stayed in a delirium pretty much the whole day. It was really exciting to see Mama K come through in a 2min30s PB in 3:00:32, good for 3rd place. She looked so fresh! Val also ran a HUGE PB (20min!), running a solid 3:15. Jebs won the 5k and Anne ran a solid race for her first ever half-marathon. Overall, it was an exceptional day for the angels, and I think we made coach pretty proud.
Mama K at the finish
Vodka, candy, large-ass medal: what more could you ask for?!
A proud coach and a grateful athlete.
Despite the big run I had, I know that I have more in me. My legs are looking forward to a real taper, and I am jonesin' to race over the big 42.2. This is what I've trained for, this is what I'm peaking for, and this is where I will have my best performance. I am confident in that. I cannot WAIT to step on the line in Ottawa with the support of Nic, the angels, and my parents, who are flying in from Vancouver! Let the goodtimes begin!