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Knowing your boundaries – in running and life

Today I ran the Boundary Bay Half-Marathon.

Today I won the Boundary Bay Half-Marathon.

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So that was a bit of a surprise!

I had originally signed-up for the marathon, but I quickly realized that giving myself two and a half months to train for 42.2 kilometers just wasn’t nearly enough time. I knew that if I was to attempt the full race, I would probably end up in a wheelchair for (at the very least) the first week post-event, what with my inability to not give it my all once the gun goes off.

So I emailed the race organizers and asked them if it was okay if I could switch.

And lucky for me, it was!

There’s something to be said for knowing your limits.

I had my last training run on Friday morning – just a simple, quick five kilometer pre-work zip about New Westminster’s boardwalk.

I have been having some difficulty with my right knee and left hip – gifts left over from a completely overzealous Thanksgiving weekend, where I ran forty kilometers over three days because everything in my brain was screaming at me that I was unstoppable – and this was giving me some trepidation.

Not to mention, that following this insane running weekend, I went to a concert where I danced my heart out in giant four inch heels.

While unbeknownst to me at the time, this one hundred per cent ensured that my legs were very, very overdone.

Luckily, I have a pretty good physiotherapist who, on Friday, stretched me out, and taped up my knee, so – whether psychosomatic or not – I didn’t have any problems on that front this morning.

On the hip front however – phew. That was a different story.

Everything was feeling so good, until approximately kilometer fifteen, and then I really started to feel the tightness.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind to the beginning, and I will fill you in on all things hip-wise once we get to that point of the story.

Last night I had the best pre-race sleep of my life. I had a pretty full day, driving out to Tsawassen to pick up my race package, buying birthday gifts, and being bowled over with surprise presents from my ridiculous, handsome, brilliant and too-generous husband, so I was knackered by the time nine thirty rolled around.

After setting the coffee, and laying out my race gear, I crawled into bed and was asleep by ten.

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I woke to my alarm at six, and did all my superstitious morning-of puttering.

Washing my face.

Putting in my earrings.

Drinking my coffee.

Eating my banana.

It was all comforting and good.

I even had a chance to burn a CD for Marc and I to listen to as we drove out to Boundary Bay.

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My weather app had told me that the morning would be overcast and rainy, but the droplets were not to be found as we pulled into the provincial park’s parking lot.

The wind on the other hand – there was A LOT of that to be found.

I would soon learn, that the howling winds of the start line concourse were but a fraction of what we would encounter on the course.

While waiting in line at the port-o-potties, Marc ran into a work colleague, and we chatted a bit about racing and the day.

Then it was time to snap a few silly photos (including one with the Hamburglar and Grimace!) and take part in the group warm up. This is when all of the runners gather about and participate in aerobic exercises lead by exquisitely enthusiastic and warm volunteers.

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Before I knew it, I was taking one last photo with Marc’s dad and then lining up with all the other racers.

When the gun went off, I kept repeating to myself, “take it easy.”

I have a tendency to go out too fast, and I really didn’t want to burn myself out in the first ten kilometers.

Boundary Bay is a hauntingly beautiful stretch of beach and marshland. It is also an internationally recognized “Important Bird Area” as it is a critical rest stop for thousands of birds – including the Red Throated Loon and the Sooty Shearwater – using the Pacific Flyway migration route.

I saw three or four hard-core birders out today along the route, not to mention many, many groups of migrating birds and water fowl.

For the first ten kilometers I ran in the shadow of two older men, and one woman – all three of whom were running the full-marathon.

My legs were feeling so strong, that at kilometer nine I slowly started to make my move to overtake them.

When I got to the turn-around (all courses today were out and back) I was buoyed by all of the volunteers cheering me on, and shouting things like, “Yeah! First woman!”

I could immediately feel my strides lengthening and quickening.

Although I (mistakenly) thought this momentum would carry-on until the end of the race, it did last for at least the next six kilometers, seeing as though I ran past so many other runners who took a moment to cheer me on.

I even ran by my brilliant friend Katie who shouted, “VANESSA!?” which just left me with the biggest smile on my face.

The only thing tempering my joy was the brutal head winds we had to face all the way back to the finish line.

Being smack dab on the edge of the ocean leaves one incredibly vulnerable to the elements, and there were times that I felt as though I was running against a brick wall – especially as we climbed into the higher kilometers.

By eighteen clicks, I was feeling pretty tired and both of my hips were tight and sore.

All I kept telling myself was, “you love to do this. You love to do this.”

Because I do! I really, really love running. And as I repeated this mantra, my muscles would slightly unclench, and my legs would loosen.

As I rounded the last corner, with approximately five hundred meters left, I encountered my amazing parent’s in-law (my consummate cheerleaders!)

Eric eagerly let me know that I was the first woman, and Cheryl was just cheering her heart out.

As much as I wanted to show them how much their presence meant to me, I had no energy left to do anything but propel myself to the finish line.

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I’m not going to lie, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t break 1:30 but for a tremendously windy and cold course, I’ll take it. I mean, the first man finished in 1:18, which really speaks to the ferocity of the elements.

Plus I came first.

First!

How crazy is that?

For my efforts, I received a gold medal, a hug from Grimace, and a free pair of Sketchers.

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Which is totally worth some tight hips.

I mean, I’ll just dance the soreness away.

8 thoughts on “Knowing your boundaries – in running and life

  1. Congratulations Vanessa. What a fantastic way to finish a race and a lesson learned. All because you knew your boundaries and made the right choice. Imaging if you had stuck with the full marathon . . .

  2. This has me crying over my coffee in Nova Scotia. I am so grateful to have you as my friend and inspiration. You’re one of the greatest humans I know. I love you!

    1. Thank you so much!! I am pretty excited. :)

      And yes – isn’t that hilarious? I love how McDonald’s is such a huge sponsor of amateur athletics and yet is the purveyor of the most unhealthy food ever!

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