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.

Are you running for women’s rights? The environment?

Howdy dudes!

Well, the Scotiabank Half-marathon went down yesterday, and overall?

NOT BAD.

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I finished with a 1:33 and placed 7th in my age group. Now while this is slower than I had initially hoped for, I think for the amount of time I actually put into my training, it is more than respectable.

Because, folks, that sub-1:30 time may have been a bit of a pipe dream.

Do you any of you other runner-peeps do stuff like that? Just assume that you should just be able to do something, without really thinking about what actually goes into achieving it?

I mean, thinking back to the Sunshine Coast half in April, I trained my butt off for that run, and it paid off – I ran a PB of 1:31.

And somehow, the outcome of that achievement was the (erroneous) expectation that come the next race I would just, well, run faster. Without putting in the proper work.

How silly can a gal be?

What it has made me come to realize is that while I can proclaim that “next time gadget, it WILL be mine!”

I just need to make sure I go for, you know, more than six or so runs to ensure it happens.

Anyways, I don’t mean to be making excuses for myself, it’s just something that I was really thinking about during and after my run, and speaking of which – IT’S RECAP TIME!

Sunday morning broke beautiful. I woke to the sunny, blue sky, freckled with the odd cloud. At 5:15am I was feeling well rested and excited.

I put the coffee maker on, and then washed my face, put my hair up, and slathered on a good layer of sunscreen.

I read a bit while I ate my breakfast – banana with peanut butter, piece of plain toast, cup of coffee, and two large glasses of water – before going upstairs at 6:00 to wake up Marc.

I cannot seem to say it enough, but seriously, he is SUCH a good husband. For all of my runs, he’s up with me, driving me to the start gate, and meeting me at the finish line. I know he’s super happy to come out and cheer me on, but he told me today that my speediness on the courses definitely helps. This cracked me up.

I LOVE HIM, TRULY.

He dropped me off at the start line at UBC around 7:00. My immediate thought was to find a bathroom, for one last pee break. My one note for the organizers is that there were not NEARLY enough port-a-potties. The line-ups for the facilities were monstrous, even with a little subterfuge on my part, I barely made it out before the firing of the start gun.

Anxiety – it’ll get you going!

Because of the long bathroom waits, I didn’t get to start as close to the start line as I would have liked, which meant that for the first 2 – 2.5 km I was bobbing and weaving in and out of people like Cassius Clay. At kilometer three, my attention briefly switched from finding my spot amongst all the runners to the AMAZING tuba band playing at the side of the course.

They were playing My Sharona.

ON THE TUBA.

I cannot really begin to describe just how epically amazing this was.

All in all, over the first 5k I was feeling pretty good – my strides were long, and my breathing quiet.

Up until I reached the six kilometer mark, and encountered five young men, each holding up signs with Forrest Gump quotes. Normally when I am running, I don’t respond much to supporters on the sidelines. I mean, they really pump me up, but I try not to channel my energy away from concentrating on the mechanics of my run.

However, if you know me, you know that I love this movie, and can pretty much quote the entire film at length.

I couldn’t help myself. As I ran past a guy with a sign that said, “RUN FORREST RUN!” I turned and yelled at him, “I GOTTA FIND BUBBAAAAA!”

He burst out laughing, and yelled right back, “JENNNNNNNNAAAAYYYY!”

I was past him by then, but I raised my hand and gave him the peace sign.

NOW. While this was all well and good (and hilarious, and I loved it) yelling out that quote really winded me, and it look me probably 1.5 km to get my stuff – breathing, stride, etc. – back in order.

“No more funny stuff Vanessa,” I told myself.

Running down the hill to Jericho beach I felt like I was flying. My mood was boosted even further when to my surprise, we ran past a bagpipe band at one of the parking lots, just up the road from Spanish Banks.

My “no funny stuff” plan was going absolutely great until about kilometer 10, when, down at the beach, I ran past two course photographers and without really thinking, I just catapulted myself into the air, and made the craziest, happiest face I could possibly muster.

The two of them laughed and thanked me for a great shot.

Great shot maybe, but that second burst of energy only served to zap me all over again.

Then I saw the split times at 10.5 km.

41 minutes.

41 minutes!? Holy Dinah, I was moving, and most definitely too quick at that.

I told myself not to think about it, and just concentrate on moving as it felt comfortable. As soon as the pace started to hurt, I made sure to adjust accordingly.

Around kilometer thirteen, I zoned in on a few women who were running ahead of me, and made a point of trying to keep them in my sights.

I cannot lie, it was over the next three km that things really began to hurt. I could feel blisters forming on both of my feet, and overall, I just felt tired.

I tried to keep my strides as short and quick as I could, especially with every uphill (no matter how minor) I encountered.

At kilometre fifteen a young woman spectator yelled out, “I love Big Sisters too!” in response to my shirt. This definitely served to lift my spirits and put a bit of a spring back in my step.

Unfortunately, this pep was relatively short lived, and even just trying to grab water at the seventeen km station was difficult.

I felt like my arm was moving in molasses and I had to really slow down to make sure I even managed to grab the cup.

From there, all I could think about was getting over the bridge and getting to the finish line.

It’s strange. I love running. I LOVE it. But there are times, I tell you, when I cannot understand what the heck it was that compelled me to take part in this absolutely bonkers pastime, and everything in my being is shouting at me to just STOP.

STOP RUNNING.

Walk. Go lie down in that cool looking grass. Make this madness end.

But somehow, I just keep trucking.

I just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Amazingly, once I got to kilometre nineteen, things started to actually fall back into place. Nineteen to twenty flashed by, and that very last kilometer, although painful, was over before I knew it.

I wasn’t surprised when I saw the timer as I pulled into the finish line.

There was no way I was going to pull off a sub-1:30 with the pace I had held for the second half of the race.

But in the end, it didn’t matter.

Marc was there, cheering me on.

I received a lovely medal, and all the water, bananas, cookies, and yogurt that I could get my hands on.

And I raised $1,165.00 for Big Sisters, an organization that is near, and dear to my heart.

So while I chase the ever-elusive personal best, today I will sit on the couch, drink some chocolate soy milk, and enjoy.

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I just felt like running (a half marathon)

Yesterday I ran the best race of my life.

I took part in the Surrey International Music (Half) Marathon and finished the course in 1:32:40. Not quite the sub-1:30 I had originally hoped for, but a solid six minutes off of my previous fastest time.

To say that I was (and continue to be) super stoked is an understatement.

This is something that I am really, very proud of. I trained hard, rested up, ate well (look Ma, no junk food!), and watched Chariots of Fire the night before running (CLASSIC).

And when the time came to kick some ass?

I KICKED IT HARD.

Oh and even crazier still?

I placed third overall out of all the women competitors and thirty-first overall. Like, out of all the runners!

How nuts is that? I mean, we’re talking mixed, salted, 60% peanuts here.

NUTS.

On Saturday, M and I walked down to the River Market here in New West for a sunshine filled brunch, and also so I could pick up the foods I like to eat the night before I run (butternut squash ravioli with pesto, rye bread, and dessert – vanilla ice cream.)

Later that night, as previously mentioned, Mr. M and I snuggled up in bed and watched Chariots of Fire for some last-minute inspiration.

It’s ridiculous how much I love that movie.

(I also have mad love for – and a bit of a crush on – the character of Lord Lindsay. He’s just such a foppish privileged prick. The scene where he practices hurdling over the hurdles with the champagne? Love it.)

This morning I woke up to an absolutely stunning sunrise.

There is something insanely calming about eating a banana with peanut butter, sipping on a steaming hot mug of coffee, next to your little cat, staring at a creamsicle coloured sky.

Soon enough, it was time to wake up the mister, and get our butts out the door.

We skytrained it to Surrey Central and upon our arrival took in more of the sunrise inside SFU’s main atrium. There were a ton of runners about, stretching, gabbing, just generally getting their game faces on.

You could definitely feel that there was a buzz in the air.

As the minutes ticked down to the start of the race, we wandered over to the start line chatting with a few of the participants, taking some photos, including this one of my race day nails:

Is it weird that I am almost as proud of these as I am the outcome of the race? Because goodness knows I have a hard time painting my nails as it is, and I just love this combination of colours.

With about eight minutes to go, M bid me farewell, wanting to get to a different part of the course in order to take photos and cheer me on.

When the gun went off, I was very close to the start of pack. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t go out too fast, but I was feeling really good so I figured I would push myself from the start, focusing on keeping my strides long and breathing consistent.

There weren’t a ton of spectators lining the route, but M met me at the 7km and 18km markers; my brilliant and beautiful friend Stamata met me at two different stops along the way (the 8km and 10km I believe?), dressed in her amazing-as-all-heck pajama pants, hoodie and chucks (!); and M’s parents met just before the 12km mark.

I cannot begin to say enough about how important it is to have people cheer for you along the course. It really, REALLY pumps you up.

When my hips started to feel it like mad (sometime around the 19km mark) it was the support of the crowd that really helped me solider on.

Speaking of that blasted 19th kilomenter, I finally experienced something similar to what I imagine “the wall” is like (let’s call it a “mini wall”).

It was brutal!

The only thing that kept me going was the thought of just getting myself to the 20km marker. That and a TON of self-talk.

(I should also take this opportunity to stress the importance of shortening your stride during these testing episodes.)

On the whole I knew that I was running a good race, but didn’t know exactly where I was in terms of positioning, especially in relation to other women out on the course.

Having started so close to the start line when the gun went off I knew that my chip time would be very, very close to whatever was going to be displayed on the clock at the finish line.

As I neared the end of the race, I saw 2:01 on the clock (the marathoners having begun thirty minutes before us halfers) and I just gave it everything I had – pumping my arms, lengthening my stride –and WHOOSH!

Before you could say tight hip joints – it was over.

I heard the emcee announce my name, and something about me being the third woman to cross the finish line.

Third!

I was so shocked and exhausted, that when the woman handed me my medal, I automatically went to shake her hand, and she was all “What the eff?”

So I kind of just shook her hand without her shaking mine back.

AWKWARD.

But oh, how I laughed and laughed.

And then I celebrated! I drank some sweet, sweet chocolate milk, got a free massage at the athletes expo, listened to some of the entertainment, and stretched.

Speaking of which, I could probably stand to stretch some more. I’m not going to lie – I’m a little more than stiff.

So there you have it friends – another life milestone achieved.

Until the next time!

Tracing one warm line through a land so wild and savage

Eggs? Check.

Bacon? Check.

Toast? Check.

Let’s get this Friday Fry-Up on the stove!

And so it begins anew.

The Canadian government has recently announced that a new research project has been commissioned to search for the ships of the ill-fated Franklin exhibition.

As you may or may not know, The HMS Erebus and HMS Terror set out from England in 1845 with the express intent of finding the ever elusive Northwest Passage. Instead, only one year later, Franklin and his men found themselves trapped in the ice. Some died, and some – in an aim to escape a similar fate – set out on foot to try and find a way out of that frozen, desolate Arctic hell.

Only the never made it out – alive or dead.

It was pretty much – poof!

And they were never heard from again.

Okay. I know this was a terrible thing to happen and everything – but what the dickens were they thinking naming their two ships The Terror and The Erebus!?

Talk about starting out on the wrong foot.

If you’re going to take on what is, for all intents and purposes, a suicide mission, wouldn’t you want to bring some levity to the whole situation by naming your boat something like – oh I don’t know, The Unicorn? Or how about The Heat Wave?

It’s called the power of positive thinking here people.

I mean jeeze – Erebus literally represented the personification of DARKNESS. That is some bleak sauce, emo crap right there.

Anywho, one of the greatest things to come out of this (evidently enduring) tragedy is this amazing, song sung by Stan Rogers:

This man is a friggin’ Canadian legend, whose songs regularly move me to tears. There is something just so simple and yet resonating about his tunes  – and I don’t know if I think this way because of my East Coast roots, but even M himself is quick to state that he thinks Stan is easily the voice of Canada.

If you don’t know this man CHECK HIM OUT. Also read The Terror by Dan Simmons. Neither of these works of art will disappoint, I promise.

You got to put one foot in front of the other.

I recently signed up to run the Surrey International Half-marathon, taking place at the end of September. This will be my first half of the year, but I’m feeling really great about it.

My goal is to complete the course in one hour, thirty minutes (or less). My currently personal best is 1:38, but I think I’m in much better shape now than when I ran that previous race.

After 1:38 – feeling pretty good!

At least I think I am in better shape. I could show up that Sunday and end up running a heck of a lot slower than I expect – but I really hope this doesn’t end up being the case. Eight minutes is quite a lot of time to shave off, but I’m certain it’s doable.

And if not, I’ll have a taxi cab at the ready.

I kid, I kid.

It’ll be a bus.

Also, this will be my first race without the use of headphones. This for some reason fills me with zero trepidation, and it is this lack of trepidation that is giving me trepidation.

I will update you on my progress the closer I get to the race.

And my trepidation.

I’m all booked up.

Of late I’ve been on a crazy reading tear – for the past couple of months I’ve been blowing through two (and sometimes more) books a week like some crazed literary fiend.

It’s like an insatiable hunger. I look forward to taking skytrain in the mornings and when I get off work; I can’t wait to get in from my runs, shower and curl up on the couch; I sneak moments in the morning when I’m getting ready for the day; every night I read until I can barely keep my eyelash tips up and book spines straight.

At the moment I’m finishing up Lev Grossman’s The Magician King (await a blog post on this series in probably the next week) and can’t wait to dive into the next story.

80 pages to go!

Do you beauty cats have any good recommendations? What are you up to for the weekend?

Let’s find the hand of Franklin

reaching for the Beaufort Sea;

Tracing one warm line through a land so wild and savage

And make a Northwest Passage to the sea.