Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Half Marathon Lessons

I have run 10 half marathons. I'll be running my 11th on Sunday. Each one was exactly 21.1 kilometres long, despite what my Garmin has told me. Apparently I weave a lot in some races. Probably at the end when I'm rather tired.

Ten races that were all 21.1 kilometres long. I had similar training plans for each of them, give or take a speed workout or a long run distance.

Each race taught me a unique lesson or two that has made subsequent races both easier, and harder, to run.
Easier because I learned a little more about what to expect. Harder because I know a little more what to expect.

Run for the Grapes in 2008 - I learned that I can indeed run a half marathon. And I can run it with diabetes! Take that diabetes gods and other non-believers!!

Ottawa in 2009 - I learned that, just because it's hot outside, I don't need to drink an entire glass of water at each water station. I also learned that, when you start to feel really nauseated during a race where you have been drinking a lot of water, drinking more water will not help. I ended up finishing the race extremely hyperhydrated and, in hindsight, should have sought medical attention. I did not. I showered and went out for breakfast instead but was too ill to eat a bite. I am alive to tell the tale. I now drink moderately in races...just like I do on any long run. I learned to be smart, listen to my body and respect the fine balance it is trying to maintain.

Run for the Grapes 2009 - I learned that I am a pretty consistent runner and that my pace time does not vary much. My time was nearly identical to my first half, one year earlier. I think I expected to somehow knock off 15 minutes but I didn't even knock off one. I was not ok with that then. I'm ok with it now and pride myself on being a metronome.
Grimsby 2010 - this was the half-marathon that I was the least prepared for. I signed up on a whim and I went in hoping to survive and maintain some shred of dignity. I had no other expectations other than I didn't want to embarrass myself in front of my (then) new boyfriend. It is my fastest half marathon and I have not come close to beating that time since. Apparently having a handsome man waiting at the finish line in the middle of February is a bit of a motivator.

Cleveland 2010 - in this race, the marathoners and half marathoners start at the same time. As I neared the finish line a huge cheer erupted from the crowd as the marathon winner came roaring up behind me. We crossed the finish line at the same time (2:22:22). He had run twice the distance and looked much better at the end than I did. This is where I learned yet another lesson in humility. This was also the first race where I was running a half marathon while Doug was running a full marathon at the same time. I finished mine as fast as I could so that I could go stand at the finish line and stare down the street watching for his familiar stride. I learned that waiting for someone you love to finish their race is a lot harder than running your own.

Run for the Grapes 2010 - I was nursing shin splints and wasn't expecting much. I just wanted to get the race done so I could take a few weeks off. My sister and Doug had decided to ride the course on their bikes and keep me company. I learned that having people out there on the course to support and encourage you isn't embarrassing as I expected it would be. It gives you strength when you don't think you have any. Having your parents waiting at the finish is also pretty sweet and having your father run the last few meters with you is the best.

Niagara Falls Women's Half 2012 - this was my 'comeback' half after having been off for over two months due to my marathon training-induced stress fracture. I had completed a conservative training plan and just needed to cross that finish line without pain to show myself I could still be a runner. It was probably my best half because I had removed all 'performance' pressure. I just wanted to run it and enjoy the fact that I was running again...and I did!

Niagara Falls International 2012 - One year earlier, I was supposed to be running the full at this race. I signed up for the half because I had decided not to try for a full again but I needed, deep down, to run that route and cross that finish line. I did and it felt like I had beaten back a few demons in the process.

Tel Aviv 2013 - I trained all through the Canadian winter for this race. Countless times I imagine running towards that finish line with my little sister and her husband cheering me on. Instead, they cancelled the full marathon and moved the half marathon ahead two hours because of the 40+ degree weather. I suddenly found myself running in lethal temperatures, inhaling sand, surrounded by runners speaking Hebrew, not English, with an insulin pump full of insulin that was slowly cooking itself into uselessness. I changed my game plan before the gun even went off and ran conservatively. I had salt tablets, I drank water, I checked my blood sugar like a hawk and I walked as needed. I crossed that finish line after weaving through runners lying all over the ground and sidewalks receiving medical attention. I found my sister who had been terrified after seeing everyone coming in and hearing all the sirens. It was my slowest half but my proudest because I ran smart, took my time, and finished strong.

Niagara Falls International 2013 - I loved this race so much in 2012 that I signed up to do it all over again. I knew what to expect and I had survived Tel Aviv so I went in a little cocky. I struggled through the last kilometres. My ears were completely plugged and I was experiencing the breathing difficulty that comes with that. I spent the afternoon on the couch unable to eat due to nausea and fell into bed exhausted. I learned to never ever feel overconfident about a race. A race needs to be treated with respect no matter how many times you've done it before.

Niagara Falls Women's Half 2014 - I am not injured and I am not sore. I am tired, more than I want to be. I am in a wedding the following weekend so I cannot get injured on this run...nor can I have tan lines from a race day sunburn because it will ruin those wedding day photos. I have put in the training but, this time, I am not overconfident about it. I just know that, if I trust my training, and run smart, I will be fine. I want to run this race the way I ran it two years ago. For fun...because I can.

Run for the Grapes 2008 - my first half
Ottawa 2009
Run for the Grapes 2009
Run for the Grapes 2010 - finishing the run with my dad!

Niagara Falls Women's Half 2012
Niagara Falls International 2012

Tel Aviv 2013

Niagara Falls International 2013

Insert here: Niagara Falls Women's Half 2014

1 comment:

  1. It was fun reading about your previous races. Have a great half this weekend! (And don't forget the sunscreen.)