21.1k. Sometimes I need to say it out loud to remind myself how far I actually ran. I remember thinking 10k was an impossible goal and here I just ran 21.1. Wow. The things the body is capable of when you remove the self imposed limits!
So let’s go back to the start of the day. First off, I slept awesome, which is crazy for me because a) I never sleep well in hotels and b) it was the night before race day! I heard my hubby’s alarm go off but decided to wait for my own. I knew his was a “smart alarm” set to go off anywhere between 4:50 and 5:05 so I decided I would just catch the extra z’s until I heard my own. A few minutes later, to my annoyance he tried to wake me up. “Leesa, you need to wake up.” “I WILL when it’s actually 5!” I snapped through gritted teeth. “Leesa, your alarm didn’t go off, it’s 5:10”. Whoops! Apparently I set my alarm for 5pm instead of 5am. Rule #1 for race day: Show up on time.
After throwing on all my race gear we made our way down to the hotel lobby. Our hotel set out a small breakfast of muffins, fruit and coffee for race participants. Of course I had to skip the muffins (wheat) but I snagged some for Peter. I grabbed myself a banana and a coffee and headed upstairs for my awesome overnight oats that I made in the fridge the night before. Best idea ever.
After nervously pacing around the room, going over everything I was bringing a million times and making sure everything I needed was either on my person or in Peter’s backpack…it was time to head to the train station.
As expected with over 12,000 people participating in the marathon and half marathon, the train was packed with runners. The feeling that I was actually a part of this major event was so exhilarating! We were all going to the same place, for a common purpose. We had all set our goals and pushed ourselves to get to where we were today. I was so happy, and also a complete ball of nerves.
I started chatting with someone next to me on the train. This was her fourth half marathon. I told her it was my first and you could tell it immediately brought back fond memories of her first half. This well meaning woman shared her story about her first half marathon, then continued to tell me that I really should be running 10 and 1’s and should not try to just run straight through. That my legs would feel like lead and I would do much better running 10 and 1’s.
I left the train second guessing myself, questioning if I should in fact be running 10 and 1’s but knowing that I’d never practiced running that way. Am I not going to be able to finish the race now? Is my strategy all wrong?! Will I completely regret this decision to try to run straight through? After chatting with my husband (my voice of reason) he assured me that I should stick with what I’ve been doing. Stop second guessing myself and do what I have been training to do. What would I do without my hubby?!
After we all got off the train we were in for a much longer walk than expected. Crowds of people, narrow sidewalks and an extra block detour around the start line left us shorter on time than we thought. We then walked up to the porta-potties and I realized why it would have been a much better idea to arrive at the start line an hour early as suggested. Although there were 80 toilets, the line ups were HUGE! We had about 25 minutes to make it through the line before our 7am start. At about 6:58 with 3 people in front of me I officially started to panic.
Then I started listening to a conversation behind me and heard someone make a good point: They go by chip time so even if you are a few minutes late to the start, your chip time won’t count until you cross that start line. Ok, deep breaths Leesa, it will be ok. And of course it was all fine anyway since it was a staggered start and I was way back in the second to last corral.
I made it to the start line right at 7am, but of course, we were still in for a bit of a wait. As I waited with the other runners, my nerves were going completely psycho. My hubby was so good and calm reassuring me the whole time. Telling me to relax, have fun, enjoy the race. And then finally it was time for us to start. My stomach did a triple flip, I turned on my music, started my Runkeeper and tucked it in my new little Phantom Pak…or so I thought. Apparently I should have tested that a bit more in the hotel. I dropped my phone which luckily didn’t land on the ground as it was attached to my headphones. I tried again (remember I am half walking half running to get to the start line at this point) once again I almost dropped my phone on the pavement and was very close to taking out a person or two behind me since I did a dead stop while everyone else is moving along towards the start. This was not helping the nerves! Third times a charm, I got my phone set up in the pack and away I went.
As I started running with the incredible crowd I was just in disbelief that I was really doing it. I was running my very first half marathon. This was insane! This was what I worked for! There were tons of people standing on the sidelines cheering us on. We turned the first corner onto Cambie Street and my emotions got the best of me. I looked down the street at this sea of people, this gorgeous (admittedly too hot for racing but gorgeous nonetheless) day, this beautiful setting and I almost burst into tears right then and there. I didn’t realize this day would be SO emotional for me. I choked back the tears and kept on going.
Since it was a downhill start I had to be a little more careful not to get caught up in the excitement and start running too fast. I’d been warned many times about starting out too fast being the worst mistake. So I kept it slow remembering John Stanton’s words, that the first 16k should just be like my long run. Slow and steady. Take it easy. Enjoy.
I had packed three mini baggies of Honey Stinger Chews in my gel pockets and had decided to take them at 3 miles, 6 miles and 9 miles. (So if you noticed in any of my pictures that my pants are bulging in odd spots around my waistline, those are packets of chews, not strange pockets of fat ;)) As I was approaching the 3 mile marker I grabbed my first bag of chews and finished them so I could be ready for the water station. I approach the water station and….no water. Umm..wha?! They were packing up the tables as they’d run out. I couldn’t believe it and then of course started to panic that these chews were going to cause me some major stomach distress without some water to wash them down. But, well nothing I can do but keep going so away I went. I hit the water station at mile 4 and felt much better.
Shortly after the 4 mile marker I realized my Runkeeper was going mental. Apparently I was running at a pace of 3:33/km at one point. Um…yeah if I was pushing it as fast as I could possibly run I would not make it to that pace. The next time the app called out to me it told me I was running at a pace of 8:35/km. Obviously, something was off. This of course made me get nervous once again. I seriously rely on my Runkeeper to pace myself. But again, what could I do but keep running?! So I chose to completely ignore the pace callouts as I knew there were no longer accurate. Instead I focused on enjoying the race.
Right around this time I turned a corner and saw a guy holding a sign that said something like this:
I decided not to run 21.1k today and made this sign instead. Time to beat…18 minutes.
This totally cracked me up and distracted me from my Runkeeper issues. I was almost at the 6 mile mark (approx 10km) which was where I had decided to take my next chews. Since I didn’t actually trust that there would be water there this time, I waited until I was right up to the water station before taking my chews. Of course this meant I also needed to stop and walk to eat them and drink my water. I guess we could just call that my version of 10 and 1’s. 😉
I knew Peter was going to be waiting for me somewhere between 10 and 12km so I was on the lookout for him. I thought I saw him on top of a bridge and waved emphatically before realizing that no…no that wasn’t him. Oops. What I did see shortly after this point where two people dressed in nude body suites and strategically placed leaves with a sign that said “Run like you’re naked”. Awesome. Another good laugh.
I met up with Peter just before the 11km mark. He was cheering loudly and being an enthusiastic photographer. I smiled and waved as I went by and then looked up and saw him running farther down the course. He stops, takes some more pictures/video, runs farther down the course, stops, takes some more pictures. By this time I’m trying not to laugh too hard. It was so good to see him and his enthusiasm really gave me a great pick me up.
At this point we were going past Sunset Beach and I was seriously taking in the beauty of it all. I LOVED this stretch. I got to see Peter, the scenery was awesome and there were a ton of people cheering everyone on. I was thanking God for the beauty of it all and for allowing my body to heal enough to take part in this race.
I believe there was supposed to be a water station at mile 7 but either there was no water or I completely missed that one. So by the time mile 8 came along I was really looking forward to grabbing some water. I was so not used to that heat as I’d been running in Calgary winter conditions throughout my training. We came up to the mile 8 station and…no water once again. They were cleaning up the tables. I started giving myself the pep talks. No worries, you can do this. You’ll get your water at the next one and take some more chews.
This stretch was throughout Stanley park. It was great to be in a nice treed area. There wasn’t a ton to see at this point but I was still relishing in the beauty of the park. My pace was feeling good. My legs were feeling good. I totally had this.
I got to the mile 9 marker excited for some water and some nutrition and….nope, no water on the tables. Apparently they ran out of cups at this one. There was someone dumping water into people’s hands so they could at least get a sip. I figured I’d better at least get a little bit cause who knows when the next water station will be.
I was still feeling pretty good and pep talking myself to finish this 16k long run. As I approached the 10 mile marker I knew that this was it. The end of my 16k long run and the start of my 5k race. I was looking forward to grabbing some much needed water and being on my way. But once again…no water. The tables were being put away and we were met with a lot of “sorries”. I was getting slightly disheartened. I was tired, I was thirsty but I knew I couldn’t give up.
I started pushing my pace more treating it like a 5k race. But of course with no Runkeeper to tell me how fast I was actually going I think I may have pushed myself a bit too hard. Mile 11 came and went and once again still no water. By 18k I was done. I was exhausted. I told myself it would be ok if I walked for a bit. This may have been a mistake. Once I started walking it was seriously hard to get going again. The last 3k were a bit of a blur. There was definitely a lot more walking than I’d like to admit.
I saw the 12 mile marker ready to be disappointed once again but wait…could it be? A table full of cups with water! I grabbed my cup and kept on moving. And then I started walking…and then trying to run but just not seeming to be able to push myself. I heard Runkeeper announce how long I’d been running and I knew that I just wouldn’t be able to make the 2:30 goal I had set for myself. I was slightly disappointed but at this point I really just wanted to finish the race. As I started walking over a little bridge with about 1km to go I noticed a race photographer on the other side of the bridge.
Well of course I CANNOT have a photographer take a picture of me slouched and walking during this half! So I picked up the pace, turned on (what I thought was) a smile and kept going. Well, at least until I passed him where I promptly started walking again. The self doubt started rolling through my brain. “I guess I should have been doing 10 and 1’s after all!” “I can’t pick up my legs anymore” “I’m done. I’m walking to the finish line” So I started hammering myself with pep talks. “You CAN do this.” “It’s only 1km! Of course you can run 1km!” ” It’s not that far! Pick it up!”
I could SEE the finish line! It was right there!! But it was oh so deceiving… With only a couple hundred metres to go I saw my hubby cheering me on. I shot him an “I’m dying” look but of course didn’t want any walking pictures so I kept on running ;). I pushed through the pain, telling myself that I didn’t come this far to quit. I gave it one last push and finally I was over the finish line!
I was slightly dazed and confused at this point. I grabbed my medal and probably looked ultra grumpy about it but in reality I was extremely happy and just trying not to fall over. I grabbed my bag lunch, granola bars, water and headed out to meet up with Peter.
And that’s when it sunk in. I just completed my goal. I did it. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t fast but I actually did it!! I checked my phone and saw the Sport Stats update with my official time: 2:34:21. Not quite my goal of 2:30 but you know what? It’s my first half marathon so it’s an automatic PB! Woot woot!
After a post race excited chat with Peter and a good stretch we walked back to the hotel for a much MUCH needed shower. I was so disgusting that I actually hopped in the shower with all my clothes on first. Heat and a half will do that to ya.
After a lovely shower and some fresh clothes we headed back to the finish line to watch my friend Becky finish the marathon. She is a super inspiring runner and it was so exciting to cheer her on while she came in with her own PB!
While we were watching the marathoners come in I once again was overwhelmed with emotions. Until you actually run a marathon or half marathon I don’t think you can fully comprehend how big of a deal it is. Knowing how much it meant to me to run a half, knowing the feeling of accomplishment of what I had just done, I was just completely overjoyed for these people completing the full. Twice as much work, twice as much training. I saw how much some of them were hurting. I saw a few people hit the wall, the crowd was cheering so loudly trying to get them going again. I saw one runner stop to try to help another runner start moving again. I knew they were giving everything they had to complete this goal. But regardless of your goal, you still want to see others succeed as well.
These races, they’re not about other runners. It’s not about being the first. It’s about pushing yourself beyond what you thought possible. It’s about being a better you. Coming together. The mere presence of the other runners pushing you further to reach your goals. This is why I run. This is why I’ll never stop.
I’m so excited to say that another goal is complete. I’m beyond thrilled to know that through everything I went through to get here, I still made it. For all the times I wanted to give up, for every time I wanted to throw in the towel, this is an amazing reminder that (although it may sound cheesy) you really can do anything you set your mind to. The girl who never thought she’d be able to run around the block just ran 21.1 freaking kilometres! Booya! Goal complete. And now I can’t wait to keep moving towards the next.
Lastly, regardless of the water situation I still loved this race and would definitely consider it again. The course was gorgeous, the volunteers were great, the medals and race t-shirt were awesome. Every other thing was fantastic. I just might bring some hydration of my own next time! 🙂
Tell me about a recent goal (big or small) you accomplished that you are proud of.