Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Victoria 8K

This past weekend was Thanksgiving (in Canada at least).  Last year I ran the Victoria Half Marathon to celebrate the one year anniversary of my first ever marathon (which coincides with Abi's birthday, which is today).  To this day, that still remains my PB (Personal Best, not peanut butter) for a half marathon.  I was luck y enough to have great friends whose family lives in Victoria and invited me to Thanksgiving dinner.

(Side note, today marks the 2 year anniversary of my first ever marathon, and would have been Abi's 25th birthday.)

This year, I was also invited to Thanksgiving dinner in Victoria.  I had not planned on running any races while there, but a few of my friends were running the 8k.  I decided to sign up for the 8k as a late entry.  I had done 20K the week before for training and figured this would be a good way to being my taper.

I ran the 8k with my friend Zahida (, and my friend (and Zahida's sister-in-law) Michele.  The weather was perfect, nice and cool, overcast, and tiny bits of sun creeping in now and then.

Waiting for the start, nerves usually set in.  You never know how your body will perform until you get out and start running.  I decided to forgo my normal 10:1 interval and just run, with the plan to take a small break at the halfway point.

The race started and the 3 of us spread out quickly.  Zahida, I knew, is a bit of a speed demon.  She has taken time off from long distance running to train more for speed.  I had never run with Michele, but I assumed she was somewhere between Zahida and myself.  I was right.

I usually run with one earbud in (leaving one ear open to hear what is going on around me and to hear my watch), but my ipod's batter was dead.  I figured this would be good.  Lavaman does not allow earphones so I would have to get used to running with no music.

As the race started, the sound of the 2,600 (or so) pair of feet on the pavement made a very soothing, almost rain like sound on the pavement. Later, around kilometer 2, we turned a corner and the residential area opened up to reveal the coast.   Now the sounds of raining feet was mixed with the sound of crashing waves.

Here was the first water station.  I stopped for some water and walked so I would not choke on it.  I have still not perfected the art of taking water while running.  And from the sound of a runner behind me, neither had she.

I walked for about 100 meters then started to run again.  It was shortly after this that the lead elite runners where on there way back.  As always, we cheered for then as they went by.  At about kilometer 3, I saw Zahida on her way back and we cheered each other on.  Shortly after, Michele and I exchanged a high five when we passed each other.

I reached the halfway point (kilometer 4), rounded the turn around and took a rest.  During this 200 meter walk, I heard a father yell to his son,

"Be sure to wait for us at the finish line!"

I turned to the young boy and said,

"Just be sure to cross it first"

Now it was me on the back portion of the 'out-and-back' course.  I encouraged those still on their 'out' section.  Around the 5.5k mark, the runners slowly transitioned into walkers.  The thing that struck me was that there were no individual walkers.  They all had a friend, a group of friends, family, or just someone they met that day, walking with them.

I reached the 7k marker and knew there were some uphills.  Good.  I needed a good boost.  I charged up the hills and saw the '800 Meters to Go!' sign.  I sped up, but quickly realized that I did not have the energy to keep the pace I had just set.  I tried to pull focus away from this and began to focus on my breathing.  I changed my breathing from a quick rhythm that matched my running pace, to a calm, easy, deep breathing.  I focused on keeping this calm breathing going, while still maintaining my pace.  It worked.  The more I focused on the steady breathing, the less I focused on my legs, and the more they just did their thing.   

I crossed the finish line and felt a little upset.  I know I should never do this, but all I could think about was how at this time last year I set a PB for a half marathon.  And how since then, I have not been able to come within 15 minutes of that time.  Then my mind went to the triathlon I will be training for.  How did I expect to do well if all my times are getting worse?  The determination was building.  If getting back to my time (or beating it) was that important to me, then I would need to make sure that stuck with all the training and work my butt off to do it.

2014 Victoria 8K: 0:52:16

Zahida, Michele, and I grabbed some food at an amazing breakfast place in Victoria called Spoons.  I treated myself to a nice sack of berry pancakes.

Afterwards, I cleaned up and went back to the finish line to cheer on a few of my friends who were running the full.  I met up with 2 of my friends, Dave and Grace (both TNT alum and members of my RAGNAR team).  Dave had just finished and got his Boston Qualification with a time of 3 hours and a few seconds.  We watched our friend Sean cross at about 3 hours and 20 minutes.  He was going for a new PB and he got it.  At 3 hours 55 minutes I cheered on my friend Lyndsay.  I had one more friend running it, but due to illness she dropped out somewhere in the lat 10k.

While at the finish line waiting for all of my friends, I met a very nice group of ladies who cheered everyone on.  We cheered as we watched struggling runners pull every ounce of energy out of nowhere to cross the finish line.  We cheered as we saw those who were hurting glimpse the finish line, forget their pain, and sprint smiling across it.  We cheered couples, parents running with children, and best friends pulling each other along.

2 finishes will stick with me forever.

One gentleman was being escorted by 2 race officials, each arm over the shoulder of an official.  He was limping badly, but still moving under his own power.  A wheelchair was brought out for him, but he waved it off.  He crossed the finish line, then asked for the wheelchair, and collapsed. This shows the determination of marathon runners.  We put in too much hard work to give up that close to the finish.  Or maybe we are just as insane as we are stubborn.

The other finish that will stick with me was a young lady, who I assume had just finished her first marathon.  She finished incredible strong and immediately began to collapse.  One of the volunteers at the finish line caught her and she turn that catch into a hug.  She was crying and smiling at the same time.  I could not hear what was said, but the volunteer was smiling too.  When the medics came to check on her, she immediately hugged them too.  Through the tears and physical pain was a woman whose newfound pride shone bright.

I always get emotional at the end of my full marathons, but did not realize how emotional I would get watching others cross the line.  Everyone has a reason they run.  Be it for health, to prove they can, for a loved one, for a charity, we all have a force that drives us.  And after 42.2K (26.2 miles), our bodies are so destroyed that the only thing left under the worn away physical is pure emotion.  It's hard not to empathize with that, especially if you have experienced it first hand.

I think my friend Humphrey said it best in his write up of his last marathon.

"We are all a bunch of broken pieces shattered across 26 miles and with each step we pick up a piece of ourselves until we are a whole again."

Thank you for taking the time to share in my journey.

Up next: Vancouver Rock & Roll Half Marathon

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