On Sunday, August 12, 2007 I ran the Fergus Highland Games 10K. I was rather nervous about this run because I know exactly what my pace is right now, and I knew this would be a relatively small race. I even tried emailing the race coordinator before registering to hopefully calm my fears, but when I received no reply, I decided to bite the bullet and do it anyway.
Before the run started, I asked someone at the registration desk whether the course was well marked or not, and I was assured that it was. I knew I would be far behind everyone else, and I didn't want to get lost. Being a smaller race, it started rather unceremoniously, and the group of runners had surged on ahead of me before I had realized the race had even started. Very quickly, there was a lot of distance between me and all of the other runners. One bonus there - I had no problem starting the race off at my own pace. After a couple of minutes, I tried turning on my iPod. Listening to a podcast or two about running and other outdoor activities helps me think less about what I am doing and makes the time pass by more quickly. Alas, my iPod chose this inopportune time to crash on me, so I had to continue my run, with earplugs in (otherwise they'd flap around too much and make me crazy), carrying my iPod, listening to nothing but nature and vehicles. It wasn't so bad. If I had been listening to a podcast, I might have missed the lady hanging out of her van windows clapping her hands ecstatically for me!
The head of the running pack passed me between the 2K and 3K markers. I knew that after 20 minutes, somebody would be running back past me soon. I only saw a few runners before I made the turn to run the loop in the course before returning on the same road. I told the volunteer there to make sure they didn't pack everything up before I finished, and he told me not to worry, they'd be following me in. Not entirely sure what that meant, but reassured that I wouldn't be forgotten, I continued my run.
I don't really know Fergus at all, and I didn't study the course map very carefully at all. They said it was well-marked! But when I passed the first road, and everything ahead of me just looked like farmland, I started to worry. Did I miss my turn? Why wasn't it marked? They said it was marked! My turn should have been marked! I was starting to get really pissed, and was began planning out my angry email and who I would send it to. After thinking this way for a couple of minutes, reason crept in. I decided that if I had indeed missed my turn, it was ok. I had my Garmin on. I would just continue until I reached 5K, then I would turn around and head back. So of course you know what happened. Before long, I approached another road, and there wasn't a marker there, but instead a volunteer to show me the way.
A portion of this road was gravel. Coarse, sandy, dirty gravel. I have decided that I don't particularly like running on this kind of surface. The gravel had been set down fairly recently, so it was rather soft with lots of ridges to navigate. That was just that section. Most of the rest of the course was on roads that were covered in bumpy patches. That wasn't so pleasant to run on either. For someone who isn't so strong on her feet, I had to pay lots of attention to the condition of my running surfaces.
While I was on this gravel road, I could hear a vehicle behind me. It didn't take me long to figure out that it was the truck the volunteers used to carry around the water station equipment and road pylons. This is what that guy meant when he said they'd be following me in. That's exactly what they did. Along the way they picked up pylons, and stopped to gather up water station supplies and volunteers while I plodded along ahead of them. Once we moved into a subdivision, I found that I had an OPP car in front of me, looking out for the traffic up ahead. The OPP car would move ahead, then stop. Move ahead, then stop. So I had my entourage behind me, and my security up front. hehehe Sweet.
There were a few people along the way to cheer me on. Some in vehicles. One family waited at the end of their drive to add their encouragement. I think even that guy I saw, the first runner back (was he doing his 10K cool down lap???) called out, "Way to go girl! Keep it up!" I made sure to wave and thank them all and let them know that I appreciated their efforts. Then finally, I saw my own small fan club, with about 400m left to go. I saw the red tents of the finish line up ahead of me, and just kept trucking. I had pondered for a while about what I would do when I crossed the finish line, but what did happen just happened naturally. I let out a big WOOOOOHOOOOO! Thanks Taunya, for teaching me that one. My information was taken down, I got hugs and smiles, and my race was done. I finished 1 hour and 41 minutes and change - exactly the time I expected to finish in (except that included my stretching time too, which I usually stop the Garmin for), so I did well.
My sister, Krista, said something to me about not believing the number of cars that were waiting to get onto the road, and I dumbly nodded my head, but didn't really get the full impact of what she said. Later in the afternoon, she sent me some of the pictures she had taken during the race. That is when I saw it. These cars were all lined up behind the truck that was behind me. I was holding up traffic!! I laughed and laughed when I saw what I had done. Awesome! hee hee!
I didn't come home with a medal, but I've got another bib number to add to my collection of my journey to completing a half marathon.
For those who want a little further detail:
My calves cramped, or tightened up on me very early in the run, but they loosened up in the 2nd K. This has become the norm for me in the last couple of months. I knew it would pass. That didn't make it any less bothersome though.
My feet went a little numb, but it never became bad at all. I did my little stretch to help that problem two or three, or maybe four times, and then it went away for the remainder of the run. This also has become the norm as of late.
I never did feel really strong at any point in this run at all, but it never felt really bad either. Some days are just better than others.
I found myself having to work on keeping my thoughts positive throughout the run. I was developing a tendency to put myself down a little, but I knew that just wouldn't do. I reminded myself that I was out there doing it, instead of sitting on my butt at home. I reminded myself that I may have to go slow, but that I can also go long.
I was getting those little crumbly crusty bits on my lips (do you know what I mean?), so I think I didn't stay hydrated well enough. I have to admit that I didn't drink a whole lot before the race. I was too afraid of having to pee and not having a place to do it!!!
Progress is a funny thing. A day comes when you finally see for yourself that you've made some progress. Then something else happens that makes that thought all go to *bleep*.
I'll explain that a little better.
I've been running since January, slowly increasing my mileage as the months went by. VERY slowly. Now, I find I'm running over 30K a week. I've been tired. I've been putting in a lot of time. I've been working hard. But have I really been improving? Ok, yeah, there have been some really excellent runs. Even runs where my feet haven't fallen asleep at all. There have been runs where my speed has increased, without my even trying. There have been long runs where I still have enough juice left at the end of it to sprint the last 25 metres. Then I physically see the progress. The passport photo I had taken in May was rejected. I just had it re-done today. Here they are. Yeah, there's a difference alright. So despite nothing going right at work for me today, and feeling like I can't get past first gear, I'm feeling pretty good about myself. I had 6K on the schedule to run tonight. I thought to myself, "Easy run". Right. My legs and feet felt horrible for easily more than the first half of this run. I was wondering if I was ever going to get through it. Luckily, I'm stubborn, and I've been doing this long enough now that I know those first 3K are the toughest for me, no matter how long the run. So, I got it done. It didn't feel great, but I got it done.
The moral of this story? Progress doesn't always feel great, but if you keep working at it, progress happens.
Not green, not pink, not silver, and certainly not black. I chose blue.
That's right, I've finally done it. I've taken the plunge. I got myself an iPod. So far, I'm liking it. In fact, it made my 8K run this morning go by much more quickly. And, I feel a little more a part of this era. I just have to find some time to take some time to get to know it (and iTunes) a little bit better to make it all work right for me.
You may have noticed some vague references over the last few months about me running. No way! you say? Way. I've been keeping quiet about it though. You see, it's like starting a (new) diet, or quitting smoking. Once you tell everyone about it, it's like setting yourself up for failure.
Hey, how's the running going? Did you run last night? No? Why not? When's your next run? Is that as fast as you can go? I used to be able to run 5K in 20 minutes! You're running? Are you crazy? You can't really believe you can run a half marathon! You've been training for 6 months and it still takes you an hour to run 5K? Running hurts your feet? I know how to fix that - Stop Running! Ha ha ha! Look at the fat girl trying to run!
I know none of you would say things like that to pester a new runner, but there are people out there who will. Most times they have no idea kind of impact or affect their words have. So, I kept it to myself.
Late last year, Glenn challenged family and friends to join him running at the Disney Marathon in January 2008. There is this weird problem I have with my brother. I find it difficult to refuse his challenges. I spent a lot of time pondering Glenn's challenge. Do I have the stuff to run a marathon or a half marathon? Do I have the strength, stamina, or ability? Even more so, do I have the desire? And if I do, do I have the time?
After a swift kick in the butt from a very good friend, I joined a gym last fall. It was time. I had to get back in shape. All of me. I was so down in the dumps, tears and tissues seemed to be my new best friends. Working out gives my body, mind, and soul strength. It showed me I can do so much more than mope around feeling sorry for myself.
Then came Glenn's challenge.
I had dabbled with running a few years ago, shortly after Glenn began running. I didn't keep it up though. However, I had done it once. I could do it again. But I was scared. I get scared about doing anything new. It's like a personal defense mechanism. I worry more about the negatives rather than delight in the positives. If I can come up with all of the bad scenarios, then I'll be ready for whatever might happen. Right? Well I knew about these running clinics that The Running Room has, and I found out that they do a Learn To Run clinic. I thought that might be just the thing to get me started. But I was scared. What if it was too hard? What if I can't keep up? What would I do with Miles? Could I commit to it? Could I afford it? Would work get in the way? I put off registering for days and days. Every day I talked about it with my friend. Finally, just days before the start of the clinic, my friend said to me, "You really want this." I was scared to answer! Seriously nearly teeth-chattering scared. But I knew without further thought, I do want this! And that was the start.
My Learn to Run instructor and the store manager were so full of enthusiasm and encouragement that it was difficult not to get carried along with it. The other women in my group were great too. That clinic was something I could really look forward to 3 times a week. Now don't get me wrong. For weeks, I felt slightly sick to my stomach before each run. I was scared. I never knew if I could complete the run without being in too much pain or getting hurt.
Then there was Disney. I didn't need to answer the question on this one. I want to do it. I really want to do it. But could I? I had already decided that I would go for the half marathon. The full marathon just isn't necessary for me right now. But I was scared. You see, working out at the gym and running had reminded me of a problem that I have . . . my feet fall asleep.
When I do any physical activity with even just a little exertion, my feet fall asleep. Sometimes they go completely numb and I feel like I'm standing on stumps. Running in the winter, I could really see the danger in this problem. Good footing is nearly impossible when you can't feel your feet. This brought up another problem. How could I possibly expect to run a half marathon when my feet keep falling painfully asleep? It's time to do something about this problem before I get hurt.
I made an appointment with my family doctor. He's a runner. Maybe he'll know what the problem is. We discussed the problem and he checked me out, and thought it may be something systemic. Blood tests were ordered. When the results came in, the doctor could find nothing that would indicate any kind of problem. Great news! But my feet were still falling asleep. Next was a visit to the neurologist.
The neurologist poked and pricked and zapped me, but in the end said everything was neurologically sound. Perhaps forget the running, and walk instead (She's a walker, not a runner. Perhaps she didn't hear me when I said that I also have the problem when I walk?) So, she decided to send me to a physiotherapist.
I've been going for physiotherapy for a few weeks now, and I think we're actually getting somewhere now. The first few visits were spent mainly on trying to pinpoint what was causing the problem. By trying different exercises or stretches, we think we've discovered the cause now. We think that I have a disc that is slightly thinner than it should be. We're talking a millimetre or less. This is not a degenerative disk, just one that isn't quite plump enough. That causes the vertebrae to be pushed together more tightly, especially when being pounded together when exercising, squeezing and pinching the spinal cord that channels through that one section. That pinching, in turn, causes my feet to fall asleep. I was given a stretch to do while I'm running (or anytime) that opens up those vertebrae, releasing the compression. The results are almost immediate. When my feet fall asleep, I do this stretch and the numbness goes away. Now on longer runs, I do this stretch regularly throughout. Lately, I've been finding that in the last portion of my runs, my feet stop falling asleep! The nicest thing my physiotherapist said to me was to keep running. She feels that as I continue to run, it will get better and better. Can you tell that she's a runner too?
When my Learn to Run clinic ended (see Krista's blog to read about my Around the Bay 5K run), I did my 5K training on my own. Their clinic date didn't work for me. I kept to my 5K plan as faithfully as I could. I even finished it off with a 5K run at the Mississauga Marathon. Last week I started a 10K clinic. I figured I need as much help as I can get to make it through this hurdle. It's been fun already, but it's going to be challenging to get all of this mileage in. Especially at my pace.
I am a slow runner. I don't have a problem with it. Slow works for me. It keeps me safe, and it makes me happy. But it takes a long time. This is why I think I have to complete my half marathon training on my own. Most people run, oh, pretty much twice as fast as I do. i.e. the average person might take 30 minutes to nicely finish a 5K run. It takes me almost 50 minutes to do a 5K. I feel so bad for my instructors right now, because they won't let me run alone, and it's got to be so hard for them to run so slow when they normally run so much faster. I don't want to make my other clinic members have to wait for me either, so I've tried to explain the situation to my instructors as well as I can. My half marathon is going to take a long time. I have a T-shirt that says, "The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start." (John "The Penguin" Bingham - www.JohnBingham.com) Nobody ever said that running had to be fast!
So please, don't feel the need to ask me how my running is going. It's okay. Really it is. Just send your good karma my way. And please don't think that I wrote this to receive piles of congratulatory encouragement. I will appreciate any that I receive, but it's not required. Let this just be what it is, and if someone wants to laugh about it, so be it. But if someone wants to let it inspire them, then let it be great and good for you!