Wednesday, October 10, 2007

race meditations

I’ve been thinking about the race a lot. Of course when I went back to work yesterday I had the post-holiday blues, but I think there is also a post-race blues that I experienced as well. I train and train and train and boom it’s race time and I nearly die getting over the finish line and then it’s over. It's a bit of a let down when you're not sure what your next race will be.

I went home thinking about how can I be a better runner?

I felt good in the Okanagan run and I enjoyed it. I especially enjoyed starting out with db beside me and the two of us running together for the first 10 k. I felt good until around 28 k when the fatigue started to get the better of me. I took 8 minutes off my Tofino time, which is amazing, but I know I can do better. I know I’ve got it in me to bring my time way down. It’s not enough to finish anymore. Of course I’m relieved to finish, meaning that I don’t trip or twist an ankle or injure myself beyond crawling over the finish line, but some of my disappointment at it being over is that I know I could have been better prepared for that race.

Yes I’m thrilled to have done it and I was overcome with emotion again at the finish line. Just to have achieved this at all is a huge deal to me. I am proud of myself.

Okanagan was strange though. For some reason I thought this is the race where it will all become clear to me and I’ll know what I want from this running stuff. I’ll know what my running goals are. I’ve got the time out there to let this stuff come to me so by the end of the race I’ll know what kind of runner I want to be. The long distances often make previously unthought about issues become clearer so I thought this would happen again. And then…I felt not so good. I was out there struggling in the last 8 k just trying to keep myself positive and instead of knowing exactly what I wanted I started to question if I wanted to be doing this anymore at all! That scared me.

Maybe the running is a parallel to my own life and how I feel about it. I often expect that I’ll get a clear message one day and I’ll say “ah-ha, that is what I need to do.” This doesn’t happen and it didn't happen on race day. Perhaps I’m no clearer in my life goals than I am in my running goals. This is the only thing I took away from this race.

In the chute to the finish I felt this burst of energy propel me to pick up my pace and run like crazy to get over that finish line. Where did that come from? There was db on the side with his hand up and we high-fived as I sprinted for the end. Then the relief and joy surged to the surface and I knew I wanted to do it all again. This wasn’t my final marathon. This was just the beginning of a long journey.

Each moment is the moment. There is no one big event or moment in life, but rather a series of events and moments that string together...well...a life. It's how I experience those moments and the quality of those runs that matters.

* * *

the race event itself.

First, when I picked up my race kit I noticed that my bib number was exactly the same as my last bib number! What are the chances? I thought that was weird and took it as a good omen, but didn't think about it too much.

When db and I scanned our chips to activate them and make sure they had the right personal info, db noticed that he was listed as being from "side door" BC. He often notes on our address that we're the side door (for the mail carrier to drop the mail on the side -- which the mail carrier never does) so I guess that's how he ended up being from side door. He didn't say anything and we had a good laugh.

Like I said it was amazing starting out with db. Standing at the start line with him in the middle of this packed crowd was quite comforting and it calmed me so I felt less nervous than usual. I'm so proud of him and his achievement. He let me set the pace for the first 10 so that was cool too. He later told me that after we split off on our different routes, he did find his own rhythm and then went for it. He crossed the finish in 2:09!

The promised rain never showed. It was partly cloudy and almost hot at times, but overall the conditions were just about perfect. The last half hour of my run was tough enough, but the wind had also picked up and by the time I hit the lakeshore in Kelowna’s city centre, the wind was blustering across the route. I blew aside a couple of times, but kept moving forward.

The marathon route was two passes of the same loop with some variation from the half marathon runners so that we spread out a little more. While I liked running past the same runners and we crossed one another’s paths on these loops and turnarounds, I did not appreciate having to run the same route twice. To put it bluntly it sucked. We ran down a bit of an incline and a hill towards the town centre and then had to veer off on another road, to another turnaround, run back and start the whole route over again. That’s mentally tough to deal with because you know how you did the first time around and when you loop you like to run “home.” When I'm training I always say to db that I can’t turnaround and run past our road as part of my route because I’ll want to go home. I have to run out and back. Most races do this or they vary the route back or have another finish line all together (like Toronto – which is this coming weekend by the way).

Another unsettling thing about the run (and I know runners won’t like me saying this) was it’s businesslike feel. The events I've run previously have been pretty friendly and everyone talks to each other and there's a feeling of a shared experience. The Okanagan run wasn't like this. I know it’s a fast course and a Boston qualifier so people are serious about their times, but c’mon most of us aren’t even thinking about that and Vancouver was a qualifier and it didn't feel that way. So the race felt a little cold. Oh well, I guess they can’t all be warm and fuzzy.

I did love the countryside that we ran through. There were apple orchards and bales of hay across rolling farmland. There were lots of horses out in their pastures and enclosures looking at us runners like we're nuts and we are.

For most of the race I felt good. I had no pain, no cramping in the calf like Tofino and no waiting around port-o-potties like the Trail River Run and Vancouver. I took my gels and clif bloks and that was all going well. I took water at almost every water stop and for the most part I really felt good until…
Then in the second loop, somewhere around my 28 k mark, I started to hurt. (That reminds me the marking along the route was awful. I often had no idea where I was in the run and near the end of the race the markers were all off. There were very few marathon markers, which makes it difficult to gauge how you're doing. After 38 k I didn’t see another marathon distance marker.) I knew I was making good time, but I was fatigued. I paced a woman ahead of me and I thought I’d start using my Trail River Run tactic and look at people ahead as a goal to try and catch. 2 k later I gave that tactic up and realized for a marathon distance that won’t work, you have to focus on your own run and trying to finish your race. I had to forget everybody else. I hoped I was just hitting a wall and would get over it soon, but I didn’t. The only thing that made things easier were the descents, but then as soon as we leveled out I trudged along hoping to summon strength from somewhere. That didn’t happen either. So I kept going. I kept telling myself to just keep running.

Like I said before, the lakeshore was windy and there were very few orange cones marking the route so I did find it hard to even find the right path to follow at times. This was somehow poorly organized at the end. There were lots of volunteers along the route until the end and then it just got sloppy and I found the route on instinct at times. Fortunately we had started in the park so I knew where I had to end up.

My time 4:22.
Rank: 394
Gender Rank: 175/307

* * *

the trip

As for Kelowna and that part of the Okanagan in general…it’s beautiful. What a beautiful part of BC. I’m starting to wonder if there isn’t a beautiful part of BC. We loved it. We went to an organic winery (Summerhill) that was very busy, but also quite lovely. We splurged and had lunch there and brought back a few bottles of wine after tasting. db said looking across the lake at the desert landscaped mountains reminded him of Reggio, Calabria where you can look across the water at Sicily. It’s true it did look like Calabria.

There was an abundance of food. We went to the farmers market and bought organic peppers, eggplant, apples, garlic, fennel, purple carrots. There was so much fresh and locally grown food. We were in heaven. I even bought a plum cake that happened to be vegan and picked up some local spelt flour (what are the chances of that?).

We stayed in a cute little guesthouse off the lakeshore drive that is run by this older woman and it feels like she’s sharing her home with you. It was a funky little guesthouse all decked out in the comforts of home. She stocked the fridge with tons of food. I couldn’t eat much of it, but the fruit was a nice touch and there were lots of juices and breads for us. She even left us the info on the marathon on our kitchen table along with info about the surrounding wineries and local sites to see.

I’d love to go back. I hope we do.

1 comment:

red jane said...

Wow- whata fantastic journey. It's nice to hear that alongside all the marathon prep and hub bub you had time and the wherewithal to really enjoy the weekend. I think it's an amazing thing you do, running the distances you do- I live vicariously through you both.