Friday, May 28, 2010

Believing in the impossible and trusting your gut.

I'm sitting here with my daughter enjoying our sweet potato chips on a cold spring day in Calgary. Today's focus is on hydration and rest before the Nipika Crazy Soles race tomorrow. It's a 10k trail race. I'm nervous, not sure where my speed is at the moment as up until the beginning of May I was training for the Vancouver marathon and only really running speed workouts once a week.

I've been putting off posting anything about the marathon because it was such a total disaster but also a great lesson. I've had this desire to run a sub 3hr marathon for a few years, although honestly I personally feel way more satisfaction from running 50k in the mountains and just getting off the road. My first marathon in Calgary was a 3:17 back in 2006 but I knew I could have gone faster and it's always bothered me. And it seems that in the running world you have to distinguish yourself with a fast marathon. Or maybe that's just the pressure I was putting on myself. Either way, I was doing it. The girls are 5 now and in kindergarten, business is as busy as I want it, and I have the Trans Rockies race coming up in the fall so I figured a marathon early in the year was a good way to get me focused before too much of 2010 had slipped away. Plus, a bunch of girls were making a trip out of it and what greater thing to share with girlfriends than running and Vancouver (my favorite city in the world).

The other part of the story is that I have been trying to get my dad to run with me for years. I mean 5 or 10k, nothing huge. Every year I ask him to do the fathers day race with me and he finds an excuse. This year however, my boyfriend and I devised a plan: Martin is one of the only guys in the world my dad really respects. And as Martin is an ultra runner, I knew that there was a chance my dad would accept a challenge from him to do the marathon, especially if Martin offered to train with him. And to my shock and disbelief, my dad accepted. He started the training and didn't look back. This is no small miracle. This is gargantuan. My dad. A marathon. Now I believe that anything is possible. (Side note: the one lesson my dad reinforced with vigor as I grew up was that ANYTHING is possible if you work hard and put your mind to it. He never let me make excuses or give up.)

As I started my training, I did so with a bit of reluctance. Seriously if I have a choice I want to be in the mountains, on the trails and as far away from pavement as possible. But, I live in a concrete jungle and so during the week a large part of my running is on city streets and treadmills. It's reality. This feeling of reluctance, of having to run at a certain pace, watch my times and get in a certain number of miles just isn't me. I should have listened to my gut because my feelings towards a marathon manifested themselves as injury in my body. No part of me wanted to do a marathon. I should have paid attention.

Even a month before the race I considered switching to the 1/2, way more manageable but I also knew that if I did this, there was a good chance my dad would drop out. And this was one of the biggest accomplishments of his life and already he was saying things like "I feel alive for the first time in 5 years". I couldn't let him down. So I kept at it.

And when race day came, I felt perfectly trained to run sub 3hrs in Vancouver. I had fueled properly, trained well, rested, and generally felt mentally prepared. I'd had an Achilles injury which I thought was under control (apparently it wasn't as I learned at 18k). But I was ignoring this gut instinct that running on the road was a chore. And running never has been or ever do I want it to be a job or a chore for me. I should have listened to my gut.

The race started well, on pace all the way. I felt strong until about 10k when my feet fell asleep and I kept trying to push through and ignore them but finally had to pull over and loosen my laces. A few km later everything went to s$(%t. My achilles was shooting pain through the heel and all the way up my calf. Then the left foot went and by 24k my legs were completely seized up. I have no idea why to this day. I had enough salt, had eaten well and I know I was hydrated. It's a mystery. Crossing the half way point at 1:34 was ok and I thought I might be able to hold on but by 32k I knew that if I continued the race it would mean no more running, hiking, biking or ANYTHING for the entire summer. And I have way too many plans for long mountain runs, weekend backpacking trips and the Trans Rockies in late August. It just wasn't worth it. I was in so much pain that I knew it was beyond stupid to continue. I stopped, breathed, cried, walked, cried and kicked a rock. I hate giving up. One of my best friends and my pro physio - Somer - ran by and asked if I was ok and all I could say through tears was "don't stop, i'm fine. keep going". I cried for another minute and then told myself to stop being such a baby. It's one race out of hundreds. It's just not worth it.

I managed to catch a ride back to the finish and got there with enough time to wait for my dad and Martin to cross the finish line. We ran together, holding hands. And when I crossed the finish line with him I didn't regret dropping out, and everything about the day was perfect and exactly as it should have been. Within a few hours of finishing the race, over a couple of sushi rolls, my dad says to me "so when's the next race?". Congrats Dad. You've proven to me that nothing is impossible.