Friday, September 17, 2010

the REAL race (in the mountains)

As I mentioned in my previous post- the day after the shower, we had a race to run. In our group, we had 10K runners and half-marathoners and it felt kind of strange to be "just" running the 10K, but with all that was going on in August and September (plus the injury this spring), I knew that the 10K was the better option for me.
(as usual the drive up was beautiful- that blog header of mine? taken between Calgary and Canmore)
We drove out the night before (my dad has a place not far from Canmore) and ended up having a late dinner of pasta (and delicious pasta to boot) before all collapsing into bed as early as we possibly could- I was exhausted from all the lying. I slept really well and felt pretty rested when I got my 6:20 wake-up call (from my sister). She made me some oatmeal and then it was off to the races.
First stop group picture:
(the half marathoners an me)
Second stop- picture with the giant head:
(yup, i'm mature)
Did I mention it was cold? Not yet? Well, it was cold. You'll notice I'm wearing a toque in that picture and I think the head would be too if he could find one. It was about 2 or 3 degrees when we got there. Brrrr.

The half-marathon started at 9:15 and the 10K at 9:45, so after bidding good luck to the halfers, I had half an hour to go to the bathroom, stay warm, and to decide which layers to keep and which to leave behind. That was a tougher decision than you'd think, but thanks to the fact that my mum was there as a sherpa for all of our stuff, I was able to take off the warmest layers at the last minute and keep only what I'd need.

I lined up with some friends at first, but when I saw how many people where ahead of me, I moved up a little- but probably not enough because it took me almost 2 minutes to cross the start line (I'm still really confused as to how that happened- there weren't THAT many people in the race).

I had almost no expectations for this race. I knew I was in decent shape but I didn't feel prepared to "race" and I had NO idea what the altitude would do to me (Canmore is at about 1,300 meters above sea level whereas Montreal is at about 5). So, I decided that I would accept that it was going to suck, accept that I would have a hard time breathing (which is why I wanted music- I didn't want to hear myself gasping for air), do my best, and try to enjoy running in one of my favourite places in the world. Oh- and my other goal was to run a negative split. I'm trying to learn how to do that, and figured this was a great time to try.
(that doesn't look like great form- but it DOES look like I might be having fun!)
As I was running, I figured if there was a "9" as the start of my minutes per mile I would speed up and if I was feeling really bad and saw that I was running faster than an 8:30 mile, I'd allow myself to slow down to take a bit of a breather. I walked the water stations (even though I was carrying a small bottle- I found that breathing was really hard while drinking), enjoyed my music, really enjoyed the scenery, and every so often I chatted with someone near me. I also loved hearing my mum cheer for me twice- I think this is the first time she's been able to cheer me on and I loved it.

As the kilometers ticked by, I noticed that I kept leapfrogging a couple of girls in teal and I kept seeing a lady in her Boston gear up ahead. I made mental notes to beat the girls in teal and to try to catch and pass the Boston lady if I could see her near the end. I hit the 5K mark in just under 27 minutes, made note of that, and figured it was time to get slightly faster.

With every kilometer mark after 5K I tried to take note of how I felt and to decide if I could work just a tiny bit harder. Just before the 9K mark, we went over a bridge that swung a bit under the movement of just a few runners. At first, I thought the dizziness of running in the mountains was finally getting the best of me, but when I said "woah" out loud and the girl just ahead of me (who happened to be one of the teal girls) agreed that the world was moving, I felt a bit better and decided to pick it up even more. As I passed her coming off the bridge, I looked behind me and said "come on- let's go" but she looked at me with a "I'm trying but can't" kind of face and didn't come with me.

So I ran hard. I turned a corner and saw the finish line up ahead- but it was one of those long stretches that feels even longer than it is. I reminded myself that the pain would be over soon, but was having a tough time- until I saw my "rabbits." I took down the second teal girl in no time and then saw the Boston lady up ahead. I was working really hard to catch her and was reeling her in...then when I was about a foot behind her she decided to speed up. For a split second, I thought "screw it, I can't speed up" but then I looked at her, looked at my watch (and saw I was approaching a "minute mark" and therefore had get to the finish line before the minute was up) shook it off and ran it in to the finish.
(yeah- that's what I look like when I kind of want to die)
The verdict? Well, first off, that bright blue shirt in the background is the lady in her Boston gear :) Secondly, I pulled off the negative split. Hooray! And thirdly, I have a new 10K personal best! As I walked through the finish chute, I looked at my watch and saw a 52: and said "that is f#% ridiculous". I managed to pull off a best time at altitude and without feeling "race ready". Yaaay!  I think part of it was the cold weather- the cold treats me well :)

Oh- and how did I pull off registering for a race that my sister was running and that had a published list of entrants without her catching on? I registered under a pseudonym of course- so way to go Kristen Johnson, glad you had a great race ;-)


Rhonda said...


Anonymous said...

Good work! It was so good to see you last weekend. ...perhaps you should run under a pseudonym all the time?