Sunday, May 27, 2007

Some dreams are worth the struggle - long version

(The abridged version of this report can be found on in the Race Reports section)

I did it! I ran my first 10K ever yesterday and I am so proud!

If you read my previous post, you know how long it took me to get to this start line. When I started training for my 10K this time, I had less physical barriers because I had more knowledge of my body’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, I knew from the start that I could not follow any of the popular 10K programs out there because the quick increase in mileage would put me at risk for injury. One January day, I developed my own “4 months program to your first 10K”, which consisted of a 3 runs/week with a slow increase in LSD distance and a cut-back week every 3 weeks.

During my 10K training, I discovered that the challenge was 90% mental for me and I developed strategies to develop mental strength. This winter, I ran my first 6K, 7K, 8K and 9K. I PB’d on the 5K distance. I learned to swim to cross-train and prepare me for the next step: triathlon training. I learned that believing is the first, but crucial step, to achieving anything good in life. I learned that it's OK to be discouraged, but that you have to pick yourself up and keep moving forward. I learned that a great support system makes all the difference!

The first part of my training went very well, and I slowly but surely got from 6K LSDs to 9K LSDs. There were some tough runs, but I found the strenght in me to push through them and to be proud of my accomplishements. I started feeling like I was "a real runner", even though people kept telling me I became one a long time ago. Somehow, this title didn't resonate with me until after I had run my first 7K.

The last month wasn’t very good for my training. After I PB'd at Run for Reach, I lost a lot of my motivation and didn't run much. A few weeks I only ran once, or 2 time maximum. I revised my original goal of 80min to 90min. I figured I would be happy with anything under 90 minutes and I would be very disapointed if it took me more than 90 minutes. I really thought I could do under 85 minutes, but nothing close to 80 minutes. Still, 80 minutes was my whisper goal.

I knew that I had to take control of "my mental" if I was to have a good race. I knew the enemy would be the negative thoughts and the self-doubts and I had to come up with a plan. I wrote up a race plan and dedicated each of my 10 kilometers to someone or a special event, in order to keep my head off negative thoughts. I figured if I had many subjects/people to think about, this wouldn't leave any room for anything negative.

My plan looked like this:

Km 1 = how I got started running and my first race ever
Km 2 = enjoying the time that I would have on the course and reflect on the achievements of the past months
Km 3 = the strong/tough women I know and how I want to be like them
Km 4 = injured people, and one special person who is working so much on herself right now, trying to put herself back together (I could also have put this person in the “strong people” km)
Km 5 = the people who believed in me, even/mostly when I didn’t
Km 6 = my friend Liette, with whom I started training for my first 10K two years ago, who got injured in the process and still hasn’t started to run again. I so wish we were doing this together! Thinking of her made me push through the hill.
Km 7 = JF and my cats. JF has been a great support for me and put up with my anxieties, discouragement, negativity… thank you sweetie!
Km 8 = someone who helped me enjoy the process during my 10K training. At that point, my friend Kiza ran with me for a little while and it helped keep my mind off the race. Thanks Kiza!
Km 9 = enthusiastic people cheering on me with their orange pom-poms, and not minding being BOP as long as they had fun
Km 10 = I ran for me. Because this has been so hard, and I conquered my fears, anxieties and self-doubts!

My plan also included doing 5:1s, only looking at my intervals (not the stopwatch or my speed) and sticking to the plan. My #1 objective, though, was to complete those 5 minutes intervals and to slow down to make sure I could complete them. I followed the plan!

Many times, I thought of a certain ultra-marathoner who was running 100K that day. I kept her company for a while – while we were both accomplishing something important for us. Congratulations Krista - you did this!

I had the pleasure of meeting John Bingham at the Expo on Saturday and being congratulated by him in advance. I knew I had to live up to The Penguin's congratulations. I though a lot about his famous quote on Saturday: “the miracle is not that I finished; the miracle is that I had the courage to start”. It is really miraculous that I got into running. I have never been an athlete in my whole life, and now look at me! This is unbelievable!

Tears of joy were shed a few times during the race. Tears of joy were shed in the chute area, when I crossed the finish line and when I got my medal. Tears of joy were shed when I found JF and he hugged me. Tears of joy are shed as I write this report.

My finish line plan was to take a walk break from 500m to 300m to the finish line, and then run as fast as I could to finish strong – this explains why I was walking when I saw many of my friends cheering for me so close to the finish line. At 300m, I started running again, according to my plan.
At 200m, I picked up the pace enough that people in the crowd noticed and started cheering very loudly for me, it was AMAZING and certainly one of the highlights of my life. All those strangers I didn’t know were giving me my 2 minutes of glory - me, the supposedly non-athlete! I passed the finish line, cried, got my medal, got my picture taken and ate nothing because I came in when there was nothing left.

I made the mistake of drinking Gatorade on an empty stomach after my race. Not long after, I started having terrible cramps and I felt like I was going to pass out. We finally made it home and I had a shower, but I couldn't get better. I wasn't able to fall asleep and I woke up during the night and couldn't go back to sleep. I guess this is what you get when your average heart rate is over 170 for 80 minutes. Oh well, I survived!

Yesterday, I conquered “my mental”. I reached my whisper goal of running an 80 minutes 10K. I don’t know what else I could ask for.

Some dreams are really worth the struggle.

Friday, May 25, 2007

t minus 1

Tomorrow is the day I have been waiting for almost 2 years: I will run my first 10K ever! :-)

Two years ago, I was doing my first race ever - a 5K - and I had a great time. This first race changed everything in my life. It gave me confidence that I could do whatever I decided to do, in every aspect of my life. I remember being on a high for about a week afterward because the non-athletic me had succeeded at running a 5K race! I would never have thought i'd ever call myself a runner.

After my first 5K, I decided I wanted to try the 10K. Over the summer of 2005, I increased my mileage and even signed up for a 10K clinic which started at the end of August. It all went downhill from there. I had a very bad experience at the clinic. First, my friend Liette got injured right at the beginning of the clinic and had to drop out (she still hasn't been able to run since, which is SO sad). Then, I injured my lower back myself while lifting boxes and I pushed through the pain while running and made things worst. At the same time, the clinic itself took its toll on my self-esteem and I gave up, both mentally and physically hurt.

I saw a chiro for 2 months and it didn't really help with my injury. In December, I saw my osteopath, who helped me get rid of most of the pain. I increased my mileage again and started to train for my first 10K when mid-January, the pain was back, only 10 times worse than before. I went to see a physio to treat the injury and try to strenghten whatever was causing the injury. A few months later, in May of 2006, I was able to run the 5K again at Ottawa. Following Ottawa, I developped severe shin splints, which took many months to heal enough that I could run through the pain. I started getting Active Release Techniques treatments which helped a lot. In August of 2006, I decided to learn to swim and do a triathlon before I turn 30 (this Summer). The minute I announced my new goal, I stopped being so depressed about my running. A new dream was born! :-)

Over the spring and summer of 2006, I got much stronger from working with a personal trainer at the gym. This led me to a 5K PB in october 2006. :-) The rest is history - already documented on this Blog.

Tomorrow is the big day. I am very excited about it. I know the race will be a bigger mental challenge than it will be a physical one. I worked on my mental preparedness this week, and made up a plan: each kilometer will be spent thinking about an event or a person, rather than the pain, the doubts or the negative stuff. Tonight, i will go to bed happy and relaxed, for I have done the training, battled my demons and came out of these 2 years stronger than ever.

I'm ready. Bring it on!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A little disapointed

I was kidding myself when I said I was OK with not doing the Early Bird Triathlon today. I wasn't ready at all, and I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it, but my heart is sad that I didn't do it. It's a big triathlon weekend: 2 friends of mine have done/will do their first Tri and I'm so proud of them and I wish I did it too!

Whenever my heart says I wish I'd done it, my head says "you weren't ready". A third voice, the voice of my inner critic, says that I suck at swimming and it's why I wasn't ready. I had 8 months already to learn to swim and I still can't swim for 100m? Pathetic!

Oh well, let's hope this disapointment and my friends' successes will add to my motivation to work on my swimming and get to a point when I can swim 200m in time for The Canadian Triathlon on September 1st (if not before).

Congratulations to Jesse and good luck to Vicki! You guys worked so hard on your swimming and you inspire me to do the same.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Postponing my first Tri

I registered for the Early Bird Try-a-Tri in December, thinking i'd be able to swim 100m by May 19th. Since we bought the house, I have been hesitating to do this Tri, because I knew I'd have a lot on my plate already with the house and the 10K race. I had given myself yesterday as a deadline to make a decision.

When I went to my swimming lesson yesterday, I decided to test myself and see if I could swim 100m non-stop. If I could, then I would do the Tri; if I couldn't, well, then I would postpone my registration. I was only able to do 30-35m non-stop yesterday and I was very disapointed. So, I decided to postpone my first Tri to the Canadian, on Labor Day weekend (unless I get better before and I can participate in the one in July).

This morning, I'm feeling a little better, but still very disapointed. I was able to swim 100m once last Fall, and my technique has improved. I should have been able yesterday.

I'm struggling with my running as well these days. I've slacked off too much lately and I'm facing the consequences now. On Monday, I had my worst 5K ever and yesterday, my third worst (NCM 5K last year comes second). My plan is to run every other day until NCM, be more careful with what I eat and cross my fingers that this will be sufficient to bring me back into the shape I was a month ago.

The house painting is going very well! We work like crazy, but it's paying off. We're almost done all the painting we wanted to do. The bathrooms are left, as well as the upstairs hallway. This house needed to be painted badly and I'm glad we did! I could never have lived in a house where the white walls have turned yellow because of the cigarette smoke. Gross! Here's a proof that I am working hard: