FIRST UP: this was the best race I've ever run. It was not my fastest. I was not well prepared. There were times when I had to stop and walk. But overall, this was the most fun I've ever had, and I went into it with the best attitude (enjoy myself, support my friends, challenge myself and be proud of whatever I can pull out on the day).
I signed up for this race on a whim, and trained for it in 5 weeks. Background: I used to run a ridonkulous amount, marathons, etc. I then got injured/stress-fractured/totally burnt out (and a bit bored), and had to take a few years almost entirely off. I've only just got back into running semi-regularly (a couple of times a week, maybe), so I knew this would be... interestingly challenging.
My one main training slip up was accidentally running 19kms - my peak distance - one week out from the race (it was supposed to be a 10km run, but I decided to explore a new area and got totally, hopelessly lost. Yep. This is why you should never let me navigate for you. Anywhere). Probably not ideal - I prefer to peak 2-3 weeks out - but it motivated me to spend the week before the race recovering like a CHAMP. I slept, I ate well, I stretched, I foam rolled, I dedicated hoooours to self trigger point massage. Apart from a knee niggle that had me worried for a while, I felt rearing to go for this race.
The day before I spent extra time foam rolling/massaging the HELL outta my legs (hip flexors, quads and bits-where-my-knee-joins-my-calf, which my boyfriend/personal trainer/life coach diagnosed as responsible for the knee woes). I also baked an enormous cake, went out for chilli cheese fries, took a nap, painted my toenails red (to make me go faster), did some shopping, and generally had a pretty cool day.
I stayed up waaay too late (perfecting my race playlist/perfecting my race outfit. Yeaaah), but still woke up at 5:15am feeling pretty energetic. I loved watching the sunrise from my balcony, and it was preeeetty darn obvious it was going to be perfect running weather: clear, cool, no wind AKA perfect autumn AKA the best season AKA yessssss.
I had my usual Berocca with beta-alanine and glutamine, and black coffee. Did some foam rolling/dynamic stretches to start getting warmed up. I wasn't very hungry, but had some toast with butter, Vegemite, and a bit of avocado, as well as an apple (this is fast becoming my go-to combo. I can't handle some of the things other people swear by - peanut butter and banana just ruin me).
My manfriend drove me to the race and we arrived at about 6:45. I met up with some friends who were also running and we pep-talked the shit outta one another. I dumped my stylish outerwear with Angus, and made the last minute call to take my iPod (it's on its deathbed and the battery was almost flat, so knowing I wouldn't get much use out of it, I wasn't sure if it'd just be annoying), which I'm really glad about, and we took our places.
I originally planned to latch on to the 3:30 marathon pacer (there weren't any for the half), and hope he could help me get me around a 1:45, which felt slightly challenging for my current fitness level, but still pretty realistic. Unfortunately, I couldn't get through the crowd to him, so ditched that idea and decided to stay with my friends, who were near the 4:00 pacer anyway.. so I just figured "go a bit faster than him". Ha.
The gun went off a little after 7 and I probably went out too fast. I lost my friends after about half a kilometre and tried to focus on getting into a challenging but sustainable pace. I passed the 1km mark at 4:46, and the 2km at 9:48, which was putting me right on track for about a 1:45, as I'd hoped.
And theeeeeeen I got hungies. And started to fade. I walked through every water station and took in a bit of Gatorade, but was bummed to find that no gels were available until the 15km mark. POOR PREPARATION ON MY PART. Next time, bring some!!
Some blissful downhills let me finish 10kms in about 49 minutes I think, then let myself sloooow right down to a not-much-more-than-walking jog.
At 15km I finally got the energy gel I was ready to sell my hypothetical firstborn for. I typically hate gels but was mega grateful for this one, even though it made my stomach feel really unsettled for the rest of the race. Like I said, lesson learnt: I should've brought my own fuel so that a) I could've had it earlier into the run, when I first needed it, and b) could've opted for jelly beans/snakes/caramel popcorn/something infinitely more delicious. But it did the job and I started feeling a bit better (other than my sad, sad tummy).
Around this time my iPod's battery finally died, which was a tough point for me. Sometimes, I cannot stand to run with music, but other days I need it to distract/motivate/keep me from gouging my eyeballs out (and the eyeballs of everyone around me), and this was the latter. This part of the course was boring, kinda ugly, and hard (again with the long, slight inclines), and I really wanted to be able to focus on music instead of my sore legs and feet. My breathing was also all over the place, and sometimes music helps me with this (other times, I try to breathe in time to the music a little TOO much... pro-tip: Britney Spears' 'Toxic' does not a happy respiratory system make).
As we got near the turn off to the finish line, I stopped to walk again (trying to rest a tiny bit to be able to sprint to the finish - and hopefully get a killer finish photo ahahha AKA my only real goal for this race). Another lady running actually YELLED at me to keep going because I was so close. I realised she was right and picked up the pace again, gurgling thanks to her (THANK YOU, LADY. I feel really bad for overtaking you at the finish :\).
I sped up in the final 100 metres, and crossed the finish line in 1:54:27. Faaaaar from the PR I secretly wanted (desperately. And slightly obsessively), but I was actually stoked with my time - I felt like I gave this race my all, and could not have possibly gone any harder in my current level of fitness/amount of training. I was, and am, very proud. I really felt like I ran my guts out in this race, and if I hadn't had the stops and walking breaks (which I don't regret at all), I would've hit my goal of 1:45.
I saw Angus just as I crossed the finish line, and was so, so excited by that. I'd never had him there for any of my other races, so it was lovely to be able to have him here for this one (yes, I got a bit teary... crying occurs at least once every time I race, so I'm glad I held it together until the finish this time).
I was the first of my friends back to the start, so I got my medal, some water and fruit, and wandered around the recovery area until my legs started feeling slightly more like they belonged to a human being and not a marionette puppet/Flubber. I was genuinely SO EXCITED to see all my friends finish - I've never really done a race with many people I know before, so it was really lovely to share it with them all and hear their experiences. I could not be more proud of all of us.
[less proud of myself. I clearly don't know what cups are for, or which way around medals go...]
At home I ate a lot more fruit, drank a buttload of water, stretched and rolled a little. Before going out for lunch, I took off my shoes to go have a shower, and discovered this bad boy...
OHHH so that's why my foot was in excruciating pain for most of the run! I get it now! I ran in my new-ish Adidas Boost shoes... which until now had been a super comfortable and blister-free experience, so I don't really think it was the fault of the shoes. It seems more likely that my slightly-rolling-in feet have recently become a lot worse (but only when I run?), so some work is going to need to be done on this.
Overall, I had a great day, and I loved training for an event again - and it just reaffirmed my love for the half marathon distance.
A lil bit about the race:
- The Australian Running Festival is a well-organised, small-ish event, with a few different distance options (5km to full marathon) over the weekend, so it's got preeeetty much everyone covered.
- The course is pretty scenic - around the Parliamentary Triangle and Lake Burley Griffin, so you see a lot of Canberra's landmarks - and it's at the best time of year for Canberra to show off: autumn here means enormous blue skies, sunshine, and some absolutely bitchin' colourful leaves.
- My only really gripe is that I wish the course was one, larger, out-and-back course, rather than two (or one-and-a-half) laps. But that's just my preference, and I know a lot of people who prefer this format.
- I wouldn't call the course 'flat', but it's definitely not hilly: it's undulating, and while the 'hills' are my most hated sort (long and slight - basically false-flats), they're offset with some pretty badass downhill sections that will restore your will to live.
- I love that this event isn't as massive and claustrophobic as a lot of its big-city counterparts, where the hassle of finding a parking spot/getting public transport at sleep-deprived-o'clock, finding the start-line, and braving the crowds is enough to turn me off altogether.
- Unfortunately, the smaller size means not so many of the perks of bigger races: fewer pacers, no real 'loot'/goody-bags, not so many aid stations/fuel options, etc... But those are definitely not deal-breakers for me, so I keep coming back every year.
In short: running is awesome, blisters are not, autumn is the best season, dressing like Rainbow Brite will forever be cool, cake is great, official race photos are overpriced, call me if you want an awesome race playlist.
Oh, and let's not forget the importance of cross-training. Thanks to my personal trainer/love of my life for sending me this one, with the subject line "How do I love thee? Let me count the chins."
I am in the market for a new boyfriend/housemate. Any takers?