I just have to start this post by saying how good it feels to be writing a race report. 2015 definitely did not start out how I had hoped and at one point I wasn’t sure if I’d be racing at all so it feels pretty darn good to be writing about my first race of the year, Vancouver First Half.
After a crappy December plagued with unknown foot issues and then a January mottled with random accidents like falling down the stairs and that time I made a frittata and ended up in hospital with second degree burns, I really didn’t think I’d be in any shape to run what was supposed to be my first big race of 2015. I actually had promised my bib away to a friend and then a couple weeks ago realized I’d be okay to run it so managed to find another bib for her so I could keep mine. Phew.
Since it had been so long since I’ve raced, I felt kind of nervous the night before. I actually sat and made a list of everything I needed to bring the next morning which I haven’t done in years! We were in for some beautiful weather so it was nice laying out short sleeves instead of layers upon layers of winter gear.
My plan for the day was to go out and run at the fastest pace I could hold comfortably. I obviously wanted to run the best race I could but I wasn’t willing to risk aggravating my now-dealt-with injuries. My friends Marijke, Candice and Sarah all planned to run with me and we all agreed we’d run hard but slow down if need be.
Marijke and I got downtown with enough time for a tea before heading to the race venue. As soon as we made our way into the Roundhouse Community Centre, I felt like I was surrounded by friends. Everywhere I looked, I saw familiar faces and it was so nice to chat and say hi to so many amazing people. I truly love my running community.
We got our gear checked and met up with our group of friends before heading outside for a warmup. I had also planned to meet up with fellow Chocolate Milk Ambassadors for a photo so I met Jeremy at the start line for a quick shot, even though we couldn’t find the others.
Gathering in the starting corral, I was admittedly nervous. I’d gone from thinking I wouldn’t be able to run at all to toeing the line and feeling great. It’s only been a few weeks that i’ve been back running again but I’ve felt stronger and more capable than I have in ages. Even though it was because of injury, I think the rest has done me good.
The gun went off and we started our race. The first couple km were spent chatting and goofing around with our friends but we eventually separated and the faster of us took off. I was determined to just settle into a good pace and do the best I could.
My friends were amazing for running along with me and keeping me going. They all knew how badly I wanted to finish in 2hrs but also knew that I had to be careful. We settled into a quick but manageable pace and I was honestly feeling really good.
I knew our pace was quicker than what I’m used to but it felt good. I felt strong and not sore and perfectly fine to carry on. We had found such a nice rhythm as a group. I was practising running by feel so I wasn’t checking my watch as much as I normally do but was trying to take cues from how I was feeling. I honestly couldn’t believe that for a little more than half the race, I ran quite easily with only quick stops at the water stations.
This was very different than the 10:1 walk breaks I am used to. It was going fine but I was definitely worried about whether I could keep it up. We crossed the 10k mark around 56:00 mins which is way faster than I’ve ever done it before. I couldn’t believe it, especially since I was still feeling fine to keep up that pace.
We were so lucky to have such a beautiful day for this race. The fog over the water was achingly beautiful and made the city just gorgeous as we wound our way around. The sun was shining and everyone seemed to be in such a great mood. I remarked at one point that this was the kind of day that was so beautiful it could just bring you to tears. I was feeling so very fortunate to be running, feeling so good and being with so many great friends. No matter the outcome, it was a beautiful day.
It was somewhere around the 16-17 km mark that I started to feel noticeably tired. I don’t know if that’s just my limit for this pace or if I was just running out of steam but I asked my friends a couple times if we could slow down a bit. I felt like we must have built up a big enough buffer that we could afford to slow down and I needed the chance to catch my breath and slow my breathing down.
For the whole race I felt like we were well within range of finishing in 2 hours yet as we rounded the lagoon suddenly I felt like it was going to be very tight. I was getting tired and knew I needed to slow down a bit. I guess I just didn’t realize how close to the threshold we were at that point.
After the lagoon it’s just a short trip through the park back out to the seawall and around to the Roundhouse for the finish. I knew there were a few short hills though and that made me worry. I was finding the pace tough and I knew I had to go up those hills too, in my mind, I felt the 2 hrs start slipping away. I also knew that this course has an amazing downhill finish so if I could just get myself to the top of those hills…
Anyhow, I tried to hang on and keep running but as seems to be my usual limitation, my legs were getting tight/tired and I was starting to feel like I didn’t trust them. Whereas earlier in the race my legs felt solid and amazing, now I felt like if I pushed them too hard they might wobble and give out and I’m beginning to think it’s totally a mental thing. I made it slowly up the first little hill and carried on. The second one was steeper and I had to walk it and the last one I had to walk as well.
When i got to the top of the hill however, I pulled out every last bit of energy I had and raced toward the finish. The girls were right still there with me and I barked at Candice to move out of my way because I wanted to cut the corner to the finish line. Ha ha.
I crossed the line, stopped my watch and knew I had just run a wicked race. I still kinda thought we’d at least made a 2:00:xx finish but when I glanced down and saw 2:01:36 I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed. I knew that after being injured and missing so much training I had no business getting a PR but everything came so easily together out there (until the last few km) that I really thought we’d done it.
Anyhow, after double checking the results we stopped for a pic and headed inside. The First Half is actually our biggest Mizuno sponsored event in BC and I was excited to go in and visit with the Mizuno team. I know a few of the reps but hadn’t yet met Bethany, who actually lives quite close to me so we’ll be running together this week.
While we were chatting, I noticed that Dylan Wykes (Canadian olympic marathoner and Mizuno athlete) was there so I asked Bethany if she would introduce me since I was feeling like a fangirl and was too nervous to go up and introduce myself. It was really nice to finally meet him and we chatted for a few moments – he won the First Half in a time of 67 minutes. Crazy since that’s a comfortable 10k time for me!
When we finished at the venue we made our way downtown for lunch (read: FRIES) with everyone, definitely a highlight of the day. Since moving away from Langley I don’t get to see this group of running friends as often so it was great to have the chance to visit for awhile after. We had some amazing PRs amongst the group, even though I wasn’t one of them.
It really was a great day. Vancouver was just so beautiful and First Half really is one of my favourite half marathons. As always, the event was impeccably organized and full of amazing volunteers. The course is gorgeous, it’s a Mizuno event and it just seems like everyone comes together for their love of First Half. It’s such a great way to start off the running year. And, considering a few weeks ago I didn’t even think I could run this event, I was thrilled with having run such a great race.
There is definitely a part of my heart that is feeling heavy though. Even though I wasn’t trained for it or planning on it, it always kind of hurts to miss a PR by a couple seconds and a lifetime goal by a little over a minute. It leaves me sitting here asking myself, “Why didn’t I push just a little bit harder?” I mentioned before that I think maybe I have a bit of a mental block in staying strong right to the finish as I’ve lost a 2hr half so many times in the last few kms.
It’s definitely something I need to think long and hard about because even though I was injured, I know I am stronger today and feeling better than I have in so long. It was only a few years ago that I finished this same race in 2:33 and cried with joy I was so happy so I know I’ve come a long way. And with how good I’m feeling, It really feels like now is the time to take it a bit further. This could be the year that I finally push through some of those barriers.
So stay tuned on that one, this could be an exciting year!