I know, I know, cheesy title for a race report, right?
Trust me, I am well-aware. But, as I was running along in the pouring rain last Sunday morning, that’s what was going through my mind. All you need is love. I often let my mind drift off during races and think about what I might write in my race report and it kept going back to that. All you need is love.
Maybe it’s because the Vancouver First Half happened to fall on Valentine’s Day this year. All you need is love. Or maybe it’s because I felt like I actually loved myself going into this race. All you need is love.
Yeah, that’s exactly it.
I’ve definitely been struggling a bit to get back into my usual groove of training hard and running long. Last year was a really good one for me in running but as I returned from the most phenomenal trip to Ethiopia and tried to figure out how what I learned would fit into my life, I also began to struggle with finding the motivation to keep running so hard.
It’s not that I wasn’t inspired, oh no, a trip like that really takes hold of your heart and changes the way you think about everything. I was full of inspiration to be so much more and do so much better – I just didn’t know how to implement it.
And that was tough. It felt weird to go out and run when I didn’t really know where I was headed or what I was training for. I was spending a tremendous amount of time thinking carefully about the bigger picture and realized that what I really needed out of my training was to first just fall back into love with running again.
No PR goals, no crazy workouts, no run streaks, no exhausting back-to-back weekends first thing in the new year. I really just needed to run and remember how it felt to love every step, good or bad. Instead of being hard on myself for losing so much fitness over the fall, I had to start loving myself again for the very fact I could run at all. I needed to re-learn that intoxicating feel of working hard and getting stronger.
I didn’t have a training plan per se but I did manage to do a few things right like going to the track for speedwork at least once a week, increasing my weekend long runs very slowly and bringing in consistent cross training like kickboxing and yoga. In short, I loved myself by letting go of big expectations.
So, after the longest pre-amble to a race report ever, let’s fast forward to the last Sunday morning. I’d been ‘training’ dutifully since the beginning of January and although I was feeling pretty good I knew I wasn’t nearly as fast as I was this time last year. I didn’t think I had a PR in me so I set off to First Half with the plan of running it easily as a training run.
My good friend was planning to actually race this event but we decided to start together and warm up for the first few km. It was pouring rain and those first few km were miserable because they were pretty much just there so we could soak up as much rain as possible.
After a harder-than-planned warmup, I was ready to settle down into a comfortable pace for the long haul but didn’t really feel like it. What? My legs felt good, my breath was strong and I just kinda felt like keeping up the faster pace. I haven’t felt that ‘let’s do this’ kind of feeling in a looooong time.
One of the things I’ve done differently in 2016 is to add yoga into my routine. Yoga and I never ‘clicked’ until a good friend started her own fitness studio and hired an amazing team of yoga instructors. One of them and I just really hit it off and I’ve been dutifully going to her classes twice a week since January. As I ran this past weekend, I could really feel the difference in my hips and low back.
It was kind of surprising to see such a noticeable difference from one small change but at the same time, so satisfying to still be seeing positive improvements in things like spinal mobility, even 11 years post-injury. Guess I should have given yoga a fairer shake before now!
Anyhow, it was somewhere past 11 km in the race before I finally stopped and took a little walk break. And since I’m the eternal-lover of the 10:1 walk/run method, this is kind of crazy for me. I’ve dropped the 10:1’s over the past year but didn’t think I was in shape enough to take so few walk breaks during this particular race.
The farther along I ran, the more surprised I was that I was still feeling strong. My shoes were drenched and my face was soaked but my breath was still steady and my legs didn’t ache. I guess all that worrying about not being very strong wasn’t worth the time I gave it. This was by no means a record breaking performance for me but so much stronger of an effort than I thought I was possible of.
Around the 18-19 km mark I realized that I was very close to 2-hr half marathon pace but was finally starting to tire. I knew I couldn’t quite keep up the pace I’d been running so I slowed my pace a tiny bit and aimed to just keep going without walking too much between now and the finish.
As I neared the end of the seawall I was surprised by my good friend Sarah and seeing her gave me that little boost I needed. The two short hills at the end of the course kicked my butt as per usual and I had to slow down and walk each of them. Maybe some year I’ll run those damn inclines.
I had a huge grin on my face though as I got to the top and knew I just had a short downhill stretch to the finish. I could have walked out the rest of the race and still been happy because the day went so much better than I was expecting. Instead, I dialled in a good song and pulled the last bits of energy I had left for the cruise into the finish.
I crossed that finish line and gave Sarah a huge hug. I think she was actually kind of surprised that I finished around the same time as her! To be honest, I was totally surprised too! After we got our medals and funny paper warmup coats, I finally looked down at my Polar to see that I finished in 2:01 and change. Not an overall PR but the fastest time I’ve run this race in 5 years. A course PR and I was thrilled.
We headed into the Roundhouse after the race to warm up, grab some food and of course, visit with my friendly Mizuno reps. It’s always fun to run a Mizuno-sponsored race and get caught up on the latest shoe news and make some plans.
The Vancouver First Half usually turns out to be a memorable race for me. In 2012 it was my first half marathon back after having the boys. In 2013 I PR’d my half marathon time by like 9 minutes. In 2014 I actually trained for a 2-hr half but missed it so that one was memorable for the wrong reason. And in 2015 I was running it after a bad stair-falling injury and ended up finishing just seconds off my PR so that was kind of rad.
Long story short, this is a race dear to my heart and I was so happy to go out and surprise myself this year. Not because I’m happy to have run a time I’m proud of but more importantly because I realize that I guess I’m in a better place physically than I thought. I totally confess to being pretty hard on myself for my fitness level lately and this race helped me put a stop to that.
So I guess what I’m saying with this long rambling race report is that it took loving myself to really love myself and love my running again. I loved myself enough to let go of huge expectations, lofty goals and just let myself run for the sake of running. It allowed me to love what I was doing again and it got me to the same place as if I’d followed a rigid training plan.
I guess all you really do need is love.