Toronto Yonge Street 10k 2014 (Race recap)

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about taking a break from long distance race training and focusing on 5K and 10K races instead. I also talked about how humbling those shorter distances were, and after running three 5K races in March, I found myself growing increasingly more frustrated as I watched my times consistently hover below my PB from last year. I finished March without a PB in sight. But Mike explained to me that racing isn’t always about PBing, and that I should look at each 5K race as a learning experience that would help me build my confidence and my mental strength.

So I carried on with my training, and each week, I pushed myself to try harder and hit the paces that my coach set out for me. While I used to feel intimidated and slightly terrified over the BlackToe group workouts, I changed my attitude and looked forward to each one. I remembered that running was a hobby, and for that reason, every run became enjoyable to me. Even the recovery runs where I could barely move my legs. The weeks flew by and before I knew it, it was race day.

Because of my 5K race times in March, I started to think PBing at my 10K goal race was unrealistic. If I couldn’t hold certain paces for a 5K race, how could I hold them or anything faster, for double the distance? Mike gave me numerous pep talks about trusting in my training, having some confidence, and letting the magic of race day do the rest. When he saw that I wasn’t buying it, he decided to run it with me since he was still recovering from his race the previous week. In other words, I got lucky. :)

Even though Mike had decided to run the entire race with me, I still felt pretty nervous on the morning of the race. My grand plan of coming off a month of awesome 5K races to build on my confidence before the TYS10K didn’t happen, so I didn’t have much to draw from.

In the back of my mind, I could feel old excuses coming on; I knew I could always “take it easy” if I didn’t feel like pushing it, but I also knew that I’d finish feeling annoyed with myself if I did that…. so then I started to get nervous about how hard it was going to be. ;) I couldn’t comprehend trying to run 10km at the paces I was running my 5kms at a few weeks earlier. It was also cold, not terribly so, but enough to make me question my entire race outfit. I ended up panicking and changing into capris from the shorts I wore. The only thing that stopped me from frantically buying a shirt from the Running Room was the fact that we didn’t have enough cash on us.

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Pre-race nervous face.
Photo credit: Mike

We did a short 2.5km warm up before we lined up in our corral. As I turned my watch on, I promised myself not to obsess over my splits and to just run as hard as I could, as long as I could.  Luckily, Mike was monitoring our pace for us, so I decided early on to just lay all my trust with him and to give up trying to control everything myself. Best decision ever.

I had so much fun running down Yonge Street, I still can’t really believe it.

The first km felt fast, but I decided to just roll with it especially since it was downhill. Instead of feeling like an eternity would pass between each km mark like my last 5K races, it felt like each km came up faster than I expected it to. At 3km, I told myself that I was probably going to start hurting, and readied myself to push through it. It never happened.

At 5km, Mike told me that the real race was about to begin, and again, I prepared myself to feel pain. It never happened. I just kept running. It felt fast, but not out of control. For giving up trying to control my pace, I felt like I had more control than ever before. It wasn’t until we passed the 8km mark that I started to feel like I was struggling a little. But then I thought about my Wednesday night group runs where we’d do 1-2km intervals and used that as motivation to keep going. I remembered doing intervals alone on a Friday morning where the crazy wind was pushing against me and freezing rain was slapping me in the face. I remember how badly I wanted to stop then, but somehow managed to push through it. All of those intervals were harder than what I was experiencing at the moment so I knew I was going to be okay. Uncomfortable, but okay.

When I passed the 9km mark, I really started to struggle. Mike told me to try to pick it up, but I could feel myself slowing down and was struggling to hold my pace. I tried to tell myself that I wasn’t really hurting that much and that I’d be so angry with myself if I gave up and gave up so close to the finish. It was tough, and it was actually one of my slowest splits… but that’s okay, at least I knew at this point that I could get myself to the finish line. So I gritted my teeth and focused on holding on until I turned the corner and saw the finish line. Then, Mike told me to go for it, so I did. I just wanted to finish strong. Official chip time was 48:38.8. Almost 2 minutes faster than last year (50:26.5), and almost 10 minutes faster than my first race (ever!) in 2009 (58:24.1).

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When I told my mom the night before that Mike would be running with me, she responded with “it can be hard for people to run slow”. Oh, mom.
According to the look on Mike’s face, apparently not!
Photo credit: Martina

I felt pretty good about my finish until my friend sent me the above photo. haha It’s a good thing we have no idea what we look like while we’re running. No time to be self-conscious. Anyway, as soon as it was over, I just felt happy. :) Happy that I managed to PB, happy that I somehow ran this course at a similar pace that I ran my last three 5Ks at (and it felt easier!), and happy ecstatic that Mike took the time to help make it happen. I’m a lucky girl. Admittedly, the TYS10K is known for being an easier course, and we did luck out with great weather. But it definitely did its job in boosting my confidence and helping me see improvement.

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Post race smiles.
Photo credit: Mike

Progress is motivating. For so long, I would start a training cycle with guns blazing… only to get injured and have to take weeks off. Race day would come, and more often than not, I was more concerned about finishing in one piece than I was over PBing. As much as I want to run half and full marathons, my stress fracture made me realize that I need to be patient. Hopefully I’ll be running for many more years, and if that’s the case, then there will be many more long distance races in my future.

For now? I’m finally starting to learn what it takes to cross the finish line with a smile on my face.

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No pouting occurred at the end of this race!
Photo credit: Mike

And I like it.

What a great way to kick off the year. I can’t wait to see what comes next!

alison

 

Respecting the middle distance

This year, I decided to break away long-distance race training and make a conscious effort to train to run 5k & 10k races instead.

I first got the idea of doing this when I went to the physio for the first time due to a running related injury. I was a few weeks away from running my third half-marathon (about a year after I started running), and she mentioned that it takes a while for your body to get accustomed to long distances and that there was no shame in running 5k and 10k races for a few years until you can eventually build yourself up. Naturally, I ignored her.

I’m stubborn, and I liked the idea of training for long races so I told myself that it was perfectly alright to run whatever I wanted. I then went on to have a horrible time at the Chicago Marathon later that year, and then I trained my way into a stress fracture at marathon attempt #2 the following year. Mike was the second person to suggest I take some time to train for shorter races. But, I also politely ignored him.

I treasure my long runs with friends. I like running leisurely and have always looked at my running time as my chilling out time. Instead of spending hours lying on the couch, I was spending hours running slowly outside. It was great! I also liked the idea of training for a big event and letting the excitement over it build up week after week.

But after a few years, I started to want to improve. I wanted to drop my race times, but after several attempts, I always found myself in the same place: disappointed with my results, and injured. It was annoying.

So I finally decided to take a step back and try a different approach. This year, I’ve traded high-mileage for more frequent, shorter runs. Rather than training for one big long-distance goal race, I’ve made it my goal to run and race more frequently. I’m finally learning (or at least I’m trying) to fight for what I want and not let myself give up as soon as I start to feel tired in a race. My whole strategy to running races is changing as well and I’m learning how to push myself outside of my comfort zone. And while I still haven’t beat my 5k personal best time, I think I’m close. The pieces are starting to come together; I’m learning all about this different side of running where you can be competitive with yourself and I’m kind of loving it.

I’ve also learned to respect the middle distances. I haven’t run a 10k yet, but every 5k I’ve completed so far has humbled me. I have to say, running a half-marathon at a much slower pace was a lot more comfortable than trying to sustain a hard effort over 5km. But learning how to run outside of my comfort zone on race day is exactly what I’m trying to do and now I’m determined to conquer the 5k distance… and maybe the 10k, too.

alison

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