Act V: Wanderers of the Night (30k tune-up)

Temperature: We got lucky and had pretty decent weather on Wednesday (comparatively) and Sunday’s weather was deceptively gross. Only 21-22ºC, but it felt like 29-30ºC with a relative humidity ranging from 94-100%.

Distance run/type:

Clothes: Various pairs of Adidas shorts & pants, various Adidas shirts & Lululemon tops, Asics 2150s.

Feeling: See below for full race recap. Lots of feelings are described.

100 Push Ups Challenge

  • (Sun Aug 22Week 5, Day 3: Maxed out at 36 consecutive push ups – not ideal, but given yesterday’s race and my lack of sleep, I’ll take what I can get!

♦♦♦

With the Fall race season quickly approaching, my running coaches organized a tune-up run at a smaller (but amazing!) local race to help us gain some confidence with the increasing distance and running at race pace.

The race itself, A Midsummer Night’s Run, was high up on the list of favourites from last year. When I was training for the half-marathon last year, I ran the 15k option as a tune-up. Last year, I remember feeling stronger and faster week after week of training, and by the time we reached the weekend for our tune-up run, I was more curious and excited than anything.

Things were very different this year. To be truthful, I had been feeling anxious about this race all week. The anxiety was heightened even more so Saturday morning when I woke up. I tried to keep my fears at bay by continuing on with my pre-race routines, starting with a delicious bowl of pasta the night before. This gigantic pasta bowl contained various vegetables, grilled wild salmon (flaked) and about half a cup of whole wheat spaghettini pasta. It was delicious and filling, but not to the point where I felt uncomfortable.

After a somewhat restless sleep Friday night, I began my Saturday morning with a gigantic bowl of overnight oats, topped with a mix of cereal, greek yogurt, almond butter, coconut, and cacao nibs.

I had plans to see a movie right around lunch time, so I wanted to eat enough at breakfast in case I didn’t have time to eat lunch. After breakfast, I packed my race bag, attached my time chip to my shoes, and pinned my race bib to my tank top – all things I normally do the night before, but procrastinated (I mostly blame my nerves! I know, lame excuse, but it’s the truth) and managed to get away with it since this was an evening race.

I’ve tried various brands of energy gels and these are by far my favourite. Some people prefer the fruity flavours, but I can’t get enough of the Expresso Love and Chocolate Outrage flavours. The Mint Chocolate is a close third, and I’m glad that I feel that way since it is a seasonal flavour. I realize that there are dozens of resources out there listing the benefits of natural energy gels that aren’t manufactured, etc, but the truth is, I’m a busy working gal, and these are convenient, reasonably priced and ready to go. Maybe some day I’ll dabble in making my own natural gel – right now is not the time.

Although I tried not to put too much pressure on myself with respect to finishing times, I copied down a few “landmark” kms and what time I should hit them based on the pace band generator just in case. Sometimes I double check how I’m doing, and sometimes I don’t, but it’s always nice to have (and it’s the best solution for me since I don’t have a printer!).

I almost forgot to pack a change of post-race clothes. Last year I wasn’t planning on hanging around after the race so I had to sit in my race clothes for the rest of the evening – it wasn’t very pleasant. This year I was much more prepared. Although the below picture is blurry, just look at how awesome the technical garment was from them! Last year, their technical shirt was my favourite race shirt, and this year’s was even better!

At noon, I decided that it would be a very bad idea to not eat before the movie since it was about 2.5 hours long and it would be 3pm before I could eat anything again (the race was at 5:30). In a rush, I threw together a tortilla pizza made with layers of salsa, ricotta cheese mixed with oregano and parsley, avocado, mushrooms and lots of baby spinach that was tossed with a raspberry vinaigrette.

This was inspired by a delicious California pizza that my friend has made for me a few times in the past. It is out of this world, but I didn’t have pizza dough and I had about 15 minutes to throw everything together. It may look questionable, but I assure you it was delicious.

During the movie (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), I snacked on about 3/4 of a Classic Glo Bar and drank some water. In retrospect, I probably didn’t drink nearly as much water throughout the day as I should have considering the weather and how much I normally drink before running during the evening. All important lessons to be remembered for next time…

The Race

I don’t think I was really mentally prepared to run 30k last night. I knew from the two 29k LSD runs, that the distance was going to be tough, but I didn’t want to overthink it so I tried not to. I just lined up at the start line, and tried to casually chat my way through my nerves.

The first 10k or so went by really quickly. I ran with a friend for the first part of the race and her company helped get my mind off the distance we were running.  At around 6k, I started getting cramps possibly from my fuel belt and encouraged her to take off because I didn’t want to drag her down. I started playing with the position of my fuel belt but unfortunately, I continued getting cramps wherever I was wearing my fuel belt. Several times, I genuinely considered just cutting my losses and tossing my fuel belt away. At around 11k, I had practically convinced myself that I was suffering from appendicitis (haha, I am serious!) until I reasoned with myself that I was likely overreacting and looking for excuses to quit. I decided to keep on going.

Things continued going relatively well until I saw the 12k mark. I was still feeling strong, but my mind started wandering and I began to succumb to my boredom. It didn’t help that I had some questionable (annoying) songs stuck in my head and their endless looping in my head were starting to drive me crazy. Just before I started running into the Tommy Thompson Park loop (bottom right corner of the route), I suddenly heard “Way to go, Alison!” and I looked up to see my coach (who was dressed up because she had volunteered to be a pace bunny fairy). It may have been really simple encouragement, but it went a long way in giving me a bit of extra energy which was necessary considering I was only just getting to the halfway point. After that I saw a few more of my running friends and their smiles, waves, and cheerful encouragement continued making me smile inside and inspired me to stick with it and stay strong. Up until that point, I really had no idea how powerful simple encouragement could really be. In case any of you are reading this: THANK YOU SO MUCH!

After that, things continued going well and I counted down the kms through the 15k-21k block of the race. I told myself that once I hit the 20k mark, it would be smooth sailing and I’d be in the clear. I thought to myself, “what’s another 10k in the grand scheme of things?”. How silly of me.

I started to fall apart at the 21k mark. At first, I marveled at how decent I felt considering I always finish a half-marathon feeling completely spent and wobbly. I knew that I could have definitely continued running, although, mind you, at that point I didn’t really have much of a choice! However, every time I felt like I had made some major headway and was getting closer to the end, I’d see a km marker and realize how little I’d actually run since the last time I saw a marker. My feet were sweating inside my shoes (too much information?), the humid and sticky weather was starting to get to me, I was feeling short of breath and to make matters worse, my mind had stopped happily zoning out and all I could think about was getting to the finish line.

When I bumped into my running coach as she was leading her pace group towards the finish line, I was heading into the final Ashbridges Bay Park loop, and I thought, “oh, that must mean I’m almost done…. yay!” But as soon as I turned the corner (around the 23k mark), I really felt overwhelmed with how much I had left to go. Every time I turned the corner, I was hoping that would be the turnaround point but I would see runners curving along the route that I knew I’d soon have to run through as well. It felt like I was running farther and farther away from the finish line (which I was) and that was the last thing I wanted to do. I was so frustrated with myself at that point; my feet and toes were feeling really numb, my arms were tingling and I had to constantly relax my hands because I kept catching myself curling them into tight fists. My heart felt fine, but my mind and legs were screaming at me to stop. Several times during that last loop, I thought about giving up. Again, I questioned the past few weeks of training – how in the world was I going to get through a marathon if I was failing the 30k tune-up?

It really felt like an eternity passed before I finally rounded the bend and started to make my way to the finish line. The km markers were so discouraging to me that I had to force myself to stop looking at what the markers said. I knew I was getting close to the end and that was enough for me to keep going. I’m sure seeing something like 29k would be just the thing that some people need to tap into their final reserves, but I personally felt that it would make me feel even more frustrated and disheartened.

When I turned the final corner and saw the finish line, I stopped thinking – I just took off and focused on getting to the finish line.

I’m not sure I can properly describe how I felt when I finally finished the race. I think it was a combination of extreme exhaustion, relief and fear of what’s to come.

I can say with certainty that this was the hardest physical test I’ve put myself through to date. I don’t meant to sound so dramatic, but it was a huge undertaking – one that I don’t think I was really mentally ready for. I’m in awe of everyone who was able to attack yesterday’s race with the speed and grace that they did last night. For the first time ever, I cried after I crossed the finish line. When my coach asked me later on how the race went, all I could manage to choke out was a simple “that was really, really hard”. It was kind of embarrassing!

Afterwards, I tried to eat a chicken burger but I had zero appetite. All I managed to eat afterwards was a banana, one bite out of a cinnamon raisin bagel, and a cup of beer.  A few hours later, when I eventually got home, I had a sweet potato with vegetables stir-fried with an almond butter sauce and topped with some nutritional yeast for some extra protein. Dessert was some watermelon slices on the side.

By the time I finished dinner, I tried to go to bed but ended up tossing and turning until 4am. I’m not sure why I was so wired? At about 2am, my stomach was complaining so I had a piece of toast with almond butter and jam, some baked chips, and some cheese curls. The cheese curls were a bad idea as they sat in my stomach for the rest of the night. :/

Today, I’m feeling pretty decent considering how rough I felt last night. My legs are a bit sore, and I’m sure I’d be unable to run at all today, but at least I’m not limping around like I was expecting to be. Looking at my intervals, I can see that I started off a little too strong and my pace got progressively worse. About 2 hours into the race, my pace really dropped. Another lesson learned for the marathon – I always start out conservatively but yesterday I was trying to keep up with a group of people who run faster than me and that was probably the start of my undoing.

In the end, I was about 5 minutes off of my estimated goal time which was really discouraging and confirms a few things off my growing list of fears. But don’t get me wrong – I didn’t put weeks of running through gross weather only to give up now. I made my bed and I’m determined to lie in it even if it means crawling over that finish line in October.

♦♦♦

“Do one thing every day that scares you”

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18 thoughts on “Act V: Wanderers of the Night (30k tune-up)”

  1. Oh Alison darling! I teared up a couple times reading this. You’re incredible but you’re only human, and from my lazy, barely able to run 5km seat… 30km is such an achievement. I know you’re looking ahead to the marathon and in that light it may seem like a failure or like a let-down, but try and view it in the light of what you have achieved and the progress you’ve made. Also you seem to be doing well after that injury set you back… 5 minutes off your goal may be huge to you I guess but I think it’s pretty awesome!

    Maybe because I’m not a proper runner my opinions are a little invalidated but… I am really proud of you and live vicariously through your victories. If I ran 30km the world would hear all about it!!

    Also, your food is ALWAYS so delicious. You are a heroine!

    much love and once again, well done!

  2. You did an amazing job and running within 5 minutes of your goal in 100% humidity is incredible. Seriously incredible. You deserve to get choked up at the end – it’s a big deal to race that far and you’ve earned each tear of accomplishment. I get a bit verklempt myself at a finish line every now and again. You are on a fine path to Chicago and you will run across that finish line with a finish photo smile.

    1. Thank you for the encouragement. 😀 It’s crazy how easy it is to hear things like “anything can happen on race day” and immediately dismiss it as something you will never experience. Self-positivity bias, anyone?

  3. I’m not a runner and I can’t run. But I admire people who do and who train to run the marathon. In hot yoga my favorite instructor often reminded us to focus on myself and not to compare with others. I remember how many times I had to sit out a posture to regain my strength. I threw up after my first hot yoga and three more times after. The deep relaxation and calm after the shower and the rest of the day make me go back and back. I do this for myself. I’ll be there in Chicage to cheer for you.

  4. I think you should include a pic of the FINISHING medal to cap off your report. That 30km was no easy task and you made it through, amazing job Alison!

    Celebrate everything that you’ve done to get you this far, you are a fighter!!!

    1. You were one of the smiling runners that helped get me through. Thank you so much for your encouragement. You did an amazing job as well!!!! 🙂

  5. Oh my gosh, Alison… reading that made me a little emotional!! I’ve never had experience with long distance training like that, but even my 3 mile runs in humidity make me feel disgusted and frustrated. I have sooo much respect for you going through those conditions for 10x my distance. Plus, I would think you were an absolute psycho if you DIDN’T get frustrated, because all of the tingling, sweating, and screaming in your head makes you human! Most bloggers would probably never spill what’s really going through their minds in these kinds of situations (“…oh that? yeah I was having the TIME OF MY LIFE out there! it was a breeze”), so I really appreciate your honesty. Thanks for keeping it real, and oh yes, CONGRATS on finishing!

    By the way, through this post especially, I noticed what an excellent writer you are. 😀

    And one last thing–are those PUFFINS I see in your overnight oats??? HAHA <3

    1. Awww, thank you so much for your sweet comments (and compliments!). And I’m super impressed with your ability to call out my Puffins obsession. I haven’t made it back to WF to hoard more boxes while they were still on sale. I’m afraid to go back because I’m sure by now the sale is over.

      PS. I am still craving your latest carrot cake / pumpkin overnight oats concoction. Something has to be done about this really soon. Why am I so lazy?

  6. It’s hard not to feel the emotions you went through during the race. Not meeting your goal time is always heartbreaking, but 5 minutes IS amazing! Just think about how prepared you will be in 2 months. That is still a long way to go. 🙂

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