Fitness Swellness: 2016 Calgary Half-marathon race report

June 9, 2016

in the Saddledome

“Oh, it was fine. I didn’t race it. I just ran it.”

People (OK, people who either don’t run, or run shorter distances than a half-marathon) seem really confused by this reply when they ask me how my Calgary Marathon half was. But I didn’t stress about this race or push myself. If you see me before a race I’m hoping for a PB in, I’m a mess. Stressed out to the max, and I will barely speak to you morning of the race. This half, I didn’t even check my official time until today so I could include it in this post.

I didn’t start training for this race thinking I wouldn’t race it all out, in fact, I had planned to race the marathon (as in the full marathon). But then life threw me a few twists and turns: I started traveling more than ever, but early in the year I was still on track to run the marathon. Then at the end of March, I was unexpectedly asked to cover a nearly two-week trip to China. I knew I would likely not run at all while there (and certainly  not my long runs) due to the busy itinerary, but I figured once I got back at the end of March, that would still leave me with two months to train for the marathon.

Two months is not ideal but as I’ve run marathons before, I figured I could manage it, just that it wouldn’t be my fastest marathon.

Then I caught a horrible cold and cough while in China. If that’s what it was…it ended up lasting well over a month (and I got home one day and lost my lunch, so who knows…). I sounded like I was coughinh up a lung. Then, compounding this, less than a week after returning home from China, as I sat on my couch and reached forward to grab my glass from my coffee table, I coughed and threw my back out. Yes, I can train for what seems like race after race after race and not get injured, but a COUGH brought me down.

I have never thrown my back out before, and I didn’t realize what world of hurt I had in store for me. Movements I didn’t even realize called for me to use muscles in my lower back, such as pulling open a door, would make me freeze up thanks to my back seizing in spasms and I’d cry and wimper in pain. After two days of being an invalid, I booked my very first chiropractor appointment ever and gingerly walked over. Thankfully, it helped, and I continued to see her 2-3 times a week for the next few weeks.

She explained to me that it wasn’t something that happened overnight but a multitude of reasons: running compresses your spine, all that coughing compresses the spine, the long flight home from China with me sitting for hours and hours, my job sitting in front of a computer, my lack of stretching post-workout, all factors that contributed to this pain. She recommended I lay off the running for awhile (“But I have a race!!”) and to cross train in the meanwhile. The problem was that I couldn’t cross train because of the damn cold and cough that was taking me out. Add to that the horrendous sleep I was having; I had several nights of just lying in bed and seeing the sun come up because I simply couldn’t fall asleep. I suppose it was part jet lag, but I think worsened by my usual erratic sleep schedule.

Finally, after about two week of chiro adjustments, I felt somewhat better to run and workout. I did a Crossfit workout and a Viking Method workout (both of which my chiro was not too pleased about, too intense, she said!). I went easy in both workouts, and the runs, I took slow and started with shorter distances. With each step running, I could feel the pressure on my lower back.

Over time, that twinge was less severe, but it’s still there. With about five or six weeks to the Calgary race, I opted to register for the half-marathon instead. I also made the focus of my training simply to complete the distance, so I did no hill training or speed work as I felt the intensity would be too much for my back. As a result, I’ve watched my pace slow considerably. Even for a short run, my pace is quite slow for me, which is disheartening but that’s how things go, alas.

And, so, this is why the Calgary Half-marathon was just a run for me. I didn’t stress about time. I just ran comfortably and took in the scenery around me for this, which was my 15th half; I snapchatted, checked my Instagram, took pictures. The weather was pretty much just about my ideal running weather (cool but sunny; warm enough for shorts and a tank, but not warm enough to sweat buckets and buckets). What I did stress about was potential stomach issues (I didn’t feel so great the day before and the morning of the race) but thankfully I never was forced to make a pitstop at a portapotty. At my very comfortable pace, I ran a 2:08:16, finishing 76/210 in my category, and 610th out of 1526 women in the Calgary Half-marathon.

along the race route

Where this leaves me now with my race goals, I’m not sure. This will be the longest gap I’ve had for not running a 42.2k since racing my first marathon in 2012. I feel like the longer the gap, the less I’ll feel I’m able to complete that distance. I can’t tell you how positively gleeful I felt in Calgary that I was able to follow the signs for the half-marathon route rather than the marathon of (gasp) ultra route. I was so, so, so happy to not be slogging through 42.2k and only 21.1k.

Which is to say (gulp), I think this means I’ll plan to race a marathon this fall. Which also means training starts now. Travel has kept me busier than ever so far this year, so juggling it all is going to be rough.My back still isn’t fully recovered. Even sitting for short periods, it’s uncomfortable. And I can tell when I run that it’s not quite right. There is still that slightest of twinges. I suppose I should stretch it out more (I’ve been slacking).

In the meanwhile, the race in Calgary is a great one, and one I hope to run again. For more about the Calgary Half-marathon race itself, check my post over on the iRun blog.

Calgary Half-marathon medal 2016


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