Last Sunday, I ran the Barbados Half-marathon for the first time and I still haven’t looked up my official time. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did check that same day and they weren’t posted yet. I guess when I’m not aiming to PB the time isn’t so important for me to know, and I had a general sense of my finish time.
That lackadaisical approach, though, was very much troubling me in the hours before the race kicked off at 5 a.m. on Sunday, December 4th. I slept very little that night, awake til 1 a.m. and afraid to oversleep, I lay awake for much of those wee hours of the “morning” (really, it was nighttime). I’d always planned to do this race as a easy run. It’s in fact the least I’ve “trained” for a race, if you can even call the handful of runs I did training. I added this race to my schedule about a month ago, knowing my body is capable of running 21.1k but not racing it.
But as I lay there sleepless the morning of the race, I found myself feeling a little annoyed with myself. 21.1k is not a short distance, and to run it without a serious desire or passion or goal, it was dawning on me that I was going to have a rough time getting through 21.1k in 29 degree heat and humidity.
My vague plan: run it comfortably, walking as much as I wished, but trying to have fewer walk breaks than I did in the Cayman Half last December, and in the Bahamas Half in January, and given that, my rough goal time I set for myself given my lack of training and the weather conditions was 2:15.
I got to the start a good 45 minutes ahead of time, and had to switch my bib (I’d accidentally been given a 10k bib), sat around and then used the last 20 minutes to wait in line for the portapotties. The race kicked off at about 5 a.m. (I think it was a few minutes late) without much fanfare, in fact, for about a minute I wasn’t clear if it had officially started. I don’t recall crossing a mat at the start — so I’m unclear if it’s based on gun time, in which case I would’ve made more of an effort to not have started towards the back of the crowd.
The route features some moderate hills (which I was not expecting), and it ventures alongside some residences, some port land, which is not the most scenic but you are rewarded with plenty of ocean views, and it’s kind of fun to start the race in the dark and have the sky brighten after about an hour (even though you don’ t have a direct view of the sun rise), all of which is what I’m looking for in a Caribbean race. Given the early start time, there is little support along the route other than the volunteers, but the few people that did cheer, I made sure to thank (along with of course the volunteers marshalling the route and handing out hydration). Entertainment-wise, one truck blasting music was in front of the elites, along with a few steel-pan drummers. The road is not entirely closed, so for awhile I found myself trailing a city bus and desperately wishing I could run faster to get ahead of it so as to not be exposed to its exhaust; there was also the occasional car or two passing us runners. The route is an out and back, and the marathoners repeat it to get their full 42.2k distance, which I think must be draining mentally.
Thankfully and surprisingly, I felt good during my run. Despite the heat and humidity, I never felt miserable and needing extra walk breaks. I roughly took a drink of water every 10 minutes or so and would walk for about a minute to do so and regroup. And I could tell early on that it was going to be a pretty decent race for me that day, which is surprising given how rough the Scotiabank Half-marathon felt recently.
I just checked the results and I finished in 2:03:21. This is indeed gun time (which is disappointing, I’m all about chip time) because my NRC app shows 2:02 (and that’s not accurate given it took me awhile to get my sweaty screen to unlock to stop my app), but it is what it is. Faster than my Scotia half this year, despite being in even less racing form and the harsher weather. So I’m pretty pleased with my time, considering I’d been thinking I’d be done in 2:15. I’m calling this my Caribbean half-marathon PB. With this gun time of 2:03:21, I was 109th out of 344 runners in the half (the results don’t show break down by sex and age group, unfortunately) and I’m very happy with that.
After the race, I skipped going for a dip into the bay because I didn’t want to sit in cold, wet gear for the drive back to my resort, but some runners did, and it’s a beautiful bay to do so (and this was my fave aspect of the Bahamas Half-marathon, having the race finish by the water so you could refresh right away in the ocean).
Barbados is a lovely, low-key island, which I’ll be writing about shortly for VITA Daily, so stay tuned for that, and the Run Barbados race weekend should definitely be one to consider if you’re looking for a destination race where you can enjoy some great beach time and food.
And with that, my 2016 race season comes to an end! I find out in a few days whether I’ve been drawn in the Chicago Marathon lottery for next year. It’s where I have my marathon PB from two years ago, and it’s such a fantastic city, I’m hoping to run it again!
December 11, 2016
Well, it’s one week later and I’m not looking back on the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-marathon any more positively than I did right after the race. It just plain wasn’t very enjoyable for me.
Thankfully, I ran it in support of Toronto Cat Rescue and my generous friends sponsored me in the run so I do feel good about that. And the team raised more than $18,000! (And if you’d still like to support the cause, which helps hundreds of cats get healthy and find forever homes, my sponsorship page will be up until the end of October! Sponsor me in the Charity Challenge, whydontcha?!)
But as for the actual race? Here’s the thing: I didn’t plan to race this race. My plan all along was to run it very, very easily and to walk whenever I felt like it.
My running friend Shawna registered for the race, and I was thrilled to have someone to run it with. That is until she told she thought we should aim to run it under two hours.
I haven’t been training for a half. Yes, I’ve been running, but not regularly and I certainly haven’t been building distance and mixing in speed work and hill training. I think in the past two months, I ran a total of maybe 10 times. I typically run at least three times a week when I’m training for a race. So I knew how out of shape I am for the race. Thus the plan to run easy.
But I added this race to my schedule in late September because I took part in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge and also because I do like taking part in it (there’s so much support now for it along the route, it’s very different from when I first ran the half-marathon in 2008 and ran it as my very first marathon in 2012. But I don’t see the need to be uncomfortable when I will not be PBing.
Then a week prior to the race I ran a decent 15k with Shawna . So I thought maybe 1:59:59 could be within reach or not entirely impossible in any case. The weather that day of our 15k was ideal, though: cool, almost even a smidge cold, and that’s what I prefer to run in.
Lucky me, five days before the STWM, I caught a cold. And three days before the race, I had a long shoot that started early (so I was sleep deprived) and that called for me doing exercises that left me sore; I coughed and sniffled through the day (but hopefully that doesn’t show on camera!) and crashed as soon as I got home.
I rested as much as I could pre-race but spent a lot of time wheezing through the nights and feeling worn out. I was still sick Sunday morning of the race. There’s the added issue that for several months I’ve also been suffering from allergies that, when I run, occasionally causes me to have coughing fits. When it’s a particularly bad instance, the coughing can escalate into dry heaving because I can’t get control of my breath. Sorry, TMI. I do have a nasal spray for these allergies but I often forget to use it daily…so it hasn’t had a chance to kick in and do its magic on relieving my allergies.
Anyhow, I agreed to try to start the race with Shawna with sub 2 hours in mind. But I knew very early on it wasn’t going to be doable. I think by kilometre 2 my legs felt tired (uh oh) and my breathing was laboured since my cold was still lingering.
Now, I truly don’t remember this but Shawna said I asked her not to leave me around the 8th kilometre. I have a feeling I was thinking ahead to the long and rather boring section along Lake Shore going west and then turning to take it back eastbound. At kilometre 12, and every kilometre after that, I kept asking her, pleading with her to leave me. She was chatty and full of pep and was obviously being held back by my pace. But she insisted on staying with me. She said (and she’s 100 percent correct) that if she left me, I’d sandbag it and walk. I have no problem with that. I was fully prepared to finish around 2:15 or even longer.
But that damn Shawna wouldn’t leave me! Hahaha! So I had to try to maintain a faster pace and being not in race shape, it felt awful. My legs felt heavy. I felt like I had to really work to get enough air due to my cold. And often when I start thinking too much about my breathing that causes a coughing fit to happen. I can normally chat at the pace we were running but I was quiet most of the race (other than when I begged Shawna to leave me!). But that Shawna is a stubborn one! And she said she knows what I’m capable of and so much to my semi-dismay, she stayed with me. I was happy to have company but I was pretty much shooting daggers with my eyes at her (good thing she didn’t take the selfie of us that she considered!). Add to this that the weather was quite warm and very humid. And although I’d worn just a sports bra to run all summer, for the race I had on a tank as well and I felt hot in the unexpectedly warm temps.
The finish line felt like it’d never come but it did, and we crossed it hand in hand with a time of 2:05:33. Which is decent for me considering I’m not in race shape and was sick. I was so very very grateful to not be running 42.2k that day. Thank you to Shawna for sticking by my side. (But note to self: Going forward, be clear about my race goals when asking a friend to run a race together!)
After grabbing food and some pics, we went to cheer marathoners at the finish line, who were so inspiring to me in all of their pained and anguished steps toward the finish line. But we got a few smiles and that always makes me happy because I know how much it can help to have cheers, especially when someone shouts your name. But there were many runners had rough races that day; I saw many who needed medical attention, I think the humidity had a lot to do with it.
(Also, how wicked were this year’s race t-shirts? Love this design by Mango Peeler of Parkdale Road Runners. Sad I didn’t get it personalized, which they were offering at the expo, but they wouldn’t let me swap the size on Saturday and I think I’d prefer a roomier fit).
Seeing these marathoners reminded me that I was (am?) capable of running a marathon, twice the distance I’d run that day, and at a faster pace. When I train properly. So, while I’ve been forced to put running on the back burner for the past year due to my travel schedule, I think I need to try to focus on a marathon for next year. I’m feeling that urge again. More on that in this blog post from earlier this week.
Come to think of it: could my shitty race have to do with the fact I didn’t get a “marathon mani” like I usually do?! Drat! (I skipped the nail art this race because of that shoot I had to do a few days before the race called for bare nails.)
What are your next run goals? Any races for the remainder of 2016?
And btw, Shawna and I are still friends. Barely. Tee he he…
October 23, 2016