Yesterday marked the first competitive run of the year for serious runners and even though I was doubtful I would be able to participate, I came, I saw and I conquered!
This run is sponsored by Canada's largest and most exclusive purveyor of mens' clothing, Harry Rosen. All proceeds form this run go to research and treatment of prostate cancer. It's in its 32nd year. I participate in it not just for the challenge of running it but because my brother is a prostate cancer survivor. It's very hilly course through one of Toronto's most famous and beautiful parks. I first participated three years ago, shortly after reaching my goal weight. I did the 5K course and found it very hard-going. Last year I completed the 8K course and found it even more grueling but finished with a very respectable time of 54:35.
Here's a picture from the first year, in the 5K race:
This one is from last year, near the finish line in the 8K:
This year, because some still unexplained pain in my right hip which has been well-documented here, I was unable to train much and I was really doubtful about being able to run at all, much less finish the course. I decided not to worry about time and to allow myself to stop when necessary. I was definitely not prepared for how well things actually did go and I can only say it must be as they say about training: the body remembers. It really was as if my body said 'I can do this. I know how'.
I can only say it surpassed my wildest hopes. My time was not as good as last year's; 58:19, but I was pleased to still come in under an hour. I beat Higgie by 3 minutes, which shocked the heck out of me, and I didn't stop once, except for a millisecond twice to get a drink of water which I drank as I continued to move forward.
The last two times I have run this course I've been working my body too hard to appreciate its beauty but yesterday, going at a slower pace, I was able to relax and enjoy the run in a way I never had before.
It was a sunny but cool day, and despite doing several minutes of warm up stretches and walking lunges to get my quadriceps moving and my hips loose, I knew it was going to take at least 20 minutes for my body to accept the concept of running. I had purposely lined up four slower songs at the start of my play list on my iPod, beginning with "Horse With No Name", and old favourite of mine. The lyrics really spoke to me, in a way they never have before because they were so completely appropriate to the situation at hand; 'On the first part of the journey, I was looking at all the life, There were plants and birds and rocks and things...' I really forced myself to look around me and enjoy the brilliant sunshine, even if it was only 3C.
My hip was creaky and sore for the first 10 minutes or so, and I even got a stitch in my side to start out with, so it wasn't exactly a glorious beginning. I promised myself I could stop after the first four songs were through but somehow I forgot about that promise.
I soon warmed up and had to take off my running gloves, even though they are very handy for wiping my nose! I tucked them into the waistband of my pants. I was glad I had resisted wearing a running jacket. I chose not to because the bibs we were given this year had a timing chip built into them and we were told not to put anything over them or the scanner would not be able to record our time. That would have meant pinning the number on over the jacket and the jacket would have had to stay on. I wore a long-sleeved tech shirt with a singlet-style tech shirt under that but together with a fairly heavy running bra it was more than I needed and I got pretty warm.
Higgie and I started running together but he soon got way ahead of me. I caught up to him at the first water station, which was at the 4K mark. After a few sips of water and with the knowledge that the run was half over at this point, I felt very refreshed. My back was starting to tighten up so I made a point of correcting my posture by standing more erect and activating my core muscles. It was at this point that I really began to enjoy myself. The course was taking us around Grenadier pond at that point, a large and natural pond in the centre of the park and t he view was exquisite. I was actually smiling, I was enjoying it so much!
I tried to pick up my pace as the beat of the music on my iPod increased. It might have been "Let's Get it Started" by the Black-eyed Peas that did it but I did start moving faster. I knew I had to save something for the final hill. I lost time on the descents because I can't run downhill (bad for the knees) but that slowing down also gave me a chance to refresh myself and regain strength. I made it up the final hill at a snail's pace all the same but managed to sprint to the top and across the finish line punching the air and saluting the race official who was reading off my name and my speed. I was thrilled and elated. I didn't expect to run the whole way and I certainly didn't expect to make it up that last hill.
When I stopped running I felt dizzy and sick and had to walk it off for a long time. I stretched for several minutes while waiting for Higgie. They wouldn't let us stay near the finish line so I didn't get to see him cross it. He said his back had tightened up and he had been forced to walk for a few minutes a couple of times. I was surprised because he has been training much harder than me. I began to think that the spin classes I took might have been more of a help to me than I thought.
I rode home in the car sitting on an ice pack for the sake of my hip. We picked up my Mom from her seniors home to bring her out for lunch with us. I was still wearing my medal and bib. People were curious about my 'look' and Mom told everyone in the place I had 'won the race'. I admit, I felt like a winner, even if I did finish in the dead centre of the pack.
We went out for a victory lunch of Stilton burgers (what is it about stinky blue cheese that goes so well with beef?) and sweet potato fries washed down with pints of Fuller's London Pride at our favourite British pub. Mom had a good time hearing about the race, even though she still confuses what we do with every sport on the TV in the pub. Yesterday it was soccer.
This morning I am still feeling exhilarated, if tired and very sore. My legs are killing me. I need to get out and rake leaves or do something physical to shake off the stiffness. I'm seeing my chiropractor tomorrow to make sure everything is still working okay.
Can't wait to see Bruce on Thursday and tell him how well it went. I'm really looking forward to the Ottawa race weekend in May, now that I know I can still do this.
'Tramps like us, Baby we were born to run...'