Race Day Nerves and Glory
As you know I have been training the last few months to run a 10km race. In this final week in the run up to the race I was a bundle of nerves and very near hysterical at the thoughts of a possible injury stopping me from participating. To soothe my anxiety I even drove out the race route in my car just to see exactly what I was up against and formulated a race strategy which included a a particular pace I was hoping for, taking smaller steps, keeping to the edge of the road but most of all to breathe and have fun! Read on to discover more about the last few days before stepping up to the Start Line of the Run with the Lions 10km Race!
“I am in competition with no one. I run my own race. I have no desire to play the game of being better than anyone, in any way, shape or form. I just aim to improve, to be better than I was before. That’s me and I am free.” – Jenny G. Perry
Running Session One – My hips feel sore tonight and am no more in form to be out running. I just want to leave but stay anyway as I know what is good for me! I remind myself to just focus on breathing in and breathing out and that keeps me on the running track instead of bolting to my car. Tonight’s session is intense so I know I will enjoy it all the more if I just choose to embrace it and get on with it. The first part is (run “comfortably hard” for 3 minutes, walk for 1.5 minutes) x 3 times. This is tough going physically but more so mentally, to choose to keep putting one foot in front of the other and experience fully what I can endure. I look forward to the walking intervals all the same with huge relief. I stop my Garmin at the end of the last running interval so in 12 minutes I cover 1.09 miles with a satisfying 11:06/mi pace, hitting the mile in 11:13. I find it quietly gratifying to feel the progress in my body and what it can do, to see tangible progress reports on my Garmin, even if it’s by a few seconds, it all counts and all adds up and goes straight into my training journal so I can track my progress and reflect as the weeks go by. By the end of the session my contrariness has left me, thank God! It’s 5 days since my last smoke and only 6 more sleeps until race day, WHOOP!
Running Session Two – I have been absolutely crucified the last couple of days with that pain in my hip which has extended now into my butt. It’s painful to walk even, never mind run. I am very much in panic mode today as I wonder if I can even get to the Start Line of the 10km race in a few days time. The thoughts of not being able to run the race due to injury devastates me. I show up at the running track all the same with everyone else this evening. I want to determine if I can manage a slow jog and see will it loosen me up and lessen the pain or if the pain is intense will I have to take on the horror of not being able to run the 10km race after all? I realise how much I love and breathe running and what it means to me by the dismay I feel at the possibility of not being able to be at that Start Line and get to run. Tonight’s session is to (run hard for 1 minute, walk for 1 minute) x 10 times. Sarah has a calf issue so we both fall to the back of the pack (my usual spot anyhow!), nursing our sore legs, nattering and giving out about the crucifying pain. In 21 minutes I cover 1.49 miles with an overall pace of 14:05 minutes. By the end of the session I am over the moon to find that my muscles have warmed up and loosened and the pain has lessened considerably. I haven’t had a smoke in 7 days and I am feeling good. Only 4 more sleeps until race day.
Running Session Three – I miss the road run with the club this morning as my eldest son has a soccer match that I want to attend. It’s a short run of 3km (2 miles approx.) because of the race tomorrow. It’s lashing rain as I drive back in the road home but I sellotape my Garmin to my wrist and just get out in it to run as if I get settled in the house at all it will be harder to budge back out that front door. I’ve already tracked out an exact 3km on mapometer.com last night so have no excuse but to to just go run. I feel a slight ache in my glutes but not the eye-watering pain of the previous few days so am good to go. I’m laughing as I hear myself murmur “Sure it’s only 2 miles! You’ll be back in less than half an hour!” Before, I would have paled at the thoughts of getting out to walk a mile, never mind run a mile and to get to the stage where a 2 mile run seems like a relatively short distance is progress indeed. I race against myself to try cover the distance in less than 25 minutes. I cover 2.02 miles with a lovely pace of 11:59/mi in 24:12. WHOOP! I love setting little goals and targets and smashing them. I am in a race with no one but myself. Only one more sleep now until that 10km race!
Race Day – Run with the Lions 10km
Sleep eludes me and I am still awake at 02h00, gingerly tensing the muscles in my butt to see if they still hurt, my body full of nerves and anxiety over the race in a few hours. I mercifully doze off eventually and jump out of the bed again by 07h00. My two sons are running their first race today as well, the 2km with my sister Emma so we are well excited when picking up our race numbers and pinning them on. I enjoy the pre-race chatter with fellow Why Weight Ireland members and feel the comfort of camaraderie amongst them and also with fellow members of Adrenaline Running Club, all wishing each other the best of luck and fun. I huddle at the Start Line with running club friends who are also running their first 10km race. I have covered the 10km (6.2 miles) distance before with a mixture of running and walking, my best time being 1 hour 24.5 minutes 3 years ago so today my goal is to run the entire distance without stopping to walk, shuffle or crawl AND shoot across that Finish Line in a time of 1 hour 18 minutes or less. This means running an average pace of 13:00/mi. I take a deep breath, the whistle blows and we are off!!
As I cross the starting line mat and start my Garmin and mp3 player, I hear the opening bass guitar of “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie in my ear, one of my favourite songs to run to, which fires up my determination to stay focused and be strong. I realise after a minute or two that I have started out way too fast, urged along in the throng of runners and my breathing is all over the gaff. It feels like I am gasping already and panic bubbles to the surface. How am I going to run 6.2 miles when I seem to be falling apart in the first half mile? My lips and mouth are parched dry already and I fantasize about someone running up to me with ice chips. I gently murmur to myself to slow my pace way down, to not mind the other runners flying on ahead, to run my own race. I pull back and during my second mile I am relieved to settle into a steady pace for both my legs and my lungs. Already the lead runners have turned at the half-way mark and are thundering back past me, on target for the Finish Line. I marvel at these incredible athletes, at their speed, their strength and stamina. I plod on and am happy out to be competing with myself only and running my own race. Miles 2, 3 and 4 are run at pretty much the same steady pace. (I only see this when the race is over as I rarely check my Garmin while I’m actually out running.)
The race is mostly on country roads, to run out for 3.1 miles and turn around and run back the same roads. When I reach the end of the country road and turn left onto the main Dublin Road to run a half mile stretch to reach the half-way mark, my heart suddenly falls. The vision before me is a sea of runners, stretched out as far as the eye can see, there must be nearly 100 people, all who have reached the half way mark and are running back towards me and I have to pass every single one of them, going in the opposite direction, to reach the half-way mark myself. For a few seconds I cringe inside and wonder if I am actually the last runner? I choose to stop cringing and just embrace the experience, looking the other runners in the eye and cheering them on as they roar at me to keep going. I also know that Aoife, another Adrenaline runner isn’t too far ahead of me either, still on her way to the half-way mark so knowing she is battering away like I am gives me great encouragement to keep putting one foot in front of the other. My heart lifts when I approach people I know, especially two groups of Adrenaline runners. There is no shortage of high-fives and fist bumps on this half mile stretch. I can see Aoife coming back towards me, her face is glowing and she roars at me “Hey, it doesn’t matter who comes in last or second last, JUST KEEP GOING!!!”, we high-five each other and batter on. (We had been gently arguing, along with Sarah at the Start Line which one of us would be the last runner over the Finish Line!)
You can’t hide from yourself when you are out running. You have to dig down deep and allow yourself to believe to your core that you CAN do this, that you CAN endure, that you CAN stretch beyond your comfort zone, that you CAN and WILL reach that Finish Line. Believing in yourself is not always an easy endeavour. I can find it excruciatingly difficult to craft and own my own self-belief. A shaky sense of self-belief will not carry you far, you can crumble easily. But not with running. When you are running you HAVE to fall back on a genuine blossoming core of self-belief that you CAN make it or you don’t have a chance. You’ll see what you are made of out there. I find running a pretty emotive experience and it’s no different today. If you have been a regular follower of my blog posts you will know that as a survivor of rape and sexual assault that I have struggled at times over the years to allow myself to fully own and inhabit my own body, instead choosing to cope by stuffing myself with food to numb whatever feelings were slithering to the surface. Running is teaching me how to heal myself, that it is safe to come down out of my head, to allow my body to experience how powerful it can be, how strong it can be, how loved it can be. Running helps me feel safe in my own skin, that I am no longer an invaded or occupied territory. Running helps me feel free. Running helps me take my life back.
My music is encouraging me to keep putting one foot in front of the other, allowing my body to feel and release the emotions coming up while I run, in particular “River Flows in You” by Yiruma and “Bella’s Lullaby” played by Stan Whitmore. My absolute favourite however is “Nuvole Bianche” by Ludovico Einaudi.
I keep an eye out for Hannah as she has assured me in a pre-race message that when she finishes her 5km race that she will jog back out to me and finish my race with me. With maybe a mile and a half to go I see her and my eyes well up. I try not to cry as I need the energy and the lung capacity to keep running! I feel a new surge of energy with this incredible inspiring woman running beside me. Bruce Springsteen is now in my ear singing “Tougher Than the Rest” while Hannah urges me forward with words of encouragement, instructing me to not mind the cars coming up behind us, that she’ll take care of them, to just keep running! LOL! I now confess to her that I have been smoking but that my last smoke was 11 days ago. At the next bend I hear cheering and see up ahead three Why Weight Ireland members, Mary Catherine, Michele, and Catherine who roar and also jump in to run and help me to that Finish Line, murmuring to keep going, that I am strong, that I’ve got this. I’m trying not to lose the run of myself and resist the urge to start bawling crying amongst them, touched by their lovely unexpected gesture. With maybe half a mile to go I see my running coach, Gary, on his way out to run with Aoife who I can see in the distance (Gary has come out to run with each of his beginners today, no one is left behind.) When I see him turn and run back towards me, along with another Adrenaline runner, Claire, I do start sobbing a little but try to hide it with laboured breathing. I tell you, the support and kindness of friends, old and new, to come back and run with me, encouraging me with every step they take alongside me, whispering and murmuring to me to stay going, that my pace is strong, that I am going to make it, it literally takes my breath away. The support is phenomenal, I feel like Rocky, or Ms. President so I pick up my pace as I want to finish strong. I’m feeling Olympic but want to start crying again when my two sons join me for the final stretch and sail with me over that Finish Line. Nausea takes over and I try not to vomit on my sister Emma or on Sarah when they hug me with congratulations. When I recover somewhat, I am astounded to see that I have run the distance 2.5 minutes faster than I was aiming for, at 1:15:33.7 with a savage pace (for me!) of 12:12/mi which I was not expecting at all, thinking being able to endure running at a 13:00/mi pace would be tough enough. I am chuffed with myself to have improved on my last 10km distance by 9 minutes, WHOOP! I am feeling blessed and grateful for today. Thank you all so much for your support and well done to everyone who got out there and put one foot in front of the other.
Weight Loss Update
I’ve remained the same weight on the scales this week and I’m okay with that. I’ve lost 10 inches from my waist and 5 stone weight in total with 4.5 stone to go. I’m not as obsessive about the scales now, I’m making the best healthy choices I can and when I fall down I just get straight back up and stay going. I’m definitely taking it slow and steady with this weight loss campaign but enjoying my life now as opposed to postponing joy until I lose all the weight. This week Hannah has formulated a 5 week challenge for Why Weight Ireland members with 10 mini-goals for each day, to hit at least 7 per day. Mini-goals include filling in the food diary, daily exercise, 5 fruit and vegetables or more daily, trying something new and more. The Why Weight Ireland (Private) Community page is buzzing throughout the day with members posting mouth-watering meal photos, exercise updates and is a hive of inspiration, motivation and encouragement. This new challenge is giving us all a good shake-up so I’m anticipating a loss on the scales this week!
Spinach & Feta Cheese Salad with Wholegrain Basmati Rice & Quinoa
We are all mad for feta cheese this week on the Why Weight Ireland (Private) Community page, inspired by fellow member Sian, who lives in Greece! She posted up a photo of a salad she had just made which was gorgeously colourful, full of juicy salad vegetables and topped with feta cheese. A hoard of us galloped to the shops to get our hands on our own block of this only scrumptious cheese. Sian used cracked wheat in her salad, of which I had none, so I used Tilda Wholegrain Basmati & Quinoa instead. Only 239 calories per serving. Serves one. Enjoy!
- 40g fresh spinach
- 5 cherry tomatoes, halved
- couple of slices of yellow pepper, chopped
- couple of slices of orange pepper, chopped
- 40g cucumber, chopped
- 25g carrot, chopped
- 65g mixture of wholegrain basmati rice and quinoa
- 40g feta cheese
- a few leaves of fresh mint
- freshly ground black pepper
Just lash all the lovely spinach, peppers, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and carrot onto a plate. Top with the wholegrain basmati rice/quinoa mixture. Crumble over the feta cheese, grind the black pepper and top with mint leaves. Delicious!
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