Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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My Friends and I Ran A Marathon Yesterday

Yesterday was the 45th running of the Vancouver marathon and I ran in it!

Other statements that are true include:

  • My friends and I ran a marathon yesterday
  • I ran across the finish line of the Vancouver marathon yesterday.

I did not, however, run the entire 42.2 km. Instead, I took part in the marathon relay with my friends Julie, Jen, and Pam. The way the relay works is that you have 4 runners on your team – Runner A starts at the starting line with all the full marathoners, but at the 12 km mark there is a relay exchange point at which Runner A hands off a belt, which contains your team’s timing chip, to Runner B, who runs the next 12 km, and then hands the belt with the timing chip to Runner C, who runs 5 km and then hands the belt off to Runner D, who then runs the remaining 13 km of the race. There are timing points at each relay exchange area, so the time of each leg, as well as the time of the entire duration of the race, is recorded. Honestly, I think this may be the only way I’ll ever participate in a full marathon – the way where you don’t actually have to run the full 42.2 km!

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Our team was named the Tenacious Tempos! Props to Julie for coming up with the name!

I was Runner D – also known as the anchor. The downside of being the anchor is that you do a lot of waiting – there are shuttle buses that take the relay runners from the start area to their exchange points, but the buses got us to our exchange point at 9:15 am and by my team’s estimates, I wasn’t expecting to start until 12 pm! Also, the area where the shuttle buses dropped us off, which is also where the portapotties were located, was about eleventy billion kilometres from the actual exchange point and while many runners went over to the exchange and then had to walk all the way back to go pee before they actually ran, a small group of us decided that we had no interest in doing all that extra walking, so we hung out by the buses (where there were benches and stuff to sit on) until it was time for a pre-race pee and then we headed over to the exchange.

Happily, it was a nice sunny day and I was prepared with sunscreen and a book to read. I also spent some time chatting with my fellow anchors from the other teams and Andrew dropped by to say “hi” to me as well.

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Me, waiting for Julie (Runner C) at the exchange point. I have no idea why my hair is this terrible *before* I even started running!

The plus side of being the anchor is that you get to run over the finish line! I tend to find finish lines very motivating and usually can find some energy to put on a good kick at the end – even if I feel like I’m just barely hanging on up until the finish line is in sight, once I see it, I find a previously unavailable store of energy for a sprint to the finish! But I’m getting ahead of myself!

The route that I got to run was a lovely one – we went over the Burrard St bridge, then along Pacific, which turns into Beach, which then takes you into Stanley Park, and then we went all around the Seawall, and then along Georgia and up to Pender to the finish line. It was flat and scenic, which is just how I like my race routes to be! It was also very hot – especially since I didn’t start running until about noon! I spent a significant portion of the race  wiping the fog from my sunglasses, because I was so hot and sweaty!

As for the running itself, I was pleased with my run. As you know, I’ve only really been training for about a month due to having all the sicknesses in the early part of this year, so my fitness level is way below what it was last year. I’ve been running my zone 1 runs at about a 7:30 min/km pace and my recent blood lactate assessment1 shows all my zones to be considerably slow compared to this time last year (which is not surprising, given that this time last year I’d spent ~4 months training for the BMO half marathon). But I decided that my relay run would be a good chance to see how well I could do in a zone 2 run (as most of my training focuses on zone 1, which helps to raise my aerobic threshold, but is not the zone that you want to run a 13 km or a 21.1 km race in), and I was pleasantly surprised with what I could do! I managed to run the 13.2 km at an average pace of 6:27 mins/km – and I felt strong! The last 3 km I definitely had to work to keep up that pace – my body was tiring and wanted to slow down, but I dug deep and focused on maintaining the pace. It’s funny, because as I was running I was thinking “Wow, I can’t believe how fast I’m running this! This is awesome!”, but afterwards I realized that last year I’d run 8 km more at an average pace of 5:45 km/km! But it’s all relative and given my start to this year, I was happy with my performance. The official race results clocked my leg of the race at 1:29:51, but that includes the exchange (which necessitated a hug with Runner C before I took off on my leg) – my runner watch indicates that my actual running time was 1:26:55.

After the race, the Tenacious Tempos went for a lovely brunch – which really is the main reason that we do these races. Well, the brunch and the medal!

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The Tenacious Tempos showing off their race bling!

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My race bib has taken it’s place on my board along with its fellow race bibs. Also, this is probably the coolest race number I’ve ever had: 9900!

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A new medal for my collection. Medal #2 for 2016!

  1. A new blog posting coming on that soon! []

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Half Marathon #12 – Crushed It!

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Me, pre-race.

I’m am *so* glad that I set a three-tiered goal for my BMO Vancouver half marathon because I am genuinely proud of my personal best finish of 2:02:24 (goal 2), despite not quite getting to a sub-2 hr finish (goal 1). In fact, when I thought about it after the race, I realized that I’m much happier with a 2:02 than I would have been with a 2:01 or 2:00:301. 2:02 is far enough away that I can’t kick myself for, say, slowing at too many water stations, but quick enough that I’m legit proud of it.

I started off the race quite strong (the 3 km downhill *really* helped) and was well faster than the pace I needed for a 2 hr finish, which gave me confidence that I would at least a have a shot at it. My strategy was to listen to my body and try to find a balance between pushing myself to do my best but not so hard that I would completely run out of gas or, worse, get injured. I started a mantra of “Run *your* race”, which I repeated to myself whenever I started to feel tired or sore or had to run up a hill or I got distracted by other people passing me. It worked surprisingly well to keep me balanced and keeping my legs pumping. I also would use it as a reminder to pay attention to my running form – stand tall and relaxed, hips over feet, arms pumping.;

I was on pace for the first half, reaching the halfway point at 59:07. But, though I’m in the best shape of my life, it wasn’t quite enough to keep up that pace for another 10.5 km. I started to slow. Muscles started to hurt. First it was a tight right calf. After I managed to loosen that up, it was a tight right glut that made my right knee angry. Then my right calf was all “heeey, don’t forget about meeeee!” Then there was a right shoulder thing, just to keep me in my toes because I’ve had a sore left neck for a few days, so wasn’t expecting right shoulder pain. But every time these things reared their ugly heads, I said “shut up body!” And then I’d refocus on form and say to myself “Run *your* race, Beth. Run your race.”

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Personal best.

As I got closer to the end of the race, I realized that I was slowing at a rate that was not going to allow me to finish in 2 hours. On my last walk break (I do 10 and 1s2 ), I saw that I was at 1 hr 50 mins and I had 2 km to go and I knew I was not capable of a 5 min/km pace, but then I though about my three-tiered goal, because I was able to say to myself “You knew that 2 hours was going to be a stretch – if I were sure that I could do 2 hours, it wouldn’t be a good enough challenge for my top goal. But I am going to make my personal best, as long as I continue to stay focused on giving this my all. And so why don’t I focus on making the best possible personal best that I can make right now.”

As I crossed the finish line, I experienced a roller coaster of emotions. I was glad I could stop running, because I was tired and hurting. I was happy with a personal best, but then as I took my medal from the volunteer, I nearly came to tears because I was sad and disappointed and mad at myself for not breaking two hours. But then I remembered that a personal best is a totally legit goal and this is the best I’d ever done. I gave it my all and that is worth being proud of.

After the race, I did some stretching, ate some post-race food, talked to some friends who I ran into after they finished the race, enjoyed a well-earned cappuccino, and then went to the finish line to watch Daniel finish his full marathon with a personal best 3:18.

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Another medal for the collection!

After a couple of weeks of recovery, I’m going to do a fitness assessment3, which will help me to construct a training plan to go after that elusive sub-2 hour half marathon finish time. I have you in my sights, sub-2 hours, and I’m coming after you in Montreal in September!

  1. Or, heaven forbid, a 2:00:01, which one of my colleagues did last year! []
  2. i.e., 10 min run, 1 min walk, and repeat for 21.1 km. []
  3. VO2max and blood lactate. []

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Running Math

So it’s just 7 days until my next half marathon and I’m really not sure if I’m going to be able to achieve my goal of a sub-2 hour finsih. I’ve been far more diligent in my training since… well, pretty much since the first half marathon I ever ran. I completed all my hill runs. I’m doing my interval training. I did the long Sunday runs with my running club1. I feel strong and I have improved my pace, but I just don’t know if I’ve improved it enough to reach my goal.

I’m hoping to see this (or better) when I cross that finish line next week:

Image Credit: Posted by Adam Fagen on Flickr.

The thing with races, you see, is that you always run way faster on race day than you do when you are doing a training run. You aren’t even really trying to do it – you are just full of adrenaline and the energy of the crowd takes you away and you start running and you don’t feel like you are running that fast but when you check your pace, you are. When I ran the Hollywood Half marathon I was convinced that the 2:15 pace bunny2 was screwing up, because Alicia and I were way ahead of her and I was thinking “there’s no way we are running faster than a 2:15!” And then it turned out that we were – we finished in 2:09:57!

But the question is, just how much faster do you run on a race than during training? For example, the longest distance that I do in training is 20 km and my 20 km training run this time was 14 minutes quicker than my 20 km training run last June for Scotiabank. My finish time for Scotiabank last year was 2:15:05. Which begs the question: will a 14 minute improvement in my 20 km training run translate into a 15 minute improve on race day?

To try to figure this out, I turn to my old friend, Math. As luck would have it3, I have records of my 20 km training times for my last 7 half marathons (plus the finish times for my last 7 half marathons, of course). Now, I once swore to my MBA stats prof that I would always graph my data, so here’s a graph of said data:

The times are shown in seconds per km (rather than minutes:seconds per km) because despite all the awesome things that MS Excel can do, handling time values is not one of them. As you can see, my pace for my 20 km training time is not a good predictor of my pace on race day. On the plus side, my race pace is *always* faster than my training pace, but it has ranged from a mighty 1:15 per km faster (Scotiabank 2011) to a meagre 0:08 per km faster (Edge to Edge Tofino half marathon, of the horrible hills and knee injury infamy). I run an average of 0:46 per km faster on my races than my 20 km training runs, but given the aforementioned wide spread of the data, I wouldn’t take that average to be a good predictor Moreover, I hope it isn’t, because if I run my race next Sunday at 45 seconds faster than my 20 km training run, I’ll finish the half marathon in 2:13, which is despairingly slow.

Just to be sure that the graph wasn’t misleading me, I ran a linear regression analysis and found there is not, in fact, a statistically significant linear relationship between my 20 km training time and my pace time4. I even tried calling the Edge to Edge Tofino half marathon an outlier, so I could remove it from the data set, but there’s still no statistically significant relationship.

So, in conclusion, apparently my 20 km training pace is not a good predictor of how I’ll do next week. There’s just too many other facts at play I guess – whether I was giving ‘er on my training run or not, conditions on race day, whether the race route is insanely hilly à la Edge to Edge or a beautiful net downhill like Scotiabank5.

Something that Daniel taught me that he does with his races is having not just one goal, but a staged series of goals. If you only set a goal that you know you can achieve, then you aren’t going to have to push yourself to achieve it. But if you only set a goal that is really, really hard to achieve, you run the risk of not being able to appreciate what you do achieve because you didn’t reach that single, really tough goal that you set for yourself6. So I’m going to go into this race with three staged goals:

  1. a sub-2 hour half marathon – This is my ultimate goal. As described above, I don’t know if I will achieve this, but I don’t think it’s totally out of the realm of possibility7.
  2. a new personal best. My current PB Is 2:07:23, so I don’t acheive a sub-2 hr but I do better than 2:07:23, I willl be happy.
  3. finish. Even if I don’t set a new PB, it will still be an accomplishment to finish a half marathon. And given that this is my 12th half, I think finishing an even dozen of these races will be an accomplishment to be proud of.

Footnotes:

  1. Except for a few weeks where I have something else going on on Sunday morning, in which case I completed my long runs on my own at another time. []
  2. i.e., the person who runs at the pace that will result in finishing the race in 2 hrs 15 mins. Races have people like this for all sorts of different paces, so if you want to achieve a specific finish time, you can run with the corresponding pace bunny. []
  3. Where by “luck”, I mean, my nerdy habit of keeping records of everything. []
  4. I was hoping, before I started this, that I’d find a statistically significant relationship and then I could use the equation of the line to predict my finish time! Math, you have dashed my hopes! []
  5. Happily, next Sunday’s race route is also net downhill! []
  6. I’ve seen this happen before where someone sets a stretch goal and though they didn’t quite reach it, they really improved over their last race, yet they are sad at the end of the race and can’t enjoy the fact that they set a new personal best or took at a good amount of time off their previous race. []
  7. Unlike the last few times where I started training with a sub-2 hour goal, but wasn’t really diligent in my training and knew by race day that I would not be anywhere near that. []

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Road to #12

Hey remember that most recent time I set a goal of running a sub-2 hour half marathon, specifically for this year’s BMO Vancouver, which will be my 12th half marathon? Since I’m really, really, really going to dedicate myself to my training and not flake out on it and tell myself that finishing the race is good enough1 this time, I went for my first training run (and my first run in *eight* weeks!) on my lunch break today.

Snail

My Runkeeper app doesn’t pull any punches. Apparently not going for any runs in December makes me a snail.

As usual, I’m following the training plan from the Running Room‘s book on running2 – except for the part where I’m actually going to follow the plan3. I’ve also signed up for a Sunday morning running clinic so that I have people to do my long runs with, which is through Fit First4. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to today’s training run.

As I mentioned, I hadn’t been out running in two months (!), so I was expecting be sucking wind on today’s run. Instead, I actually felt fine. And not only did I feel fine, but I ran a significantly faster pace than I usually do, though it didn’t feel like I was running faster. I think maybe there really is something to this whole “recovery” thing I keep hearing about.

Today’s run5 was slated to be a 3 km tempo run, targeted at 5:55 per km. Since I was running on my lunch, I decided to set up my Runkeeper app to have a 5 minute warmup, which is enough to get me away from the busy street on which I work and past the long streetlight on another major street, so that I could focus on running uninterrupted along the seawall, in the hopes that I could reach the target 5:55 pace. And as you can see from this handy dandy screen shot, I was practically on my target pace for the warm up, and then well within the pace for the necessary 3 km (outlined in red):

3 km tempo run(The last “1 km” is really just a small fraction of a km and included me stopping at the aforementioned stoplight as I geared down for my cool down).

I have to say, I was pretty chuffed that I was able to achieve the target pace and that I didn’t feel like puking from it. Honestly, I was really surprised when my app told me what my pace was (as it was set up to tell me my pace every 1 km) and thought that there must have been a glitch where it thought I’d run further than I had, as I felt the same as I do when I run my usual ~6:30 per km pace! I think what we can learn from this is that my internal speedometer, like my internal compass and my gay-dar, is broken.

Now here’s hoping that this run is a harbinger for the rest of my training6!

  1. To clarify, I do think that finishing a half marathon is an accomplishment and, in fact, I recommend to people running their first half marathon that “finishing their race” is a fantastic goal. But I’ve run 11 of them now, so I know I can do them. I really think it’s time to challenge myself. []
  2. And, as usual when I mention a company here on ye old blog, I have no affiliation with the Running Room, other than the fact that I spend a bunch of my money there. []
  3. As opposed to what I usually end up doing, which is just the long run on the weekend and one short jog during the week – nowhere near the 5 days per week of running that the plan calls for. []
  4. I also have no affiliation with Fit First, other than having paid to join their running clinic, albeit through Groupon, so I didn’t pay that much. []
  5. which was actually scheduled for tomorrow, but I have a hockey game tomorrow night, so to avoid tiring out my legs with a run on a game day, I did the run today. []
  6. *Knocks on wood* []

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BMO 8 km – Another Day, Another Medal

Today marked the first time since before my MBA program started that I *wasn’t* in class during the BMO Vancouver International Marathon. Since I just ran a half marathon less than a month ago, I didn’t think it was wise to run another half marathon so soon, and thus I registered for the 8 km race instead.

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Also, as you may recall, I discovered that by running the 8km race at BMO, you get a nearly identical medal to the one that the half and full marathoners get1, but you only have to run 8 km! So for running only 38% of the distance of a half or 19% of the distance of a full, I can get practically the same medal. Clearly, it’s a much more efficient choice.

The way the 8 km was set up this year, we started in Stanley Park along the half marathon route such that we ran the last 8 km of the half marathoners’ route. But the actual start line was on a side street that joined up with their route, so our race was actual 8.15 km, as we had 0.15 km along that side street first. The finish line was over by Burrard and Cordova and that’s where the gear check was, so they had shuttle buses to take the 8 km runners from the gear check to the start line. The last shuttle bus was at 8:30 am and our race wasn’t until 9:30 am, so it meant we had to start around for an hour waiting for the race to start. In the pouring rain. Had it been a nice day, I might not have minded, as standing in Stanley Park on a sunny day cheering on the half marathoners as they ran by would be fun. Standing around in the pouring rain and cold was less fun. But eventually our race started and by that time it wasn’t raining that hard any more, so for our race, it was actually just a gentle rain, which is actually quite nice to run in.

My partners in crime for today’s event were two of my coworkers, Geoff and Christina. Here we are before the race – looking surprisingly happy for three cold, wet people!

PH Observatory Race Team - 8 km - before the race

The race itself was pretty good – the route is mostly through Stanley Park, so it’s quite beautiful and once I was running, I totally warmed up. I was pretty happy with my finish time:46:522! It’s my second best time ever for an 8 km race3. Other fun stats:

  • I came in 24th in my age/gender category (out of 168), putting me in the 86th percentile
  • I was the 151st female to finish (out of 1291), putting me in the 88th percentile
  • I was 357th overall (out of 1858), putting me in the 81st percentile overall

Day 301Not too bad if I do say so myself!

Here are my co-workers and I after the race, proudly displaying our hard earned medals!

PH Observatory Race Team - 8 km - after the race!

Good job, Observatory team4! Congrats also to my friends Candace and Julie, who both ran the half marathon this year. Great job!

After the race, Christina, Geoff, and I went to Forage for brunch. I’ve always said that post-race brunch is the greatest thing that you will ever eat in your entire life, and Forage  did not disappoint!

Next stop: Scotiabank half marathon!

  1. The only difference being that it says “8 km” instead of “21.1km” or “42.2km”, but that’s barely noticeable! []
  2. That’s for 8 km. They also recorded your finish time for the full 8.15 km of the race – that was 47:39. I’d signed up so that BMO Marathon could live tweet my result, but it tweeted that I took 48:15, which was not only my 8.15 km time (despite saying that I “completed the BMO 8 km” race, which is misleading enough), but gun time instead of chip time. For the uninitiated, gun time refers to the time from when the starter gun goes off until you cross the finish line. But since I’m never right at the starting line when the gun goes off – I’m further back in the crowd, I don’t actually start running until my part of the crowd gets to the start line, at which point your own personal timing chip registers your start time. In this case, it actually took me 36 seconds before I got to the start line. []
  3. Mind you, this is only the third time I’ve run one. []
  4. I work in an Observatory, but not the kind with a telescope. It’s a long story. []

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8 Kilometers

Remember how I discovered last year that you get a medal for running the 8 km race at the BMO Vancouver marathon and why the hell would you run 42.2 km1, or even 21.1 km2, when you could just run 8 measley km and get a medal? Yeah, so I did that again.

My shiny new 8 km medal

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Actually, the main reason that I wanted to run the 8 km at BMO this year is because my friend Kim is going to run her first half marathon with me in June at the Scotiabank half. And Kim has never run a race before, so I suggested that perhaps we do the 8 km so that she could experience what it’s like to be in the race atmosphere (which can be a bit overwhelming) in a shorter race rather than trying to do her first half without having ever been in a race setting.

Kim & I before the race:

Day 314

Kim & I after the race – look at how happy we are:

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And why are we so happy? Why, because we both set personal best records, of course! Sure, Kim’s never done a race and I’ve only done an 8 km once before and ran really slowly that time, but no matter. Personal bests, I say!

And how best was my personal best, you ask? Well, last year it took me 54:40 to run 8 km3. This year: 43:59! That’s a pace of 5:30 mins per km! w00t to the w00t!

And speaking of kicking ass, congrats to my friend Erika & Paul, who ran their first FULL marathons in a time of 4 hours and 10 minutes – i.e., holy fuck that’s fast!

And in completely unrelated news, I can’t write “8 kilometers” without thinking of this video:

  1. A full marathon []
  2. A half marathon []
  3. I told you I ran it really, really slowly! []

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I Call It Running Smarter, Not Longer

Last year after I ran the Vancouver half marathon, I ran into my friend Rachel who had run the 8 km race.  And I saw that she got a medal for running the 8 km.  And I said, “I ran 21.1 km and I could have run less than half that distance and still got a medal?  I’m such a sucker!”  Well, I didn’t make that mistake twice – check out the lovely medal I got for running this year’s 8 km race at the Vancouver International Marathon:

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At marathons, they always have professional photographers taking photos and then they try to sell you photos of yourself for an exorbitant price. They go through all the photos and tag them with your race bib number and then email you a link to all the photos that you are in.  I got my email today and there was only one photo of me from the race.  Which I thought was odd given that Alicia and I posed for *two* photos.  Alicia happened to be coming over for dinner tonight and when she was here she asked if I got the email of the photos of us.  Photos plural.  Turns out, Alicia got emailed three photos, including a photo of me crossing the finish line – a photo that doesn’t even have her in it!  Weird!  Looking at the photos made me wish that I’d even attempted to wear clothing that somewhat matched.

I’ll have to make a note of that for the Scotiabank half marathon, for which I just registered.  It’s at the end of June, so hopefully it will be warm and not raining and then I can dress for style and not for trying to keep dry & warm! Speaking of which, if you are planning to register for the Scotiabank half, let me know and I’ll give you a coupon code and you can save $5.  It was just at the bottom of my receipt with a note that I can give it out to my friends so they can save $5 (it should have also said, “Ha ha, no one gave *you* a coupon code, full price-paying sucker!)) and I figure all ya’ll are my friends, right?

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First Race of the Year

Tomorrow, Alicia and I will be running the 8 km race at the BMO Vancouver International Marathon.  We are training to run the Scotiabank half marathon in June1 and figured that the 8 km would be a nice training run2.

BMO 8 km route

Route for the 8 km race.

I am pleased to note the flatness of this run (see red arrow for elevation of the route)!  No wait, I’m supposed to like hills now3  So, uh, I’m very disappointed by how flat this route is ! 😉

  1. why are banks such big fans of running?? []
  2. though our scheduled Sunday training run for this week is actually 12 km, so we’ll have to shift that to another day next week []
  3. I have decided to make a conscious decision to think positively about running hills, rather than thinking negatively. []

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I’m Too Tired To Blog…

…so instead of a blog post, I give you a link to photos of me at the half marathon.  I can’t put the actual photos up here, as they are all copyrighted.  And if you follow that link you will see that the photos are very low resolution, you know, so you can’t steal them off their website and avoid paying the huges prices for print copies to “improve Internet download speed.”  The thing I find weird is that there is no photo of me crossing the finish line.  There is a series of three photos of me approaching the (not seen in the photo) finish line – which actually are kinda neat ‘cuz you can see that I’m making a break for it at the end and pulling ahead of the people around me (despite being about to fall ill with a nasty, nasty flu, I might add) – but none of me crossing the finish line.  And you think that would be the most important one, the one they’d be sure to have to sell to you – the one proving you actually finished!  But alas, they do not.  I still think I might buy some – they are a bit pricy, but they turned out so well and, hey, you don’t run a half marathon every day, now do you?

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Half Marathon #3 – Complete!

Quick note to say that I survived the half marathon and came in at a not unrespectable 2:25:17.  It’s 6 minutes longer than my personal best and much better, not surprisingly, that my last attempt at a half where I hurt my foot and had to limp the last 6 km.  And considering that I’m totally sick right now1, I’m OK with being a bit slower than 2 years ago.

Last night I came down with a sore throat and a bit of a cough and as I ran the race, I just didn’t have the energy to keep up with Alicia, so eventually I told her to go on ahead of me because I felt really bad holding her back when she was so full of energy!  She would have had a better time if she hadn’t had to slow down for me for much of the race before we went our separate ways, but she came in at a very respectable 2:20:41.

Anyway, I’ve been pretty much sick as a dog all day today – had a several hour nap and haven’t done anything more taxing that walking to the kitchen (although mostly Tod’s been getting me food, beverages and Buckley’s Mixture so I’ve barely even done that).  The sore throat and cough have been joined by a fever, general achiness and extreme tiredness, although some of those last two symptoms may be due to having run 21.1 frickin’ km.  Seriously, even just typing this out has made me exhausted, so I’ll have to share the rest of my half marathon adventures with you another time.  Here’s a teaser: water stations staffed by Scientology volunteers. Also, tiaras.

1Probably not the swine flu. *fingers crossed*.