Saturday’s Harvest Half Marathon marked 2351 days since I set my half marathon personal best at the 2009 Calgary Police Half Marathon. In the last 6+ years so much has happened including a 30 lb weight gain and subsequent loss. It has been a long road and I have worked so hard to gain fitness back. I have also been really focusing on mental training and strength as well.
My confidence was shaken a bit at the Calgary Half Marathon this year. I put my goals out there and I wasn’t able to execute on race day. I feel like I put a lot of pressure on myself at goal races to do well and the weight of my expectations sometimes impacts my performance.
Back when I set my PR I would run most of my long runs very close to my race pace. These days I run my long runs much slower, but then I question if I can run at my goal race pace for the length of time that I need to. On days when I wondered if I could really run that fast I reminded myself that I ran my 2nd fastest half marathon ever at the Tinker Bell half in May. I just needed to believe in myself!
My good friend Tara offered to pace me at the Harvest Half. To avoid negative thoughts or psyching myself out I took off all pace, time and distance screens from my Garmin. I only put elevation on the screen…something that wouldn’t mean much if I looked at it. I wanted to fully trust Tara and her pacing abilities. My one goal for the day was to keep up with her. Together Tara and my coach Angie came up with a plan.
The weather for the race was not ideal. On Friday I did a shakeout run in shorts and a short sleeve shirt. On Saturday it was 2C, there was a combination of snow and rain falling and winds were blowing around 30 – 40 km/hr. What on earth to wear for that??
I went with the Oiselle flow tights (nice and warm capris with a fleece lining), a tank top, a Oiselle Wazzie Wool long sleeve and my team singlet. I hate being overdressed but I felt really nice and comfortable in the elements in this outfit. The wool long sleeve was perfect for keeping away the chill from the wind.
Tara was worried about running our target pace in this weather. I told her that as long as I ran the very best race I was capable of on the day that was all that mattered to me. After a hitting the bathrooms and running into friends (hi Tina and Cori!) it was time to line up for the start.
The Harvest Half is a pretty tough course. You have some big hills to climb in the first part of the race, but then have a steep drop down into Fish Creek Park. There are some rollers through here, little climbs, and some bridges. When you exit Fish Creek Park at the 17K mark there is a huge hill to climb up. Hopefully you’ve saved enough in your legs for the final few km to the finish.
Harvest Half Marathon Race Report
Tara and I didn’t have an opportunity to do a good warm up and I think that would have really helped me to be ready for those big hills in the beginning. By the time we hit the 5K mark my legs were feeling tired and I was worried I this would be a really tough day. Tara eased off the pace a bit and a quick walk with some Gatorade at the first aid station helped. I didn’t dwell on the missed warm up and I stayed in the moment. I had faith that things would feel different. Once we dropped down into Fish Creek Park my legs started to feel better and it felt like the wind wasn’t as bad.
I was so focused I almost missed Keith cheering but luckily he shouted out my name. I completely missed that Michelle and Amy were cheering with him. Tara talked when she felt like a needed a distraction and she’d try to give pointers for where I should run next to her depending on the direction the wind was coming from. At 15K we saw our teammate Leslie-Anne and her family volunteering at the water stop and that was a huge boost too!
At 16K Tara asked if I wanted to know our time. Tara and Angie thought that finding out how we were doing may help to connect me to the finish line and to the goal. We had half an hour to run the final 5K to come in at 2:04. 5K…half an hour. I could do this!
The hill at 17K was hard. It was long and had some turns so you couldn’t tell where the top of the hill was. Tara advised me to keep my turnover high, take small steps and keep looking up. I took a few moments to power walk when I needed to and finally we were at the top. We got hit with a huge blast of wind that had the potential to be soul sucking. Tara would point out a runner ahead and encouraged me to catch and pass them. To stay mentally strong here I kept repeating the word “relax” in my head. This helped to keep my breathing steady and my running form better. I also kept thinking in my head about fellow runner and Oiselle teammate Jen Kunze who passed away last week. I kept thinking “do this for Jen.” When my legs started to feel tired I thought “follow your heart and your legs will follow.”
As we neared the finish line I recognized parts of the old Chinook Olympic run course. We were on a run pathway with a lot of twists and turns. People kept yelling at us that the finish was just around the corner, but we’d turn a corner and I couldn’t see the finish line. When Tara spotted the 21K sign she yelled at me to just run. My legs were so tired and I tried so hard to run just a bit faster.
2:04:08. A 1:24 personal best. Unbelievable!
Today I learned the importance of following a plan and not giving up. If I were running on my own I may have backed off at certain points because I might not have trusted myself. No doubt with some better weather there may be even more speed in these legs! Thank you to Tara for her friendship, advice and belief. Hopefully I can take the lessons that I learned and implement them on future races. It was a tough day out there but we did it! What a huge confidence boost!
- Chip Time: 2:04:08
- Overall: 297 out of 727
- Women 30-39: 61 out of 194