Monday, 8 October 2012

Work Together, Hurt Together

This past Thanksgiving weekend, a group of us from VFAC went over to Victoria to race the 8k, half-marathon and the marathon. I raced the half-marathon - my first road race since May.

travel buddies
I headed over to Victoria on the 9am ferry with Craig, Shannon and Barry. We somehow managed to fit 2 bikes and 4 people's running gear in Craig's car - good thing all of us (except Craig) are runners and not too big. On the ferry ride over, we were all pre-occupied with different things.

I wanted to talk about the 50 mile trail race I was doing in December, to avoid thinking about the 21k I was racing the next day.

Shannon wanted to (likely) think about her awesome upcoming trip to NZ and Fiji the next week, instead of being distracted with trail talk.

Barry wanted to carbo-load for his marathon the next day (taking a break from beer - his carb-loading of choice).

Craig wanted to get in a 75min workout on his bike trainer.

Shannon and I resolved to find travel partners, next time, who don't make us feel as bad about ourselves. Craig makes me feel as though I should be training more, and Barry makes me feel like I should be drinking more.

2L of warm, flat coke and 1 bag raisins - eating like a champ

just another workout
brainwashing others
There is a horror movie called "The Ring". The movie is about a cursed videotape. Whoever watches the videotape will die, unless they make someone else watch the tape. I have the trail running version of this.

 Back in May, I was sent the link to a youtube video of the top 2 men who raced the North Face 50 in 2011. This video is 100% the reason I signed up for the 2012 race a week 6 days after the Kneeknacker (before running amnesia had set it) despite having an ankle twice its normal size. Every person who watches this video - even if they have never done trails in their life, even if they think going upstairs in too much elevation gain, even if their favourite distance is 1500m on the track - ends up watching to do an ultra. (In other words, this is coach John's ultimate running nightmare).

The video inspires me every time I see it. It inspires me enough that my hotel suite-mate hooked up his laptop to the big screen TV in our room to play it (possibly in hopes that I would stop putting it on my iphone and shoving it in the face of every politely interested runner).

wake up time
I shared a suite with Steve and Barry. Steve was also running the half-marathon. Our race started at 7:30. In order to have time to eat some food and wake up, I decided on 4:45am as a reasonable wake up time. By the time Steve came downstairs just after 5, I was on my way to being way too caffeinated. It turns out, Steve is not quite as much of a morning person. By the time our morning showing of the North Face 50 video ended, he did seem a bit more awake.

The last time Barry would successfully climb the hotel room stairs.

I need a less painful hobby
We ran over to the start line of the race in the dark, with the moon still out. The morning was clear and cold. I met up with the rest of the VFAC runners at the start line. The five-minutes-to-race countdown came very quickly. My legs were a bit shaky. Angela said it best: "I just want this to be over with."

My race was like everyone elses' race: I went out, it hurt, I wanted to stop, and I kept going. The pace felt painful, and it wasn't quick enough. I was very lucky to have Shu and Angela to run with from the start. I was able to ignore my watch, ignore my legs, ignore the fact I wanted nothing more to drop out and it was only 8k into the race. All I had to do was watch their blue jerseys and try to keep them in sight. The course was gorgeous: a bluebird sky with the sun just starting to rise from the ocean. I'd been doing tempos with Angela since January, and it was awesome to be with her as she ran the race of the day - getting an over 4min PB in 1:26.16!!

After about 16k, I started to warm up. At that point, I realized a couple things:

1) If I was going to get the time I wanted, I needed to go a hell of a lot faster.
2) There was a man in a shiny green/blue speedo (and ONLY a speedo) in front of me.

Despite everything, the speedo guy made a move in the last 500m and I couldn't catch up with him. However, I was able to find enough speed to end up at 1:25.46 - so 1 for 2 isn't bad :)

After the race, I headed back to the hotel for a quick rinse, then got a ride with Amanda to watch Adam Campbell (her brother-in-law) run the marathon in a suit...and cheer on some VFAC friends who thought it might be a good day to run 42.2km.

Adam Campbell on his way to a 2:35 marathon

One of the places we cheered on the marathoners was in front of Simon Whitfield's house. Amanda's sister knows Simon from triathalons. Simon was sitting outside, on a couch he had apparently moved from his living room, with a set of bongo drums. One of his friends, who had played on the men's beach volleyball team in the London Games, was keeping him company. Simon had a tupperware container of muffins he had baked for the marathoners, and was planning to give out.

Being next to two Olympians short-circuited my already tired "race brain." Even worse, I had forgotten my deodorant back in Vancouver, and had to borrow a a very strong, very manly-smelling brand from one of my hotel-mates. But then I remembered how one of my close guy friends has, in his words, a big "man crush" on Simon. So on his behalf I knew I had to say something.

And that's how some of my first words to Simon Whitfield involved apologizing for smelling like a man.

island time
After the cheering, I headed to another, smaller island for Thanksgiving dinner.

Fulford Harbour, Saltspring Island
I had a wonderful dinner with my parents and our close family friends. My mom and Millie met in an island mothers group when my mom was pregnant with me. Ever since, our two families have had Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner together. The menu has stayed the same over the last 27-odd years, but each dinner always seems to taste even better than the last.

recovery run
The weather stayed gorgeous for Monday. I woke up feeling pretty decent (well, the parts of me that weren't hungover, anyways), and met fellow VFAC member Susan for a run up Mt. Maxwell. We ran along a small two-lane road, past farms and fruit stands. The sun streamed through the trees, and everything smelled like baking pine needles.

Thanks for the company, Susan!

Thanks to Craig and Shannon for the ride and excellent company on the way over.
Thanks to Steve and Barry for being great hotel-mates.
Thanks Amanda for the ride to cheer the marathoners and for giving me a lift back to the ferry.
Thanks Susan for being my mountain-run buddy.
Thanks to VFAC for all the support, e-cheering, text messages, and great races by everyone this weekend!

Some stats:
number of times the "North Face 50 Endurance Challenge" video was watched - 3
litres of coke consumed by room 219 - 2
Steve's sarcasm / grumpiness level at 5a on a Sunday - high
labour noises made while racing - 500
glasses of wine drank with family Sunday night - 3
glasses of wine I regretted drinking the next day - 2.9
number of times coach John told me not to run up Mt. Maxwell on Monday - 2
runs up Mt. Maxwell on Monday - 1


  1. That was an awesome run this morning Alex... thank you so much! Congrats on your great race too. I'd say the choices weren't so bad this weekend ;) LOL - John you should have been here for the Mt. Maxwell run!

  2. Goodness, that video is crazy. It did not make me want to run an ultramarathon, but I was totally stunned by the pace those guys kept up - totally amazing.

    Did I mention you're so hardcore! I've resigned to seeing you sometime around.... Christmas. Maybe when you're lying on the couch for 3 days recovering I can bring you over some Capers dinner. ;) Good luck with everything between now and then!