Sunday, September 27, 2015

Army Run Half Marathon

It's something I've been wanting to the last couple of years, I've been wanting to run a half marathon. I knew with my schedule and situation, I probably couldn't train for a full marathon, but the half, intrigued me. Even though I wanted, I've been concerned about if I would be able to pull it off. After all, 13.1 miles or 21.1 kilometers is a long way. We usually drive that distance, certainly never run it.

However, this was going to be the year. I had run the Army Run before, the 5K and thorough enjoyed myself. It was now time to do the half. After all, my mileage had increased significantly and I had pretty well recovered from all my problems that plagued me the second half of last year.

With that in mind, I signed up sometime in April Plus I knew Mike was going to run it as well, so I would have a partner, even though he would be starting in a different corral. Still we would be there at the same time and enjoying all the fun of running.

My training had been about all year, although in August I ramped up my mileage, having a last run of nearly 18 km, it could have been 18 + had I looked at my watch just a few moments before stopping. I went into relax and taper mode the rest of the week, letting my legs rest, doing the cross training and general strengthening and felt I was ready.

We arrived Friday night and went to the Expo Saturday to get the race kits and enjoy the sights. The Army Run is tied to the Canadian military and part of the Expo is seeing some of the equipment used by our soldiers and having opportunity to talk with them. Mike being a member of the Canadian Army Forces has a good time talking and discussing things with others in the service. It's gives us a chance to thank them all for what they do for Canada. In fact that is an important part of the experience. One of the treats, and there's probably a better word for it, is that a number of injured soldiers take part in the various runs. So you have a chance to cheer them on as they run, and run better then many of us. There are runners with one or both legs missing for example, others run with canes, but nothing stops them. It is truly an honour to run beside them. So the kits were gathered, the t was provided, the bib and pins were all there. Saturday night was a time to relax and enjoy with family. Then bed.

The next morning we got up and got ready. It was nearly a perfect day for the run, bright and sunny with almost no clouds in the sky, the temperature at run time was 11C. You couldn't ask for better. We arrived, dropped off the bag, looked around, did the final pee break, and there's lot of potapotties, good going guys. Then went to the various corrals to wait. I was back in purple, near the 2:20 pace bunny which I thought was reasonable. I had figured any time between 2:20-2:25 would be good for my first.

The Howitzer went off and the clock started, with my location, it took about 15 minutes before the race actually commenced, yeah for chips. I had my phone, my bluetooth headset and was all ready. By the way I started listening to Felicia Day's new book "You're Never Weird on the Internet". Being a fan, plus I figured I would need something funny to listen to, that wasn't at all serious. I'm listening as well to the bio of Elon Musk. It was quite a great experience setting off, and at the same time I was conscious of the fact I needed to pace myself. Looking at the graph, I did the first KM in 6:10, so a steady not ridiculous pace. What makes this run enjoyable, is the course takes a person past some of the iconic buildings and sites of Ottawa and Gatineau, plus running in two cities and two provinces makes it very nice. The scenery is great, running past the Parliament Buildings, the War Museum, the Canadian Museum of History, the National Gallery of Canada, plus a run through the grounds of Rideau Hall and a chance to shake hands with the Governor-General. Also the route is lined with musicians, from guitar, drums to the band of the Governor General's Foot Guard, resplendent in their Red Tunics. The cheering sections were fantastic and the signs were funny and inspirational. If you wanted to give up, just go through the cheering section.

My time was keeping good, for most of the run I was close to the 2:10 pace bunny. I felt good and strong. I was walking through the water stations and kept a solid pace. It was a fun experience. I high fived a lot of people and it was good. It was all good. I ran more then I walked, crossing the Alexandra Bridge and heading up Sussex Drive was not a problem. The training was paying off with a solid run. I was thinking of a time closer to 2:10.

Then I ran past the 18 Km sign.

I knew I was entering in uncharted running, but figured all was good so what would be the problem over the last 3 Km, but I was keeping a close tab in how I was feeling. I came to the water station and took both gatorade and water. Then I started to have a leg cramp. I walked and stretched, feeling I was getting out of it. Then my foot cramped up, and I had to slowly walk and stretch my toes through my shoes. I started to eat the sports beans I had brought. Again the weather was good and I was feeling find. It started to change and not for the better. I was cramping up more and more. I still tried to do some running between the cramps when bit of relief came, but by Km20 it was hopeless, both calf muscles were tight and cramping. I could only walk and walk slowly. I must not have looked good because one of the race marshalls asked how I was doing. I told him I could keep going. A bit further a young lady was on the ground getting her legs stretched, obviously the cramping had got to her as well. I realized I could ask for assistance, but there was no way I was going to stop. I was too close and although it did hurt, I wasn't going to stop.

I finally reached the finish line and crossed it.

After getting passed by so many people I was close to quitting, but just wanted it to be over. I saw the 2:15 pace bunny pass by and I simply got to the end, stopped my watch and got my finisher medal. I was hurting, With a warming blanket I went over to the food tent to get my chocolate milk, protein bar and banana. I also found Mike. He had finished although he said the last 3 Km were a challenge as well. Still we both had our medals.

It was a sore day and next few days. It took me until Thursday to start running again. The odd thing is, the only part of my legs that didn't hurt was the same calf muscles that betrayed me during the run.

At the end, it was a great experience. I finally wore the tee, because I had earned it. I kicked myself for not finishing strong but I now know, I did finish. I did the entire 21.1 km, sure cramped up, but I did it. Now I've been thinking how to improved, more water? Perhaps walking breaks, or buying and eating power gel throughout the run. I am saying to myself, I will run another half and the next time I will finish running. Was it all worth it? Yes it was. A great course, a fun experience and a super run. I'd do it again.


Fun fact, I went back to the Rock Me Anaphylaxis and went over my time. I looked and discovered I finished third for my age group. So it's not a finisher's medal, but the award for third place. Felt very good.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Finishing Medals

I suppose I can thank James Harrison for the inspiration to this blog post. He posted on Instagram a while back the awards his two sons received from a sporting event. He made them take the awards back. He stated the reason in his account:
I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I'm sorry I'm not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I'm not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best...cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better...not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy. #harrisonfamilyvalues
It generated a lot of positive comments, from the whole problem of the entitlement culture that has been a part of school and children's sports for the past number of years. The idea behind the awards to all is ; "We all winners because we've been involved". It's the same philosophy that has brought the 0-0 soccer scores and the refusal to keep stats, standings or even declaring one side a winner and the other a loser. Of course, for soccer, 0-0, or 'nil-nil' is a typical score. I should suspect in children's soccer 0-0 is a typical score. If anyone scores it's probably as much of a shock to all the players.

By the way over 19,000 liked his comment.

A lot of people also gave some very positive comments of support to Mr. Harrison.

Then I discovered there are those in the running community who want to get rid of the finisher's medal. An article on RW online had the title of OK, Time to Retire the Finisher's Medal. The author decries the fact that finisher's medals are now part and parcel of running in races and now race directors are going out of their way to make the biggest, baddest most "I got to get me one of those" medals. They are referred to as racing bling. And we all want the bling. When I started running and racing, since the reason I started many years ago is because I wanted to do a fun run. I got a cotton tee shirt for entering. I thought that was impressive and I wore it during the race, which was among the many mistakes I did during that first race, by the way. That was more then enough to sign me up for next year. The next race I actually did well enough to finish in the top three of my age category. That was something and if I look around for a bit, I can find that medal. I won a few more medals in different races, usually the third place one. Still it was a medal and it was an accomplishment.

Years past and I stopped doing races, probably due to time and the fact my running was very much hit and miss, I would run a couple of months a year and that would be it.

After a long lay-off I signed up to do another race and believe it or not, did well enough to finish first in my age category. Then again, I was the only one in my age category, still a medal is a medal is a medal. What I want to say I've done races that only gave medals to the top three men and women, others which gave to the top three overall and top three in various age and gender groups. I've also done races which do feature some quite interesting finisher's medals. In fact, the race I did in July featured a very interesting medal,

You have to admit a guitar pick finishing medal is quite cool.

But should we get rid of the finisher's medal and only give to the winners? Or if you finish, you should get something. I've thought about it and looked at my collection. I have to think, keep giving them out. Each medal tells a story, usually something positive and good. When it comes to running in races, we like to say that our only opponent is that little voice in our heads that tell us we can't do this. If that's the case, then collect that medal, you beat your opponent and you beat them handily. If you finished, you triumphed. You won because of all those hours spent running when you could have done anything else. The medal represents dedication and the ability to stick with a plan.

What I am saying, keep giving the medals. They remind me of the challenge and the fun I had running the race.

Keep Running.