Friday, September 25, 2009

Leap of faith

So the final preparations have begun for my first road race this coming Sunday. It's a 5km run -- the first I've ever done, and I'm starting to get psyched for what Sunday might bring. In true Virgo style, I'm taking care of the details -- checking the weather report, making sure I've got meals appropriately planned, having my gear all in place, creating the 5km playlist on my iPod, and basically, I'm relaxing.... as much as you can when you're about to do something you never thought you ever would ever do.

Rewind 19 months... remember, I was 435 pounds and could barely crank out a 10-minute walk on a treadmill at the gym. I never thought I'd get to a point where I was preparing for a 5k run, and thinking that this is but the first step in may more runs to come. What I once thought was unimaginable is now close to being very real, and I'm pretty excited by the possibility.

The 5km run is happening on a pretty flat course, and it's part of a marathon and 1/2 marathon series that is run in Toronto each year. Mentally, I'm trying to treat the run just like any other 5k training run I've done. I should be well fuelled, well hydrated, well rested, and relaxed (hopefully). But I can't help but get a little bit anxious and excited about what awaits me in just under two days.

My bib number for the race is 16459. Holy crap! Does the numbering start at 00001? Does that mean there will be over 16000 people running on Sunday? That's a lot of people. That's a lot of people running. I'm looking forward to the anticipation, the excitement and more than anything, the adrenaline. Because I'm hoping that the adrenaline will give me the extra push I need to reach my goal on this one.

You see, I've really only been running for about 3 months. Sebastien and I took our first run on July 1 -- a hot Canada Day run along Toronto's Boardwalk. And since then, I've been running several days each week; sometimes alone, but most times with either my friend Alison or my friend Lisa, both of whom are running on Sunday as well. This is going to be an exciting day for each of the three of us, because we've each got our own reasons for doing this, and I'm looking forward to sharing our success together at the finish line... and celebrating it over eggs benedict at brunch later that day!

But the brunch plans aside, I'm excited about Sunday because I know that my running has been getting a lot better. The cardio and strength conditioning in the gym and in the spinning studio has helped build my endurance. I can run longer, farther, and faster than I ever imagined. And since I've clocked my personal best run at 31:04 just a few weeks ago, I've decided that my goal for Sunday is come as close as I can to getting my 5k in at or under the 30 minute mark. We'll see how that goes... I'm not sure that I'll see that happen.

This past Wednesday, Seb and I did my last official training run. We had scheduled my workouts and runs over the past two weeks so that I'd have a few days of rest before Sunday. And Wednesday's objective was to run the best 5k I could, and hope to come in close to the 30-minute mark. Well, Mother Nature was not on my side that day. I had watched the weather report the night before, and in spite of the lovely autumn weather we've had over the past few weeks, Wednesday was close to 30-degrees Celcius with the humidity. And even though we were running along the lake, the air was thick, and I couldn't catch my breath. I was anxious off the start -- first of all because this was the first time I had run with Seb since our July start, but also because the humidity was not going to make it comfortable.

We got started, and from the first few steps, I began to feel the fatigue from my full-body resistance workout I had done the night before at the gym. My legs were good, but my arms, chest and back were tight. And my chest was even tighter after each stride because I didn't feel like I could get my breathing pattern down pat. I was breathing too high, and couldn't get a good deep breath going from my gut... so everything felt very tight altogether. And breathing from your chest makes your arms tight, your shoulders tight, your back tight... and basically makes for an uncomfortable stride. And overall it didn't improve. If Seb hadn't been running with me, I probably would have stopped and walked home, but I had to finish. I've made a pledge to try to never give up, and when Seb's willing to run alongside me, I feel like I have to respect that and give it my best.

And I did. We ran the 5k -- talking at some points, running in silence at others. But that silence was powerful. His stride helped keep me on pace, and kept me moving at many moments where I just wanted to stop. And beyond the sound of our feet hitting the wooden planks of the boardwalk, the only other thing I really felt like I could hear was the shallow breathing that I knew wasn't making things any easier.

But I didn't choose to do this because it was going to be easy. Tackling a 5k was about doing something that was going to challenge me and force me to be uncomfortable -- because I know that from that discomfort comes growth and change. And that's what I kept telling myself with each step towards the end. If this was easy... I wouldn't be doing it.

We got back to the car, sprinting the last 100 metres or so, and I stopped my timer. We finished in 34 minutes. So, we hadn't hit the target of 31 minutes or less. And initially I was pissed off. I began to blame Mother Nautre, for having no breath and too much humidity. I felt like I ran a crappy 5k -- and Seb quickly pointed out that 19 months ago, I never imagined that I would ever say that I ran a crappy 5k... let alone a that I ran 5k to begin with. That made me feel a bit better.

So I've been resting the past few days, per our plan. I did a spinning class tonight at Legacy because I couldn't bear to not do something active tonight. I took a day of rest yesterday, and I'll have another one tomorrow. But I had to move my butt tonight. I was once again the only one who went to the late class, so I fortunately got more 1-1 training with Andy, who put me through a workout tonight with endurance in mind, knowing that I have the run ahead of me on Sunday. We didn't do much power work, but instead focused on endurance -- I rode for about 45 minutes straight at varying intensities. And it felt fantastic. Andy helped me think through my pace, my timing and more than anything my focus.

One thing in particular that Andy told me was that the race is not about running against other people -- it's about trying to get my goal time, and as such, is a race against the clock. For the most part, I agree, since my goal is to come close to or under the 30-minute mark. In so many other ways though, this is a race against someone else. It's against one person in particular -- the ghost of the person I once was, who, 19 months ago never ever thought I'd become the person I am today.

Do I really need to run a 5k race to know that I've already won that one? No... but it will sure be sweet in continuing to prove the point. :)

All that said, I sign off with the text from a card a friend sent me today, wishing me well for the run on Sunday.

It's called a leap of faith
because there is strength in daring to take the leap.
And the faith happens just before you realize
That you've begun to fly.

The run ahead of me on Sunday will definitely be a leap of faith -- letting my body do what I've trained it to do, trusting that what I've done thus far has prepared me well It's also about putting my brain to rest for the 30 minutes it will take for me to achieve yet another of my goals -- to not overthink what I'm doing, and simply let my body take over. And trusting my body is not something I'm used to doing. But It's something I'm learning to do more and more each day...

Kia kaha.
Stay strong.