I wanted this so bad. Exactly what, I wasn’t quite sure. I knew I wanted to improve my time from last year. I wanted to push myself harder than I ever had before during a race. I wanted to see what I was really capable of. And so that’s exactly what I did.
I learned a lot yesterday but the biggest was that the beauty of running it that there is something in it for everyone. You don’t have to run fast, you don’t have to run far. Run exactly how you want, whatever way that might be, and don’t ever compare yourself to anyone else. Run your race and do what you love. Here is a reflection on my most recent running journey, running exactly how I wanted to. Read on!
At the start of this year I really looked at what I wanted from running. I have registered for two 50 miler races and I have gotten a did not start at one and dropped back down to 50k at the other. It’s not that I can’t do that distance. I know I can. We did the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim last October and I proved to myself I could complete the distance, self supported, with 16 hours on feet. But it comes down to what my big goals in running really are. I had to get honest with myself. I felt a push to go farther after I saw a lot of friends chasing after bigger distances and I felt that’s what I needed to do too. But finally, after some good heart to hearts with my husband… I confessed to him and myself really, that what I wanted most was to go faster, not farther. Being competitive is a side of myself I haven’t really met. And to get yourself to a place where you can actually compete, it’s a huge undertaking, and it’s definitely not for everyone. But after placing in the top 10 at most races, I decided that I wanted to at least try.
I put my name in for the Knee Knacker 2016 lottery last year after loving it last summer. The lottery gods were so good that not only did I get drawn, but also my husband and running partner.
After completing the Gorge 50k in 6:17 and finishing 10th overall female, I made the decision to hire a running coach.
This changed everything.
My training runs consisted of the usual long distance runs and shorter ones. But all of a sudden I was charging up a steep hill and then blasting down it. I was doing sprint intervals on flat and hilly terrain. I was pushing my speed in my long distance runs. I was doing the grouse grind after a 12 hour day shift and 4 hour runs after waking up from a night shift. Needless to say, I trained my ass off. I stuck as close to my plan as I could. I was committed to it. It’s pretty crazy to think of how much time, effort and energy goes into one single moment. Months of training, challenges, struggles and sacrifices into one single finish line.
When race day rolled around, I was so nervous but so determined to put all my hard work to the test. Despite miserable conditions and a torrential downpour, all the racers toed the start line Saturday July 9th at 6:00am.
Right off the bat my husband sprinted and led us up the front of the pack so we could have a good place going up the first, absolutely massive, technical and steep climb. I quickly realized I was in second place for female and I became very nervous. Was I going too fast? Could I sustain this pace? I don’t want to be the hunted, I want to be the hunter! But regardless we pushed on up black mountain, climbing fast and hard with our friend Mert, in the pouring rain. On top of black mountain there were puddles and rivers all along the trail. Everything wood was slippery. Cautious foot and a sharp mind was mandatory.
We pulled into cypress the 1/4 way mark and I had held onto second place. We quickly refueled and headed out to the super technical Hollyburn mountain section. We kept the pace up, slipping around in the mud and water. As we started our decent, which has always been my weakness, we were passed by a previous course winner, putting me in third. I kept looking at my watch and realized we were going to make it to the half way point at the 3 hour mark. Which I knew was dangerous, as a fast first half could result in a bad second half.
Coming into the half way point was surreal. They had announcers calling our names and I heard I was still in third. My friends were there with high fives. I was struggling already from pushing it but kept calm and headed into the aid station.
I shoved my face with food, changed my shirt, reloaded my pack and headed up the second big climb of the race to grouse mountain. This is when I hit a low. I became extremely nauseous, had a lot of trouble eating and even threw up a little twice. I lost 2 spots in this section. I was a little disappointed but was honest with myself. I wasn’t here to podium and I shouldn’t be fixated on that. I was running my race.
At the 3/4 mark there was ginger ale at the aid station. Bless whose ever soul thought of that! It literally saved my race. With my nausea under control I was able to eat properly and our pace picked back up. At the final aid station we had some serious pep in our step and sprinted the last 5 km. We were flying. My husband got emotional when he saw me charging down through quarry rock. He had never seen my run so fast down hill. We saw a few friends cheering us on in this section which stoked the fire ever more.
We crossed the finish line hand in hand, just shy of my goal time. But we were unbelievably happy to be finished. Official time was 6:37, a 20 minute improvement from last year, I couldn’t be more proud. I finished the race as 6th female overall and fourth in my (very large) age category (0-39!).
We watched our friends complete their races, shared hugs and high fives and shoved our faces with food. The coolest part of the knee Knacker is everyone in the Vancouver trail community is some how a part of this race, it’s really special.
Things that I learned from this race:
1. When you’re giving it 90% effort, you need to eat way more calories.
2. Wet, slippery conditions require a lot more brain power and result in more fatigue.
3. I am still new to this sport and I want to keep pushing myself farther
4. The knee knacker has a ridiculous amount of stairs… I would really like someone to count one day.
5. The community of running is hands down the coolest community I’ve ever been a part of. I have never given so many hugs and high fives before.
6. I love my husband so very, very much!
7. Even I never stand on a podium at a big race, I will keep pushing myself to new goals.
8. Race success comes down to the basics. You have to fuel and hydrate right, bottom line.