Prep and Pep
I’ve been meaning to complete the recap for the Servus Edmonton Half Marathon but decided instead to just group the recap in with this past Saturday’s Eastside 10K. They are similar in that I haven’t had any great performances but behind the scenes much work is being done in preparation for the fall marathon.
First up was the Servus Edmonton half in mid-August. I was struggling in training, feeling like I couldn’t get my legs under me and the summer heat wasn’t making things feel any better. Easy runs felt hard, workouts felt harder. I kept saying “my legs won’t lift — I have no pep.” There was really no reason to feel this way so constantly. My mileage wasn’t yet up super high, it was a conundrum. Nonetheless, we headed to Edmonton and I hoped that my confidence would get a lift with the adrenaline that usually accompanies racing. I had a surprise performance on the course in 2018 where I ran a season’s best in the half and I hoped that perhaps I could find that magic again.
0-5K in 17:18
I worked hard for the first kilometre downhill to try to close the gap on the leaders. The front woman, an Ethiopian who won the race last year, was going way too fast for me so I instead focussed my attention on the next woman, also from Ethiopia. My legs were dead however — that feeling was back — and I immediately knew the race would be a grind. I switched my goals, focussed on the Ethiopian currently sitting in 2nd place and tried to keep the distance from growing.
5-10K in 17:44
I kept focussing ahead, willing my legs to lift. The gap wasn’t growing. I timed our gap frequently and that helped me stay focussed on the task. I hovered around 30 seconds.
^ Winding through the Edmonton neighbourhoods (pc: Dan Leskiw).
10-15K in 17:43
My body seemed unable to pick up the pace. All I could do was keep going and hope she died a bit more than me. My legs felt like cement but the gap was closing slightly.
^ Grinding onwards (pc: Tom Jackson)
15-20k in 18:09
As we headed back towards the start-line area the hill we had motored down in the beginning of the race presented itself once more. By 20K I had gotten the gap down to 10 seconds but uphills were not kind to my legs and I knew that in the last kilometre I was probably not going to be able to get 10 seconds back. And I didn’t.
Finished in 1:15:35 for 1st Canadian and 3rd overall.
^ The final uphill stretch to the finish line (pc: Tom Jackson).
It was disappointing. One of my slowest half marathons in years. And furthermore I just didn’t know when or if training was going to turn around. We had Toronto marathon on the horizon and I could barely run marathon pace. I was happy with how I handled the race mentally. I tried to focussed my energy on what was ahead of me more than what was behind me. Timing the gap was a good way to keep that on the forefront of my mind and avoid panic that I was going to be caught.
I had some bloodwork done soon after the race and it showed that my iron was much lower than it normally is (about half). My blood panel still looked good but, with professional advice, I doubled my iron supplement intake and within a couple of weeks I was feeling much better during easy runs and eventually much better in workouts. It could be a coincidence but I think getting my iron back up has really helped and is still helping. I expect that it might take a while more to see the full effects of the extra supplementation. Whatever the case, I finally felt some pep and was able to hit goal paces after about 2 months of feeling completely helpless.
So four weeks post-Edmonton I lined up for the Vancouver Eastside 10K. I wasn’t looking forward to racing and I worried that the confidence I was slowly building back up would be dashed away. I was tired, my legs were heavy from the mileage over the past many weeks but I knew most everyone would be in the same marathon-training boat.
0-5K in 17:07
I had a hard time going out quickly. There was no way I could hang with the speedy women off the line. I think my late spring marathon in combination with my iron-issues just after our summer speed-block didn’t help my already dismal leg-speed. On top of that, mentally I wasn’t in a place to race — obviously I have to make sure I am in that place in Toronto, but here I felt like I was just going through the motions with no adrenaline to urge me on. Although my legs felt heavy on the uphills it was a much preferred feeling to the lack of lift I had experienced in the months prior. I felt strong, just not able to run fast . . .
^ Cobbles are not my friend, nor are corners.
5-10K in 17:29
After the big hill that strikes at 5-6K I tried to work hard on the downhill. At this point I was in 5th place and could see 4th ahead of me. I tried to wake up my legs and was able to use a couple of men around me to keep me honest during the second half.
Finished in 34:37 for 5th overall.
^ Finishing kick (or lack thereof;) .
I wasn’t able to catch 4th but it wasn’t the worst performance on a tough course. It’s very humbling to be so far behind woman who I hope to be competitive with in 5 weeks in Toronto but all I can do is know that we are doing all the right things at this time. I can only control what I can control and that is: my own training, my own recovery, my own mental game. So for now we’re back to work!