Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chuck Norris Never Ran a Marathon

One of the nice things about being married to a Canadian is that we get to celebrate Thanksgiving...twice. Yum. For all of us Yankees out there that may not know, October is the month of Thankfulness for our friends up north. What this means for my family is that we get two really great meals and are extra thankful for that.

This year I had the pleasure of actually celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving in Canada. Although I have yet to understand the differences in the origins of the two different Thanksgivings, the idea is the same. Eat good food. Be thankful. This year we also got to include a nice run into the mix. The Victoria Marathon. 26.2 beautiful miles run mostly along the ocean shore.

It was a lazier start than normal with the race not beginning until 8:45 a.m. We were able to get up, get the kids ready for the day, eat breakfast, and head out the door where our chauffeur (AKA my father-in-law) was waiting to drive us to the starting line. As I was grabbing my last few things and heading out to the car I heard this crashing and banging sound coming down the stairs. I rushed in from the garage to see Kevin laying on the floor at the bottom of the stairs moaning. Uh-oh. With a quick inspection and no broken bones he decided he would be fine to continue on with the day's activities.

Just prior to the singing of "Oh Canada"
Let me just pause here for a moment and say that my husband is an animal. I can train and train and he always runs faster than me. After he ran The Leadville Trail 100 (a 100 mile trail run) in August, he has only run twice. Yep. Twice. With the lack of training and now blunt trauma injuries from falling down the stairs...today might be my day to beat him. My hopes weren't up too high, maybe just a little.

We made our traditional stop at the porta-potties to stand in line with all of the other people with nervous bladders and then we meandered towards the starting chute. Although it was a larger race than what we have been running lately (the last races have consisted of anywhere from 2-500 people...yes, I said 2...the world's smallest marathon), the starting line still had a casual feeling. As the singing of the national anthem began ("Oh Canada...." and that's where I'm out of words), I'm pretty sure I saw a gleam of national pride in Kevin's eyes. So excited to run in his motherland. I was excited too. I don't care what country I'm in. Then the count down, and then....the wheelchairs were off...and then another countdown and we were off after them.
The starting chute

If I will remember anything about this run it will be the handmade signs throughout the course. As I rounded the corner and started up the first gradual incline in town, there were a group of girls wildly cheering for the runners. One girl had a huge sign held way over her head that said, "You've got stamina. Call me." Another guy in town had a sign that read, "Worst Parade Ever." I would have to say that my favorite sign was one I saw on my way back into town that said, "Chuck Norris Never Ran a Marathon." I don't know why. Chuck jokes get me every time.

In the week leading up to this marathon I had been having some knee pain. I ended up taking an extra day off just to see if I could rest it enough so that it wouldn't bother me on race day. By mile three I realized that rest day didn't make much of a difference. In my head I just kept telling myself, "It's going to hurt whether you go fast or slow, so you should just go fast and get to the finish." This strategy worked for quite a few miles. I could definitely run on it, it just wasn't normal.

At mile 10.75 I saw the lead runner heading back towards the finish already. The guy was hauling to set a course record. Crazy Kenyans. I can only imagine what it feels like to run that fast for even one mile. As the course was an out-and-back it was fun watching people coming back after the turnaround. I kept my eye out for Kevin to see how far ahead of me he was. Finally I spotted him coming towards me. We whooped and high-fived and I'm pretty sure he muttered out an "Oh Schnapp" I'm pretty sure because he knew I had him in my sights. He was probably a mile in front of me with about 12 miles to go. It wasn't totally out of possibility.

There is a fine line of pre-race water intake. The normal rule is it's okay to drink water until an hour before start time and you should have had enough time to eliminate it all. Like I said, it's a fine line. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. For me, I feel like it's the hugest waste of time to stop at a honeyhut in the middle of a race. Seriously. For about 8 miles I ran with the debate going in my head of whether I would run raster if I stopped or if I should just push through to the end. With at least 10 miles left, I decided to stop.

When I started running again, my knee was hurting me enough that I had to change my gait. The rest of my body felt great. I never hit a wall. I had energy to spare. I felt like I could run forever...if it weren't for my knee. Since my right leg was fine, I decided that I would use it more and then run stiff-legged-like with my left leg. I'm sure I looked like a geriatric old man, but it mostly worked. My knee just didn't want to bend. I stopped and stretched. I ran some more. I stopped and stretched again. By this point I realized that my hopes of catching Kevin were long gone. I stopped four or five times to try and stretch it out, but nothing really helped so I gave up and just kept up my stiff leg run. I knew if I could put it out of my mind and distract myself with something else, it would help. Then the perfect thing came by to distract me. A very large thighed, hairy man, wearing the teeniest, tiniest, British flag shorts I have ever seen. (And I thought Texas flag shorts were obscene.) With every running step the flaps of his tiny little shorts would swish up revealing everything up to about his L2 vertebrae. They were short. After much giggling in my head like a small child, I decided I needed to pass this guy. I needed a distraction, but I didn't really want to follow him the rest of the way. I stepped it up again and moved on.

For a day that was supposed to be rainy and cold, it ended up being beautiful and sunny. I love running. I love it even more when the weather is perfect like that. It makes me a kind of happy that is hard to describe. I came to the top of what I later found out people were calling a "4 mile hill" (it was really more of a gradual incline) and we turned and started running back through the neighborhoods again. I had no idea where we were or if I had been there before, but people were cheering and yelling. You know you're getting close when the spectators start showing up in crowds. Finally one guy yelled out, "Just 1200 meters to the finish!" Wow, that would be amazing if I knew anything about the metric system. Sounds like he was pretty excited about that. I got excited too. Then another cluster of signs. Two ladies with signs that said, "Nice Legs" and "I like it hot and sweaty." Then 800 meters, 500 meters, finally I rounded the last corner and saw the finishers chute. I heard the yelling of my kids, "Go CUPCAKE!!" (oh yes, my bib name. Nothing makes you smile more than to hear people yell that in public). I waved at them. I had been looking forward to seeing them for a few hours now. Then I crossed the finish line where Kevin was standing triumphantly (or just normally, but in my head it was triumphantly since he beat me in yet another race). I got a handshake from the race director and was escorted down to where the food was. Canada really knows how to serve you food. Up to this point the Portland Marathon was holding the gold medal for the best after-race food, but Victoria really stepped it up a bit. I took piles of food, most of it for my faithful child spectators who really love that we run, mostly because they get to eat the goodies.

My chip time ended up being 4:11 and I found out from Kevin that he ended up only being 10 min ahead of me coming in at 4:01. It was closer than normal, but close is not the same. There's always next time I suppose. Although it was not the PR I was hoping for, it was yet another beautiful marathon. I loved running by the ocean in the sunshine. The food was great. The shirt was great. The people were great. A well put on race. Nicely done Canada.

So for this year's Canadian Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for legs that can run, kids that are fantastic, a husband who is healthy, family who are generous, and of course the great food that goes with all of that.



Finish Line
Happy Canadian Thanksgiving everyone.