In January, I tried working out my training schedule which was peppered with races. In frustration, I decided to take a leap and have my friend Michelle coach me at least until my goal half marathon. Having my plan laid out for me each week was an absolute treat. I didn't have to think--just do--and then let Michelle know how it went. It took me a little while to learn some of the methods, pacing and what things to report that would help her tailor my training. Instead of running willy-nilly, I was doing intervals, timed fast reps at the track and quality long runs. I truly felt that each run I did was like putting a coin in a piggy-bank towards my goal.
Before we knew it, it was just a couple days before the race. I was eating my carbs, getting good amounts of sleep, following my tapered running schedule. Everything seemed to be in place for my race. Until it was not.
Anyone who follows me on social media knows that our dogs are a huge part of our lives. Sprinkled among posts about running, friends and family frequently see photos of Molly, Miley and Maggie. Little Molly celebrated her sixteenth birthday on March 30th which, is quite a big deal for a doggie. She suffered from dementia, was mostly deaf, partially blind and likely had inflammatory bowel disease. Otherwise, our little lhasa-apso was quite the trooper, and we made adjustments to keep her days comfortable and happy.
Sadly, the day before the race, things changed very quickly, and we had to say goodbye to our dear girl. We were heartbroken. Everything happened so fast. In the late afternoon my husband and I agreed that I should stick with my plan to run the race... I would run it for Molly.
I picked up the pace at the 3K marker. When I saw the approaching hydration station at 4K I was glad as I was getting thirsty. I quickly realized the table was completely empty and four volunteers were frantically filling cups with a hose at one end and pouring Gatorade at the other. With the whole race ahead of me, I knew I needed water and I wanted to save the tiny bit I had in my hydration pack for emergencies just like this one--but later in the race. Waiting for that cup was agony.
The next kilometers from 3-10K were the most comfortable and strongest. My pace still fluctuated, but I felt better and started to run more by feel. With several downhill sections, I was going at a slightly faster pace, but I knew they would even out with inclines later. I arrived at 'the' hill having just completed my fastest kilometer yet. I powered up part and then chose to walk as I refueled. Near the top, I popped a couple pieces of gum in my mouth to give me a peppermint / sugar boost. Mistake. The gum that had given me a boost in my Achilles race earlier in the season started nauseating me. After a little over a kilometer, I ditched it, but the taste lingered. Ugh. I reasoned with myself to just get to the 12K marker and then I would take a short walk break. Over the next kilometer this turned into run, walk, run, walk. Just as I was starting to wonder if I would be able to regroup, a silly song started playing on my iPhone. It was a song that had previously made me laugh, but hearing it now somehow had me suddenly thinking of Molly. Tears filled my eyes and my mind spiraled into thoughts of, why am I even doing this race, I just want to go home, I feel gross, I'm not going to be able to get a PB.
The course went under the QEW and the next stretch along Mississauga Road felt like it lasted forever. Along this section I had two nice distractions. Edison rode his bike beside me for a bit on his way to snap more photos and Rebecca passed with a big smile and hello. I told her I was struggling and to not wait for me. She said she was trying to gain some ground as she'd heard the wind was bad along the lake. Sure enough, as soon as the course neared the lake, the wind and rain picked up. I was managing to keep my overall kilometer pace around 6:40 with brief walk breaks. But as soon as I had the added wind to deal with, I slowed closer to 7:00/km. My head was down and all I wanted was to be done. The hardest part of the race came when the trail emerged from the trees and I could see and hear the finish around the other side of the beach. I ran / walked past the spectators and then used what I had left and ran for the finish.
I took a moment before getting my medal to text my husband and send a 'done' email to my mum. I moved at a snail's pace to collect my medal, space blanket and food. I spotted the bag check trucks but one of the truck's doors was closed. I realized all of the half marathon bags were piled on the wet ground unattended. Thankfully my bag was still there. I found my friends. More tears were shed as I explained how I was feeling. I never more relieved to be done and surrounded by friends.
Am I glad I did the race? Yes and no. I'm positive that emotions take an incredible toll on the body, and I think that once I started feeling weaker physically, the emotions washed over me, compounding my struggles. In the end though, I will always remember that I did something special to honour my little dog.
Rest in peace little girl.
March 30, 2000 - April 30, 2016