Do the work. I borrow this mantra from my friend William, and find it applies to so many things in life. I interpret it as "stop making excuses, stop procrastinating, and focus." With this ringing in my ears, I set a goal for myself of running a half-marathon in under two hours some time in 2013.
My previous best time was 2:04:00 back at the Halifax Blue Nose half-marathon in 2011, so I had some trimming to do.
I began in January. Most weeks I ran about 20 km, combining short and long runs, plus hills. I often ran in the snow, and once in temperatures so cold my water bottles froze.
I started longer runs in March, building up from 15 to 19 km. In total, I've run 447 km so far this year—about the distance from Halifax, NS to Fredericton, NB.
I've been logging my times as well as my distances, and realized about six weeks ago that my speed had plateaued and I was not running fast enough during long runs to meet my sub-2 goal. So I met with a running coach who explained the benefits of interval training (stressing to strengthen your heart, and training your body to convert glucose into energy more productively) and designed my interval program. I incorporated once- and then twice-weekly sprints into my training and noticed an improvement. Plus I was surprised to discover I actually love sprints.
I also did cross-training and lifted weights every week. Basically, I felt I did the work. I was looking forward to today's Blue Nose Marathon because I'd adequately prepared. The sub-2 goal wasn't guaranteed but was within reach.
And then life happened. I graduated with my master's degree on Thursday, and was spoiled with a lobster dinner with my family. There was wine and cake and at a time when I should have been carbo-loading and resting, I was celebrating. The party continued the next night at one of my professor's homes.
I also got a cold. At first it was just a sore throat and runny nose, but by Friday had morphed into full-on sinusitis with a headache and blocked ears. On Saturday, the day before the race, I had difficulty sleeping, hearing, or walking up stairs without getting winded.
Yes, here's the thing: you can do the work but you can't control all the factors. Sometimes you just have to accept and make the most of them. I spent most of yesterday lying down, drinking hot tea with lemon, and finally taking Sudafed to clear my nasal passages. I slept poorly, and woke up wondering if I could even complete the 21.1 km.
I got to the starting line and immediately my frustration turned to excitement. The Blue Nose Marathon is such a fantastic event in this city, getting people of all ages and fitness levels out walking and running the various distances to better their health. The organizers and volunteers deserve praise for the work they do making this a well-run and incredibly well attended event. Thousands queued at the starting line (last I heard more than 12,000 had registered), and thousands more spectators line the streets with words of encouragement, funny posters, cowbells and high fives.
It was my sixth time running the Blue Nose, and as always I enjoyed it. At the half-marathon distance you run through a good portion of peninsular Halifax, and have the time to think about the beauty and history here. I also appreciate my good fortune in having an able body and resources to train and race.
I did not reach my sub-2. I had pain in my lungs, and later in my left quad, and in the end just not enough gas in the tank. I finished at 2:04:00, tied with my previous personal best. I'm coming to terms with it, as I sit writing this and continually blowing my nose.
Yes, it looks like I'll be signing up for another half-marathon in 2013. And continuing to do the work.