Saturday, July 12, 2008

A New Obsession

I have a new bike obsession. Finally, after about 15 years, I bought a new set of wheels. When people ask what kind of bike it is, I have to snicker a little when I reply that it's a Giant mountain bike. And I love it. I brought it home 2 weeks ago and have ridden it every day since (every day that I've been home that is). As par for the course I've taken up reading magazines with titles like Adventure Cyclist and Bicycling magazine. (I just read an article in the latter that gave tips on what kind of bike one might consider for their fifth bike, as apparently their average reader has 4 bikes. Four. I've never considered the possibility of more than one bike.)
Anyway, my new wheels reside in my kitchen next to the patio doors when not in use, which may help explain the setting of the pic above.
I've ridden downtown several times (to work once) and will ride with the smallest excuse. ("Hey Nicole, I'm just going to return this movie...time me, ok?" - incidentally I can now return a movie in 3 minutes flat).
Today was a great day of exploring on wheels. I rode downtown, returned a pair of shoes to the Bay, stopped at the bank, rode through the 2nd Ave sidewalk sale, then took off to the Farmer's Market. (I tried to return something to Oceanquin Athletics only to discover that they've gone out of business in the few days since I bought my item!)
Today I noticed that my "indignant cyclist" attitude is developing quite well. Downtown there are spray-painted reminders on almost every sidewalk corner that you have to walk your bike on the sidewalk. That's fine. I imagine that law is in place for the safety of pedestrians, which is fair enough. However, have you ever tried to ride your bike downtown? It's not easy. Some streets are just not wide enough to permit both vehicle and cyclists to co-exist peacefully, and there are more than a few inattentive drivers to ratchet up the tension. But I don't know of anyone who would be willing to walk their bike block after block just to get through downtown. So today I employed a varied approach, staying on the streets when possible and taking to the sidewalks when it felt like the only safe course. It worked ok, but I think I'll prefer to stay out of the downtown whenever possible.
At the end of almost every ride, I take a detour and make one lap around the little lake by my house because, inside, I'm still an 8 year old kid who doesn't want to come inside yet...just 5 more minutes on my bike...please?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Pictures From Race Day

Another medal for my collection. And notice our race bibs had our names on them.

Moments after finishing...just trying to stay upright.

Surprised to see people I knew.

More About the Marathon

I run so that I can race. Fitness has never been a good motivator for me, and if I couldn't race then I don't know if I would continue running.
The best part of a race is five minutes before the gun goes off. At this point you can't train anymore. You've done your warmup. You've stretched. You're as mentally prepared as you're going to get. The past several months of training were all for this moment. Everyone around you squeezes in, waiting for the gun to go off.
I like to look around me when I'm waiting, and note all the different people who will be running that day. In Calgary I was standing beside a girl who had a picture of her dad pinned to her arm with the words "I run for you Daddy" written around it. It brought tears to my eyes (still does) and I wondered about her story. Everyone has a different reason for running, a different path that brought them to that race on that particular day. In Calgary there were over 6000 people running from 25 different countries. I was glad to be a part of it all.
In the moments before the gun goes off, you still feel good, and anticipation rises above all other emotions. By the end of the race I'm just glad to be finished. Making it to the starting line carries with it it's own sense of accomplishment.
I hope to make it to at least a few more starting lines this season.

Calgary Half Marathon

I ran a new personal best in Calgary on the weekend - 2:16:56! (The time on the clock in the picture is the gun time, but my chip time is my official time.)
Before the race I was feeling disappointed with myself, because I'd let my training slip in the last 2 weeks before the race. I was tired of running, particularly the long runs, because I've been in training since the end of January. Mentally, I was lowering my expectations and trying to convince myself that as long as I finished the race I would be happy, regardless of my time.
The morning of the race came early, as I was staying in Airdrie and had to rise at 4:30am to get ready and have Nicole and her mom drive me to downtown Calgary. (They were good supporters, not complaining too much about the early hour, and I saw them at 2 different points along the way, as well as at the finish line. My friend Donna and her kids came out to cheer me at the end as well. After such an extreme effort it's always nice to see a friendly face at the end!)
I lined up with the 2:30 pace bunny with hopes to finish a little bit ahead of her. After a short while I decided on a new "pacer" - a guy with a bright yellow jersey and a serious-looking water belt (he was carrying 8 bottles!). I overheard him say that he wanted to finish the full in 4 hours, 30 min, which means if I could keep up with him, them I should be able to finish the half in about 2:15. (The courses for each race were the same up until the 18km mark).
I felt fairly strong in the first half, trying a variety of mental tricks to keep my pace up. I finally settled on repeating my own mantra in my head, "find your own rhythm and run in it." In a crowd of over 6400 runners, it's sometimes hard to find your own pace and stick to it.
I usually start to bonk around the 14k mark, and was happy to find that I was doing ok at that point. At the 16k mark, I met up with my pacer and we ran together for the next 2km. His name was Wayne, from Edmonton, and I don't think I could have finished the race with such a good time if I hadn't had someone to follow. We talked for 2k until he branched off to continue with his full marathon. It was nice to have the distraction for a little while, when my body was starting rebel a little.
After climbing the hill right at the end (what the heck is a hill doing right at the end of the race?!) I managed to cross the finish line upright, with a new personal best. And having said before the race that this would be my last for the summer, I now wonder if perhaps I might try just one more this season...maybe just a little bit faster?