Stepping Outside of your Comfort Zone

I never used to be a fan of Cross-Country, the racing or the training. It’s dark. It’s cold. It is often wet, very wet. One of my commitments to becoming a better runner, a better version of myself was to make my weaknesses my strengths. Over the last few years I have come to embrace cross-country, to love it for what it is, and to help it make me better. As part of my training, I decided that along with fall cross-country that I would do some fall road races, namely a half-marathon.

When I wasn’t running as an elite, but as a recreational runner, the half-marathon was one of my go to events. There is so much awesome energy out on the course, you travel a fair bit of ground and can see a lot, and the distance isn’t so punishing that you can’t get up and go to work the next day. Ross, my coach, has been awesome at letting me ‘play’ with some races in the fall as part of cross-country training, so we added a fall half marathon again this year.

The half-marathon is so different from what I do on the track. It’s a race about being patient, staying focused and zoning out all at the same time, about finding a group of people to work with and help to push each other. And at the same time, you really do employ some of these tactics on the track. Regardless the volume through the fall for cross-country and the half marathon definitely help me when I step on the track.

Sometime in August I started planning out my fall training and race plan. I was looking for a half-marathon a little bit earlier in the season from the one I did last year. I wanted one that was easy travel from Toronto, either a short drive  or a direct flight. And one that was fast. I started to submit some applications to a few races. I quickly heard back from the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon. A promised fast and flat course by elite race organizer Matt Ebersole did not disappoint.

My mantra yesterday was ‘smile and relax.’ There is something magical that happens in your body when you smile. I think a powerful emotion is invoked, that you remind yourself that you love what you’re doing, even if you don’t at that exact moment. And relax, well, a half marathon is a long way for this middle distance runner to go. I needed to not let myself get panicked or overwhelmed.

I did not have many expectations starting yesterday. I wanted to run strong. To believe in all the hard work I had put in. To put my best foot forward. And to see what I could do.

When the race started I saw Rochelle Kanuho take off. My coach and I had planned to sit in with the leaders and see how I was feeling through the halfway mark. When Rochelle took off I did not panic, I left her go; she dropped about a 3:12k  for the third kilometer and I knew I could not sustain that for the race. I repeated to myself ‘run your own race. Smile. Relax.’ I settled in with an amazing group of men to work with.

With intention I kept her within sight, within striking distance. I continued to do my own thing. To stay focused. Stay positive. Stay relaxed. To smile.

As I went through 10k (a PR!) I felt pretty good. I also gained on Kanuho and we started running together around this time. It was around this time I really tried to hide and let others do the work, but I also did not want the pace to slow down.

At around 12k I could feel the pace slowing and then I felt this person start moving ahead. Whomever you were in the black Brooks outfit yesterday. Thank you. You helped me so much between 12k and the finish. I think we worked together when things were hard for you and I pulled you along when you needed it. But you were awesome. I would tuck behind you, feel like I was running comfortably, and saw that we were clocking quick kilometre repeats. I am grateful for your kindness and your speed.

At kilometer 18 things started to get tough. I really worried about slowing down. I kept telling myself to smile and be positive, to relax and find strength in that relaxation. And to trust what I had done in training. I trusted and it paid off.

cwl5zuxw8aevbyw-jpg-largeYesterday I showed a lot more emotion than I normally do at the end of a race. I celebrated as I crossed the line. Training the last few weeks has been tough. Sometimes the numbers are there, sometimes they are not. Sometimes I feel great, but lately most of the time I haven’t been feeling strong or confident. I suffered a further blow when I did not see my name on the nominated carding list; it was less about the money but the thought ‘I’m not good enough’ kept crawling through my brain. Yesterday reminded me that I am good enough. That I LOVE what I do.

I cannot thank Matt, the team of volunteers, my fellow flock out on course and other that helped with the CNO Financial Indianapolis Race.

Head Up, Wings Out.