Meandering thoughts from the trail: A tale of two races
By Sheila Dawe
The two races I’ve run this spring couldn’t have been more different. The first one the weather was spectacular and perfect, sunny but not too hot. The second one the weather was miserable; typical West Coast weather with a constant drizzle. The first was a trail race while the second was a road race. The trail race was small and full of unknowns while the road race was the standard big race. Both I enjoyed for very different reasons.
Easter weekend I had my first race of 2014, a mystery race, where we were bussed to the secret start, the route and distance was unknown to runners. This was my slowest race ever but I was able to take away three unexpected lessons. #1: It is okay to be last, really, someone has to be and there is nothing wrong with that. #2: I can deal with a minor injury with pure concentration. #3: Intervals really make me faster. My second race of the season on May 4th, added another lesson, run to have fun.
The race day was a perfect weather wise. I really did not know what to expect from this race. I had only done it once before (5 years ago), which seems like a life time ago. When I did it in 2009 it was a different format then, and I was a very different runner. I haven’t been in a small race for some time, and had some strange foresight to place myself at the back of the pack. Only runners behind me were the sweepers who despite also de-flagging the course, were often within sight or hearing distance. I was slow, which does not bother me, it just sort of surprised me putting me in a position I had never been in before. I was last.
Many things run through your brain when you are in last place. The trail was so twisty and wooded that there was no way for me to tell how far I was behind others, as I rarely saw another soul besides the volunteers cheering me on. It felt good to be in my own little world and bubble, but I started imagining, the finish with everything packed up and nearly everyone gone. Oddly enough I think this was a very good experience, because I came to terms with my placing and the scenario I had imagined.
Early in the race (1.5 km in), I twisted my ankle. I briefly walked until the pain subsided a bit and started tentatively running again. About 15 minutes later, boom, I am down again. Argh! Okay Sheila, be careful, concentrate, land that foot straight every time. 20 minutes later, oops, but I caught myself, one of those near twists. Sheila, you must concentrate, FOCUS! The race ended up being 15.5 km long, I took 2:34. I finished 179/184, I passed five people in the final 2 km. I am extremely happy that after the ankle twisting occurring 3 times in under the first hour, that I did not have another twist for the remainder of the race. I was able to focus on my footing and be safe throughout the rugged, technical trail.
The most perplexing lesson is when in the last third of the race I switched to 1 min run and 1 min walks (from 3 and 1’s), and found my pace was picking up. Before you know it, not only was I seeing other runners but I was actually passing them. The only awkward thing was I didn’t want to do my walk break once I passed someone, so I did fudge it a bit, but tried to stick to the 1 and 1’s as much as I could.
The last lesson came to me post the race. I never took any fuel at all during the whole race. The last food I had was breakfast which by the time I had finished was over 5 hours earlier. Usually I am very good about either doing Gu, fig newtons, apricots or candy. All of which I had in my Camel bak. They even had an aid station half way where they were handing out Gus. I did collect 7 Roctane Gus and placed them in my pack. What I should have done was eaten one. I have no explanation for not fuelling myself. To be honest I just was so focused on being last and careful footing that my brain forgot to remind me to eat. This will be something that I can’t afford to do again in the future.
Second race of the year was the BMO Vancouver Half, which I dedicated to my mom, who stayed at home with her leg still in an air cast. Here I did everything right, I ran my intervals, I did my Gu’s at about every 40 minutes, and I had fun. One of the best things I did on this race was I focused on just enjoying the run and not obsessing with my pace. I wore my Garmin but I programmed it so the screen was only showing me the time of my current mile. It worked; I was able to run by how I felt and not how I thought I should be running. In the end, I was very pleased with the surprise of how I did (2:20) and have such fond memories now from both these races. I bought a book at the expo reminded me, “Remember you paid to do this”. Sometimes we lose sight of this. So enjoy every race, smile for the camera and have fun everyone. Keep on keeping on.
Biography: Sheila being 49 years old, single, with no kids has the perfect lifestyle for becoming an obsessive runner. Her 77 year old mother, Catherine Campbell (another Moon Jogger) moved in next door to her in 2000. After cheering Sheila on at multiple marathons, Catherine finally caught the running bug. Sheila taught her to run in 2009 and this year is very significant as Sheila is training Catherine to complete her first ever half marathon. Sheila works for the Government of Canada as a fish health technician but longs for the day when she can retire and dedicate even more time to her passion…running.