One Step at a Time

It’s been a tough few days. Actually let’s exchange tough for terrible — and ‘It’s been a terrible few days’ with ‘I’ve been an emotional basketcase since Tuesday.’

Last Friday I had my final race prior to my 1st Half-Marathon. The plan was that I’d do the North Shore Longest Day Race at UBC — and I had two new race friends to do it with, Shea and Melissa! My last long run was last Wednesday. A morning run in Stanley Park, it was slow and steady, somewhat meh. I was registered for the 10K race on Friday, but for whatever reason on Wednesday I downgraded to the 5K. Something in my gut told me I should.

We arrived at the race disorganized {gah, traffic} and pretty much ran to the finish line as the gun went off. I started off the race with a 4:30/km pace {I really really really had to pee} and slowed down to about a 6:30 pace at the 2km mark. The whole race my body wasn’t moving the way it should have been. It was my most difficult 5K to date and I knew that something was wrong.

As I crossed the finish line, I felt my whole body shut down. I was limping and ridiculously stiff. I thought to myself… you’ve been tired and stressed out lately. It’s ok to have a bad race.

The next day I toppled over as I got out of bed in the morning. My left leg filled with pain and I thought — oh no you didn’t. Swore up and down, thinking how on earth will I be able to complete Seek the Peak! Yes I was planning to race the 16km beastly hill hike from Ambleside up Grouse Mountain — don’t ask me what I was thinking when I registered for it… Runners high? Likely because Rethink Breast Cancer is close to my freakin’ heart.

I reluctantly skipped the race and had a low key weekend — generally those words don’t enter my vocabulary. I RICE’d it up. Oh yeah baby, I’ve learned all about the RICE method since I’ve taken up this sport. I took back-to-back anti-inflammatories and stretched out these pretty bones all weekend {which totally reminded me  — and not in a good way — of back in the day Scoliosis issues} seeing absolutely zero improvement.

On Tuesday morning, I limped my way into my physio’s office, Dave at Restore Physiotherapy by the way. He was expecting a super-amped-for-the-Half-Marathon young lady and instead he found a worn down, stressed out, anxious…{and I’ll hesitantly say} runner. We reviewed the past week, he checked me out and continually looked at me with a bleak look. My left adductor longus was VERY unhappy. I had my most painful IMS treatment to date, the tight monster had taken over. My left leg failed all the tests he usually puts me through. Pathetic squat. Pathetic. We talked through the options for the Half-Marathon… run the 21.1k, run/walk, walk, skip out, etc. He gave recommendations and told me that I needed to make the final decision. At lunch, I limped my way to Performance Health Group with my massage therapist, Cynthia {who is absolutely divine and one of the best therapists I have ever been to}. Again, the bleak look. 90 mins of heaven — and hell later, we had talked through every option for the Half-Marathon, the good and bad with my body, electrolyte replacements, support systems and more.

First 5K. First Race. First Medal.

The consensus was that I shouldn’t run the Half-Marathon.

I spent the day onsite with a client, doing everything possible to stay distracted and the moment I walked in the door after work, I burst into tears. Like crazy levels of tears, not like a pansy little girl cry. Melted into a puddle.

So what’s the big deal?

Last December I decided that I would take up running. Not for any particular reason other than I knew it would be good for my head. I set a goal of a Half-Marathon in June. Why? Because I didn’t know that 10K’s existed… for real. :| I registered for some races to keep me on track with my goal and to ensure I wouldn’t fall behind on my distance.

January 17, 2012 was my first run EVER — and on a treadmill, what on earth was I thinking?! Oh and by the way, it was terrible. On January 22, I completed my first race, the Chilly Chase 5K in Vancouver. It POURED with rain — crazy sideways terrible rain. I finished 23/39 with a time of 32:54. I had been reading John Stanton’s book and it reinforced, focus on finishing, don’t focus on time. So I finished! I was passed by what looked like an 8 year old, really wasn’t ok with that. Over the next month, I ran pavement in Vancouver, trails on Salt Spring Island and the beach in Costa Rica. I learned that hill training helps you become a better runner and that beach running is beautiful and terrible all at the same time.

Harry’s Spring Run Off

March 25 was my 2nd race: Harry’s Spring Run Off 8K, a charity run for prostate cancer. Haley joined the Half-Marathon training bandwagon and it was our first run in Stanley Park. Beyond terrified. I never thought I was going to make it past 6k; thankfully I randomly ran into Tory and she coached me to the finish.  8km, 54:06, 329/428 gender, 70/87 age. I also felt TERRIBLE and thought I was going to vomit as I passed the finish line. This was an important race because I learned that I can’t stomach gatorade. Also learned that I love Blue Monkey Coconut Water.

April 3rd marked the FIRST DAY of my life that I’ve EVER seen some sort of muscle definition. Big day. On April 11th I ran my longest distance {in the rain to boot}; 10.66 km, 1:12:07. April 15th was my 3rd race, the Vancouver Sun Run 10K {with 50,000ish other people!}. Finished in #15,732rd place at 1:04:32, 6138/21497 gender, 1447/3594 age. PB!! Learned a lot about crowds that day. On April 23rd, I hit PB 8K, 50 mins and PB 10K, 1:02. On April 24th, I experienced the most stunning sunset run — a red sky that blew my mind.  April 29th marked the Times Colonist 10K in Victoria. On this run I learned the importance of peeing pre-race, dealt with a 4 min potty line up at the 4k mark. Unofficial results {took off the potty line up}, first SUB-60 10K, 59:57. 2706/5924 gender, 378/834 age. Hurrah!

Strong is the new skinny. :)

On May 6th, I volunteered at the BMO Vancouver Marathon. My job was to cheer on the participants in their final 200m towards the finish line. It was AMAZING to watch so many different types of people cross the finish line — there was no consistent… EVERYBODY RUNS. On May 7th, I registered for the Rock n’ Roll Half-Marathon in Seattle and the Lululemon Seawheeze Half-Marathon in Vancouver. If thousands of people can do this, I can do this. May 21st I achieved my longest distance to date, 15K, 1:35:10. It was my first “I’m a machine” type of run. I also learned that you shouldn’t run in Stanley Park at night {the only time that Richard has ever given me bad advice}. My 5th race was the Run for Water 10K on May 27th in Abbotsford. We had no idea where Abbotsford was when we registered, FYI. Took gatorade {by accident} instead of water from a volunteer — all shades of grey at the finish line. Ended up with 10k, 58:41! PB! 200/567 gender, 65/151 age.

Soaked to the bone, but stoked I hit my first 10K.

June 5th I hit a total distance of 200km and PB 5K 27:27. Holy freaking cow. 200 kilometres. June 9th was the Starbucks Run for Women 10K and my worst race to date. Disorganized, late and started the race 12 mins after the gun went off. Uh huh… 12 mins. Played catch up which stressed/psyched me out. Trail race which I’d never done. Finish line time was 1:06:25 at 10.8km distance. Passed 339 women to make it to 128th place. As I started late, unofficial results came back at 54ish minutes and FOURTH PLACE in my age group. Eeeep. And that brings us to last week… June 16th, my 7th race, the North Shore Longest Day Race 5K.

No Half-Marathon?

Before last Friday, I felt ready for the Half-Marathon. My distance was close enough to where it should be. I had been killing my races and I knew that the only thing I needed to ensure was that I wasn’t quick out of the gate. I learned the factors that contribute to a good race vs. a bad race. I learned how a negative split can help me. I learned when I run best — in the evening, in the rain. I learned that a 5K is just as important as a 15k. I learned the importance of stretching, strength training and conditioning. I memorized the elevation map, learned about pace bunnies and found an electrolyte replacement that didn’t stir the tummy {Grape Ultima FTW}.

I was nervous — but ready.

On Tuesday, I felt like my world fell apart. Dramatic I know.

I never expected much from running. I hated it for the first 2.5 months. Hated it. Since starting this journey, I have learned so much about myself and my body. Running has been my Eat. Pray. Love. Running is my outlet, a place to escape from the world and have time to myself. Running {and training probably} has made me very aware of what I put in my body. I’ve always been vegetarian-ish, but since starting running I’ve stumbled into the world of vegan, raw food and green smoothies. I sleep better. I feel better.

In 1997, I was diagnosed with Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis. Two years of bracing and an out of control spine later… I had a Spinal Fusion with Instrumentation at the BC Children’s Hospital. In my university years, I broke the bottom of my rods tobogganing. Up until January 2012, I felt weak. For my entire life, I have felt weak. Growing up, I was the definition of “skinny {ph}at.” I can eat whatever I want and maintain the same weight. I have a slim frame, which people default to strong — so far from true. I regularly wear a pair of pants from Grade 10.

For the first time in my life, I feel strong.

My Spine. Photo Credit: OfStorms Photography

I am a big believer in everything happens for a reason. For whatever reason, I stumbled down the path of running. For whatever reason, I actually stuck with it. When I reflect back on the last few months, I shake my head at what I have achieved. Not in a million years did I think I was capable of running 1km, let alone more than that. Since the beginning I’ve always had it in my head that the Half-Marathon is the end date. On June 23, 2012, I would move onto the next goal.

After a super reflective week and a hell of a lot of support, I now know that I am not done.

This is just the beginning.

My body has decided that it’s not ready for this week’s Half-Marathon and I have accepted that. {Just don’t mention the words race, half, marathon, run, running, lululemon or gatorade for the next 3 days or you may need to give me a hug.} I’m not prepared to be further injured, or god forbid, be out of commission for months on end. I haven’t run in one week and I feel terrible. Sore, stiff, exhausted, anxious and impatient. I can’t wait for my feet to be back on the pavement. I can’t wait till I heal up. I can’t wait to get back out there.

But I will wait till my body tells me it’s ready.

I no longer have to run. I truly want to run.

Surround yourself with who you want to become.

This week I was 100% an emotional disaster. I cried at the mention of the Half-Marathon {many of you likely regret wishing me good luck on the upcoming race ha ha}. I had 3 amazing men reach out to this week and I’m beyond grateful for the advice.

  • Derek – Thank you for talking me off my crazy girl ledge. Thank you for rampaging on me over text, making every attempt to make me realize that I need to be proud of what I have achieved. Thank you for using so many f-bombs, telling me it’s ok to be an emotional psycho case, explaining how running/training/athletics is very much an internal sport — and telling me that I can’t stop running.
  • Jeff – Thank you for being the first person to reach out and ask what was wrong. Thank you for explaining your past injuries to assist me in further understanding training and injury management. Thank you for the positivity, support and for making me realize that running will be a career.  Thank you for teaching me that running is more than a race {music to my ears} and introducing me to the running community.
  • Richard – Thank you for picking up the phone when I pleaded for a friend. Thank you for understanding how Scoliosis fits into my world and for reinforcing that I need to take care of me. Thank you for talking me through every option and hearing me out. Thank you for listening — you were patient, sincere and I feel so lucky to call you my friend.

Big love to Dave at Restore Physiotherapy and Dr. Nielsen & Cynthia at Performance Health Group.

Thank you to the girls {Jen, Reagan, Monique, Katie and Michelle} for your support this week — and always. Thank you to my running cheerleaders: Dawn, Cecilia, Miranda, Mike, Shannon and Jeremy. Thank you to my team at UrtheCast for being understanding and supportive.

And lastly thank you to my running partner in crime, Haley. Proud of you darling and I know that you’re going to kill it at the Half-Marathon this weekend — finish baby finish.

In 5 months I have:

  • Ran: 240km
  • Completed: 37 runs
  • Raced: 7 times
  • Burned: 12,347 calories
Achieved personal bests:
  • 1K: 4:34
  • 1 mile: 8:04
  • 5K: 27:27
  • 8K: 47:49
  • 10K: 58:41
  • 15K: 1:35:10

Kinda crazy.

My name is Jillian Walker and {for the first time ever} I am a runner.

PS – Sometimes you have to move backward, to move forward. Physio rehabilitation begins next week. The hope is that my 1st Half-Marathon will be the Lululemon Seawheeze in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. T-50 days.

0 Comments

  1. nikki June 22, 2012

    What a great post Jillian, albeit hard to write. I understand exactly how you are feeling as I have been there myself. You are definitely a runner. And I know that because you have made a tough decision – NOT running this race makes you so much more a runner than struggling your way through it and possibly injuring yourself more. Runners know their bodies. Runners know when they need to slow down (even when they don’t want to). Runners understand that sometimes you have to rest when all you want to do is run. Anyhow, we have much more in common than I thought – although not scoliosis, in 2005 I broke my back in a car accident and had to have a very similar surgery to you. I had rods and screws implanted to piece my thoracic spine back together. You have overcome so much to get here and have achieved tons along the way. You can still be proud this weekend. You have done the training, you have covered the miles and you will still run your first half marathon. Hope to meet up with you today, take care! (and ps. compression bandages feel really good on a strain like that…!)

    Reply
  2. missmadigan June 22, 2012

    Miss Jill,

    I always read your posts with a smile and unparalleled level of admiration and respect. You are strong. Crying or limping, a complete mess or a complete success – to the outside world you’re an unstoppable force. And you are loved.

    Thinking of you,
    – Madi

    Reply
  3. Gordon June 24, 2012

    So proud of you! I respect you more out of this post from what I already do.
    Ahh!! You need to have that meet up with me soon.

    #1FAN Gordon

    Reply

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