I have had many people calling or emailing me asking about the run on Sunday. Perhaps it is a narrative worth sharing with everyone. I’ll see if I can add some drama to it so I have more fun reliving this torturous endeavour.
I awoke to my alarm at 6 am. I hit snooze and lay in bed trying to decide if my knee hurt for real or if it was just a dream. 5 minutes later a renewed beeping propelled me out of bed. I grabbed the clothes I had set out the night before: purple booty shorts and my r2ep team jersey. I added a hoody and long pants to keep me warm on the journey to the start line.
I popped a couple of advil, grabbed two bananas, and sauntered out the door. Walking to the bus stop I could already feel my knee making its displeasure known. It being Sunday before 7 am busses were running infrequently if at all. I had to take two busses over 40 minutes for a trip that takes 25 on a single bus weekdays. The start gun fired at 7 am while I was not even on university property.
I was not phased in the least – in large part because Josh had done something similar last year and told tales of a serene start devoid of jostling athletes. I was not disappointed. The start line was nearly abandoned making it easy to find the r2ep support crew. I stripped down to my shorts and orange jersey, handed my bag of goods to Colleen and wandered towards the start line.
I was wearing my wrist mount GPS to monitor my pace. I decided to aim for 4:30 per km on the flat and drift above or below that with changes in grade.
As an aside, it is an amazing confidence booster to start the race so late. I will never catch the people running the same speed as me. The people close to me will always be running, on average a bit slower than me and so I end up passing them. According to the official timing results (and assuming no one started after me) I passed 2983 people!
So off I trot, twelve minutes after the start gun, full of vigour, hungry for gnar, and ready to giv’er. My left knee was a bit achy but I buried it under a layer of determination. I saw almost no one for the frist two kilometres. Then I caught the crowd! The start of the race had a visually interesting switch back along a wide section of road with a grass median. It started about 2 km into the race where I began travelling south on the left side of the road and on the other side of the median were the runners coming back the other way, about 5 km ahead of me. This gave me a great view of the race leaders in all their glory. Damn they were moving fast. The top finisher had an average pace of three minutes per kilometre. I don’t think I can run one kilometre that fast, let alone twenty-one.
By the time I got to the switch back and crossed to the other side of the road I was in the thick of the pack (albeit close to the back still). My late start did a good job of allowing the group to disperse nicely. I only had to make occasional direction changes to squeeze past a tight spot in the crowd. Pain in my knee came and went and around kilometre twelve my left knee went numb. The pain shifted to my left calf. The physiotherapist suggested today that this was likely the body compensating for the lack of ability in my left knee/hamstring and shifting the bulk of the joint work into the calf. It, apparently, likely began hurting because the calf is not evolved/trained to work this way for extended periods of time. Eventually it went numb too. Then my right leg joined the party of “numb appendages”.
If there is anything my experience in the art of gnar has taught me it is that when you can’t feel your legs the party is at maximum. For a split second a fragmented thought related to stopping or slowing or something like that did pass through my head, but it was fleeting. I recalled Florin had told me he would be at the fourteen kilometre point handing out water wearing a r2ep jersey. I poured on the heat and brought my pace up around 4:20 per km to make up for the slowing I had just done on an uphill. As I cruised through the r2ep hydration station Maz handed me water, Florin shouted encouragement, and the lovely Sarah MP jumped, grinning, out from between the tables and exclaimed “Kaan!” I felt a burst of adrenaline as a smile erupted on my face.
All the way through the race I was looking forward to the burrard street bridge. Last year it was the one place where I made ground. My “primary” sport is hiking so the muscles in the leg that take you up hill are definitely the ones in my body that have the most stamina. Last year I passed a ton of people on the bridge who ran exactly the same pace as me for the prior 17 km but on the incline I didn’t slow as much as they did. This year worked out pretty much the same with the difference being that this time I had trained to run.
After the bridge crested around the 19 km mark I gradually turned up the heat. By 20 km I was at a full run and shortly thereafter went to a full sprint having just reminded myself of my favourite self-advice: “you always have something left.”
I crossed the finish line and my legs felt like jelly as soon as I stopped running. Walking was a bit awkward. I definitely could not feel much below my hips. Feeling slowly returned over the following hour. The pain was not really better than numbness but at least it felt more appropriate.
Monday was brutal. That calf I mentioned before – it got effed up. No position could satisfy it. It eclipsed all other pain in my body. By noon Monday I was in so much pain at my desk that I was sweating just sitting there. Focus became a an intangible commodity. Eventually I abandoned my post at UBC. I went to a Hatha yoga class and then home to several beers and the sauna. This corrective action REALLY helped. My body is recovering well now and today I even jogged for about two blocks without any whining.
Upon reflection, the only part of Sunday I am not happy about is an action I took in the last 150 m of the race. There was someone in an orange r2ep jersey that held out her hand to high-five me as I ran past. I was in full sprint mode and focused on positioning legs I could not feel in a way that would keep them between me and the ground. But that is still no excuse for snubbing her on the high-five. I just blew right by. I didn’t even look long enough to figure out who it was so I could make amends with a proper high-five later. If you are reading this, please accept my apology and identify yourself so I can deliver that which I owe you.