Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Three Stages of the Kilt Run

It was suggested to me by one of my friends that I should write a post on my experience with the Kilt Run. At first I really didn't think there was enough to write about focusing on a single event. After giving this some though I came to realize just how much has been going on in my life around this run. So thanks for the suggestion and here it is.

The Three Stages of the Kilt Run

Stage 1: Preparation

I started think that I would be able to do this 8K run very early this spring and started preparing for it. It really gave me something to focus my interest in running on. I did a quite a bit of reading on different running techniques, I sought out advice on the proper type of shoe and clothing and I began to put together my own training program. I participated in two other 5K races to help prepare myself for what it would be like to start in a crowd.

When I started back at running this spring, most of my training was done alone, running the back roads of our neighbourhood. I use the term "neighbourhood" loosely. As I have mentioned in previous posts, we live in a secluded rural setting. My neighbours have gotten used to seeing me out running as much as five times a week. Days that I was not actually out running, I was working out at home. Preparing for this race was taking up quite a lot of my time and focus. Between karate and running evenings were full. And quite frankly I was really enjoying myself.

Now I had the mental demands of karate and the added physical demand of training for the Kilt Run. The big race was quickly approaching and I felt ready and eager.

Stage 2: The Day of the Race

Here it was, July 2, 2011. The big day had finally arrived. I was excited but calm. This in itself surprised me a bit. I the not very distant past, something as big as this in my life would have had me sleepless for a number of days and unable to focus on or even think about anything else. This often resulted in my wish to just get it over with so I could go back to normal life. But instead, here I was, sleeping well, focused on life and moving forward.

This new-found calmness I attribute first and foremost to my training at Sakura Martial Arts followed closely by my running. I learned how to train for running largely by what I was taught in karate, which gave me the ability and discipline to stay focused and work hard. Both disciplines combined have brought a strengthening of resolve and a clarity of purpose to my life. Now here it was, race day. I got up on the morning of the 2nd, well rested and ready to go. Now all I had to do was keep it together until the start of the race scheduled for 6:00 p.m.

My wife and I decided to go into town in the early afternoon to pick up my race number and kilt and to have a look around at some of the activities that were going on. This would allow us to beat any kind of rush and to be able to go back home for a late lunch and a bit of time to relax before the race.

We came back into town around 4:00 to watch the tug-of-war competition. It was quite fun to look around and see more and more people showing up in kilts. I have never seen that many men wearing a dress, gathered in one location before.

Around 5:00 we went to the dojo, which is located right across from the Start/Finish line, to meet up with the other seven people from the club that were participating in the race. At this point I have to admit that I was starting to feel some nerves. But I was still feeling together and ready. I kept telling myself that it was just 8K. By this time in my training, I had run this distance more than a dozen times and on much hillier terrain. I can do this, but O MY it was HOT. We donned our kilts and went out into the gathering crowd.

I could hardly believe what I was seeing! The couple of previous races I entered in had no more than 100 participants. Now, here I was being led to the starting line by a pipe-and-drum band with just under 1,100 other runners. It was amazing! The atmosphere among the runners was like a huge party. Everybody was upbeat, happy and ready to go.

The start was a shotgun start. I didn't know the significance of that until a few days after the race. The shotgun went off and the runners began filing throughout the starting gate. I had decided to place myself back from the start toward the back of the crowd, just to avoid getting trampled. As it turned out, all the runners filed through the starting gate in a very orderly fashion. As I got up to the start, I noticed a big timer that showed 1:30. It had taken me that long just to cross the starting line. Off I went, adrenaline pumping,  pacer running in my hand and my iPod playing my music track that I had set up for the race.

At first I was concerned that I was doing something wrong. I was passing people at a very quick pace. I had practiced running at this pace. How could it be wrong? I decided not to worry about it, run my plan and just go for it, so that was what I did. Deep breathing, keeping my pace, watching my form and passing people at every opportunity.

After about 2K I saw Sensei Laurie. She was on the other side of a group I had just gone around. Later, she told me that at this stage of the race, I was her "rabbit". She was just going to keep me in sight and match my pace.

At 3K we hit the golf course part of the run. No trees, no shade, just lots of heat and man it was hot. I started to feel like I was running on top of a hotplate. 2K into the golf course part of the run Sensei decided to pass me. I was hot and felt like I was slowing down. Very little passing going on now. There were probably more people passing me than I was passing. But when I watched Sensei go by I thought, "No way am I slowing now. I can do this! It is just time to dig down and go!" So that is what I did. Sensei became my rabbit. I kept pace with her staying behind by not more than 10 feet.

We finally came to the end of the golf course part of the run and were approaching a water station. Very unexpectedly, a few runners right in front of Sensei stopped at the water station forcing her to come to a sudden stop. I was concentrating so hard on staying behind her that I had to just about jump to avoid crashing right into the bunch of them. I went by at what seemed a very fast pace. I looked behind me to see Sensei coming up even with me.

Less than 2K to go. Sensei and I were running side by side. I was feeling burned out and I know she could tell I was starting to struggle. She stayed right there beside me encouraging me to keep going just by being there. I can do this!! DIG!

We turned the corner onto Gore Street. The finish line was in sight! Two runners suddenly came right up on us. Sensei looked over at me and said, "Come on Brian, LET'S GO!!" And go we did! We sprinted in lockstep to the finish line. No one was going to pass us now!

We crossed the finish line practically side by side. It felt GREAT! To make this run in this heat and cross the finish line with Sensei. What a rush! I was excited, I was gasping for breath, I was pumped, I was ALIVE!!!!!! There couldn't have been a better feeling of accomplishment.

Sensei Laurie and I made our way off to the side and started to watch for the other Sakura runners. I found myself standing beside the finish line, yelling and cheering every runner that came across. I knew what it took because I put it out there and did it myself. We cheered and yelled for every runner and ran around to meet each of the Sakura runners as they came across. What a rush!

After the last of the Sakura runners crossed the finish line, the adrenaline stated to drop off and I headed up to the dojo to change out of my very wet running shirt. Sara and I decided to hang around for a bit to catch some of the awards ceremony. I had cooled down and come back down to earth but I was still filled with a huge feeling of accomplishment. We saw that the times had been posted so I made my way up to the list and found my time. Out of  1098 runners I had placed 324 with a time of 47:58. The target time I had set for myself was 48 minutes so I had beat that and was quite pleased about it. But I really thought I had done a bit better than that. It was a few days later that I found out about the significance of the shotgun start. 47:58 minus 1:30 equals an actual time of 46:28. My best time ever for 8K.

The run was over. All the training I had been doing had paid off. I made it through my first big race. It was a truly great experience. One problem...

Stage 3: Now What!!??

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