Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Big Race

The Taste of Success (Spoiler Alert)



THE HISTORY

After a youth spent participating in competitive sports, my active lifestyle ground to a halt when I started University. My once admirable level of physical activity now maxed out in the walk to and from class. And given that I lived on campus, this would only be an acceptable amount of exertion if I was walking on my hands. And I was not. My diet, never much to brag about, consisted of whatever I didn't have to cook. The cafeteria was a daily indulgence, the snack bar a nightly friend, and Pizza-Pizza a biweekly comfort. At my peak, I would literally take a large bowl intended for the SALAD BAR and fill it with Lucky Charms. Oh, the innocence of youth! 

Unsurprisingly, under this regimen I soon ballooned to mega-Shira proportions. Then I got a phone call informing me that I had made the Canadian Women's Soccer Team slated to compete at the Maccabiah Games. What are the Maccabiah Games, you ask? Thank you for asking. I'll tell you: The Maccabiah Games are basically the Jewish Olympics. Every four years, Jewish athletes from all over the world come to Israel to compete in their chosen sport. If you are now envisioning a bunch of Rabbis doing the 100m dash, you are not that far off.
The Canadian delegation schleps into the Opening Ceremonies


As excited as I was to make the team, I was also overwhelmed with panic. In just a matter of months I was going to compete in the biggest sporting event of my life and I was in the worst shape imaginable. I wouldn't even make it through training camp. So I took up running to try and salvage my athletic reputation. At this point, I was just running about 5km three times a week. It wasn't much, but it did allow me to get up and down the soccer field in mid-day Israeli heat without passing out. 

Bronze medal winners! 
(I am fourth from the right, top row...but if you don't know me well enough to know what I look like, maybe get out of here?)



For the next few years, I continued with this regimen off and on, and only during warm weather. This previous summer, I decided to get more serious and up my distance. I was writing my MA cognate at the time and a longer run meant more guiltless hours away from my desk. Since I am fairly goal-oriented, I set my sights on the September Terry Fox Run as my first 10k. I followed the 10% rule (increase distance by 10% each week) and was conquering longer and longer runs fairly painlessly. Despite being a very hilly course filled with tiny children on bikes, I covered the 10km in 1:06 and felt pretty satisfied. With this goal achieved, I fell off the wagon a little bit and stopped running regularly (this is a bad metaphor because if I'm not riding on a wagon I would probably have to at least jog to get to where I'm going, but I'm too lazy to change it, so there). 


The Dad and I sprinting to the finish (not the start, as this picture would have you believe)

THE INSPIRATION

My Dad has been a runner for the last seven years or so, conquering a variety of half marathons and 30km races. Not bad for, as he puts it, "a geezer." This past year, he decided to go for his ultimate goal: the marathon. The family was a bit concerned when he made the announcement. We're a supportive bunch, but also illogical worriers who were certain he would have a heart attack and die. But if David Lurie has one motto it's "haters gonna hate!" (just kidding, it's actually "turn the lights off when you leave a room"). But anyway, he began training despite our unfounded and overblown concerns.

On November 3, we all gathered in Hamilton and waited for a bright yellow jacket to come into view. As he crossed the finish line, my Dad raised his fists triumphantly in the air, and, all joking aside, I was actually overwhelmed with pride. He had trained so hard to achieve something he would have thought absolutely unattainable just a few years ago. It really was a great lesson for me in the power of sheer determination. As I watched my Dad pump his fists, I decided to go for a half marathon. 

The Dad, Triumphant
The Dad and his "Fam Club." He survived!!
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THE TRAINING 

So I took back to the road in earnest. The only problem was that winter was fast approaching. And as I'm sure you recall, it was the winter to end all winters. I invested in some cold weather running gear and located the streets in my neighbourhood that were the first to be plowed. I ran twice a week, a tempo run and a long run, and followed the 10% rule again. Three times a week is actually the optimal amount when increasing distance, but it was hard to find the time and I reasoned that my weekly soccer and dodgeball games should count as interval training. 

A training run before the frost set in

Once I hit the 16km mark, my Dad told me I should start having some "nutrition" on my long runs. I shuddered, imagining him making me eat figs and dates, saying it was the "food of the gods" or something equally insane. But to my absolute surprise, he followed this up with a sentence I never thought I would ever hear my father say, "you should get some jelly beans." (Ok, he actually called them "jelly babies," but I am translating for the non-Luries/South Africans among you). My Dad, a dentist and health nut, telling me to eat candy is like a fireman instructing you to play with matches while sitting in a barrel of kerosene. That is to say, it was very uncharacteristic. But I didn't need telling twice! So I got some Jelly Belly Sport Beans and ate about half a bag for each long run.

My Dad and I signed up for the Mississauga Recharge on Milk Half-Marathon. My Dad suggested this race because it is mostly downhill. I consented because the race had the word "milk" in the title.

Five weeks before the big race, I ran 18km; the farthest I would go until race day. After that, I began to taper my distances, jumping up only to 18km again three weeks before the race.


THE RACE

May 4th dawned clear and cool. It was perfect running weather. My Dad and I gathered at the start line with thousands of others and waited for the starting gun as pretty awful Top 40 songs blared through the speakers. To drown it out, I whispered my favourite running mantra over and over to myself, "We're going to the race. We're gonna win first place. And you have an ugly face."
The Starting Line!
(AKA the place to go to find middle-aged white people with colourful caps)

The Before Picture
(I am obsessed with the guy in the back right giving tips to someone)

My goal was to finish with a sub 2:30 time. The plan was to have my Dad keep us at a 6:45/km pace as much as possible and then see if I had anything left for the last few kilometres. He also kindly offered to hold my jelly beans and water and to keep me amused with stories from the old country for the duration of the race.

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Yes, I am wearing the same clothes I wore to the Terry Fox Run. 

In the last 3kms, I ran faster than I have ever run before. Partially because I wanted to try and get in at 2:20 or under. And partially because I knew there was chocolate milk waiting for me at the finish line. My official time (pictured above) was 2:20:02. Not bad for a geezer...?
The Dad and I do the famous pose


Actually crossing the finish line was a bit of a blur. I remember trying to recreate my Dad's finish line pose. I remember slowing to a walk and my Dad hugging me. I remember trying to lift up my foot for the volunteer who was cutting the time chips off our shoes and finding it harder than the entire race had been. I remember searching for that long promised chocolate milk and treasuring the first sip.

After we left the runners' area, we greeted the fans (Lisa, Asher and Jen) who woke up super early and drove all the way to Mississauga (Mrs. Aug, "Ah!") just to be there when I crossed the finish line. What nice guys! Eager to use his new camera-phone technology, Ashie snapped the after picture.
The After Picture
(Note the chocolate milk safely cradled in my arms)

5 comments:

Dani said...

A true gem

Erin Cerenzia said...

Everything about this is perfect.

Alan said...

wow...goosies all over
beauty Shir always been a fan

Lisa said...

Shira!! I'm so impressed!!! (I love the maccabi shirt in all the photos)

Rob MacDougall said...

I do not believe there is such a thing as the Maccabiah Games. Or "sport" jelly beans. But otherwise, congratulations!