“Math Is Hard”
Victoria Goddess Half Marathon
The Victoria Goddess Run is a huge women-only event with distances of 5km, 10km and a half-marathon. Despite only being in its second year, it managed to attract over 3000 participants this year and has a reasonable registration fee of $55, which includes a $5 donation to one of 3 women-focused charitable organisations (women’s transition house, sexual assault response centre or women/girl’s sports organisation). The finisher prize is a tech top, a sporty silver necklace and chocolates offered out on course.
I was invited down to Victoria for a girly weekend with my new sporty friends. The focus seemed to be more on the ‘weekend away’ part, rather than the running part, but I decided to sign up for the half-marathon anyway. I have been working up both my mileage and my speed and I was keen on testing out the legs on pavement.
When we arrived in the ‘big city’ the day before, we indulged in shopping, delicious food and liquid libations (there may have been some over-indulgence in some or all of these areas, but this information has been sealed in The Vault). On race morning, we headed to our respective start lines and planned to meet up afterwards.
I approached this run with a casual confidence. Although I haven’t raced this distance in over a decade, I know that I can run well for three hours right now without too much complaint. I figured that I could apply my ultra-running knowledge of nutrition and hydration to this distance and come out ahead. I had no concrete time goals but I figured that I would be slower than 1:44 (my PR for this distance) and faster than 2:00. At the pre-race expo, I participated in the “Guess your Time” game and ventured to say 1:54 as my pie-in-the-sky guess.
In the first few kilometres, I had a kind of flashback. There were kilometre markers at the side of the road and, as we reached each one, everyone glanced down at their watches. I had completely forgotten about the pace calculations that go on during road runs. Right away, I thought of that speaking Barbie doll that got panned in the media for saying:
Math is hard!
Well, this kind of math is hard and I am no good at figuring out how I am doing after the first kilometre goes by. I am certainly not a mathematical genius (we only need to know facts to 18 in Kindergarten) and, when my brain is slightly oxygen-depleted, I cannot make accurate calculations. My first kilometre was 5:05 and I thought:
This is too fast. I cannot maintain this for 20 more kilometres.
But when I hit the second kilometre marker, my time was 10:10. This time, I thought
I have to maintain this pace. This is easy to calculate! I’ll be finished in 1:47.
And so, I held that pace. As each kilometre passed, I found that I was running that 5:05 pace to the ticking second, as if I were a human metronome.
Aid stations came and went but I skirted around them, relying solely on my own water bottle. I refilled it once, just past halfway and knew that my hydration was exactly where I wanted it. When only drinking from half-filled paper cups along the way, you have no idea how much you are consuming. By carrying my own bottle, I knew that I was on the 500 ml/hour plan. Besides, I was able to add my own Nuun tablets and enjoy strawberry lemonade and lemon tea flavours, rather than watery, sugary Gatorade. I also had my own gels, of which I ate two and gave one away to a new friend along the way.
With two kilometres to go, our course merged with the 10 km route and we had the obstacle of running though the walkers who were aiming for a two-hour 10 km time. Although they were all courteous and supportive, it was a challenge to keep focussed and maintain my consistent pace. As we hit the last little hill (a mere rise in the road), I felt the little mice feet in my right calf tense up and become a true cramp. I needed to give it a good stretch, but I wasn’t about to stop at this point. I willed it to stop cramping and shortened up my stride. As the finish chute came into view, I was sporting a nasty hobble and a grimace (documented on the less-than-flattering race photos). Rather than opening up and flowing through the last few hundred meters, enjoying the crowds, I withdrew and forced myself to continue running. 1:48 was the time as I crossed the line. I was so relieved to see those three handsome firemen as they handed me my finisher necklace. I was delighted that my brain wasn’t too exhausted from mileage calculations and that I was able to maintain such a quick pace for the whole route (with the exception of the last 1.5 km or so). My results placed me 47/559 overall and 18/197 in the 40-49 division.
It is an amazing event and I really hope that my new sporty friends and I return next June. You should come too!