Friday, July 8, 2011

Past Deadline: Perth Kilt Run - Check!

On the day of the Perth Kilt Run, I zipped around the house like a kernel of popcorn meeting hot oil. (Remember this analogy when I talk about the weather later.)

I didn’t know what to do with myself – how to bridle all that anticipation. I’ve heard that if an actor doesn’t feel nervous before a show, he or she may not perform as well. I wondered if the same would be true for running. I was excited, but not nervous.

The heat? I had trained for it (I thought). The distance? Can do. The rumoured hills in the golf course portion of the run? Too late to worry about that now.

Even my wardrobe concerns had been quelled. I picked up my race kit in the morning and very nearly wept with joy to find not only had I overestimated my size – so no emergency alterations required – but the kilt came with Velcro at the waist. An adjustable kilt with a pocket for my iPod. Awesome!

I’d purchased a “black goes with everything” shirt earlier in the week (although navy would have looked better with this tartan), so I had that squared away. The fact that black can be warmish in the sun crossed my mind, but I was prepared to make this sacrifice for, um, fashion, especially when kilts are oh-so-slimming. Not. Ahem.

The iPod was charged, the turtle earrings were donned to remind me to pace myself and I was germ free.

Bring it.

All that was left to worry about, I thought, was the mental game. When I speak to my Algonquin classes about doing oral presentations, which most of them despise, I tell students to try to turn distress into anticipation. Visualize yourself completing the job – like a figure skater finishing a successful routine. So I tried it. I could see myself crossing the finish line – plodding along slow and steady as a turtle, but also alive and smiling like Esther Williams.

I talked to my mom in the afternoon – she who had been captain of almost every sports team in high school. Her daughter? Not so much. Okay, not at all. She gushed about how she had waited 40 years to see me run. Sad, but true. I wish I had done this 40 pounds ago, but oh well.

And then it was finally time to run.

The sun beamed down onto the stone buildings, the pavement and my black shirt.

It was hot.

It was very hot.

Popcorn-popping and egg-frying hot.

As we shuffled toward the starting line I tried to pretend I was at the beach, but that just made me want to go swimming instead.


We started off at a good pace. In that heat, it was easy to plod like a turtle.

It was a tough run.

I had to drink more water than I like to and I walked a few times to stop my head from spinning. I’ve never felt dizzy while running before but, then again, I usually don’t run while wearing a kilt and shorts. I wasn’t as prepared for the heat as I had thought, and this made the mental game harder. Still, I managed to fight off the intensely strong desire to simply stop at the 18th hole and sit in the river.

Every time I run I’m ready to go home at 5K, so the 4- to 7K stretch through the slightly hilly golf course felt long, and that’s when the dizzies kicked in.

Nevertheless, I did it. I made it just under the target I had set for myself, coming in at about three quarters of the way through the pack and my age group. Not bad for a first time. There are even pictures of me smiling and waving and looking happy (not in the golf course, though).

Thanks to all the volunteers, organizers and fellow runners for making this a phenomenal event. It was a great experience and fun seeing old friends. Thanks also to the wonderful folks who lined the streets to cheer us on – that was awesome!

Like childbirth, though, you should probably wait a while before you ask me if I am going to do it again.
Published in The Perth Courier, July 7/11

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Past Deadline: Esther Williams of Running

I’ve got running on the brain. Sorry.

This is because I have signed up for my Very First Race Ever – the Perth Kilt Run on July 2 – and it is mere days away.

On one hand I suppose it’s kind of neato that I’m doing this four decades in, but on the other hand, sometimes it feels about two decades too late.

Recently I wrote about things I have learned on my almost-two-year running journey. This covered topics such as, you know, not doing stupid stuff like eating a five-course meal immediately before running, not running while drunk and, of course, choosing water over coffee on a running day (caffeine is not necessarily going to make you run like the Energizer Bunny).

Yes, it took me two years to learn stuff like that. Sigh.

Now, however, as the Kilt Run creeps closer and closer, I have new concerns. You’d think one of them might be about the 8K (5-mile) distance, but I have trained and I can do it. I don’t necessarily enjoy it, though. I’m ready to go home after 5K, and those last three are laborious – not glorious.

Nevertheless, I have learned to pace myself. It’s a race – but not. I am going to wear my turtle earrings on Saturday to remind me that “slow and the race.”

One of my big worries is about the kilt itself. I ordered it months ago. What if it doesn’t fit? How will I fix it in time? If it’s too big I’m sure an elaborate arrangement of safety pins and/or a belt might do the trick, but I suspect that is unlikely to be the problem. If it’s too small, do I go at it with scissors and elastic bands? Call a seamstress hotline? Can my dad fix it? (I know my mom would just laugh about sewing.) Will a tantrum do the trick? Should I just weep in a corner?

Similarly, what to do about a shirt? What if it doesn’t match my kilt? I mean, I’ve looked at the tartan online, but sometimes a screen doesn’t do the real thing justice. I hope basic black will do the trick.

Also, will I get trampled by the 900 people who will finish ahead of me or should I just start at the very back and try to work my way forward?

Another concern relates back to the enjoyment factor. When I run, I would like to look as if I’m liking it at least a little bit because, you know, there is this giant spotlight following me around to single me out of the thousand other runners. People will say, “Nice girl, but she doesn’t seem very happy.” Perhaps I have some sort of latent wish to be the Esther Williams of running – always smiling and waving – except maybe not underwater so much.

Speaking of self-absorbed, I am also a bit of a solo runner. I like to crank up the tunes and think Deep Thoughts™ (snort!) while I run. When accompanied by 1,000 other people, though, it occurs to me that someone might want to talk, and that will make me lose my breath. I’m considering wearing a T-shirt (a black one? a green one? an orange one?) that reads: “There will be no talking or chit chat of any kind, only Esther Williams-style smiling.” In case I can’t decide on the colour in time to get it printed, though, I just want everyone to know that if I don’t talk to you, it’s not because I don’t love you, it’s just that it might kill me.

Oh, and another thing – germs. We have done our bit to maintain the world’s germ pool this spring, but it would be just my luck to be afflicted before my Very First Race Ever. If that happens, I am moving to a remote island with a bottle of Lysol for the summer. Actually, I might do that anyway.

Clearly, the things that are concerning me now about the race are, well, not really related to running at all.

With any luck, next week I will be able to tell you about the actual experience! (“Yes,” the readers grumble, “with any luck.”)
Published in The Perth Courier, June 30/11