“We wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for her…Karra.”

That’s a sentence I never thought would ever come before my name (at least, from anyone but my future children). But this was the unabridged lead up to the announcement that I had won the Positivity Award for this week’s November Project.

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Every time our leaders, Graham and Richard, do these awards, they do a little speech about why this person deserves it for the week just before revealing their name. I always try to guess who it will be in my head, but it’s never easy as everyone is generally pretty positive here. And this week, the lead up was a little different. 

Instead of jumping right into the presentation of the award, Graham talked about something else really important first – the recent loss of someone he cared about deeply to suicide. It was a heartbreaking and heartfelt speech, reminding us that one of the reasons our tribe exists is so we can be there to support each other through any hardships we may be going through.

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November Project ISN’T a #NoNewFriends zone and it isn’t just about free fitness. It’s about being there for each other during the challenging workouts and being that external cheerleading voice people sometimes need to push themselves out of our comfort zones. This group is about giving someone else your support even if you’ve never met them before in your life.

And this is also essentially what the Positivity Award is about – being that person who isn’t afraid to remind anyone and everyone that “Yes, you CAN do this” and doing it in a way that brings a smile to their face and positive vibes to their day.

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So yes, to me, it’s a very big deal to receive this award, but what does it all have to do with one, the statement at the very beginning of this post and two, Graham’s speech about being there for each other? 

Well, humbly, it means that I played an indirect part in the creation of the Vancouver chapter of November Project. I was the catalyst for this group that’s now here to be a source of brightness anytime someone needs it. Yes. That in itself is pretty epic.

But now a day later, the weight and gravity of what this and the award means is all starting to sink in. I believe that things happen for a reason and this is a sign. A sign of what I’m not sure yet, but I’ve got the award for 5 more days, so…stay tuned.

In the mean time, if this has inspired or intrigued you at all, definitely come workout with us – every Wednesday, 6:29am at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver. #justshowup

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Photo credits to Thai Truong and the November Project Vancouver crew.

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On October 26, I ran my last half marathon of the year. I hadn’t planned on running the Rock and Roll Vancouver. My October running event was supposed to be the Victoria Marathon, which I had been training for up until I bought my tickets for Europe with an air of finality. With the push of a button, I was no longer going to achieve my goal of running a marathon this year.
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(And honestly, it was fine. As much as I hate not accomplishing a goal, I also want my first marathon to be really special. I’m one of those girls who believes the first-time for everything is sacred, so you want to do it right. And that’s why I’m saving my marathon cherry for the one race I always thought would take it – the BMO Vancouver Marathon. 2015, watch out!)

But back to the Rock and Roll. The reason I signed up for it was largely because (and this is going to sound so silly) the medal said “inaugural” on it and I thought to myself, “Huh, how often am I going to get to do the inaugural of anything?” And then, all of a sudden, I was signed up and a few days later, I was in Europe doing not one single bit of running (except after trains I was about to miss).

So needless to say, I didn’t feel very prepared to do my best in this race. My goal since the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in D.C. last April has been to get sub-2, but as my SeaWheeze recap can attest, this has been a hard goal to achieve. I decided that with little training, I would just enjoy running the Rock and Roll and see what happens.

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My fave running buddy, MisoNani, was running this on to. She’d had a bad case of food poisoning a few days before so we both decided to take it easy. We consistently ran a pace of 5:45-5:55/km for pretty much all of the race, which by the way, is the nicest course I’ve done in Vancouver in awhile. I enjoyed the change of pace (pun intended) of running around the downtown core and the Stanley Park sea wall. Instead, this course went from the heart of our financial district on Hasting and Thurlow to the Railtown warehouse district over to East Vancouver, before heading back downtown to Yaletown and through Stanley Park across to the Coal Harbour side where the finish was located. Aside from lots of short, rolling hills in Stanley Park (oy vey), it was a great course with just the right amount of challenge for someone like me (the girl who lacks hill training).

It was around 18km that I noticed my time was 1:34 and I really believed in my heart of hearts that I could run the last 3.1km fast enough to get a Sub-2 time. MisoNani was very understanding and so I set off. I was fine at first, but I had to constantly remind myself not to keep going faster. I tried to maintain a steady 5:00-5:15 pace as much as possible, but then there was a hill and then, another one, this time without a downhill to help make up my time. By 19km, I was pushing it and I knew it. My knees were starting to ache, my IT band was throbbing and my hips were feeling tighter than a cork in a champagne bottle. I was hoping I wouldn’t pop before I reached the finish line. The 20km sign appeared and I told myself, “You can do this. Come on!”

Did I mention I hadn’t looked at my watch once to see what my run time was? I had it set to just show pace. I was afraid if I saw how behind I actually was, I’d just lose all heart and slow down. I wanted to know that I could push myself when I really needed to, so i didn’t look. Not once. Even when the 21km sign never appeared and I was running at 5:00/km and I was getting a little desperate. And then, the finish line loomed in the distance. The crowds cheers grew louder. My legs started moving like a machine, like the wheels on an old school train. Just chugging forward as fast I could. I think I can, I think I can. There’s brother and bf cheering me on. “Push it, Karra!” he shouts. I push. I push so hard, I’m almost crying.

And then, boom. It’s done. I’m done. I somehow manage to remember to smile pretty for the cameras as I go over the finish line. A pretty volunteer smiles and congratulates me as she puts my awesome medal over my head and around my neck.

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So what did I clock in at? 2:04:24.

Not a PB. Not an improvement over the SeaWheeze. But it was a time I was proud of. It was proof that once again, I could push through pretty much anything and end up with something decent.

Thanks for a great race Rock & Roll! Congrats to MisoNani on her spectacular 2:07 time and to all the other runners.

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Alright, it’s been about 2 hours since I crossed the finish line on this one and I have some mixed emotions.

I’m just going to say it: I was aiming to finally go sub-2 hours on a half marathon, but finished in 2:05 instead (unofficial time because I forgot my timing chip at home. Good ol’ Garmin watch has me at this and I’m sticking to it). On the one hand, it sucks, but on the other, I had a great time doing this race.

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To be honest, up until a month ago, I had kind of forgotten that SeaWheeze was coming up. I was so focused on what was supposed to be my first marathon in October (but now I’ll be travelling during that time instead) that I was quite relaxed with my pacing during my training runs, keeping it at a cool 6:00-6:15 per kilometre. I had planned to use SeaWheeze as a training run and not race it. But when my travel plans firmed up and it was certain that I couldn’t do my marathon this year, I got it in my head to try for a sub-2 time.

I thought it’d be easy to jump down to a 5:30 pace for the race and achieve my goal, but it was not to be. Here are the lessons I learned:

DON’T FORGET YOUR TIMING CHIP. What my official time would be kept plaguing me in the back of my head and in the end I had to go off of my sports watch. Maybe I finished earlier than I thought…I’ll never know now.

– Pace yourself well. Because I didn’t have my chip, I was trying to follow a friend who was aiming for a 1:45 time. I ended up going too fast too early and used up most of my energy. Had I been just a tad more conservative in the beginning and picked up speed in the middle and sustained it, I probably would’ve hit my goal. Instead I was gassed by 15km.

– Have a device that tracks your pace and keep your eye on it. I tried to follow the 2:00 pace beaver around 5km and kept up for awhile. But when we hit the long downhill on Burrard St Bridge, I ended up going faster and lost the beaver. This would’ve been great if I had paid more attention to the pace I was going at afterwards. I had been so reliant on finding the beaver that I never figure out the right pace to maintain. I’d just ebb and flow from too fast to too slow. And when the beaver finally caught up, my legs felt like lead.

– Match your training runs closely to what you hope to achieve at your race. As mentioned, I had been training at a slower speed and never really picked it up for the goal I had set for SeaWheeze. I also trained at 10-1 and decided it would be a good idea to never take breaks during the actual race. This ended up with me being forced to take several long walking breaks from 15-20km because my body was slowing down.

– High fives provide major power boosts. I don’t know why, but when I stick my hand out at runners on the other side of the loop and they high five me and I get about 5-7 of those in a row, I go faster and the struggle stops being real for a few seconds. It really helps – try it next time!!

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In the end, I just made a few bad calls with this race. They’re easily fixable for my next one (haven’t decided which one to do yet) so I hope to achieve sub-2 there. The nice thing about having to stop racing in the middle of this half marathon is that I was able to enjoy it more than I had been instead of pushing myself past the point of exhaustion. I also didn’t end up injuring myself, which was important. I’m proud of myself for recognizing when my body had had enough and for still running (albeit very slowly) through the pain. Oh SeaWheeze 2014, you have taught me much more than you know.

Congratulations to everyone that did this half marathon! And thank you to the amazing organizers and awesome volunteers. Now, to digest my 2nd brunch (thanks for the awesome Runner’s Brunch, Bearfoot Bistro!) and celebratory mimosa from Yolks!

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Genuinely Healthy is a new column I’m introducing that’s all about living the good life in a healthy way. Watch out for future posts on fitness, exercise routines, healthy recipes and snacks, and tips on keeping your body at its very best!

Here’s something you might not know about me: I love to run.

I run 5km or more 2-3 times a week. I’ve done 2 half marathons. When I’m not training, I run 10km at least once a month. Yes – for fun!

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I definitely used to be a very laissez-faire runner, though. Only doing it the day after a very bad – but very awesome – night of dessert binging. In my mind, running for fifteen minutes was all I needed to justify all the sugar I’d consumed. But then, in a moment of insanity, I signed up for my very first half marathon – the BMO Vancouver Half.

Suddenly, I was running upwards of 10km each week. I ran in cold, rain, hail, and snow – and all four at once thanks to a freak winter day. I woke up at 6am to get my mileage in before work. I ran the day after I’d just recovered from a cold. I ran even after a nasty fall hurt my knee so bad I was limping for days afterwards.

And when race day finally came, I managed to finish under my 2 hours and 30 minute expectations. I finished with an astonishing time – at least for me – of 2:23:43. That sealed the deal. I was addicted.

Ready for my first half - the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon

This year I’m running three half marathons – the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon, the Lululemon Sea Wheeze and the Disneyland Half Marathon (my first international half!)… and I’ve got plans to run a fourth pending my budget (trips are so expensive, but worth it).

The thing I find most amazing about all of this is that I used to be asthmatic. I went to the hospital a lot when I was a kid because I couldn’t breathe. Too much running wouldn’t just leave me winded – it left me literally without breath. I had to carry a puffer up until I was 17 years old.

Being asthmatic eventually became my excuse to not do any kind of physical activity. While all my friends played sports, I read books. I loved it because it fueled my passion for writing, but it made me way too comfortable with being immobile. Eventually, I had it ingrained in my mind that my body had limits and running long distances was definitely one of them.

I’m so glad that I not only outgrew my asthma, but also my fear of pushing my body past its “limits”. It took me about 20 years to get here, but better late than never right?

What do you do to psyche yourself up and push past your limits?

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