Finishing my last exam at Queen’s was something I had fantasized about for years. I envisioned bursting—no floating—out of the exam hall into a radiant spring day, cloudless blue sky, birds signing etc., etc. I would sigh deeply as the burden of stress lifted off my shoulders leaving me weightless and free. I would feel profoundly satisfied, liberated and otherwise elated. This vision served as a beacon, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, that made all the tedium and misery of university bearable.
It didn’t unfold that way. My final exam was mediocre and mind-numbingly long. I was one of the last to leave the exam hall. Instead of the perfect sunny day I had imagined, I was greeted by cold drizzle. A fitting goodbye from Kingston, my beloved city.
It all felt utterly unremarkable. Where was the momentous event I had pictured? What, no fireworks, no marching band, no crowd? Instead of elation, I just felt exhausted, drained, empty. The cumulative effects of an overloaded semester, persistent terminal insomnia and 20+ hour training weeks suddenly came crashing down on me. I dragged myself to the pool and struggled through a couple kilometers. Then I went home and collapsed into my bed before it was even dark.
In retrospect, I was a little naive. My mood is like some lumbering cargo ship; I can steer it out of stormy waters, but overcoming the inertia is a slow deliberate process. I tried to explain this to one of my housemates when he asked how I felt: “Uh… happiness takes time”. He was understandably confused.
When I got home last Friday, I still felt off. I moped around the house listlessly. I decided that I needed something to break out of my post-exam funk, a punctuation mark to signal the end of school. So, on a whim, I signed up for the Billy Taylor 15k. After seeing my sorry state over the past couple days, my dad said flatly, “You’re crazy”.
I still felt completely burnt out, so I initiated a serious bout of intensive recovery. This involves a brief but intense period of prolific food and tea intake, napping and abstinence from all physical activity with the exception of couch-to-fridge excursions. According to my training log, I also broke a 50 day streak of double workouts!
I have always avoided racing in sub-optimal conditions. I want to race feeling 100% prepared, healthy and fit. But this is never the case. There are always excuses: missed workouts, second-guessed training plans, a scratchy throat. Sometimes I’m a little over-dramatic. The day before the race, my legs still felt like blocks of wood. I was convinced that I would run embarrassingly slow.
Having never raced more than 10k, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Should I wear a fuel belt and compression gear like all the cool hobby joggers? I’m not a fan of the long-winded overblown race reports that plague most athletes’ blogs. If you’re like me, you get to the second sentence then zzzzzzzzzz. So here’s the executive summary:
Billy Taylor 15k, 3rd place, 50:59.9
5k splits: 16:50, 17:00 and 17:10 (big hill + wind)
Also, props to fellow Fergus Distance Project (FDP) members Scott Brydges who dominated the 5k with a personal best performance of 15:26, and Jenn Dowling-Medley who placed third. Three entrants and three podiums – not a bad start to the season for FDP!
More important than my result is how much better I feel. Years worth of toxic thoughts were flushed out by perspiration, exhalation and endorphins. Queen’s, Kingston and physics are behind me and a new chapter of life stretches before me.