When I opened my eyes this morning and looked at my watch, I saw 16:26. “Good,” I thought. “It’s only 4:30. I can sleep for another hour.” Then, I realized that my watch was not set to army time and that 16:26 is 4:26 p.m. I jolted and the first words out of my mouth were not “Good morning.”
“Holy crap! It’s 6:30! We’re going to miss the race!”
Sleeping in had nothing to do with being exhausted from work. Nor was it due to the late nights that I’ve had. Last night, there was a party at the house behind us – a loud party, the kind that makes you call the police at 3:30 a.m. because there is just no reasoning with some neighbours. I remember mumbling “I better not sleep in” as I dozed back to Land of Nod – for a bit more than a few hours. After my internal clock went off, adrenalin kicked in (times four) and we got out of the house in 45 minutes – and that’s with everyone sitting down to breakfast!
However, a bit of panic remained during the drive to St. Catharine’s, about 45 minutes away. And, it hit hard again when I saw dozens of people running around the start area. Did I misread the start time? Is it 8:30 or 9:00? The boys dropped me off and I ran to get my racekit (which was as bare bones as they come; it was a bib only), double checked the start time, found the porta-potties and, then, waited for the boys.
I must have been nervous for the half because I went back to the porta-potties two more times before moving towards the start line. Once there, I was relaxed but focused; I had my race face on.
One of the biggest differences between men and women racing is knowing your position. When I run, I see many, many runners ahead of me but I never know how many are women unless there is a turn-around or someone is counting female heads. This makes racing challenging, and it makes waiting for results that much more exciting.
Today was one of those days. By the time I got to the 5K mark, I was with three other women; two more were in eye sight and I had no idea how many more were ahead of us. But I was running for time, aiming for a 1:40, not for place. I found my groove and I felt good.
Then, I realized who I was running with:
1. Margaret – my age, a high mileage runner, and usually faster than me.
2. Chantal – younger and always faster than me. Finishes a 5K in a minute faster, 10k in 2 faster minutes….
3. Laura – a former 2:40 marathon runner, an Olympic contender in the late eighties.
Yikes! I went out too fast! Pull back, girl! Pull back!
But I couldn’t. My legs felt good. I was strong. And I was flattered when, while running beside Laura, Margaret asked, “Do you two run together?”
“Wow, you have the same gait, the same pace. I’ve never seen that.”
“Hey, look at me!” I thought. “I’m running with an Olympian! And, people say that I run like her!”
That thought pulled me along for another few kilometres. We complained about the water boys who weren’t handing water to us fast enough and about the guy who tossed his cup directly onto me; my left shoe, my shirt and my Running Skirt were soaked. At the turn-around, we commented on the wind and estimated that we were Females 15 and 16. Sadly, at 13K, I had to let her go ahead as I decided that I had to start walking through the water stations if I wanted to stay hydrated. And, I did: all three remaining stations.
Without the station stops, I held my pace; I never really felt tired. But I felt my bowels! Looking back, it had to be a combination of the pace, the cold water that I was wearing and the wind that made things move. With less than two kilometres, I knew that I wouldn’t make it to the finish. There I was in downtown St. Catharine’s, a concrete forest with no where to hide. I am now hard-core. Well, maybe I should write soft core. But I kept running threw it. Gross!
Was it worth it? Definitely! I finished in 1:37:05 – almost 3 minutes ahead of my goal time. This gave me a 15th gal finish and a second place age group award.
And, walking through the stations didn’t make a huge difference in my time as Laura finished only a minute ahead.
However, it wasn’t all good. I had planned to tack on an extra four miles to this run but I didn’t end up doing it for many reasons, one being my urgent need to get to a porta-potty. So, with 60 days left before Hamilton, I’m starting to panic about the long runs I need to get in. That has to be my focus for the next few weekends. And now, the real fun begins.