Race Report: Canada Day 5K

The Canada Day 5K in Burlington, Ontario has always been one of my favorite races.  It’s a smaller, local event, which is well-organized by VrPro, on a flat course and, for me, it’s the first race of my summer break.

This year, though, the numbers of runners jumped.  Last year, there were around 500 participants but this year, I heard at the start, there were almost 1000 runners.  Between the constant media and retail reminders that July 1st marked Canada’s 150th and the daily email reminders and facebook posts leading up to the event from VrPro, a lot of people registered at the last minute, resulting in a race that grew too fast too soon.

Now don’t get me wrong, the race director, Kelly Arnott, is quite respected in the Ontario running community.  She puts on the Chilly Half-Marathon in March, which attracts a few thousand runners, and many other races.  Kelly also puts a lot of money from the races back into the community, especially Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington.  Kelly has been directing races for years and she knows what she is doing.  But on Saturday morning, there were problems from the get-go.

First, the volunteers weren’t ready for the crowds at the bib pick-up.  I don’t know how many collected their race kits on the day before, but Monica and I found ourselves at the end of a very long line an hour before the race.  We were told that the race was going to be delayed so that everyone would have time to get their bibs and timing chips.  I felt my anxiety climb as I was worried about having enough time to get back to the car, change into my running shoes (always a good thing at a race) and warm-up.  We inched our way forward, collected our bibs and – what?  No t-shirts?

Canada Day race t-shirt

When I registered for the race, on Monday night, I was able to request a t-shirt and size (adult medium).  Monica registered a few days later and only had an adult XL as an option, so she ordered that.  We really had no idea what kind of shirts we were going to get, but we were expecting them.  If the fabric was technical, I could wear it while working out; if it was cotton, I could hand it over to my son; if neither of us wanted it, I could use it as a prize at school.  By the time we got to the bib pick-up table, they only had youth medium sizing left.  I was given one; Monica wasn’t.  I couldn’t understand the point in requesting a size or a shirt, only not to get it.  In all honesty, not getting a shirt is not a big deal and I gave mine to Monica.  It just irks me that this happened.

After we got our bibs and token flyers, we were directed to a second line to pick up our timing chips.  We assumed that the chip line was for people who got their bibs the night before.  If we had realized that we had to line up twice, we would have split up.  Fortunately, this line moved faster.  By the time we got back to the car, I had just enough time to change my shoes  and do a quick warm-up before the race start.

I always like this course, even with the bit of sand that we have to run through; I don’t even mind the “out and back” route that so many don’t like.  As we expected, the start was packed.  I positioned myself close to the start line, but I still found myself weaving through far too many people for the first mile.  The marshalling and water stations were just fine, but a few of us commented that we didn’t see any medics along the course.  They could have been there, but we did not notice them.

About 20 minutes after finishing and talking with some friends, I noticed that they were wearing medals.  “You got a medal?” I asked.  “Why didn’t I get a medal?”  Somehow, between cutting the timing chip off my shoe and handing me a bottle of water, nobody gave me a medal.   I borrowed a friend’s to take the “medal” picture as that was really all that I needed.  Again, I think the race grew too fast (in a week) and the volunteers weren’t ready for the numbers of people coming through the finish line.  I heard later that they did run out of medals and the race director is ordering more for those who want one.  Will I ask?  No, but for the first timers or people who don’t race often, I know that getting the medal will be a big deal for them.

Will I run this race again?  Absolutely.  As I mentioned above, I like the course and I like VrPro’s races.  This year’s event simply had a few hiccups which can easily be corrected for the next one.

 

Race Report: Canada Day 5K

Canada Day 5KMy last minute registration for the vrPro Canada Day 5K sums up my whole year: busy!  I forced myself to take a break from running over the winter, which ended up being 8 weeks instead of two, and re-building my mileage has gone slower than I expected.  Throw in a hectic work schedule and life with boys, and it has been difficult to find time to train the way I want, let alone race.  I have spent the past 5 weeks looking forward to increasing my training to the next level, writing about my running thoughts that are percolating, and start racing.  Last week, after receiving the umpteenth email reminding me that online registration closes on Wednesday at 6:00, I looked at my watch and said, “It’s 5:40.  I still have time.”  Yes, the time was right so I registered.  Easy as that.

I needed to throw myself back into the racing scene without putting much pressure on myself.   The Canada Day 5K fit the bill.  It was a low-key event on a quiet holiday, close to home and I have a history of running well there.  Then, on Thursday night, I learned that there were 600 runners registered; suddenly it wasn’t a small event anymore.

On Friday morning, the oldest dude played “the good son card” and dragged his almost 16 year old behind out of bed to cheer me on at the race.  (And, yes, he earned big brownie points as Hubs and the 10 yo were still sound asleep when we left.)  I was nervous; my stomach was a mess and I wasn’t sure how I should pace myself, other than as fast as I can.  I was glad to have my son’s calm presence, even if it was tired calm presence.  We got to Burlington before 7:30, I got my bib and shirt, and ran into my friend, Beth, who is a significantly stronger runner.

Canada Day 5K winnersBy the time we were toeing the line, I realized that there were many other fast runners and a very competitive Masters group.  In fact, I noticed more greying masters at the front of the line than I did sub-masters.  I started to play with numbers. “Sub-22,” I told myself. “Go out at 4:20, you can do this.”  I had my eye on Beth, who would run sub-20, two other women who were in my time range, and a handful of men whom I could pace off of.

The out and back course had everything from concrete, to stone and to sand.  Within the first 5 minutes, the clouds opened and that meant we were running through wet sand between 2k and 3k.  I don’t know how much it slowed me down, but it definitely did.  Beth was out of sight before I hit 2K, I passed the women I was worried about by the 2K mark, and I’m not sure what happened to the men that I was following for a while; suddenly, they were – poof! – out of sight.  In the last 2K, I chased two kids – around 12 years old, I think.  After I passed one, I kept encouraging the second so that he wouldn’t slow down and I had someone to follow. Canada Day 5K finish In the last 200 metres, I was quickly reminded that kids are able to turn into the extra gear much more easily than I can; he jumped forward and finished about 15 seconds ahead of me.

Canada Day 5K prizingBut I was happy with my time.  I was the 7th female (and Beth was first female!) and 1st in my age group (50-54).  I wanted sub 22 and I got it – 21:24.  And I won a sportswatch, which I was ready to give to my son until I saw it was pink.  Sorry, kiddo!

I’m glad that I got this race out of the way.  I got an accurate test of my fitness level, finished ahead of a few women whom I was sure would beat me, and a time that was exactly where I wanted to be.  This has given me the confidence boost that I need and has already made it easier to set some running goals for the summer and move me into the fall.