Run Like the Devil

Last Sunday morning, I listened to my husband tell me that I should wear my race bib to the Chilly Half Marathon upside down.  “Be 999,” he said.  “That’s a fun number.”

“No way.  This is the number that I was assigned so this is the number that I am going to wear.  Besides, now if I have a bad race, I can blame it on the number and everyone will understand.”

Even though I had the worst number imaginable, I didn’t really care.  I actually thought it was a little funny.  In fact, it helped me to relax a little; I knew that this wasn’t going to be one of my faster halfs, but I did want it to be a respectable race.  In November, I squeaked under 1:40 on a downhill course (1:39:59), and I raced in 1:42 on the Chilly course last winter.  This year, anything under 1:40 would be good.  Maybe Bib 666 would let me run like the devil.

Post-race: with my participant’s medal and AE3, Athletic Energy Nutrition.

Knowing how a lot of people react when they see or hear ‘666’, I wore my jacket to Burlington and I kept it on as long as I could while warming up.  Just before the start of the race, we listened to race director Kelly Arnott, the mayor of Burlington who welcomed and thanked Kelly for the fundraising that her event does for the city, and a minister who wished us a good race.  I was tempted to ask the minister to bless me before I ran, thinking a bit of divine intervention might counteract the devil’s number.  Instead, I just took off my jacket and hoped that no one would notice.

My race plan was to go out at an 8 minute mile pace and bring it down to 7:30 by the 3rd mile.  Even with a windy start, my first mile was 7:38.  “Too fast,” I told myself.  “Bring it down.”  The next few miles were under 7:30 but I was feeling strong.  On this out and back course, I was really looking forward to turning around when the wind would push me home for the last 5 miles, but that did not happen.  If anything, the wind seemed stronger; surprisingly, my mile splits stayed fairly consistent.  I was having a good day.

I picked up my pace quite a bit in the last mile, dropping down to 7:19.  When I made the last turn before the finish line, I could barely see the time on the clock change from 1:36 to 1:37.  I was excited that I was finishing under 1:40 but also knew that I had some work to do if I wanted to keep my time under 1:38.  I tried and, while my legs felt like they were turning over faster, they were just holding steady.  Regardless, I finished in 1:38:12, fast enough for a third place finish in my age group and 88th of 1200 women.   I was especially happy as this was the fastest half marathon that I have run in a long time; maybe there is a bit of a speed demon in me after all.

 

 

Race Report: The Eggnog Jog

Checking out the hills at the Eggnog Jog.

The Eggnog Jog may sound like a friendly race but it is on an unforgiving course.  After a quick downhill first mile, you spend the next 5-6 kilometres climbing hills until the roads flatten and you can finally cruise along a downward slope into the finish.  It’s the kind of route that leaves you thinking “never again.”

I’ve raced this  course 4 or 5 times and each time I do, I finish thinking “never again”.  Yesterday was no different.  In fact, yesterday, I realized how much the race is like delivering a baby.  Even though I always complain about how much the course hurt, the memories of that pain somehow subside, I end up registering again and the cycle repeats itself.

There are many reasons that I like the Eggnog Jog.  As much as I hate to admit it, I do like hills; I would far rather push myself up and down a hill than do speedwork running around an oval.  Also, being an early December race, unpredictable weather can also be challenging; this race tends to fall on one of the first really cold days that winter bring and, as expected, Sunday was cold.  We started to feel the chilling effects of the Alberta clipper and, in Georgetown, we also had the first snow of the season, which just happened to arrive about 20 minutes into the race, resulting in some slippery road surfaces.  Lastly, with local triathlons, duathlons, and marathons finished for 2017, this race can draw some strong competition.  Sure enough, the competition arrived.

Meet Lynn Bourque, another masters runner who is also my age.   We met years ago as competitors but have become friends, dubbing ourselves Betty and Veronica.  This fall, we both raced the Oakville 10K together, finishing 0.9 seconds apart.  At the Hamilton Road2Hope Half-marathon, we started in a downpour so we decided to work together; within the first kilometre, I watched Lynn pull ahead of me and it wasn’t long before she was out of sight.  I was excited to see her in Georgetown, but I was also nervous about potentially jostling with her for position over a few kilometres of hills.

I took the start of the race conservatively as I knew the hills were waiting near the 3K mark to test me for the next 5-6 kilometres.  During the fast downhill start, I watched many women, including Lynn, push ahead of me.  As much as I wanted to keep up, and I knew that I could for a while, I knew that the smarter thing to do was hold back so that I had more to push myself up the hills when I needed to.    By 5K, I had caught up to all of the women who had passed me at the start, and I spent the last half of the race trying to stay ahead of one.  I turned my pace up a few notches when we finally hit the flats, and it became a game of catch and release until the last two kilometres, when she pulled ahead enough to gain 27 seconds by the finish.  I was quite happy to learn later that she was 20-24, less than of half my age!

50-54 Age Group Winners!

In the end, I crossed the finish line in 50:53, which gave me an average pace of 4:43 per kilometre (remember, it is a 10.8K course), a 7th place finish on the female side and a first place 40+ finish for women.  Even though my time was about 90 seconds slower than it was two years ago, I am really happy with my result as this fall has been about running, racing and having fun.  If I can do that and still run relatively well, I’m doing something right.  This makes it easy to finish 2017 with some big hairy goals for 2018 – but I’m not ready to verbalize those just yet.

 

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.