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!
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.