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.

 

Waterfront 10K

Months ago, when the Ontario Masters Association announced that the Toronto 10K was going to be its 10K championship race, I knew that I wanted to do it.  Even if my recovery from Boston was slow, I knew that I could be ready to race a 10K more than 8 weeks later.  However, I waited too long to register; by the time I sat down to enter, the race had sold out – 10,000 runners were all set to go and I wasn’t one of them.   Never did I imagine that the race would sell out so quickly.  But I really wasn’t all that surprised; Lululemon had come on board to sponsor this Canadian Running Series (CRS) race and, when Lululemon is involved with any race, it sells out quickly.

I took this as a sign.  First, maybe I did need more rest (and as time progressed further into the spring, it was obvious that I did) and not getting into the race simply forced me to take more time.  Secondly, it gave me a chance to volunteer with my club, Toronto Olympic Club, which always sends marshals to the CRS events.

One of the lessons that I learned from my father was the importance of volunteerism.  As a teacher, I luckily see it at my school on a regular basis; teachers volunteer their time to coach clubs/teams outside of school hours; parents come into the school to help in the classroom, with lunches, fundraising….But I also see a huge lack of volunteers in other areas of my life and it is often the same people who give their time again and again and again. So when I have the time to give back, I like to do just that.

Honestly, though, I wasn’t exactly thrilled about waking up early on Saturday morning.  Since the race started at 7:30 a.m, I had to be out of the house by 5:45 at the latest.  After many days and late nights of testing kids, marking, and writing reports, waking up before 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday was the last thing that I wanted to do.   But I had committed to helping so I set three alarms before falling asleep.  At 5:30, I was out the door and on my way to meet Monica, who was one of the lucky ones, and her boyfriend so that we could head into Toronto together.

One table of water cups ready to go!

After dropping me off, I walked to my post – about 3.5K into the race and just past the first water station.  On the way there, I realized that my bag of cowbells and noise makers was still at home, sitting by the door so I wouldn’t forget them.  Hmmmm….. Fortunately, I did have my teacher voice with me and was all set to put it to work on its own. By 7:00, the volunteers at the water station were almost finished the task of pre-filling hundreds of cups of water.  It was going to be a hot morning (it was already close to 23C) so the runners were going to need it.

I headed to the intersection where I was stationed with another TOC marshal, Chris.  He was organized enough to bring cowbells and, while I hesitated to borrow one, I found myself ringing a “Bell” bell within 15 minutes of the start of the race.

The Waterfront 10K had a variety of participants.   The wheelchair athletes started at 7:30 and they whizzed by on their machines.  They were followed by 6 waves, beginning with the elite athletes and ending with the walkers.  For Chris and me, there seemed to be a never-ending stream of runners.  We watched the tags on the bibs change from red to green to yellow and so on, each colour representing a different wave.  When we saw the first orange bibs come through, we knew that we were close to the end.

While marshalling, we noticed that all runners, no matter how fast or how slow, were giving their best.  We cheered the typical encouraging phrases such as good job, way to go, and you’ve got this.  But knowing that there were designated cheering sections after us, with groups like the Argos cheerleaders, a Jamaican band and a spin bike club, I decided to turn my cheering up a notch: “Good morning, runners!  Let’s wake up Toronto!” and “Let’s rock this town!”  We were simply the opening act for the entertainment to follow; we had to set the cheer standard.  Of course, our bells were ringing loudly and I was told later that they could be heard two blocks away; I’m surprised that I didn’t go home with a blister on my finger.  Every now and then, someone smiled back at us and we knew that our cheering, while a bit crazy, was appreciated.

When we were done our shift, I walked to the finish line at Ontario Place and was able to catch the spin bikes as they were wrapping up.  Ontario Place was busy – after all, thousands of runners and families were going through there – so we left as soon as I found Monica and Stefan.  She ran a speedy 40ish minutes, making her one of the top finishers in a huge race.

While the early start was a bit of a pain, I loved that we were back on the road by 9:30 and heading home.  Looking towards next year, I’m not sure if I do want to race this event.  There was a lot of positive feedback from those who did, but I think the flat course in downtown Toronto may not be what I want in a 10K.  Maybe I’ll return to volunteer again instead.  I have loads of time to decide – well, at least until they open registration for next year’s event.

 

 

 

 

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.

Race Report: Beamsville Bench 5K

I heard the course was going to be challenging.  Hills, road, gravel, out and back: those were the descriptors that my running mates who had raced it before used.  They also sighed and, now I know why, they have only raced it once.

Weeks ago, one of my running partners, the lovely Miss Monica, asked me to race the Bench 5K with her.  With the PanAm Games in the GTA, a lot of the regular summer races have been cancelled.  The Bench, held at the Mike Weir Winery in Beamsville, Ontario, was one of the few left to pick from throughout July and August.  While I would have preferred a longer distance to help me in my prep for Chicago, I decided that testing myself with the 5K would be a good idea. Besides, how tough could it really be?  I’ve raced tough and hilly courses – well, hilly as far as southern Ontario is concerned – and I can certainly run a 5K.  After a winter off running and exercise, I am finally feeling healthy, rested and fit.

At 8:30 this morning, I left the house feeling confident. By 10:00, as we started to warm up, I realized that I was going to be in for a tough day.  First, it wasn’t an out and back course; it was two loops.  Miss Monica and I jogged it, which started on an uphill for the first 700m, flattened out, dropped gradually and climbed again for  the last kilometre.  Lucky for us, being a 5K course, we were going to be able to race that loop twice and go around it again for a cool-down.

I started the race well, going through the first kilometre in 4:18 and the second, I believe, in 8:28.  Somewhere between those kilometres, I pulled ahead of two other women; every time, I heard them breathing closer to me, I tried to surge a bit ahead.  After climbing the hill at the end of the first loop, I felt that I had opened a gap, but I  wasn’t really sure how big that gap was. My race fell apart, though, at the end of the second loop.  Even though I tried to use the flat and the slight downhill to relax my legs, it wasn’t enough; the last kilometre was a beast.  I struggled to get over the final hill and, even though I have raced and trained on much tougher hills, this was one of the toughest finishes I have had.

Cooling down with a lap around the course and a few extra kilometres gave me time to reflect on why the course seemed so difficult.  I found out later that all times were slow; ladies who finished ahead of me were 1.5 to 2 minutes slower than usual; my time was about a minute slower so I felt positive about that.  By late afternoon, after I got home feeling exhausted, needed a nap and lots and lots of liquid, I realized that it was the heat, not the hills, that did me in.  We had started at 10:30 when the sun was already up, humidity was high and there was no shade.  Summer racing is tough.

I wanted a challenging course and I got it.  But I walked away with a few other perks.  Monica finished third overall and I finished 7th (in 22:37), but being 51, I was earned the top master prize: a running hat and a bottle of Mike Weir’s wine. Beamsville wine

The best part of the day, though, came from the medal they gave me.  As we were leaving the winery, a younger lady asked me if everyone got medals.  “No,” I replied, “Only the award winners.”

As she walked away, I looked at Monica and said, “Ah, she wanted a medal.  I’m going to give her mine.  I don’t need it.”  I walked back to her.  “Here, you can have my medal if you want.”  She looked surprised. “Really, it’s fine with me.  If you want a medal, you can have mine.”

To that, she took it and said, “Thank you.  I don’t want it but it’s his (pointing to whom I assume is her boyfriend) first race and I wanted him to get a medal for it.”  While walking away to catch up with Monica, I turned around and saw him smiling, proudly wearing a “gold” medal around his neck.

He earned that medal.   In the same way that we often praise the faster runners for their times, we have to remember that the new runners, the slower runners and the back of the packers are working just as hard.  It’s all relative.  For experienced runners or those new to the racing scene, the Beamsville Bench 5K is a tough course.  Anyone who finished it is a winner.