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: Chilly Half Marathon

Excited to be racing in my TOC singlet.

Last Sunday was the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington.  I have run and raced this several times and had planned to race it this year, aiming for a sub 1:37.  This winter has been great for runners; my mileage was good and I was getting the speedwork done.  As luck would have it, though, I was diagnosed with a sinus infection the week before the race.  The extra effort that I seemed to be putting into my running suddenly made sense; I couldn’t breathe – simple.  So I quickly accepted the meds that I was prescribed, took one day off training, and kept moving forward.  By the race weekend, I was confident that I would be able to run the Chilly Half; racing it was still questionnable.

The morning of the race, I was up at 5:30 to drive my oldest son to the GO station so that he could catch a bus to Toronto and it was cold.  By the time I got home to run my shake-out, the sun was coming up but there was a face-biting cold wind.  At 8:30, when I arrived in Burlington for the race, it was much warmer and I was glad to have a 10:00 start, but the wind was still noticeable.

I went out with 2 plans.  I wanted to run a 4:40/km pace, which would have me finishing around 1:38.   My back-up was to go out slightly faster than marathon pace, which is 5:00/km.  I realized very quickly that the getting over a sinus infection/wind off the lake combination was not a good one and, by 5 km, accepted that I was not going to run 4:40 that day.  I was totally okay with that, though, as the last thing I wanted to do was blow Boston because of what should be an easy prep race.

So this race became a chance for me to practise.  Not worrying about speed meant that I could relax a little bit and try to enjoy the course.  The Chilly is known for it’s pancake flat terrain, but it was cold and very windy.  I was really looking forward to turning around at 14K and getting out of the wind, but I swear the wind changed direction at the very moment that I did.  Except for the 200 metres at the end, I felt like I was running into the wind the entire time. 

I am particularly proud of my porta-potty pb at the Chilly.  I felt my gut start to tighten up around 16/17K and decided to duck into a porta-potty shortly after.  It was a false alarm – only gas – and I was in and out in just over a minute.  With winter layers to contend with, I was pretty pleased with that time.  You know you’re a runner when you claim a personal porta-potty best!

So what is the nitty-gritty?  I finished in 1:42, 5th in my age group (50-54).  This was also a Provincial Championship race for the 21.1k distance and I earned my age group’s silver medal for that, which makes me happy.  So while I didn’t leave with the time that I wanted, I walked away with a reminder that you need to be in top condition to race well.  And even though I wasn’t in peak condition, I still ran well.

In the past ten days, I can feel myself being stronger and healthier.  Around the Bay is next and that will be a strong indicator of my fitness for Boston.  I can not wait!

 

 

Race Report: Mercedes Benz Summer 5K

MB afterThis has been another summer when I haven’t planned a lot of racing as I had been training for the Victoria Marathon.  After making the decision to not marathon on the other side of the country, I started planning a race schedule with events closer to home.  The Summer 5K was at the top of my list; it was a new running event, and it was close to home.  Knowing that it was sponsored by Mercedes Benz and organized by vrPro, it was bound to be a good event.

On Sunday morning, my teen son who has been playing around with photography for the past few weeks, offered to come with me.  “I’m leaving early,” I warned him.  But the idea of practising action shots was calling him.  Just before 8:00, we pulled into the Mercedes Benz parking lot and, while I went to pick up my race kit, he caught a few more z’s.  The start was at 10:00 and it was already hot and sunny.

The volunteers from Mercedes Benz and Kelly Arnott of vrPRO were busy getting set up.  Registration was open, men were setting up the barbecue for the after-race, the Pearl Izumi van with its tent had just pulled in…and the bathrooms were ready – inside the building!  In fact, the bathroom facilities were one of the most exciting parts of the race: private stalls with doors with locks that actually worked, sinks with running water, paper towels, and mirrors.  It was the first time that I have had access to such a luxurious bathroom at a race.

Feeling anxious, I headed out about 15 minutes earlier than planned to warm up and was I ever glad I did!  When I registered for the race, I thought “Burlington – flat.  This should be a nice, easy course.”  The terrain seemed flat on the course video too.  But when I started to warm up, I realized how wrong I was.  As soon as I turned out of the parking lot, I faced a very slight incline, which became a bit steeper as I approached the 1K mark.  As I continued to run, I saw the course plateau a bit and breathed a sigh of relief, only to get to the top and – you guessed it – saw the road climb again.  I turned around to head back to the start to warm up and get my head into the game, realizing that I would have to carefully pace the first half of the race so that my legs wouldn’t fry at the end.

And that’s exactly what I did.  MB 1k check I checked my watch at 1K and my timing was exactly where I wanted it to be: 4:20.  The next 1500 metres were basically uphill and I knew there were a lot of women ahead of me.  “Keep it like this,” I told myself.  “You have 4 kilometres left to catch them in.”  It took 5 minutes to run the next kilometre (uphill), during which I picked my targets to pass, one by one.  Each time, I listened for their breathing to figure out how much space was behind me and how much more of a gap I needed to open.  There was one more in sight and she would not let me pass her.  When I moved right, she moved right; if I ran left, she ran left.  So much for a friendly local race.  I threw in a surge and fought to work my way around her and had the upper hand (or foot) at the halfway point.  Now, there were no women in sight – but I knew there were still 6 or 7 ahead, judging by a volunteer’s counting – and I faced the part of the course I had been dreading more: the downhill.

I hate running downhill.  In a race situation, it ends up being a real quad-buster for me, and I have avoided races like the Sporting Life 10K just because of the fast decline.  Here, all I needed to do was (1) keep my pace and (2) stay ahead of the women behind me.  It wasn’t long before I realized that keeping my pace was not enough as I could hear panting behind me; I was certain that it was the lady who kept cutting me off.

Final K
Approaching 4K.

Sure enough, it was and it wasn’t long before we were running neck and neck, each of us trying to pull ahead of the other.  Holding my pace was not going to happen; I had to pick it up. “Stay with her, Cynthia.  Fight it.”  We turned and the finish line was in sight.  Now we were on a relatively flatter surface but into the highway wind and with about 700 metres to go, I pulled ahead.  Silence.  I felt the awkward stillness of her feet stopping behind.  “Keep pushing.  You can’t be sure that was her.”  I stretched out my legs a little bit more, ensuring that I opened the gap a little more and hoped to catch two more gals who suddenly came into sight.  Both were slowly down and if there were a little more real estate, I probably could have caught them, but I ended up finishing seconds behind.

 

MB shoes
Samples of the Pearl Izumi shoes to take for a test run.

Was I happy with my time?  Not at all.  I finished in 22:39, which is slow for me.  However, the conditions were similar to the Beamsville Bench 5K that I raced last year and times were comparable.  I also finished in the top 10 (whoever was counting missed a few) and first in my age group, which earned me a pair of Pearl Izumi shoes.  Hooray for new shoes!

 

The reality, though, is I wasn’t training for this race.  It was a C-race; I just threw myself into it to see what I could do: race with my head, pick up the pace when I needed to, run tough.  My time wasn’t stellar but I can live with it, and it has given me some time goals to focus on while I keep chasing my dreams.

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.