Stepping Into Unknown Territory

Sunday was a day when I walked into unfamiliar territory. But it didn’t start out that way.

At 9:00, when I walked into our church with Skipper and Little Ironman, my friend, K., looked at me in shock and asked, “Cynthia, what are you doing here?”
My response was simple. “I’m here to pray.” When K. burst out laughing, I knew that she had read
my post from Saturday.

There were many things that made this day of racing unusual:
1. The 3000m run was around 1:30. I had never raced mid-day before and I wasn’t sure what and when to eat.
2. Since the race was later, I was able to take the boys to Church in the morning – something I’ve never been able to do on a race day. For this race, I needed all the help I could get; Church seemed like a good idea. Besides, Skipper was singing on Sunday morning.
3. This was my first 3000 metre race – ever.

4. This was my first time racing on a track in almost 20 years.
5. I was running with 79 year old Ed Whitlock, Canada’s running icon and a world-class runner who has broken several age group records.

The fact that I was going to be the only gal on the track also made me nervous. But, running buddy, Shawn, was toeing the line with Ed and me, and that helped me focus and stay calm.

Calm – until Shawn looked at my feet and gasped, “You’re racing in those?” He was talking about my Asics, my beloved Asics that have run all fall races with me.

“I know, I’m the only one here who isn’t in racing flats. I’m starting to think that it’s time to pick up a pair.” No comment.

There I was: the only female, in a Running Skirt, and wearing training shoes. There was no way anyone was going to take me seriously. At least I wasn’t wearing lipstick.

The two of us warmed up on the 200 metre track and I was itching to say something to Ed Whitlock. But, I was trying to focus on the race and I was certain that he was doing the same thing. So around and around the track Shawn and I jogged. We waited, we warmed up, we waited some more, and we ran again.

Finally, the “clipboard guy” called our names to the line and there I was, standing next to Ed Whitlock (and even 79 year old Ed was in racing flats). Again, I wanted to say something. Instead, I completely ignored him; I didn’t even look at him, once again reminding me of my high school days when I found myself near the cute guys. I was focused on the race, I was ready and I heard the gun.

The track was incredible: soft and banked. But it was also only 200 metres. I worried that running 15 laps would seem like a long time but it turned out to be the opposite; the run was over before I knew it.

I started with the second slowest seed time (12:5o) and I ran my first lap in about 40 seconds, which positioned me about 6th or 7th of 9 runners. Yikes! Too fast! I thought about slowing down but I was feeling good. “No, wait,” I told myself, “You can hold this pace. This is comfortable.” At 1500 metres, my quads felt ready to burst. I kept the pace, though, only to be lapped by the leader on my 7th lap.

The heaviness in my legs disappeared within minutes and I was lapped by a few other men, including Shawn. I knew that meant that he was almost finished and I was exactly where I wanted to be pace-wise.

I crossed the finish line in 12:26, earning a 4:09 pace (kilometre). I was thrilled with that as it gives me a target for a spring 5K. Overall, I was placed 6th and, gratefully, I did finish ahead of Ed – by about 20 seconds!

Special mention needs to be made to Renaud and his sons who made the drive to watch us run. Renaud would have run with us, but his focus now is on Boston. The three of them cheered Shawn and me around the track, and that felt great. Thanks, guys!

I fretted about running this event for weeks but it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. Really, it was just a new version of “Follow the Leader” – except for the dress code.

Tomorrow: my conversation with Ed Whitlock. (Yes, I did find the courage to speak to him).

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