Race Report: Egg Nog Jog

This course in Halton Hills, Ontario is appropriately named for two reasons. First, egg nog is served at the finish area. Secondly, the course is so hilly that you are going to feel like you are jogging.

I have been worried about this 10.8K race for weeks. Why, I’m not sure; I did run it last year and ran well (and under terrible conditions). However, my past two races (both in November)were not great – finishing with fourths in my age group, and the most recent was 1/2 second behind the third – so I might have been fretting about not placing in Halton Hills. I have to admit that, as I’m reaching the top of my age group, I’m not ready to be passed by the group of women about to enter their forties.

Deep down, though, I think that I’ve been panicking about my knee, which Dr. Elliott says has likely been the result of a bit of osteo-arthritis (and treatment, including the Durolane injection, are based on this). He has told me to be careful on training runs with hill repeats but, let’s face, Boston is a tough course. The only way I can get ready for ole Heartbreak is to train on hills carefully. So, while racing the Egg Nog Jog was not the smartest thing for me to do, I had to do it.

So, I made last week an easy running week. Life helped with that. A late night at school, a busy night with the boys, and other committments made sure that I didn’t run since Tuesday. Yesterday, I really wanted to but it was the day before the race, so I didn’t. I cycled throughout the week to keep my cardio up, to keep strengthening my quad muscles; minimal running meant I felt rested going into today’s 10.8K.

Now that we’re into the sub-zero temperatures, warming up is that much more important. I need time to open my airways (for my asthma), stretch out my legs (especially around my right knee), and really just keep from freezing. As soon as I started to turn over my legs, I realized that my easy week was a good decision. I forgot that the first 2.5K of the course was a fast downhill, and I forgot how long the hills were. Since I could feel my knee a bit on a slow downhill, I knew that I should take it easy during the race.

I wasn’t ready for the gun when it went off; I was too busy listening to some guy complain about how much he drank at last night’s Christmas party. Once it sounded, I realized that I had positioned myself too far back. However, I also realized that that would stop me from going out too fast as I’d have to weave my way around runners for the first several hundred metres. I took the downhill start slowly, much more slowly than last year (and I know it was much slower than last year because I clearly remember how fast I went through the first mile) and before long, I faced the first of many hills.

I climbed the first hill, the next and the next. While going up, plateauing, running down or climbing on and on, I couldn’t help but think about Sebastian Coe’s hill training, which I read about in Running Times. To run a course like this, you need to prep on hills; I hadn’t done that. By the time I got to the beast, my quads were busting and I walked. Gasp! Yes, I walked part of the beast, and was passed by a gal (and a few others, but it was the lady that I worried about).

Now I had to think about how I was going to catch her over the next 6 kilometres. Clearly, she was a better hill runner than I (as I stopped and she didn’t) so my plan was to stay with her and try to close the gap. As we ran, though, I realized that our pacing was pretty much the same; when she picked up, so did I. I kept waiting for her to slow down but she was steady.

Before long, the voice of reason caught up to me. “Be careful,” it said. “This is just part of your training. You don’t need to push yourself here.”
We climbed the last monster and heard the sound of bagpipes coming around the corner. “That’s it,” I knew. “The rest of the course is gentler now, and then it’s a downhill finish.”
“Easy, girl,” Reason repeated.
“Maybe, just maybe….”

I was able to get closer but I still couldn’t grab her. Then, about less than a kilometre from the finish, I heard someone yell, “Nice work, ladies!”

“Crap!” I thought. “That wasn’t directed towards her; she wouldn’t have heard it. There’s another gal right behind me!” So I quickened my pace – this time to open the gap behind me as much as to close it ahead. When I crossed the finish line (in 50:15 – hilly course!), I had held my spot.

I went up to congratulate Her and was quite happy to see that She was much less wrinkly than I. “Good run,” I said, “I tried to catch you but I couldn’t.”

A gentleman behind me piped up, “Well, I tried to catch both of you but couldn’t.” And that was the beginning of my ego boost.

When the results were posted, I read that She was 25-29 so I felt much better about not catching Her. I also saw that I was the oldest of the top ten gals – solidly the oldest (8 were under 39, 1 was 45, and there was me – 48). The best boost of all, though, was when I heard a few “Wow’s” and “Holy, that’s fast” when my time was called out for placing first in my age group .

Sore knee and all, I’m still doing okay.

3 Replies to “Race Report: Egg Nog Jog”

  1. 10.8K? I've said it before, but you have some crazy race distances up there! Odd distance or not, congrats on a great finish.

    I thought of you during my runs yesterday and today; I wore my snowman mittens!

    Also, Leo and I are thinking about doing the Around the Bay 30K in March. In fact, I've already emailed the race director to see about an elite entry (don't know if I'll get it, but it never hurts to ask). How far are you from Hamilton?

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