Burlington’s Canada Day 5K, organized by VRPro, has always been a favorite. After a two year absence, I was keen to do it again but I had just finished my first triathlon the weekend before; with the 5K only five days later, I felt that rest was what I needed.
Then my teen came into the picture. “Mom, I need some volunteer hours. Are there any races where I can help?” Twenty-four hours later, he had arranged to marshall at the 5K and, another 24 hours later, I was registered to run. Why not? I was going there anyway.
Since I was chauffeuring a volunteer, we arrived at the venue, Spencer Smith Park, almost 2 hours before the start, which gave me loads of time to warm up but I spent most of it catching up with running friends whom I hadn’t seen in a while. Many conversations and 3K later, I was toeing the line.
I didn’t have any goals in this race as I really didn’t want to push myself. I was there to support VRPro and to have fun. I knew the course – westbound along the paved trail, followed by a gravel trail, out towards the lighthouse and back – and I knew where the water station was. I was excited that I would be running past my son who was marshalling somewhere along the course. I felt relaxed. But the horn sounded and I put all thoughts aside. “Run!” Within seconds, everything I had planned to do was tossed aside.
I ran my first kilometre in 4:38. “Too fast,” I told myself. “Dial it back.” I ran my second kilometre at the same pace, 4:38, but I wasn’t feeling tired. I actually felt good. “Okay,” I thought, “Keep it going.” I ran by my son just past the water station and was starting to feel that asthma bubble grow at the top of my airway. “Just hang on. You can wash it out at the water station on the way back.” I went through 3K at 4:39 and, hang on, where is that water station? I thought about the route again. “The station was before the 2.5K mark; I just haven’t seen it yet. It has to be coming up soon….” And there it was – not visible, on the other side of the pathway.
For whatever reason, the aid station was placed around the 2K mark going out, which only makes sense if you are hitting the same station on the way back. I – and I think several others – expected to pass it on the way back to the finish but we were on the other side of the pathway, separated by trees and enough greenspace that running back to it would have been a pain. I complained to myself, tried to swallow the bubble and kept running towards the finish but stopped dead in my tracks at 3.4 Km. I actually stopped. I even turned off my watch. I didn’t care. I needed that water. I needed to clear my airway. I did the walk of shame for what felt like an eternity while I cleared my chest. Thirty seconds later, I cared again. I started my watch and took off. My last 2 splits were in 4:30 and 4:33, respectively, I crossed the finish line in 23:20.
For someone who wasn’t racing, I was happy with my time. I had hoped to run between 24 and 25 minutes so 23:20, even with the 32 second walk of shame, was good. I was the 20th female to finish with many, many noticeably younger women ahead of me, and I was 2nd in my age group. Both medals – for participants and for age groups – were beautifully crafted, and that is coming from someone who doesn’t usually make a big deal of awards. The best part, though, seeing a lot of familiar faces at the race and hanging out with my local Oakville running friends.
The need for working on tempos and intervals have become obvious as I need to retrain my asthmatic lungs to hold a faster pace. Had it not been so humid that morning, I probably would have been fine. But the reality is I hadn’t planned to race so I didn’t do my homework. Now I know what I need to work on: consistent, regular speedwork.
Moving forward, I have no future race plans. I’m hoping to race one or two more 5k’s before the end of the summer, and I am eyeing the Toronto Scotiabank weekend for something longer in the fall. It’s still early to decide, I’m still having fun and, at this point in my life, I am really just happy to be able to keep running.