This year I was approaching this race differently. I was actually supposed to RACE it instead of the usual show up and basically run it like a normal morning run. Coach Mary had given me detailed instructions that included a warm up! I'd never warm up for a race before! I was excited and really hopeful that I could finally hit that 30 minute goal in a race.
Saturday evening saw the weather take a turn for the crappy. The snow started and the temperature plummeted. Ugh. The weather for this race is always such a crap shoot as it's so early in the season. Last year it was sunny and gorgeous and the year before saw freezing rain the entire morning. At least they've backed the start time to 10:15 to allow the sun to come out for a bit. By Sunday morning there was a couple inches of snow but at least it had stopped coming down.
Sunday morning I choked down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for breakfast and we headed out. It was cold and I was uncertain of how much to wear. I tend to overdress and that gets me in trouble as I feel really crappy running when I'm overheated. Paul and I grabbed our race kits and had a good laugh because our race numbers were 1 and 2. Like the nerd that I am I signed up really early for this race (it never sells out) and was the first one on the list. The problem with this was that all of the kids signed up for the Kid's Dash and the Kid's Kilometer races were given number 1. Add this to the fact that I'm a little on the small side and I think some people thought I was in the wrong race when I lined up for the 5k. :-)
Sadly, this did not foreshadow how we'd finish...
The Swag - Race kits, at least for the races I've participated in, are generally not that great. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to organize these events and I understand that the point is to raise money for charity but I would in a heartbeat forgo the unisex cotton t-shirt (that even in small will never fit me) in bright green that will go right to the donate pile. Funnel the money that it cost to produce that directly to the charity. Or reduce my entry fee by $5. Anyhow, I digress... In addition to the shirt there was a Running Factory water bottle and you can never have too many water bottles. Thankfully there was only one pamphlet about the upcoming race series and not a pile of paper advertisements, etc.
The Warm Up - After putting our stuff in the car we were able to catch up with some of our Windsor Tri Club friends before heading up for the warm up. It seems that alot of us are being coached this year as there are alot of us doing our first Half-Iron this summer. As a result, there were alot of of people going out for warm up runs which I either never noticed before (entirely possible) or never happened before. We needed to do 2 miles easy with 3 x 20 second pick ups to get the legs moving. We headed out and within minutes I knew that I was overdressed. I took my neck warmer off and that helped but I knew that I would have to ditch the jacket. If anything the warmup was awesome for this reason. There's no way I would be able to hold a high heartrate, zone 4 run while I was that warm. We finished up the two miles in time to hit the potty one last time, ditch my jacket behind the chip timing board, and take a gel. After cheering on the kids to their finish it was time to line up.
The Race - The timing for this race is a gun start which means that regardless of where you are when the gun goes off your timer starts. Couple this with the fact that there is no official start line and things get a little confusing. The race begins on a side street and you're never really sure where the start line actually is. Per Coach Mary's instructions we made our way as far forward as possible and waited for the gun to go off. Once we set out I started at a really good pace. My legs felt good and my heartrate was in a comfortable zone. It was a little tough because the side street was still pretty snowy from the night before. Once we turned the corner onto Riverside Drive the pavement was clear and I had a peek at my Garmin. 5:30/km! What? That's really fast for me. Here is where my mental game started to fall apart a little - I know, it's still early. I started to worry that I wouldn't be able to sustain that for the entire race and would blow up. My instructions were to suffer in zone 4 for the entire race but I wasn't sure where my threshold was between suffering and not being able to finish. I back off a little and thus began the tug of war in my head. Should I speed up? Should I hold this pace. God, this was hard. Should it be harder? ALL of these thoughts were going through my mind. To add to my misery was the 40km per hour winds that were coming in off of the lake. I passed the first water station and kept going. I normally run an hour or more without water so why would I need one today? This is a change from past years as I've always taken the water. At about the 2.5km mark I was hit with a really bad stitch on my right side and slowed my pace down a little. I contemplated walking for a minute but refused to let myself do that - I was beating myself up enough about slowing down. I peeked at my watch at this point and was crushed to see that it wasn't looking like I was going to make my 30 minute goal, much less my secret goal of 29 minutes. At this point I just kept telling myself that I needed to finish strong and at least beat last year's time of 32:02. Once I got to the corner before the last hundred meters I could hear Paul and Dave and Dawn cheering me on and this made me run just a touch faster. Approaching the finish mat I could see the clock and it was at 29:54, 55, 56, 57...I turned it up and gave it all I could and hit the mat right at 30:00. Sydney was waiting for me at the finish and gave me a big hug.
Post Race - We headed over to the refreshment table to grab something to eat. The hot chocolate was already gone (boooo!) and I can't stomach Tim Horton's coffee so I had to make do with juice and a couple of timbits and an untoasted bagel. I waited anxiously for the official times to get posted as I was worried that although it looked like I hit the mat at 30:00 it would say 30:01 or something slower than that. Finally, the results were posted and I finished in 30:00 which was 15/26 for my age group and a PB. I'm not going to lie though, despite it being a PB I'm disappointed. Not necessarily in my time but in how my mental race went. At the end, I finished with the taste of blood in the back of my throat but were there times I could have dialed it up before that? I think there were. That's what I'm disappointed about.
Andy did point out that this was a very competitive field. Maybe it's because the weather is crappy and the fair weather runners don't reallly turn up for it but 1/3 of the 312 racers ran in under 25 minutes. Either way, I was there to run my race, and compete against myself, and I'm not satisfied. What it has done though is light a fire under me. I WILL NOT feel like this again at the end of a race. I guess it's good that this happened at the beginning of the season?