It seems that every year, by the time I finish the Road2Hope (first Sunday of Nov.), I am so burnt out that I simply can’t be arsed to write up a race report. Even last year when I had a major PB and only ran the half, I simply vegged and my motivation to do a write-up was nowhere to be seen. As such, I still feel obligated to post this (horribly late) for posterity sake.
Road2Hope Marathon – 42.36 km – 03:50 – 5:26/km pace
What a mixed bag this race was.
On the bus ride to the starting area, a chatty dude from Windsor sat down next to me and happily talked away the entire trip. It wasn’t a bad thing, he was quite nice, but one of the last things he said before we left the bus was how much he hated wind while running…I should have seen the foreshadowing but hindsight is 20/20 so…
The first 20km flew by and I stuck pretty closely to the 3:45 pacer until he stopped to use the washroom. Right around that time we hit the significant downhill and I was determined to use it to my advantage, but Murphy did his best to throw a wrench into the works. As we turned onto the Red Hill Parkway, the cold wind coming off Lake Ontario became a massive headwind which negated some of the advantage. I probably pushed too hard on this section trying to bank some time, and when the 3:45 pacer passed me at 33km I was kicking myself for not racing smarter.
I ran a pretty decent race; hitting most of the tangents, fueling well etc., but ultimately I didn’t have enough fitness to hold my position. My right leg (glute, groin, hamstring quad) had been barking since the 15km mark and by the time I reached the mid 30’s I was in some serious pain. My lower back joined in the pain parade as well, but the major contributor was my feet; they were simply aching, and I’m not sure why. My feet hurt so much that I seriously considered taking off my shoes and running barefoot at one point, but quickly realized that was desperation talking. Finally, I knew things were a train wreck when a lady in a puffy winter coat passed me at the 37km mark and I couldn’t catch her…the shame.
This race was still a PB by a couple minutes, but I wasn’t really happy with how I ran it. My mental game was ok, and I thought my fueling was decent, though I felt hungry at the 12km mark, and had finished all my gels etc. by the early 30’s. I thought I had carb loaded effectively the days before the race but something was definitely off.
It’s all in the books now (especially with this significantly delayed race report), time to move onto new challenges.
“Boom” Goes the Dynamite!
To say I was “happy” with the year’s Around the Bay 30km would be like saying that pre-teen girls find Justin Beiber “mildly entertaining”. This year’s ATB was not only great from a performance standpoint but also from an overall race experience. Seriously, I may have to retire from running entirely for fear of never having a race like this again (first rule of showbiz: go out on a high note).
Unlike last year, I didn’t spend half of my race-prep time sitting on the toilet trying to figure out what the hell was going on with my insides. Instead I had enough time (due to my inability to tell time) to make the family pancakes and visit with one of my best friends and trail running partner; Glenn.
Fast forward 2hrs, and we’re standing at the start line waiting to hit the pavement.
Warning: Bitching Ahead (skip ahead if you’d prefer) – One of my only beefs with this race is that it’s a mass start without corrals. It’s a large enough event that it takes several minutes to cross the starting line for those of us that happen to be in the middle back of the pack. I know this happens in a lot of races, but my beef lies in the fact that race organizers don’t even attempt to facilitate/deal with the situation in any way. Why not suggest over the loud speaker that if you are going to be running a 2hr race you should be at the front and if you are going to run a 3+hr race you should be in the back? Or, what about staggering the pace bunnies in the starting chute to give people an idea where they should be based on time/pace? This and other years, most of the pace bunnies are all within a couple hundred feet of each other which makes it nearly impossible to get forward in the crowd without being a complete asshole. This year I moved up as far as possible and it STILL took me 4 minutes to cross the line, sure it’s no 20min. wait like at some of the big US races, but this race is big enough that something needs to be done. Meanwhile, during the first 8km I was constantly having to weave through slower runners (again, I realize this happens at other races too) which leads me to believe that the don’t ask don’t tell method of managing things simply: DOESN’T WORK.
Back to the Good Vibes: This race was awesome for me. Glenn and I ran through the first 5km easily, joking and talking as the sun tried it’s hardest to break through the cloud cover. Quickly we realized that we’d both need to shed a layer or risk keeling over. Seeing an alley we stopped, and I took the opportunity to relieve some bladder pressure. I don’t know what the hell my bladder is doing but EVERY YEAR, despite peeing RIGHT before the race, I need to hang a leak within 5km. WTF? The stop was quick, and although I was posing and flexing with my shirt off waiting for Glenn to get his gear in order, I only got ONE cat-call from a pair of ladies…who obviously had fine taste.
The first 15km breezed by, I was a bit concerned about the slow start but by constantly increasing the pace gradually from the start we found ourselves in a good position by halfway…well I did. Glenn was injured for a good portion of his ATB training and although he was matching me stride for stride he had no intentions of pushing as hard as I was planning to. I asked him a few times how he was doing, and everything seemed to be working for him but I may have ultimately killed him by continually upping the pace (he’d never admit it though ;)). At the 15km mark I asked him again how he was doing and the response changed from “ya, fine” to “I’m feeling it”. Shortly after (on the far side of the lift bridge) I wished him good luck, and began my own race. I dropped the hammer and the next 5km from lift-bridge to St. Joe’s Hospital flew by. Taking the 1st 15km easier than I planned worked like a charm.
I decided to up my in-race calorie intake this year. Years gone by I have stumbled into Copps Coliseum completely spent, but this year by eating often and eating early in the race, I was able to function like a human being after the race instead of doing the death shuffle and trying to eat my own hands. Calories are key…who knew?
The Burlington section of the race starts with small rolling hills that gradually grow into larger and longer challenges, but I had enough gas in the tank to calmly and deliberately work through all the uphills while letting loose and cruising the downhills. Even the Valley Inn Road (the mother of all hills) passed by in the blink of an eye, and I found myself pushing through the top and accelerating onto York Road. Unfortunately, I seemed to have missed seeing Ali_Mc, and a few others I knew who were either at the relay station or spectating along this section. Perhaps I was too busy looking for people to high five, but before I knew it I was onto the 5km home stretch and putting my speedwork training to the test.
I knew that I was close to my 2:40 goal, but some quick calculations put me coming in around 2:41:30…then I looked down at my watch to see what my current pace was and ensure I was on track…I did a double-take. I was cruising along 20-30seconds per km faster than I expected. So I did what any self respecting sadist would do: I pushed. For the next 4 ½ km I pushed. The only time I let up was to hand my wife my extra shirt (which I had carried for the past 24km), and to turn into the Copps Coliseum driveway which takes you into the arena. At this point I have one more grievance to air: Coming down the chute on York Blvd. runners have to turn right sharply onto the arena driveway (which leads to the service entrance and the finish area). As I was pushing to finish strong, there were slower people spread across the breadth of the chute, so I saw/took an inside line and passed a handful of people. As I neared the sharp right turn, I noticed a girl arcing into the corner from a wider line, I said as loudly as possible without yelling “on your right, on your right!” but she either didn’t hear me or refused to accommodate my warnings, either way she cut me off and I was forced to jump around her or completely plow her over. I considered the latter, but thought that with all the cameras around that I might end up as a race pariah and be forced to flee the scene…and since I had just run as hard as I could for the past 2 ½ hours running away was probably out of the question. Pulling in the reigns at the last second, I stutter stepped and jumped around her causing me to nearly cream someone else,again, I’m not sure if her music was too loud to hear me or she was just being difficult but I was pissed off to say the least.
After my little debacle, I regrouped and sprinted hard for the finish line. The clock was blurry, my heart was pounding, arms and legs pumping, and…2:37:12. I was ecstatic…finding it hard to breathe, but ecstatic none-the-less. I managed to beat my A goal by almost 3 minutes!
I’m damn proud of my performance Sunday. After a lot of training/racing frustrations over the past year or so, it’s nice to see things working out for a change. I’d really like to thank Speedy Dan who pushed me during those early morning speedwork sessions, and kept me coming back week after week. As well I’d like to thank Glenn. We laughed, acted like children, talked gear/movies/rock and roll, and generally had a FUN race…I sincerely hope I didn’t kill him.
Anyway, thanks for reading kids, hope you had as great a weekend as I did.