23 Jun 2018
- What? MEC Ottawa Road Race #3 - The Summer Classic
- When? 17 June, 2018
- How far? 10km
- Where? Carp, ON
- Sportstats Data
- Strava Activity
- Finish time: 41:50.7
Note to self: stop with the false modesty with my starting position. In a big race I won’t be at the very front of the pack, but here it was just silly for me to start in the middle. I wasn’t outside of the front 15 runners after the first kilometre, so weaving through a large crowd and passing folks right out of the gate is particularly foolish. If I accept that I’m not terrible at this it’ll be easier for me settle into a rhythm and safer for everyone.
I have been training towards a longer race than this, so I was not trying to be too ambitious with my goals this time ‘round. 40:28 was the 10km I had pulled off in a longer race, so I figured that repeating it was a reasonable enough thing to strive for. 39:00 was a bit of a stretch, but it seemed within reach based on how I’d felt during some of my training runs. I got word that a friend of a friend was aiming for a 40:00~ time so rather than paying attention to my watch, I decided I would use her as my pacer – and, if I was feeling particularly good after the first half, pick up some speed. That would mean trying to remember what she was wearing (purple? Probably purple) and having to find her in the crowd. Which would mean moving through the crowd.
Race Start - 2.5km
Immediately I could tell that my goals were in trouble. Unlike with the Tamarack Half Marathon, this was not shock at how fast I was going, but rather a realization that the conditions were not at all what I had prepared for: I had maybe one training run in the last two months that was anything close to the same humidity. On top of that, I could tell my peanut butter toast two hours prior was not enough to make up for the lacklustre dinner the night before. Hunger is a terrible motivator for a race given that legs need fuel.
Other than regret my life choices, there wasn’t much to be done about it, so I made my way to the outside edge and starting passing folks with an aim towards finding my pacer. While there were a couple of people who seemed like they were going to keep up with me rather than letting me pass, for the most part everyone was too focused on running their own race to waste energy on the idiot zipping by them. Eventually I recognized the purple top that I was pretty sure belonged to my pacer and settled in behind her.
2.5km - 5km
Because the same course was being used for the 5km race, the hydration station came at 2.5km. I was pretty grateful when I saw it coming and started wondering whether the two volunteers were going to be able to keep up with the 8~ of us all coming through at the same time. As it turned out, that was not a problem: I was the only one who grabbed a cup on the way by. It was at this point I realized that maybe I was a little bit outside of my class trying to keep up with these folks. Instead of letting that change my pace, I blissfully poured the electrolyte water on my head, drank the cup of water, and kept on keeping on.
I tend to run with music, but I had left my headphones in the car and so was stuck with the sound of my laboured breathing. Unfortunately for my pacer, I was close enough that she was also stuck with it. While I am not sure what regular Steven’s running breathing sounds like, it definitely wasn’t that. I eventually settled into something resembling normal by the time we reached the halfway point. This was a good thing because it was a turnaround and I got my first sense of where the 240 runners who weren’t ahead of me were. The fact that I was about to see every single racer was a pretty strong motivator for tightening up my form and losing what I imagine was a look of mild heat stroke.
It was also nice to see my friends and briefly remember that, no matter what happened in the next five kilometres, eventually the race would be over and they would be driving me home.
5 - 7.5km
I know after the race I talked about how nice the route was and how much I enjoyed the scenery, but that might be a lie. Not that I am saying it wasn’t beautiful, but the first two thirds of the race feel like they were exclusively spent keeping my pacer’s ponytail straight ahead of me. What was nice about this was that she was the front-most female runner, so she got cheers and clapping from volunteers, other runners after the turnaround, and the few spectators that were on the sidelines. I pretended her acclaim was for me. I drank her milkshake. I drank it up.
At one point she got a new running partner and I am still not sure how or where that happened. Did he run ahead or fall behind? And where did this new person come from? I had questions, but no energy to really consider answers. I do remember briefly wondering if he changed shirts mid-race just to confuse me, but the sheer insanity of that thought let it slip away almost as quickly as I had found it.
7.5km - End
The 5km race started only ten minutes after ours, which mean that there were still plenty of those folks on course – and this is the point where the two races come together. And here’s where mine fell apart. My 8th kilometre was over thirty seconds slower than my 7th. On the one hand, this was the highest elevation climb of the entire race. On the other hand, I was already gassed, I missed the idea of shade, and I might have considered quitting if I wasn’t already going in the direction of the finish line. I no longer had my ponytailed companion to guide me and had no motivation to keep an eye on my watch, so I just put one foot in front of the other as tidily as I could manage.
For the last two kilometres I caught up with one of the folks I had been running with early on. His form looked about as good as mine felt and we kept leapfrogging back and forth, never more than a footlong gap between us. Why, you ask, did we not just make the decision to run together and be friends? Mostly I was using him to push me harder than I felt like running. Hopefully I was doing the same for him. Otherwise, I’m just a jerk who wouldn’t let him get ahead.
That is, up until the last quarter of a kilometre. He and I had been passing folks from the 5km race, but as the very end came in sight I ceased to care about passing anyone at all. He got a half step ahead of me, then a full step, then two, and I realized that I was just happy to be done soon and didn’t need to beat him. It was kind of a nice, zen moment for me as I let myself remember that I was running my race and nobody else’s. It didn’t matter whether I beat this stranger.
Except then we passed another racer who shouted at me, “if you’re gonna make your move, now’s the time!”. So I threw that zen nonsense into the trash and I made my move. As it turned out, I had considerably more in the tank than my brain had been telling me for the last few kilometres. I ended up finishing faster than any other point – including my ridiculous start.
After crossing the finish line and taking a few steps out of the way of other finishers, I turned around and thanked the guy who had kept me honest for the last few kilometres. He also got an awkward high five, because I briefly forgot for a moment that we were both drenched in sweat.
If you had asked me before the race whether I would have been satisfied coming in just shy of 42 minutes, I would have said no. I had higher expectations for myself, especially after seeing what I was capable of in the half marathon. However the weather had been ideal on that day, plus I had done a much better job of the whole “eating” thing. The other thing to remember is that, for all my belly-aching, 9th overall ain’t a bad finish.
While the heat was bad, the real problem is that I let how hot I felt influence my state of mind: instead of focusing on what was going well and what I was enjoying, there was a lot of mental complaining about why I was unhappy. It wasn’t that bad, but I think it was enough for me to settle for less than a full effort on the course. That is the big takeaway for the future and what I’ll work on next time.