Thursday, November 11, 2010
The morning was sunny and cool. The trees lining the Rouge Valley had felt the frost; the green was drained from their leaves. The colours revealed reflected bright against the new sky. The mood in the van was quiet – only short bursts of conversation. The thing about a big race – a season ender – is that you know you’re going to hurt. You know that when the pain creeps in around the 7k mark, you’re going to say yes to it – takes some focus to prepare for that, though.
Warm up. Loud music. Festive atmosphere. Stay focused. Run through the routine: team jog, bathroom, drills, bathroom, strides – at the last possible moment, strip down to shorts and singlet, find warmth in the starting pack, say your good lucks and then dive deep inside. We’re in the elite starting corral – front of the line – the start will be quick – don’t get caught up in it – stay inside and feel for the pace. Gun goes and all the engines start. You can blow the race in the first 500m if you flood your system with lactic acid. Stay relaxed. Easy. Don’t let your breath speed up. Monitor your body. All those who shot by too quickly will come back sooner or later – they always come back.
Nick and I stuck together, played it smart. We established a good pace as we left the Zoo parking lot and went onto the roads. Despite a 180 turn within the first k, it was nice to be on straight roads to find the rhythm. Things were great for the first 3.5k or so. On pace. Then the course re-enters the Zoo and it starts to twist and turn and rise and fall. Running through the Zoo was beautiful, but for a rhythm runner like me – a guy who finds the pace, locks it in, and hangs on – this course was murder. Each sharp turn ate not only time but also pace and pace awareness. Even so, Nick and I stuck together and worked together. We drafted off of some folks for the first few ks, and then when we passed them, we took turns with the lead. At 7.5k, though, Nick found a little gas when he saw a group of runners ahead. I tried to match it, but slowly, slowly, he pulled away. I watched him pass a couple of guys in between 8 and 9. By 9, I’d caught them too. I didn’t give in – I was still pushing hard – I thought I had a great run on the go.
The finish line is tucked away after a turn – you can’t see it from more than 50m away. When I turned that last corner and saw the clock, I was disappointed. I was sure the pace was good, but the time was not what I’d hoped for. I crossed in 35:30 – that’s a PB, which is great, but it’s only 12 seconds faster than the PB I’d set way back in May. That’s over 4 months of hard training for 12 seconds. But here’s the thing about road racing – no two courses are really comparable, so having a PB is only a rough kind of thing. In the end, I was actually really happy with my run. My real goal was not to surrender to the pain – and I didn’t. I accepted the pain and carried it with me for the last 2k. And I was still reeling people in at the end, which means I ran a smart race. So I’m proud of making the team, proud of running hard, and proud to represent Nova Scotia road racing with a PB on a difficult and technical course. Not a bad way to end the season.
And the Toronto trip was great – good people and fun things to do. I got to do a cool down run through the Zoo and see lots of amazing animals – I’d never been to a real Zoo before! I was like a little kid at Christmas: holy cow! a giraffe! oh my god! look, it’s a lion, it’s a zebra, it’s a polar bear! Awesome. We spent lots of time in the hotel hot tub and shooting down the hotel water slide. We drank some beers had some good food, went downtown for the night, and I even had a chance to see the Terra Cotta Warrior exhibit at the ROM! That was spectacular – I mean, the whole thing is madness, but spectacular to see actual artefacts from the find.
So, well, in the end, Nick took the final T-shirt race, but he deserved it – he ran really well. It’s funny, though – he added up all our times from our Timex duels, and it turns out that only 2 seconds separated us in total over the entire season. 2 seconds! That’s crazy. Two Kingston boys from the same high school (8 years apart, though) training in Halifax and running for Nova Scotia separated by 2 seconds for the season – weird.
The season is finished – but I’m already thinking about what to do next year. My early thought: focus on running a fast half marathon. We’ll see. The nice thing is this season has left me energized, not drained. I’ve been loving just running relaxed and easy through the fall. This running stuff is such a joy for me. I’m going to enjoy it for as long as I possibly can.