Another weekend, another race. Seems we've been running a lot of races lately as the season gets going! Yesterday was the Forest City Road Race, which is the biggest race event here in our hometown of London, Ontario. 2500 runners took part in 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and kid's races raising money for local charities.
Michelle and I both ran the half and our race started at 8:00. Since London isn't too big of a city we didn't have to leave the house until 7:30. I had a bagel with peanut butter and downed a coffee and we were out the door. It was pretty chilly at race time, with temperatures at 2°C (35°F)…I had planned on wearing shorts and a singlet, but I made the smart decision of throwing on long sleeves instead. BRRRR!!!
My last half a couple weeks earlier didn't go so well as I really fatigued and struggled over the last 5K, due to a combination of going out too fast and not having trained as much as I should have because of nagging injuries and terrible weather. I decided to race a lot smarter in this race, especially since I only had a 5K and a 5 miler under my belt over the last two weeks because of a cold/sore throat. I determined that I would need to go out a lot slower than last time and try to build the pace up as I went…you know, a proper race strategy
The race started right on time and I tried to keep the pace easy from the start. I didn't look at my watch for quite a while and when I finally did I saw that I was going a bit faster than I wanted…I had planned to run the first half in the high 4:20's/km (7:10/mile) but I was 10 seconds per km too fast. I made sure to dial it back while people went by me but I settled into the run at my goal pace.
The first half of the run is pretty easy as you wind through city streets, the University of Western Ontario and into the park system paths. At the 8K (5 mile) mark you make a left turn out of the park and hit the biggest hill on the course, about a 20m climb over just 500 for a 4% incline. You are actually climbing for nearly 2 miles but the first bit out of the park is the worst of it. Just as I was coming out of the park I saw Rhoda at the side of the road cheering…she was on her way to the park for the start of her 10K race at 10:00. She "caught" me on camera…
About this time I started running and chatting with another guy after I commented on his Around the Bay shirt (a race we had both done just a month earlier). We chatted about running and races we've done for a little bit before I let him go…chatting up other runners can be such a great way to get through a tough stretch in a race, it just takes your mind off the hills and watch and everything else, letting your legs just do their thing and fall into a rhythm.
I saw a couple of familiar faces on the sidelines around the halfway point and made the turn back downtown…I was just over 44 minutes at 10K, so my pace was right where I wanted to be at 4:25/km (7:04/mile). Time to start adding some speed. I passed another guy at 12K and the two of us would be back and forth the rest of the race. He came up to pass me about a kilometre later and I kind of recognized him. I said to him that I'm pretty sure we ran together a couple of weeks ago at the last half marathon, which he acknowledged. I then told him this was about the same point that he passed me two weeks ago and he just smiled. He ended up completing the pass but I didn't let him drop me. I stayed within striking distance for the next mile and ended up passing him again on a little uphill section when we went down under a bridge and back up to cross a busy street.
We turned back into the University before heading back into the park system again to complete the final 5K stretch. Once we hit the park he came up beside me again…I encouraged him to complete the pass, telling him that he better keep it up. "Don't let me catch you again, you're faster than me!" I told him. Again he was ahead of me but couldn't drop me. I stuck on his heels and worked off of his pace and we passed a few other runners along the way. Much better than my last race where I was feeling like death and everyone was blowing past me over the last 5K.
I had really upped my pace at this point and was feeling great…my back half was entirely under 7:00 miles and getting quicker. One last push was left and that was the deceiving home stretch out of the park…a decent little hill that you don't know about unless you've run this race before. Just enough of a hill that you really feel it at the end of a race. It was here that I ended up making one last pass and then dropped the hammer and made a big push to the finish over the last mile. I ended up running by three guys on the hill and then got my finishing kick going once things flattened out again near the park where we finish. My last kilometre was my fastest of the day at 4:07 (6:35 mile) so I would say I executed my plan to perfection! I finished the race and felt great, a million times better than my half two weeks ago. My
sparring running partner finished just a couple of seconds behind me so I waited and shook his hand then headed off for some water. The first guy I ran with was waiting there for me as well and wanted to thank me for sharing those middle hill miles with him, he said it was just what he needed too! He just missed his goal of sub 1:30 by 4 seconds, so close!! Great run for him though…
I ended up finishing in 1:31:26, a good 4 and a half minutes faster than two weeks earlier. Though it wasn't a PR or even in my top-3, I was really happy with my time. I executed my strategy and ran smart, overcoming a lack of training and that damn cough that is still bugging me. I filled up my food bag and met Rhoda outside of the tent. I also was finally able to meet Chris, one of our readers, and his daughter who was running later on in the kid's race. After chatting for a bit I went over to grab a free McDonald's coffee and check my results. I saw my time and that I placed 22nd overall, pretty happy with that. Then Rhoda pointed out that I had actually won my age group! I didn't even notice that haha…turns out the guy I was racing with over the back half was in my age group as well and that was the battle for first. One of the other guys I passed on that last hill was also in our age group, so I ended up going from 3rd to 1st in that last mile.
I picked up my award, a gift card from Runner's Choice, and didn't even make it out of the tent before spending it. Runner's Choice (our local running shop) had a clearance tent set up and I ended up snagging my first pair of racing flats, New Balance 1400V2's. I had been eyeing them for a while, and they were marked down by $50, plus I now had a gift card…sweet deal!
After going home and getting cleaned up, Michelle and I headed out for some lunch (my parents had the kids up at the cottage with them). We went to Jack Astor's where I had a huge burger loaded with bacon, pulled pork, hot peppers and lots of BBQ sauce. And of course these were in play as well…
So it was a great race day for me…an age group win, a plan well executed, a new pair of shoes, all topped with a delicious pint of Guinness What more could I ask for?
Lots of races this weekend, did you run one?
Do you like running with others during a race?