Monday, June 3, 2013

Heels & Wheels 5k - June 2nd, 2013

This one was just for fun, and for a great cause!

Since it wasn't a priority event, prep wasn't exactly conducive to performance: a little over 4 hours of training on Saturday, a spectacular Wagyu burger and asparagus from the charcoal grill around midnight, and nowhere near enough sleep. Might as well go big.

Thumbs up if you're carrying training fatigue!

Had planned to cycle up to Bingemans for the race, but it rained hard enough to wake me up at 06:30 and was still extremely wet and threatening when I got out of bed at 07:45. The forecast called for continued rain showers and nasty, gusting winds all day, so I wussed out accordingly - I had visions of getting soaked on the way up and rapidly turning into a shivering wreck before the race even started. I munched back a wee bowl of cereal just to get a few calories into me, then hopped in the car with Tanker instead. We didn't have any rain on the way up (of course!), but I did get to drink my pre-race CafĂ© Mocha in the comfort of the car.

We got up to Bingemans before 09:00 and I picked up my race kit while Tanker checked in for his volunteer duties. After goggling at the massive amount of swag we were given - t-shirt, a great re-usable tote bag with external organizer pockets, flashlights, a first aid kit, a band-aid dispenser, a manicure set, a couple of pens and a super nice flip-top steel water bottle - I said hello to Jan, the friend of mine that helped organize the event and found Dave Foster, the friend whom I'd be pacing through his first race.

I needed to find a washroom, which took some time as all but the furthest set of doors to Marshall Hall were locked. I did eventually find a way in to relieve myself and fortunately did not have to line up, but I was still much later getting out for a warm-up run than I'd hoped. Since the course was fully marked out I figured I could scout the whole thing so I would know what to expect and could warn Dave about anything tricky, but having done a 10 miler with some hills the day before I knew I wouldn't be moving fast. I didn't manage to get going until 09:30, leaving me just 50mins until the horn - I'd read somewhere the 5k would start at 10:20.

A nice mix of surfaces and sights.

The sun had come out and it felt very warm as I tried to loosen my legs up, grateful for the shade of the trees in the campground sections as I dodged between the puddles. The smell of bacon cooking among the trailers in the first campground loop was nearly enough to lure me off course, and I felt awful about disillusioning the kind folks on their trailer porch who went absolutely mad cheering and clapping for me...until I told them that the race hadn't started yet. I wound my way out to the aid station near the 2.5k marker, and asked where the turn-around was - a young lady told me I'd find it at the top of the hill, which Jan had described as "moderately nasty". I believe we may have different definitions of "moderate".


The turn-around is actually at the end of a small, flat out-and-back section at the top of the hill, almost exactly at the 3k mark. This puts you well past the halfway point with nothing but a couple of gradual rises to deal with on the way to the finish, so it's actually a pretty nice profile from a psychological standpoint - "all downhill from here" mentality can really help if you're hurting in the last mile. Back into the trees to do the second campground loop in reverse, then around the big parking lot and across the boardwalk past the big fountain to the finish. My legs had finally decided to show up, and I completed the course in about 30:50, having been thanked by some of the volunteers along the way for pre-running it to make sure there would be no issues.

Foster and I ready for the start.

Of course, I'd managed to freak Tanker and Foster out by my absence - it turns out the start was moved up to 10:10am, so I had cut it pretty close and Tanker had been trying furiously to get me on the phone (which I left behind). I would've liked to have hit the washroom once more, but didn't want to impose any more pre-race stress on anyone, so I lined up with Dave at the start while a girl from Goodlife Fitness took the participants through a dynamic warm-up. There was a bit of a malfunction with the air horn to start the race, but with a hollered "3-2-1 GO!" we all set off from the line just as the rain started to fall.

Great turnout for a new event on a day with iffy weather!

The idea was to lead Dave out conservatively, but everyone is full of enthusiasm at the start of a race and he took off pretty quickly out of the gates. The first section was flat and smoothly paved, taking us through a large parking lot on the way to the first campground loop. Many of the runners were unhappy about the rain, but I mentioned that the cooling it provided might just prove quite welcome.

Foster running while I do my best T-Rex impersonation.

Turning into the campground for a mild downhill on some potholed and gravel-strewn pavement, we quickly came upon a little boy who took a tumble and fell hard on his elbow. Being a dad of two small boys himself, Dave stopped to see if the wee lad was ok, and stayed with him for the few seconds until his father showed up pushing a stroller before we set off again. The rain eased up as we ran, but the skies remained pretty threatening.

Out through the big parking lot and a long driveway, then back into the trees in the second campground loop - this appeared to be tent sites rather than trailers, and was virtually empty of campers. Despite the stop to try to stem a little man's tears, we were through the 2k mark in 11:46 at a pace of 5:53/km and Foster seemed to be hanging in quite well. I was having to push a bit to keep up! He developed a bit of a side stitch, but seemed to get over it quickly with the aid of a little trick I told him; a sharp breath out when landing on the foot that's on the same side as the stitch. Not foolproof, but stitches suck enough that any bit of relief is welcome.

So fast we're blurry - yeah!

As we emerged from the woods once more, we hit the aid station and Dave grabbed a cup of water, considerately dodging off to pop it in the nearby dumpster when he was done - makes me feel like quite the slob for just chucking mine when I'm finished with them, though admittedly I have put in my time volunteering at aid stations and picking up all the cups, gel packets and other rubbish dropped by racers. I warned Foster that we were just hitting the one big hill on the course, and that he'd want to pace himself up this one; focus on driving the knees forward and up, and shorten up the stride. He did an admirable job, making it most of the way up before needing to ease up a bit to get his breathing under control. I had him try the "breathe in for 2 steps, breathe out for 4 steps" pattern, but he said he nearly lost his upper plate in the attempt - I had to admit I'd never tried it with dentures!

We crested the winding hill, hit the turn-around, then headed back down again. I let Dave know that we'd be turning into the wind again once we came off the hill and welcomed him to tuck in behind me if he wanted - drafting in a running race isn't worth a whole lot, but there were some pretty stiff gusts coming in and it could certainly save a bit of effort. We bypassed the aid station and did our reverse loop of the tent camping area, hitting the 4k mark at about 24:45. I told Foster that he totally had this, and was 6 minutes or less away from finishing.

That guy there? He's pretty awesome!

It was pretty clear that the hill had taken it's toll on my friend, as most of his training so far had been flat and he'd only just worked himself up to 4k the weekend before, but he hung in like a trooper as we ran around the parking lot one last time and came past the fountain and pond. The sun even started to peek out as we  finally caught sight of the finish line and picked it up for a final sprint - looking at the clock I told Dave he could bring it in under 31mins, and he took off like a shot, leaving me to open my stride up to full length so as not to be left behind! 

Look at him go!

We came through the finish line at 30:53 by my watch, at an average pace of 6:11/km overall. An admirable accomplishment for a first race, especially on a course that certainly wasn't conducive to fast running. To make things even more special for Dave, his wife Amanda and sons Braeden & Gareth were waiting for him at the finish line, and the whole family went out to do the 1k walk together.

The rain, of course, had to return just in time for the 1k participants to head out - I was feeling pretty pleased with my decision not to ride to the event, especially as the wind quickly sent me scurrying for the car and a change of clothes. The Foster family left soon after completing their walk to get the boys out of the weather, but Tanker and I hung around to hear Jan speak about his recovery from the brain injury he sustained in September of 2011 and the challenges he faces on a daily basis.

You can read about his story here.

This was a fantastic event that I hope will become a fixture in the KW racing season, and I was delighted to be able to raise some funds to support the good works of the Brain Injury Association of Waterloo Wellington - thank you to those who were kind enough to sponsor myself and other participants! I'd also like to offer my congratulations to Jan for staging such a well-organized and fun day, to Jan's son who took 2nd overall in the 5k (at age 13!), and to Dave Foster for competing in his first race! Thanks for letting me experience a bit of the excitement that comes with your first time, and I was very happy to hear you're considering racing again - I guess I can't have been too annoying out there!

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