Having raced a 50k fifteen days prior, damaged my right hamstring tendons 8 days beforehand and raced a sprint triathlon the previous day, I had zero expectations for this particular race. I was also going to run with a friend of mine doing his first race in ages, and he warned me his pace would be leisurely at best.
Just getting to the start line was a little on the stressful side. I woke up panicking because the sun streaming through my bedroom window looked far too high in the sky for a race morning, then slumped a bit when I realized I still had 5mins before my 7am alarm was to go off. Rolling out of bed, I munched back my pre-race bagel, then decided I'd have a bit of a nap as we didn't need to leave until about 8:30am for the 9am check-in.
I failed to silence my phone, and at 7:50 heard a text come in. It was the friend with whom I was supposed to be pacing, letting me know that either allergies or illness were preventing him from breathing, let alone running. He apologised profusely and said he owed me, but I told him not to worry about it.
Hmm. There go my reasons for taking this leisurely.
I decided to nap for another 10mins, figuring 30mins was plenty to throw on kit and get out the door. This time I managed to silence my phone so it wouldn't disturb me with its various noises.
Then I woke up at 8:55am and realized I hadn't actually started the damn timer.
With a bit of a yell at Tanker because OHMAHGAWDIT'SSOFREAKINGLATE I went from horizontal to vertical in one single motion. Frantically pulling up info on my phone, I finally started breathing again when I looked at the race website and learned that while the 5k WALK started at 10am, the 5k RUN wouldn't go off until 10:45am.
Mmmkay. We got this.
Out of the house in about 18 minutes flat, we jammed to the hockey-related coffee purveyors then up to Bingemans to pick up my race kit and ruminate. Did I want to do a warmup run, or save the hamstring for the race?
Motivated by the small number of runners in attendance, the fact that I'd actually managed 3rd woman overall at this race in 2014, and wanting to see how the injured leg was responding this morning, I trotted out to the 1k marker on the course and back after some dynamic stretches to open things up a bit.
|After all, I was still a bit blurry.|
The warmup felt ok, and the short acceleration I did toward the end didn't seem to make a difference to my discomfort level. Back to the starting area with about 15mins to go before the gun, I hit the washroom and then kept myself moving in an attempt to stay loose.
|Jazz hands help.|
While someone led an aerobics-style group warmup with static stretching, I did some high knees and butt kicks, then bounced up and down a few times to see if my calves were awake yet.
|"Skip to my lou, my darling.."|
I was just starting to walk toward the start line, telling Tank it was getting close to time and I'd better head over, when suddenly we were off.
|Um, what? GO!|
Looking up ahead, I saw 3 females in front of me: a lady not in her first youth who fell outside the typical distance runner physique (like myself), an 8 or 9 year old girl, and a tall, willowy young lady in compression socks. The other 5 ladies behind us didn't appear to be threats to the course records, though I was relying on the assumption the fittest-looking one of them was probably a Crossfit practicioner with limited endurance. I'd seen her doing deep lunges with her arms overhead as a warmup, so it seemed legit, but you never can quite tell how people will run from appearances.
In any case, I set off at a moderate clip, not wanting to hurt my injured leg with too hot a start off the line. I passed the mature lady ahead of me within the first couple of hundred metres, even before we left the paved road and headed into the campground and onto the trail.
|Sunshine and phlox|
Photo from my warmup run
As we passed the gate onto the Grand River Trail, the little girl (who had run enthusiastically so far) stopped to wait for someone behind me. I pressed onward, threading my way through some of the walkers on course as the trail narrowed, and passed the 1k marker with the skinny compression-socked girl a few metres ahead as the trail began to climb.
|This never gets any easier.|
It turned out that, while the young lady might have a much more ideal frame for distance running than my fire hydrant-esque build, she didn't have much strength on the uphill. I powered past her, puffing like a locomotive and hoping my hamstring wouldn't object too much to the unsure footing caused by the soft, washed-out gravel surface.
Jeebus. I was in first place.
Ok, there were a bunch of guys ahead of me, but I was the first female. Overall.
Up, over, and down the other side of the big stinkin' hill, I came around the sweeping curve and into the blinding sunshine as I passed the 2k mark. It was getting quite hot out, and once again I'd neglected sunblock. Another mild rise to climb, then through the turn-around and back the way I came.
Starting to suffer a bit, I saw that I had about a minute's lead on the young lady in the compression socks as she headed for the turn-around. I passed the 3k mark in what seemed to be under 17 minutes; I didn't really know when the clock had started as compared to the time on my watch, and it's not like I could do much about pacing at this point anyway. Hitting the back side of the big stinkin' hill again, I was already death whistling and wondering if I'd have to walk. I still tried to offer a friendly word to the other athletes on the course, 'cause why wouldn't I?
|Of course I only got photos of the flat bits during my warmup.|
So the problem I faced now, as I made my tortuous way up the many steps of the hill that stood between me and the finish, was that all of the steepest bits seemed to be in full sunshine without a trace of shade. I was hot, tired, and seriously wondering if I was going to blow myself up.
|One last IAR gang sign before I assplode.|
I kept telling myself I only had to suffer for a few more minutes, keeping my steps short and trying not to wrench on the sore tendons any more than I had to. Hitting the long downhill, I avoided some more walkers on the narrow trail as I passed the 4k marker.
I tried telling myself that I could ease up a little, as I couldn't hear anyone coming up behind me and figured I could ride out my lead to the finish, but my body was firmly under the influence of the part of my brain that was screaming THIS IS FOR THE WIN DAMMIT and stubbornly refused to stop pushing.
Back onto the pavement, I knew I had the women's division sewn up...which was a good thing, since I had no kick whatsoever.
Official time: 27:43 @ 5:33/km
So that's how I got my first ever overall women's division win.
|Accepting my prize package|
So from zero expectations and a rather mediocre showing at a sprint triathlon the day before to my best placing ever in a race, despite being slightly busted.
So yeah, I felt pretty safe texting my friend afterward to tell him he didn't owe me a blessed thing for bowing out of the race that morning.