Sunday, October 30, 2011

Trick or Treat - The Toronto Women's 8km

Race Morning
Copyright Phaedra Kennedy 2011
 I signed up for this race mid summer just after I did the 10km in this series.  I was totally gung ho and figured an 8km two weeks post half marathon would be perfect.  I figured I'd have ample time to recover and I'd have gained the fitness from racing the half.  I took the week following the half off.  No running, only swimming.  By the end of that week, I was sick.  My sinuses had gotten totally inflamed and I was stuffed up for days.  Great.  I battled this sinus cold on and off all week.  By Thursday I started to feel better and went out for my second run since the race.  It was interval night with the West Toronto Pacers.  It was a REALLY cold night but it was just what I needed to brush out the cobwebs.  My PB for the distance was 36:18 and that was done in 2003.  I headed into this race confident I'd beat that.  I hoped I'd be able to run it 33-34 minutes.   It would all depend on how well I'd recovered from my cold.

Race morning was freezing.  The weather report said it was 5 degrees so I opted for a lighter weight capri.  When we got to the park, the temperature had dropped to 3.5 degrees.  Geezus.  I layered up while waiting for my friend Babs to show up.  I was cursing my choice of leg wear.  I opted to wear a long sleeve shirt with a short sleeve shirt under neath and a pair of knit gloves.  Good choice.  Although a long sleeve shirt with a singlet might have been a better option as I got quite warm towards the middle of the race.  Or I could have opted to dress up in costume as many of the other ladies had.  There were quite a few entertaining ensembles and some really well done make up too.  Love it.

Once again Cory and Crew were functioning like a well oiled machine.  This series is definitely attracting some seriously fast runners and today was no exception.  Nic's Angels (coached by Canadian running star Nicole Stevenson) showed up en masse in their pink singlets.  They all lined up along the front of the start.  I figured it was going to be tough to crack the top 5.  I hoped to be able to even make the top 10.  Babs and I did our warm up run and then I jumped into an opening in the fencing about 1/4 way from the front.  I wove my way up towards the front of the pack and situated myself just behind the row of Nic's Angels.   I bumped into my friend & fellow Team RF athlete Linnea Humphrey as well as another team RF athlete Karen Bonham.  We chit chatted for a bit before Cory announced that we were 30 seconds from the start.  The front row of racers moved up to the line and everyone else followed.

I had no strategy for this race except to go as hard as I could.  That's kind of how most of my short distance races have been this year.  Go until I almost blow (or in some cases, totally implode like I did here.) It's all about toeing that very fine line.  I didn't want to go so hard that I blew up but I definitely wanted to be running "on the edge" for as long as I could.   I've gotten a lot better at knowing what that feels like and I chalk that up to my kamikaze racing mentality of this past year.

The gun went off and I went out like a shot.  This was the first race I opted not to wear the Newtons.  Not a bad decision as I felt like I was flying.  I didn't ease into anything, I went out hard and my heart was almost immediately in my throat. Gulp.  Ahem.  Gasp.  Pant.   I was bookin' it.   Unlike the last time I raced in this series, I was not at the front of the pack.  I wasn't going to make that mistake again.  I tried to hang on to a few ladies that were in front of me.  I passed a couple and as we closed in on the first km, I managed to pick off one more.  I passed the 1km mark and glanced down at my watch. 3:48.  Holy Smokes.   Let's see if I can manage another km like this.   Just after 1km a girl in a red top flew by me like I was standing still.  Geez.  No matter, it was still early.  Just before the 2km mark we seemed to have spread out fairly well.  The girls in front were WAY in front.  I couldn't really see them as the path went through the park in a big S' shape.  They always seemed to be either heading into the next curve or already in it so I could never really get a good idea as to how many people were in front of me.  The 2km marker came up and I looked at my watch again 7:50.  Hmmm.  So much for holding sub 4 min k's for the first 2km.  No matter, I was still on pace to run a sub 33 minute 8km.

I was hanging on to Fiona Whitby and another one of Nic's Angels.  I figured if I could stay behind them for a while, I'd be ok.  Just before the 3km mark, Fiona pulled away from her pal and I decided to try and stay with her.   We were coming towards the Don Mills Road bridge which is a bit of a tough slog on the way out but even worse on the way back.  I figured I'd be heaving by the time I got to the top.  I used the steep downhill to try and catch my breath but there was another girl who was right on my tail so I pushed the pace downhill.  I hit the 3km mark in just under 12 minutes.  My body was starting to hurt and I was actually feeling like I was overheating.  I rolled up the sleeves on my shirt.  The cold air felt great on my arms and provided a brisk little pick me up.

I was making my way towards the turnaround where I figured I'd have a better idea as to where I was in the group.  As I headed towards the turnaround, the first place girl came hammering along.  She was really cooking (she won the race in 28 minutes and change).  I waited patiently for the 2nd place girl to come back.  About a minute later she came flying by.  Followed almost immediately by the 3rd and 4th place girls.  I could see the turn around coming up and it looked like there was only a couple of other women in front of me.  Sweet.   I counted 3 more women as I hit the turn around, which meant I was in 8th place.  Awesome.  Only 4km left, don't let anyone pass you.

After I made the turn around, I got a good idea as to where the other women were.  There were a couple that were fairly close behind me.  Not good.  Gotta try and put some distance between them.   I wasn't sure where the extra gear was going to come from but I had to find it.  I had to find something.  I pounded my way back towards the Don Mills bridge again, knowing I'd probably slow down a bit once I got to the top.  I hauled ass up the hill, heart rate totally pinned.  I got to the top and just about died.  I almost stopped in my tracks to catch my breath.  No.  Keep moving forward.  I shuffled my way across the bridge, glanced back to see another runner just coming up the hill.  I slowed down going down the path from the bridge, mainly to try and catch my breath but also because the footing there is a bit dodgy. It's all wooden slats and it was covered in leaves.  The last thing I wanted to do was wipe out.

Once I hit the pavement I picked up the pace again.  I was heading towards the fireman aid station and the 6km mark.  As I came flying around the corner one of the firemen extended a well muscled arm and offered me some water.  Well, I'm not going to say no to that.  I grabbed it perfectly with both hands, which elicited a "nice grab" from the crew as I ran through.  I gulped back the water managed to land the cup in garbage bin as I ran through.  Superstar!  Ha ha ha.


As I made my way along the twisty trail, I thought I could see the red shirted girl that passed me early just up ahead.  Sweet, a bunny!  I knew I only had 2km left and I figured if I had another gear, now would be a good time to test it out.  I cranked the tunes and started to pick up the pace with the Arctic Monkeys "D is for Dangerous" blasting in my ears.  I was literally panting at this point but I still managed a big smile and wave for one of the on course photographers.  I hit the 7km mark and looked down at my pace 3:52/kms.  No wonder I felt like barfing.  Only 1km left and red shirt girl is just up ahead.  Go get her.


I came flying into the parking lot about 600m from the finish, running for all I was worth.   I got within 200m of red shirt girl when she saw the finish line and started to sprint.  Oh man. I got nothing.  I kept pushing, leaving it all out on the course.  I think my heart rate was somewhere up in the low 190's.   I saw Gary as I came thundering down the finishing chute.  I gave him a little wave and pushed as hard as I could towards the finish line.  I could see the clock counting down.  I hit the finish line mat with 9 seconds to spare.

Gun time:  32:51.  Chip time 32:49

Sub 33 minute 8km and a PB by about 3 and a half minutes.  Nice.  No tricks, just treats for me today! 


After the race I went over and got my goodies.  I love the post race chips and chocolate bars!  I made my way back to finishing line just in time to see Linnea come across.  I went over to congratulate her and we hung out for a while chatting and watching the other finishers come in a few minutes later I saw Babs finish the 5km.  I saw sub 23 minutes on the clock and figured she'd be happy.  She looked like she was in pain.  She eventually caught her breath and came over.   We stood around chatting when I was gently prodded by my hubby to go and check the results.  So off we went.  He figured I was probably first or second in my AG.  I knew where I had finished over all, the age group placing was the big question.  I wasn't sure if Fiona was in my AG or not.  Once I actually managed to get close enough to see the results, I came away smiling.

8th overall, 1st place in the 40-44 category.  Niiice.  


First place netted me another nice plaque and another very cool Mizuno bag.  I've never looked at Mizuno products before but now that I've gotten 2 of their bags as prizes from this race series, I will definitely check out more of their products.  Another good call on Cory's part - getting a sponsor like this on board for prizing.  Nice work.

I know for sure I'll be back again to participate in the Toronto Women's Half next year and depending how the rest of my racing year goes, I may end up doing the entire series again.

Next Up:  Some more empty miling and The MCC Chilly Willy 15km on November 27 th.





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