Yesterday marked the final race in my crazy year of racing. 14 races in 2013. That's a lot. I don't think next year is going to be quite as mental. Not when I'm planning to have a few big things on my racing plate for 2014.
I had wanted to do this race last year but ended up going to Paris instead. I know, poor me. With no fancy trips like that scheduled for this year, it was definitely going to be a part of my racing calendar. I had heard good things about it and figured it would be good to have something to keep up some of the speed work after Scotia.
After Scotia, I dialed back my speed work by taking my track work / interval days out of the equation. I still kept up my tempo runs with WTP as I really enjoy those sessions as well as the company. I've also kept up my long runs so I'm not starting from scratch when I start training for Boston. All that being said, I wasn't sure what I'd be able to pull off time wise at this race. It was a slightly winding course and the wet and cold-ish weather had resulted in a bit of ice along the route. We were warned to watch our footing. I figured if I could come in around 40:00 minutes or so, I'd be happy.
The race starts at the snack bar in The Beach in Toronto's east end and runs west along the Martin Goodman Trail. It's a lovely place for a race. It's a small event that actually sold out this year. At only $40, it's a fantastic value. The swag bags are great (you get a toque instead of a t-shirt - can't get any more Canadian than that!) and there are excellent draw prizes as well as post race massages and food. Cobs Bread was one of the sponsors and they had PILES of gingerbread scones post race. Best post race treat EVER.
I got there fairly early, found some parking and proceeded to do a nice easy warm up along the boardwalk. My legs didn't feel awesome and my heart rate seemed high for the pace I was running so I didn't really have high hopes for a stellar performance. I just figured I'd do my usual go hard and leave it all on the course and see where I end up. I wanted to break 40 minutes but wasn't sure how possible that would be.
I ran into a few friends while milling about at the start so I spent a bit of time catching up with them. Then folks started shuffling forward. It was almost Go Time. I saw a guy holding a sign that said 40 minutes or faster so I tried to line up as close to him as possible. I spotted a few ladies up ahead hanging out with the large group of dudes from the Black Lungs. The really speedy people. I figured the narrow path was going to be a bit tough to navigate with all these runners so I moved up a bit more.
They started the countdown and then we were off. I hammered out of the gate. No easing into any sort of pace. It was run hard right off the bat. I figured my body would eventually tell my ambition who's boss but for the time being my ambition pushed the pace. The first few hundred metres were a bit tough. I should have seeded myself a little further up as I had to do a lot of dodging people and running on the grass was a bit treacherous due to the slippery footing. No big deal, I just know for next time.
The trail was fairly straight until about the 2km mark where it started to wind out of the park. I had run my first km in 3:48. I was definitely working. By kilometre number two my body had told my ambition to chill out. I hit it in 3:59. I hoped that the next 8 would be around the same pace.
I was in a pack of people for the next km. I figured that once we got into the Leslie Spit, we'd spread out so I hung on to the fast dudes in front of me. My long haired friend from Scotia was there again and I stayed behind him for as long as I could, using him as a pace bunny. As we entered the Spit, the group I was with started to splinter. I was running side by side with a younger girl and I could see another girl slightly ahead of us. The younger girl beside me really pushed me to catch that other girl - we were running stride for stride. We reeled the other girl in and motored past. I looked ahead to see how many other ladies I could see. I counted at least 6 and they were a fair bit ahead of me. I wasn't sure if I had it in me to catch any of them but I sure as hell was going to try.
If it's windy on the Spit, it can suck the life out of you. That happened to me at the MEC 10km in the summer. Thankfully this time around, there was no wind. None. Conditions were absolutely perfect. My shadow and I hammered along towards the 5km mark. Then, all of a sudden, I lost her. I figured her and I would run stride for stride for the rest of the race, she seemed to be running so strong. I was coming towards the turn around so I was able to see how many women were in front of me. Sure enough I counted 6. A couple of them looked to be in their 20's, then there was Michelle Clarke who I know is in her 30's and another woman whose age I couldn't place. She could have been in her 30's. Maybe in her 40's. It was hard to tell. Michelle and this other woman were only about 300-400m ahead of me. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make up the gap. I figured they'd have to slow down for me to catch them as my splits had been pretty even for the first 5km: 3:48, 3:59, 3:58, 3:57, 4:00.
I was feeling surprisingly strong through 5km. Yeah, I hurt but I didn't feel like I was fading yet, which really helped buoy my confidence. As I made my way towards the 7km mark, I realized that I was starting to reel in Michelle. I pushed harder. My lungs were burning. Just before 7km I caught her. Never in a million years did I think I'd catch her. I ran with her for a bit and encouraged her to push. I think that's why that km ended up being the second fastest one I ran (3:54). Surprisingly I managed to pull away from her. I couldn't see any other women ahead of me. I was starting to do the mental math at this point. Less than 12 minutes. Then my watch beeped and I realized I just passed 8km. Sweet. Less than 8 minutes. I knew at that point that I would break 40 minutes. The question was by how much. I turned back into Ashbridges Bay and was warned by a volunteer to watch out for my footing so I slowed down. Shortly there after I came up on the mystery woman who was off to the side of the path, walking. WTH? I asked if she was ok and she said "Not really but I'll be fine". Then she proceeded to cheer me on. That is why I love runners. Right there. Seriously amazing.
I hit the 9km mark and glanced down at my Garmin: 4:04. Whoops. Guess I better pick it up. I could see the finish line. Out of nowhere, a couple of guys came barreling along and passed me. I had nothing. There was no way I was hanging on to anyone. I could feel my hamstrings starting to scream at me. I kept my eyes on the big orange arch at the finish line. As I got closer I could see the clock counting down. I came flying across the line and hit stop on my Garmin: 39:39. I had done it. Broken 40 minutes for a 10km. I couldn't believe it.
I got my medal and ran into Dave Emilio the race organizer. He asked how I did and I told him I finally broke 40 minutes. That got me a hug and a congrats. I went back out on the course and did a short cool down run. I cheered my friends Rooster and Linnea in and then went to get my bag. It was damp and chilly out and I was starting to get cold. They didn't waste any time posting results. Shortly after I grabbed my bag, I saw the results were up. I wandered over to take a look. I found my name and was very happy to see a few things: 4th woman overall and 1st in my AG, which meant that I got first place Masters Female because the age groups were in 10 year increments. WOOHOO.
I met up with my friend Kirsten and we milled about with a bunch of other folks while we waited for the draw prize / awards ceremony to start. I helped myself to a second gingerbread scone. Oh my. Dave started with the draw prizes, then took a break to announce the overall winners. Another Team Running Free Athlete, Mindy Fleming, ended taking third place woman overall. YAY Mindy! Dave then asked if I was still there so I put up my hand and he then announced that I had won first place Masters Female. I went up to get my medal and was handed a hat and a cheque for $75 as well. SWEET! That's the first time I've ever won money at a race. What an amazing way to cap off a stellar season of racing. I honestly don't know how I'm going to top this year, I really don't. I do know that I will be back at the Tannenbaum 10km next year to defend my title and see about setting another course record.