I have been a “runner” (I still have trouble with this word, but every book and article I read on the subject says anyone who ever runs, at any pace, for whatever reason, is a runner, so I’ll go for it) for about eight months now. While I still have extremely conflicted and complicated feelings about the actual act of running, after 2 10k races and a half-marathon, I can say that I enjoy racing. I enjoy the night-before ritual of laying out the racing gear and putting together a pre-race meal, wondering if I should stick with the tried-and-true classics, or mix it up and go for a fancy carb-heavy Runner’s World-approved entree. I enjoy waking up at a ridiculous hour and heading to the race, coffee in hand, while the rest city is sleeping soundly.
It takes me back to the many, many years of playing basketball, where camaraderie was found in the craziness of skipping the late-night parties, the grueling workouts and the early morning wake-up calls, all to push your body to the limit for no other reason than you love the game.
Saturday, July 24 was the date of my second-ever 10k race: the Beaches Jazz Tune-Up. I was nervous, as the sweltering Toronto weather has meant I’ve skipped more training runs than I’ll admit, but thanks to the rain the night before, the morning was cool (in comparison) with a nice breeze off the water. It was still humid, but nothing unmanageable.
I was also nervous because my friend Sarah’s wedding was the day before. (Congrats Sarah & Craig!) It was a morning wedding, but if you put me in front of an open bar….well, let’s just remind everyone that I was born in the land of Alexander Keith and leave it at that. Thank goodness it was a morning wedding, otherwise this 10k race wouldn’t have happened.
The Beaches Jazz Tune-Up (5k, 10k, 20k) is an out-and-back, starting at the Kew Gardens and winding along the Martin Goodman Trail. Other than the scenic Start/Finish the course is boring. The 10k route takes you long Lakeshore, into an industrial wasteland and just when you start to hit a woodsy trail, you turn around and come back again. Oh well. I didn’t choose this race for the views.
My race plan was to push hard for the first half, assess how I felt and where I was, then go easy for the third 2.5 and push hard for the final 2.5k. There were water stations at the 2.5 intervals, so I hoped to hit each station under 15 minutes, walk through each station quickly, and wind up with a time around the 58 minute mark.
The first half of the race went exactly like that. I found a tall blonde running about 5:45 pace and kept her in my sight. (Anyone who is taller than me is my automatic enemy.) The first water station came up at 14:20, exactly where I wanted to be. I rounded the 5k mark at 28:00 even, a tad tired, but feeling pretty good. It helped that a large biking group, decked out in expensive gear and crazy-looking bikes, was on the road next to us, ringing their bells and cheering us on. I love spectators. I slowed down, as I was exactly on pace and was worried about burning out. The last few kilometres in my previous 10k (Sporting Life in May) were brutal, so I wanted to play it safe here.
Around the 7k mark, my left hip started to burn a bit. This has never happened before, but it wasn’t too intense. I decided to keep an eye on it, but not freak out. I slipped through the final water station at 42:00 and decided to take a bit of a break. I upped the 30 second walk time to 2 minutes to let the hip ease up and catch my breath. I was ahead of schedule, so all was good. I then picked it up, until I saw the final km marker. A hard push to the end, dancing around parents picking up kids to run across the finish line with them, a few exhausted runners, and others giving the final push. 58:01. Not bad. A second slower than my goal time, but since this race wasn’t chip-timed, I can always blame it on my watch, right?
Afterword, I felt decent. Overall, it was a much better experience than my first 10k, where my pacing was erratic and I was completely spent for the rest of the day. This race, in comparison, was a consistent solid effort (except for the short window at the final water station) and I felt accomplished at the end. The time was slower (57:15 compared to 58:01), but chalk that up the the heat and the flat course (Sporting Life was downhill, Beaches is completely flat), but it was a better race.
Then we had brunch. Brunch always makes me feel like a winner.
Next up: A Mid-Summer’s Night Run on August 20th.