A 22-minute PR, whaaaaat?!
Here’s how it happened.
We spent the night in Oakville in order to get car access and closer to the starting line. The race began nice and late at 9:30. I woke up shortly after 7 and made coffee and my go-to pre-race meal (toast, peanut butter, honey and banana) for me and Jill. We dressed, stressed out and tried to get excited for the adventure to come.
By this point, I had totally psyched myself out. I have no idea why. I’m faster and better trained than last year. But I was feel a tad tight and had been out late on Friday night. I was convinced this would be my doom. But in the drive to the start, I started to get excited. I focused on “having fun.” It was a training run, after all. (Hahaha, what a lie. You race races.) We got there shortly before 9 and tried to find a washroom.
Copps was crammed. It was impossible to move anywhere and the bathroom lines were dozens and dozens of people long. It felt so much busier than last year. We abandoned out bathroom plans and headed to the start. On the way, we ran into Alice T., who Jill knows from yoga, and Andie, my coach (who scored a bib that morning, by the way. Impressive!). They sent positive vibes our way and I started to think that I’d at least finish this thing.
With Jill by my side, this was my plan: we’d run together with the 3:30 10 and 1 bunny in sight. We’d fuel up (Clif Shotblocks!) every 30 minutes. Jill would stick with me as long as she could, but we agreed we’s split up if we had too. The starting line was jammed, just like Copps was, so Jill and I just headed out on our own. In my effort to settle into a decent pace and find space within the crowd, I lost Jill just after the 1k mark. Ooops. I kept running and decided to use my first walking minute to find her. Crisis averted! We ran the next couple kilometres at just over a 6-minute pace. Pretty fast. It felt tough, but comfortable, perfect for a race that’s supposed to be a training run. Around the 4k mark, we saw a bunny just ahead of us. It was time to bunny hunt (I found this phrase hilarious during the race!). We didn’t pick up the pace, but got closer anyway. When I saw it was the 3:15 bunny and not the 3:30 one, I started to feel good about the day. They were running straight through and it was jammed, so we quickly passed them. We passed the 5k mark at 30:15. Kilometres 6,7 and 8 were more of the same. It got hot, so I removed my gloves, ear mitts and outer layer. We kept moving. Then we noticed a log-jam up ahead. WTF? A train!
A train was running directly through the race course and hundred of runners had stopped. It apparently took 4 minutes to cross. Jill and I were lucky. When we saw the delay, we slowed down, and by the time we reached the train, the crossing had cleared. We had lost maybe 20 seconds. No big deal.
It did cause another log-jam at the 10k mat (1:05:49), which was annoying, but what can you do? Around the 12k mark, we ran into the 3:00 bunny. My brain lit up at this point. Was a sub-3 run really within reach? I decided we should hang with the bunny just to see. But after about 12 minutes, I realized there was too many people and the pace was a teeny bit too fast. If ATB had been my goal race, I would have stuck it out. But reason prevailed and Jill and I fell back.
Around 15k (1:35:47), I started to get tired. This is where the real race begins. How the hell Jill was still right next to me this far in, I will never know. But I was grateful to have her there.
When 20k hit, it was all about survival. This is when you turn into Burlington and the relatively flat course evolves into rolling hits. Before the race, Andie told me to run up the hills, but take it easy on them. I could make up any time I lost later by not killing my quads on the big hills. Made sense to me. We ran through the last 10k at about a 6:30 pace, which wasn’t too bad. But at the 25k mark, I lost Jill. There was a downhill, it was crowded. I kept turning back to see if she was there, but didn’t see her! I was a bad big sister at this point and figured she dropped off, so I kept on running.
Right at the 25k, there’s a steady downhill into the biggest, nastiest hill of the course. A 1 minute walking break came up on the downhill, but I decided to run the whole way down, the whole way up, then take a 2 minute walking break at the top.
So I ran down. Then I ran up. Take that, hill!
Jill still hadn’t made an appearance, so it was time to put on cruise control for the last 3k. I felt totally wiped at this point, so it was all about putting one foot in front of the other. A walking break at 28k came up, then I knew I had to run it home.
So I did. I knew if I kept going, I had a shot at sub-3:10. And when I rounded the corner into Copps with 3:06 on my watch, for the first race ever I didn’t sprint my heart out to the finish. Sure, I picked it up, but I took in the moment. I crossed the line in 3:07:45, crushing last year’s time of 3:29:36.
Jill’s recap is coming. Stay tuned for her version of events…