Way back when, when JK told me she was going to do a 10k in the spring, I told her I’d do it with her. I want all my friends to be runners (so I look less crazy, ha!) and want to support them, the way awesome other runner friends have supported me. And I like racing. Win-win. She picked the race, the Lions Port Union Waterfront 10k, and it looked great: small, cheap, by the water, and far enough past my marathon that I should be fully recovered.
I didn’t anticipate coming down with an epic case of runner’s knee. So instead of being excited about the race, I was really, really nervous.
Race morning, I got up and got my bike. I stowed my Newtons in my bag, just in case. But as I rounded the back laneway, I made a last-second decision to ditch the regular shoes and go with the Newtons. This knee wasn’t going to get better on it’s own. I tossed my regular runners over my fence (where the would eventually get drenched sitting in my garden) and headed to Union Station, where I met JK.
This race is a 5 minute walk from the Rouge Hill GO station. Win. The morning was overcast and not too warm. Win. We got there early, registered and chilled by the beach until game time. Win. JK’s been pretty fast with her training runs, so my plan was to stick close to her until the knee gave out. It wasn’t a goal race for me, so I wasn’t worried about saying “uncle” if I needed to.
Who am I kidding? This was the last thing I wanted to do. But running has taught me patience and humility. Or at least I hope it has. This was the race to put it to the test.
The race was small and informal. It had official chip timing, but it actually began when the race director yelled “3-2-1-GO!” JK and I stuck together, but the narrow path meant the first kilometre was all about dodging runners. To my surprise, my knee didn’t hurt. It didn’t feel right, but it didn’t hurt. Immense relief.
After a km, we made a turn and headed into the woods, along the river. JK and I had settled into a fast pace, with me running about 5 metres ahead of her. After the 2.5k turnaround point for the 5k runners, the path thinned out a lot, which I was happy about. And it started to rain. Nothing serious, just enough to feel refreshed.
We trucked along, banking minutes for the sub-1:00 goal we had briefly discussed but hadn’t set in stone. I felt good, until about the 4km mark. I began to believe it was only a matter of time before I heard a snap. But things held off, and the course got fun, with mud and hills and twists and turns. I grabbed a water at the 5k turnaround (which we hit in 27:11) and gave myself a little walking break, until JK yelled “Let’s go, Balser!” as she passed me. Jerk. So I picked it up.
Kilometres 5-8 were good. My legs felt strong and we were pushing the pace. The course was cool and shady, so I wasn’t worried about overheating. We again settled into me running just ahead of JK (notice a pattern?!). Around 8, though, my calves lit up. A running friend and minimalist devotee warned me this would happen as my legs adjust to the new running form. Since it didn’t feel like a “bad” pain, just a growing one, I eased up a teeny bit, but concentrated on powering through.
That last kilometre, though, was death. The sun came out just long enough for us to have a sunny last sprint. JK still had gas in the tank (HOW?!) so we picked up the pace. I was exhausted and my calves were sore, but once JK waved off my “go for it!” I didn’t want to let her down and we paced each other in. Once we had 100 metres left, we booked it to the finish, ending with 52:33 on the clock.
That’s a 2 minute PB for me and a lightning fast first 10k for JK.
We think the course was about 500 metres short, but this doesn’t bother me. We didn’t come for accuracy, we came for a great day. With that in mind, after we ate our bagels and bananas and water, we jumped in the lake as the rain dumped down, hard.
It was glorious.
Everything came together for this race. It was easy to get to, low-key and beautiful. And my knee didn’t crap out and I got to swim. For $25, I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Except more dry clothes.
Thanks, JK, for running this race with me and kicking ass.