When my alarm went off at 6 AM today, the last thing on my mind was a podium finish! It just goes to show that race day can bring all kinds of surprises!
After breakfast of a banana, yogurt and oatmeal mixed with dried cranberries, walnuts and flax seeds, and a last minute weather check (forecast of partly sunny skies with a temperature of -8 degrees Celsius at the start line, with the windchill making it feel colder than that), we were on our way to Grimsby for the 10k race put on by Subaru of Hamilton and Niagara Running Series.
It was to be our 2nd time running this race, and just my 2nd 10k race ever – last year, it was so cold the 1/2 marathon that we had signed up for became a 10k (had today’s races happened yesterday or the day before, the same thing would likely have happened – too cold for the volunteers to stand around!).
We parked just a block away in the McDonald’s plaza, picked up our race kits (nice long sleeved shirts!), used the bathrooms multiple times, and kept warm in the gym at Grimsby Secondary School, where we had about 1 hour to kill. We recognized a few people from other races, but didn’t know anyone else racing.
Our race was to start at 9:05, just 5 minutes after the 1/2 marathon began. I didn’t realize until I got outside that there were actually different start lines for the races (the 3k shared a starting line with the 5k and started just after us). Thankfully, race bibs were colour coded, so volunteers pointed us in the right direction.
I warmed up by running the couple hundred metres to the start line, where I was surprised by how few people were doing the 5k! Alasdair and I wished each other well, and listened to a volunteer say several times that if we were running the 1/2 marathon, we were in the wrong spot and should have left already. One poor woman ran from our start line to chase the 1/2 marathon runners, who were all out of view by then. One man was running to our start line when the volunteer gave us a 25 second countdown. The volunteer told him to be ready to do a quick 180, and as soon as he reached the line, the horn sounded – the race was on!
Last year, I finished this race in 56:57 (5:42 min/km). This year, I was hoping to run sub-56 minutes. My last 2 races, the Boxing Day 10-miler and Robbie Burns 8k, were run at a pace of 5:29 min/km and 5:28 min/km respectively – my fastest run race paces yet. I hadn’t been feeling incredibly fast in the last couple of weeks though, so I wasn’t sure what would happen this morning.
The race starts up a slight incline, and runs through mostly residential areas of Grimsby. At one point the course goes over the QEW, with the bridge being the hilliest part of this mostly flat course – there are some gradual inclines that aren’t very steep, except that the ones at the end of the race sure feel like mountains!
At the 1k marker I looked at my watch and saw 5:08 – too fast for me! I slowed the 2nd kilometre down a bit and saw 10:27 at the 2k mark. I was just on the verge of getting side stitches so didn’t want to go too fast – I had to alter my breathing a couple of times. From there on in I decided to try to maintain a pace of around 5:20, but wasn’t sure it was possible. I was well dressed for the weather (running pants, 2 runnings tops plus a coat, headband and baseball hat), except that my fingers were frozen until about 4k! I was wearing 2 pairs of gloves (the outer just wind shells) and had to keep balling up my hand – inner glove only – to try to warm them up. Nothing really worked until my core temperature had warmed up enough I guess!
I was keeping pace with a woman who seemed to be running effortlessly. When I got close, I told her that she was setting a great pace for me, but that I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep it up, though I would try – it was a bit too fast for me. There were so few runners in this race (74) that had she not been just ahead of me, I would have run most of this race alone.
There were 2 aid stations on the run, providing water and gatorade. At the first one, a volunteer even told us there was “rum, whisky and vodka!” I passed. There weren’t many spectators along the route, but the one that were there were enthusiastic.
Unfortunately I missed the 5k marker, so I wasn’t sure what my time was at the half way point. But every kilometre past there brought me that much closer to the finish, making me think that maybe I could finish sub 56 min after all! As the race continued, I did the math and realized that I could slow down quite significantly and still meet my goal. At the 8k mark, I was at 42:52, which is 57 seconds faster than my 8k Robbie Burns time from January of this year. I found the last 2 kilometres the hardest, partly because it seemed to be mostly uphill! The woman I was following got a little ahead of me, but I kept pushing as hard as I could. My new goal was to finish sub 54 minutes! When I turned the last corner and saw the finish line, I also saw the clock and noticed that I had 30 seconds to finish sub 54 min. In the end, I crossed the finish line in 53:49, a full 3 minutes 8 seconds faster than last year!
I saw Alasdair just past the finish, and found out that at the 5k mark his calf had begun to cramp (which he had feared after a sore calf on his last run before the race), so he had to slow the pace down – nevertheless, he still finished in 47:52. He took advantage of the physiotherapist on site, hoping to get some relief for his calf. The apparent cause of the tightness was a tight right shoulder, which received most of the attention.
I went to check the results board, and was rather surprised to see that I had finished 3rd in my age group! Alasdair had finished 2nd! Walking back to tell him, I hoped that there weren’t only 3 women in my age group! I checked the results on http://chiptimeresults.com and saw that there were 4 runners in my age group, and 3 in Alasdair’s.
We ate our post-race food while we waited for the awards presentation – there was pizza, donuts (I had my first one in years), protein bars, bananas, water and gatorade. When the results for women aged 40-44 were announced, I was called in 1st place. “1st?!” I thought. “How could that be?” Alasdair was then called as the 1st male in the 40-44 category. It turns out that if the people ahead of you win overall (e.g. if they are one of the top 3 athletes among all athletes) they are pulled out of the age categories and you are bumped up a spot (or two). So, we both got gold medals! It was a very first run podium for me!
It turns out there were actually 8 women in my age category, and 5 men in Alasdair’s.
We stayed for the rest of the 10k awards ceremony, and then headed home. What a surprising morning!
Since I missed out on my long run last weekend because of my 4-day winter backcountry snowshoeing adventure at Algonquin Provincial Park, and this weekend because of the race, I decided to go for a 6k run late this afternoon to make up the distance! It was slower than my normal long run pace! Now, I can rest.
Time: 53:49 (5:23 min/km pace) – my fastest run race pace ever!
Women 40-44: 3/8 (1st for the purpose of age group awards)
All women: 8/39 (this is amazing for me!)
All athletes: 31/74 (again, shocking!)
If you like small races that are mostly flat, this one may be for you! Grimsby, we’ll be back!