2017 was a pretty crazy year for me. I know I said the same thing last January about 2016, but somehow 2017 managed to out-crazy the year before. Between my battle with plantar fasciitis which had me down and out for 5 months, to my epic and gruelling recovery from injury that brought me to the start line in Chicago, to my ultimate collapse under the sun at kilometre 40 of that same race, 2017 is certainly a year that I'll never forget. Many highs, many more lows. Are countless lessons.
So here we are. New year. New plans. New goals.
Yes, I am fully recovered from Chicago, both mentally and physically. Yes, I still love running. And yes, I am running a spring marathon. I've signed up for the Cornwall Marathon in late April.
"Cornwall?" most people ask. "Why...?"
I understand that question. My last three marathon were in major cities with tens of thousands of other runners. Toronto. Boston. Chicago. And now...Cornwall? The small, industrial city nestled between the 401 and St Lawerence River may not offer the big city spectacle that I'm used to, or the massive crowds of runners and spectators (the race is capped at 250 people), but it does have a few key things going for it.
- Early spring race - after my episode in Chicago, I've strategically picked a race earlier in the year before the temperatures get too high
- Boston Qualifier - if all goes well, my plan is re-qualify for the Boston Marathon and return to Hopkinton in 2019.
- Close to home - only about a 90 minute drive from home, this race is right in my backyard. Not only is there less travel involved (I might drive down the morning of) but I'll likely save myself $1,000 in flights, hotels, etc.
So that's the plan, folks. After a month of solid base building in which I slowly built up my volume to about 60-70 kilometres a week, I officially started my 16 week marathon training program last week. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited.
Richmond Road Races
A few weeks back my buddy Scott started getting on me about running the Richmond Road Race 10K with him. He loves racing, maybe more than running itself. Scott is one of the most passionate and competitive runners I know. I was intrigued, but I was also hesitant.
"I'm not really in racing shape" I told him.
"So what?" he responded. "It's just for fun. Plus, you've never done a 10K!"
This was true. 5 marathons and 7 half marathons, but I've never raced a 10K race before. After humming and hawing about it for a week, I decided to sign up. What was there to lose? I knew I loved racing and it would be a good test of where my speed was at. Even though I'd been building up my mileage lately, I hadn't done any kind of speed work, so I was really unsure about what kind of legs I would have. I conservatively set my goals:
- A goal - sub 40:00
- B goal - sub 42:00
- C goal - don't fall and finish without hypothermia
After a quick 3km warm up with Scott and our fellow Ottawa City Run Club friends Alex and Blair, we toed the start line. It was sunny, but cold as hell. -25 at least.
We took off fast. About a minute into the race I glanced down at my watch and my pace was 3:30, far faster than I needed to reach my goal and in all honesty, fast enough for me to ruin my race early. So I scaled back, as did my friends. We ran in a tight little pack for the first kilometre or so. As we approached in 1st kilometre mark, I glanced down at my watch only to see that it had froze at 0.42km.
"This is instant karma" I told myself. Why? Well, in our warm up Scott was talking about how his watch had been freezing on him lately due to the arctic-like temperatures we'd been having in Ottawa.
"My watch never freezes" I gloated.
The run gods quickly put me in my place.
So there I was, running my first 10K race in minus 25 degree weather, with no watch to keep me in check. I was going to have to run this one based on feel. I knew how fast Scott planned on running and also knew that Blair and Alex planned on going under 40 minutes as well. So I kind of just went with it.
The group slowly started to spread out. By kilometre 5 Scott had peeled away from us a bit and was about 40-50 metres ahead of me. Blair and Alex were behind me - I had no idea how far though. The 5km mark was the only one on the course that had a clock. 19:07 it read as I passed. "Okay" I thought. "If I even split, I'll finish with a 38:15. I'd be stoked with that!
While the pace was heavy and fast, it was manageable. It got more challenging as the kilometres ticked by, but since this race was so short it was pretty easy to hang on. Only 4 more kilometres. 3 more. 2 more. 1 more. Hang in there.
During the final kilometre, the 10K course met back up with 5K course. It was a bit chaotic because all of sudden the front group of the 10K racers were running alongside the mid pack 5K runners. Our paces were very different.
About 750 metres to go, I heard some heavy and fast footsteps behind me, getting closer and closer. "That has to be a 10K racer" I thought to myself as I buckled down and held strong. I was certain it was Blair, who is an experienced racer. I'd been expecting him to throw down a late surge on my all morning. Or, it could be Alex. She's also insanely fast and could easily take me down in a foot race.
But it was neither. It was Maureen Mahoney, last year's female winner. She's well known in these parts - always a serious threat in local races. She pulled even with me and promptly passed me. My competitive edge took over and I threw down a surge of my own. With less than 250 metres to go, we were neck in neck, both giving it our all. The cold air seared my lungs and my legs begged for mercy. But I kept pushing and gave it one last kick to inch ahead of her, finishing 0.8 seconds ahead of her.
As I flew through the finish under a 3:30/km pace, I stumbled to a stop near a snowbank where I almost puked. That surge nearly put me over the top. After a brief coughing fit, I caught my breath and found Maureen to congratulate and thank her for the push. She nodded back as she too tried to catch her breath.
37:54. 6th overall and 1st in my category (M 20-29).
Oh, and it was a personal best :)
I turned back to the finish to find all my pals right there. They all friggin' rocked it out there.
Scott finished in 37:15, 4th overall. He is a true speedster. He left us in his dust early and never looked back.
Alex finished in 37:59. Alex had an awesome race and threw down a wicked PB. She finished only 4 seconds back of Maureen and was the 2nd woman overall.
Blair finished in 38:35, not far behind us and 9th overall. Dude's been putting in a ton of work lately and is in great shape. He's gonna kill it this race season.
Great work to everyone who laced them up to race on a cold January day in Ottawa. We are brave souls. Thanks to the folks at Run Ottawa, Bushtakah and my former high school, South Carleton for putting on such a fun and well-organized event. This race is true to it's motto: Run Fast or Freeze!