First Race of 2017
What: MEC Toronto Race One
Where: Martin Goodman Trail
When: January 22, 2017 at 9:10am
Cost: $15 (awesome)
Leading up this race, I was, of course, feeling non-committal, wanting to see what kind of shape I (thought I) was in the few days prior to the weekend. My attendance at the track workouts had been pretty spotty since we had moved it indoors, partly because of a nasty cold in December, an on-going GI issue since September, laziness, and fear of injury from those tight indoor turns. In January, my weeks usually had at least one track workout, a bunch of filler miles, and the occasional tempo-ish/long interval workout on the weekend.
The Monday before the race, I did a 3x1600m workout indoors and wanted to see if I could hold 3:45/km (6:00/1600m) pace for the entire workout, which called for an active 3:30 recovery between the intervals. I was able to hold 3:45/km pace for the workout –but man alive, it felt very hard. Both lungs and legs were screaming by the end and I crawled home from the track at my standard 6:00+/km recovery pace. Despite the struggle of that workout, I still wanted to take out the race in 3:45/km pace and see if I could hold on. Aggressive, yes, especially since my PB is 19:07 (just under 3:50/km pace) and I felt nowhere near PB shape, but the worst that could happen (I thought) would be a bit of a blow-up at the end. And at least, this would be a good exercise in mental strength.
To this end, I enlisted the help of a friend, Nate, who said he’d be happy to pace me for the 5k and would also incorporate it into his tempo run for the weekend. Great! I was very pleased and grateful to have his help since the race course would most likely be windy down by the lake and also because it would save me the time and energy of checking my pace during the race.
That morning we met briefly before the race and he checked in to see at what pace I’d like to start. My previous thoughts of 3:45/km seemed a bit daunting in that moment (following some unpleasant GI activity that morning), but Nate said: I came here to pace you to a PB, so that’s what we’re going to do. Just the kick in the ass I needed (I thought).
Okay, so I’m not sure if I’m doing a very good job of creating a sense of foreshadowing of some sort of impending disaster since my hand in narrative techniques is sorely out of practice, but –something bad is about to happen.
You know how these community races are: as you line up at the start, there are inevitably those runners who, how do I put this gently (realistically), probably should be lined up further back in the pack based on their ability. I was tucked in about the third row from the front, with Nate slightly behind me (he said after the unavoidable first 500m gong-show of over-eager sprinters, he would get in front of me and let the pacing begin), taking note of the other runners around me and who may or may not be going around my goal pace, as well as looking ahead to the slightly bottle-necking route and the notable hazards of both a pylon and a yellow concrete pole.
Not to be a total dick, but I saw a couple runners in front of me that I knew I wanted to get around quickly, so when the gun went off, I went out hard. Unfortunately, my need to get around said runners seems to have over-ridden my previous surveying of the hazards immediately ahead, and while I nearly missed tripping over the pylon that was placed 10m from the start, as a runner directly in front of me side-stepped the neighbouring yellow concrete pole, I, unfortunately, front-stepped into the concrete pole with my inner (very inner) thigh and with the force of my 3:45/km-hopeful body behind it.
The next thing I knew, I was down on the ground, the crowd streaming by me, and not completely comprehending what had just happened (Why am I on the ground?!).
I turned and heard Nate’s voice: “Is this race over?”
I still didn’t really understand what had happened, but what I did know at that moment was that I was wasting precious seconds (and my Garmin was continuing to record all of this down-time), that Nate had come all the way to the race to pace me, and that I had never pulled out of a race before and I was sure as hell not going to DNF on my ass.
“Let’s go,” I said. And off we went.
We hauled ass to get back on pace for the first kilometer, which clocked in at 3:47 (!!). I did not feel great. My leg was throbbing and I think my speed at that point was part adrenaline and part embarrassment. I ended up running a 19:19, which was 12 seconds off my PB, and included the crash and fall. My splits were: 3:47/3:52/3:53/3:54/3:52. I knew mid-race that I was slowing down and I tried to bring myself back under 3:50/km pace but I didn’t have the legs or the grit. Based on how hard it felt (especially compared to the PB back in September) and the few seconds of down-time, however, I feel that it was not a bad race.
Again, I am very grateful for my pacer and his encouragement, as well as for the company of a couple friends who also raced that day. I am also very grateful that I did not hit the pole a couple inches over, damaging some precious bits, and more likely to have led to a DNF.