i've been using a slightly modified version of the pfitzinger/douglas intra-marathon plan to prep for the hamilton marathon since it will have only been seven weeks since the erie marathon. integrated into that plan is a 10k race for this week's tempo run, which i ran today in burlington as part of the MEC race series. the additional incentive to trek all that way was that the event took place in confederation park, the finishing location of the hamilton marathon - so it would give me a chance to feel out and visualize what the home stretch will be like in a couple of weeks.
first off, let me say that the MEC race series is a great community initiative, as it's a non-threatening, value-priced running event that offers everyone from the novice to the experienced athlete an opportunity to compete and enjoy an organized race. kudos to MEC for encouraging activity at the local level!
i didn't make the jaunt down to burlington to pick up my race kit in advance, so together with my friends trevor and lewis i headed out at 5:30am this morning for a 9:10am start. it's about 1h40m to drive from barrie to burlington, so we gave ourselves plenty of time to get trevor registered as well as to pick up kits, grab a coffee, and put in a few warm-up kilometres.
the theme of the trip out to burlington was clarity - we were both discussing the importance of clarity of vision in leadership as well as the clarity of my windshield. it seems that the defogging system on my 1990 mazda 323 doesn't want to work effectively, and so the three of us were peering through smudged/smeared glass as we tried to discern the positioning of our car relative to the painted highway markers as well as to other vehicles. where was the sham-wow when i could have used one ...?
arriving as early as we did, the race organizers had barely set up their tables to receive registrants. nonetheless, trevor managed to complete the requisite form to get into the race, and even managed to pick up his bib before lewis and i (who were standing in line one canopy-tent over). the kit consisted of the bib, ipico timing chip (i'd only seen these used at the us olympic marathon trials, but apparently they were used in the london marathon and were designed especially to overcome challenges in open water swims) and MEC-branded drawstring bag (which i neglected to pick up).
as it was a brisk, overcast morning we decided to risk another quick trip in the mazda over to the local tim horton's to satisfy a coffee fix. it was a short visit, but enough to help us stay warm and kill some time before the pre-race warm-up.
the 10k course itself (there was a half-marathon run that preceded us by 10min., and a 5k run starting at the same time as the 10k) proved only modestly confusing, as there was a bit of winding within the parking lot before opening up on the park roadway and linking up with the lakeshore paved trail.
there was no bike pacer, and only pylons most of the way to help marshal us and ensure that we stayed to the prescribed route - only the aid station (at the 4k mark) was staffed and they were helpful in checking whether we were 5k or 10k runners.
trevor had convinced me to stick with him from the outset, and i should have known from our conversation in the car ("i always seem to start races fast") that we'd be busting it from the get-go. the first two kilometres were 3:39 and 3:58 - just about interval paces for me, but comfortable for trevor. looking ahead of us at that point there were about six runners leading the pack, so we both figured that if we kept to this we'd be pulling in seventh and eighth place. of course we'd forgotten that there were 5k runners in with us, and it wasn't apparent until the 5k turnaround point that we were actually two of the three frontrunners in the 10k.
it was a reasonably taxing run for me throughout - at moments i felt my breathing accelerate and chest tighten (oh no ... shades of the erie marathon bronchoconstriction breakdown!) so i consciously relaxed my posture and stride a bit over a few steps to settle down. otherwise, the conditions were near perfect - about 7°C, no wind, intermittent lake spray/drizzle. all well suited to help me stay close to the pace i'd need to finish up with my goal time of sub-42 min.
as we rounded the bend into the finishing straightaway, trevor encouraged me to give it everything i had left. i'd visualized this moment over the past couple of days, and intuitively knew that i still had a decent kick left in the bank - so i stretched out my fingers to get into a sprinting arm swing and focused on quick and light leg turnover. i'm not sure how the pictures will turn out, but in my mind i was doing my very best mo farah:
who knows if it he was giving it his all, but trevor says that he managed to stay on my heels but couldn't catch me for the finish. so while we crossed the line in 2nd and 3rd place (separated by 0.5s), he would have been a clear second had he run his pace for the entire race. truly an unselfish runner and generous friend.
i noted after we crossed the timing mat that my garmin indicated we'd run 10.19k, so my 'gps time' differs by about 32 seconds. the overall splits were:
trevor and i pretty much continued moving beyond the finish line to get in a 2k cool-down jog, and returned just in time to meet our friend lewis who was rounding the home stretch turn. he'd told us that his goal was to clear 60 min., and when i saw that the clock read 57:51 i started waving my arms wildly to urge him to finish strong. and he did, in 58:23.
while changing into drier and warmer clothes at the car, trevor and i missed the medal presentations. it was really quite a minor affair - especially since the organizer responsible for the medals had forgotten them at the local MEC retail store. so apparently we will receive our spoils 'in the mail'.
all in all, a great road trip with two good friends, an enjoyable race and a confidence-boosting result. a great way to spend a saturday morning!