16 May 2014

race report - MEC Barrie 2014 Race Series Two

after having just run the mississauga marathon, i had already planned to participate in the MEC barrie 2014 race series two (hey, at $15 for any distance you can't go wrong) but to only go for the 10k distance as a bit of a shake-out run.  however, i made an intentional decision to treat the race in mississauga as more of a training run (even though i delivered a PB and a BQ time) and so went right back into my six-runs-a-week training approach in anticipation of my A-race at the Limberlost Challenge.  given how i was feeling, i made a brash-ish call and let my friend lewis know that i would instead be willing to pace him to a 2-hour half-marathon for the MEC event.  this would be my second go at being an unofficial 'Team Skechers' pacer.

i registered on-site at the MEC barrie retail location and picked up my kit at the same time.  it really is a no-muss-no-fuss process, made easier by the fact that there is no chip timing for this series of races (at least not until the registration numbers climb a bit higher - or so i'm told).  what's great about this super-affordable kind of event is that you still are provided with a handful of clif bars or gels, which is almost always the best part of a race kit package for me.

race day
lewis and his wife picked me up on the morning of the race, and we headed into orillia together.  given that we were only tackling 21k and at a very manageable pace for me i didn't have a huge breakfast - but out of respect for the fact that this was still a race and i had a responsibility to lewis, i did wake up the prescribed four hours before start time and followed a very similar routine as i had the weekend before.  a race is a race.

the OELC grounds was a-buzz with activity when we arrived - including race organizers and participants, but also other groups who had rented space there and were conducting team-building activities.  it almost had the feel of a mid-to-large scale race based on the sheer number of bodies moving around the site.

while the sun was out when we first arrived, it ducked in and out from behind cloud cover and there was a decent breeze afoot which made for deceptively cooler conditions.  not a problem for me as i find 5-10°C pretty much optimal running weather, but we would need to account for the wind as a factor both in terms of pacing effort and (de)hydration.

i figured that a pacer in funky lunatik athletiks socks would be easy to follow ...

we saw a number of familiar faces milling around near the start line, including our friends jim willett, steve elliott, sean rootham and marc dyson.  jim was the official timer once again, while steve was attempting a sub-1:30 half and sean and marc tackling the 10k.

first 5k - 28:17

my plan was to run as even a race as possible - if not for lewis' sake then for my own so that i didn't blow out my still-recovering legs.  of course we went out fast than our required 5:41/km (covering the first km in 5:33) but it still felt pretty controlled and conservative. 

at just about the 5k mark we hit our first aid station (water only) and took some early drinks.  i shared with lewis the 'finger-in/pinch' technique for picking up cups and drinking on the run (which in the end may have turned into a detrimental tactic and learning this new trick apparently swayed lewis off of his original game plan of walking through some of the drink tables).  at this point we also looked back and noticed a couple of runners just a few metres behind us and discovered that they were trying to latch to us since my "unofficial 2:00 pacer" sign was pinned to the back of my shirt.  with that in mind, i felt great about now having the opportunity to pace/coach/encourage some other runners to hit the same goal ... nevermind that they had "GO LIKE NEVER BEFORE" staring them in the face as well!

km 6-10:  28:24

the rolling hills of this particular lakeside course started to become apparent through this stretch, and we also began to contend with headwinds after some turnaround points.

i think that it was during this time that i really noticed that we had a decent police presence (for road marshalling/closures) and appreciated it very much.  again, for a budget-priced event this was a real bonus to have officers and cruisers available to keep us safe, along with the fantastic volunteers along the way.

as we headed toward our first turnaround point we saw steve coming back toward us in what looked to be fourth position.  he looked really strong and reported that he'd cleared 10k in under 40 minutes ... making me extremely envious/jealous.  oh, to be 29 again ...!

i also took my first gel at 8k, and found out that lewis had planned to not take anything in terms of nutrition for this run.  i was a little skeptical but certainly didn't want to monkey around with his day any more than i already had.

km 11-15:  28:25

steady as she goes ... i offered some ideas to lewis about how to take advantage of drafting off of a pacer at this point because i was still feeling very good, but could hear his breathing a little more prominently now.  we also saw one of our fellow 2:00 pace groupers fall off by about two minutes, so the elevation changes and wind were taking a bit of a toll.  the climb to km 15 was also a bit of a doozy, taking us up 19m to the peak point.

km 16-21:  35:05

the home stretch was a tough go for my man lewis.  first off there was a turnaround just after 15k to bring us back up that nasty hill for a full, long 21m climb.  also, as i reached for my second gel lewis indicated that his stomach was feeling empty and that perhaps he'd need to review his nutrition plan for races.  i offered to him my second gel as it was a plain-jane vanilla flavoured one which i'd hoped would not upset his already taxed GI system but might offer a final kick for the end.  he gratefully received it and we both hoped that it would not be too little too late.

trying to stay on target as best as possible, lewis faded back by about 25 seconds after the long hill climb and so i spent the next km or so turning around (and even running backwards for a stretch) shouting encouragements and little mental cues to him (e.g. "focus on a quicker not longer stride", "if you catch up to me you can benefit from the drafting", "use the downhill to your advantage").  like any determined runner lewis broke through the wall and we reconnected with about 1.5km to the finish.

i don't know whether or not i'd fallen off of the pace in trying to make sure that the imaginary elastic did not break, or if the final uphill climb to the finish did it, or if i relied too much on garmin measurements but we crossed the finish line in 2:00:10 (for lewis) and 2:00:11 (me).  i really wanted to get lewis in under 2:00, but as our friend jim said to me afterwards many races provide a 59 second buffer, so lewis could quite legitimately consider himself a 2:00 half-marathoner.

gun-time:  2:00:11 / garmin time:  2:00:11 (21.26 km)

right at the finish line our buddy steve was there cheering us on with his wife and baby daughter.  steve had clocked an outstanding 1:28:30 for fourth place overall - so we were proud to have our photo taken with him.

i'm standing in a ditch ... no, really, i am!

we didn't hang out too long even though there were complimentary sports massages available (again, how great is that for such an affordable race?).  we did see a few of our other 'pace group' runners navigate the finish (in 2:01:32 and 2:08:39).  aside from lewis' fantastic effort, the highlight for me might well have been hearing one guy tell me "you were so inspiring" and that it helped him to finish as well as he did.  mission accomplished.

the only thing i'd change on the entire day?  making sure that i cross in under the pacing time designated.  whether i was assigned to a specific runner or not, that's twice now that i've come in just over the target time.

oh well - i get another shot in october when i serve (officially) as a 3:30 pacer for the county marathon.  and by gum, i will get those people across in under 3:30!




  1. Now I want to run the county marathon, with your pacing, I know I could do 3:30 for sure!

    1. thanks anna! while i've not run the county marathon before, i've heard that it's a gorgeous run and a great place to qualify for Boston!