17 January 2018

Race report(s) - 2017-18 Snowflake Series (5k/5k/10k/5k)

Redemption is mine!

Or at least a bit of it ...

You may or may not recall (I certainly do!) that last year I posted my first DNS ever - I did not make it to the start line of the final race of the Snowflake Series in Orillia, and in so doing missed out on the opportunity to vie for the top finisher spot in my age-group.  Mind you, after all was said and done I wasn't terribly heartbroken about it since my good pal James Hennessy managed to claim the brass ring for our bracket - and that left me with something/someone to gun for in 11 months' time.

Fast forward to this past December and the first of the 2017-18 Snowflake Series races.  Once again I'd decided (a bit to my new coach's chagrin) to sign up for the whole set of four (5k, 5k, 10k and 5k) and use it just as an opportunity to get in some good winter workouts.  I've noted before how strong the running community is in and around Orillia, and add to that there is often an appearance from members of the Georgian College cross-country team and you get a pretty lively and competitive field even in the dodgiest of winter weather.

And this season did not disappoint - perhaps least of all in the weather department.

At least this race took place on dry roads - I went into it with zero expectations since it came at the end of my first real week back to running after a three-week complete layoff.  The conditions were pleasant enough (just above freezing) and there were more than a few friendly and familiar faces in attendance.  One gentleman named Doug introduced himself to me, having recognized me from some church circles in which we moved around together - this turned out to be a serendipitous meeting of sorts as I basically drafted off of this 6'3'' footer for the first half of the race.  I was surprised at how steady a pace I kept throughout this race, picking off racers ahead of me from the 3km mark on.  I managed to complete the run in a slightly quicker time than I had guessed I would (20:39) and even clocked a negative split of all things.  This was solid enough to land me 10th overall, and 1st in the 40-49 age-group.

Me and the Snowflake Series AG champ!

Ah, all good things come to an end ... the temps had dipped well into sub-freezing category and this resulted in snow-packed and ice-covered roads comprising our course.  The ambient conditions were favourable enough though and all things being equal I was happy to have come across the timing mat in 21:13, especially since this was my first race since starting the strength workout plan provided to me by coach Mike.  Once again I found myself to have started reasonably strong and not to have lost any places throughout the heart of the race, although I tried my level best to catch up to the speedy Cait Foisy (not successful BTW).  Still I flubbed over the finish line in 7th overall, maintaining my top position in the AG rankings.

This is always going to be my favourite event of the series because it is run on Jan.1st, regardless of what day of the week it might be.  There's really no better way (for me) to kick off a new year, and given that I can hardly stay up past 9pm anymore there's no reason that I can't be perky for a 10:00am run on the first day after the turn of the calendar.

This was a true tundra run, closing in on -33°C with the windchill (and feeling every bit of that) and the roadways once again a combination of ice and compressed snow.  In a strange way this actually kept slippage to a minimum, but still I had in mind (and on feet) the idea to try something different and affix dollar-store traction devices around the forefoot pad of my shoes.  By now many of you will know that I will ridiculously try things for the first time on race day (against all conventional wisdom) and in this case I'm glad that I at least tried a warm-up run with them on as I quickly discovered that they slipped around and off around the top of my toes quite easily ... so I ditched them in the snow beside the starting chute and decided to give 'er without them.

The first 5 km was run fairly conservatively as I had no idea who was leading the 10k pack and who was going to wrap it up after 5k (as both were options on the day) - I ended up trying to dial in behind a man and woman who were running together:  she was shorter and slighter in build whereas he was at least 6'3" with a shuffling-type gait.  Through the heart of the race (km 3-7) I couldn't gain any ground on them and sat just about 75m on their tail, but with only 3km to go I tried to pick up my cadence a bit and found myself closing the gap on the gentleman while his female running-mate had busted out some turbos of her own and shot out ahead.

Charging the last hill with less than a kilometre to go I passed my draft-worthy friend and shouted a quick encouragement of "don't let up man!" and pressed on toward the finish.  I wouldn't catch his lady-friend (who turned out to be former Snowflake Series race director and 2012 Canadian Marathon Championship winner Lisa Avery, and was technically done after the first 5k) but held my ground despite being hunted down over the final minute.  When the (ice)dust settled, the board showed me at 3rd overall in the 10k, and still in the lead for the AG.

Again, it was a win just to show up for this race!  With the gap between the New Year's Day race and this one being only six days I confess to having felt a bit sluggish but eager to try to wrest the crown away from James (who'd been pretty much nipping at my heels all series long).  The conditions on the day were a little more favourable than on Jan. 1, though most of Ontario was still being battered by an extended polar-vortex period and the windchill provided a full-on blast of -25°C to the face.  It may have been a combination of mushy snow and ice underfoot, or tired legs, or just plain not-my-day but it was tough slugging for the entire 5k for this final outing ... and were it not for a last blast of adrenaline as I heard footsteps hunting me down over the last 150m (yes, it was James trying to strike a last minute KO blow!) I probably would have posted my least satisfying result for the series.  In the end I still clocked a slow-ish time but it was good enough for 6th overall and a lock on top spot in the series for us 40-49ers.

It was another great year of hosting by Jeff, Kyle, Harry and the other organizers with Rotoract Orillia, despite the conditions apparently resulting in a decline in registrations this season.  Although I couldn't attend the 'closing ceremonies' (which involved plenty of snacks, pizza and overall awards) I sure do hope that they managed to collect a goodly amount of food donations for The Sharing Place Food Bank over the course of the four events.

This will definitely be on my hit list again for 2018-19 (I can't not defend the crown ...)!  Thanks also to Endurance Tap for fueling these wobbly wheels of mine through the racing miles!

I hope that you all have a fantastic kick-off to your 2018 season!

#fuelsimply #keepitnatural #TeamTap #RunNinjas #werunthistown