10 miles. The possibility of winning $1000. How bad could it be? Well…
OK, it wasn’t that bad. But the Acura Ten Miler took me to a rather uncomfortable place. No, not the back of a Volkswagen. I’m talking about the last few miles of long(ish) race where one can still run fast, but it isn’t very much fun. Especially when you’re terrified because you just passed Nicole Stevenson and you’re having a “you will not take my delicious sandwich” moment. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
My legs didn’t feel great during the first few kilometers. The pace felt fast, though I didn’t feel like I was aerobically strained. I missed the first kilometer split, but I timed the 2k mark at 7:12 (3:36 per km). My legs were feeling a bit better after this, and I was relieved to see the two leading women break off at the turnaround for the 5k race. I was running in a group of women that included Nicole Stevenson and Josiane Aboungono.
Some of the women seemed to slow at this point, but Nicole kept hammering away, and managed to put some distance on our group in the next few kilometers. I actually didn’t realize that it was Nicole Stevenson ahead of me. This was probably a good thing, since I would have most likely would have thought at the time that I had no business running with a big name like Nicole Stevenson. I didn’t jump on her pace right away, allowing a small gap to form between the two of us. My plan at the time was to keep Nicole in view and to wait for an opportunity to move up if she started to slow in the second half of the race. All along the Leslie St. spit, I focused on staying smooth while trying not to allow the gap from Nicole and myself to grow. I was lucky enough to have some help with pacing on this stretch. I ran alongside star masters runner Jerry Kooymans for a while, though he unfortunately fell off the pace due to the heat.
(As an aside, Jerry’s son and daughter both went to school at Markville Secondary School, so I ran cross country with each of them at one point or another.) I also spent some time running with team Running Free athlete Scott McDonell. It’s too bad I don’t have a picture of the two of us running side by side, because I imagine it would have looked pretty cool. Scott was very even in his pacing, so during that stretch I was able to click off kilometer splits in the high 3:30s pretty consistently and keep the gap Nicole had on me from growing. It was great to see a familiar face out on the course and to have someone to work with.
I hit a rough patch between eight and ten kilometers. My halfway split was 29:17. I struggled mentally at this point, likely due to the knowledge that I was only halfway, it was getting hot out, and I was getting tired. I got through this bad spot by forcing myself to stay with Scott. Things were looking up by the 10k mark, which I passed in about 36:20 or so. At this point I realized that I was starting to make up ground on Nicole. Since I my splits were pretty even, I figured that she was slowing a bit and my best chance to take the win was to make the pass with confidence and attempt to run some faster kilometers in order to build up a lead. I made the pass somewhere between ten and eleven kilometers. As I pulled up, Nicole gave me a few words of encouragement. I wasn’t nearly as polite, since I feared that speaking might cause me to pass out and die. I made the pass and tried to put in a surge, though I only managed to drop the pace by a few seconds per kilometer. For the rest of the race, I was running scared. For the first time, I was the lead woman in a major road race. Yet I still had five kilometers to run while in the grips of fear that Nicole was right on my heels and waiting for the moment when I faltered. My legs were in pain during this stretch, so I couldn’t estimate my pace very well, but I managed to drop to 3:35 per kilometer. While the last 5km of the race was the most uncomfortable stretch of the race, it was also my fastest stretch. Eventually I checked over my shoulder and realized that I had put a significant gap on Nicole. I pushed hard when I passed the 15k mark on Lakeshore Boulevard, running the last kilometer in 3:32. From there it was less than 100m to the finish.
Apparently I haven’t yet worked out how to go through the finish line without looking like a complete idiot, because my photo is pretty brutal. I probably sounded like an idiot during my post-race interview, since I was exhausted and incoherent.
The full interview is here. As for post-race, you should look at Reid Coolsaet’s blog and follow his example rather than mine. I was able to drink some water after the race, but my stomach couldn’t handle anything more than that (a bit of Gatorade nearly made me sick). I also had to work in the afternoon, but that’s how it goes.
Despite the pain of the latter stages of the race, I had a great time on Sunday. The folks at the Canada Running Series put on a great race. And it was a great feeling to get my first win at a road race that was a pretty big deal. Most of my road race wins have been at smaller (but nevertheless excellent) local road races, so it was nice to race a more competitive event and and come out with “the dubya.”
In case you didn’t click on the links, here are the stats. Gun time: 58:24.8. Average pace: 3:38 per kilometer. Five mile split: 29:18. Split from five to ten miles: 29:07. My last 5km (from 11km to 16km): 17:54 (based on adding up the splits on my watch). A really good effort!