We’ll run while devil in stitches goes and has his fun

It has been a while, and for that I apologize. Where we left off, I had just run a disappointing season opener at the New Balance Vic Matthews Open in Guelph. My struggles continued for the next few weeks, as I did workouts and mileage on tired legs. Things seemed to turn around eventually, though. On September 30th, I did kilometer repeats in order to prepare for the Canadian 10k Road Race Championships. The workout was 8 X 1km with 90 seconds rest. I had been dreading the workout all day, after constantly feeling as if I were asleep on my feet at work. But by the time I had warmed up and laced up my flats, these worries were gone. After a slower first interval, I proceeded to run faster than my goal pace of 3:35 on each repeat, finishing off with a 3:22. I felt like I was working hard, but not straining. I was feeling so good that the rest seemed to be too long (unlike those days when the rest seems to defy the normal laws of time and pass twice as quickly as it should) and I felt recovered at the start of each interval. It was a good confidence builder, since it was in the middle of a 160k week.

I had hoped that I would have a race in which to validate myself and test my newfound fitness and confidence, but various events conspired against me. I raced the Mustang Open on Thursday in order to get in another solid cross country effort. The race, like the Vic Matthews Open in Guelph, was 4 km for women. I was hoping to run around 14 minutes, since low 3:30s had been feeling pretty good in workouts, and the Gibbons Park course is fairly fast. I figured I would also have some competition, since former CIS champ Deb Buhlers and Liliane Sparks (if I recall correctly, one of my former high school rivals) would be racing for Fanshawe College at the Mustang Open. Finally, I sort of wanted to run a faster pace than Steve, who was racing the men’s 6k, but this was lower on my list of priorities. Sadly, I was only able to fulfill one of my goals for the day. (Spoiler alert: I won the race, thus accomplishing one goal. Why did I barely break 15 minutes? Read on. No more spoilers for you!)

Since the Mustang Open was, as the name suggests, an open race, the field included runners from universities, colleges, clubs, and high school teams. Bronwen and I figured that the race would go out quickly, since many high schoolers (and some girls from certain universities that will remain unnamed) seem to run a 4k race like a 400m sprint. This was indeed the case. After 200m or so, I was in about 20th place, running with a large pack of girls who were sprinting their guts out in the first few hundred meters of the race. Ah, to be young and reckless… As was to be expected, much of this initial lead pack vanished well before the first kilometer. Though the course had some tight turns, I was able to move around these reckless youths without incident. I tucked in with the lead pack, aware that Deb and Liliane were near. Our group went through the first kilometer in 3:30. From there, my two Fanshawe rivals took the lead. The pace slowed somewhat, but I think we still managed to put some distance between our pack of three and the next group back. Since the stretch at the end of the 2k loop was rather windy, I was content to tuck in behind Deb and Liliane. We reached the 2k mark in 7:10. I wanted to pick up the pace, but I was wary of taking the lead too early in the race. In any case, I missed my chance because chaos ensued at the beginning of the second 2k loop. To better explain what went wrong, I’ve prepared a visual aid.

The course (ie, the way we were supposed to go):

The way we ran during the race:

Now, you might be thinking, “why did you go that way?” Perhaps there is no single answer. Perhaps it was because the ground was trampled along the path we took. Perhaps it was because the white line on the ground demarcating where we were supposed to go was faded after the elementary school race on Tuesday. Perhaps it was our failure to understand that we were to run two identical loops in succession in order to complete the 4k race. One might also ask, “Leslie, don’t you know the course?” Yes, I have run the course before, but at the time I was focused on the two runners ahead of me. Many things were running through my head after that first loop. I simply followed Deb and Liliane. Soon enough, it became apparent to us that something was wrong. First, Bob Vigars started shouting, attempting to inform us that we were going off course. Next I noticed an arrow along the line we were following, pointing in the opposite direction to the one we were running. Next, the spectators started yelling at us. And finally, when we looked to our left, we saw a stream of runners going in the correct direction (about 50 meters to our left). Our little group realized what had happened all at once, and someone said something to the effect of “oh crap, what do we do?” I pointed to my left and said, “we cut over that way.” So we all made a ninety-degree turn and ran over to get back on course. There weren’t very many runners ahead of us by the time we got back where we were supposed to be, some of which had gone the right way from the beginning, and others who had simply course-corrected earlier than we had. We passed most of them early on, but two runners (Erika Houde-Pearce from Fanshawe and Laura Desjardins from Western) had a gap on us (I think they followed us off-course at first, but they corrected earlier than our group did and found themselves in the lead). At some point around the three-kilometer mark, I surged in an attempt to close the gap between our group and Erika and Laura. Once I picked up the pace, I was able to reel them in fairly quickly and take the lead. I looked over my shoulder to see if Deb and Liliane had followed me, but I had dropped them with my little move. As I rounded the tennis courts (after which it is a straight 500 meter-long stretch to the finish), I saw that I had a decent gap on Erika and Laura. In this final 500 meter straightaway, I tried to push the pace to keep my lead, but I wasn’t killing myself. I made it to the finish line without any mishaps, since the route was pretty straightforward at this point.

In the end, my time was 14:58. And I wasn’t disqualified for going off-course, since I was one of the three women who had run further that anyone else in the race (and of course, further than the actual race distance of four kilometers). It didn’t matter to me, because going off-course only affected my time, not my placing (and everyone knows that times don’t matter in cross country anyway, right? Right?) While it would have been nice to run a fast time, I wasn’t about to get upset about running 14:58 for a 4080m (ish) race. Even if we had stayed on course, the pace slowed after the first kilometer, and I would have needed to push a bit harder than I actually did after the one kilometer mark in order to run 14-flat. I chose to play it safe and go for the win instead of being an “early season time-trial hero” (cousin to the “workout hero” and a sibling of the “peaking in September hero”), which is fine with me. I was happy that the first kilometer actually felt easy, as opposed to my previous race in Guelph where I got dropped and thought I was going to die in the first quarter of the race. It was also nice to feel like I was running smoothly on a cross country surface, which is something I need to work up to every cross country season after running on the roads all summer in Markham.

After the Mustang Open, it was back to Markham for some lonely training before the Canadian 10k Road Race Championships at the Toronto Zoo. My training was going very well prior to this race, but if you have seen the results from this past weekend, you may have guessed that the race itself went poorly. I’ll save the agony and despair of the race for my next blog. For now, I’ll get on with the stuff that everyone really cares about: mileage totals.

September 20th – 26th: 92.6 miles (149 km). This included a 16k steady run, and some 3 min on/1 min jog sets on Saturday with the club. I really should have written a blog after Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis’s great races at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, but Steve went a wrote a blog that said a bunch of things that I agree with but I wouldn’t have thought up on my own and some other things that he said better than I could have, so I didn’t bother to write my own.

September 27th – October 3rd: 101.2 miles (163 km). I did the 8 X 1k workout that I mentioned at the beginning of this blog during this week, along with some threshold work, and a decent amount of easy mileage, of course.

October 4th – 10th: 82.9 miles (133 km). Here I started to back off slightly in order to be fresh for my 10k on October 16th. I raced the Mustang Open and did some road work on Sunday.

This brings us up to last week, which I will detail in my next blog. Thus, my dear readers, I shall end this overly long and self-indulgent story and leave you with some music like the cool bloggers do. Bad Religion (possibly my favourite band, ever) released a new album a few weeks ago, so I’ve decided to sample the new and the old. This is the first single from the new album:

Devil in Stitches

And just so I can prove that I am a real punk rocker and a true fan who insists “their older stuff was better!” (ok, it actually was*), I shall throw in some of my favourite older Bad Religion songs.

Do What You Want

No Control

I Want to Conquer the World

I suppose I could go on about how this band changed my life and helped me survive my high school years, but this is supposed to be a running blog! Plus, I’m behind on my race reports, so I must finish my painful story about my 10k before I talk about irrelevant things such as music.


* Yes, I like Bad Religion’s older music better, but I still enjoy the new stuff. Even their so-called worst albums are good (so long as you exclude Into the Unknown).

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