It was a weekend of triumph and defeat. Why defeat? Because I lost perhaps the most important contest of all: the Steve Weiler vs. Leslie Sexton Championship Prediction Contest. This year, before the OUA and CIS championships, Steve and I wrote out our top three picks in each distance event. I lost both. Guess what happened this time around? Strangely enough, the event in which I earned the fewest points was the women’s 5000m. I picked Wright for first, Schaaf for second, and Wodak for third. Unfortunately for my predictions (but fortunately for me when I was actually running the race), the top two seeds did not toe the line. I only earned half a point in the event, because I picked myself as the dark horse. Everything else was wrong. I did a little better in other events on Friday (day one of our prediction contest), taking the lead when we tallied the day’s points. But of course, history had to repeat itself on Saturday as Steve surged into the lead and took the win. I was pretty upset about it. I’m zero-for-three now, and it hurts. I’ll need to redeem myself when Junior Nationals roll around to stitch up this terrible wound. I should note that we have $0 riding on this — I simply have a huge debt in pride.
On a happier note, I won the 5000m. It was definitely an unexpected victory. I knew that when the top two seeds DNSed, I had a shot at a medal. I felt good on race day (my legs had that “itching to go fast” feeling on the warm up, which I know means that I’m ready to go), but the effects of altitude were still unknown to me. I planned to start conservatively and settle in the pack so that I could come on strong in the last 2k of the race and take advantage of other runners’ mistakes (which, I figured, would be even more costly at altitude). The pack went out at what normally would be a reasonable pace for me, hitting 2k in 6:41. I hung on as best as I could, but I definitely noticed that the pace felt harder than it normally would have. The pack put a small gap on me a few times, but I stayed stubborn and was able to grind my way back up to them each time. I passed Ashley Hinther before 3k and latched onto the lead pack as she started to fall off. With five laps to go, the pack was down to four women and I felt increasingly confident. The pace had slowed down a bit and there was only 2k to go, so I was feeling fresh and ready to rock. I told myself to be patient and tucked in on the inside rail at the back of the back. With three laps to go, Tamara Jewett made a huge move that completely broke apart the field. My legs seemed to respond faster than my brain at this point, as I found myself surging ahead of the other two runners to follow Tamara. She looked so strong at that point; it took all I had to keep the gap between us from increasing. I was starting to really feel it there, but my mind quickly went from astonished to be in second, to race mode where I needed to catch Tamara and I wouldn’t be happy with anything less than the win. I told myself, “relax, she went too early, she went too early.” I maintained the gap for another lap and started to move up with about 700m to go. I caught Tamara with 500m to go in the race, started a long kick, and moved right on by her. I ran scared for the final lap. My legs started really burning with 200m to go; it felt like I had to force every single step towards the finish. I tried not to look back. There was nothing more I could have done at that point. I was all out, in pain, and I had no more gears. I crossed the finish line in disbelief, stumbled for a few steps, and then my legs just gave out. I was sprawled out on the track, legs feeling like they were on fire, yet I felt the euphoria of victory.
In the end, after by far the most painful 5000m race I’ve ever run, I walked away with the gold medal and an awesome cowboy hat (yes, the medallists at this race got cowboy hats. Calgary, I’m sorry about all of the mean things I’ve said and will say about you because of your altitude, dryness, and cold weather. You’re awesome.) But most importantly, I got some serious scalps. Getting scalps is important. I got lots of scalps at 1500m night, but they were mostly high school/junior/youth scalps. This time my scalps included people who have made national teams and run times like 16:1X for 5000m and 1:16 for the half marathon. But I still haven’t paid my debt of scalps to Weiler and de Witt. Back to work for me.
I will talk more about the rest of my trip next time. For now, I’m focused on running a fast time at the Forest City 5k (which is actually a 5000m…it’s important to distinguish) in London on Thursday. The championships are done; now it’s about running fast. Scalps are still important, though. I’ll get more scalps.