If this ground started cracking, my heart would too

Well, I’ve “completed the set,” so to speak. For months I’ve been joking about how I have a gold and a bronze medal in the 5000m from the two national championships I’ve run, so I needed to get a silver at the Canadian Half Marathon Championships to complete the set. And then I could retire or frame them or something. And what do you know, I go run the half in Montreal and I get the frakking silver.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m happy with how I raced. Well, not really. The positives are that I had a nice time in Montreal and my race was decent. Once again, Alan Brookes and the Canada Running Series folks put on a great race. I got to room with my Toronto Waterfront Half buddy Kate Bazeley, who won the race. I’m happy that Kate ran so well and didn’t make fun of me too much on Friday when I was suddenly obsessed with watching Storage Wars (I blame taper madness).

I felt alright early in the race, but not great. My first few kilometers were a bit fast, so I backed off and ran comfortably. Kate was on a mission or something because she dropped me and I wasn’t interested in running 35-flat 10k pace early on. So I hung back, following the plan of going out conservatively and then hammering the last 10k or so to do a negative split. It didn’t really work out that way. I felt like I made up some ground on Kate a few times throughout the race, but then I would turn into the wind and lose what I had gained. I really fell apart just after the 14k mark and unfortunately I still had a third of the race to go. There were several kilometer splits in the high 3:40s, but at the time I felt there wasn’t much I could do about it other than maintaining the effort and trying to hold on to second place. The gap Kate had on me got bigger. I stopped thinking about Kate and went into survival mode.

There was some late-race drama as I had to fight pretty hard to hold my runner-up spot. At the 18k mark, I paid for my slow pace as Erin MacLean comes up and passes me like I’m standing still. I tried to snap out of my exhausted rubber-legged stupor and go with her as best as I could. I drew even with Erin at 19k and got a bit excited (read: stupid). I put in a surge which didn’t last long and caused me to fall off badly about thirty seconds later. Erin put a small gap on me again and I went back into survival mode until 20k when I thought “screw this, I don’t want to be third.” I pressed pretty hard to draw even with Erin again and then kicked the pace up another notch to go past her. I was pretty worried that I had mistimed things, because if I had gone too early the race volunteers would have had to scrape me off of the course, but I made it across the line, so I guess I had enough to make it home. I “outkicked” Erin (I probably wasn’t running that fast at the end, it just felt fast because I had 20.5k in my legs at the time) for second to finish in 1:16:54.

I wasn’t very happy with my race, so I suppose I have a few things to think about. While I am happy to have medalled at a national championship, I was also disappointed for a few reasons. The most troubling part was that I completely lost it from 14 to 18k. I was feeling bad, I let the pace slip by a fair bit, and it wasn’t until my position as the second woman was under threat that I woke up and started running hard again. It’s tough to maintain pace late in a race when you feel bad and are in no-man’s land, but that’s part of the game, especially for someone who plans to be a marathoner very soon. When I’m really on my game, I’m very good at this. That wasn’t the case on Sunday. I need to be better at staying focused and pushing hard when things aren’t going well.

Overall I wasn’t happy with how the race went, but it is nevertheless a good step forward. I wanted to contend for the win, so I am a bit disappointed.  However, I still placed in the top three at a national championship race, which was the goal from the start. Five years ago, I could never have imagined a scenario where I would be pissed about getting the silver medal at a Canadian championship. That’s how it goes for runners: we get faster, our goals get more aggressive, and falling short never gets any easier. Still, I can look at my goals for the year that I typed up, printed out, and put up on my wall a few months back. It says “place top-three at Canadian half-marathon championships.” Mission accomplished, I guess. I can live with that.

Here’s some music. I’ve had this in my head for a while, which is good, because it’s a song I like.

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