Friday, 6 July 2012

#75: Here Comes The Sun

Despite breaking my thumb and having surgery a week ago and the fact that temperatures have been soaring well into the 30's, with humidex readings in the mid 40's, I've run almost every day, only missing one due to said surgery, including two races. This is the story of those races...

The first, the Pride and Remembrance Run (5k), came a mere 12 hrs after that very surgery that saw me getting fixed up with pins and wires to keep my broken bone in place. Feeling almost no pain the morning of the race, I convinced myself and a special although sceptical someone that I would attempt a slow warm-up towards the start of the race and that if I felt any pain whatsoever, I would stop and accept a DNS. We departed around 9am as the race was set to start at 10. It was already warm and only getting worse. Jogging slowly, I adopted the most natural running form I could considering the cast and was fortunate to feel absolutely no pain. I made it all the way to Queen's Park feeling great and was then joined by a number of my running mates including Rob, Doyle, Davey and Sharlene who were surprised (and perhaps disappointed) to see me there. We completed the warm-up giving me already 5k for the day and proceeded to hang around a bit and chat amongst ourselves to kill the time before the start.

Closing in on 10am, our large group of Longboaters huddled near the front of the pack and anxiously eyed one another trying to make our last minute mental preparations and focus on the task at hand. The gun went off and we darted forward like bats outta hell (whatever that means). I had told myself and others that I planned to go out 'slow' and hit 3:30 pace for the first km. This meant that plenty of people who were obviously running in over their heads were ahead of me as I tried to stay relaxed and get into a groove. Darren, who was pacing us for the first km, made some smart ass remark about feeling good running at this pace which I imagine pissed a bunch of people off who were already hurting badly in the heat. I had a mad case of cotton mouth so asked him for a swig of his Gatorade bottle which he was holding and had to kindly request that he open it for me since I only had one available arm. I took a swig which instantly relieved my dry mouth but also managed to shake the bottle spilling some massive drops on my sunglasses (the hilariously cheap hipster glasses that came with the race kit) which would remain there for the duration of the race.

A strong pack of LBRs take off near the start of the Pride 5k.
Like most races, I don't recall too many details. It was a 5k, so obviously it hurt and at no point should you feel 'comfortable.' I remember seeing the first k split in exactly 3:30 which was good and seeing the second in 3:25 which was also the plan. After that I didn't look at the watch until the end and even then forgot to hit the 'stop' button until it read 25:xx (my classic race oversight). Like I expected by going out slow, I did a lot of passing early on and can't recall ever being passed after ~1km. Our longboat guys settled into a bit of a natural order with Davey way up front (he did not go out slow), a surprising Dave Clark just ahead of me, and Doyle, Gerardo, Rob C, Metz and Roger not far behind. The temperature had been rising steadily and we were lucky to have some shade and a small breeze as we headed south on the west side of Queen's Park circle. Nevertheless it was definitely hot and would most certainly have been slowing everyone down. After doing the first lap, we run into the slow runners, sloggers and walkers and it then becomes a bit of a game of Tetris weaving and darting in and out of the masses. The best thing to do is actually run to the outside (right) of the road although this goes against the rule of running tangents. Although others (particularly those immediately behind me) report numerous instances of it; only once did I here a fellow participant make reference to my cast by saying: "Holy shit! Was that guy wearing a cast?!"

By 3k I was hurting really bad and my breathing was beyond what I've ever considered normal, even during a race. I assume that the added weight of my cast and my highly altered running form (one arm essentially static and the other overcompensating big time) contributed to my struggle to maintain pace and find a rhythm of breathing. Besides wishing for it to be over, I finally managed to pass Dave Clarke with less than a k to go during the final stretch along Wellesley and was worried that my 'kick' with about 600m to go was far too early. Luckily it wasn't and I managed to hold it together although it wasn't quite enough to beat Davey who would finish a single place and about 7seconds ahead of me (and wouldn't shut up about it for days!). I crossed the line in a fairly impressive 16:56 (3:23/k), good for 7th place overall and just 7 seconds off my own personal best set at Pride the year before (where I also finished 7th). I immediately bent over on hands and knees trying to breathe for a few minutes and so sadly missed my string of companions who finished just after me including Dave C, Doyle, Gerardo, Rob C, Metzger, Moss, Kevin G, Francois, Stefan, John M, Richard W, George, Rob H and Melinda (all under 20min) as well as a myriad of others donning the LB feather. For the third year running we easily snatched the team category with an average time (top 5 runners) of 17:02.6!
Myself, sporting some hipster shades, at the finish of Pride 5k
After cooling down and recovering at the finish, we eventually made our way to the 'party' area in a nearby park where we were treated to delicious cakes, Tropicana orange juice, pizza things, risotto, yoghurt and the standard bruised and overly ripe race bananas. The awards ceremony saw a number of LBers pick up prizes including myself and Melinda who were top of the (highly unusual) 25-34 age category (the second place guy overall perhaps should have won as he was in the same category and definitely beat me). The prize was a free pair of Sketchers running shoes which I probably would never wear so I gave my prize to Davey who had beat me on the day despite being more than 20 years older than me!!! I was a bit embarrassed to go up and collect my prize as it then became clear that a guy with a massive cast on his arm and stupid sunglasses on his face was still able to beat the majority of the field (no brag, just fact). While some would argue that it gave me some form of advantage (momentum perhaps?), I hold that it most certainly did no such thing and I would have been even faster and definitely set a PB without it. Anyway, it was a great race albeit not in ideal conditions and was fun to partake in the camaraderie of the large LBR group. A number of us celebrated the day by lounging on the rooftop patio of the CBC (Casa Byrne Campbell NOT Canadian Broadcast Corporation!) drinking beers and getting sunburns. A near perfect day.
Melinda and I accept our awards for top place in 25-34 age category and pose for a photo with the BMO bear.
The very next one, despite staying up rather late and drinking way too many brews, I joined the group at 8am and ran what for me turned out to be a 28+k long run with 6 strategic yet thankfully short pick-ups. What started off as cool soon turned uncomfortable especially since my stomach was less than cooperating at times.

Monday was a relaxed and surprisingly good feeling 14k along the Lakeshore while Tuesday was a hot and humid sweatstorm in which I needlessly wore a jacket wrapped around my arm since there was the ominous threat of rain. I ran home from work at a much too early 4pm and covered 17.5k including 8 strides in the last 2k. If I thought that was bad, Wed turned out to be the hottest day of the year and when the group got together to run at 6pm from the Settlement House it was well over 40 degrees with the humidity. The 12k easy run was okay on the way out due to a slight breeze but was brutal on the way back and the 4 strides in the park near the end sent my temperature sky-rocketing and my perceived level of exertion well beyond my comfort zone. I was only too happy to stop when my Garmin hit 12k flat and I then spent the next 15min sweating profusely while trying to bring my core temperature back to a reasonable level. It was likely the hottest run I have ever done and not one I intend to replicate in the future.

The start of the 2012 YMCA Relay for Strong Kids on the Honda Indy track.
The other 'race' I did was Thursday, the YMCA Relay, which this year was set to be run on the Honda Indy track at Exhibition Place. 2 or 4 person teams would run two or one laps respectively of the ~2.8k course. I ran ~3k to the race start where I was met by a large group of fellow LBRs. Once our 4 man team (The Longboat 'Black Lungs') consisting of myself, Doyle, Darren and Coach Campbell had assembled, determined our running order and fashioned our race bibs, we went for a ~2k WU along part of the course. Our 'strategy' was to put Rob up first and then follow with Doyle, myself and finally Darren. This was loosely based on recent 5k performances in order of speed (sorta). In retrospect, we probably should have done the exact opposite of what we did.

The race begin shortly after 7pm with Rob setting the pace. I ran across the parking lot to see Rob then in fifth place and then returned to the relay exchange zone to wish Doyle luck. When Rob finished in ~9:30, we were comfortably in third place overall but had some work to do to catch the leaders. Doyle flew out of the gates and again I darted out and across the way to see how he was doing. There was a clear gap between first and second and an even larger one between second and us (perhaps as much as 30s). I nervously returned to the start and prepared for what I had myself convinced would be no more than 9.5min of agony.
Rob 'hands off'  to Doyle after completing Leg 1. 
Doyle finished strong in ~9:20 and tagged me in the zone as I 'sprinted' off along the first straight-away. At this point there were slower runners and walkers everywhere and I was darting between and flying by other participants left and right. Unfortunately the guy I wanted to catch, he who was somewhere ahead in second place, was no where to be seen. Thus, I wasn't exactly racing at this point as much as doing a very hard time trial. As I often do, I refused to look at my watch and simply ran by feel. I knew I was going fast but really had no idea how fast or whether I was losing or gaining time on the other teams. I felt I ran very consistently and didn't slow down too much (if at all) and in fact probably ran my fastest in the final 500m when I could see the Honda Bridge and anticipate the finish. At near full speed I flew past the start/finish line and towards the relay zone where I could see our anchor Darren ready to go. I made the tag, sending Darren on his way, and then miraculously managed to stop my watch immediately afterwards. I was both surprised and highly satisfied to see the 'result:' 2.80k in 8:51 with an average pace of 3:09/k (splits of 3:05, 3:14 and 3:08). This would be important because our individual efforts would not be recorded on the day, rather only the final finishing time of the team. Regardless of how our team would do on this day, I was personally thrilled with my own result which gave me confidence that despite now being a committed 'marathon runner' (not 'marathoner') and training primarily for endurance, I still possessed a bit of speed. 

I then managed to go for a slow recovery jog to catch my breath before making my way to the finish. There many of the other LB teams and their runners who had already run were waiting and we chatted as the final runners suffered somewhere off in the distance. The first team to arrive was the "Runway" in an impressive 35:47 (average of 8:57/lap). More impressive was that one of their guys actually ran twice! Next up was a team called "Barefoot Wine and Bubbly" apparently composed of Toronto Olympic Club (TOC) guys who finished just ahead of us in 36:58 (9:15/lap) while we finished third in 37:05 (9:16.25/lap). I'm absolutely convinced that a better strategy in which we had 'start strong and try to hold on' would have secured us second but unfortunately for everyone but Rob, this really wasn't a race and it's so hard to come from behind when you don't know how far back you are. The next LB team of Davey, Dave Clark, David Hiddleston and Steve Metzger were fourth in 37:50 (and picked up the top place for Men 40-49) and in sixth were Kevin Gough, Kevin Curnock, Roger and Gerardo in 39:16. Congrats to all LB teams and especially to those who had to run two (or perhaps more) laps of the track. One was bad enough!

Roger heads off for his 2.8k tour on the Indy track at the YMCA Relay.
After the race we hung around drinking beers, which went quickly to my head, and were having a good time. After the organizers (or Sportstats) managed to mess up the results (specifically the age categories...again), we walked to Liberty Village for some further celebration and cheer at the Brazen Head.

Thus concludes the story of my running and racing week. I am not exactly looking forward to the track workout planned for later today (currently the temperature in Toronto is 35 and 'feels like' 38) or to having to work both days this weekend while still finding time to run 15 and 21k. Our next race is the Lindsay Milk Run, a 10k scorcher on Sun 22 July but features all the ice cream and chocolate milk you can eat after the race. It also has a team category and so in addition to going to defend our team title from 2011 (myself, Doyle, Gerardo and Roger destroyed the competition), we've assembled 3 5-person teams to engage in some inter and intra-club competition. More good times to come...

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