After a hard 10k effort at Quebec City Marathon last weekend, I wasn't sure I was ready to tackle the 13.1 mile distance. After all, my last half marathon was several months ago at the Mississauga Marathon post Boston in early May. I decided, if nothing else, I'd get in a long run since it'd been a while since I'd covered the distance and I could use a challenging workout. I was a bit excited about running a race without expo-leg-a-citis (tired leg condition from working expos and long days of standing on hard cold cement in the skirt booth). We had a short event on Saturday in Ottawa at the Canadian Triathlon and Running Event and a bit of a car ride back to Toronto from Ottawa, but other than that, the legs were pretty rested.
It was a great day sunny, yet not too warm in Oakville. I did a quick warmup with Michelle and then headed to the start line where I met up with Arma and Andrew. I shared with them my race plan to go out strong and try to hold on to my pace as long as I could. (I ran a 1:26 something half marathon exactly a year ago at Disneyland Half Marathon and was hoping to better that time by a minute if I could). I knew in order to do that, I would have to run a 6:30 mile pace which was a bit more agressive than my hilly 10k pace from the week prior. I was confident the first half would be easy on the flat course, but as for the 2nd half...I was certain there would be some pain & serious concentration necessary in order to hold the pace.
The gun went off and so did the pack...quite fast...especially the 1:30 pace bunny (more on that later). I sprinted out of the gates and quickly reined myself in and back to my planned pace....mile 1 - 6:24, mile 2 - 6:19 (oops a bit fast), as I settled back into my race pace I was distracted by a guy on a bike that kept cycling up near me, then falling back and then back up on my right. I was wondering to myself what he was doing and why he wasn't falling back to watch for people in need of aid, or move ahead and help with course marshaling, etc. Mile 3 - 6:27 still on pace and then guy-on-bike started talking to me. I looked over and recognized him immediately - it was Pete from Boston! Pete was one of the fellow Boston runners that shared our wonderfully warm, dry & cozy bus ride on the way out to Hopkington startline of the Boston Marathon. (He's a super fast marathoner and had just finished an ironman the week prior and is planning to pace 5 consecutive marathons leading up to a final sub 3 hour race at the Hamilton Marathon.) As I started chatting with Pete I realized (duh - he's a volunteer and a pace bike - the placard on the front of his bike read "2nd female". (yes, I'm a rookie at this and not used to being in the front of the pack...thanks for staying home today all you elite girls!) We chatted a bit and he informed me that I was currently in 2nd place with a pretty good lead over 3rd. Mile 4 - 6:34. I asked him about the course and he said it was flat as a pancake and I tried to relax and stay focus. It was great chatting with Pete - a bit of a distraction that kept me relaxed and made the kms go by faster. I remember giving him a hard time as we rounded the corner and faced a bit of a hill at mile 5- 6:43...I was a little discouraged by the incline but charged ahead trying to hold the pace...It was one of those sneaky little race course inclines that seem to go on forever. Thankfully pace bunny Pete kept me distracted with small talk until the hill was finally behind me.
All along I was also wondering if my garmin was deceiving me because the 1:30 pace bunny was about 200-600 meters in front of me the whole time. I wondered to myself, does this pace bunny know something about the course that I don't? Is he planning to go out fast and the slow down for some unforeseen challenges on the back half? I knew what my splits needed to be for a 1:25 half, and he was way ahead of me...I was taunted by the 1:30 bunny ears for the next few miles and I honestly convinced myself that my garmin must be off and that I was probably running too slow.
(me with pace bunny pete on the back half)
At about the 14k point ( if my memory serves me), we were closing the gap on 1:30 pace bunny (who was now running all alone)....as when his lead was reduced to about 100 meters we saw him remove his ears and tuck them into his back pocket.... I exchanged puzzled looks with pace bike Pete and asked him "Are pace bunnies supposed to quit?" and continued to close the gap. A moment later I passed 1:30 pace bunny and couldn't resist but ask him "A little fast aren't you?" He quickly retorted "only a minute or so".
I continued to plod along now starting to feel a bit of exertion and beginning to wonder when this 6:30ish pace bubble would pop....and then another friend from the Boston Bus approached on his bike. We exchanged hellos and I think he snapped a photo and shouted some great words of encouragement and then he was off to check on another comrade in the pack. At this point, I realized I was starting to close in on the lead female and it looked like I might actually catch her. It was about 13-14k into the race at this point when I was surprised by my hubby and son that had maneuvered their way to this point in the course. I wasn't expecting to see them and it was a nice surprise. I think my hubby was equally as surprised to see me being accompanied by the bike pacer in 2nd place. It was perfect timing and gave me just the boost I needed to push myself to give a little more.
With about 6k to go, I passed the first female and pushed on. I tried to pick up the pace a little and get a good strong lead, but wasn't sure if she was going make another charge or not.....again, this was all new & unchartered running waters for me. At this point I parted paths with Pete the Pacer and met a new kind man on a bike with the placard that read "1st Female". Unfortunately, I was too winded to carry on much of a conversation at this point, but grateful for his company nonetheless. I counted down the last 5k of the race which seemed to take an eternity and thought about my husband and son at the finish line and how proud I would make them if I actually won the race. As my legs and lungs screamed, I reminded myself that this was probably a once in a lifetime chance and that a little bit of pain would be so worth the victory and accomplisment of a new personal best half marathon time. (There's nothing worse than finishing a race with a little extra energy in the tank and wondering what coulda shoulda been). I committed to give it my all and tried to hold onto the pace. As I rounded the corner and started approaching the park of the finish line with 1k to go I had stretched my lead out to a nice comfortable distance and it started to sink in that I was actually going to get a PR in the half marathon and win the race! I'll never forget the feeling of accomplishment as I looked up at the time clock, broke through the tape while hearing the cheers of the crowd....woohoo a great race indeed & a course record for women!
6:24, 6:19, 6:27, 6:34, 6:43, 6:35, 6:20,6:27, 6:27, 6:27, 6:26, 6:16, 6:28
Finish time 1:25:25 - a new course record!
Sweet victory - I get my name engraved on this trophy....I wanted to keep it!
Me and the super duper fast Pedrag sharing the victory trophy (or was it tug-o-war?)
Congrats to speedy skirt Arma for a great race! Nice way to get a PB during your "Training Run" too Michelle!
Top 10 womens:
name gun chip km pace
LYNCH CINDY 1:25:25.7 25:25.7 4:03
SHARLENE COBAIN 1:27:43.3 27:40.4 4:10
JULIE CUMMINGS 1:31:26.5 31:22.0 4:21
CHRISTINE ROSS 1:34:25.8 34:18.9 4:29
CATHERINE KELLY 1:34:54.0 34:49.6 4:30
VICTORIA UPSHAW 1:36:40.0 36:37.0 4:35
ARMA AFSAR 1:36:47.8 36:40.9 4:36
NICOLE OKO 1:38:37.2 38:19.0 4:41
SHARON PAPADIMITRIOU 1:38:57.7 38:40.2 4:42
KARI VAN CAMP 1:39:09.2 39:04.6 4:42
Michelle (my warmup buddy today)
ouch - bet he's not smiling later when he hits the shower!
Special thanks to all those customers & volunteers who cheered "go running skirt lady!" along the course - it's those words of encouragement that help me dig down and push my physical limits.
Congrats to all those who ran the Oakville races!