Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own, sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction.
-- William James, philosopher
Today's stage is, on paper, the easiest races of all the stages. It's everything the other stages were not. It's flat, point-to-point, and a net downhill run, taking place along just three streets. A piece of cake considering what we've done during the week. I heard people constantly saying "Oh, it's JUST a 10km" or "Only a little 10km this morning". True enough, but it's not as easy as it sounds.
All of us are running this 10km stage on very tired legs. Some people are running on injuries sustained in the previous stages. For me, it was a bit of a test of things to come tomorrow during the marathon, which is 4+ times the distance. How is my brain? Will I be ready to take on 42.2km of hilly Woolwich and Waterloo roads?
But enough of that, let's talk about today's run. Due to the point to point nature of the run, we all met at Lloyd's (the race director) house and were shuttled to the start line, which was in a park in Elmira. We got there pretty early, and as the runners piled in we milled around and talked. One ENDURrun competitor, Joanne, had her birthday today, and we all gave her our congratulations. Some sat nervously in the parking lot doing some preliminary stretches, others just "hung out". Me, I was trying to relax, hoping that this race would go well. My blisters were healing, and actually felt good, but there was no way to tell how they'd be once I started running. Also my fatigued legs were an issue. I stretched them a bit (I don't like stretching pre-run; would rather give them a shakeout jog) and they felt okay.
As in the 15km stage we did last Monday, the starting order was the reverse of the cumulative standings. This meant that I was going to go pretty much at the beginning, or at least within the first 10 people. There were so many participants in this stage (since it was on a Saturday, many people came out just to run this stage), that the first few had to be started in two's and in some cases three's. When my turn came up, I got to the starting line with one of my co-ENDURrunners named Vince. He has had a great week. Originally he had signed up as a guest for one stage, but at the last minute, decided to do the whole thing. I had heard that he hadn't done more than 10km in his long runs. Watching him run during the week, I'm amazed at how well he's doing. Plus, he's always smiling and having good things to say about other runners, and the event itself. Clearly he's either much fitter than he lets on, or he's delusional. We wished each other well, and as Lloyd said "GO!" we were off.
Vince and I stuck together for the first two kilometres, chit-chatting about the week, how each other was feeling, and about the event itself. At the 2km mark, I moved ahead of him and found a comfortable pace, and just tried to stick to it. I could see the people that had started ahead of me up ahead, and made up some ground slowly. Normally you're supposed to try and pass them, since they are your direct competitors, but that wasn't the plan today. I just wanted to find a rhythm and stick with it, like I'd be doing tomorrow. To me, this run was sort of a marathon simulation.
I managed to pass a few people, and was passed in turn. Last year I remember the road stretches to seem interminable; the road seemed to stretch infinitely into the distance, and I felt as though I was stuck on a treadmill; running but not getting anywhere. Trying to distract myself from these thoughts, I looked around at the Mennonite farms and country scenery around me. Sure enough, before I knew it, I'd seen the 5km marker. Over half way done! YEAH!
Running down the last stretch was 2km, and it felt like the longest slowest 2km mark I've ever run. I told myself that I wanted to come in under 1 hour; that it was doable. So I picked up the pace a bit (just a bit) and soldiered on. Soon the finish was in sight, or at least the corner I needed to turn down. The spectators were clapping, some calling me by name. I rounded the last corner, and ran through the finish in 0:55:43. Very happy with that time. I grabbed some water and Gatorade and found a spot along the finishing chute to cheer the remaining runners in.
So that's it. Six stages done, and the longest one to go. Time for some morning refreshments (donuts, coffee, sandwiches made by the volunteers), and a dip in Lloyd's pool. The rest of the day will be spent relaxing, and readying myself for tomorrow's marathon.