Remember, the feeling you get from a good run is far better than the feeling you get from sitting around wishing you were running.
-- Sarah Condor
At 5:45am the alarm goes off. My sleep was surprisingly good. Usually before a race, I sleep like crap, as I've been doing the past few nights. After today, though, I will have NO problem sleeping. Quick check on the weather... looks wet and steamy out. The forecast calls for rain in the morning. Well, at least it's better than full on sun and oppressive heat and humidity.
Breakfast, get dressed, get packed, and we're off to the race site. By the time I get there most people have shown up, and standing around talking and twitching nervously. Some people are warming up in the parking lot. I do a quick check of the legs, see if they need a bit of a stretch, nope, I'm good. The rain is holding off, sort of.
Finally, Lloyd calls us over to the start line. Of course, as soon as he does, it starts to pour rain. Ah well, better now than later. He gives us some last minute instructions, checks the time, counts us down, and the 9th Annual ENDURrun has officially begun!
My goal for today was to find a steady pace I could sustain for 21.1km, and stick to it, from start to finish. I figured 6min/km was a good pace, that would give me a 2 hour half marathon time. I was not being heroic, nor competing with anyone this year (despite a little trash talk from Duff before we started). I'd use the first few kms to fall into rhythm, then stick to it. My other goal, a silent one, was to be strong on the hills and not walk them. Lately, I've had a tendency to bail out of hills by walking up them, thinking that I was too tired/sore/whatever. Today, I would give my mental fortitude a test. The only walking I would do was through the water stations, and then only 30 or so seconds, enough to drink, or down the gel.
The half marathon consists of two loops; a 13.1km loop followed by an 8km loop. It has a few hills in it, some steep and short, and some long and gradual. It also runs through some of the most beautiful country scenery I've seen in Ontario. This time around, I plugged myself into the MP3 player, and let my thoughts drift. The legs felt good; no issues with the stomach and/or breakfast today, which was good.
The pace I ended up maintaining for most of the race was between 5:30 and 5:40min/km. A bit faster than what I thought I could do, but I was feeling good, calm and relaxed, so I went with it. I managed to get through the first 10km with virtually no issues, other than having the people at the water stations rip open my gels. My hands were soaking wet from the humidity!
Part of the first loop travels down a paved path that lies between the Conestogo River and a golf course. At one point, in the mist and haze of the humid morning, I saw a fisherman standing in the middle of the river. it made for a very beautiful picture, albeit a mental one.
Through the last 4km of the first loop my legs started to feel the fatigue. No cramping or other issues, just that old familiar tired feeling. I sucked back a gel at the water station, and headed out to loop 2. Feeling good, I waved at a passing Mennonite or Amish horse and carriage and they waved back.
Normally, I don't run with music; I used to hate it with a passion. I always felt disconnected from the environment, and when I was using my Garmin to mark 10 minute run / 1 minute walk intervals, I would never hear it beep. But since I was running alone, and knew that I would be all alone out there once the pack spread out, I resolved to give it a try. I loaded the MP3 player up with the goofiest cheesiest 80s hits, and my other favourite songs, and kept the volume quite low, almost at a background noise level. It worked quite well! It wasn't overly distracting, but gave me something to think about (or hum along to) at some of the long running stretches.
The rain started up again at the 15km mark, quite hard and very refreshing. I plodded along the route, passing a couple of people along the way. At the turnaround point I saw my roommates Ed, Mark, and Duff, looking good and running strong.
Finally, I hit the long final 4km stretch I'd already run in the first loop. Again, I vowed not to walk any of the hills; every time I reached one, and my brain would say "Walk" I would say "Not this time" I'd reply (yes, I was talking to myself). My legs started to feel tight in the calves, and I got the start of a cramp at one point. But I soldiered on at my pace.
At last, I turned the corner and saw the finish line. I crossed it in under 2 hours (1:59:12 unofficial), beating my goal! Better yet, I felt great at the finish! Geez, I guess my body does remember how this running stuff works...
One of the best parts of the ENDURrun (or any of the Run Waterloo events) is the food. There is not a crusty bagel in sight! Today we had hamburger, chicken breast, and tacos, with roast potatoes, salad, and all the fixings for the above. And, after the results were read out and we had eaten sufficiently, a few of us headed over to Lloyd's house (yeah, that's the race director) to relax in his hot tub with some cold beer, and swim in the pool. A great way to celebrate a most excellent Stage 1!
2011: 1:59:12, average pace 5:36min/km
Previous Results (just to compare):
Timex Ironman GPS Statistics: http://tpks.ws/qreU
I am dedicating each stage of the ENDURrun is dedicated to people that have helped me and supported me through my training this past year and before. This stage goes to my wife, Juli. Without her worrying and kicking my ass and making sacrifices so I can go out and do these crazy activities, I wouldn't be where I am today. I love you, and thank you.
UP NEXT: The 15km Time Trial. Based on today's rankings, tomorrow's run is started in reverse order, with each runner starting 1 minute apart. The route has a HUGE hill at the beginning, then it calms down, with some road and trail sections mixed in.