Team Running Free Race Report
Peterborough YMCA Strong Kids ½ Marathon
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Conditions at start: -3 degrees, 25kmh winds from SW, heavy snow, visibility 100m
Conditions at finish: -1, sunny, 10kmh winds from SW
Running endurance races in the middle of a Canadian winter can require flexibility, multiple layers and nimble feet. The recent Peterborough YMCA Strong Kids Marathon was just such a classic Canadian winter race giving me and about 700 other participants a taste of several seasons throughout the journey.
My day started on quite a high with the kids 1k which opened the event. My son, now barely 3, was stoked about entering his first race of 2009 (ok, so he ran a cumulative total of 400 metres last year – but he was only 2!). Lining up with the big kids in a driving blizzard, he counted down with the starter, shot a slightly fearful look up at me, and took off down the road with dad trailing closely behind so as to not lose him among the snowflakes. Even though the entire pack pulled away early on, and despite opportunities to make an early turn for home, the kid carried on for the full 1k and arrived at the boisterous finish line with a police escort in just over 11 minutes. A great start – I’m sure he’ll be out-pacing me in no time.
With a very happy family experience on my mind, I turned my attention to the task at hand; the half marathon. While going through my final pre-race routine, I discovered that I had conveniently left my timing chip in my locker…about 1k in the opposite direction of the start. After abandoning the family in a snow storm (mom, 3 year old and a 1 year old) I raced back to the Y, grabbed my chip, and raced back for a final farewell, the countdown and the start. Thankfully we were off and I could now focus on my immediate goal, a well paced, strong half marathon.
The Peterborough Half was only my third half marathon and easily proved to be the friendliest in terms of elevation. Reminiscent of Saskatchewan, the route meandered through town for a few kms then headed out onto open country roads which were snow covered to a depth of a couple of centemetres. Things rolled along quite nicely through the first 11k. I focused on my pace, enjoyed my music, and tried to remain relaxed as I cruised along picking off a few quick starters in the early stages. Being my first official race as a member of Team Running Free I wanted to put on a good show but did not want to do so at the expense of crashing and burning down the line…then, just past the turnaround, I saw it – the 1:50:00 Pace Bunny. I’ve never been in races with Pace Bunny before, but like a hungry greyhound in Miami, I could not take my eye off that prize…I decided that I had to close the gap and beat the bunny.
With my race strategy now in the ditch, and not having trained to run a 1:49:00 Half, my new strategy was devised somewhere between 11k and 12k. I chose to chase and keep up with the pace bunny for no other reason than because someone put a target in front of me and dared me to hit it. So off I went. Things went well for the next few kilometres. A 1 minute gap closed to 30 seconds while I tried to keep things balanced, watered and fuelled. At about the 14k mark my Ipod died but I was now focused on a new distraction so it did not matter that much. By about the 15k mark, my usual slow-down milestone, I still felt good and had the Bunny within reach so I decided to gear down to conserve some energy having achieved half of the objectives of my most recent race strategy. From here on, things began to change. For the next two kilometres I decided that keeping up with the faster pace having just closed a 1 minute gap with very little training was likely not a great idea. Then, a blister appeared on my little toe which caused me to run on my big toe and other foot. Finally, by the 19km mark, I blew up. Music gone, toe throbbing, legs burning and arms drooping, I looked up to see the 1:50:00 Pace Bunny dart around a corner and out of my race. As my pace slowed I suddenly realized my original 1:59:59 threshold was in jeopardy and I needed to find some strength to stay ahead of the 2:00:00 Pace Bunny which was hot on my heels. Arms pumping and nostrils flared I summoned the energy to pick up a couple of kms and carry on finishing ahead of my original goal by a few minutes and placing 171ist overall.
In the end it was a great race as my first adventure on Team Running Free. The event was well organized, the conditions made it more interesting and my son had a lot of fun. As with every race I learn more about what I’m capable of and where my limits lie. I learned that I like the idea of Pace Bunnies, I learned that I need to stick to my strategy and I learned that my marriage is very strong.
I think there should be more winter races in Canada and I’ll be looking forward to a return to Peterborough next year to support the Strong Kids Campaign as a member of Team Running Free.