Casablanca was the final race on the Calendar for the Subaru Niagara Racing Series, and this proved to be a solemn day because of the sudden and unexpected passing of Jerry Friesen on Nov. 2, 2011. Jerry’s dedication was what made all of these races so great, and it was hard to believe he wouldn’t be at the race that day. In the days following this sad news, the registration went from around 400 runners, to nearly 1000. From what I heard, after the day of registrations, there were over 1000 runners who participated in the 3K and 8K races. This was a great tribute to a man who personally, or through his race series, inspired so many people to take up the sport.
There were a number of tributes to Jerry at the event, and it was clear that he was on the top of everyone’s mind. Runners wore black armbands with the initials “JF” and bibs with photos of Jerry, while running under a huge banner across the road that said “Run On Jerry, Run On!”
The conditions for the race were incredible given that it fell in almost mid-November. The sun was out which made up for the strong southwest wind. The course was a very flat out and back route with a nice loop through a conservation area and marina along Lake Ontario. The strong winds made the first few km’s difficult and I tried to stay covered whenever I could. My legs weren’t feeling strong until I came off of this straight and windy stretch into the park loop. My health (and consequently training) hasn’t been great lately with lots of sickness in our house and I was feeling the effects today. I kept telling myself to push it for another few km’s and then I could rest! The rest of the race was uneventful and I managed to keep a pace I was happy with to the finish. I finished in 30:34 which was a PB by about 10 seconds over my time on this course last year – given the wind and illness I was happy with this.
I went into this race 2nd in my age group in the overall series points. I was hoping to run fast enough to limit my losses to only 10 points (1 AG spot) on the runner in 3rd overall to keep 2nd place. I was elated to see on the results board that I was 3rd in this race, which meant I would retain 2nd overall in the series. I was glad I pushed through when mentally I was ready to slow down on the course today. We stuck around for the awards – there seemed be a lot of confusion about whether the overall series winners were also eligible for AG series awards (which would have made the difference between me being 1st or 2nd in my AG) but I was happy to receive my silver medal and a pair of sunglasses.
And with that, the 2011 Subaru Niagara Running Series drew to a close. Like many, I sure hope the series survives as it is a great motivator for me to have so many great races close to home. While it was a sad day, it was also great to be part of a celebration of Jerry’s life with so many of his family, friends, and fans. Run on Jerry!