There are a number of great things about this race. Its mid-March timing feels like a great spring opener. Achilles Canada is a great cause. The course is mostly flat and fast. There are free race photos. The atmosphere is festive, and the race ends at the Steamwhistle Brewery, where all runners get chili and beer.
One bad thing about this race is (though no fault of its own) its reputation for getting hit with cold weather. This year, it exceeded expectations in that department.
I try not to stress too much about race day weather, because there is nothing I can do to change it, and everyone in the race is dealing with the same weather. However, I couldn’t help but notice in the week leading up, that the forecast got colder every time I checked. When I woke up race morning and it was -17C with the windchill, I cheerfully declared that it wouldn’t be as cold as I expected. I was wrong.
I found parking a mere two-minute walk from the start but that walk was face-hurting cold. Thankfully the Steamwhistle Brewery is open so runners and spectators have a place to stay warm and use the washrooms, etc. Race kit pick up was quick and well-organized. And so I set out for a 5k warm up in my Rocky Balboa track suit, and was not even remotely warm once I finished. I ducked back inside to warm up a bit, and then it was time to ditch my warm up clothes and hit the starting corral. My goal was 19:30, and my coach told me to start around 4:00/km and try to get faster each km. My speed work had been going really well, so I was feeling confident.
km 1 (3:55) About a minute into the race, I gloomily thought this was not my day. The wind was blowing into my mouth and making me feel sick and I was so cold it felt like my legs weren’t working. It turns out they were working just fine, even though they were numb.
km 2 (3:52) My legs still felt like they weren’t working, but my splits were going according to plan so I pressed on. Once the race turns onto Wellington St, the tall buildings will render the pace feature on your GPS useless and, if you are a compulsive watch checker like yours truly, this will drive you a bit nuts.
km 3 (4:17) Between the useless GPS, a clumsy turn at the 2.5k mark, and my typical km 3 slowdown, I really bombed this km and was not happy to see that split. Thankfully my brain was too frozen to dwell on it much and I just tried to run faster and avoid turning into an icicle.
km 4 (3:38) Back on pace, and feeling better, even though the right side of my body was now completely frozen from bearing the wind after the turn around.
km 5 (3:28) My legs finally felt warmed up and this was the strongest I had ever felt at the end of a 5k. Once you come over the small hill on Spadina, the finish feels really fast, so that certainly helped.
Final time: 19:11 (PB!), 6th female overall, 2nd in my age group. And after defrosting my hands on a heater for five minutes, they regained their feeling so I was able to enjoy my chili and beer.
Incidentally, my previous 5k PB was from an August race at which it was 30C at the start, so I am starting to wonder if my body somehow enjoys being subjected to extreme temperatures. I’m hoping for some good race weather in the future so I can attempt to disprove that hypothesis.