This whole experience was completely different from anything I have done/run before. For one thing, I have never competed on track before. When I saw people showing up with spikes, I remembered… oh yeah, you can have spikes here! I have also never competed in a road running event where music was not allowed.
The NCCWMA was organized in Toronto, July 18-21. I ran the 10km road race and the 5000m track race in the 40-44 female age group.
I found the kind of people who came to compete very diverse. There were the “real” runners. Ladies who ran in high school, college, university, scholarships, Olympic trials and qualifications, all that. There were also some people at the opposite end, who run for fun and don’t care much about time. Then there were the ones like me in the middle, who learned to run later in life and are somewhat competitive at their own level for their age group. Not dead serious, but still want to do their best and improve and push themselves. Surprisingly I think we were the smallest group of the three while most road races and triathlons I’ve run we are the biggest group.
It was also a first for me in that these races were much more tactical than I’ve ever done. I always just show up and try to run my best and then I place wherever I place. However, here I had two events to run, one on Thursday and one on Saturday. So I had to save some of my energy for the second one, especially since the first one, the 10k race seemed to be very straight forward.
We had posted times (what time we expect to run) and it was clear that there was only one girl faster than me for the 10k in my age group. But she was so much faster that I had no chance of beating her whatsoever. So I was just going to run my race and be happy with my silver. The third fastest girl was way behind me so I didn’t need to worry about her.
When we showed up on race day, I chatted with the fast girl. It turned out she was injured. That got my hopes up for maybe beating her. She can run 42 mins for 10k when she is in top form, but she couldn’t run that fast for this race. If she could only run 45-46, maybe I can just stay with her and see what develops. My posted time was 48 mins but I knew I could run faster.
So I went out with her and kept on her heels for the first 2.5 km. The pace was really fast for me, but I had nothing to lose. If I blow up along the way, I’m still coming in second. She was also limping in her run so I expected her to slow even further compared to her usual pace. Unfortunately at 2.5km she decided to drop out of the race. A smart decision for her since she didn’t want to risk her “A” race, the upcoming New York Marathon.
So now I had the gold sealed. At this point I decided to drop the pace and save myself for the 5k race 2 days later. I still wanted to PR, so I kept a decent pace for me, but not at maximum effort. I broke my PR by over a minute, 47:39 but I left at least a minute in it. At that point it was the right decision as we expected a really close race for the bronze two days later.
The 5000m track race was going to be a real tactical battle. The first two girls were way too fast (18 and 19 min posted times), but there was a Mexican girl who posted 22 mins. My PR at that point was 23:17 but I know that course where I ran that was short. However, I also knew that I improved a lot since and that I ran 23:05 for the first 5k on my 10k race, and I only pushed it up to 2.5k and I had a feeling that I could have gone another 2.5k at that same pace. Which would put me around 22 mins.
So my plan was just to go out with the Mexican girl and either blow up or beat her for the bronze. I was very much looking forward to this battle. To my disappointment she didn’t show. Which on the one hand made me happy to win bronze, on the other hand I was disappointed that I couldn’t try myself out.
With the way the race actually went, I know that she would have beaten me. I only came in at 23:26 – slower than the first half of my 10k race two days earlier. I know the reason full well – I just can’t push myself so close to another race again. I need more time to recover. I broke down physically and mentally even before the 2km mark. But I learned a very valuable lesson for next years WMA World Championship – which is that I can only push the first race to the max, whichever it is. So we can plan better now that we know.
My only regret is that I didn’t push the 10km race to the max and left a lot in it. However, this is only based on what we know now but this information was not available at the time. Then and there it was the right decision to hold back.