Thought I’d update the blog with two weeks to go until my half-marathon in Toronto on October 14. I’m fresh off of some interval training this afternoon (ick!) so the calves, quads and hammers are reminding me that there is always room for improvement – and work to be done!
That said, I’m coming off of the achievement of a pretty cool milestone. Last weekend, I ran in the 5k at the Army Run – a huge event in Ottawa that collects money for wounded soldiers and their families, to help them cope. It’s a great event and I’ve participated for the last three years (two 5k runs and one half-marathon).
With all the training I’ve done this summer toward my half, I deliberately decided to do the 5k with a very specific goal in mind: to run it in under 22:00. My personal best to-date had been 22:03 in the 2010 Diefenbooker Classic … agonizingly close to the 22-minute mark – but not quite. This would be a great test of the training, in that it was my first short race of the fall and I could just air it out, without risk, and see what happened.
The weather cooperated: like the other two Army Run days I had experienced, it was cool and clear … probably about 5 degrees at gun time (and by “gun,” I mean GUN – they fire a howitzer to start the race!). Perfect running weather for me.
I knew going in that I needed to have a 4:24/km average pace to make my goal – which is pretty freaking hard to do. So I watched the Garmin obsessively. And I fell victim to the trap that I warn all other new runners about: I ran way too fast in the first kilometer – sometimes going sub-4:00 in my pace. Bad Tracy. I’ve learned the hard way, that you pay for that early over-achievement. What was I thinking?!?
After I settled in, I tried to keep the Garmin around 4:20, so I would have a bit of slack should I need it toward the end. And I indeed needed it: I had been suffering a pretty rough cold the week prior and was also pretty tired from work. By the time I hit the 4km mark, my breathing was … “laboured” … to say the least! You could hear me gasping and groaning from Manotick. The legs felt pretty good but the lungs were failing me (I’m also asthmatic – not a good combo with a cold). I took a look at my Garmin at 4km and it read something like 17:10 or so – so I knew I could do the last kilometre in 4:45 and still make my goal. Even at that, I reminded myself not to let up.
My thinking was starting to get a bit clouded at that point. So the coping strategy I employed was simple and pretty mindless: keep running, as fast as you can without passing out or tripping (the latter being very easy to do toward the end of a hard race). I stopped looking at the Garmin. When I rounded the final bend toward Laurier Avenue, I saw (with incredible relief and not small amounts of joy) that I was still in the 21:15 zone with less than 100m left to go. Even though I was absolutely gassed, I recall a huge grin spreading across my face because I knew that even if I slowed down at this point, I’d make it in under 22 minutes. But I didn’t slow down; I kept going at a pretty even pace and finished in a very respectable 21:39.
Overall, I finished 26th out of 787 men aged 40-49 … and overall, I was 163rd out of 8,159 runners – in the second percentile. I doubt I’ll ever run that quickly again … but I thought the same thing two years ago when I did 22:03 – so who knows?
A huge shout-out/thank you to my TNT coaches Rick Hellard and Jenna Ladd … and to my TNT teammates who keep me going and make it bearable to do the interval training each week that makes us all stronger and faster. And also a big thanks to my wife Bonnie and son Reid – who watch me go out the door three times a week to train, without complaining. I’m a very lucky guy.