August 22, 2011
|Date||Event||Goal Time||Chip Time||Gun Time|
|2011/08/20||A Midsummer Night’s Race||< 3:20||3:26:00.6||3:27:14.9|
On Saturday, August 20, I ran A Midsummer Night’s Run 30k in Toronto. It is the first time I’ve done this race and the first 30k race I’ve done since Around The Bay at the end of March. This was certainly a memorable race, but for all the wrong reasons.
I really wanted to beat my Around The Bay time of 3:20. A lot of people have been telling me that should be no problem because I’ve lost weight since then and because it’s a much easier course. I was hopeful I would live up to expectations, but it was not to be.
It was a really nice atmosphere before the race. As was recommended by the race organizers, we arrived early by carpool and took the shuttle from the parking lot to the start/finish area. We were there almost 2 hours before the race was supposed to start. There were at least 20 of us from the Square One Running Room all there together! I don’t remember the last time there were that many long-distance runners from the group together at one time. It was great to be there with a group and the energy and camaraderie is one of the things I’ll remember most.
I keep my running life and political activities completely separated, but I was rather incensed to see someone before the race wearing a sign for the Liberal Party of Ontario. It seemed in really bad taste and, as far as I was concerned, painted a huge target on runner 319. I made it a sub-goal to try to beat this person.
I had a lot of energy before the race… maybe too much energy. I was bouncing around, headbutting people, dancing and bouncing. Perhaps it was a good thing to get some nervous energy out and get my heart rate up.
After the race started, I stuck tight to my plan of trying to run at an even pace. I even convinced Eden and Dilip from my Square One to take the first 10k slow and steady. I held us back to a pace around 6:20 min/km. People raced by us for the first 1-2km, but we steadily and easily started passing runners for the next 10k. We didn’t even need to speed up to pass them!
The first 10k or so of the course was a rather uneventful path through a mostly industrial area with warehouses, smokestacks and occasional bits of parkland. It smelled funny. The smell was sometimes like a harbour, but sometimes like something else unpleasant I couldn’t identify. The route was over asphalt roads and concrete sidewalks with the occasional metal bridge. We passed by the Cirque du Soleil tent twice. There were huge backlogs of cars honking angrily.
After about 9km, our running trio split apart. First, Eden dropped back, then I lost Dilip when I stopped to refill my water bottles at an aid station. I was really, really thirsty throughout the race. I think it was because it was very, very humid.
The period from about 9km to 21km was very trying. This period was the long out-and-back along the Leslie ‘spit.’ It was a beautiful, natural environment over a gravel path. There were some beautiful views of the Toronto skyline and I was tempted to stop and take it in. Around 11km I started noticing the occasional runner zipping by me. By 13km they were passing me left and right. I was worried I was slowing down but my pace was actually increasing to 6:00 min/km. I realized that this is the point where the best of the 15k racers meet up with the 30k pack. It was hard not to get discouraged as you get passed by the dozens of runners!
After the 21k checkpoint, I did something I probably shouldn’t have. I usually use Clif Gel Shots during a run. I had a GU Gel in my pack I had never tried during training, but because I was getting passed so much, I thought it was a good time to try this ‘secret weapon.’ I suspect it badly backfired, as you’ll see below.
The part of the race from 20-25k is where it all came apart. I made the 21km checkpoint around 2:19 which is about where I expected to be. It was also nice that the course split so I was with only 30k runners. At that point it was getting close to 8pm and getting dark quickly. People started passing me as the route went through the winding Woodbine Beach park. It was really hard to navigate in the park because it was so dark, but fortunately the volunteers were in very visible shirts and located at necessary turns. I don’t know what I ate, but I started having massive cramps. I was having trouble holding form and was losing speed fast. I wanted to fight through it and hold until the finish line. There was a point where it became to much and I stopped at a conveniently placed public washroom. According to my Garmin data I was in there almost 6 minutes.
After the washroom break I took off as quickly as I could. I imagine a lot of people had passed me while I was stopped. I was desperate to make up for lost time, but the massive water loss and electrolyte imbalance was evident. Getting running again after sitting still for 6 minutes was also quite a struggle. Something in my back really hurt.
The 30k and 15k routes merged shortly around 27km. I found myself rapidly passing people, who I imagine were walkers doing the 15k. Kathy, Carlos and his cousin were on the route taking pictures, but I didn’t want to slow down. I felt bad about not slowing down for them, but I really wanted to finish.
I don’t know about sports psychology, so in matters of motivation I often fall back on video game and comic book analogies. In the Dragon Age series of video games, more willpower leads to more stamina and stamina regeneration. I like to think that all this training has meant I have built up lots of willpower, and thus stamina. In the Green Lantern series of comics in the DC universe, there is a concept that there is an emotional spectrum that is very much like a rainbow. In the middle, in Green is willpower. To one side is Hope (Blue) and Compassion (Indigo). I usually run with a mixture of will and hope. After my huge time loss in the bathroom I started feeling new feelings, Fear (Yellow), Avarice (Orange) and Rage (Red).
After seeing someone with a medal, all I could feel was avarice or greed. I wanted one. I kept saying ‘Mine’ to myself over and over to keep me going to the finish line. My finish line photo for this race is very different from other races: I don’t look happy, more mad.
I finished with a chip time of 3:26:00. It’s about 6 minutes longer than my Around The Bay time. I was so emotionally drained at the end of the race. I guess the absence of emotion is sadness? I was really worried about eating anything with my troublesome stomach, so I only ate bagels.
At the time I was really disappointed with myself. I felt terrible, I missed my goal time, and I was pretty sure the Liberal had beaten me. I later found out she ran it in 3:22, so I really could have beaten her. I felt so bad I considered quitting running forever.
There is a long list of excuses I can make: the unexpected bathroom break, too humid, discouragement being passed by the 15k runners… I could go on and on. But the truth is I wasn’t properly prepared because I wan’t careful about my food before and during the race, and I had only limited distance runs before this race.
I later found out that I wasn’t the only runner to have a ‘code brown’ this race. On the carpool ride home, I found out two others in my car had similar or worse stomach issues. Perhaps there was something in the water at an aid station, or in the sample Larabars we had before the race.
I guess I should be glad I stopped rather than doing something stupid. One of my friends, Henry shared with me a picture of someone who didn’t stop. It’s not a pretty sight… (Warning, it’s pretty gross) http://cslacker.com/images/view/973
Looking back now, I shouldn’t have felt so bad. The 6 minutes behind my goal can be easily attributed to the 6 minute bathroom break. I even lost some time before the stop because of the cramps. I kept right to plan and pace for the first 21km, and bounced back hard after the pit stop.
Well, less than 55 days to go until the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon…