Great race, lots of fun!
I don’t know where to start. The weather was the best we’ve ever had, the course was dry, I was feeling good, and the result was better than I expected. Even though I finished in the same place as last year (13th), I was happy to have run 1 minute 43 seconds faster. I had to face some adversity during the race, but I knew at the 8th kilometer that I was easily going to beat my time and that motivated me to push hard for the remainder of the race.
Due to a hectic work schedule and a sore knee, my training has been less than stellar. A couple of days ago, I decided to do a 7 x 1000m workout (3:45 pace) to see where I was at. To my surprise, I was able to execute the workout easily. I figured that consistent 1 hr easy runs over the winter with Darren and tons of speed work from last year was having an effect.
I didn’t have a time or place in mind for this 10km race, but I knew it was very likely I’d run faster than last year since the weather in Lethbridge was much better. Last year, we had to run through several ice puddles and we also had to be more cautious in various areas due to ice.
Warren and I made our way to Calgary on Friday night to break up the drive and hang out at Grant’s house. On Saturday, we headed south to Lethbridge and I was delighted to watch the temperature on the car continue to climb until it reached 14-15 degrees Celsius. I knew there wouldn’t be any snow/ice on the course, so I was focusing on relaxing and preparing for a solid effort for the night. After picking up our race packages, we met up with Shane at the hotel and headed down the big hill to do our annual inspection of the race course.
Since the course was new last year, we still hadn’t fully mapped out the course in our minds. It turned out that one of the trail sections was washed out and required a diversion. After a good 4 kilometer walk, we grabbed a quick salad and rested for another hour prior to the race start.
The temperature dropped quickly down to 0 degrees, but I was still in good spirits. My legs weren’t feeling fresh, but after a solid warm-up I lined up with the masses near the front. I have to say that it can feel a bit intimidating at the start line of this race. You never know who is going to show up, and everyone looks like an elite athlete. I reminded myself that I was a top 15 finisher from last year, and I would have to run my own race if I wanted to be successful.
There was no cannon to start the race this year, but there were bag pipes and drums along the first 2 kilometers. I tried to relax the first kilometer but I wasn’t feeling that fast anyway and tons of people passed me. I looked at my watch and saw that I did a 3:30 kilometer. If you don’t already know, the first two kilometers are mostly downhill and a majority of runners do it too quickly. This year was no exception. I was in about 40th place as we got to the bottom of the hill and entered the dark pathways. The second kilometer was also 3:30 but I didn’t know this until afterwards.
The skies were clear and the moonlight was dim, thus it got dark really quick as we hit the asphalt path. Night running to me feels like I am floating effortlessly into an abyss, at least for a little bit. The excitement and intensity of the race was still there and I tried to keep my composure as I was slowly catching some runners.
The next four kilometers was mostly a blur. We approached the first turn around point and I was interested to see where Shane & Warren were in comparison to the lead. Not surprisingly, Kip Kangogo was in the lead but there were a few runners close behind including female Commonwealth Games competitor Jessica O’Connell. I didn’t see her at the start line, but I knew she was the real deal and she ended up finishing in 3rd, very close to 2nd place.
Shane was in 8th place, Warren was shortly behind in 12-13th place and I was about 40-60 seconds behind them. I quickly assessed that I was having a good race since I wasn’t too far behind and I was still feeling good. The 4th kilometer was stressful because I was gaining on a few runners but the path was too tight with runners going in both directions. One guy with a baby stroller (seriously!) almost smacked into me as he was trying to pass runners going the other way. I made a grunt noise to signify my presence but I realized and regretted at that moment not wearing a head lamp for this section.
As we approached the trail along the river, it got even darker and I was loving it! Luckily, there was a good runner with a head lamp two steps behind me so he provided just enough light for me to cruise. Running along the river is the toughest for me because my endurance is being tested and the rolly paths do a number on my stomach area. The runner behind me was still pushing the pace and we started chasing down a few runners ahead of us.
Finally, I got off the river path (around 7km) and I started thinking about the finish line. I’m still feeling okay and I shook off that young runner behind me. I’m now all alone on a gravel road and I can see a few head lamps ahead of me. I took a quick glance at my watch and realized that I was on pace to break my 8km personal best of 30:40.
My legs were pretty beaten up as we approached the giant hill to the top. Part of me thought that I should take it easy knowing that I have run well up until this point and I would beat my time from last year. However, as I started the climb, I was easily passing runners. I’m guessing these guys were gassed from running too fast earlier on. Passing these runners gave me a boost and I continued to push hard up the hill without caring about how I’d feel later on.
Half way up the hill, I passed another 3 runners and now my legs are really tired. Even though I held back on the first two kilometers, it still beat me up pretty good.
The final kilometer was very exciting. I had set a personal best for the first 8km (30:35) which gave me 12 minutes to do the last two kilometers in order to break my time from last year. At the very top of the hill, I passed two more runners and I started to accelerate for the final 800 meters. My legs were heavy and my patience was wearing thin, I thought “will I be able hold on?”
The last 800 meters was tough, but I held on and was able to catch two more runners just before the finish line. I crossed that finish line knowing I couldn’t have done any better on this day. I was happy about how I was able to be patient and regain all those places I lost early in the race. It was almost hard to believe that I shaved off all those seconds without an intense winter program.
Warren wasn’t feeling great and Shane’s foot was bothering him as well. We skipped the very long medal ceremonies and went straight to dinner. Instead of going to Earl’s, we went to the fancy new Moxies restuarant. We enjoyed a few beers and went to bed for a good night’s rest.
Grant, Warren and I went for a long run Sunday morning. The scenery was beautiful and calm. Unfortunately, our legs were so sore we only made it 5km for our long run. Enjoy these photos!