Monday, August 2, 2010

Worth a shot

[Nationals 5000m Race Capper]

“Drink one half bottle for moderate energy. Drink one whole bottle for maximum energy. Do not exceed two bottles of 5-Hour-Energy shots daily, consumed several hours apart.”

Perhaps not the kind of shot most would assume I would be taking. But after a long day of work and hours before the National 5000m Championships, I needed a little something extra. Moderate energy? I don’t think so. So chug the whole bottle I did. I jogged over to the track a few minutes later to meet Nicole for our usual pre-race pow-wow. My heart fluttered and I started to feel a little race-anxious on my way over, though this may have been attributed the well-advertised 'Niacin Flush' and 2-cup equivalent of caffeine contained in the shot. The label warning of ‘nervousness, sleeplessness, rapid heartbeat, hot flashes and skin redness’ could have been *somewhat* compounded by pre-race nerves, however. Are energy shots really a good idea before a race, especially one as nerve-wracking as a National Championship? This was not the time to contemplate this thought.
I found Nic and she gave me sound advice to not get caught up in an early fast pace but to stay in contact with the group – likely the second pack if it split up early. There would be two or three girls to push me to a sub 17:45 performance no doubt. I headed for my warm-up around 7:20 and was finished my drills and strides at 8:00PM. I think a more appropriate name for my drills are ‘movements,’ or perhaps even ‘stretches.’ After watching the sprinters earlier on, I have come to realize that my A’s,B’s and C’s look more like fluid ballet moves than intense ballistics. Ah well, I guess this is why I run the 5000m. My nerves were building steadily as I went to check in, at which point I was aggressively confronted by the woman at the desk:

“What is in your spike bag? Do you have any electronics – Ipod, cellphone, Blackberry, with you?” She asked suspiciously.
“Well, yes I have my cellphone,” I confessed.
“Is there anyone you can give it to? NO?! Well then I am going to have to take it!” She exclaimed triumphantly.
“Do you have any Gatorade?” She continued to demand.
“Ummm....ummm....hmmmm....yes?” I finally admitted guiltily, as if I had been trying to sneak a bomb onto a plane.
“Well hand that over too. And by the way, you aren’t allowed to wear a watch either. You have to take that off right now. And please take off your spikes I have to measure them.”

I had to restrain myself from asking her if I had accidentally walked into the New York airport instead of the University of Toronto’s Varsity Stadium. Would she like to strip me of my clothes and pat me down in addition to confiscating my shoes, electronics and liquids? After all, I could very well be plotting the death of Megan Wright by suffocating her with my extra t-shirt, or planning to cut Courtney Laurie with the sharp edge of my TTC token. Oh, the dangers that could present themselves! After she carefully measured my pins, she motioned to me to enter the holding room and I breathed a sigh of relief. My reprieve was short-lived, however, as we were ushered into an adjoining windowless, cold and bare room, for the next twenty five minutes. We were kept cooped up like animals in a pen, with no food or water and no sense of time or space, as the officials refused to give us any information as to how long our race would be delayed. We slapped our faces and legs, licked our lips thirstily and kicked our knees up periodically as we paced back and forth, anxiously awaiting our release onto the track. Now and again the entrance would clear so that we could peer out hungrily into the stadium where we would eventually be allowed to run free. In what seemed like hours later, we were led out onto the track by the athlete-herders. We were allowed to do a few strides and then it was time to line up. ‘On your mark’ and the stadium went silent. Suddenly a loud, wild, roar from the stands erupted as Nicole yelled “GOOOOO JAAAAAAANNNNNNEEEEEE” at the top of her lungs. My laugh was quickly stifled by the shush of a race official.
The gunshot fires and we are off. I immediately go to the back of the pack despite knowing that it is not a fast start. I am anxious and stressed and find it impossible – even after an 87s first lap – to stay relaxed. We stay in a tight group and continue to plot along, going through 1000m in 3:36. I begin to get nervous about the slow pace but it suddenly drops and I can tell everyone is picking it up. Since I don’t have my beloved watch, I have no idea what my splits are and this only stresses me out further. I try to hang on to the other girls but they begin to gap me in the second kilometre. Apparently I clocked an 82s lap and had a 3:27 2nd kilometre, which was far too aggressive. I slow it down to 3:37 in the third kilometre and am now completely on my own, in 11th place. I am feeling horrible now and am convinced that I am on 20:00 pace. At this point I have given up any hope of running sub 18:00. Unfortunate, but easy to do when you are in that much pain with 2000m to go. I cringe to report that I must have averaged about 3:50/km in the last two kilometres and was passed in the final 600m or so by the last-placed girl who went on to run 18:11. My finishing time was 18:20.
That being said, I did have the most fantastic cheering squad of anyone in the field. I could hear people all the way around the track cheering for me, which prevented me from dropping out (always a good thing). Of course I could hear Nicole every second of the race, telling me to keep it going, run hard, close gaps, etc. The video on YouTube is dominated by Nicole’s voice, it really is quite hilarious! I tried to listen but my brain definitely turned off halfway through. The front-end of the race was very exciting for the last few laps. Megan Wright managed to hold off BC-er Natasha Wodak in an intense sprint to the finish, and Leslie Sexton had a phenomenal race to win bronze in a new PB of 16:47. Awesome.
I went for my cooldown in a bit of a daze, not sure what to make of my race. My legs, that had felt so heavy and burning just minutes earlier, suddenly felt light and springy and full of zip. I began to pick up the pace and found myself up in Forest Hill fifteen minutes later. I began to worry that the girls would be waiting around for me at the track (we had plans to go to Cold Stone afterwards) so I booted it back down, covering in what I’d like to think was 8k in 28 minutes ;). As expected everyone was worried about me. Jeff had called my cellphone and when the terrorizing security official at the check-in desk answered, I was happy to hear that Jeff demanded “THIS IS MY GIRLFRIEND’S PHONE WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?!” Serves her right...
We convened outside the track and decided whether to stick to our plans of ice cream or to join the boys at Bedford Academy.
“Now be honest,” Nic asked, “do you want ice cream now or...shots of vodka?”
Now really, what kind of question is that. Obviously I would take shots of vodka over ice cream any day. We all agreed that a bed of some sort was in order. Half the girls actually wanted to sleep, the other half made their way to Bedford for some food and drinks. Of course, my double martini and Wallybanger shot (kind gift from Anne Myers) arrived before my food, so I was feeling spectacular in no time!
All in all, I am not too disappointed with the result since there will be other opportunities to run fast. The race was definitely worth a shot – if not the shot of the start gun, or the bitter shot of five hours of ‘energy,’ it was at least worth a shot guessed it: vodka. Absolut-ly.


  1. great race report Jane. Nationals 5000 m can be such a crapshoot for women in the 17:30-18:00 ramge. it can be a great race especially when there are faster women who run tactically or one can wind up completely alone (sniff). anyway kudoes to you for running it, i have always wanted to and never womanned up and got myself to the start line.
    And, no 18:20 can undo your fabulous 17:59.

  2. p.s. in case you cannot tell by my teeny tiny picture which is mostly obscured by my (then) teeny tiny baby - this comment was written by Leslie :)

  3. Haha, thanks Les - I was wondering who this mysterious PiccolaPineCone was ;). Ya I've realized that Nationals usually isn't the best place to try and run a consistent, fast race. Oh well, it was a good experience for sure...

  4. Hey Jane,
    Your race report was a fun read. I can't believe they took away your Gatorade -- I only had spikes and a water bottle in my bag, so I had nothing to worry about, but that's a bit insane. And the delay before the race was ridiculous. That kind of thing shouldn't happen at a national championship.
    It's too bad about the pace, because you are definitely in great shape. Good job on toughing it out, though. And I'm pleased to hear that vodka salvaged the night. I was celebrating with copious amounts of beer. I didn't even remember you being at the Bedford (or many other details of the evening), if that's any indication.
    -- Leslie