Last weekend was the Toronto Women’s Only 5k and 5 miler at Sunnybrook park. I was really looking forward to this event, since I have never run a women’s-only road race. Of course, water stations lined with buff firemen and aid tables filled with chocolate may have also had a (very small) impact on my excitement. I had been meaning to participate in this series for the past year (and have been dreaming of firemen and chocolate), but found the races always conflicted with another major race or life event (like my wedding - I know, no excuse) and I was never able to participate. So despite having raced the half-marathon the weekend before, race again six days later I did (for the firemen. Okay I think I need to stop now).
I’m not gonna lie, my legs were pretty beat up after the half-marathon. Not wanting to acknowledge the possibility that I am not a superwoman and have some trace of mortal in me, I searched for external reasons to explain this fact. ‘Oh, it was the up and (moreso) downhill of the course that really took a beating on my legs.’ Or, ‘I’ve run 20 races on my racing flats, including 7 half-marathons and a marathon, so I was basically running barefoot’ was my next justification. Of course the fact that I actually just ran very hard and also doubled on race day, putting my total mileage for the day at 24 miles, did not enter to my genius equations. Nevertheless, I woke up on Monday in a world of soreness. I managed to get out for an easy run and felt mildly better, only to wake up Tuesday morning in the full throttle of post-race DOMS. Every muscle in my legs ached, so intensely so that I thought I might tear my calve should I attempt to take a single stride. After I got through Tuesday (sans ripped calf muscle – hooray!), however, the legs started to feel much better.
By Saturday I was feeling peppier, though when I started running my legs were overcome with heaviness and lethargy. I did not think good thoughts before this race. Instead I convinced myself that it would be a tempo and that I didn’t care about winning (a lie obviously). I even debated sitting down after the warm-up and eating chocolate(and gazing at firemen) instead of going over to the start line. Coach would not have been proud to know these thoughts (though I guess she knows them now...damn this blog!). I eventually made it to the start line and luckily after doing a few strides, my legs started to feel much better. When we lined up I saw two girls on my left with TOC singlets on. This is when I realized there could be more company during the race than I had previously anticipated. My intensity increased, since when you are a UTTC member, ‘TOC’ reads ‘DEVIL’. There was no question I had to beat them.
G.I. Jane's game face next to her competition
TOC giving me some evil eye (bring it!)
The gun went off and so did we, at what felt like a brisk but not crazy pace. The two girls stayed with me for the first few hundred meters, at which point one dropped off while the other stayed right on my heels. We went through 1k in 3:28. Hmmm definitely quick. I thought for sure she would start to fall back and that I’d soon be able to relax the pace. However, that was not so. I also noticed some dude that kept cheering for me and appearing each km marker. I wondered who he was and how he knew my name, as he was awfully loud. Regardless, I initially thought it was nice that he was cheering for me with such gusto. I went through 2k in 6:59 and still I could feel 2nd place not too far behind me. I began to question my complacency in this race. When I went through 3k in 10:32, I began to wonder who this TOC girl was (whose footsteps I could still hear) and if she was going to run a sub-29:00 5 miler. Thankfully, by 5k (which I got to in 18:15 – at that point I had already started to bring down the pace) she dropped back and I was able to develop a bigger lead on her. Let me tell you I was very relieved, since I was definitely starting to feel the burn.
This is when the random dude became more apparent to me. He started to run alongside me in the final three kilometers, telling me he was going to race me to the finish and encouraging me to pick up the pace. ‘Two wins in a row! You can do it! Common’ don’t slow down!’ At this point I was tired, obviously irritable, and the last thing I wanted was a stranger NOT in the race racing me a race in which I did not care about my finishing time. When he refused to let up with his heckling, I turned to him and said: ‘Relax dude! I don’t need you here!’ Perhaps I was a bit harsh, as he quickly apologized and retreated into the woods. I immediately felt guilty and wondered whether that was the best thing to do, but my thoughts were cut short by a couple of women running in the 5k coming in the opposite direction, who had clearly heard me and chuckled ‘You tell him, woman!’ And hey, it was a woman’s race! As Charlie’s (and therefore Nic’s) Angels would say, ‘Don’t send a man to do a woman’s job!’
The course was not an easy one. It included bridges, hills, sharp turns and even mud, somewhat reminiscent of a cross-country race. I enjoyed running through the park, however, as it offered a pleasant distraction, especially in the painful last kilometers of the race. I began to suffer considerably at 6k and wondered whether I’d make it back to the finish in sub-4:00 kilometers. I felt like slowing to a jog since there was no one around, but knew that I still risked giving up the win, so I tried (pitifully) to push onwards. I gave it everything, but at that point ‘everything’ meant 3:55/km. Ouch.
Approaching the finish line!
I was relieved and happy to cross the finish line 1st overall, dipping under the minute mark this time in 29:58. I must have looked rather unhappy, tired and hungry, since a volunteer ushered me to the refreshment tables and ordered me to nourish myself, literally telling me to “GO SEEK SOME NOURISHMENT!” I couldn’t help but laugh, as did Jeff, but the perplexed expression on her face indicated that she was in fact quite serious with her command. To avoid any further confrontation I proceeded toward the Gatorade, only to be stopped by a Global TV cameraman. ‘Could I ask you a few questions?’ He asked pleasantly. ‘Of course!’ I responded, excited at the prospect of being on National television. My mind raced at the thought of breaking news updates and top news stories featuring: G.I. Jane, winner of the Women’s Only 5-miler! Ah, the fame that would soon be mine! After learning to pronounce my name ‘C-U-LLIS instead of C-O-OLIS’ (perhaps I should just change it to Coolis officially?) he asked me what I thought of the course. This is where things started to go awry (yes, apparently I can only get so far as to correctly pronounce my last name) . I blabbered something like ‘Oh, it was nice. I like running in the park. There’s nice scenery.’ I immediately realized how stupid I sounded, but could not for the life of me draw a single intelligent comment from my glucose-depleted brain. All I thought was ‘the lady was right, I need nourishment! I can’t think!’ But of course the questioning went on, enabling me to dig an ever deeper hole for myself when I exclaimed that running through Sunnybrook was nicer than ‘running down Yonge street like last weekend.’ Just in case embarrassing myself was not enough, I also had to offend the Goodlife organizers whose course I actually did enjoy! I don’t remember the rest of the interview (for the best, I am sure) but have seen no trace of it on the internet or on TV, leading me to conclude that (a) they trashed it as soon as they saw what horrible TV material I made or (b) no there is no (b) they definitely just threw it out. I am hoping I can brush up on my post-race interview skills so that IF there is a next time (and reporters have not been warned against asking me even the simplest of questions) I will be a little more coherent.
Overall, however, the day was a success: Mama K placed 4th overall in the 5-miler and the rest of the Angels tore it up in the 5k, placing 1-2-3-4-6-10. Unbelievable. The day was an incredible one for the Angels, as we definitely made our mark on women’s running in Toronto. I am already anxious for the next women’s only race, however, since in my runner’s brain- glucose-depleted state I somehow missed seeing the firemen and only got my hands on one bar of chocolate (a 100 calorie one at that!) at the end of the race. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to spectate at the next one?!
Nicole's Running Angels