First question: who races on Boozing Day? Really? After all - at least where I come from – Boxing Day is supposed to be a day of sloth and lazy self-indulgence. Perhaps because, as a child, my mother insisted on planting herself on the couch the entire day, getting through all of her Christmas reading in one go, and my father, bitter over the absence of leftovers (since my aunt and uncle host Christmas dinner), would cook another turkey dinner for the four of us. This progressed into us going up to our cottage to celebrate Boxing Day, where the opportunity to do any kind of physical activity was further impeded. Of course, Boxing Day is also a big night for house parties and club-goers, and is thus usually capped off with keggers and shots. Not exactly a day of detox.
This year, I stayed in the T. for Christmas. Nic was obviously extremely excited that I would be training with her over the holidays, and e-mailed me a good two months ago telling me about a ‘huge’ road race on Boxing Day, perhaps, she admitted, more famously known as the Stevenson Olympics. Justifiably, she has run it about 10 times and has been declared champion no less than 8 of those. This, compounded by the fact that it’s on her home turf (I think we even run by the McDonald’s she used to work at? Awesome.). In all honesty though, I thought it would be a great way to shake off the Christmas-time laziness. Of course it was, although on Boxing Day morning I was convinced it was the worst decision I had ever made in my life.
This brings me to my next question: who doesn’t drink on Christmas? Really? In my family I normally play the role of bartender (surprise, surprise), so the thought of a dry Christmas actually made me cry a bit inside. This of course being because I normally don’t drink before races (surprise again? I don’t know). On Christmas morning I thought I might be able to get through the day with water, but by 11AM I was offered several vodka-OJs by my father-in-law. Wow. I managed to decline his offer, but again, a few hours later there were more offerings and my discipline wavered. I began to rationalize my decision, figuring if I drank early enough I could be sober by 8PM, get a good night’s sleep and be ready to rock in the morning. Uh-huh.
So my next question is: who races after being sick with the flu for a week? Though I only had one day of extreme nausea, my body felt weak, I was stuffed up and my head pounded for most of the week. Still, it was the Stevenson Olympics! How could I miss it?!
So Nic picked me up in the morning and we drove down to the Hammer with AZ. I must have seemed especially lethargic, as Nic wasn’t sure if I was awake yet and AZ kept asking how hungover I was. In reality, it wasn’t really the hangover but more the -15 degree weather and hilly course description that left my motivation waning. Once we got to the course, however, I started to get a little more excited. This is most likely attributed to the fact that we got some awesome race gear, including two long-sleeved shirts decorated with white snowmen and some sweet snowman mitts on top of it. They were so exciting we couldn’t restrain our jazz hands from waving.
We got in a solid three mile warm-up and my legs felt pretty good, though I was warned not to go out too hard since the second half of the course is very hilly. I think Megan said something like ‘If you are hurting at all at 5 miles, you are done. OVER.’ Alrighty then! The gun went off and I trotted along pleasantly, going through 1 mile in just under 6:30. Hmmmmm...was I being too conservative? I picked it up for the next few miles, but it was a constant battle against gusting winds and windy turns along the bike path route. At 3 miles I let it be known that I wasn’t having fun and let out some sort of loud groan that heralded some snickers from those around me. At this point all kinds of negative thoughts were going through my head; I thought about tempo-ing the race, dropping out of the race, jogging the race, pretty much anything but trying my hardest. I reached the 5-mile mark in 31:38 and suddenly realized that I was feeling pretty good. I was approaching the first hill, and to my surprise it looked much less daunting than I had anticipated. I powered up it and started to pick up the pace. At the top I knew I had a mile or two before the second, more challenging hill, so I used this time and my relatively ‘fresh’ legs to gain some ground on those ahead of me. I saw a woman about 200m ahead who had passed me at 2 miles and decided to try and catch her by the second hill. I thought if I could stay close to her up the hill, I’d have a good chance of passing her on the recovery afterwards. I gradually reeled her in and by the base of the hill I was right on her heels. She didn’t like this much and put in a surge up the initial incline. I followed. I stayed close to her all the way to the very steep peak of the hill, where I think everyone including me was hardly moving forward. Next question: what kind of race has a hill like that? It seemed needlessly torturous, but I thought of the inspirational Saint Ralph and how valiantly some little kid fought up this very same hill. If he could do it there’s no way I couldn’t! At that point I heard someone yell ‘Go Rebecca! You got her!’ and I realized I was probably behind Rebecca Stallwood, who I knew was in the race. My resolve to pass her became even stronger. At the same time, a small old man at the top of the hill announced that we had just completed the last hill of the course, which flooded me with happiness and joy and renewed aggression. I wanted to bear-hug him and chase Stallwood simultaneously, but alas, I couldn’t do both, so I chose to bear-hunt Stallwood down instead. Again when I tried to pass her she surged forward, this time looking less comfortable and breathing heavily. I thought to myself, just sprint by her! You can afford a surge yourself at this point...so surge I did – and that was the end of her. I hammered on the downhill and someone from the sidelines yelled ‘4th place woman!’, at which point I saw another ponytail in the distance. We were approaching mile 9, so I knew I had to act quickly to lock in a 3rd place; thankfully I was already gaining on her. As I got closer I put in another surge and passed her, all the while wondering how fast our last mile would be if she were to resist it as Stallwood had. However, she didn’t respond and I continued along maintaining my pace and building a lead on her. The finish came up surprisingly quickly and I crossed the line in 3rd place in a time of 1:03:10. Not a time to write home about, but I was happy with how I raced it and having negative split the course with a hilly second half. Not to mention that I was able to snatch 3rd place and win myself some more Christmas loot!
Post-race and HAPPY
Megan won in an awesome time of 57:22 and Nic was 2nd in 1:01:26 all the while battling tummy troubles. So does this mean I can say I have an Olympic Bronze, Nic?
Camps a Champ in 3rd!
So much for lazy Boozing Day. Though I can’t say I didn’t finish off the day in proper form in this respect!