Monday, February 28, 2011
Coolis - 1, Stevenson - 0
Naturally, the count starts in 2011.
Well, apparently I have not been freed from the evil grips of lord AO (http://janecoolis.blogspot.com/2010/11/oh-lord-ao-overdeity-of-forgotten.html). Perhaps as a curse for having berated him so badly in November, I will forever be faced with a sentence of torrential weather and horrid footing such that even the most flat and fast road race will be transformed into a trek through the North Pole. Such was the case this morning, when Val, Nic and I set out to the wonderful, quaint town of Grimsby, for what we thought would be a pleasant 21k run down road and main streets. Instead, we were met with slush, snow, wind and ice and spent the last 12k fighting for sub-4:00 km’s. Oh the joy.
At 7AM, I walked up to meet Val at Starbucks, noting the fresh layer of snow coating the sidewalks. I thought to myself – perhaps too complacently – how great it was that we would have entire roads to ourselves that morning to run on, unimpeded by the snow. Oh, how wrong I was. Val spoke strangely prophetically when I met her (perhaps momentarily possessed by the Lord AO?): “This snow is going to make for a brutal race!” “What do you mean?” I questioned, “The race IS on the roads, after all – they will be cleared, no?” “Oh really?” she responded (somewhat) innocently “I thought this race was small, and that we’d be running on the sidewalks!” I couldn’t help but chuckle (or maybe it was more like burst out in hysterical laughter, I can’t quite remember...) at her comment, having never, EVER having to run on the sidewalk in a road race. “Not sure what kind of races you’ve done, Val, but they normally aren’t held on sidewalks.” I think I was too demeaning in my comments, however, as karma came back to kick me really, really hard in the ass...or perhaps should I say both my hamstrings.
Nic picked us up and we arrived in Grimsby just in time to get in 20min warm up and decide on racing attire. Despite the snow, we were blessed with what felt like unusually balmy weather for this time of year (it hovered around zero degrees – in short, wintertime SUMMERTIME). I am delighted to announce that it was my FIRST day in half-tights in 2011! Juxtaposed with my feather-weight ASICS hyperspeed racing flats, light long-sleeve and sweatband in lieu of tuque, I felt strangely light and zippy. I asked Nic what the plan was. Although we had vaguely discussed 3:50/km as a target pace, she suddenly decided that she would be much better off running 4:00/km for – not just 1 – or 2 – km, but 5km, and picking up the pace every 5km onward. Given that Nic is a classic GOHAHI racer (go-out-hard-and-hold-it...obvi), I was baffled by her new race strategy. “Why on EARTH would you do such a thing?!” I exclaimed in horror. She explained that in every half she has done in the past year, she has positive-split and was tired of it. “But still...4:00/km? Don’t you think that’s a *little* conservative?” I continued. The image of her behind me, hunting me down in the latter half of the race was absolutely terrifying. I prayed and hoped that her legs were simply not capable of running a 4:00 km in a race, such that I would not be running it scared like Forrest Gump.
We amassed near the start line and I noticed that the first few hundred meters were on hard-packed snow. Hmmmm. This made for some awesome, backward-flailing strides. I figured it was because we were on a side street and that the roads would clear up once we turned onto the main roads. Thankfully, this was the case – at least initially.
First kilometer of clear road!
I went through the first km in 3:46 feeling very comfortable and already Nic was nowhere to be heard. I began to think that she may follow her ridiculous ‘4:00/km for the first 5k’ race tactic. 2k and 3k were 3:50 and 3:47; nevertheless, I soon heard the hard pitter-patter of Nic’s quick stride as she pulled up beside me. “Well that lasted long,” I chuckled, somewhat relieved that I wouldn’t be hunted down like a wild animal after all. We continued on clocking consistent 3:45-50s (4k – 3:45, 5k – 3:48, 6k – 3:48, 7k – 3:47, 8k – 3:47) and I was surprised by how easy it felt. By 8k, I was convinced we’d be able to go around 1:20:00 no problem. Then at 9k, after pulling out a 3:40, we were faced with a 1.5km snowy stretch through some desolate fields. I remembered this from last year, so ‘knowing’ it was the only real snowy part, I was motivated to power through it and regain my pace from 11k on. At this point I pulled ahead of Nic and did gain some ground on her through this ‘cross-country’ section. It actually was startlingly reminiscent of Nationals XC in Guelph, as the ground was slippery, undulating and uneven. It felt long so I was ever-so-thankful when we finally popped out on the road again and I could get back into a rhythm. Perhaps I would leave Nic behind for good?
Nic suffers in the background
Yeah, right. My rhythm did not last long. The second half of the course was filled with several turns into small neighbourhoods, whose inhabitants were motivated enough to wake up early, create elaborate and creative signs for us (one even advertising free lap dances for runners, at which point the lead biker almost gave up his job to take these ladies up on their offer), but not keen enough to get up and shovel or salt their roads (soooo rude of them!). All jokes aside, every turn – which seemed to occur in 300m intervals - we were met with a unkempt side street filled with slush, ice and snow and horrible footing. I almost slipped several times and came to a near standstill going around several tight turns and saw Nic right in front of me doing the same (I secretly hoped she’d go over and I’d gain 30s on her...umm...kidding...?). My hamstring tightened up considerably and I began to wonder if I would finish the race without more (not-so-mysterious) bruises and possibly a leg injury. After we clocked a 4:17 km through a particularly bad stretch, I decided to stop looking at my watch. It was all too depressing. Aerobically I still felt great, which made the slipping and sliding that much more frustrating.
At 18k we were met with clear roads once again and we began to pick up the pace. Nic began to growl at me in her usual climactic manner. “3k! EXECUTION! EXECUTION TIME!!!! GO GO GO! Common’, get these guys ahead! They’re dying!” I looked ahead at a guy hunched over, barely running in a straight line and realized that his form was so saddening that it would be an utter failure of a day if I did not pass him. So pick it up I did, overcoming him and another guy ahead. Nic and I were neck-and-neck for the last 2km, in which I am sure she could have gained 30s on me had she not been more focused on me digging deeper and yelling at me to take ‘FASTER steps!’. ‘Yes, faster steps, speed up, quicker turnover, I get it, I am running too slowly for you!’ I thought to myself. Part of me wanted to tell her to go ahead, but before I knew it we were in the last 500m and all I could do was turn off my brain and give everything I had to try and outsprint her. Unfortunately, all blood was drained entirely from my brain, as I completely forgot to leap-split across the finish to secure my victory, and instead we broke the tape together and had to wait around for an hour before we knew who got the win. During this time, Nic stormed away from the finish in furious anger at my possibly edging her at the line. I think that later she was also spotted crying pitifully in the corner of the gymnasium, wondering how on earth her own athlete could challenge her in such a formidable way. At the awards ceremony, when it was unveiled that I had indeed beaten here by a mere 0.2 seconds (!), she REFUSED to shake my hand and jumped from the stage, nearly meeting her demise.
Perhaps I am exaggerating slightly, nonetheless I think I have proved that I am faster than Nicole Stevenson, since I beat her 7 years after she was in her best form, in a mid-winter race after logging twice as many miles as her, while she barked at me from behind. Clearly, I beat her fair and square! Our official times were 1:21:35.0 and 1:21:35.2 – not bad for this course on a day like today, but well off what I think we both could have run on real asphalt. Not to make excuses or anything (I haven’t provided ANY in this recap at all, I know). Val had an extraordinarily impressive race, running 1:32:55 for a 5-MINUTE personal best! Unbelievable. This is a testament to how much she has improved in the past year since joining the Angels, and bodes extremely well for the rest of the season. She will undoubtedly shave off several more minutes in better conditions!
We left with some great loot, including some spectacular ‘Roll Up the Rim to Win’ t-shirts (yes, t-shirts! Nic’s new favourite shirt), free coffee, a $2 gift card to Tim Hortons (who knew they made $2 gift cards?!), a MEDAL (joy), a hat and oh yes, a personal cheque for $250. Can’t complain there! The race organizers were great and the whole event was really fun; however, I vow to be back next year only if there is no snow...hopefully Jerry can arrange that?
Nic is a huge fan of roll-up-the-rim-to-win
Next up is a full week of training including a 20-miler on Thursday, Saturday intervals and ending with me being the 1:30:00 pace bunny for the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington on Sunday. I am looking forward to doing this, as several Angels will be racing so it’s a great excuse to go down and cheer them on. Never been a pace bunny before, but I do hope I get to wear some pink bunny ears (these are the kinds of things I look forward to). And seeing how much everyone enjoyed and appreciated my last running video, I am thinking I should bring my camera with me for some footage on course. I know you all can’t WAIT to see it!