A big post for a big day !!!!!! :) :) :)
I am THRILLED beyond words. I set a new PR today AND "un"officially achieved a goal I set out for myself. My previous PR for a 10K was 1:12:22. I set it in my first 10K last October in the Halloween Haunting run. This year, I have been in two 10K races so far - Embro 1:14:08 and Ingersoll 1:14:13. I went to the race today hoping to crack 1:14 and crossing my fingers that I would crack 1:12 and set a new PR. The fact that I cracked 1:10 has had me on a huge runner's high all day !!!!!!! One of my favourite races to date!!!!
But back to the beginning ... Stratford is 45-60 minutes away from London so Ben and I decided to make a day of it by going for brunch with friends who live there after my race, which is an extra treat in itself - I really do love having my man with me at these runs! :) We parked at the famous main festival theatre, right by the water with all the ducks and swans, including a gorgeous black swan, before heading to pre-registration. Best swag bag to date with a great tech T, a little Shopper's Drug Mart bag filled with moisturizer, cookies, a SS water bottle and the usual advertisements. :) Off to the washroom, which is the best park washroom I have been in to date and was shocked by how wonderfully hot the the water was for washing hands. How pleasant for a change! Then I was off to the starting line. I noticed how most runners wore shorts and a long sleeved T for the run. I opted to stay in my track pants rather than change into shorts, and I kept my running jacket on over my tech T, but took my hoodie off because I was only using it to keep warm until the start. It was my first time in pants and my jacket of the season so this felt a little odd. We were then off!
It was a slow start as, surprisingly, the people in front of me were slower, almost walking, but eventually the crowd thinned out and "everyone" (so it seemed!) pulled ahead of me. I noticed my pace was faster than usual (but on target for an adrenaline-fueled start), but I kept myself in check. We ran around and down out of the park, and through the parking lot where we had parked earlier.
This is when I saw a sight that warmed my heart tremendously. I saw my Benny running across the soccer field to get to the sideline in time so he could see me again. I tell you, I really do know how lucky I am to have such a sweet soul in my life!! :) I am no fool! I grinned at him and ran up to give him a kiss and thanked him for making the effort. As I ran past, I could hear some women calling out to him, but could not make out what they said because I was wearing my iPod buds. When I asked him later about the exchange, he told me that a group of older women had laughingly told him that they could ALL use that kind of inspiration and he just grinned at them! :)
About one K into the race, I started having problems with my iPod. In hindsight, I think I pressed the voiceover button too hard and that it got stuck, but all I knew at that moment while I was running, when checking to make sure I had the right music on, the iPod went dead. I kept turning it on and off and trying to get it to work but it wouldn't. I ran for a little while, feeling panicky about not having my music to motivate me for over an hour and also feeling upset that something bad had happened to my new Shuffle! Some self-talk to calm down, a decision not to stop and walk with it, and voila, after giving the little thing a few minutes off, I turned it on again and it worked. Not a pleasant experience but I got through it.
Stratford is a very pretty city to run in, and I enjoyed the "tour" overall. This is one aspect of running that I am enjoying, seeing different towns and cities in Southwestern Ontario.
Once again, I had a runner yo-yo with me for ~1-1/2K. I did feel bad for him - he would run a few metres, and then stop to walk, repeat. He clearly had burned himself out at the beginning of the race because I encountered his burnout in the 4K-ish zone. My beef if how irritating it is to have someone like him set his sights on me as the person he does NOT want to have pass him. He continuously ran by me, and then start walking. Eventually my pace would catch up to his walking pace at which point he would zoom ahead. It was as if he made it his personal goal to keep ahead of me, which is fine, I guess, except I find it quite irritating, when I am trying to keep focused on my race, to have someone zip zip zip back and forth beside me. I told myself to be patient, and just keep at the pace I was running as this yo-yoing was happening before the race's halfway mark; therefore, he would be walking the rest of the race pretty soon. Sure enough, another 1/2K later, I ran past him and didn't see him again. :)
One of my biggest highlights of the race was seeing Ron. Ron is 70+ years old and has been at every Runpiker's run that I have. A very nice man who is a retired schoolteacher. We first noticed him in Woodstock, how steady and consistent his pace was, and how he blew us away by the middle of the race, always finishing multiple people ahead of us. He ran Embro in 1:06, a good 8 minutes faster than me. Well, when I realized it was him ahead of me (he has a distinctive cadence), I was thrilled. I was in the same running zone as Ron! Wouldn't it be cool to finish behind him? I was so proud of myself to think that my running had actually improved this much! I also got to thinking about how much my long runs HAVE helped because I would not be running just under 7:00 min/km on average if it hadn't been for my long runs. When I started to tell myself to slow down, to bring my pace back down to 7:30, I debated internally whether to let myself keep running at the faster pace because I had run 18K last weekend after all! Clearly I should have a little faith and be a little experimental by letting me run at the faster pace that I was clearly comfortable running! I am so pleased that I did! :)
And then a funny thing happened ... I noticed how I was creeping up behind Ron and a group of women who were running just ahead of Ron. I kept checking my Garmin and realized that I was the one keeping steady - it was Ron and the women who were slowing their pace! The closer I got, the more I realized that I was actually going to pass Ron! And I didn't want to do it! :( My goal was to follow him in, not pass! However, this was happening in the 7-8K zone and I had no choice, but to keep pace and pass him. I realized that his pace was off (comparatively to other races), and I had no choice. After smiling hello and passing the group of women on the hill, I was suddenly out there on my own with 2K to go ...
It was initially a bit of an odd feeling. I am accustomed to watching all the runners ahead of me, and now, here I was, successfully passing 12+ people and no one ahead of me to pass. I checked my watch again and suddenly realized that 1:10 was achievable. What a new amazing feeling!!!! I told myself to go for it and to keep my pace up so I could do it - this was my race to win! I kept chanting that to myself as a mantra.
Well, the last hill UP to the finish line was challenging and killed whatever cushion time I had left to make it in under 1:10, and it was great to see Benny again at the finish line cheering me on. He told me later was so impressed to see me just before the 1:10 mark when I had told him I would be crossing the finish line eventually after this time. :) I admit that I was feeling a little verklempt as I neared the finish line when I realized I had done it. :) :) :)
Now here's the thing ... do I count my actual time or the chip time? :) LOL !!!
Chip (official race time) 1:10:19
My little beef with these smaller races is how the chip is not accurate except for those runners right at the starting line. Those of us who start further back because we are slower therefore have another 15-20 seconds to get across the start. In large city races, the chip turns "on" the moment the runner crosses the start line and then again at the finish line. However, in these smaller races, the start line is usually a ladder and a thin rope. EVERYBODY has the same start time. I tend to start my Garmin when I cross the start line so I get a more accurate reading (and usually I am within a metre as my Garmin km alerts beep as I pass the km markers along the route). Normally this is not an issue except in this race. I am officially 19 seconds slower than my ultimate 10K goal for the year, but in reality, I came in 30 seconds faster. How funny that I am obsessing over this, eh? LOL!!!
I am now understanding just a little better about why runners can get so fussy. 19 seconds ... "if" only I had started closer to the starting line ... "if" only I had run up that last hill faster ... "if" only I could have run up that one hill without zig zagging around the runners who suddenly stopped to walk in front of me ... "if" only I hadn't stopped to kiss Benny ... LOL !!!! How crazy is all that but I have a better understanding of it now - I don't want to be that kind of runner, but if a runner is within seconds/less than a minute off their goal, I can see how easy it is to become obsessed with all the run moments that slowed the runner down ... :)
So! Next Saturday - 20K. My final long run 2 weeks before Niagara Falls. The following Sunday - 10K @ The Pinery. I will decide during the race whether to run it to try to beat 1:10 or just to say "no biggie - just enjoy it" because less than 10 recovery days later, I am running my half marathon. And 7 days after the big big day, I have my last 10K of the year - a "rematch" of my very first 10K - the Halloween Haunting. I know for sure that I will be running with my dog, Angus. Ben has already mentioned it multiple times because last year, a woman ran with two dogs. Ben has wanted Angus in a race since. And at today's race, a runner ran with her dog, which inspired Ben to talk about it again. :) I would prefer going with Wallace, but it will mean so much more to Ben to see "his boy" running with his Lit'l Sweety ... :)