Sunday, May 1, 2011

FOREST CITY ROAD RACE 10K - The Drowned Rat Race!

Continuing with my recent theme of historical reflection first ... this annual running event in London has become significant to me. I ran in the Gold's Gym 5K event one year ago (minus one day):

May 2, 2010
5K @36:19
Pace 7:16/km

It was my first race of the year and the first time I was ready to run a race "so early" in May. :) I was very proud about my accomplishment then. I promised myself after this race that I would run in the 10K event in 2011 ...

Now, by May 2011, my first race of the year was in February, and I have participated in three races in total before today. :)

Two out of three races are now accomplished (I wrote about this in a prior post). Part I (5K) and Part II (10K) are done. Next year's goal, Part III, is to run in the 2012 half marathon event, thus collecting a 'trifecta', in a sense, of medals and bibs from this one annual event as a reflection of my continued perseverance with and improvement in running. :)


It wasn't raining when I woke up this morning, but it started drizzling lightly at ~8:25 a.m. When checking the Weather Network, the graph showed that the rain would hold off until noon. Ben told me not to trust it, and to prepare myself for being rained upon ... I decided what to wear accordingly, gathered my gear, and then we were off to Victoria Park.

It felt a little odd to arrive at the site just as a significant number of half marathoners were crossing the finish line. It was like arriving at a party late and wondering if you had misunderstood what time to arrive at. The last of the 5Kers were finishing, too, so I was part of the third and last wave of runners heading out into the city.

I had just finished my warm-up and found Ben to give him my extra clothes when the announcer over the loud speaker announced it was 9 minutes to start. I had no sooner peeled off my jacket and pants when the heavens opened up and it started to rain! Ben questioned my running without the jacket, but I assured him that my double shirt ensemble would suffice. I speculated about it being too windy for my baseball cap, but Ben insisted that I wear it because of the rain.

And it was really raining by this time.

I have never started a race in steady rain before; drizzle, yes, but rain like this - no. So many runners and spectators looked miserable as they stood waiting in the rain. I felt guilty having Ben there, standing there getting increasingly wet while assisting me at the start line.

The funny thing is, I was completely fine with it. I was thinking about how most of LSD runs in the last few weeks had been "Drowned Rat" runs and even a "Puddle Run." This was nothing! I felt very prepared and didn't mind standing there getting wet ... good omen #1 to feel calm and confident in these conditions. :)

Then we were off! I was so relieved to see that it wasn't a gun start/chip finish similar to last year's 5K race. As a group, we started/stopped twice as the runners in front funnelled over the starting mat. Just seeing a chip timer mat went a long way in making me feel better about today's time recording - good omen #2. :)

And it continued to rain ...

Unlike previous races, there wasn't a huge swooooosh of people passing me. There was a significant number of people still passing me as they jostled from behind for a clearer running lane upfront, but it wasn't a leave-me-in-the-dust-type of situation. I found a comfortable pace early on and stayed with it, knowing that a nice, gradual decline on Queen's Ave/Riverside Drive was coming soon. I was a little shocked when I checked my Garmin and saw that I was running just under a 6 min./km pace, but rather than getting panicky, I felt very good because it was comfortable. Although it was attributable to race-start adrenaline, I wasn't running 'all out' and I decided to let myself go with this flow. I kept saying repeatedly to myself, "This is my race; don't get caught up with other runners. Just run your own race because it's chip timed." My mantra for the first 2K. :)

1 km - 6:36
2 km - 6:31

And it's still raining!

A Shriner's volunteer laughingly offered a box of kleenex as we ran by him. Another runner and I joked as we passed the first Starbucks Coffee if just inhaling the caffeine fumes would give us added adrenaline.

A song by Crowded House started playing on my iPod - "Weather with You" ...

Do I lie like a lounge room lizard?
Or do I sing like a bird released?
Everywhere you go, always take the weather with you!
Everywhere you go, always take the weather!

This made me think about how "sunny" I was feeling inside while listening to this song. I was feeling so strong and steady. My shoulders were relaxed, my hands unclenched, my pace was steady, and this race was already feeling much better than my Run for Retina 10K three weeks ago. It was feeling a lot more like my Good Friday Downtown 5K run last week, which is exactly what I was aiming for ...

And while lost in these thoughts, I suddenly realized that I had just run halfway up the hill on Western Road, a hill that I thought might challenge me ... ha! How cool not to really notice a hill! Good omen #3.

3K - 6:48

And it continued to rain. Thank you, Ben, for insisting that I wear my baseball cap because you wouldn't believe the amount of water running off its rim in front of my face! Oy!

At this point, we were running into the UWO campus and a taxi cab severely cuts off a group of runners in front of me in order to turn into one of the student residences. :( As runners, even with these pylons and police officers and volunteers everywhere, we are still at risk out here on the roads in the rain with impatient drivers ...

4K - 6:56

I am just about to turn onto Philip Aziz Dr., a quieter university route away from traffic when an ambulance siren cries out nearby. We all start turning our heads and watching, wondering if an ambulance is about to run us over. It was very loud but it turned the other way just as I round the corner so all is good ...

Except that it is still raining!

It's nicer to be running on campus. It's quieter, safer, and picturesque, even in the rain. I am feeling very good, knowing that we are going to hit the halfway mark soon, but my energy level is still healthy and strong. I have been checking my Garmin every once in awhile and I like what I am seeing so I am trying to leave it alone (and protected from the rain) under my long sleeve.

5K - 6:33

For the first time, I look at my 'Time' data field on the Garmin and it says 34:00 and change. However, my 'Distance' data field is not in sync with the FCRR markers, and I am not sure which one to believe. I also start thinking that I am not going to look at my watch again because I am doing just fine on my own and I don't want this thing on my wrist dictating how I will feel today!

We then head into a neighbourhood just off campus and it has junk piles everywhere from all the Western students moving out. The moving cars are driven by impatient students and it's a little dicey. The amount of garbage is an extremely sad sign of waste. :( Fortunately, this was limited to Sunset Ave. only, and we are gone within minutes.

6K - 6:38
7K - 6:49

The route then took us onto the bike path leading into Gibbons Park. I have run this path many times before, and I know what is between here and the finish. I overtake other runners at this point, and then I have a very good laugh as literally 7 runners in front of me veer suddenly to the left to use the park's washroom facilities! It was a funny sight to see the path "open up" before me as a result of so many runners needing to pee! I pace another runner up the small, but steep hill and wow! That makes it easier! I turned to say thanks, but he has already slowed significantly so that his girlfriend can catch up to him.

And it continues to rain ...

I realize that a runner in front of me has a half marathon bib on. Her pace was slower than mine so I spoke to her as I passed her, cheering her on and congratulating her for sticking it out in this rain. We are almost there! Just a few more km to go!!

8K - 6:44

The Talbot St. hill is now ahead, the toughest part of the route. What a bummer to have it so close to the end. :( I take a peek at my Garmin and see that my pace is 6:30/km. I need to slow down a little because my reserves are lowering and I want to be able to tackle this hill. I remember Talbot St. from last year's 5K race. Ben had surprised us (I ran last year's event with a friend) by suddenly appearing beside the hill to cheer us on. We were elated to see him and energized by having someone there to applaud us! He later complimented us on how we were the only 5K runners he saw actually run up the hill. Ben noticed how most 5K runners around us had slowed down to a walk on the hill, but had been impressed by our efforts to tackle it. I just had to do it again ... !! :)

9K - 6:54 - Talbot Street hill is done and done!

And as you can see, I did it! I even smiled at the photographer with the big lens set up on runners on the hill as I ran it. :)

Yes, it's still raining!

This is when the best part of the race occurred for me. I had reached the top of the hill, and turned left toward Victoria Park. It was all flat running from here on out. As I am seeing the 9K marker ahead, the song I had purposely chosen for my playlist as a one hour indicator is playing on my iPod. I can feel a huge, goofy grin on my face that I can't stop - I am definitely within my PR zone! And my pace is picking up because I can see Victoria Park ahead!

As soon as I turned the corner south onto Wellington, the wind just blasted me. Although I had periodically felt it during my run, the lack of buildings and trees on Wellington seemed to create a funnel effect for the wind. Whoa, Nelly! It was a wee bit chilly while soaking wet to be feeling that wind! I swear it slowed me down - it was so strong. Fortunately, I had to turn the corner again and head west toward the finish line ... wind free. :)

10K - 6:19

The finish line was just ahead. The road was open on the left so I took this lane and started to boot it. I kept smiling and then I really smiled when I saw the clock ahead of me!

Garmin time: 1:06:44
Official FCRR time - 1:07:16 PR

1 minute 48 seconds faster than my previous record. :)

There were five ladies waiting to hand out medals as I crossed the mat. I was touched when they all cooed in unison at me - LOL! The one woman exclaimed that I had such a beautiful smile on my face as I crossed the finish line. It was a very kind thing for her to say when I knew perfectly well that it was my sideways, goofy grin that I was wearing on my face! I am sure that given the rain, there weren't too many smiling, either! I told them that I had just run my fastest time to date so I had something to feel very happy about. :)

And it was still raining, but it doesn't really matter any more at this point, does it?

Suddenly I felt a hip check from behind, and then I had a yellow, wagging fellow greeting me ecstatically. Angus had come to the park with us to keep Ben company during my race. It was wonderful to have Ben there for my PR, especially since I will be heading to my next few races outside of London alone. I have been on a natural high all day and hopefully, I can recall this 'high' through the next three weeks of hills and tempo runs for my goal 5K PR in June!

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