October 1st was race day. It was also pouring rain and unseasonably cold. I drove us to Cambridge with zero visibility knowing I hadn’t packed warm enough clothes to run in, we didn’t have anything to say to one another that wasn’t going to sound like whining or complaining about the weather so we just listened to the radio.
Of course we arrived at Pinehurst Lake Conservation Area at the same time as the other 1500 runners, to be fair the parking marshals were awesome and got us squared away quickly and at some point during parking it stopped raining, things were looking up.
It was cold and windy by the lake but I hoped once we were in the forest the wind wouldn’t be so bad, we knew nothing about this course coming into it, except for a “big” hill near the end. I wasn’t too concerned other than what the course was going to look like after all the rain. The anthems and announcements took a long time (or what felt like a long time when you’re dressed for a race ie. t-shirt and shorts), but we were surprised to learn that this race was going to be the inaugural Canadian 50km Championship Race. I was then super pumped to learn that Ellie Greenwood (one of my ultra running heroes) was racing, now I was getting excited. The 50km race starts 15 minutes before the 25km so sadly I lost my heat source (Dan) as he started off with a few hundred runners. The rest of us just crowded to together for warmth while waiting for our turn to start. I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to warm up, I had really under dressed (and to think only a few weeks earlier I was making fun of all the over dressed people at the B&o), finally the horn blew and we were off running…for about 300m then we bottle necked at a very short uphill that some people decided to walk up (how do these people always start in front of me!!) As usual the first couple of kilometers were spent sorting ourselves out, the course was in great shape though, no muddy holes or giant puddles, and somehow in all the dodging and weaving I failed to notice the sun trying to shine through.
I finally settled into my race pace, aiming to run a sub 2:30 trail 25km but ultimately trying to maintain a pace of 5:41 min/km, the route is a 12.5km loop that I would have to run twice, which I kind of like because I on the second lap you know when to gun in it. The course was great once we thinned out, there was more pavement than expected but the trails were all well-groomed and we ran through a few fields of grass (which were so springy and soft on the joints), it was undulating, lot’s a little ups and downs, nothing technical and all runnable (at least if you’re only doing the 25km). The aid stations were wonderfully stocked and well supported. As my watch beeped off the kilometers for me I knew I was getting close to the end of the first loop and I started to wonder where the “big” hill was, I mean there was some hills but people at the start line had really been going on and on… oh, there it is, I though as I came around a big bend. The hill was maybe only 75 meters, it was more the incline that was daunting, straight up would be a good way of describing it, I treated like a stair climb. This is a favorite spectator site and I can see why, it causes some people to come to a complete halt, I just put head down and hammered up it, passing a huge chunk of my competition and commending myself for all my hill training and stair climbing.
Finished the first loop in 1:12, not bad considering how slow my first few kilometers felt. I knew exactly what I up against and now the sun was shinning and the wind had completely died down, I was suddenly properly dressed and laughing (I am such a brat) at the people around me whipping off layers and tossing them at strangers to hold until they finished. As I made my way around the course I noticed that I was passing a few 50km racers and wondered if I’d lap Dan, or if I’d get lapped by the 50km leaders. Around 4km into it I saw Dan, I really had to control myself to not go sprinting up to him, I stalked him sticking with my race pace and finally caught him. He was doing well and had been wondering when I’d go by. I blew him a kiss and carried on, half way through the loop the course sort of passes back on itself and you can see the people behind you, that’s where I first spotted Ellie. My first thought was “she’s only on her second loop? oh no wait this would be her third”, second “she really is tiny”, third “boy she’s really moving”, fourth “new goal, do not let Ellie Greenwood lap you”. So I pushed it. I started passing people, some people didn’t care, like let’s say most the women but some men take it so personally when a girl passes them, especially near the end, especially when they’re struggling up a steep hill and a spectator points out “that girl didn’t seem to have such a hard time with the hill” I heard the man respond with “I’ll catch her now” but he didn’t because I was like “oh no you freaking wont with an attitude like that!” So I went for broke and ran like hell and loved every step.
Final result, 2:23 a pace of 5:45 min/km and a cool medal. I grabbed lots of goodies from the recovery area and made my way back to the car to get into some warm clothes and cheer on Dan. On my walk back I saw a tiny fast-moving women coming toward me and realized this was Ellie on her final lap (she really hadn’t been far behind me) and I gave her a resounding “Go Ellie!” and then hustled to the car so I wouldn’t miss her finish. While at the car I noticed some 50km runners go by and thought I would see Dan, but I didn’t must have missed him while I was in the bathroom. On my wonder back to the finish area I stopped by Dan’s drop bag to throw some of the goodies I’d picked up in there in case he needed a ‘pick-me-up’ next time he passed by. The bag looked as though it hadn’t been touched, hmm, now I was getting a little worried, so I quickly made my way back to the finish. There was Dan standing cheering on finishers, he was ok, cold (thankfully I had thought to bring his warm stuff back from the car with me) but otherwise ok. He had decided to drop out, he was hurting. He had already turned in his chip, so I couldn’t even try to talk him out of it.
For any of you’re wondering “did you seed yourself properly?” The answer (as usual) is no. Nine people finished ahead of me (official time) but actually took longer than me to cover the distance (chip time). This really only frustrates me and it’s not like it’s the difference between me placing or something. I think it comes down that I really lack the confidence that these people have, I need to step up and give myself a little credit, or at least stop complaining about how bad I am at starting races.