Sunday, August 13, 2006

Stage 1 - The Half Marathon


Perfect day for a run. I ran well and felt on control. I ended up going 1:20:28 for the first stage (Half Marathon - 21.1km) to win it, thus earning the Gold Jersey.

The day started quite early as I woke up at 5:45am in the guest room of my sister’s house in Toronto. A half hour later we were on the road to Waterloo, but lacking a map in the car. Luckily, nerdy as I am, I had the course map downloaded on my computer, so we used that to direct us, hoping that University Ave E ran into Highway 89N. Fortunately for me it did, which makes for a good race, but not as exciting reading.

Pulling up to the race site I saw the familiar shirts of the ENDURrun volunteers, a veritable army of them (more than 190 over the week), and saw many more cars and people than I had expected. Last year I participated in the three middle stages, and thus was unaware that Lloyd, the race director, also runs a 5k on the first day and an 8k on the last day. The two races were run separately, with very little of the course overlapping, but it was nice to have that many people around, adding to the ambience of the event. I think in the future that it would be great to meld the races so that the profile of the ENDURrun can be raised.

I found the registration without problem and met Bob, the runner who Lloyd had emailed me last month. He came up from Rhode Island and has wanted to run this race for a year or two. In a testament to the type of race this is, Lloyd is billeting Bob for the duration of the event.

After getting a GREAT race package (complete with three shirts – one technical, a technical running hat, a cool running bag, food and drink) I headed back to the car and began my warm-up. I had already been to the bathroom twice, and was awaiting my customary third visit. The warm up felt good and light (this taper thing actually works). The weather was perfect, it was a cloudless sky with no wind and a cool breeze – it couldn’t have been more than 15 degrees.

Lloyd corralled everyone to the start line where I finally found out who I was going to be racing. Bob I had met earlier and as he was wearing Saucony Grid Tangents, matching singlet and shorts, I wondered how he would run. There was also Steven, who has run every ENDURrun thus far. Jeff and one more gentleman (i have forgotten his name) rounded out the ENDURrun field. Unfortunately this year’s field is smaller than in the past due to injury withdrawls. This is not an event that you can come to unprepared or injured. This is a reason why there are no female competitors this year – injury has befallen some previous ENDURrunners. However, the five guys that were there were ready and the smaller field did not deter from the excitement of finally starting this journey. There were two relay teams and a number of guest runners (runners who will run individual stages – this is how I become involved in the event last year as I ran three stages). Lloyd welcomed everyone, did his roll call and started us with an On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

First out of the gates was Kevin, a relay team member with the “Runner’s Choice Dudes”. We saw him for the last time at about 3k as he went on to run a 1:12 – a very solid run, but a little off of his 1:11 from last year. The rest of the field settled in and a short time later we began to find our pace. Bob and I ran through the first km marker and took our lap splits together. This facilitated the first conversation of the race – I yelled out “I am a hero!” Well, I wasn’t, but the 3:15 first km looked pretty amazing until I realized that we had just run by the 5k marker, not the Half-marathon marker, which was waiting for us 40 seconds up the road.

L-R: me, Bob, Dan (a guest runner)

A 3:53 first km was good, especially since it felt slow. In the previous 6 weeks I have run a few times with Jasper Blake, and two of those runs were at Elk/Beaver Lake. I jumped in with Jazz as he trained his goal pace for the marathon at Ironman Canada this year. The workouts were holding 3:50/km for 90 minutes and 2 hours, respectively. These were tough workouts, but paid huge dividends today.

Today’s course consisted of two loops; one larger loop which included a part through a park, and a second smaller loop which cut that part out as it made its way back to the start. Bob and I ran together most of the first loop; I was listening to his footfalls as he ran off the back of my left shoulder. As the first loop worked its way through the park I was able to put a little distance between us. I felt good throughout, waving and thanking the many volunteers that were giving up their Sunday for these five guys and numerous other runners. I passed the 13k marker where Bob’s coach, who has traveled up here with him to check out the event and help his athlete, gave me my split.

I was running very even splits to that point. 5k = 19:01, 10k = 38:01. “49:35” Bob called to me. What I was really listening for was his voice speaking to Bob after I had gone by. I didn’t hear him, so I thought that was a good sign. I tried to focus on my running and keep pace. I thought of Jasper and how we ran so steady and tried to emulate this. I continued on the second loop and felt good throughout, splitting the kilometers within 2 seconds of the first loop. As I passed other spectators and water stations I continued to listen, starting to hear the cheers for Bob a little after I passed. I knew that I was comfortably ahead, but not far ahead.

I pushed a little harder in the last kilometer and tried to gain a few more seconds. I rounded the corner and finished well. I looked back and saw Bob coming down the same straightaway that I had just finished on. The clock was ticking, but not for long. Bob finished 35 seconds behind me and set up an interesting race for tomorrow.

The time trial tomorrow will have me starting last. The runners will leave in reverse order (5th place begins 1st) and we will leave on one minute intervals. There are relay and guest runners that will be in the mix as well, but Bob will leave one minute in front of me. The course has many long straight roads, so I should be able to see him, and thus gauge how things are going. I am not sure if Bob was holding back today – again, he has a coach and looks to be a good runner. And that is thing about this race – 35 seconds is nothing. I am used to knowing the runners at the race, and knowing their race history, but being here in Ontario and not knowing the runner's past - this will definitely be an interesting week.

I am now staying with Darren and Krista Henry with their beautiful 7 month old twin boys, Mark and Luke (but I don’t think he was named after Dragstra). They are treating me better than I ever deserve to be treated, and I am soaking it up! Their boys are wonderful and it is very peaceful at this country home in Cambridge. I am going to sleep in my fifth different bed in five nights, but I am happy to have a race under my belt and feel confident in my training.

Thanks to everyone for your comments and congrats to those who made it this far in the post.

Have a great run!
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