Having played a number of different sports throughout my life, at a number of different levels, I feel I have the ability to "get up" for the big game/race, as well as the ability to put the ego aside and do what I have to do for the larger goal. Right now the larger goal is Boston, and thus the Comox Half-marathon is more important, so being able to shut it down in the middle of a race is important. Fortunately, that wouldn't be hard today.
I showed up a little early to avoid the lines in picking up my race package for the St. Patrick's Day 5k. I also don't mind doing a little extra warm up around Stanley Park. Coach John had described the course correctly, but I wanted to run it to get a feel before I raced it. I set out backwards on the course, just enjoying the morning, when I saw a tall Nike sponsored runner. Hmmm. Ok, he looks for real. That is one. The warm up continued. "That guy looks familiar," I thought to myself. Dave Jackson. Well, that is two. And then I saw Jason Louttit. Well, that is three. Add in Simon and Paul, that is five. So, I was wary at best about going hard. It seems that Coach John, who had said that people would show up at the last minute, was right. The start line also included Bruce Deacon. Wow. So, it was good that I knew from that start that I wasn't going to challenge the race. With that said, I still wanted to go out and get a feel for pace.
The race started and I sat on Paul's shoulder, knowing that he is a great at going out controlled. Simon was in a group about 10 meters ahead of us, but I felt very good in being where I was. The first kilometer, which was along the seawall, was pretty flat; we went through in 3:11. That is 15:55 pace for the 5k, and I didn't feel taxed very much. I stayed with Paul through the mile (5:07) and when we hit the first hill I backed off. I had chatted with Marilyn Arsenault at the beginning of the race and she was looking at running around 17:00, so as per Coach John's suggestion ("Focus on a friend and help them through the race. That will keep you honest and not going too hard."), I said I would help her stay on target. Her coach, Paul O'Callaghan, another Islander, had said that she was going through 3k controlled and then build the last 2k. So it was at the hill that I eased up and waited for the women to come through.
Marilyn was in second place by about 10m when she caught me at about 3k, so I just ran a little in front of her, quietly encouraging her. She was running incredibly well (especially as she is doing Comox tomorrow as well) and it was fun for me to be the bridge between her and first place. At 4k I felt a little like Tom Miller, Katherine Switzer's boyfriend who cleared a path for her at the Boston Marathon, as I tried to clear a path through a group of four guys so that Marilyn could make an attempt at catching first place. Marilyn had a great final 400m and as she began hauled in first place, I stepped aside and watched the battle from a few meters back.
Marilyn won. I finished in 17:10ish, but it felt very very comfortable. During a cool down with Paul (he ended up running 16:00ish), I started to play with the numbers: 17 x 2 = 34 for 10k. A 35 minute 10k is a 1:13:50 half marathon. If 17 felt easy, a 35 10k should be quite doable, which means that I could run sub-1:14 for a half. That is a pretty exciting prospect. Adding up numbers does not equate to performance, but it is fun to think about. And Coach John had said that if I held back today, I was allowed to go hard tomorrow. I am excited.