10k, 39:25 (PB), 8th overall, 2nd age group
To be honest, things went a bit off the rails after a slower than expected showing at the Run for Retina 10k three weeks prior. I let the frustration get to me and my diet slipped significantly, along with negative self-talk. However, I was still targeting this race for a PB having done a 39:58 last year.
On a positive note, I was surprised to hear there would be a 40 minute 10k pacer. This seemed strange for a race where not a lot of runners traditionally go under 40 minutes. Well, turns out the pacer was Rachel Hannah, the Pan Am Games marathon bronze medalist! With a 32:30ish 10,000m PB, 40 minutes was a morning jog for her. This was good news as my hope was to stick with Rachel at the 40 minute pace and go ahead a bit at the end if I had the lungs.
The weather was brisk, at 7 degrees, but this meant no overheating and would turn out to be ideal. The turnout was great with 600 entrants, with registrations way up across all distances. Ran into lots of people I know as usual, so a real good vibe going to the start line. I lined up at the front and Rachel was there looking for other 40 minute runners. There were about 7 of us who jumped in behind her, a nice mix of runners I mostly didn’t recognize, so I was excited to see how it would fall out. Could I still get a top-10 in this large a field?
On the gun we were off like a shot! The first kilometre was a 3:36 and the second a 3:49. Rachel apologized for this, but it’s a downhill start and was a tailwind across Queen, so I told her it was perfect and we would need time in the bank for the Talbot St climb and Central Ave wind. However, we shed a number of the 40 minute hopefuls with this start and I knew they would be in a hard way to make their goal without pacing and without time in reserve. Sure enough, looks like four of them didn’t quite make 40.
Rachel was the perfect pacer. Each time we turned east or south, into the wind, she would pull into the middle of the lane and let us all tuck in behind. However, by the 5k mark it was down to just us and Andrew Hopkins. We caught the lead woman at the bridge out of campus and encouraged her to hang with us, but she couldn’t quite hold the pace.
At the 6k mark I started to hurt. The legs were good but the lungs couldn’t keep up, I told Rachel I was starting to suffer and she went into full encouragement mode. I dropped back behind Andrew who offered a bit more of a draft and was looking very fresh for a guy who could probably bench press me one-handed. Unfortunately Andrew cracked a bit at the climb out of the park so I had nothing for it but to go all out and chase Rachel up the Ann St/Talbot St rise. We went up them at a 3:59 pace!! I knew I was in the red but also knew that it eases off for the finish, so it’s kilometre 8-9 where PBs are made, not the final kilometre. Or where you can easily lose 25 seconds…
The final kilometre, rounding the park, I was wheezing like a hippo and trying not to barf a lung, but Hannah told me I had already wrapped up a PB and now it was just a matter of by how much. As she talked me in, the last stretch up and around the park seemed to just take seconds rather than the hours it feels like on a bad day. I told Rachel to go ahead and sprint it in but she was deadset on bringing me every last bit of the way (although I faded back a step or two so as to let her break the Lead Female tape…boy would that have been awkward!) It was awesome having the crowd cheer for her, and for me, and have Mike from the London Free Press there taking pictures. Just a real moment of elation!
Hands-down this is one of my top sporting moment highlights to date. To run with one of Canada’s very best, and to set a PB, and to do it surrounded by so many friends and supporters was absolutely beautiful. Particularly as I had started to doubt myself after Run For Retina, this motivated me that this season can absolutely be my best one yet. I also can’t say enough about Rachel and her dedication to help me have the best race of my life. I can’t wait to see the amazing achievements she has next and will be cheering her on big time.
Next up this weekend is my first licensed bike race! The weather is currently forecast at zero degrees and rain/snow, so that should be pleasant. Oh well, I’m now motivated to break any and every personal barrier!