With the Run4Hope races being held by our triathlon club, Fletcher’s Meadows Cross Trainers, I made myself available before the race to do some set up work. This meant for an early morning start to the day but I was more than happy to assist as I was not able to attend in 2009 due to a work related trip. This year, my trip would start a day after the race so I made sure to be prepared in the days leading up to the event so that I could do as much as possible to help out.
When I arrived at Brampton’s Professor’s Lake Recreation Centre, I was a little early and was able to get a quick tour of the finishing area for the 5k from another club member, Richard Westwood, who was serving as the race director this year. When we wrapped up our walk around the little loop in the wooded area, the others were starting to file in so we quickly got to work on our tasks.
This race is a very important part of the Falcons’ community involvement so it was imperative that we had the race site as organized and user friendly as possible for the participants. This was the first year, in the six year history of the event, that it would be held at this location so we all wanted to make sure all the bases were covered. The turnout of club members, family and friends was amazing and it did not take very long to create the race course and staging areas that the organizing committee had envisioned through the many meetings leading up to this day.
As things appeared to be finalized with the set up, I was able to get my race kit and start my warm up with plenty of time to relax and get mentally ready to tackle my 5k distance. This is not a long distance but when you have an ambitious goal in mind, you have to visualize the game plan before trying to execute on the course.
I slowly jogged the back end of the course where more attention would be required as there’s a smaller loop added to the 3.3k asphalt path that circles the lake. I wanted to make sure I had all the little twists figured out because going through these areas blind can lead to confusion during a race. I have encountered this in the past and using your experiences is a major advantage when it comes to racing.
Being comfortable with the course, I made my way to the starting area and continued my warm up as the others found their spots on the starting grid for the mass start of 5k, 10k runners and 5k walkers that would make up the field. I knew a few of the guys from the sign up lists so I knew I would have some rabbits to chase out on the course. One of them was participating in the 10k and I wasn’t sure how he was going to attack the first loop of his distance so I wanted to make sure not to get caught up in his race.
As we all waited on the line, I talked to one of the young speedsters in the 5k. He told me that his goal was 16:40, much quicker than I would be attempting on this day but it was a good thing to know. I could tell by this gifted athlete’s warm up that he was more experienced than his peers so I wanted to make sure I kept him in sight to help me hit my goal of a sub-18 minute run. Many high school aged runners are very quick but they often lack the pacing and distance control so it is usually not wise to gauge a race based on their starts.
After the usual pre-race announcements and directions, we were set off on our little journey around Professor’s Lake starting with a few quick twists through the centre’s parking lot. The starting line was very crowded with many excited racers so I jumped out of the gate very quickly to find open room. I led through much of the first 200 metres before I dropped into a more manageable tempo and allowed four others to take the lead as we hit the asphalt trail. Among that group was the eventual 10k winner setting a blazing pace that I judged as a touch quick for me to follow. I was pretty sure the others that went by would not be able to hold their current rate of speed and assumed I would eventually move past them if I held a smooth tempo.
We rounded the lake in a counter clockwise fashion, hitting the first km marker along the way in 3:20. This was right on target and I was feeling very strong and confident in holding that speed for much longer than in the past. Usually, I get out of the blocks around this split time only to feel exhausted and watch the seconds tick away split after split. Hopefully, that would not be the case on this day.
Just after the first “k” sign, the young fellow I had spoke to before the race made his move up beside me and slowly began to pull away with a very smooth, efficient stride. With his calm and calculated start, I could tell he had enough running experience to hold this form and finish the race within his goal time so it was a matter of me keeping close. I jumped in behind as we slowly picked off the few runners starting to fade from their overeager beginnings.
We wound through the paths and roads (that were very well controlled and safe, thanks guys and gals!) making up the first three kilometres of the race. The leader’s gap was increasing but I did not feel that I was slowing much so I kept my focus and got ready to make the turn off into the short forest path leading out to North Park Road. I used all the awesome encouragement from the other Falcons along the course to keep motivated and pushed past the four km sign well ahead of my target. There were now only a few tight, quick turns through the walkways in the connecting neighbourhood to negotiate before rejoining the other racers, heading for home.
At this point, I was running alone in second and was very close to the finish area. I had enough in the tank to turn things up a notch and swiftly navigated through the gravel path in the forested area before hitting the parking lot, bursting into a final sprint for the line. I could not make out the “seconds” number counting up on the display clock but could see a seventeen in the minute column. I did not want to let off the gas as I appeared to have my goal in reach. After I crossed the line our race MC, Rob McCue, announced my time at 17:20 (along with a few other nice comments, Thanks Rob!). It was forty-five seconds quicker than my previous best at this distance and I was thrilled with my effort.
After taking five months off from racing, and missing Around the Bay, I was really itching to race and this was the first real opportunity to fit into my schedule. I was confident that my training had improved my running since last year but, when you are often running on tired legs during workouts, it is tough to know exactly what to expect on fresh legs.
Hopefully, this is a sign of many great things to come this season as I continue my preparations for the upcoming summer triathlons and my goal race at Timberman 70.3.
I would like to applaud the Falcons’ race committee for organizing a top notch event. You folks did a great job bringing the race to a new location and we able to continue the strong, growing tradition that is the Run4Hope. Congrats!
Also, the volunteers and Professor’s Lake staff did an amazing job all day and deserve a big round of applause for helping make this event a huge success. A running friend of mine, Sheldon Gragg (“Doonst” of runningmania.com fame) was very kind to set aside some of his Sunday morning and assist the cause so I would like thank him as well!
Great work folks!