This race was not originally on my calendar so I wasn't totally prepared to go super hard for 15k. A co-worker, who has always been supportive of my racing and my tri club, is a member of the "Missy" Canoe Club and asked a few of us in the office to join in the fun. It didn't take much to convince me to run so I re-arranged my weekly schedule to make it fit into my training so I that I wouldn't miss out on any of my workouts.
Although, the weather was a little cool and wet on the morning of the event, I was curious to see how close I could take this race to my 15k split in the Hamilton Half Marathon. This kept the motivation high while I warmed up in the chilly rain as the rest of the small field assembled near the starting line. As the gun time neared, I decided shorts were still acceptable but went with arm warmers and a tri top to kept a little warmer up top.
With the Canoe Club trying to keep costs down (rightfully so) they designed the course to stick to the walking paths around the Lakefront Promenade Marina. This made for a lot of twists and turns with some blinds spots out on the course so I made sure to listen to the lead bike guide during the pre-race instructions. When it was time to begin the run, I positioned myself behind some of the younger athletes and just came off the line in a relaxed effort. This was probably a good call as many of the teenaged runners went off like canons, getting out well ahead of me to the start of the path.
I was fairly certain a good number of them would burn out after their short sprint so I just set my target on a few of the smoother looking ones and slowly made made way through the crowd. By the time we had covered the first kilometre I had moved up to sixth spot with a couple solid looking runners chasing the bike very quickly. One of them was relatively young but had great form so I was not sure what to expect from him at this distance. The other was a familiar face from a few previous races. I knew he was a gamer so there was no way I was going to stay on his heels for 15k. I just patiently hung back as we circled RK McMilland Park to the west of the starting area.
After making the loop around this tree filled park (could not see the competition during this section), we doubled back past the beach cove and headed to the northeast trails. I was now running in fourth spot, about a hundred metres back of third, feeling confident that I could catch this guy somewhere down the road.
We were just over three km into the race as we zigged and zagged along Waterfront Trail and I was making solid ground on my target. From a previous 10k race on these grounds, I was now comfortable enough with the course to zone out (take my mind off the pain building in my legs) for a little while and focus on my form and pace.
As I reached the 5k mark (water station), I could tell I had fallen too far off the pace of the two leaders so there was little chance of reeling them back in. I now had to settle with the possibility of a third place finish. Not so bad but not exactly they way I imagined the day...
A little further through Marie Curtis Park, as I neared the turnaround at the far east end of the course, I noticed I wasn't too far off that podium position. I hurried over to the volunteer pointing out the turn marker and made a quick pivot to re-trace my steps. Two things hit me at this point. Firstly, my legs died on me right out of the blue. Secondly, I could now see how close two runners were just behind me. Oh Oh!
The twosome on my rear brought a bit of a spark but I felt like I was suddenly struggling with my form over the small rolling mounds of asphalt, fighting despreately to speed up. By the time I weaved through the kilometre in the forest, I had lost contact with the last spot on the podium. I hit the 7km aid station and was afraid that reaching for a drink would stop me in my tracks so I just kept my eyes forward and hoped to hold off the guys on my heels.
Watching my garmin on the way back to the marina, I could tell my pace was suffering compared to my early splits. My goal of fifty-five minutes was in jeopardy now so it was all about getting through the final portion of the race without losing too many spots or dropping out. Thankfully, my mental game was on to make up for the lack of physical game on this day and I talked myself into staying as efficient as possible.
This was not pretty, believe me. I couldn't see the guy running in third at this point so I was starting to doubt some of the upcoming turns on the course as we twisted back to Lakefront Promenade Park for another loop. I got through the loop for the second time in the race and was really not sure where we were heading next for the last four kilometres. I just hoped the volunteers were on top of the situation as they directed both 8k and 15k runners along the pathway.
Lucky for us, they did a great job! I travelled back along the Waterfront Trail, along the back edge of an industrial park, and counted down the distance knowing the final turnaround must be coming soon. Shortly after that thought, I watched the leader zoom past me with second place a litttle back from the young, talented runner. After I saw third place, I knew I was getting close to my final switch back and hit the line and blasted off to get back up to speed. I could once again see 5th and 6th place licking their lips so I just gunned it for the final two km.
My legs were too tired to put any length into my stride so I had to concentrate on just speeding up the cadence of my shuffle. This was enough to increase the gap and provide a respectable final few thousand metres. I was very relieved to make my way back to the marina parking lot and see a low 56 on the clock. I made a final sprint to keep it under 57 minutes and broke the tape in 56:32 (on my garmin).
This was good for 4th place overall and a nice, new standard for 15k (not including splits from longer races)for me to aim for next year. I still have not seen the actual chip time results so I am not sure how that looked for my age but I would assume two of the three runners ahead of me where under thirty years of age.