It was a cold, foggy morn. The rising sun was trying to burn a whole through layers of dew, but failing miserably. Still shining streetlights could barely be seen from my window. Their shine reduced to that of dim embers on a campfire about to be extinguished.
Appropriately Irish weather for St. Patrick’s Day.
I was not in Dublin, though, but here in Ottawa. Kalin and I navigated the soup-thick mist to make our way to Immaculatta High School on Main St. for the St. Patrick’s Day Races. We decided before we left that the St. Patrick’s Day bling was going to stay at home. Even though the weather was going to be nice later in the day, it seemed like the hats we bought would only get in the way. The green cowboy hat with the blinking LED shamrock and the sequinned poor boy cap would have to wait until next year.
The St. Patrick’s Day Races are a great combination of race and fun run. There are plenty of people dressed up for the occasion, although none more so than the folks up from the Perth Kilt Run.
It’s also chip timed, so those of us that looking for official stats to improve upon are happy.
It’s a flat course along the Colonel By Dr. side of the Rideau Canal that’s easy to personal best on.
And personal best I did.
I exploded from the start gate. The wet air immediately played havoc on my lungs. It was as if the bronchitis from which I suffered as a child had suddenly come back. I pushed ahead anyway. While surrounded by hundreds of competitors, there was only one I cared about: my last finish.
With my half-marathon training, I’m now used to running a fast tempo 5K without the 10 and 1 intervals. I tried to keep it below the 5 min/km, aiming for a sub 25 minute finish. Even if I fell short of this goal, I would achieve my primary goal: a new personal best. I was shooting for the stars in order to get to the moon.
In addition to running continuous instead of intervals, I also ran without listening to music. I had my iPhone, as is my habit, in its armband, but did not use it. I followed Christian’s advice and forewent the tunes to pay more attention on my breathing, posture, form, people around me, etc. Since I only bring my iPhone on my clinic runs for emergency purposes, I figured I should race as I train.
Had a couple of WTF moments on the run. The 1 km marker showed up around 1.3 km on my Garmin. It then would signal I was at 5 km about 180 m short and the finish line. As it beeped 5 km, I looked forward and between the fog and a twist in the road, the finish line was nowhere in sight. Garmins et al, are great guides but do not be fooled, they’re not military-level precise. They were military-level precise when the Soviet-era satellite on which they lease bandwidth launched towards the end of the Cold War. Now I get why “smart” bombs sometimes hit the wrong building.
NB: I’ve been told since that the 5K course was, in fact, about 150m too long. Since it would be impossible to adjust the results accordingly, I’m going to consider it an unofficial sub-25. The official sub-25 will have to wait for another race.
Not seeing the finish line ahead, I just pushed faster until the line was in sight. When the outline of those red arches became visible through the soup, I pushed faster still.
After a quick cool down, I waited at the finish line for Kalin. She hadn’t run in a couple of weeks because she was fighting a chest infection. She didn’t feel like she could handle 5K and settled for the 1K.
As she, too, began to emerge from the fog, I cheered her on. I could see her look my way and suddenly pick up speed. She crossed the finish line … and came to a dead stop in the middle of the chip time pads.
“Kalin! You’ve got to cross the second pad!” She snapped to attention and took the next few steps so the chip would record her completing her first race since her cancer diagnosis two years earlier.
We embraced at the finish line and went to the gymnasium to await our scores being posted. I ran into Scott, the manager of the Slater St. Running Room, who was kind enough to snap this photo of us.
Official time for me 25:27. The Garmin version for those that like maps and moving pictures and stuff.
Pretty damn good, if I don’t say so myself. Do I feel robbed of the official sub-25 finish I wanted? No. That’s a lifetime goal, not an immediate goal. I was below the 25 minute mark when the Garmin said I was at 5K and that’s good enough. I know I can do it. Next time. Or the time after that. Having shaved seven minutes off my finish time in 10 months, I don’t think I have much to prove anymore in the 5K.
I’m a runner. A pretty good one, at that.
Now it’s on to the next challenge: the half marathon.
As proud as I am of my own result, I am more proud of Kalin’s. Two years ago, she was running 5kms faster than my pace today. She’s been cancer-free just over a year and is starting the slow, frustrating process of getting back to where she was before it struck, both professionally and physically. Saturday was the first challenge and she succeeded. Cancer, your ass is kicked. She makes me a proud boyfriend.
In fact, she made me even more proud on Tuesday when she told me that she had signed up for the Ottawa Race Weekend 5K and the Running Room’s 5K clinic. Just in the nick of time. The Ottawa Race Weekend 5K sold out mere hours after she registered and the clinic starts … tonight. If you want to run that weekend and haven’t registered yet, there’s two options: the 2K family run or the Full Marathon. Talk about extremes.
All this adventure was done before 10:30 am on St. Patrick’s Day. We killed the rest of the day with brunch at the Sandy Hill Lounge and Grill, which took way longer than it should have even when busy on St. Patrick’s Day in the heart of the UofO student ghetto, and a late afternoon showing of John Carter at the Imax in Gloucester (which was freaking amazing).
BTW, if the zombie apocalypse struck a college town on St. Patrick’s Day, would you notice? These are the kinds of questions that go through my head when my energy is low, I’m surround by deadites …. er, undergrads … on the weekend of the Walking Dead’s season finale.
Even though the legs were stiff, I did our 10 km LSD Sunday run. There was a little concern from my running friends if my legs were up for it, but I couldn’t skip this one. Christian texted me the night before to say he was going to run with us. It was great having one of my best friends run with us. If you haven’t read it already from my reblog, you can read his account here. I actually missed a turn that added a little more than kilometre to the run. Another missed turn, from St. Patrick through the park that goes to Charlotte St. was recovered by a detour through Beausoleil and Chapel to Somerset East. Better more than too short. It started as a cool morning, but warmed up considerably by the time we had finished.
Tuesday’s 4K tempo run was a little rough for my runners. Even though Sunday became an extraordinarily beautiful day, it started as cool as foggy as Saturday, near perfect temperature for a long run. I don’t think the fog truly lifted until we hit U of O. Tuesday, the heat had set in and was still quite warm after we did the clinic session and headed out for our run around 7. There was a great breeze as we crossed the Portage Bridge that gave some temporary relief. The sun may be hot. but the melting river is still ice cold and that affects the air above it. A couple of my runners failed to hydrate properly, though, and hadn’t brought water with them for the run. The result was they were dehydrated and lost energy towards the end of the run. They stopped a mere 100m from finishing a route they had done several times before.
I hate to complain about the awesome weather we’ve had this week, so I will posit an observation instead: we’ve skipped spring. We went from low negative temperatures to mid-twenties above zero basically overnight. The human body needs time to adapt to such a drastic change and we haven’t had it. From the looks of the forecast, like all good things, this too shall end and we will be back to normal shortly.
Wednesday’s hill training was rather fun. It was even hotter than Tuesday according to the Weather Network. With the way the winds blow along the Ottawa River, we actually had a bit of a breeze on the hill, strong enough to knock a few degrees off the thermostat. Even with the slight relief, we runners retired for a post run drink and meal at Lieutenant’s Pump for some wings and bronto beef ribs. Beer may be loaded with carbs, but it’s really nice for a post run drink. At least I drank an organic brew.
At some point I’ll take a second, pull out the camera, and grab a photo of the hill. It’s actually the driveway to the heating plant for the parliamentary precinct, which hill staffers affectionately refer to as “the pit”. I’ll have to be rather creative to come up with a name for it as dramatic as the one Christian uses for his training hill.
Summer weather has also lead to some fun with food. I had Kalin and Vicky over dinner and Sunday (What? You didn’t actually think because I have a girlfriend now that I would kick one of my best friends to the curb? I’m a jerk, not an asshole.). I prepared crab cakes with a roasted sweet potato salad with spinach that I read about on Tony Greco’s blog. Kalin brought some dragon fruit for dessert. Vicky brought a wonderful late autumn Riesling.
To have not one but two wonderful women in my life like this really is an embarrassment of riches. Vicky is and always will be a very important part of my life. Her suggestion of the RMT a few weeks back has largely cured me of the nagging pain in my shin and forearm. She wasn’t the first person to suggest it, but, as is the case with our friendship, she was the first person I listened to.
The barbecues are back out at my building and I wasted no time in using them. I found a rib steak on special while getting groceries on Tuesday and quickly made it my lunch along with some sweet potatoes (roasted with basil and thyme), onions, red peppers, and carrots.
I intentionally cooked more veggies than I needed. Now I have several portions ready to re-heat, I just need to cook some meat. On Wednesday, for example, I fried up a quick chicken breast, topped it with some pesto, and served it with my leftover veggies. Lunch in less than 15 minutes.
Remember, proper planning prevents piss poor performance. The one thing I’ve discovered over this journey is that nutrition is the key to success. Exercise may build muscles and help burn stored fat, but without proper nutrition, you won’t have the fuel to build this muscles and burn the stored fat. Planning those meals properly is the key to success as an athlete and in life.