26 March, 2011

Race Report: Burlington's Chilly Half Marathon & Frosty 5K

Chip Time: 1:39:20
30/189 AG, 255/2278 OA

I beat the pepper!

It's funny how one has time to obsess about competitors during races, especially longer events. In any contest of speed, from running to motorcycle racing, competitors live in parallel worlds of relative velocities - one beheld by the spectator watching them, and another one interacting with their fellow competitors. In effect, two events are unfolding at once: the faster race as seen by the stationary observers on the sidelines, and the slower one where we gain and lose ground on our competitors. In an earlier life, when racing cars, I found it remarkable how, while we may have been hurtling along over 220 kph, my competitors and I were, in fact, engaged in a low-speed tussle for position. Once the race settled into its rhythm, those around me would be so closely matched that we could likely pass a tray of eggs between us at any moment and never crack a shell. It is a calm in the eye of a storm blowing past the spectators.

From this placid vantage point one can study one's opponents, size up their strengths and weaknesses, then calmly hatch a plan to vanquish them. Curiously, I found out in early March of this year that this strategy is really no different even when we find ourselves pitted against two and a half metre tall vegetables.

In my case, during Burlington's Chilly Half Marathon, I resolved no two-legged garden-variety opponent is going to beat me without a fight, even if it had to be across rutted ice tracks in places. Which it was. I've got to hand it to Mark Sullivan, he was in much better condition at 18 kms than I could ever hope to be if I was similarly swaddled in what must surely have been an itchy, sweltering get-up. For a few moments as I hobbled up nearly alongside him, I basked in the peripheral celebrity I'd imagine the Prime Minister's Secret Service agents must experience when their boss is caught in the spotlight. Spectators and volunteers vigorously clapped and cheered him/(us), and it soon became apparent that unless I moved on I would look like a Clingon*. And the last thing I needed was to be caught up in the finishing chute near him: photos of me edging out a giant pepper, or trailing just behind it, would surely be equally humiliating either way, especially if my teenaged sons got hold of them.

I threw another log on my fire and proceeded to pull away from him as best I could. In taking my leave I wish I had mustered something wittier than "Looking hot, man!" but at this point there was only lactic acid coursing through my brain.

So don't take it personally, Mark, but I just had to do it. The way I see it, it was win-win: you still took first in the Produce Category, and I avoided permanent ego scarring.
Kaz Novak — Metroland West Media Group
From the Burlington Post: "Mark Sullivan, in his red chili pepper outfit, was one of close to 4,000 participants in the annual Chilly Half-Marathon and Frosty 5K that was held throughout Burlington during miserable weather on Sunday morning."

*someone who actually thrives on this overspray of attention, and lingers around to receive it.

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