26 March, 2012

Around the Bay 30k & My Post-Race Appointment to the Ministry of Silly Walks

2:21:09 chip time
74/517 AG
631/6119 OA

Happily, quite uneventful! The race was well-managed, as always, and began on an overcast, relatively warm (7C), fairly windless morning. Surrounded by the collective warmth of over 6,000 runners, I felt I could have managed with just a t-shirt, but as soon as we made it to the lakeside and the hills of Burlington's North Shore Blvd. I could just see my breath - the perfect day for an event like this.

With a few split times noted down on a wrist band, I was aiming for a 4:45/km pace based on best estimates from the recent Chilly Half Marathon and my 2011 marathon, which would give a 2:22:30 finish - a solid 10 minutes faster than last year. At first I worried this might be too ambitious a step in one year. Then I thought of the alternatives, and when the images came around to one of me in diapers at an old folks' home in a few more decades - I said screw it: go for the gusto and rein it in later if necessary. There'd be lots of time for crokinole in the years to come...

By the first 10k I was even a full minute up on where I needed to be, and from then on did my best to pull back a tad to just maintain it with my goal pace. I expected that the notorious hills found in the mid-20kms would yank that minute - and perhaps much more - back from me. Instead, my winter training runs through the area with the TCoB and Pace Performance seem to have paid off; the hills didn't really phase me and it appears I was able to maintain that cushion of time right through the end.

On the Side

- I was happy to see that my 2:30 pace bunny from last year was back in the saddle again. Quite the thing to recognize individuals in such a large crowd. Mind you, the foot-tall pink ears don't hurt.

- Unfortunately, for a spell I was pacing not too far off a barker. She was one of those types who perhaps fancies herself to have more experience and speed than those around her (so why's she running with us?), giving her the right to vocalize all of the thoughts that many of us think but are either too polite or too laid back to speak. I slowed at one point to grasp a drink at an aid station late in the race, with a plan to carry it forward to drink in the cup toss zone beyond. I wasn't fast about it, my coordination at 25kms in wasn't meeting any country's Olympic cup-sweep qualifier standard, but I was by no means parking myself in the way. Instead, I heard Nostoppinghere! over my shoulder as she padded past. Right, duly noted, coach. Then a few kilometres further on we were negotiating a 90 deg. turn, and, as always, I was running the tangents, being deliberate to always leave a "lane" to the inside should anyone faster than me wish to pass. I always try to do this as a courtesy, not sure if it is even an unwritten rule (though it sounds like a nice gesture). Sure enough, Mrs. Hustlebark announces her presence as she tucks in for a pass with something along the lines of Shouldn'tcuttheinsidelikethat! For Pete's sake, lady, just stuff a gel in it. I started to wonder if I was being tested for a runner's license I didn't know about and if I now blew the parallel park I'd fail altogether. Funnily enough, I noted that she was cutting the corners where pylons were set up in mid-street. When I made my subsequent pass on her (which happily "stuck") I thought of barking out that her number was on backwards (she had a triathlon race belt that slipped around) but instead thought I'd take the high road and just silently went past... trying all the while to keep my gasping in check to make it seem like a piece of cake.

- Speaking of passing, one fellow who seemed to be in my AG must have blown by me at least five times over the course of the event. Sure, there's normally an ebb and flow between participants that sees them trading the edge back and forth, but what was remarkable was our speed differential - it was like a Maserati constantly ripping by only to need to stop for gas every 10 minutes. One time it was ostensibly to tie a shoelace, another time I think he was stretching out his muscles, etc etc. I don't know if he managed to catch up, or even continue, to the end, but it is easy to imagine him telling friends how he really likes running but is always battling one injury or another. I just wanted to reach out and say Hey pal, take a little off it and you'll make it to the end!

But that might have just come across as barking.

Ah Yes, Post-Race

Given how uneventful this race played out for me, still, there always seems to be a story. In this case: I find it funny how I can somehow manage run a hilly 30km race, finish intact with a new PB, feeling on top of the world, only to scotch it all by stretching my legs too far too soon and winding up doing the Dance of the Cramps - by the roadside, no less.

Being part of a single-car household, I needed to get out of Dodge ASAP after the event to pick up family members at another event, so I made a beeline for the parking lot. It was packed with others arriving for the myriad festivities on, so I did a quick baby-wipes/shirt change and vacated the space before it got more hectic, telling myself that I felt so good I could wait until I got near the expressway to go through my stretching ritual. What's 15 minutes, right? After hydrating and noshing to my heart's content as I drove, I pulled over on a nice wide gravel verge of the onramp I came to. I got out of the car, strolled to the right front fender, and luxuriously elongated my calves with a gastroc stretch. Then it was time for the quads, so I bent down to grab my right foot, planning on hucking my leg up behind me so I could feel that nice pull up the hip flexors. Suddenly I found myself splayed on my Corolla's hood in a painful cramped pretzel, as if I was being busted by the Highway Patrol for dangerous driving. I slid down, pretending I could stand on my legs, and proceeded to stagger around the car like John Cleese doing his Minister of Silly Walks routine, looking for that one illusive pose, that single gesture, that would tell my muscles it was okay to let go now, because daddy's here and everything will be okay. Holy mackerel.

Not only that, but as I was only just starting to be able inhale again, a car pulled over and backed up to me. Great. Just what I needed - a stinking Good Samaritan to complete my humiliation. It turned out the guy was from out of town - just like me - and he was lost, but unlike me at that moment, he was able to walk and talk like a human. He approached me and then quickly slowed when he saw my plight, asking Are you all right? Good, I thought, he wasn't sure... perhaps it wasn't obvious from a distance that I was in distress. Yes, I snorted, just working out a little tightness after my run. I hoped he wouldn't ask for details and, to his credit, he just launched straight into his plight, opening up the rumpled hand-drawn map that had led him astray. While I was in considerable discomfort, I couldn't shake my innate desire to help out a fellow traveller and dutifully pulled out a regional map we had, setting it on the trunk. With my lower lip quivering and eyes welling up, we leafed through the patchwork pages until he found his miscue and I finally found a ridiculous pose that relieved the tension. With a handshake of gratitude he was on his way, and we were both the wiser. He knew what any visitor to Hamilton learns eventually: there are some places you really can't get to from "here", and I learned that even if I execute a great race, I can't keep taking my dismal muscle strength for granted and will need to address that before going longer or faster.


  1. Congratulations! Great write up Stephen. Your analogies are always hilarious and poignant.

    I guess the jury is still out though on the benefits/disadvantages on stretching.


  2. I think the jury's only out on my choice of stretch - engaging my hamstrings that close to that event was a dumb thing to do! Likely a very personal thing, but overall I feel a good few minutes' of simple stretches really speeds my recovery (ahem) when I'm not adding a cramp to the mix...