Running this September has brought mixed feelings. This year I’ve raced less than I did in 2016, but September was a heavy racing month, with me participating in 3 events: Maritime Race Weekend (5k), MEC Race Four (10k), then Rum Runners Relay (leg 10 – 10.9k).
Though September has been great and I was proud of all my results, each one left me feeling just slightly unfulfilled.
On the plus side, I was able to post personal best times in the 5k and 10k, and my Rum Runners leg was a personal success both when it comes to relative performance against the field and performance compared to Rum Runners a year ago on an easier leg 3. On top of that, participating in these events with fellow club members made them far more enjoyable and rewarding, especially Rum Runners.
Here’s a rundown of each event.
For the second year in a row, I raced the Sunrise 5k at Maritime Race Weekend on Saturday, September 16, 2017. This is a flat, fast 5k course. I set my personal best 5k time at this event last year (19:36) and knew I had a great shot of bettering that. So while improving my best time was the obvious goal, I also had my sights set on breaking the 19 minute barrier. To do this, I needed to average just below a 3:48/km pace. Based on my training, especially during 1km repeats, I felt this was within reach.
When race day arrived, weather conditions had me second guessing my ultimate goal of finishing below 19 minutes. While it was sunny and relatively cool first thing, the humidity was high. I knew from past races that humidity tends to push my heart rate up and negatively impacts my performance. I could feel the humidity during my warm up, yet still felt I had a shot to reach my goal since it was a short race.
It ended up being hard 5k and definitely harder than the year before. I always make an effort to hold back at the start of the race and not get caught up in the crowd going out too fast. My first kilometre was on-point at 3:44. However, over the next 3 kilometres fell slightly short of my goal pace, at 3:52, 3:51, and 3:56. That left the final kilometre with a slight elevation drop to make up for lost time. This was simply not enough distance to close the gap. With my last kilometer of 3:48, I wound up finishing with a best time of 19:15, 16-seconds short of my goal, but 21-seconds faster than my prior best time! I placed 7th overall, 3rd in my division, and 6th for men.
Stacey also raced the 5k, and also did a best time, coming in not that far behind me. Stacey was 10th overall with a chip time of 20:47, and was 2nd in her division and the 2nd women to cross the line.
Next was MEC Race Four on Sunday, September 24, 2017. I love this event, mostly because I love the venue scenery. From my perspective, the Musquodoboit Trailway is one of the most picturesque trails in the Greater Halifax area. With my training focused on the half-marathon in Moncton on October 22, I decided to race the 10k and do a longer warm-up and cool-down as a substitute for my weekend long-run. I don’t race 10k very often, and my prior best time was 42:40 from the Navy 10k in 2016. Similar to Maritime Race Weekend, I knew I had a very good shot of posting a personal best time, but had my sights set on a more lofty goal of breaking the 40 minute barrier.
On race day conditions were quite similar to the weekend before: cool, but humid. I was also feeling a bit beat-up from the weekend before with some soreness in my left glute and hip area.
The 5k and 10k races were grouped for a mass start, so with the narrow trail I made my way to the front. My sub-40-minute plan was to see if I could hold a 4:00/km pace through most of the race and if so, I would try to push the pace on the final kilometre.
At 2km in, I was averaging 4:00/km but it didn’t feel good and felt I wouldn’t be able to hold it. From then on my pace slipped to around 4:10/km (some kilometres below and some above). I was able to pull the pace up on the last kilometre to 4:01, closed the gap on a few runners (who may have also been struggling with humidity) and ended up with a chip time of 41:06. This was a significant improvement from my prior best time, one-minute and 34 seconds better to be exact! However, similar to Maritime Race Weekend, I was far short of my goal time.
Last in September was the Rum Runners Relay on Saturday, September 30, 2017. As team captain, I decided to take leg 10 which has one of the higher difficulty ratings of all the legs. The leg starts in Mahone Bay and follows highway 3 right into Lunenburg with an approximate distance of 10.9km. The course is described as flat along the coast, then hilly as the course goes inland.
Different from the past two weekends, there was no humidity. While I didn’t know the course and didn’t really have a race plan, I thought I’d try to run close to a 4:00/km pace and see how it goes. Just before the start of the leg, I was talking to Run Nova Scotia Chair Tim Duguay who was also racing this leg and pointed out that along with me and him, there two others he knew were running this leg and who were all in the same pace range. He predicted we would like run most of the race together, and he turned out to be right.
My first two kilometres on the flat portion were around a 4:00/km pace and felt good. Then I got into some hills and my pace slowed. Then as things flattened out my pace came back to around 4:00/km. For about 2/3 of the race I was leading a pack of 5 runners, including Tim and the others he predicted would be running with us.
Then we got to kilometre-9, which featured a long, steep climb around a corner. Not knowing how long this climb was (in part due to it wrapping around a corner then carrying on after a sharp left turn), I eased back on the pace. I was perhaps a bit two cautious of not wanting to burn out before the end, but lost the group I was running with as a result.
As we got over the top of the hill and close to the town of Lunenburg, I could see a long downhill stretch in front of me and picked things up. But at this point it was too late to make up lost distance. I was able to catch and pass one runner (Dave) with about 400m to go, and pushed hard at the end to maintain my position.
I finished with a time of 44:17, good for 13th in a fairly competitive field, and a pace of 4:08/km. This compared to last year where I placed 11th on leg 3 (11.2km) with a pace of 4:11/km, a much easier leg that is pretty much all downhill. While I was happy with the result, I kicked myself for not having better prepared. I ran the leg somewhat tentatively because I wasn’t sure of what was ahead as each kilometre passed. This translated into less confidence in myself to maintain a certain pace and be competitive with those around me. With better preparation I would have had a better idea of how far to push myself on climbs and how much I should be picking up on flats and downhills. Lesson learned.
Racing aside, Rum Runners was a tremendous experience. I spent the entire day with my team, starting from leg 1 at the Prospect Road Community Centre and finishing with my leg in Lunenburg. Everyone on our team had outstanding runs with many exceeding their own expectations of what they could do. It was awesome to see everyone enjoy in such great success and we had a wonderful time, not to mention operating a great water stop, and many laughs along the way.
A few years ago I would have never dreamed I was capable of these results. And I’m certainly proud of how far I’ve come, yet as I’ve gotten faster, I think I’ve set higher standards for myself.
September was a great month, but perhaps in a good way the unfulfilled feeling makes me want to do better. So far in 2017 I’ve run 7 races with standard distances (not including Rum Runners) and have achieved 6 personal best times. My final serious race of the year will be the Legs for Literacy Moncton Half Marathon on October 22. There I’ll also be shooting for a best time and a milestone goal.