2016 Recap, and plans for 2017.

So, the holidays are upon us, and it’s time to reflect on another year.

I had some pretty grand plans for this year, and well, not all of them came to fruition. Nevertheless, I’m pretty happy with how things went. I ended up getting a respiratory infection that took me out for part of October, so I had to cut a couple of events, unfortunately. I don’t intend to do any more competitions until February, so let’s look back at 2016.

Going into this year I had a few goals:

PR in the 8K – Check. I ran 33:39 in the only one I did this year, the Cambridge Mill Race.
PR in the 10K – Check. Again, I only ran one, but it was 41:17 in San Francisco, an utter dismantling of my old PR.
PR in the half marathon – Check. 1:35:46 in Buffalo.
Sub 20:00 5K – Not quite. Best I did was 20:09 in Chicago.
Finish a marathon – Nope. Could not fit a proper training schedule into what turned out to be a rather topsy-turvy year.

So, in 7 races, I had:

One victory (in the Harvest Quarter Marathon)
Two second-place finishes (in the KW Kids with Cancer Run and the Lurie Cancer Survivors Run in Chicago)
Two top-15 finishes (Laurier Loop, Cambridge Mill Race)
One top-20 finish (San Francisco Giant Race 10K, which it should be noted had almost 6,000 participants. This is probably the race I’m proudest of this year.)
One top-100 finish (out of almost 4,000 in the Buffalo Half Marathon).

Not bad for an old guy.

As for next year, still some stuff to work on. Right now, the plan is to do the Re-Fridgee-Eighter 8K (or possibly the 8-mile, which is also part of the event) in February, the Puerto Rico Half Marathon in March, the Mercedes-Benz 10K in Oakville in April (if I can fit it into my schedule – they still haven’t announced the date), the GoodLife Toronto 10K in May, and a new local trail race, the Conquer the Canuck 25K, in June. We shall see if this holds up.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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2016 Race #2: Cambridge Mill 8K, Cambridge, ON

Date: May 1, 2016
Gun Time: 33:42
Chip Time: 33:39
Placing Overall: 14th out of 124
Placing in Age Group: 2nd out of 13 (M40-49)
Theme Song: Changes“, David Bowie

Well. Back to the scene of Fat Dad’s near breakdown, and subsequent reinvention as a runner, thankfully. I speak of course of that day about three years ago (God, has it been three years already?) where this same race nearly killed me. That was the first running of the Cambridge Mill Race, and in the intervening three years, the course has changed not a whit, so I was really interested to see how I could do now that I’m, you know, in a lot better shape than I was. My course record was set in the second annual running, and while faster than the 41:55 I clocked the first time, it was still 40:09, and given I’ve since run the distance under 36 minutes I expected to be a good deal faster than that.

This race was going to offer me the opportunity to be on the other side of the registration table, since it’s put on by my club the Cambridge Harriers and I agreed to volunteer with set up and bag check.We were to gather at Highland Public School by the start line at the ungodly hour of 7AM (note: I am not a morning runner or, for that matter, a morning person) and the day didn’t start particularly well when I went out to my car to find the right rear tire nearly flat at 6:30. Fortunately my kids were in bed and didn’t hear the inventive string of cuss words I snarled as I got the jack out and put my spare on. At 6:30 in the morning. Did I mention it was raining? Yeah. It was raining too. Whatever. Up yours, universe.

Things did get better quickly, as at the set up we had a donation of great coffee from the Grand Cafe. And, also, donuts. Lots and lots of donuts. Like, about 17 boxes of them. In Canada, donuts are a staple food, especially if they are maple glazed, which is like Canada on Canada. There were many many maple glazed donuts. So, yeah. That helped my mood a lot.

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Bring on the runners!

So, the first part of the day was spent getting bibs for competitors, checking bags, and standing in the rather cold misty rain that was coming down. The race was relatively small, with about 120 participants in the 8K, another 10 teams of 2 doing a 2x4K relay, and 70 or so kids doing the 1K Chipmunk Chase. Everything went as smoothly as could be expected, except when, right before the kids race, the starting gate, um, fell down.

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The oh so proud starting gate. Minutes before it collapsed.

I was a fair distance away at the time and was envisioning the children sobbing forlornly, deprived of their race by the flaccid pile of canvas blocking the line. (At least, they were sobbing in my imagination. In reality I’m pretty sure they just stood there looking bemused). Eventually the timing guys got the generator going again (it had died unexpectedly) and the gate was restored to its former inflated glory, allowing the kids to show their athletic prowess after all, though I think the starter pistol scared the bejesus out of a few of them. My kids weren’t in this one, as Brendan has kind of outgrown the kids races (and had baseball practice later in the day anyway) and Dana didn’t want to run without her brother.

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“Let’s just trample the thing.”

Eventually I was able to extricate myself from volunteering so that I could warm up for the 8K. The advantage to my having wrestled with this course before was, naturally, that I knew it very well and was clear on what to expect. The first several hundred yards was a relatively steep downhill section to the banks of the Grand River, along which we would run for the next 2.5K or so. I was in the lead pack of runners and moving along well. The conditions at racetime were perfect, as it turned out – the rain stopped, there was very little wind, and the temperature was in the low 40s. My goal, based on my recent 5K times, was to go under 34 minutes. I felt like this was realistic though the course was a pretty technical one with a lot of hills. I roared through the halfway mark and the turn away from the river into a series of uphill grades. This is where things got tougher and I definitely slowed a bit, but still felt really strong and I wasn’t giving up ground to any of the other runners. The last obstacle was the steep uphill at 6.5K, which I detailed in my previous post about this race and which has become rather infamous among local runners of this event. In the back of my mind I remembered how hard it had been to get up the thing the first couple of times I ran, and used that as motivation. And you know what? I dominated that motherfucker this time. Seriously.

Swinging into the uphill grade to the finish gate I felt better than I’ve ever felt finishing a race, striding down the stretch. The only blemish was I let Jason Hankins, another Harrier, pass me at the end (he was in full sprint at the time and had I known a $50 GC to a nice restaurant was at stake for winning our age category, I’d have tried to sprint too, or at least tripped him as surreptitiously as possible). Lori and the kids showed up to cheer at the finish, and I was really happy with my time, which was a PR by a substantial margin on a pretty tough course.

So, this race was nice, and I guess a bit of an hors d’oeuvre before the main course of the Buffalo Half Marathon, which is coming up at the end of the month. Cambridge Mill Race doesn’t like to give out T-shirts every year so I got this weird head-wrap thing with my race kit. Little sore the day after but I have a feeling all the work is going to pay off when I get to Buffalo. Can’t wait.

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2015 Race #1: Robbie Burns 8K Road Race, Burlington, Ontario

Date: January 25, 2015
Gun Time: 35:38
Chip Time: 35:33
Placing Overall: 151st out of 1047
Placing in Age Group: 20th out of 67 (M40-44)
Theme Song: Modest Mouse, “Florida

“Are you really gonna park there, in front of my driveway?” said the dude who had just popped out of his front door, like a Morlock from his hole.

I eyed the 3 inch sliver of bumper that was currently technically the obstruction in question and looked at him a little incredulously. Shrugging, I sauntered back over to my car’s driver side door, half expecting him to make the “I’m watching you” gesture of pointing to his eyes and then to me. I moved a comfortable distance down the street; it never pays to antagonize the Morlocks, I’ve learned.

Welcome to Burlington, apparently.

It was definitely one of those genital nip sort of days. Burlington in January tends to be about as charming a place as the wilds of Siberia. The mercury read -11C an hour before the race, and it wasn’t looking to get a whole lot warmer. A cutting wind from the northwest wasn’t helping matters.

Safely inside the gym at Burlington Central High School, I picked up my race kit (basically consisting of a short sleeved shirt with a grinning Scotsman in a kilt and running shoes adorning the front) and surveyed the other runners, who wore an eye watering assortment of plaid over their cold weather running gear. A group aptly named the “Tartan Tarts” went chattering past as I wondered idly what the immortal bard would have made of them.

Sadly, “Ode to a Haggis” was not part of the opening salvo of ceremonies, though of course the requisite skirling bagpipes were evident. A couple of too long announcements were made as we stood shivering behind the start line.

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The gun went eventually, and unfortunately the cold led to me going out a bit too fast in an effort to warm up. I did the first mile in 6:30 and though I was feeling pretty good, I felt I had better slow things down a bit. A funny thing happened as the race progressed – I didn’t think it was possible for me to overdress for the conditions, but I did. About halfway through the race, I felt like I was overheating. I was wearing a poly/spandex full zip as my top layer, which I partly undid, but the layers underneath still seemed to be too warm.

Things got a little worse when I turned the corner into the last straightaway at the 6K mark and ran smack into that north-west wind. Worse still, this part of the course hadn’t really been properly salted or cleared, and I was having a hell of a lot of trouble finding my footing, which is a real pain in the ass when you’re at the end of a race and trying to maintain your pace while increasingly fatigued.

Nevertheless, in spite of the challenging conditions I managed to cross the line in 35:33, which was a PR, although I had done the distance faster in training. I was relatively happy with this, and it was fun hanging around the start line for a bit and watching some of the rather whimsically costumed participants reach the finish.

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No haggis post-race either, but hot oatmeal (as I suppose befits a Scottish themed race) and the usual assortment of bananas and bagels. As a local band belted out vaguely Celtic songs (Great Big Sea, anyone?) and the medalists climbed the stage post-race to receive their due, I resisted (somehow) the urge to proclaim,

“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face
Great chieftain of the puddin’ race!”

Because, of course, no one wants to be compared to a haggis, really.

As I drove home, my iPod shuffle rather shrewdly coughed up Modest Mouse’s Florida: “Even as I left Florida/Far enough, far enough, wasn’t far enough.” Appropriate given the location of my next races – but with my first half-marathon coming up I was left to hope that far enough would indeed be far enough.