Date: November 28th, 2021
Gun Time: 44:08
Chip Time: 43:59
Placing Overall: 36th out of 470
Placing in Age Group: 9th out of 65 (M40-49)
Gun Time: 51:49
Chip Time: 51:41
Placing Overall: 143rd out of 470
Placing in Age Group: 4th out of 10 (M1-19 – seriously, they let 1-year-olds in this race?)
Theme Song: “Angel From Montgomery“, Leslie Spit Treeo (John Prine cover, may he rest in peace.)
This, as you might imagine, was not just the first race of 2021, but was the first for a very, very long time.
I managed to keep the legs churning more or less all the way through the pandemic; in fact, it was one of the few things that kept me from going completely off the rails. But as some of you probably noticed, it’s a real drag when you aren’t able to race anymore. Those “virtual” runs? Not for me, although I do appreciate the efforts of race organizers to do something.
So it was with glee towards the end of 2021 that I noted in-person races were starting to come back. I went into this one with no idea how I would perform after a two-year hiatus, but I had done some pretty solid recent tempo runs, and was optimistic. The idea of competition was enough of a motivation, so I did not worry overmuch. But one always wants to put one’s best foot forward (if you’ll pardon the pun).
The great thing about the passage of the intervening two years is that I now have a willing running partner in my son Brendan, so I’m going to be posting his results as well. He’s made appearances in this blog before, but he’s now a lanky 15-year-old who can already utterly destroy me at the 400 and 800 meter distance. He’s still learning long-distance running, so for now I have the edge in that (not for long I’ll wager). The Tannenbaum was unfinished business for us. Back in 2019, we had planned to run it to cap off the year, and weren’t able to make it to Toronto due to freezing rain and unsafe conditions. So, it seemed only fitting that it would be the race to kick off our slate of competitions as the pandemic was on the wane. It would be his first 10K, and he was stoked, if a bit nervous.
For 2021, the Tannenbaum, put on by Beaches Runners Club, had a new course. It now would start at Tommy Thompson Park and would be an out and back along the Leslie Street Spit, which splays out into Lake Ontario in Toronto’s east end. It’s a beautiful area of wilderness minutes away from the buzzing, hyper-urban expanse of the city – in summer, that is. My concern was that running out onto a spit of land surrounded on all sides by a huge freezing body of water at the end of November might prove to be, ah, a bit challenging. Yeah. I was right.
Pleading to the weather gods for clemency did no good, and the morning dawned grey and cold, with 2 inches of snow having already fallen and more on the way. We got to the end of Leslie Street and found parking alright, and headed down to the start line near the park pavilion.
The race would start in waves 30 seconds apart, because, you know, pandemic. I was up front in the first wave, as I was pretty sure I could bust 45:00, but Brendan hung back in the second wave. As the horn went I looked at the course ahead and thought, “huh, that footing doesn’t look great.” One of the race organizers even went out of his way to tell us not to expect a PR while we were in the starting corral. Thanks for the vote of confidence, my man.
So, yeah. The footing was pretty bad, but the course was largely dead flat. I felt like I was moving along pretty well given that I hadn’t really tried to run an extended period at race pace in a long time. We hit a slight rise followed by a downhill at about 2K, and then crossed this wacky floating bridge that was made of steel and really slippery. I felt pretty good at this point (and would soon realize why) and wondered how Brendan was making out behind me. The 42 minute pacer was still in my sights, although he was starting to pull away a bit. I had set a goal of wanting to go under 44 minutes for this one, and so far everything seemed to be going according to plan.
Having hit the 5k turnaround, I glanced at my watch (yes, I now wear a Garmin – more on that later) and noticed I was at about 21 minutes. I soon realized why, when the howling wind that had been pushing me along hit me smack in the face. Uh oh, I thought. It was blowing at about 20-30 mph and there was absolutely no wind break. To make matters worse, it had started to snow, and we were getting a faceful. I did get a bit of a burst as I passed B coming back and gave him a wave (he told me that he was a bit gassed at that point, which was around 4k for him, but got a substantial second wind later).
So, I was really trying to gut it out and keep the pace as we moved into Km 7 and 8, but man. That wind was absolutely brutal. And cold. I don’t know what it is about this race, but it does not seem to be favored by weather conditions. Anyway, I knew I had dropped off the first half pace, but I wasn’t being caught from behind and I was holding my own. As we went over the weird bridge and up and down the little rise again I was pretty sure I would hit my goal time. And I did. Barely. 43:59 is not much faster than 44 minutes, but I would take it given the conditions. Even though I almost went ass over teakettle on the slippery bit at the finish line (despite being fairly warned by a race marshal).
Brendan rolled in at just over 51 minutes, and he seemed pretty pleased with that. He was still feeling the adrenaline after the race, and couldn’t wait to do it again. He’s got the bug now. I suspect we will be racing together for a long time to come.
It’s good to be back. And hey, we also got these nifty hoodies!