2016 Race #5: Kitchener Kids With Cancer 5K, Kitchener, ON

Date: August 28th, 2016
Gun Time: 20:58
Chip Time: 20:56
Placing Overall: 2nd out of 379
Placing in Age Group: 1st out of 33 (M40-49)
Theme Song: Clouds“, Zach Sobiech

Time to dust off the blog again. The summer was uneventful from a running perspective (not to mention screamingly hot) as there really aren’t any competitions in Ontario in June and July. I tried to get into the Angus Glen 5 miler on one of Canada’s most famous golf courses, but it was full by the time I tried to enter, and in any case it ended up still being about 90 degrees at 7PM the night it was run (my buddy John, a veteran marathoner, ran it and said it was brutal between the hills and the heat).

This race was the 3rd iteration of the one I ran and finished 5th in last year. Some changes for the better occurred in the interim, as it’s now part of the RunWaterloo series and had a welcome change of venue (last year’s race featured having to stop for cross traffic on the streets intersecting the trail). The new location was on the trails in Homer Watson Park and on the grounds of the Waterloo Region Museum in south Kitchener, and was thankfully bereft of cars requiring dodging. However, the course was a lot tougher than last year’s, involving a lot of hills and some tricky loose gravel sections, and the hot, muggy morning didn’t really help things.

B was running with me this time, despite the fact that the race didn’t have a parent child team category. I told him not to expect a fast time, since I certainly wasn’t given the course and conditions. The Dean of our faculty was running as well after I put a call out for fundraising and companions (my colleagues came through in a big way in this regard, so big ups to them) and given the promotional boost from RunWaterloo the field was a lot bigger this year, with an added 10K to bring people in.

There was a live band playing a mix of music (including “Fat Bottomed Girls” again at one point – what is it with cover bands playing that song at running events?) and the Empire even showed up, as you can see below.

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I find your lack of faith disturbing.

Anyway, the start time was delayed twice, largely because the parking was a shitshow and it was taking people 30 minutes to find a spot, and it also seemed like there were a lot of last minute entries. Eventually Paul Gibson, a pediatric oncologist from London, kicked things off by explaining why the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario, the beneficiary of the run, was so important to patients and families. The band performed the national anthem, the horn went, and we were off into the muggy morning.

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Dr. Gibson, testifying.

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The (slightly delayed) start.

Once the usual phalanx of little kids at the front had sprinted the first 2oo meters of the race and dropped back out of the way, a couple of rather serious looking 14-year old girls in racing singlets took the lead. One of them was wearing University of Oregon gear which I found a bit odd, given that we are pretty remote from the Pacific Northwest, but no matter. They were passed by a young guy who blazed past them and was setting a pace that I didn’t feel I could match. I settled into about sixth and was feeling good as we passed through Doon Pioneer Village, complete with people in period costume. Have to say I’ve never run a race through the 18th century before. Feeling great as we reached the bottom of the first of the steep hills, I churned my way up, the way made somewhat treacherous by the gravelly surface. The course bent back around near the start and then up another hill to an out and back section.

It looked like the two young girls who had started so fast hadn’t reckoned on the hilly nature of the trail, and were fading a bit already. I blew past both of them on the undulating track and pushed forward. A helpful guy out walking his dog watched me pass and said, “Hey, you’re third”. Thanks dude, I thought.

So now it was a matter of holding my pace, which despite the tough course I seemed to be doing pretty easily. At the turnaround I could see that the first place guy was at least a minute ahead and I probably wasn’t going to be able to catch him, but I was definitely within striking distance of second. I passed B coming the other way and gave him the thumbs up, and focused on second place. By the time we reached the downhill stretch back to the finish line at about KM 4, I was right behind the other runner. I probably could have kicked and gone by him at this point; I had plenty left in the tank. I opted to be tactical and draft off him until the turn to the finish. I knew I wasn’t going to PR anyway and I felt it would be the best strategy to ensure second. It worked, too.

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Kicking to the finish, with full derp face on display.

Afterward, my son and I were talking to a guy who said he had lost over 100 pounds in the past year after gastric bypass surgery, and actually finished top 5 in the 30-39 group. This made me think that even though sometimes running becomes a bit of a drag, it’s never hard to find someone to inspire us further.

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That’s my boy.

So, my time was pretty slow for a 5K, but everyone’s was. Most people I talked to felt like the course was 45 seconds to a minute slower than a flat 5K would be. B did pretty well, finishing in 30:58 in 74th. Over $50,ooo was raised for pediatric cancer, which was the best thing of all. And hey, I’ll take two second place finishes in a row any day.

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My Running Route, or, Cars and the Occasional Moron Who Drives Them

We are blessed in Cambridge with a pretty great trail system. It runs along the Grand and Speed Rivers which meet north of the city, and provides a nice little piece of parkland in a relatively urban landscape. There’s a surprising and constantly shifting variety of things for a runner to see along the way. For example, this weekend I ran past a raucous, roaring group of South Asian Canadians who had set up a cricket match in the middle of one of the baseball diamonds as a couple of guys fried up samosas and other street snacks nearby. At the extreme other end of the spectrum, there’s a guy around here who has a car which is an exact replica of the General Lee, and he likes to drive it at 10mph around and around the park sometimes. Which seems kind of weird for Canada, but I guess the Dukes were a cultural touchstone even up here. (Note: the owner resembles neither Bo nor Luke, but would fit right in with the Robertsons on Duck Dynasty. Not that I ever watch that show).

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Well, way down yonder in the land of… uh… pine trees?

I once had to stop dead in my tracks when I came around a bend and an obstinate deer was standing astride the trail. It didn’t even spook, just gave me a haughty look as if to say “I’m a miracle of nature, and you’re a ridiculous looking sweaty hairless ape in in a neon tank-top”, and flipped its tail at me as it sauntered away. Whatever. Stuck up prick. What’s worse, it was a doe, and my brain sang “Doe, a deer, a female deer” at me for the rest of the run.

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Yeah, we get it, you’re a cute woodsy animal. Bite me.

Then there was the time I came across a clown in full regalia walking towards me on the trail. Seriously. He was sauntering along, mellowly smoking a cigarette. He didn’t seem to have a machete or a chainsaw, so I tipped him an uneasy wave, and, no word of a lie, he HONKED HIS NOSE AT ME. (I spontaneously decided to do a bit of speedwork for the next couple of miles). I did feel better when I noted that there was a carnival setting up in Riverside Park along my route and that it seemingly wasn’t some random Pennywise clone wandering the forest.

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You know, I’m not buying the smile. You’re still creepy.

There’s all kinds of nature and other crap along the route as well, and the usual coterie of runners, and of course it’s always fun to give the biker-style two-fingers-down bro wave as I pass the dudes, and puff my chest out, speed up, and do my best impression of Ridiculously Photogenic Guy for the ladies. (Y’all do this shit too. Come on, admit it.)

So, the trail system is great, except for the brief period in spring when it floods because of the river overflowing. What’s not great is getting there.

See, Cambridge has grown from 85,000 people when we moved here in 1996 to 135,000 people. Which means the roads around here have turned into snarled traffic nightmares a lot of the time, since the infrastructure hasn’t kept pace. What’s worse, approximately 1/3 or so of Cambridge drivers are seemingly either assholes, drunk, on Quaaludes, or some combination thereof. Seriously – our region has some of the worst drivers I’ve ever seen, and I’ve driven in some very hairy places around the world.

Which is a problem, because I have to run on said roads to get to the trails. And it can raise the hackles a little bit, so to speak.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “But, why don’t you just drive to the trails?” Well, aren’t you just the contrarian.  Frankly, it always seemed like a dirty cheat to me to drive somewhere in order to go running, when I could just run there and save the little bunny rabbits by keeping my polluting auto ensconced in the garage. And also, there’s the big puddle of sweat that invariably forms on the leather upholstery of my modestly priced chariot on the way home. Really, who wants that? It’s gross.

Thus, I end up running the gauntlet, if you’ll pardon the extremely poor play on words. Usually it’s fine. But I have almost been hit by cars on five separate occasions in the last year. It’s funny how it tends to usually be some skinny cretin in an Ed Hardy t-shirt driving a clapped out Honda Civic with a straight pipe that you can hear two counties away. But at least once it was an octogenarian grandma who missed me but proceeded to knock down a poor kid on a bike who was crossing the other way. My reaction to these rather unwanted incursions into my route varies; usually it just involves a shouted “watch it!” and a derisive shake of the head, but I’ve been known to react rather more, um, forcefully.

With the guy who shouted “Goddamn jogger!” at me, for example.

Just a note to you drivers who may read this and get pissed off at a runner one day for some reason – try calling the individual in question a jogger. Often, it will make them lose their shit. I believe my response was to call the guy a “fucking asshat”. I don’t usually like to do that, especially since escalating the situation is never good, and I might be at a disadvantage in a fight if the guy’s bigger than me and I’ve just run 12K. Although, at least in Canada people don’t carry 9mm handguns in their glove boxes which makes mouthing off slightly safer. In this case, and probably luckily for me, the dude wasn’t looking for a dustup and simply screeched his tires and drove away. Not one of my finer moments, to be sure.

I felt bad about unleashing the finger on the octogenarian grandma as well, after some reflection. But that’s another story.

Anyway, if you’re driving, please look both ways before turning a corner. Thus endeth the public service announcement for today.

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