The first race of the Subaru Niagara Running Series was on Sunday February 27, 2011. The main event (based on number of entrants) was the half marathon, and there was also a 3K race. I did a few races in this series last year, and hope to do as many as I can in 2011 – they are great races, well organized, and close to my home!
Being that it was February (aka winter) I had been watching the weather and keeping my fingers crossed all week. Although the forecast had been favourable, I found myself looking out the bedroom window on Saturday night watching the snow falling. This was not the weather I had been hoping for the night before my first running race of the season, and the second half marathon of my relatively short (~9 months) running life. When I went out in the morning and cleared at least 10cm of new snow off my car, I held out hope that 15 minutes down the road in Grimsby, the weather would be different!
An hour later I was driving towards the race and accepting the fact that Grimsby had definitely received just as much snow as we had at home. I succumbed to the fact the roads would be snowy, and decided I would just enjoy it and focus on having a good, safe run and not worry so much about a fast pace. I would just be happy with a nice winter run outside!
As I mentioned, the Subaru Niagara Running Series races are very well organized, and within minutes of arriving I had picked up my number and race packet and was ready for the biggest decision of the day – what to wear in this weather. I had packed every piece of clothing I could possibly choose from including two pairs of shoes. In the end I decided to wear my Saucony Xodus trail running shoes. I bought them for winter running, and I figured they would keep my feet more dry than my Saucony Ride3’s and would give a bit better grip in the soft snow.
The race started at 9AM. The starting area was still in the morning shadow of the escarpment, so the first roads we ran were still snow covered. A good portion of the race was run on main streets but even these were a mix of snow and slush with some wet pavement visible. I felt great as the race started and ended up with a few folks around me that were carrying a pace that I was happy to stick with. Just like my first half marathon last fall, I thought I might be going a bit too fast but felt good in the moment so figured I would hold it.
As we got out to the east end of the course (@8.5K) we did a loop that took us down back roads that were still completely snow covered. This made for slower going and harder work, and I was glad I wore the trail shoes. This section went through an orchard and then back out to the service road where we headed west towards the finish.
Near the end of the course, a 2nd loop (@15.5K) took us through another residential area near the lake. These roads were snow covered and slushy. I could feel myself starting to fade in this area. My legs started feeling sluggish around the 17K point, and I had to mentally focus on keeping my pace up. This loop seemed longer than I remembered it from the map, but I kept reminding myself that I was getting close to the finish. After this loop it was straight back across the QEW, and into downtown Grimsby. I was happy to be making the right hand turn to the last section towards the finish line, not realizing that it was about a 500m stretch uphill! I was rewarded at the top of the hill when I spotted my wife and 18 month old daughter who were standing in the snow and cheering for me on the 2nd last corner. Coming up to the finish line I saw the 1:24:59 click by and wished I had pushed harder over the last kilometer or two and got in under 1:25… but I was still very happy with my time in these conditions!
My time was 1:25:10 which was good enough for 2nd in my age group (actually 3rd, but they don’t count the overall winner so I got a silver medal for the 30-34 AG). I was very happy with my result given the conditions and my lowered expectations that morning. I went into the race hoping to survive the snow and finish under 1:30 without getting hurt, and ended up beating my PR by almost 3 minutes. I am amazed at how much more my body (and mind) can produce during a race compared to a training run, and am happy to see the positive results of forcing myself outside for all of the cold, dark evenings of running since last fall! We hung around for the awards ceremony and I collected my silver medal.
Next up is Around the Bay… hope the roads are clear (and maybe even dry!?)
Thanks to Mike Cheliak / My Sports Shooter Photography for providing the photos www.mysportsshooter.com