They said it was zero degrees Celsius but it felt much colder than that. I had intended to wear shorts and a short sleeved t-shirt but went with tights and long sleeved t-shirt. Still, with only one layer, I was feeling the cold during my warm up. My warm up took me along the tail end of the course in reverse direction. I ran up the stupidly steep hill to the 10k marker, turned around and ran back down. By the time I reached the start line, they were just about to play the national anthem.
Five-four-three-two-one and we're off! This year I tried something different. Normally I like to pace myself, saving my harder effort for the second half of a race. But being a little overweight this year, I decided on the strategy of using the downhills to gain time I'd likely lose on the uphills. With the first 1.5 km being downhill, it was a fast start for me.
I had a pretty good view of the pack in front of me running the first mile down Winston Churchill. The first 3 or 4 runners opened up a gap pretty quickly but after that, the next 10 or so were grouped fairly close together. Initially, there was a bit of a gap between me and the group ahead but by the bottom of the mile long hill I had pretty much closed that gap and even passed a few. Those few that I passed soon passed me back once we made the turn up the hill onto Sideroad 27
One of the runners I passed was Brad Mailleux of Feet in Motion. Brad and I have a friendly rivalry in this race, finishing within 3 places of each other in 5 races since 2006. Last year, I passed Brad closer to the start of the race but he passed me back on the long, steep hill at about the halfway mark. This year, I passed him later but he passed me back much earlier. So I spent most of the rest of the race watching Brad's back get gradually smaller.
The rest of my race was fairly uneventful. The wind was from the South East this year which meant a bit of a tail wind running the "rollers" along Sideroad 27. I had a great view of the leaders making their turn onto 10 line. The larger group of 10 or so runners just ahead of me, gradually pulled further ahead and strung out a bit. I more or less maintained the distance to Brad until the big hill at the halfway mark where he opened up the gap a bit. I made it to the top of the big hill alright but on the longer, more gradual hill up to Sideroad 32, I could feel a side stitch coming on and slowed a bit before it got worse. The gap to Brad began to open up.
I was losing speed to the developing side stitch. Remembering something I wrote in my previous blog about a lower cadence requiring less oxygen consumption, I extended my stride, relying on my legs to make up for speed lost by relaxing my rate of breathing. It worked! The side stitch gradually disappeared and I began to close in on the runner ahead.
For the rest of the race, I concentrated on pushing off with my legs and opening up my stride. The track workouts I'd been doing since early November were paying off. My legs were more than capable of handling the punishment I was putting them through. I didn't catch Brad but I did finish 9 seconds faster than last year, finishing in 15th place, 1st in my age group... again. Two places behind Brad... again!