I started off Sunday morning with a wonderfully meditative easy run to finish off my recovery week, and I spent most of the hour thinking over my races in the last couple of weeks and reflecting on the progress I’ve made. I never really got a chance to think too much about the track meet two weeks ago because I was so preoccupied with my half marathon, but on Sunday morning I was able to relax and enjoy the success of the last two weeks. So my run wasn’t really about the run; it was about getting outside, enjoying the sun and soaking in all the results of steady and consistent training.
With all of that being said, I really do want to share my experience at the Toronto Triathlon Club‘s inaugural track meet. I haven’t run track since high school, when I finished last in the 200m sprint at the city track meet and swore I hated running. Before that race, I would train with the track and field team sometimes (it didn’t last long), and I distinctly remember being out on the track early one morning with the most impossible workout ahead of me: 16 laps of the track, sprinting the straights and jogging the turns. I think I made it through 5 laps before I gave up and decided I’d never be a runner. I really wish I could go back and talk to myself then; I’d tell high-school Kim that being a runner isn’t about innate ability (although some people have that), it’s about sticking with it long enough to see results (and that’s the part most people are missing). I’d also tell her that running teaches you amazing things, leads to to wonderful places and introduces you to the most caring and dedicated people you’ll ever meet – and that none of this requires you to run fast or far. It’s not about numbers, it’s about the community.
…I told you I was feeling reflective.
Fortunately I didn’t leave this track meet swearing that I hate running. If anything, it made me love running more: I saw people of all abilities and ages out racing in the middle of winter, and having a fantastic time on a Saturday afternoon. There were kids that looked like they were barely 8, Master’s runners who win their age groups, triathletes who haven’t been running all year, and what felt like more spectators and volunteers than there were athletes! And that’s not even counting the food…
The track meet was hosted by the Toronto Triathlon Club at Monarch Park Stadium, which is a real treat in a city without indoor tracks. We started with a 1600m, followed by 400m and – for those brave enough to extend their suffering – capped it off with a 3000m race. My main race was the 1600m since I’m not really a short track runner – 400m brings a completely different kind of pain – and I didn’t want to hammer a tough 3000m the weekend before my half marathon. All three events were open, so I decided to race the mile and 400m, then take it easy on the 3000.
I did remember one important thing from doing 800m and 1600m intervals in the summer: it’s really easy to start out too fast, and a mile feels like five when your body gives up on you halfway through the race. Unsure of my fitness level at shorter distances, I decided to take it quite easy in the first 800m and really hammer it home in the last lap.
Starting off easy meant I spent the first two laps in last place, and last is a tough place to be – especially when there are only four people in the race. It took a lot of determination to hold my own pace rather than racing everyone else. I was able to pass two of my three competitors in the third and fourth laps, but despite some pretty decent suffering I wasn’t able to catch that last person in front. Second place in my heat, and 6:09 finish!
Second only to the 800m in suffering, the 400m race is all about giving everything you’ve got for a single lap of the track. There was no pacing strategy for this race: the pace would be all-out from start to finish.
My heart rate was about 180 before the gun even went off because I was so excited! This time I started off in first place, which came with a new challenge: constantly checking over my shoulder to see if anyone was gaining. Although I was terrified I would get passed the entire time, I held on to win my heat in 1:17. That one really hurt!
After all this you might be thinking, “who would attempt to race ALL THREE EVENTS at a track meet?” and I can tell you sure wasn’t in any condition to be running anything after destroying a mile and 400m! Although I had intended on running the 3000, I was so high on adrenalin that I was shaking and knew that I would be sacrificing too much the week before a big race. I told the organizers I was pulling out and started walking to cool down.
Funny thing though…I felt better after a lap of walking, and I ended up caving and agreed to run in the second heat of the 3000m; yes, with all the Masters runners who could whup me on an easy day. But Michael said he was taking it easy too and he’d run with me the whole way, and we all know I’m a little crazy – so I said yes!
I’ve never taken it so easy in such a short race! Although we were running well below 10k pace, it felt easy and I had enough breath to return some good-natured heckling from certain (ahem) people yelling “if you’re smiling, you’re not running fast enough!”. We knew we’d get lapped (and we did) but it was the most fun I’ve ever had running so fast! I loved the finish: we decided to kick it, and when Michael said “come on, give it everything!” I sure did! We crossed the finish line less than a second apart in 13:22.
Hanging out with like-minded people always makes my day, and when food is involved I’m in heaven. I took some of my vegan, gluten-free lentil spice muffins – and was so incredibly flattered when four people asked me for the recipe!
I haven’t posted this recipe yet because it will be featured in the launch of a new project I’m working on with Hector: Our Fresh Kitchen, a resource for health-conscious people where we’ll share easy and delicious recipes for any diet using fresh, whole ingredients. I hope you’ll check us out and sign up for our newsletter for some sneak previews and a reminder when we go live on March 20. You can also find us on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.