My race mornings are usually fairly typical: waking up entirely too early, grabbing a bagel and some coffee, then driving for an hour or two to the race site and arriving about an hour before race start so I can set up transition and use the porta-potty before the line gets too long.
Last Saturday morning was entirely unlike any other race morning: it was relaxing.
I woke up early, before the alarm went off, and took my time getting out of bed. The sun was shining and it looked like a perfect day for racing – warm but not too hot, and slightly overcast. The combination of knowing that it was a short enough race that it was going to be really painful, and that I had a chance to place quite well if I had a good race gave me some pre-race jitters, but I like a little nervous energy before a race.
But the best part of my pre-race morning was walking to Café Olya for some coffee and the most delicious apricot scone I have ever tasted. CO is a very cute coffee shop and bakery owned by a husband and wife team, and the atmosphere is casual and friendly with a few bar stools and touches of coffee-inspired décor. The bakery is located just behind the coffee bar and we could watch Olya preparing some strawberry custard croissants that looked positively to die for, but what caught my attention was the little glass case to the right of the coffee bar where I saw a crispy and buttery apricot scone. How could I resist?
Of course the coffee was wonderful, nice and strong the way I like it and served with delighful conversation. I followed my first sip of coffee with a bite of apricot scone, and thought I had died and gone to heaven. The scone was crunchy on the outside and so soft on the inside, the apricots stuffed inside were sweet and moist and the creamy custard rounded out a delectable combination of flavours and textures. I enjoyed every bite of my scone and every sip of coffee.
It’s difficult to see how the day could possibly get any better, but I love racing so much that it was almost inevitable. My legs were feeling a little sluggish during my 3km warmup but felt better after some strides, and the run settled my nerves slightly. I knew my legs would feel better once the race started, and I was hoping for a sub-20 minute 5k.
We walked to the start line about 10 minutes before the 10am race start, just in time to wish some friends a good race and catch the pre-race announcements and group stretches. It seemed like the race would never start, but then the announcer was counting down from 10 and the confetti cannon marked the beginning of the race!
My race strategy was to stick to a 4 minute pace for the first 2km, then evaluate how I was feeling and adjust my pace for the next two kilometers then go all out for the finish. My first km was quite fast at 3:58, but my legs felt shaky and I was already working pretty hard just to keep my goal pace. The first lap of Queen’s Park was pretty open as I was still with the faster runners and ahead of most of the pack.
I slowed down a little in the second kilometer and was really struggling by the time I got to the halfway point where we started the second lap of Queen’s Park. By this time the walkers had reached the park and I had to do some doging and calling out to get around people, and almost ran into a little boy on the hairpin turn. I really slowed down in the third kilometer and was quite disappointed to see that it took 4:34, about 5 seconds slower than 10k pace, and I was struggling to maintain even that!
The last kilometer along Wellesley was incredibly difficult and I’m very proud of myself for pushing through for a fast finish despite heavy legs and being on the verge of tears. The moment I crossed the finish line, Sarp was there with a great big hug and a bottle of water. The clock said 21:36, which wasn’t fast enough to beat my goal but still gave me a personal best by almost a minute.
My finish was good for placing 7/169 in the F25-34 category and 17/495 overall women, and my chip time of 21:33.9 was 56 seconds faster than my previous unofficial 5k PB (I ran the first half of the MEC 10k in 22:30) and 1:17 faster than my official 5k PB from last December. While I don’t think I could have pushed myself any faster that day, I do feel that I would have been able to finish faster if my legs weren’t feeling so tired. I suspect that my 140km ride at Cycle for Sight the previous weekend affected my race more than I expected, and that a week wasn’t enough to really recover enough to race. That being said, I’m incredibly happy with my new PB and it feels great to really race again!