Race day report, photos and a first for Buick City Complex, video!
I awoke to the insistent buzz of the alarm at 4:35am. It’s fair to say I like to prepare early. Breakfast was a bowl of porridge oats followed by toast and jam with two cups of tea. Next I ran a hot bath and sank in to soften my muscles. After rubbing warming embrocation cream into my leg muscles, lubrication gel into sensitive areas that might chafe and moisturising lotion into my face, I was as ready as I would ever be.
At a leisurely pace I pulled on my Lycra running gear and pinned on my race bib. There are several things I need to take with me on long runs and I stuffed the small pouch on my drinks belt with lip balm, two energy gels, jelly beans, tissues and a mileage chart I had printed and laminated listing various kilometer markers and split times and a water bottle of course.
Michelle drove me to Brackley Beach. We parked at 7:30am and wandered among the milling throng of athletes. Luckily it had stayed dry although the claimed one degree Celsius felt very cold in a stiff westerly wind. At the gun I set off at a gentle pace, deliberately holding back the temptation to surge ahead with all that pent up energy from four hundred miles of dedicated training.
I was passed by dozens of runners on the long straight drag of Gulf Shore Parkway and as always was struck by their variety of shapes, styles and colourful running gear. Some wore just a vest and shorts while others were bundled under coats, hats and gloves. We ran parallel to the shore and between the dunes I could see a fair surf. The Island event attracts fewer than three hundred runners (for the full marathon) and all are enthusiastic amateurs, no cartoon characters or runners with horses’ heads here. The winner will cross the line in just over two and a half hours but a mere mortal like me will require a couple of hours longer.
I checked off the kilometer markers, comparing them with my chart. I was on my planned schedule and feeling good. By ten kilometers no one was passing me; we had settled into our respective grooves. After a hot summer of sweating profusely through training runs it was a change to feel cool and dry. Truthfully it was cold and I wished I had worn my long sleeve shirt. I took sips from my water bottle and picked up Gatorade at several stations. I sucked down energy gel, trying not to gag and washing it down with water.
As I ran across the halfway mark my watch read two hours seventeen minutes and as my tentative goal was four hours thirty-five minutes, I was running at the right pace, to within a couple of seconds a mile. Michelle had driven out to cheer me on at halfway and for a while she ran alongside in her rain boots, offering me a bite of a Snickers bar and handing me the peanut butter and jam sandwich I had made before dawn.
The second leg of the route swings off the road onto a section of the Confederation Trail, a former railroad. The tracks were lifted twenty-five years ago and the lines given over to hiking and biking. It’s great for running because the locomotives required gentle gradients which are now runner-friendly.
My consistent pace began to draw me closer to runners who had passed me earlier but were now starting to flag. Traditionally you hit the ‘wall’ around kilometer thirty, mile twenty, but I still felt strong and started overhauling those who were beginning to struggle. I counted a total of twenty-five runners as I passed them. All those ridiculously big plates of potatoes or pasta had stocked up my muscles.
Eight miles of trail running, flanked by trees in full autumn foliage, gave shelter from the wind but as I turned onto Brackley Point Road for the uphill grind to the airport I felt very cold for the first time. The wind was strong and head-on. My right eye lost focus but I wasn’t concerned, the right turn onto Sherwood with its steep hill down then up took me closer to home.
The left turn onto University Avenue was both a psychological boost because the final three miles are a dead straight line to the finish and a physical boost because the wind swung round to my right shoulder. Crossing the various intersections was easy as traffic cops were out in force holding up cars and barricading the final section of the route.
University Avenue may be straight as an arrow but it is also undulating. Those rolling slopes are steep for a tired runner but I held my pace and checked my watch again: four hours seventeen minutes with three kilometers to go. University was closed to traffic and I ran on the centre line, all the while watching the finishing banner loom closer against the backdrop of Province House.
The race announcer boomed out my name with a hundred metres to go and I spotted Michelle, Maisie and Kathleen holding a huge “Go Daddy” sign and cheering loudly. I waved and forged on to the line finishing in four hours thirty-eight minutes. A silver space blanket, a finisher’s medal and happy faces awaited me.
I came two hundred and fiftieth out of a total of two hundred and seventy-five finishers and twenty-seventh out of the thirty-seven males in my age category. More importantly I sliced seventeen minutes off my previous best which is down to better diet and hydration both in the preceding weeks and in the race, fewer training runs over sixteen miles and a lighter starting weight. I still lost almost four pounds in weight during the marathon, hardly surprising as I burned off three thousand eight hundred calories! After a lazy afternoon, another long hot bath and a huge supper, I settled the girls into bed at 8pm and went straight to bed myself to sleep soundly for nine hours. I feel stiff and sore today, particularly my right Achilles tendon and my left knee but I have energy and feel in pretty good shape.
Well, that’s it for this year. We’ll see what next year brings.