I knew it was going to be a chilly start to the day so I had a bunch of clothing options packed for the 2010 Road 2 Hope Half Marathon in Hamilton. With the extra hour of sleep it was easy to get out of bed in time to make the early drive to Confederation Park to grab my race kit and jump on the shuttle bus that would drive us to the start line up the "mountain" in Steel Town.
Since I arrived at the park over two hours before race time, I had very few people to worry about in the pick-up lines and breezed through this task and was back to the car debating as to what I would wear. I finally decided to go with long sleeves and my Falcons tri top as it seemed a touch too cold to go with only a tri top with arm warmers. With that job checked off, it was time for a bus ride to the start line.
Once at the school (where we could stay warm in the gym) I ran into a bunch of familiar faces so I spent most of my pre-race staying relaxed chatting with many of the folks I have met over the last few years through running or triathlon. Some of them (Stuart, John, Shanta, Rick and Hans, etc.) were tackling the full marathon while others (Ang, Dan, Jo-Jo, Brent, Gavin, Richard, Dave, Kevin, etc. and I) elected to test ourselves against the shorter half marathon.
As the time ran down I made sure to talk a little strategy with Jo-Jo as he was chasing the same sub 1:20 goal that I was. He has a lot more experience at this distance than I do and I knew he would be right there in the end so I made sure that our plans were set before hitting the roads. Once we got things organized, I headed out for a warm up and ran into Glenn (fellow Hi-Performance athlete getting ready for IMAZ) who was acting as support for his wife on this day.
Next it was go time so I made my way up to the front of the starting line and waited for the final few minutes. I looked around but could not find Jo-Jo so I wondered where he had settled in among the crowd. The clock was ticking down and I had to focus and pick my line out of the gate to make sure I got clear of the rest of the field. As they sent us off, I darted ahead with two other athletes to reach the first corner out of the school parking lot clear of the masses. We quickly hit the first road and started to settle in a line on the yellow road divider.
For the first five kilometres I sat in a small group of runners, including elite triathlete Sean Bechtel, trying to hide from the slight wind behind a Longboat member. We were clipping along pretty well as we made our way towards the expressway. My plan (set up by Coach Tyler) was to get to the 10k marker in 36 minutes so I knew I was on track when I hit 5k in 8:15 with a major downhill portion for the next 6 or 7 kilometres.
When we reached the on ramp for the Red Hill Valley Parkway a few runners started their accelerations so I knew it was time to go or be left behind. I stayed with the main group as we let Sean and another younger fellow travel ahead. It was at this point that Jo-Jo moved up with the group in a solid show of form. We were running around 5 or 6 strong and quietly working together as we snaked down the highway trying to pick the best line.
The splits were very quick during the decent and I ended up hitting the 10k marker in 35:35 (my fastest 10k ever) and in very good shape with only 11k to go. Making a slight climb off the parkway, I found myself leading the pack down Barton Street where we hit a stronger head wind than expected. The others were suddenly several metres back so I didn't know if I should wait or if they were fading? I decided to hold my pace and I hit the next stretch (Woodward Ave.) still feeling strong.
A few hundred metres down Woodward, the group had worked together to pull up and two runners jumped in front of me. I looked at our pace on my Garmin and we were still below race pace so I tucked in behind them knowing the QEW overpass was just a few km up the road and I wanted to save some energy for that. The three of us continued along and held a solid effort over the bridge just seconds ahead of the others chasing us down. We had hit the 15k marking in 54 minutes so I was really happy with the race plan and was sure that I would reach my goal if I could get to the 16k marker and throw down an average 5k.
Our next stretch of road was along Beach Blvd and we were again heading into the wind. It was not super strong but the pace was slower, up in the 3:55 range. One of the volunteers announced us as positions 7, 8 (me), 9 so I was also getting thoughts of top ten in my head at this point. This was short lived as the top lady, Nicole Stevenson, soon sailed past us followed by another two athletes with amazing form.
I stayed put as we rounded the top end of the loop and then started our home journey on the lake front running path. We only had 4 km to go so I just wanted to keep the pace below 4:00/km. The gentleman that was running behind me finally made his move and the two I was working with started to add a little distance between me. I had no answer but was just happy to be running sub 4 splits.
I was now just counting down the final markers and trying to visualize the finish as my legs were mush. Thankfully, my Mom and Aunt were on the course to cheer me on so I got a good little boost from them and knew I would make it to the finish.
At the 20k marker (which was right on the button with my Garmin), I was in good shape to break 1:20 and could not wait to celebrate at the finish line. Only one problem, the final 1.1km was taking much longer than usual to reach? What was going on? I soon watched as 1:20 passed and I was still not at the line. I was destroyed and had another athlete pass me so I was now unlucky 13.
I commented to the guy as he passed, "this is running long?". He agreed and was upset as well.
We finally hit the last hundred metres so I turned on as much gas a possible but could only manage to grab one spot back and ended my day at 1:21:10 in 12th spot.
After the race Jo-Jo, myself and several others commented on how the final 1.1km of the course was easily 1.5km or more. All our Garmins were bang on with all the signs heading up to the 20k marker and we were all on pace for our goal.
It was a little disappointing that it will not get recorded properly but I have a bunch of positives out of the race. 1st in my Age Group, 3:46 Race Pace of 21.5k, 35:35 at the 10k, 54 at the 15k, etc.
I also got to see a bunch of BQ's (Stuart, John, etc.) and PB's!