A wise person once said that running is a very lonely obsession. Yet the paradox is that it builds confidence & strangers look out for each other. This quote was on my mind today as I raced my first tune-up race of this training cycle. I’ll tell you why in a moment.
For the last 4 years, I’ve come home to PEI to run the PEI Road Runners Club’s Freeze Your Gizzard Half Marathon in Montague. I have the option to do the Halifax Hypothermic Half but “Freeze your Gizzard” is way more fun to say and it’s a tradition that my aunt Dawn, a runner, and I share with each other.
This morning, when I woke, the race day forecast was -15. Not really ideal race temperature. Indeed, I was worried that my gizzard may in fact freeze. My Asics & Aerobics First sponsored Speedstars were making their race debut. No way the Speedstar’s gizzard was gonna freeze, she’s smokin’ hot (pink).
I was mildly nervous about the reaction to my flaming hot pink shoes but no one paid me much mind as I registered and warmed up around the start. Exactly one other runner was warming up- a sign of how cold it was. My head felt like an ice cube during my 3km warm up but the rest of me was warm.
Soon, we were off, headed to “downtown” Montague. My race goal was to run at marathon pace, 4:30/km. The first 5km passed quickly without much incident, I was careful not to run too fast because it would have been very easy to run faster than goal pace. 4:30 splits (time for each km) are easy to count. I passed a few runners as the field evened out. I was aware that I was the lead female.
At km 7, at the top of a very steep hill and on the crest of a beautiful downhill, I caught up with a very nice male runner. “I was waiting for this downhill!” I said. He agreed. He was running a good pace and I would have blown my pace if I passed him. So I stayed next to him (or sometimes a few steps behind). For the rest of the race.
Herein lies the beauty of being a runner, in a community of road racers, where you look out for strangers . And strangers become kind and dear race partners. I never met this guy before. Yet we contentedly ran together for 14km. Around km 12, I asked him his name. He was Mike. Mike is good because I already have a running Mike and he’s great. New Mike and I had a similar race goal. He was worried about falling off pace. I was worried about losing female lead.
I didn’t think about much between km 5 & 15. I was counting my splits in my head, meeting my splits more or less, give or take an uphill or a downhill. Occasionally I said a few words to Mike. I thought once or twice about my coach Cliff and about how I believed I could run this pace because he believed I could run this pace.
My lovely aunt Dawn chose not to run this year and became Lead Cheerleading Officer, along with her brother Dana. I was super happy to see them every few km. She made one double-back to warn us of a particularly icy area where the lead male fell. She called out our place in the field and I said to Mike, “Good, we’ll hold this and you’ll be 6 and I’ll be 7.” I wanted him to know that I wasn’t going to hang on with him, let him share the work with me, only to blow by him like a jerk during the last km.
Last year, during this very race, I placed second female, after leading the race until km 15. Fast Islander Rebecca caught me and I couldn’t catch her again. There’s one turn-around point in the race around 8km and I saw then that she was about 800m behind me.
1:04 was the last coherent split I thought of and this wasn’t even a correct split. The ability to count is a mental faculty that I always lose in a race. My real Mike will confirm that it sometimes even shuts off in our workouts with Cliff. Between km 12 & 16, I was imagining fast Rebecca breezing by me again. I didn’t struggle this race except with this fear. Finally around km 16, I asked Dawn how far back she was. Dawn said, “way behind, run baby!” so I ran easily from then on. Cliff told me to pick it up at km 16 but I didn’t. There are 2 huge hills in the last 5km, and aside from course difficulty, I didn’t want to be a jerk in a fun tune-up race. Race friend Mike fell on the ice at the turn-around at km 18. I stopped with him until he got up, we walked a few steps and then continued because he was unharmed.
We crossed the finish line 6th & 7th and I held onto lead girl to win the female field in 1:35:44. We hugged. The win felt great. This was my first race as Erin Poirier and with my pink panthers (Asics Speedstars). Happy to report they both race well! Full race results here