It's not only been a pleasure to get to know each of them and their engaging personalities, stories and trajectories, but also to be able to watch them become stronger, faster, more resilient athletes.
This weekend afforded another opportunity to watch the community of runners shine.
The MEC Barrie Race Series made its fourth stop of the year in Tudhope Park, Orillia - the first time that it's taken to the waterfront trail following the shores of Lake Couchiching. With paths clearly marked for walkers, cyclists and runners it actually was a pretty near ideal locale for a race - and even on a gorgeous fall day such as the one we had (albeit quite chilly in the lead-up hours to the race) it wasn't too crowded and no one appeared to be put-out or put-off by the fact that a race was being conducted on this route.
I approached this race as essentially a training run in advance of my planned target fall marathon (still TBD) but also a good solid workout in advance of next weekend's pacing duties at The County Marathon (third year in a row). My training plan had scheduled a 21k core workout involving a warm-up / 7k @ marathon pace (MP) / 90 sec. recovery / 7k @ half-marathon pace (HMP) / 90 sec. recovery / 7k @ pace of choice / cool down - and so I thought that I could weave this in nicely with the 15k race option for the morning.
Showing up about 90 min. in advance of the indicated 9:00 a.m. start gave me plenty of time to pick up my bib and chip, chat with a few of the race crew volunteers and then head out for the first chunk of my workout. It was definitely brisk, but I knew that hitting 7k @ MP would keep me sufficiently warm, plus the sun was starting to peek up over the horizon which made a real difference in the air temperature. The early miles also provided a sneak peek at the course route since this trail/path was new to me.
The plan was to conclude my first segment just in time to fall in the back of the pack of 15k runners as they crossed the startline timing mats - but through a bit of miscalculation and a slightly delayed send-off I wound up breaking into my second segment (7k @ HMP) a few minutes before we actually launched into the race. All in all it still worked out ok as I still waited it out to cross the start line last.
There wasn't a great deal of bobbing and weaving required to clear the slower 15k runners which I was pleasantly surprised by, and I'm sure that those runners appreciated not having someone brush right by their shoulders trying to scoot toward some clear space. I scooted by my RunNinja pals Dave, Joy, Gillian, Crystal, Mariana, Lindsey, Laurie and Sonia while cheering them forward and managed to keep in HMP stride while working into the fifth spot of the 15k crowd. One of the very cool things that I noted was that one of our youngest RunNinjas (Ryan, a grade 9 student) was tucked in the lead pack with two older runners and holding his own. I wondered if I'd really been pushing myself in full-on 'race mode' whether or not I could have caught and dialed into the lead pack, but I was thrilled that Ryan was there to rep the RunNinjas!
As it worked out just after the 4k mark of the race I concluded my second segment so as planned I walked a 90 second recovery. I was surprised that during that walking stretch no other 15k runners passed me, just a few of the 10k and 5k runners (with whom we'd intermingled after about the 3k point). When it was time to switch into the third segment of my workout I decided to try to just ease it in at the planned pace-bunny MP for next week (5:00/km) to not overcook myself and still give my body a chance to get accustomed to the pace I'll want to hold at The County. A kilometre into that third segment I had a 15k racer zip past looking strong - and while part of me felt like I really wanted to hunt him down the wiser part of me enjoyed the jogging effort and cheering other runners along as I continued to just cruise on through.
Look ma ... no feet!
Between the weather being quite brilliant and the lackadaisical pace I had a lot of fun out there. I didn't end up picking anyone else off (at least from the 15k crowd) and enjoyed my way through to a 1:08:27 finish.
Ryan ended up sticking in there for 3rd OA!
But my day wasn't done ...
One of the fun things that I've made a habit of doing in the MEC races is heading back out to accompany some of the other RunNinjas across the line. It's mostly a labour of love for me - I certainly hope that my friends don't find it demeaning or patronizing that I hustle along with them during the finishing stretches of their races. I hope that I'm able to add a little somethin'-somethin' by way of encouragement, and not just end up being 'that guy' who photobombs all of their finish line photos.
Does it count as 'helping' if you can't keep up with them ... Gillian?!?
At the end of the day there were many great results to be celebrated - lots of PBs (Joy!!), overall/gender wins (Mike, Youjin) and age-group placings (Ryan, Sonia, Miranda, birthday-girl Shari, Crystal, Gillian, Lindsay, Laurie) ... and some 'honorary RunNinjas' also crushed their races (Eva, Emma-Joy, Darcy, David Collver, Glenn Barnes). Basically everyone had a killer event!
We are family ... ♪ ♫ ♩ ♬ ♭ ♮ ♯
Once again congrats to MEC Barrie for organizing and hosting a superb race - it's no coincidence that MEC was just recognized as the #1 trusted brand by Canadians!
Thanks to all of my friends on and off the course for a fantastic day - and of course to Skechers Performance Canada for the killer orange kicks (GOMeb Speed 3 2016) that got shout-outs from runners and various passers-by all morning long!