Oasis Zoo Run: Outrunning The Old Me

27 Sep

I was more than a little nervous going into the 10K Oasis Zoo Run on Saturday. I had not run at all since the Energizer Night Race two weeks previously, I wasn’t entirely sure that I was completely recovered from my cold, and there are a lot of hills at the zoo. The old me would have shown up to this race and been content to just complete the run with no real concern for the time. There would have been no strategy, and the pacing would have been designed to just do the distance and no more.

Thanks to the Energizer Night Race, however, the old me was off pouting in a corner somewhere. The old me was not allowed on races anymore. The new me had a goal apart from just finishing the race. And along with that goal came a plan.

My goal was to beat my previous 10K PB (personal best) of 1:05:39. I figured that aiming for a time of 1:05:00 would provide me with enough of a buffer to allow for variances between the GPS on my training watch and the official race course.

I planned to run the first half in 33 minutes and the second half in 32 minutes. I worked out what my average pace needed to be and I set that up on my training watch. I hydrated and warmed up and did everything you are supposed to do before a race.

It felt very odd, standing at the start line with the intention of racing strategically. Runners were released from the start line in five waves, each wave starting five minutes after the one before. I was in the fourth wave, and I placed myself close to the back of the pack to avoid the intimidation of hordes of runners passing me.

Once I started running, I settled quickly into a rhythm. The Zoo Run starts off in the zoo parking lot, and takes runners past a row of porta-potties (the vision of scores of runners sprinting by while holding their noses is a quite sight to behold) and onto local streets for the first couple of kilometres. This part of the race is flat: a nice warm-up for runners before the course loops into the zoo itself for the remaining 8km. Once you’re in the zoo, you are running hills. While the hills are nicely balanced – the uphills are generally matched by corresponding downhills – they still make the run more challenging.

I maintained my pace well enough in the first half, finishing the first 5km in 33:15. At that point, I was feeling strong enough that I didn’t think it would be a problem to make up the fifteen seconds. But then, right after passing the 7km mark, something happened. I started feeling a little flaky. I was too hot and I felt vaguely nauseous. It got bad enough that I actually had a fleeting thought of bailing on the race. I have never, ever started a race that I haven’t been able to finish. I slowed to a walk so I could drink some water (thus making me grateful for my habit of always bringing my own water on races instead of relying solely on the water stations), started running again, and told myself that I would see how the next five minutes went.

Whatever the feeling was that had come over me, it completely passed by the time the five minutes were up, and by this time I only had 2km to go. Despite my setback, I still had a shot of making that PB, and I picked up my pace. I had another weak moment towards the end of the ninth kilometre, but that went away quickly, and I ran the last kilometre as hard as I could. With about 400 metres to go I dug deep and sprinted. By the time I turned the corner and saw the finish line ahead of me, my legs were shaking.

My official time was 1:05:28. I did not make 1:05:00 as planned, but since that had been a buffer goal anyway, it didn’t really matter. Far more important was the fact that I beat my previous PB by 11 seconds. Out of 145 finishers in the “Women 40-44” category, I was 57th. Being in the top 50% in my category, and making a PB to boot, was victory enough for me.

(Photo credit to the author.)

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