Tag Archives: Oasis Zoo Run

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.)

Advertisements

2011: Aiming for 1:59:59

30 Dec

Today is the first anniversary of my pinched nerves.  I am almost tempted to go out and buy a cake with one candle, in recognition of the day I went to the chiropractor and left with a bundle of pinched nerves in my neck and going down my left arm, that put me out of action for three months.  I would not want to celebrate the incident itself, but the fact that I got through it and am now in the process of planning out my 2011 running season.  Or maybe I just want cake and I cannot come up with a better excuse.

Either way, I am oddly superstitious about this day.  I feel that if I can get through today without incident, I will be fine.  I just have to avoid walking under ladders and avoid the cracks in the sidewalk.  I am planning a treadmill run at the gym later on, on the assumption that I am not tempting fate.

Be that as it may, my running has taken a little bit of a dive over the last few weeks.  I had a bout of bronchitis that sidelined me for three weeks, and getting back into it has been surprisingly difficult.  It’s not that I’m in bad physical shape.  It’s that I came back from my illness setting ridiculous paces at the start of my runs that I can only sustain for 5km or so.  I’ve always been perfectly happy to start slow and build up to my target pace.  Why the sudden need to be a speed demon?  It’s not like I’m winning the Olympic Marathon anytime soon.

My poor pacing has the effect of making me feel a bit despondant about my running.  I fade at the fifth or sixth kilometre, and one of two things happens.  Either I finish my planned distance a lot more slowly than intended.  Or I simply cut the run short.  Neither scenario goes well with my psyche.  Both make me feel like I have a big red L on my forehead.

It is time now for me to pick myself up, dust myself off, and start running again properly.  That means proper planning, proper pacing, proper nutrition, and not being too lazy to take five minutes to stretch at the end of each run.

I have just gone online to order the 2011 Runners World calendar.  This calendar is amazing.  It has gorgeous photographs of “Rave Runs” – beautiful trails and paths that people run on.  It has race listings, running tips, inspirational quotes, and space to plan.  Simply having this thing on my wall on 2010 has been a great motivator for me.

Now I am planning my racing calendar for the year.  I am going to start out this coming Saturday, New Years Day, with the Running Room Resolution Run.  This is really more of a fun run than a race.  It is not chip timed, and I don’t even think the course is officially certified for the distance.  But that’s OK.  What better way could there be for a struggling runner to start off the new year?

My next racing event will be Harry’s Spring Run-Off on April 2nd.  It is only 8km, but the location – High Park – has so many big hills that it will feel like 10km.  I am doing this race specifically to have hills to train for.  I need the discipline, and when I am registered for races, I am actually pretty good at sticking to the right kinds of training programs for them.  Here is a promo video for the race.

Usually I would do the Sporting Life 10K down Yonge Street on the first Sunday in May, but since I am getting married the day before this year’s event, I should probably give it a miss for 2011.  So my next run will be the Toronto Women’s Half-Marathon in Sunnybrook Park.  I am really looking forward to this, not only because a fellow member of my running club is running it with me, but because the water station manned by shirtless firefighters.  Not to mention the chocolate station.

After that, I will do either the Acura Ten-Miler (which I hated in 2010, and feel the need to conquer) or the Midsummer Nights Run 15km (follows the same course as the Ten-Miler, so it will be just as much of a victory).

In late September I will do one of my favourite runs ever – the 10km Oasis Zoo Run.  I had a blast at this event a couple of months ago, and it has earned a permanent place in my annual racing calendar.  I cannot find a promo video for it, but here’s a montage of pictures I found of the 2009 event.

Then, on October 16th, I will run in what is by far the most important event in my race calendar.  It is the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon, and this is my reason for running.  This is my Run for Autism, the race I do for my son George who has autism, and his little brother James, who is experiencing the challenges of being sibling to a child with autism.  This event is loaded with emotional meaning for me.  Every step I take is for my boys, these beautiful people without whom my life would be empty.  Here is a nice video showing some highlights of the 2010 event.

I have a lofty goal for this year: to break two hours for the half-marathon.  That means shaving 22 minutes off my best time.  I’m going to have to train my ass off.  Literally.  With the amount of training I will have to do, I have no doubt that part of my ass will indeed come off.  Which is a good thing.

Anyway. I am excited about the new year.  Just planning it out is helping me break out of this funk I am in.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone all the best for 2011.  Aim high and whatever you want to achieve, go for it.