As a teacher, I have summers off. But every summer even since I was a kid, my summers consisted of family vacations, going to camp, working at camp, and then going on my only vacations with my friends and my husband. I usually take off quite a bit during the summer, so my training plans fall through, and I never stay consistent with my running. I mean, two years ago I went to Disney World for 16 days….in August….how was I going to keep a stable running routine while there?
Summer 2015…turns out I am not flying anywhere, or doing much of anything. No week long trips home, no gigantic trips to Disney, no nasal surgeries, no binging in Newfoundland….nothing. So I needed to keep a training plan and have some goals to keep me motivated. My training plan from Dean (who did my Vancouver Marathon plan!) has me training for a pipe-dream time at the Disneyland 10km Labour Day weekend of 40:30. I need a challenge, might as well shoot high?! I had ran a 41:30 in the Rattler Run 10km back in April (right at the peak of my marathon training) so this seemed within reach.
In the midst of my training calendar I had the Southern Alberta Summer Games 10km race, which was held on Wednesday, July 8th. I had heard about the event from a friend, Danny, and he has done different running and cycling events in prior years. The one thing we have in common, other than running, is that we are adults. Why does this matter! Well, in my head I just always picture these provincial summer games to be for middle-college aged kids…not me. But, sure enough, they have age categories every 10 years up to 60+. The event would be held in Claresholm (45 minute drive) and since I am a teacher and have no work on a Wednesday morning in July at 9:45 am, I figured signing up was a good way to spice up my training routine!
Now, I said I wasn’t going anywhere or “doing anything” this summer. Sort of a lie. My Wisconsin mom is currently here and six days into her three week visit. I had also thought this would be fun for her to come watch, as she hasn’t been to many of my events before. I wrote about my first half marathon she ever came to here, where I did the Trailbreaker Half in Waukesha, Wisconsin, during Spring Break 2013. This would be a good day outing for us. I didn’t really know what to expect with this race, not the same way as I do with others. She asked me the night before “how many people are in it? How many are in your age group?” I was totally left in the dark. When you do a summer games event, in particular when you do a solo summer games event, it appears you don’t know who is showing up until you show up yourself.
We headed out to Claresholm at 7:30 am. My event wasn’t slated to start until 9:45, but registration would begin at 8:00 am. My first comment to the organizers is that they should have had the 10km be the first event. It was supposed to be a mass start of the 2.5/5/10km all at 9 am, but a week or so ago I noticed on the site it was changed to the 2.5 km beginning at 9 am and then the 5/10 km beginning at 9:45. A 9:45 am start for a 10km in early July? Eeeeee…..that makes me nervous.
Arrived and was happy to see Randy and crew from Racepro as the official timers! Yay! I went and checked in, received my race number and timing chip, and then I had plenty of time to relax and warm up. Saw my Lethbridge School District cohort Todd on site as a volunteer. He informed me that the route for the 10km would start as paved road but for about 2km you would be a fresh gravel. Also met up with my friend Danny, the one who told me about the race. He would be doing the 5km.
I had peaked at the entry list numbers just to take a look at how many were in my 30-39 female category. There was a number 4 listed there. Ok. I got this. We lined up at 9:45 for the mass 5km and 10km start. The weather felt comfortable standing at this point, with a slight breeze, but I could tell the heat was hiding. We started and I felt strong my first mile, settling in to a 6:45 mile one. Right on where I wanted to be. Then, we had turned onto the never ending rural road. This was still paved but it was one of those cases like when you are on the Vegas strip and you say “it’s right there….it’s just a short walk!” And it isn’t. I slowed my second mile split to a 7:03. Still in a good place.
The 5km runners had already hit their turnaround so now it was me and a high school kid in the middle of this country road. He was slightly ahead of me and I drafted right behind him. At the turnaround for the 10km, Todd was handing out water, which I took, but slightly slowed down. He yelled at me to catch that kid. So, I drank the water (oh man it tasted so good) and kept my eye on this kid. As we ran back on the same route that took us out to the turnaround, I counted all the people behind us. There were only 11 other runners. So 13 total. Small turnout indeed. The shade on this course was non-existent, and the gravel made my feet feel like they were sinking. It was pretty fresh gravel, so there were not any substantial tire tracks sunk in. I kept weaving back and forth trying to find a track to run on, but really just got stuck kicks up more gravel. My mile 3 & 4 times were 7:15 and 7:39. I was going downhill, figuratively.
At approximately mile 4 I did gain enough ground on the teenager and passed him. As much as the heat and terrain were getting to me, I think it was getting to him worse. I steadily increased my distance from him the last two miles of the race, despite having no “rabbit” in front of me to go after. And also, despite my last two mile splits being slower than some of my full marathon splits in Vancouver. I ran mile 5 & 6 in 7:49 & 7:45. I finished in a time of 45:55.
They did the award presentation about 25 minutes later, after the final 10km runner finished. There turned out to be only 2 people in my age category in the end. I also saw a bunch of race bibs not picked up. I wonder how many people were supposed to be in the event? I picked up my gold medal and got a picture with Danny, who also earned gold in his male 30-39 category of the 10km running a time of 19:32. His goal was for under 20 so that’s awesome!
Would I do the Southern Alberta Summer Games again? Depends. Location makes a difference. I wouldn’t drive all the way out to Medicine Hat for it, but 45 minutes or less sure. They really don’t advertise the event well at all or promote it. It would be very easy for the organizers to make a single page brochure to place in race bags at local Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and area races. Really, as far as the City of Lethbridge team goes, they just need to not just focus on the elementary schools, but other area athletic organizations who have athletes 18 years or older. So, not just running….but biking, basketball, etc. The City of Lethbridge is the biggest in Southern Alberta so there is no excuse as to why we shouldn’t have the most competitors, points, and medals in these games! I’m at the point now that when I run races, I need to be pushed, so the low entry numbers was huge negative. I’m not confident enough that I can just cruise at a my fastest race pace every time if there is not someone for me to chase after. I also wish the start time was earlier for the 10km. July has been ridiculously hot and we are fortunate it wasn’t any worse this morning. I know they have to make sure things don’t overlap with any of the track events happening, but I wish there was a way to make this an earlier start.
So yes, I finished the race first. But with a less than stellar time. Between the heat, no shade, gravel, small field of runners, and how early it is in my training….I should just be happy with how I did. And I pretty much am. It puts it all into perspective on how trusting your training makes a difference, and that training works. I trained for 16 weeks for Vancouver Marathon and set a new personal best in a 5km, 10km, half and then full when I qualified for Boston at that very race. I kept trucking through the month of May and capped it off with my first ever 50km. Took two weeks off and am now back in the grind, in a way starting from one of the very bottom steps. This just means I have more work to do in order to be where I want to be.