As I tried to sleep on the night of October 10th, I could hear the wind ushering the cold and the rain. The prospect of running the Fall Colours Marathon in wet and windy conditions did not appeal to me, but I was entered, so I would start and do my best to finish.
To say I was pleasantly surprised by the clear sky when I actually did get out of bed would be an understatement. It was a beautiful fall day in Ottawa.
As I left home, I zeroed the trip odometer on the car and drove out to the Cumberland Heritage Museum, just to see how far it was. The drive out along the 174 was beautiful. The colours were magnificent and I could only think that the name of the race as about as appropriate as could be. I thought often that it was not too late just to go for a drive and take in the colours rather than run past them. That would be so much easier.
When I got to the Museum, I checked the distance. The drive seemed to take a long time and even on a beautiful day, it seemed far. The odometer read 35k.
Crap! I have to run that far and more! Crap, crap, crap!!
I checked in, warmed up for a few kilometers, then went back to my car to change into the racing duds.
As I ran to the car, I chuckled to myself as most of the cars had people huddled in them trying to stay out of the wind and warm before the start.
Off with a sock, switch the orthotic from one Mizuno Precision to the red Ronin racing flat, on with a different sock, on with the shoe. Switch the orthotic in the other shoe to the other, other shoe, on with the shoe.
Wait a minute…
Off with the racing flat, change the sock, back on with the shoe.
Wait a minute…
Where’s my chip?
I forgot to get it. That would be embarrassing.
8:45—go get the chip, strap it on, meet up with Boatway and Grant, get Grant to hold warm-up stuff, stretch, do a few strides, then stretch some more.
I love this race and the route. I think it is quite beautiful and challenging enough to keep things interesting, yet still fast on the right day. Personally, I was using the Fall Colours Marathon as a very long tempo or tune-up run for the upcoming New York City Marathon on November 1st, so I agreed to act as the pace setter for Michel Emond and his attempt to cross the line somewhere between 2:48 and 2:49. Either was acceptable and would be a significant PB for Michel. We lined up beside each other, along with Brent McMillan, on the front line.
At 9 on the button, we were off.
By 3k, Brent was off the front on his solo run as Michel and I locked in on an effort level that, on a flat and windless day, would equate to 4:00/km. The problem is that on this course, the first 10k is generally up hill and there was a nasty headwind to contend with. We maintained the effort, running anywhere between 4:05-4:15 kilos depending on the wind and the hill.
“My kingdom for a tailwind.” Michel said.
“Soon.” I replied.
And then we had one. The pace dropped to consistent 3:50’s with a few a bit faster, depending on the downhill steepness and length. We were still working just as hard as into the wind and up hill, but getting more bang for our buck.
We split half way at 1:23:15, just a bit ahead of schedule but that had all been made up on the second half of the loop.
As we headed out for the final 21k, we pressed a bit harder, but went no faster.
The headwind was much stronger this time around and the hills seemed considerably larger.
Michel was not just hanging on: he looked very strong. He was running quite smoothly and I could sense he was going to hold things together. When we hit the turnaround, we had 11k to go. At this point in a marathon, I usually find it easier to encourage myself to push when I translate to the time remaining. I was hoping this worked for Michel as well. At 32k, I announced we had 40min to go. Then 36min, then 32, then 28.
We ran a 3:52 kilo.
At 37k, “we have less than 21min to go, Michel.”
“16min to go.”
“12min to go.”
“8min to go. Go as hard as you think you can for the last 8min.”
“…just over 4min, Michel.”
We ran 4:13 for the final 1.2km, including that cruel up hill with 800m to go.
When we crossed the line, the clock read 2:48:30. Mission accomplished.
Michel had a fantastic run and finished right on schedule. A smidge under 4:00/km. That deserved a warm bowl of finish line chili. Yum. Yum. Yum!!
Brent had finished 6:30 seconds ahead of us. He broke my course record by 21 seconds and deserves a lot of credit, especially considering he negative split by a minute. He looked very impressive and is a bit of a powerhouse right now.
I must say this was one of the more rewarding pacing jobs I’ve had and I am very proud of Michel. This was his 5th or 6th attempt at a sub-2:50 marathon time of which we all knew he was capable.
And now the counter has been reset to zero and starts again.
A very special shout out to thank Somersault for the great work putting the Fall Colours races together. Everything seems to have gone off very smoothly.
Now, if Somersault could just figure out a way to turn off the jet engines that were blowing on the back section of the course…