I’m Here for a Good Time, Not a Fast Time (repeat to fade)…
Running is a great escape for me. And when I say running, I mean the ‘easy’ stuff; the bouts which simply require you to lace up your Wave Riders, squelch the urge to procrastinate for 20 minutes and haul your sorry (if fairly well-toned) ass out the door. The head-clearing properties of an easy-6 are legendary and have certainly helped sooth my angst on many an occasion.
When it comes to training and racing, however, the Steve McQueen Factor is bumped up ten-fold. Training is an even greater escape; and racing, one of the greatest.
The thing I relish about both is the simplicity of the goal. It’s black-and-white: just run. Fast. As fast you can (at least when the coach isn’t looking, if training). And if the guy ahead is getting away (principally a racing reference), dig a little deeper. Propel those pins at Warp Factor 10 for as long as the interval lasts… or until you crash through the chequered flag with the crowd cheering and your muscles screaming – and narrowly avoid projectile-vomiting over the hardy volunteer who politely asks you to “hold still!” for a sec while he/she places a (what we imagine to be Olympic gold) medal around your neck.
No deep thought or cunning plot-devising required on these missions; just simple, raw, organic rubber-burning. On a good race-day, that rubber-burning may lead to a PB; on a bad one, a great ‘tempo’. Either way, you’ve given your body a stellar workout and your mind some much-needed R&R.
I ran the Delta Half-marathon yesterday and enjoyed exactly the latter combo. I knew I didn’t really have it; if it = optimum fitness blended with fresh, bouncy energy-packed legs. A run of weeks where I’d blown the dust off my Gary Fisher Kai Tai and reintroduced pedal-powering as my principal mode of transport had taken its toll. But even shouldering residual fatigue I knew I was capable of a fair clip; something in the low 1:20s. Maybe more 1:22 than 1:20 – the Sub-80 dream having to take a back seat. But I was OK with that. Just happy to be out there, winding up the cows with my bad moo impressions and enjoying the freedom and feeling of fresh-air-on-face.
We had a great group on the start-line. Eleven-to-twelve from my current club VFAC – including around eight from our Sunday C&A (Cornwall & Arbutus) Crew – had descended on Delta for an extended early morning session of eyeballs-out-for-the-line.
One of our club-mates, Drew Nicholson, tore off from the gun, despite having just worked a night-shift, and was joined by White Rocker Chris Barth and another of VFAC’s finest Dave Stephens. A cluster of us – including leading ladies Anne-Marie (Madden), Catherine (Watkins) and Heather (Durkin) – ran as a pack of six in the early miles, taking it in turns to set the pace and shield the wind.
Around three miles in, my energy levels began to sag and I slipped off the back of the group, watching Anne-Marie surge ahead and break up our cluster, as we left Ladner town centre and headed into Delta farmland (cheered on by Heather’s husband Chris, another fast runner). I spent the remainder of the race trying to catch them (the various members of the group now strung out in single file), counting cows and recalling (like an old friend… or foe) almost every last inch of the course from my previous Delta halves in 2008 and 2009.
I managed to reel in my buddy Will (McKechnie) by the 8-mile mark, as VFAC coach John Hill pepped us up from the sidelines, and we then tried to work together to chase down Heather, who was some distance ahead but in our sights.
In catching Will, however, I’d busted my ass – and that cost me in the final miles, as I struggled to hang on to him and fulfill my side of the work-together bargain. He gradually pulled away, before I rallied and got within spitting distance for the final push (well, if I could spit a hundred yards). Heather was still comfortably clear. I tried to catch Will again as we sprinted for the line, but his mid-race gel had served him well and he stayed strong to earn a seven-second edge.
Team Kintec had two in the top 16 (Janette getting back in the swing of racing things with a Sub-90 effort and 5th lady placing), while for VFAC and the C&A Crew, it was a very successful day, with eight of us in the top 10 and 10 in the top 16. Drew won the race in 1:13, Dave broke 80 in third, Anne-Marie and Catherine had excellent races in 4th in 5th, both setting PBs in breaking 1:21 (to bank 1st and 2nd lady cash) and Catherine, in the process, earned the time she needed to bag a spot in the Chicago Marathon Elite Development Program, a second tier of elite athletes who enjoy almost the same race-day privileges as the first tier. Heather was 7th overall (3rd lady) in a big, four-minute PB (1:22), while Will was within 30 seconds of his PB in 8th, myself 9th and pioneering heart doctor, Shu Sanatani, less than a minute behind me in 10th – breaking 1:24 for the first time and smashing his PB at the age of 44 (and still looking 24). A fine performance, too, from Rebecca Reid (1:28 for 14th overall and 4th lady) having recently fended off injury.
Post-race was pretty much all about the pancakes (ably assisted by blueberries and maple syrup) – and the Delta race crew once again didn’t disappoint (I think I PB’d with the number I gorged this year). A big thank you to them for putting on another solid race, and to Kintec and New Balance for their support in my small part of the production.
My third time in the 1:22s (.55) at the Delta half was not my finest hour in terms of time posted. But the time I had, hanging out with friends old and new, was unbeatable. Perhaps a PB.
And certainly one of my greatest escapes.
Nancy TinariAugust 15, 2011 at 9:21 pm
Very exuberant writing John–a pleasure to read! Good to know you are enjoying running as much (if not more than) ever.
Charles MackeyAugust 15, 2011 at 11:39 pm
Very Good read John. Thanks
JohnAtkinsonAugust 16, 2011 at 12:11 am
Thanks Charles — I appreciate your feedback.
JohnAtkinsonAugust 16, 2011 at 12:09 am
Thanks Nancy! Hope you’re writing lots and enjoying summertime (east & west).
Amiel LoganAugust 18, 2011 at 4:30 am
Really good read! I liked this alot. Thanks