Thanksgiving Sunday is probably my favourite day of the year. For seven years I have participated in some manner in the Fall Colours Race. My first couple of years I Nordic walked the half marathon. At that time I had no desire to become a runner, much less run 21.1 km. For another couple of years I ran with Evan as he started doing the 3k distance. In 2012 and 2013 I ran the 10k, using the course to train for my first half marathon and then my first full marathon. This year I ran the half marathon, my eleventh to date. And what a great run it was.
First of all, somehow almost every year this race gets perfect weather. It is a largely rural route held at the time of year when we often hit the peak of the fall colours. This year’s race started in single digits under blue skies and finished around 13 or 14 degrees. That is my kind of running weather. But, in case you get lulled into thinking this could be perfect a run, they throw in a bit of hill work. Depending on your definition of hills, one could easily argue there is actually quite a bit of hill work to be conquered. Check out my elevation map:
As you can see the first half of this course is an uphill battle. And while the ‘back” portion of the run clearly gives you a chance to run downhill, there are still lots of “rollers”, small ups and downs that take a toll. And don’t even get me started on the final hill just after the 20k mark, that one is just cruel.
Because of the elevation of this course I anticipated finishing between 2:03 and 2:05. Anything quicker would be a bonus. But I ended up feeling really good throughout the first half. The hills weren’t easy by any means but I did find myself maintaining my pace, sometimes even passing a few people. In fact, I felt really good until 19k when I decided to take a walk break due to a bit of light headedness. And I will be honest, I walked that final hill – quickly mind you – to make sure I had enough in me for a strong finish. Final time: 1:58:58! I had not even imagined completing the course in under 2 hours! In fact, while I was running I couldn’t even remember what pace I would need for a sub 2 hour race. I only used my watch to make sure I wasn’t going too fast to complete the course comfortably. My time put me in 4th position in my age group and the 33rd woman out of 139. I am more than pleased with these results. I now firmly believe that I am a sub 2 hour half marathoner and that I will achieve more final times that start with 1:5x. Perhaps the part I am most proud of though is my 10k split. Despite all of those hills, I hit 10k at a little under 56 minutes. Not that long ago that was my goal time at flat 10k races. Now it is my split time running up hills. That is progress I am proud of.
But before this sounds like nothing but bragging (really it is just pride!) I will admit that around the 20k mark I thought about making this my last half of the season. I have been planning to run one more, the one that so far I have found to be the hardest half marathon course I have done. The one where my best time is 2:06. There is a part of me that is thinking of skipping it, despite it being one of my main goals for the year. On Sunday I was tired at 20k; yes I know that that is normal. I was happy to be done at 21 (21.26 to be accurate), also normal. All of that made me think that maybe I should just make it my half finale for 2014. It is always nice to end on a positive race. We shall see. Regardless I do have one more race, a 10k, to complete in a week.
The boys also had great runs, with Evan finishing on the podium for males overall and for males 13 and under. Luke wasn’t too far behind. I think all of us agree though that the best part of this day is coming home, happy with our runs and enjoying a massive Thanksgiving dinner thanks to my mum. This year we also had friends who I met through a running blog (http://runrodrun.wordpress.com/) join us for dinner as they were visiting for the race. Between all of us we had covered four distances at Fall Colours. It was so much fun to hear about everyone’s experiences and successes. Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to spend a day.