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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Race Recap: 2011 Firecracker 5km Road Race (Lively/Walden, ON)

Well, it's now Monday evening Tuesday morning and we've returned from our long weekend in the great white North. The drive up on Thursday was pretty craptastic as we got stuck in stop-n-go, stop-n-go, stop-n-go traffic from the 400 at the 407 all the way past Barrie. There's nearly 2 hours of our life we won't be getting back.

Anyways, we made it to Sudbury safe and sound on Thursday night and I anxiously awaited Friday's arrival. We were finally re-united with the Southern wing of our family, and before we knew it we were packing up for the Firecracker 5km in Lively/Walden.

I had spent most of the day mulling over what I would do, wondering who would show up to the race and how it would all play out. I seemed stressed on the outside, but I was just busy thinking...and ok, maybe a lil stressed.

I knew the race was won in 16:30 last year and the previous year Ross Proudfoot took home the win in a blazing 15:56! This meant the course was both challenging and fast, though I knew it would be a hilly affair and after analyzing the elevation map on, figured I was in for a real treat.

We got there nice and early, had a brief chat with some old faces I hadn't seen in ages and settled into my warmup routine after a group shot of the entire family was taken by our old track coach, Dick Moss of Track North Athletic Club.

The happy family!
And now this post gets serious as I take you along for a ride through the 5km road race that took place on July 1st 2011.  The time was 7PM and athletes from all walks of life toed the line in Lively to burn some rubber, in hopes of smashing a pb, beating a competitor or run with family. Luckily, I was aiming to do all three.

During my warmup I had kept a keen eye for possible competitors, and the longer I looked the less worried I became. The women's field looked to be decently stacked, but I seemed to be the only male with hopes of cracking 17 minutes tonight.

So I continued my warmup through a hilly residential area and I had a hard time containing my devilish grin as I was forcing my legs to slow down. They were ready to rock and did not want to be reined in for long. I cut my warm up a tad short, did my dynamic warmup and threw down a few strides to give my legs a taste of what they were craving: speed.

We toed the line at 7PM and the gun sounded. Before I knew what was happening, we were off and nearly immediately a small pack of 4 runners formed at the front with yours truly tucked in. Within a matter of seconds we dropped one of the runners and the three of us worked our way towards the 1km marker.

Prior to toeing the line for the race I did a little investigation into the elevation map so that I could get an idea of what to expect while out on the course. It turns out it wasn't very pretty:

roller coaster.....of pain....roller coaster...
In the first 2km the course climbs about 60 feet vertically before leveling off, climbing a bit more then dropping over the last 2km until a 400m finish uphill. I figured the first km would be fast as it normally is, but if I wasn't careful enough it could spell disaster if I put too much into it too early.

We clipped by the 1km marker at 3:19 and the pace felt quite relaxed. I had a hard time keeping my mouth and throat wet, it was like sucking back a gallon of sand at times. At this point I decided to take charge as I felt the pack was already to starting to lag and I wanted to stay on 3:20/km pace for as long as my legs could handle it.

Our 2nd kill came in at 3:23 and if you look at the graph above you'll see that it was a relatively tough kilometer as the elevation constantly changed. At this point we dropped the 3rd runner in our little pack and it was just me and a Track North athlete. We pushed on through the rolling hills, unable to get a great groove and I fought with a stuck rock in the sole of my Fastwitch. Stupid drainage holes...seriously, what a stupid idea.

My 3rd km was my slowest at 3:30, but that kilometer was nearly entirely uphill, 'cept for the last few meters at which point things leveled off and set up the next downhill half a kilometer. Up to this point I still had the pesky Track North athlete on my shoulder and we had been trading leads for well over 2 kms at this point.

I'd put in a small surge downhill and gain a few steps on him, but he'd come right back up to my shoulder on the uphill, only to lose a few steps to me again as we flew downhill. I tried to break him over and over again from 3 to 4km, but he hung on strong. By the time we neared 4km I could sense he was hurting more than I was...his breathing was labored, he was hacking/coughing and finally I sensed I should try to surge once more.

As we approached 4.2km there was a slight downhill across a gravel road and I put in one more surge to see how he would respond. He didn't. I seized the chance and pressed on even harder. Within 30 seconds I had already made up a 5 second gap on him and I continued to pressed knowing I had 500m to go.

One last turn to face the finish line and then it hit me. The last 400m were uphill. Ugh. I kept pushing, never looking back and driving for the finish line. That last 200m were so brutally hard that I felt almost exactly as I had felt after my debut. That sand sucking feeling I felt in my warmup was amplified just before the finish line. If you're wondering what that might look like, have a gander...

I crossed the finish line completely spent and gasping for air, feeling like there was none left in atmosphere.  I had high hopes for myself tonight and finally, for the first time all day, I was able to relax. I clocked an amazing 3:12 for my last km, something I'm very proud of considering the last 400m were uphill.

I had won the race, and obviously, my age group! I had set a goal of running 16:45 knowing it would be a warm and rolling course, and I came very close to that goal. I ran 16:48.06, just 3 seconds shy of my goal.

That's within striking range of my all time personal best of around 16:40 that I would have set sometime around the year 2000. Pretty crazy to think. Heck, just last October 30th I ran a then blistering 18:10 over 5km on a fast course, and just 8 short months later I've chopped off 1:22 and feel I can sneak below 16:30 before my track season is done. And who knows, maybe I could sneak into London's top 10 over 5km rankings (brought to you by London Runner and M&T Printing).

Even more impressive is the fact that our entire family ran amazing races. We all smashed our goals we had set prior to the race and we were all on cloud nine as we rested after the race. Also, it seems I have the world's best cheering I accepted my prize for winning the race it felt like the whole gym cheered for me, but it turns out it was just my super awesome family. Thanks guys!

Garmin Connect Recap

Shout Outs:
  • Big thanks to Neil 'Da Rabbit' Phipps for taking our little pack of 3 through 1 km on perfect pace. It would have been nice for you to stick around a bit longer though, maybe next time I'm Sudbury?
  • Huge thanks to Seb Diebel for pushing me through the first 4km. You are one heck of a fighter, and you helped keep the pace honest.
  • Dick, Darren & the volunteers put on a great event. There were tons of volunteers directing the runners and I'm glad I was able to help raise funds for the LU Women's XC team!


  1. Ridiculous, man! Well done! Sounds like a helluva weekend. Congrats, again.


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