As part of my training I have been traveling to Ottawa to compete in the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club Twilight Series races. These are track meets open to all, taking place on Wednesday evenings. I have found them to be exceptionally friendly and welcoming, all while keeping a good level of competition and excellent organisation.
On July 10th I was registered for a 1500m race. Without any exaggeration, the last time I ran one of these was half my lifetime ago. I was excited to race again, and to attend a proper track meet for the first time in years. I arrived at the stadium well in advance to get a good warm up in ahead of the race.
There have only been a few occasions in my life where I clearly remember feeling out of place because of my physical appearance. One was in 2011 when I lined up in the 2nd of 8 waves at the start of the Jizerska Padesatka 50km classic ski race. I am a respectable 6 feet tall, but here I felt like a tiny little man surrounded by towering Swedes, Norwegians, Estonians, Finns, Germans and Czechs. At this track race the opposite was the case – I felt like a lumbering troll in the company of all the serious runners with twig-thin limbs. Not to say that body type determines how serious an athlete you are, but the some of the contrasts were shocking.
The 1500m race plays out over 3 and 3/4 laps of the track. I had plan of splits (target times to hit for each lap). With a few runners running at a good pace ahead of me I was able to hit most of my splits and finished the race in 4:42 just shy of my goal of 4:40. Certainly nothing spectacular in the running world but a good race experience. I managed to finish with a good burst of speed, pushing my heart rate up to 199!
On July 17th a 5000m race was on the schedule. I have to admit that I was a bit less excited about this one. The excitement of going into an unfamiliar environment had worn off from the previous week. I knew this was going to be a painful run, and it wasn’t going to be over particularly quickly. Last year I had managed to crack 20 minutes for a 5k at the Ottawa Race weekend in absolutely sweltering heat. I was optimistic that I should be able to beat that time, though the situation with the heat wasn’t much better on this particular day. Unfortunately there were only 6 of us on the start line – it appears that there is a lack of runners willing to plod around a track for 12 and a half laps. I was once again armed with splits and a target time of 17:00. The first two kilometers went okay. The eventual winner of the race was long gone right from the gun so I didn’t have many runners around me to push the pace. Until the third kilometer one of my opponents was still in front of me. I had defeated him the previous week in the 1500km so I tried to stay calm and keep my pace. I did catch him a few laps before the finish, but perhaps I relaxed a bit too much and started hemorrhaging time with each passing lap. I could see on my watch that I was losing about 10 seconds per km and despite picking up the pace on the final lap I finished in 17:53, a bit shy of my goal.
In the meantime it’s back to the track for some more interval workouts, and I’ll be back at the races this coming Wednesday for another 1500m. Run like the wind!