This is all I want today. I simply want to experience the painting that NAZ Elite Coach Ben Rosario throws down with but a few written brush strokes below. I want to have the commitment to bet on a race plan that I may not be able to payout.
"...completely committing to something that you have absolutely no idea whether or not you'll be able to finish off. It's one of my favourite feelings in all of running. All out. You just go."Ben Rosario, Inside A Marathon (166)
Jen’s coach, Mile2Marathon founder, and Canada’s only Olympian to start their qualification race flat on their face, Mr. Dylan Wykes wants us to go out at 40:00 for 10k, then roll from there as we please. This is my chance. To completely commit to a plan with no clue of what will happen on the other side.
This puts us in a position to do something really special if we have a day, but shouldn’t wreck us if we aren’t on. I commit fully to this plan in a bit of a redemption move. You see, Jen and I did a workout almost three weeks back.
Essentially 8km’ish in and out from 5k to marathon pace with a small jog in the middle for 400. Twice as much 5k pace as marathon pace.
We nailed the 400s @ 3:45/km — even tightening each set’s last rep by 5-6 seconds. But all of the 200 “offs” fell well below 4:15/km, which is essentially my marathon pace (MP).
That workout has sat with me like some asshole manspreading next to you on the 7 out to Queens for the past couple weeks. Just a little too close. Just a little too gross. And the ride is just a little too long because you had to take the local. It’s been uncomfortable.
I didn’t like the feeling of not putting ourselves in a position to have to dig as much as I wanted on this day for those 400s at 5k pace. We nailed every single one. Today’s race plan, is my redemption for this workout. And will be a great move, or terrible idea.
Narrator: It is a terrible idea.
We squeeze into the front of the corral a few seconds before the anthem, Jen’s face is all kinds of nervous, but I’m calm and hope it rubs off. I spot some folks, say some hi’s, clap high fives, and what seems like a few seconds later, we are two kilometers in and turning left onto 102 Ave through the Lululemon cheer station.
At some point around kilometer three Jen mentions how fast the streets go by at this pace — clearly counting blocks to get through the first 5k.
5KM ~ 10KM
One slow kilometer in there, but we roll through the 5k turn around at 20:04. I really don’t want to “make up” any time so I start to pull a bit in front of J here, but I already know I’m working harder than perhaps I should be. Definitely harder than I want to be, but I’m committed.
It’s not 100% smooth.
I can’t quite find the stride I am looking for and never really lock in, but I’m committed, and I’m betting on finding the rhythm at some point.
Through the turns of St. Georges Crescent and kilometer seven is slow. I’m forced to take inventory a couple kilometers sooner than I want, and decide that as we turn south into the potential headwind for a couple miles straight down 142nd St., sticking with a few tall guys in front of me is in my best interest. I need to save some legs and this pack is rolling nicely.
Almost immediately upon making my decision, they surge, instincts take over, and I just go.
I say nothing to Jen, she is back a bit anyway and I trust she is rolling as she needs to be. She knows immediately what I am doing, and likely laughs to herself — I’ll see him again soon enough.
It happens in a second and I am thrilled I am so locked into the race plan that I go. We bang out a 3:59, 3:58, 3:59, and I go through 10K in 40:05. Mission accomplished, and I prepare for what is next.
The fun part.
10KM ~ 15KM
The woman racing a world record for a double stroller immediately starts coming back to us as we turn the southeastern most corner of the course and head back north. My pace slows. My legs feel heavy immediately and I know what is happening. A slight incline, turning that stroller into a sled pushing snow.
She is way out in front of her pace of a sub 1:31:45 pace I read about, and lets us know she is fine. We cheer her on as we go by, but I know at kilometer twelve I’m in trouble. When I tell the legs to turn over faster for the incline, they don’t respond.
Not panicking, I start at the bottom and work my way up.
Lift the knee, woof.
Snap the glute and throw your foot into the ground, woof.
Close that bowl, you are spilling the good cereal milk out of your hips all over the course, woof.
Nothing feels right.
Jen comes up, this is it, #RideOrDie time. I hang with her for…400 meters…maybe less. She drops me. So much for that epic slow-mo battle down Jasper Ave between us. It would have been a 220 steps per minute slugfest.
15KM ~ 20KM
It’s time to reset and make what I can of the day. Marathon pace workout it is. This is not easy and things go dark quickly. I tell myself this is what I signed up for and shift into grind gear.
102nd Ave. is pretty hazy through 17, 18, and 19 kilometers as I struggle with even marathon pace.
Back through the Lululemon cheer station I only know I am smiling when I get a message post-race with a photo of it. I remember trying to stay upright as my feet get tingly and numb, hands all but disappearing from my physical inventory — completely numb from running so tight for so long.
20KM ~ Finish
The Final Mile I think, one last chance to see if my legs have a surprise for me. They don’t. My heart rate shows it is erratic at only 160 BPM at this point, nowhere close to my 195 max, or the 175 our tempo paces required. I don’t run with heart rate data, but always look back at it for another stream of data.
The legs are simply concrete. Full from a hot 10K turkey dinner of lactate, and a whole unnecessary pumpkin pie of destruction for dessert. I cruise past my house a block from the finish and try looking for Allison who is out playing photographer. I don’t see her taking this photo, maybe I do, I don’t really know. I just want the finish line so I can stop pretending I can still run.
Cool Down / Friends / Photos
Thirteen minutes later, I’m back in my comfort zone, camera in hand on my way to losing my voice, getting frames of friends absolutely destroying their marathon goals.
And this is why race day is the best day. Jen and I head back out on course for a cool down, more photos, and following the new rule… “if you’re done racing, you’re cheering!”
Race day mobile cheer squad award goes to Mike “Big Truck” Tucker. We see him 4 or 5 times on course, and always with an ear to ear grin. Thanks for being out there buddy!
Thanks Edmonton. That was a lot of painful fun!
I get exactly what I want from today. I completely commit to something I don’t know if I can complete, but it just never feels right, and I manage what could be a total blow up into a solid race I am extremely proud of. Thanks for the inspiration for this race Coach Rosario.
Race number six is in the books, training will slowly spin up again next week with some restful easy days, and I know a little bit more about myself on race day. I am going to hang with J for two more marathon specific weeks, then I will shift to sharpen for the High Street Mile in Edmonton on September 22, 2019. One last shot to find some afterburners this year before hibernating into ultra marathon mode for the looming darkness of winter.
Thank you to everyone out there. The cheer stations, the volunteers, police officers, and other racers. I tried to thank as many as I could, but there is no way to thank everyone for another great race day!