On Sunday, January 13, I travelled to the Saanich Fairgrounds in Saanichton and ran the Harriers Pioneer 8K, the first race of the year in the Timex BC Road Running Series and the Frontrunners Island Race Series.
It had warmed up to just above freezing by the time we were starting the race at 11 AM. Drew Nicholson and Natasha Fraser had come over from the Lower Mainland to run it too, and they were both right up front with the other elite runners. I wasn't as fortunate, being several rows back, and when we started out I was stuck behind some people jogging slowly.
We went a couple of hundred meters on a slight downhill on the "driveway" heading out of the fairgrounds, and by the time I reached the road I'd managed to break free of the dense pack of sluggos. We turned left onto the street and I was now running with people going at a good pace. After a couple of hundred meters we passed the volunteers at the water station that we'd be going by again later in the race, and a few hundred meters later we hung a right onto another road.
The road curved around so we were now heading in the opposite direction from whence we'd come and went by the 1K mark. I sped up and started passing people, eventually coming up behind a pack of runners with two young boys who looked to be about 9 or 10 years old running about 10 meters in front of me. They kept going at a great clip for the next kilometer, but after we turned right again and were running through the small business district one of them slowed his pace a bit and I was finally able to pass him. A little while later we hit the road going back to the fairgrounds, and after a short incline we were now travelling on a not very steep but long downhill, and I passed the second little speedster at long last.
We ran past the entrance to the fairgrounds where there were plenty of spectators clapping, yelling, holding up encouraging signs, and clanging cowbells. This raised the runners' spirits and gave us a boost of energy as we passed the 5K point near the water station. This time we turned to the left as we hit the road ahead and headed up a slight hill for about 700 meters.
I'd just started going up it when the race leader with his bicycle escort went past on the other side of the road, heading home. After 30 seconds or so another fellow went by, followed a short while later by 2 more guys, and then Natasha Fraser came flying down with a guy right behind her. I briefly thought about yelling "Go Natasha!". She went by me so quickly I didn't, but she probably wouldn't have heard me anyway. Plus she didn't look like she needed any encouragement and I was trying to podium myself so it was better that I'd saved my breath. I did yell "Go Drew!" as he went by a little while later, after about 10 or so other guys had already come past, and then picked up my pace as we approached an intersection and turned to the right.
I went by a couple of guys who looked like they might be in my age group, and then made the turnaround about 50 meters later and headed back to the intersection before turning and heading down to the road going back to the fairgrounds. I sped up and passed more people, while a couple of people went by me in return. Finally we reached the final road going home, and before I knew it I was turning into the fairgrounds and racing up the hill toward the finish line. About 10 meters from it a fellow whizzed by me, and try as I might I couldn't overtake him again.
After we crossed the line I asked him how old he was, he told me he was 61, and I congratulated him on being so fast. When the results were posted there was an asterisk beside his time indicating he ran under the elite benchmark time for his age group. Drew was waiting for me and we both commented on how fast Natasha had been going, and he said she might even have finished top 5 out of the whole field.
We went into the fieldhouse and I hit the food room where they had heaping trays of cucumber, ham & cheese, and PB&J sandwiches, cut-up muffins, oranges, bananas, and energy bars, plus pretzels and chocolate chip cookies. To rehydrate they had coffee, water and chocolate milk. After eating a plateful I went to my car to put on my jacket and warmups and get my camera.
On the way there I ran into Nigel from my running club who now lives on Mayne Island. He's just coming back from being off for a year injured and carrying some extra pounds, and was expecting to take an hour to run the race, but he did it in less than 48 minutes, so he was pretty pleased with that.
He headed indoors to refuel and I went to my car, and on my way back I got a picture of the finish line, and then headed into the fieldhouse auditorium where the hundreds of chairs were rapidly filling up with people.
I went by a table where some women were selling a book called Open Heart Runner by Gregory Marchand http://gregorymarchand.com/open-heart-runner.html . I bought a copy and was told Greg was standing up in front of the stage and would gladly sign it for me, and he graciously did.
Myself, Drew and Nigel chatted while we waited for the awards to start, and when they did we found out that Natasha had smashed the 26 year old course record for top female, and finished 6th overall. Geoff Martinson of Victoria was the top finisher, and there's a great article about them in Athletics Illustrated: http://athleticsillustrated.com/editorial/fraser-smashes-record-martinson-wins-handily/ .
There were medals for the top 3 age groupers and ribbons to top 10, and when it came to mine I ended up in 8th place, so I did podium! They had all of us come up and stand on our numbered mark on the floor and presented us with our medals & ribbons, and then huddled us together for a group photo op. Drew also got a couple of pictures of me while I was up there.
They finished up the awards, did the final 2 draws for a pair of shoes, thanked the volunteers and us for coming, and it was time for us to head home.
My next race is the Campbell Valley Stomp 5K on January 20 at 9 AM, in Campbell Valley Regional Park.