Yesterday marked our first race of the season, and our first independent (unsupported) race in our new chair – and we couldn’t have asked for a better day!
We had chose as our target race the Barrie Half Marathon. It’s a race that Trevor has run on his own a number of times, and the fact that it was local meant that we could put in a lot of training time directly on the race course itself.
The weather was beautiful this morning – 16 degrees and partly sunny to begin with, and as it warmed up to about 22 the cloud cover moved in, helping Trevor to stay cool. As usual, I was dressed the warmest of any runner: running leggings, thermal top, windbreaker and blanket, and I was just warm enough!
We had connected with the race directors ahead of time through MultiSport Canada, and they were fabulous for us. We were asked by the organizers to start at the beginning of the race to avoid issues with the chair, and so it was us who began the half marathon this morning!
As a side note: having wheelchair athletes begin at the front of a race is by far and away the best and safest way to run with these chairs. We always run over to one side or the other of the trail/path, and it’s easy to run around us, but much, much harder for us to get the attention of other runners on the course if we need to pass them – especially when they are running with headphones (or even noise cancelling headphones)!
Going into the race our goal was a sub 2 hour time.
To put this into perspective, last year when we ran as part of a My Team Triumph team for the very first time with this chair (I literally got the chair for the first time that morning) we had managed a 1:56:28.4, which was an incredible accomplishment. In training, we had started out with our first half marathon distance run coming in at 3 hours, and had worked ourselves up to a 2:18:00 training run a couple of weeks back, but we had no way to know whether we would really be able to make it ‘click’ on race day.
Armed with a 2 hour race band, however, we had agreed to give it a go, and once I figured out the best way to use all of my available technology – in this case Strava total running time plus kilometer markings – we were ready to go. (As another aside, the FitBit is a great tool for many things, but it really cannot make sense of me using the ‘run’ feature when we are out for a race – it keeps ‘pausing’ my runs, which is entirely unhelpful!)
The race looped first around Dunlop St. Since we had been given the chance to start the race completely, we were essentially on our own, and the first couple of turns weren’t clearly signposted. But we figured it out, and the bike came past us a few seconds into our confusion, and we went off with a bang! Our goal to hit our 2 hour time required that we run 5:40 kilometers, however we realized at the end of the first kilometer that we had gone out way too fast and posted a 4:36! We dialled it way down as we ran around Kempenfelt Bay, past the South Shore Centre, and then out onto Hurst Drive, letting others run past us the whole way.
We were still up by over 2 minutes when we ran down Tollendale Mill Road which was sadly still under construction. Thankfully my new tires did much better on the gravel surface this time than they did the last time, and we were pleased to get down the hill and back up the hill to Dock Road without any punctures.
We then proceeded back along that path – including the killer hill we had come down – before turning back along Hurst to Brennan Avenue, making a little dog-leg down to Minet’s Point so that we could experience the glory and joy of running up White Oaks Dr. – one of the steepest hills in the city! We had decided ahead of time to take these hills as slowly as we needed, and it was a really good decision. Trevor ran up most of them, but walked up White Oaks Dr., and we still ended up back on the flat over a minute up on our goal time, but with energy and strength available for the rest of the race!
Even though we had now joined with the 10K crowd, we let the chair run out a little bit as we came back around the waterfront along the front trail. At the corner of Tiffin and Lakeshore we had a minor scrum with the walkers from the 5K and the water table, but we were pleased to be able to get clear of that again as soon as we rounded the corner. We were very pleased to have remembered the cow bell, though!
Back around through Heritage Park and out we went onto the gravel rail trail. Unfortunately or fortunately it seems the trail had been re-gravelled not too long ago, so we had to find the part of the path that was more compressed to try to minimize the extra resistance for Trevor as he pushed me along. We were super thrilled to once again spot our amazing Runninja friends along the path, cheering us along and providing race photos for us all! Special thanks to Christina, Lisa and Gillian, who were all over the course!
At the end of the rail trail there is a short but incredibly steep hill up to Blake street to allow for a 250 m dog-leg. The road surface was terrible, and we just barely fit through the gate at the end of the path, but we made it up, somehow made it around the pylons at the end (this chair has a tighter turning radius than I realized!) and back around. As we came back down onto the rail trail Trevor decided we had energy in the tank. We were still more than 2 minutes up on our time, and we decided to go for it!
With more than 3 kilometers left in the race Trevor opened it up and we sprinted the last leg of the journey, clocking an incredibly consistent 4:33, 4:29 and 4:32 as we made it back the length of the rail trail and around through Heritage Park once again.
At the corner back into the finishing shoot our friend Ricky from the Runninjas came around beside us and spurred us on for a race to the finish. Although he won the contest, his encouragement and camaraderie helped us find that little bit extra in the tank, and we came across the line in 1:54:02.4!
Through the incredible efforts of my ‘engine’, we managed a 20/112 for gender and a 79/243 total overall time! We completely shattered our previous best, and far exceeded either of our expectations! The hard training we did all winter long – through ice and cold and snow and freezing temperatures has definitely paid off! I couldn’t be more pleased!
Can’t wait to see what the rest of the season brings!