Wednesday, 12 October 2016

My Run for the Toad Race Report

    After the disappointment of turning down my invitation to run on the Canadian 100k Ultrarunning team to compete at the IAU World Championships in Spain (due to some lingering foot issues), I was feeling a bit down about my running.  I was in a funk.  I wasn't really excited about running because I had some damn plantar fasciitis that I couldn't shake.  Urg. I had run a race earlier in September that was a complete flop - due to me (and the top 20+ runners) going off course for 7km.  I had trouble feeling enthusiastic about my running.  It felt like I was slogging through runs and trying to avoid pain that just wouldn't improve.

     Then comes "the toad".  I had registered myself and my 3 kids for The Run for the Toad, held at Pinehurst Conservation Area in Paris, Ontario.  I was running the 25k, and my kids were registered in the 800m "Toad Pals" race.  I love the trails at Pinehurst.  This park is my home course.  I have a GRCA parks membership, and I try and run at Pinehurst at least once a week.  The trails are wide and scenic, passing through Carolinian and pine forests, grassy meadows, and along the spring fed lake where the park gets it's name.  The 12.5 loop is full of ups and downs, and is a trail runner's dream.

     On the morning of the race I was dragging my feet, I got up and got the kids ready and we headed off to the park.  The kids were excited to race in the 800m kids race, and my husband and I lined up with them.  He ran with my older 2 kids, and I ran with my 3 year-old Tessa.  Well, seeing how happy she was to be running immediately changed my mood.  She was smiling the whole time and saying, "Mommy I'm running!" and "Mommy, I love this!"  It was amazing.  The kids race was lined with cheering spectators and my kids felt like celebrities finishing their run.  They got the same medal as the grown-ups in the 25 or 50k.  My kids finished that race feeling like they were trail runners, I was beyond happy seeing my kids enjoy a sport that I love so much.  A big thing to mention is that this race is COMPLETELY FREE.  Yeah you read right - free.  No charge.  No catch.  Thank you Run for the Toad organizers George and Peggy Sarson for offering this.  My kids brought their medals to school, and they were so proud and happy to show their teachers and classmates what they had done that day.  Thank you!


     The "Toad Pals" race with Tessa was my warm-up.  That's not the typical way I would warm up for a 25k trail race, but I jumped on the start line soon after the kids had finished, and I was good to go.  I made some small talk with a few runners near me on the start line, then waited for the cannon-blast to send us into the trails.  To my surprise, I felt pretty good as the race began.  My foot, which has been a whiny nuisance for the past month, was cooperating and allowing me to run hard.  I continued to hold a strong pace, as the course wound through the campground and into the pine forest.  I continued to feel good as I cruised through the middle "meadow" part of the race.  My favourite part is the last 4k of the loop.  A dense hilly forest with soft pine needles cushioning the ground right before this crazy "wall-of-a-hill".  That hill is short, and as soon as you get yourself over that, it's an easy winding 1k to the finish.

     As I was passing the start/finish area and heading out on my second loop, the announcer announced me as an "unknown" runner - I panicked, thinking: "crap! my timing chip isn't working!"   But what could I do at that point?  I kept running hoping that all would be ok with the timing of my race.

   

     During the 2nd lap, things were getting understandably harder.  The hills were looking bigger, the kilometers were passing slower.  I kept thinking about Tessa and how excited she was while running her "Toad Pals" race that morning.  I was thinking that those three girls need to see their mommy run strong and fast.  So I kept that in mind as I was starting to work harder.  I was hoping that my effort would put me in the top 5 women, and give me a finishing time of 2:02-2:05.  Imagine my surprise as I was approaching the finish and could read 1:58 on the clock.  I was pretty happy as I crossed those timing mats (and my name was announced - timing issue resolved!)  More amazing memories made on those wonderful trails at Pinehurst.  I'm so lucky to have a conservation area like Pinehurst so close to home.

   
I can see that sweet finish line and I'm getting there as fast as I can.

     After some congratulatory hugs, Greg told me that I was 3rd female, and my official finishing time was 1:58:58.  Yay!  The last time I cracked 2 hours in this race was the first year it was held - 15 years ago, on a slightly different course.  I was so happy to be under 2 hours - with a course PB.  As a top 3 finisher, I was awarded a hand-made wood vase created by local artist Larry Cluchey.  I was given another of Larry's vases for winning the 30-39 age group.  Matching vases!  That was exciting. Thanks to Race Directors George and Peggy Sarson, for organizing and hosting such a fabulous event.  It really is amazing how they have grown the race to 1200+ participants.  Everything about this race is top-notch, the course, the volunteers, the kids race, the entertainment for kids (and spectators), the food, the registration gift, the medal, and the awards.  Thanks for turning my favourite trails into a great running experience for so many runners.  And especially for the intro to trail running back when the first toad was being created - you both have a lot to do with my trail running success.  Thanks again.


     Thanks to CLIF bar for their support of my racing and training with their wonderful and delicious products.  I used the tropical punch CLIF Bloks during the race, and they kept me feeling great.  Thanks to my coach Derrick Spafford for preparing me for the race.  Enormous thanks to Greg for everything you do to help me run at the level I do.  During this race, Greg took the kids to many different cheering locations on course, so they could cheer me on.  Thanks Greg, I really appreciate it - Love you!!!



      I went into this race, feeling pretty "blah" about my running, and after this kind of performance, I'm feeling much better.  It feels strange to give up a goal race (the 100k worlds), when I have been focusing on it for the year.  It leaves me feeling a bit lost without a goal, but I'm going to run some shorter races for fun and take some time to find a direction for my future racing.  My next race is in a week and a half in Sydenham, Ontario.  The Sydenham Fall Trail Run 8k Trail race.  I'm looking forward to it.
Awe shucks. Thanks Cambridge Times for the headline in Tuesday October 11th's sports section
After finishing my 25k - I have a matching toad medal with the kids.