Good news- I survived my (probably) last race of the year. The Gatineau race is always the hardest race I do and it’s nice to do it last. For those of you not familiar with the Ottawa region, there is an area just across the river in Quebec called “Gatineau”. They have some big hills that are fun to run in and it’s a big park with hiking trails and lakes. Because of the nature of the area (hilly) they close a lot of the roads for the winter because it wouldn’t make sense to plow them. People in this area are crazy about cross country skiing so it’s also popular in the winter.
It’s a big tourist attraction to see all the fall leaves in the park. However, a few weeks into October is when they close the roads in preparation for winter. So some smart people at MEC decided that they should do a race there once the roads are closed. Very smart actually because they probably don’t have to pay nearly as much for the race to happen there.
This was the last race in my cheap race pack I got at the beginning of the year. I think in total I did 4 races for $50. There’s no finishing medals but they were all timed and closed courses.
This year, Alex decided to sign up for the 5k (which was new) with his friend. It meant that I had a ride there so I met my dad at the race head quarters. Everything happens in the chalet for Camp Fortune and then you head down to the start like which is about 2 km down the road.
Before I get into my race, let me show you Alex’s. He bet his friend about who would win the race and whoever was slowed had to buy the faster one a 6 pack of beer. So his plan was to stick with him the whole race and just try to out sprint him at the end. He was worried he would go out too hard otherwise. They were lucky because their out and back route was too short to hit any of the serious hills. Look at his splits and the profile (he used my old watch for the run).
I laughed when I saw how much he sped up at the end. He was sprinting so much faster than he ran the whole race. He could have easily gone faster over the whole thing. He ended up beating his friend by 2 seconds and won the beer!
Back to my race. The course is nasty and full of hills (obviously). There is also a marathon option for the truly insane. Unfortunately, they had to cancel it this year because it snowed a few days before. The snow melted in the city pretty quickly but it’s a lot cooler up there. And since the roads are closed, nothing would make it melt. Everyone who signed up for the marathon got downgraded to the half. At first, it seemed silly to me but once we hit some parts in the course, it made sense. It seemed like MEC must have gotten someone to plow the half course but I guess they couldn’t do it for the full.
Going into the race, I knew I had been having some issues. I wouldn’t say I had knee pain but I noticed my left knee getting stiff and generally feeling more inflamed. I told myself I would take it easy if it started to hurt.
As I mentioned, the start line is a ways down from where you park and I actually ended up being late for the start. I was looking for the baggage drop off but apparently it was at the start line so I had to throw my bag to them and then get going. We jogged down to the line and I took off once I was ready. The first 5k of the course are relatively “flat” in comparison to the rest of the course. It’s not usually a good idea to try and bank time at the beginning of the race but given how this course is laid out, I think it was okay. I wasn’t going super fast, just faster than I knew I would be going up the hills. I actually felt pretty good. It was also a big confidence booster to start late because I passed a lot of slower people!
The weather was cool but the sun was out at the start of the race. I had a long sleeve shirt with a short sleeve on top and capris. I wore gloves at the start but took them off and never ended up putting them back on. I was worried I had overdressed, but eventually the sun went away and it got cooler. It was about 5 degrees celsius which I would say is some of my favorite (and more successful) racing weather.
I should premise this post by saying that I did almost no hill training at all this year. I did one session down by the locks and then had turf toe from soccer so I didn’t run at all for a little while. I wasn’t really sure how I would handle the hills but I had found my one hill session a lot easier than I had the previous year.
We hit our first hill and it was hard but I made it a goal to try and run up the whole thing. I wanted to try and crack 2:20 on this course as an A goal, or beat my previous time (2:28). That would mean running an average of 10:40/mile. I am not a great hill runner but I knew I could average the slower uphill with a faster downhill. I made it up the first hill without walking and felt really good! I had some mental push in me to keep going.
This is about the point in the race where I realized I am either a great downhill runner or just a really awful uphill runner. Every time we would go up a hill, people would pass me. But once we hit the downhill, I would fly by everyone. I think I was generally a stronger runner but not as consistent on the hills. I found that a lot of people were killing themselves to run up the hill but then would walk once they were at the top. In my experience, you will go faster overall if you power walk up the hill and then run once you’re at the top.
There is a really long and winding hill where it never seems like it will end. I walked up parts of this one because I wasn’t running much faster than I was walking. I ran as much as I could and knew that once I got to the top, I would fly through the rest of the course.
It was about this point in the race when I noticed that there kilometer markers were not in the right spot. I hit what was marked at 16 km (10 miles) in 1:43. This would mean a 10:18/mile pace which I knew did not make sense. I did 1:35 in the 9 runrun race but I know I lost more than 8 minutes walking up those hills. My watch said I was at 9.55 miles which meant the markers were almost off by an entire kilometer. This was the same thing as last year too so I’m surprised they have not sorted this out. I actually hit the 10 mile mark in 1:47 (granted my watch could have been slightly off too).
I knew I would be close to my goal of 2:20 at this point but I would have to gun it down the hills. I was flying but my knee started to feel off and I had to slow down. I didn’t want to injure myself just to meet an insignificant time goal in my last race of the year. I shuffled along and was just ready for the race to be done.
There is a very nasty climb at the end up to the finish. Again, the kilometer markers were off here so it was kind of silly. You would see the 20 km sign, run for another couple minutes, make the turn up to camp fortune (the finish) and it says 1 km to camp fortune on the road sign. So you think you’re only a kilometer away, but you are not. Therefore it makes you feel like you’re running the slowest 1.1 kilometers of your life. I trucked up the hill as best as I could. I hit the turn for the hill and thought “I have 8 minutes to get up to the finish” (keep in mind I should have had less than a kilometer left at this point). It seemed reasonable even if I walked part of it.
I ran up most of it but saw my watch click over to 2:20 and I took a short break. Then I could hear someone coming up behind me with their friends cheering them on so I ran hard to the finish. I finished in 2:22! I still beat my time from last year by 6 minutes despite having zero hill training and slowing down for precaution, not because I was tired. Here are my splits.
It’s too bad, I bet if this was a flat race I would have been pretty close to my PR or at least my 9 run run time. I didn’t get any pictures of me in my race gear but I did take this picture while I waited for my dad to finish.
See, there is snow on the ground!
Another benefit to the head quarters being in the chalet is that they open the kitchen. So I had a nice warm poutine while I waited for my dad. Yum!
Here I am once I made it home when I realized I didn’t have a picture of myself.
So the plan for the next two weeks is to not run at all and try and give my legs a bit of a break. I’m still going to play soccer but I can take it easy if anything is acting up. Taking a break, and factoring in my lack of mileage from October, means I won’t come close to 1000 miles this year. I am okay with that though. I don’t want to kill myself to meet a mileage goal and not start the next training session healthy.
I’ll probably give you an update about potential races for next year soon once I finalize a few things!