Monday, May 04, 2009

Surprising results at this weekend's Sporting Life 10k

I had a delightful result at this Sunday's Sporting Life 10k: 46:09! I had been targeting just under 50 minutes, but the mostly downhill route apparently gave me a huge boost.

It was a great day for a run - cool, clear, and sunny. There were over 12,000 participants. The event raised over $800,000 for Camp Oochigeas, a summer camp for children with cancer. That is a huge increase in fundraising over the past few years - in 2008 there were 10,000 runners raising $500,000; in 2007 there were 9,000 runners raising $300,000; in 2006 there were 8,000 raising $100,000.

As an aside, doesn't that make you wonder what was going on with expenses? The $/runner ratio goes from 12.5 to 33 to 50 to 66. How did they quintuple the raise per runner in four years? Hmm. In 2005 it's $100k on 7,200 runners; also a lousy ratio.

The probable explanation is that the cost for reserving the road, getting the permits, and staffing/policing, is a giant fixed amount that has to be spent no matter what, so incremental runners after a certain point wind up generating a way bigger margin. At least hopefully it's explainable - I hope I haven't accidentally stumbled upon some secret running series accounting scandal! :)

I registered late, so for the start I was slotted into the 'open' purple corral at the back. I was worried that I would spend a lot of energy dodging people and not be able to settle on a pace, but the organizers did an acceptable job of spacing the waves of runners.

The first kilometer down to around Davisville was a decent warm-up with some unavoidable flittering around trying to get out of the pack, but then it started to spread out so the dodging wasn't too terrible.

I was going at a strong clip the first half, but it felt easier due to the downhill - the section from St. Clair to Bloor was a breeze. I wasn't going full out, but the pace was definitely faster than normal. I'm not sure if I should have taken it easier in retrospect.

Around 6 I started to get the familiar glimmerings of lung discomfort that we all know. I took it a bit easier through to the turn onto Richmond, then started to accelerate again. At 7 I was definitely going full on and started to feel a bit of stomach cramp.

At 8ish, somewhere around Spadina I had a novel, fairly rare for me sensation - my throat gagged, and I felt like I might throw up. The sun was on us and I felt hot. My lungs were fine (at least not any worse than you'd expect at that point) but the retch definitely disconcerted me and mangled my breathing pattern.

Vomiting did not particularly appeal to me, so I reluctantly throttled down exactly at the point where I would have wanted to kick for the final stretch, from 8 to the finish. That was frustrating. I'm sure that it cost me at least 30 seconds, maybe even more. I was totally primed to kick, and everything else -- lungs and legs -- was fine (uncomfortable yes, but nothing I hadn't encountered before).

My colleague told me that on the section along Front by the tracks there was a powerful odour of creosote, which might have been the source of my gagging, but I honestly didn't smell anything consciously. I need to get more sleep the night before a race, that's the real ticket.

In a weird sense I was both very happy with the result, and also annoyed - who knows how much I could have shaved off if I had been able to blast through the last 2k?

Looking back at it, I would even consider risking it if I could break 45. Maybe if it had happened a little bit closer to the end.

(I've never run a sub 45min 10k; the closest I ever came was 45:10 back in 2001, and after that I started doing longer events like marathons, where the pace is a lot slower.)

Interestingly, the first place Men's 70+ finisher clocked in at 44:47. I'll have to look this guy up and enter some more races against him. The question is whether I can triumph over him without throwing up! At least I beat the 2nd place 70+ year old.

The race finished off in Fort York. The main gate caused a bottleneck getting people through, but since that was how the Fort was militarily designed to work, I guess I can't complain.

The finisher's medals were well done with a detailed engraving. There should have been more effort to move runners after the finish into the open area where the food stations were -- it took a long time to get from the finish line to the first, massively crowded water station -- but given the volume of participants I am willing to concede the organizers some slack. Also, the distance markers could have been more visible - they looked too much like advertisements on the streetlamps, and I missed a number of them during the course of the race.

Wandering around the Fort, I met up with a bunch of work colleagues, and we swapped stories. We had a couple of minor upsets in the results versus expected order, which will undoubtedly be the source of some entertaining trash talking until the next competitive outing.

All in all it was a good time and I'm happy that I decided to enter.

I haven't decided yet what the next run is going to be. I will probably enter another short (by short I mean 10k or less) run over the summer for fun, but my present training intention is to gear up for the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon in September, or possibly the Toronto International Marathon in October. We shall see!