Thursday, May 14, 2015

Cambridge Mill Race

I mentioned a few weeks ago I was going to do another race, and this time it was going to be the Cambridge Mill Race. It was going to be a 8K race for everybody. There was also a 1K race for kids, which was fun to watch. Actually some of those youngsters had a good pace too.

This is the third edition of the race and the first that was going to take place during a weeknight and not a Sunday morning. This got me interested, since I'm busy on Sunday morning. Being the only Double B Flat tuba player is an awesome responsibility and not one to be taken lightly. So when I read about it in a pamphlet, I immediately checked my calendar and registered.

The race was going to take place in West Galt, which is my side of the river. It was described as being picturesque and challenging. It was going to take runners through a part of the City that was used as the backdrop for the movie "Saint Ralph". The write up descibed the race in this way:

This challenging and scenic course literally runs through a historic residential area, along the Grand River and includes a race section as seen in the movie “Saint Ralph”.

What I've learned is the movie looks at the life of a young boy who wants and trains to run the Boston Marathon. I've not seen it, but from what I've read, it's a typical underdog does good type of movie. So a good way to waste a few minutes with a snack or two. So part of the race goes through the part of the town that is featured. It is scenic as the opening half follows the Grand River, so if you look to the right, you can look at the Golf Course which hugs the other side of the river. The pity is that weather conditions, cooler temperatures and high winds meant there wasn't anyone playing golf.

As you may know, one of the recommendations is that before the race you attempt to run the course, if you can. As I've mentioned it took place on my side of the river and I've spent a lot of time running through the neighbourhoods around the Public School which was located at the start/finish. I managed to run the last 3 kilometers of the race so I was aware of some of the unique aspects, which included a downhill and an immediate uphill. As well, the last 800 meters would be a gradual climb to the school. In fact I would say there are two parts to the race, the first 4 km was following the river and the second 4 came away and was hilly. As I mentioned the final 800 meters had a gradual climb, so that meant the first 800 was a gradual descent and then a sudden drop to George Street. It was one of those downhills that featured a 90° left turn, so you had to be careful going down otherwise it might have been an interesting turn. Either that, or you're going to blow out a few calf muscles on such a fast and early downhill.

Weather conditions were totally different then a few days earlier when the weather was high 20's or low 30's. As well, the humidity was on the high end. Now take those conditions and turn them around, from high 20's to barely at 10°. The day had been very cool, very windy, cloudy with a threat of rain. Checking the forecast indicated that the wind would be an issue. The direction of the wind was such that the last few hundred meters would be into the wind.

One of the promises was a free sports bag filled with some nice swag. It was some energy drink powder and a hot/cold compress. Yay for that. The case was a small little utility bag which will be very useful. There was a good bag check and with the school open, access to bathrooms. It was a public school, so the facilities were sized for the general population of the school. But it was all inside. Before the race time most of the runners stayed inside to keep warm. I think conditions were such that muscles could have gotten cold quickly and the risk of cramping would have been increased. After the children's 1K, people slowly began to move outside until about 10 minutes before the start. We all gathered at the start gate. What I found interesting was all the racing tee's that were worn. I noticed there was a lot of runners who had done either marathons or half-marathons. Most were local or regional, but there was a few from notables such as the New York Marathon. There was also tee's from races I had done and during the same year. It's a neat aspect to look at the quality of runners that were participating in the event. This was a race that was respected by the local running community. What I like was not only the day, but the locations, a local race within minutes of my home. There was a lot of residential parking, and since I did the recommended arrive at least an hour before, I had a good spot above the school. For my wearing apparel, just in case people are interested, I wore my Fitocracy technical tee. I wanted to extend some love to Fitocracy and I got a compliment for the tee. I shared a bit about the website.

After the announcements, the race started, there was cheering and the gestures of setting off the gps watches. It was a good crowd, over 130 participants started off. As I said, the first kilometer could have been very fast with the steep hill at the end of the street. Here it was important to remember to keep to your pace and not everyone else's. While it was only 8K, it's still 8K and the best was still to come. While the road to the school was closed to traffic, the rest of the course was not, but there was a lot of marshals to help with the direction and a good police presence keeping the cars honest and respectful of runners, especially at the major corners and turns. The volunteers and marshals were pleasant, smiling and talkative, one suggested that once we turn the corner, it would get easy and then he laughed and said 'No it won't'. He was right by the way. As the first half followed the river, there was slight changes in elevation, but nothing to stop the pace. Of course, on the way it, it was into the wind, fortunately by race time it was down to 28 kph and not the 39 kph with gusts up to 50kph. Now that would have been nasty. The runners were friendly and it was a good pace for running.

Then there was the turn just before the 4K sign, and each kilometer had a sign, so you had opportunity to strategize. Once past the turn, it became fun, the race became hilly and pronounced. Some good climbs and good declines. It was where the training and the pace became important. A water station was there, so a good place to walk through and have a quick drink of water. I have to wonder if the people who worked it out moved the race from April because they believed the weather would be warmed in May. Yeah right.

After the 5 kilometer mark, which was under the elevated rail tracks it became the picturesque neighbourhoods of older and established homes. It was nice to look at them and see the gardens just starting to develop. There was one house that was going through quite a nice renovation, looking good. Yes it is possible to look around and check the sights. Again, a lot of volunteers and marshals kept us on the right track.

Then came the last kilometer, where the course followed Crescent Street, which was a decline and sudden incline. All I could think about was, 'this is where all the plank training and hill running will become important'. I had spent a few minutes earlier that afternoon walking up that hill and to the first block of last part of the run. I knew what to expect and it was just a matter of not letting it get to my head. I talked to one of the marshals during the post-race dinner and he mentioned to me he had been there last year at the turn and some of the language that came out of people's mouth... Apparently it was something else. This is why you don't run fast during the first kilometer. Get the pace and keep to it. I hit the last 800 meters and another thought was 'where is that finish line?'. I saw it and did what I try to do at each race, and kick it up the final meters. I checked my pace for the final kilometer, it was 5:15. I was impressed with it. I wanted to take that last distance and not let it defeat me. I also saw the time and realize I would be under 45 minutes, in fact my finish time was 44'31", the chip time was 44'24". I felt real good at the end and was happy with my finish. Overall, I was 68th and 12th out of 16 in my age category.

The apres-run, is there such a thing? Was back in the school at the gym. The bags were there and so was the food. Pulled pork sandwiches, where were nice and hot. Plus ice cream bars, nice. There was a draw and a number of nice gifts, none of which I won, by the way, and awards. A lot of good people won and it was nice.

I wrote to the race co-ordinator and commented on how enjoyable the run was. He mentioned they will do it again around the same time and to make it a positive experience. I hope the group will have more runs around Cambridge because they did a great job.

I will say, it was a great experience.

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