Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Part Bunny - Part Bandit

Advancing my career as a semi-professional Half-Marathonpace bunny,  I spent Sunday morning running just under 14 of the 21.1 kilometers of the Forest City Road Races Half Marathon route beside my friend Julianne.  This was my second time running an event where my time wasn’t important.  (not to mention I also didn’t have a bib)

I arrived in the Victoria Street parking lot of Gibbon’s Park in plenty of time to see the lead pack pass the 7km mark and watched for friends to run by until Julianne arrived.  There are so many things to observe when watching other people run, facial expressions, breathing patterns, gait, and how runners interact with those supporting them.  I make a special effort to acknowledge youngest spectators along the route with a smile or “low five” and it makes me feel great and from the smiles of both the kids and the parent it appears to make them feel appreciated as well.

Jules arrived huffing and puffing with her shoe undone, so we paused for a quick pit stop before we truly got started, the first hill was about a kilometer away.  Before we got that far, there was also a walk break.  Another important piece of pacing information, the plan was to stick to 10 and 1’s. 

First things first when we got moving; get Jules breathing back under control before the Saint  James Street hill climb out of the park.  The walking break helped. So did her explanation, she was trying to stay ahead of a Chris and Tyson from her training group. 

Jules is a talker, bubbly, and vivacious, she has the gift of gab.  By getting her talking, (which doesn’t take too much) it was easy to keep her pacing and breathing at a “conversational level.”  We got out of the park and in the winding section of Old North by me sharing the experience of running through the Disney Parks

There was great race support from the residents along Victoria Street.  One the houses had an entire cheering section with signs and cowbells and lots of kids to low five.  By this time we had settled in to a comfortable rhythm where I could dial in the pacing without too much difficulty. 

I’m still trying to figure out why people crossed the road to run down William on right hand side, but we lemminged across the road and followed along crossing the road back to the other side just past Cow Bell Curve and the halfway point in the race to make the transition on to Adelaide Street and the beginning of the next technical section – getting up and over the hills on Windemere.

Jules sighted Chris’s wife Cheryl near the Windemere waterstop making sure she knew Chris was somewhere behind us.  Then we began the two kilometer stretch of the rolling hills aided by a walk break before the recovery downhill.  A familiar voice came up from behind us to join us along Richmond. And then another as Tyson joined us before the over and under at the Ross Park overpass.  We chatted a bit through the University gates getting ready to head back in to the park system.
Now, with less than 5K to go, Jules opened her 5 Hour Energy Shot for the push to the finish.  I know Chris has used this technique on the advice of his nutritionist to help balance issues with his diabetes.  His first couple of training runs were interesting as his water bottle puffed up and he had to vent the carbonation.  However in this case, the shot version is easily concealable in jacket pocket or running belt and there is no fizz to worry about.  By watching Jules face, the taste seems to leave a lot to be desired but the effect on her was almost instantaneous.  The next three kilometer splits were the quickest of the day and we left Chris and Tyson behind.

There is a down side as Jules stomach didn’t handle the shock quite as well and the effect was somewhat short lived.  While I had the option stop at the location where I joined, as we passed the parking lot at Gibbons Park, Jules quietly asked me if I’d stay with her to the finish.  I could tell she was starting to crash and the last two miles are tough.  I struggled to get to the finish when I ran this event last year, so I didn’t hesitate to keep on going.

I kept her distracted, getting her to focus on using her arms to keep her feet moving.  Every time she started to lag, I’d keep saying, “Quick, fast feet.” over and over again.  Watching another runner with us I could see her arm swing change as we tackled some short steep sections to get out of the park.  Move your arms and your legs will follow.

Getting out of the park, up Ann Street and along Talbot is the most difficult part of this race.  It is a continuous rising grade that saps every bit of strength out of your legs and hips.  I thought that we’d be able to skip the last walking break but I knew the only way to get Jules to the finish was to allow her to stick to her plan, she knew she missed her time goal of 2 hours but she was still ahead of the boys and faster than her finish time at the Retina Run two weeks previous..   Smiling for the photographers, that last walk was just enough to get her up and over to Central and the finishing 2/3 loop of Victoria Park.

At Dufferin, with the finish line was clearly in sight 100 meters away, I stepped off the course and let Jules finish her race.  My job was over.

Bunny Jeff with FCRR Finishers Tyson, Jules and Chris

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