On July 1 and 2, I did my first Epic Canadian race. I never did anything like this before (although I only started racing back in May). With this race, you have the option of doing a 10K and or a 5K on Day 1, and then on Day 2, to do a half-marathon or quarter marathon. Given my original Canada Day weekend travel plans had to change due to a scheduling conflict, I decided to do Epic Canadian after my friend encouraged me. Given how adventurous I like to think I am, I opted on the 5K + 10K in a day (Double-in-a-Day) plus the half-marathon (Triple Half Marathon).
On Day 1, I hydrated with at least two litres of water before the race (as I usually try not to slow down for water during the race). It was bright, warm, and sunny, and my friend and I drove over early (as we weren’t sure how parking would go). We got a good spot and chatted for a bit, talking about future races we were planning to do and other things Group Fitness. A bit before start time we went down to the race area, where I bumped into friends from undergrad and law school, and then to take our pre-race selfie (a fun tradition we stated back in Bluenose) and went for a short warm-up jog. Then we went back to the start line, and my friend insisted (as per Johnny Miles) that I go near the front, as I am decently fast and have excellent endurance. Motivated, I took her advice and did likewise. Once the race began, I did my initial getting around those in front of me bit to get further ahead, pretending I was in a Star Wars movie and navigating getting by other ships (i.e., runners). I saw the leads take off, and while I knew I wouldn’t come in first for this race, I would still do well, and wanted this to be my best 10K to date (but mindful that I had a 5K and a half-marathon coming up).
The race had a lot of hills (maybe even more than the Bluenose I think), but while some may not like them, I don’t mind them. Runners may tend to slow down on the incline, but I actually pick up my momentum and even somewhat leap up a bit, and while it does take up energy no matter what, I use it as an opportunity to pass others (or at least, to catch up).
When I got closer to the end, I picked up my speed but didn’t feel myself going particularly fast. After I crossed the finish line, my girlfriend and her best friend were the first to greet me (they would join me and my friend for the 5K at 9:30 a.m.). My girlfriend’s best friend asked her (in reference to me nearing the finish line) if that was me approaching, to which my girlfriend replied, “Yes! He’s the one with the bad running form” (which I found funny and it’s probably quite true, as I’m not a trained runner). I walked, hydrated, and rested a bit before the 5K.
As the 10K was first, I knew that it would be a chance for a personal best, but that my 5K wouldn’t be a strong one for me as compared to my Ulnooweg run. I didn’t feel as if I was going to run with the greatest of energy and strength, and I was reminding myself that I had a half-marathon the next day. I wasn’t going for a record-breaker here. Not today.
Of my friends, I finished first, so I did a fun Facebook Live video at the finish line, waiting for the others to arrive. It was quite fun to do, and pretty entertaining especially as I was full of adrenaline and on an endorphin high. After the race, we celebrated with a massive brunch at Cora’s, went for a short swim in Long Lake, and then checked out Rib Fest. I then went to go stretch for a bit at Barrington GoodLife, knowing that I needed to do so before the half-marathon.
On Day 2, again I drank at least two litres of water beforehand, and I was not 100% from the prior day’s race (which was no surprise), but would still give it all I got. This time, the weather was cooler, and I did not go to the race with anyone (although I did bump into another friend from undergrad). After some chatting, I went to go do a warm-up. Not a jog/run, but rather, something akin to the first track in BODYATTACK™. Once done, I went to the line-up, but this time, as I knew that this wasn’t going to be a fast race for me, I didn’t go to the front. As my FitBit’s battery lost its usefulness for good the day before, I didn’t have a way to see my time (and I was also irked that I was unable to record 36 kilometres of steps that weekend). Thankfully, there were Race Bunnies (or pace-setters or pacemakers) along the way. Once we started running, I still made my way to pass the masses, and in the distance, once again saw faster runners leaving the rest of us.
With my first half-marathon, for whatever reason, I found the first half more difficult than the second half. Like various times in the 10K, I ended up running alone a lot. I don’t race with music, and after I finished, was encouraged by my girlfriend and our friend that I should do so. I guess I just like to let my mind wander and ponder things as I run. I also started grabbing water along the way (something I stopped doing after Bluenose), as I knew doing something above 10K needed hydration. But a bit before the halfway point, I needed to use a bathroom. I knew stopping for the break would add time, and then I thought that that would be okay; it was my first half-marathon and a higher time would be fine. But when I saw one, I also saw a photographer taking pictures, and I thought, “Oh boy! What if he gets a great shot of me running into the bathroom?” I didn’t have time to think any further, and figured I just keep running faster so that I’d get to a bathroom quicker.
After the halfway point, I found myself actually having a bit more energy (or motivation to get the race done faster given the biological need I mentioned in the previous paragraph), so I picked up my pace a bit. Like the first-half, I found myself alone for a majority of the race, only seeing distant leads way ahead of me. I kept thinking that I would not catch up, but I could still get decent time, as I am a bit faster now. I also learned a neat/fun trick (which I am sure lots of runners do). When grabbing water, I dump some of it on my head. The cold refreshing hit spikes a burst of energy in me, I let out a loud yell, and take off fast (even if it’s just for a few seconds).
At about 17 kilometres or so, and still having even more energy than the first half, I caught sight of two runners ahead of me (who passed me well-over an hour before). I asked myself if it would be possible to catch up and maybe even pass them. Before answering the question, I amplified my speed, mindful of exhausting myself, but excited at the possibility of passing someone again (which I haven’t done for a bit, as I was often solo). As I ran towards underneath the bridge intersection of the Highway of Heroes and Micmac Boulevard, up the little hill, I accelerated and passed the first runner, maintaining my improved velocity and didn’t slow down. About a minute later, I caught up to the next runner. When the last upward hill ended (I knew as this race was two loops), it was all downhill from there on. The beginning of the end was Lake Banook Trail, and it had the last downhill steep slope of the race.
Right before I got on Lake Banook Trail, I saw two young boys who held encouragement signs. I gave them both a passing high-five, imagining that one day, they’ll be doing their own Triple Epic Canadian Race, and maybe thinking about all the runners who gave a brief moment to acknowledge their support. I wanted to be one of those runners whom they would remember. Then when on Lake Banook Trail, I used my own energy and the downhill momentum to up my swiftness, and kept it going. I saw myself eventually catching up to the next runner, and thought about staying with him until near the end, visualizing the both of us dashing for the finish line, one of us edging the other by mere seconds. I did a speedy (pun emphasized) assessment of my remaining power. I knew that I had a bit more than enough to just simply give it all I had and to go the fastest as I could and not slow until I was finished.
So I did it; I decided to pass the next runner. Once I did I only kept up the rapidness. In the distance, I could hear the announcer calling out the names of the finishers, and wanted to hear mine. To my surprise, as I got onto the bridge that crosses Lake Banook and to the finish line, I saw one more runner. But keeping with my tempo and drive since the last downhill and the last runner, I wasn’t slowing down. I passed. Once I was off the bridge and passed the final turn, the race finish line was only a straight run. Without thinking, calculating, or any consideration, I gave an all-out sprint with everything I had in me. I knew that I wasn’t catching up and passing anyone else, and that I probably wasn’t going to be passed either. While it would only make a few seconds difference in my place (in the half-marathon or my Triple Half Marathon results), on principle I felt that it was the right thing to do. Hearing my name finally being announced, I crossed the finish line, and was able to slow down to a fast walk.
Immediately, my girlfriend and our friend (who I did the Day 1 runs with) greeted and congratulated me. I thanked them quickly, but honestly, what was on my mind was getting to a bathroom (given I didn’t get to go for over an hour). Once I was done and out, I had a better focus on things, including that I just finished the race. I went back to the finish area, congratulated (and was congratulated by) various runners (including one who I knew that I passed), and a massive smile emerged on me when I saw my girlfriend hand me a bottle of chocolate milk. In the second personal record I’d break all weekend, I finished the bottle in mere seconds. I wanted another, but scarfed down some orange slices instead. The Atlantic Chip site wasn’t loading up on my iPhone, so I couldn’t see how I did, but I knew it was around 1:40-something. Exhausted and proud to have finished the Triple Half Marathon, my girlfriend dropped me off at a nearby GoodLife so that I could stretch and shower up.
We went out to an Italian restaurant to celebrate (and for me to fuel up). Then I got a text from my friend, telling me some news that flabbergasted me and caught me off-guard; I placed third overall in the Triple Half Marathon. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t win a single race all weekend. Yet, I placed third in the Triple Half Marathon? I went to Atlantic Chip, and sure enough, I did (with a 13th place finish in the half-marathon itself as 1:40:39, which is just a bit behind the Race Bunny). I immediately text several friends back home with the astonishing news and was kindly congratulated. I was in complete disbelief. To some extent, I still am.
Despite not winning a single race, I was quite proud for not only finishing the Triple Half Marathon (especially as the half-marathon was my first, and a day after the 5K and 10K), but also coming in third overall. I had such a fun time at Epic Canadian. Sometimes things may happen for a reason, and with my original vacation plans changing, it turned out to be a fantastic thing. I got to do a race that I otherwise would not have done, and had an incredible time doing it. I’m quite excited for next year’s Epic Canadian, and for the next race.