After feeling not-so-great at the Chilly Half Marathon last weekend, and then switching gears from 21.1K to 5K within a recovery week, I definitely had no intention of really 'racing' the Achilles 5K. My primary focus had been on my role as an ambassador, getting the message out on social media about this much-loved race.
On race day, the ambassadors gathered at the Steamwhistle Brewery / Roundhouse watching the green-wearing runners arrive. It was great to see the energy in the crowd and people using the custom Instagram frames again! As we pinned on bibs and warmed up in Steamwhistle, my friend and coach Michelle asked me what I was thinking for the race. I mumbled something along the lines of, "We'll see..." I'd told her previously that it wasn't a goal race, so she gave me some plans for pace in the first and subsequent kilometers. She mentioned it would be a good opportunity to make it a time trial which would help her gauge her training plans for the rest of the season. We joined the crowd at the start, taking a lot of photos and posting ambassador updates on social media.
I hadn't told anyone that over the past couple days, I'd secretly been considering going for a personal best. This past fall at the Oasis Zoo Run I'd attempted a PB, but the repeated rolling hills did me in. Since that day I'd been waiting for another opportunity and a flatter course to try again.
I feared the incline both ways on Spadina, but the Achilles course was otherwise flat with only a couple turns. I'd been working with Michelle for a couple months including doing speed work, but since my goal race was a half marathon later in the season, so I had no idea if I was even prepared.
I glanced at my Surge as I finished my first kilometer...5:24/km. Let me take a moment to mention that the only times I see paces under 6:00/km I'm either at the track or participating in a race, and --is always short lived! The question in my mind was how long could I hold on.
The second kilometer came in at 5:25/km. Runners started flying by me in the opposite direction. Instead of looking for people I knew, I kept my focus alternating between my music and looking ahead for the turn around. Just before Yonge Street I saw it. I spun around the corner and checked in with how I was feeling at the halfway point. Still okay. Pushing really hard, but okay. If I could repeat what I'd just done in the first 2.5K... I'd have a PB. Whoa. But it was far from in the bag. At this point I saw a couple familiar faces that gave me a little boost of adrenaline with their smiles. Lead runner cyclists Paula and Kim were riding their bikes back beside the crowd, scanning and smiling. And there was Alan Brooks watching for Inge and the Canada Running Series team, camera in hand. I managed to give him a smile and wave.
My watch buzzed with my fourth kilometer pace...5:16/km. What?! The previous night I'd calculated that I needed to average no more than 5:48/km for a PB. With the past four kilometers about 20 seconds faster than this, I even had a buffer...I might just do this! In that last kilometer the wind picked up, more so than at any other point on the course. Green hats, feathers and scarves blew through the air. Up ahead I could see the landmarks I knew were near the finish but not the finish banner itself. I started to fade. I wanted to walk. My stomach was feeling rough. I sensed rather than really saw the crowds and photographers lining the street. And then, there it was. The finish.
The last 200 meters are a blur, but I do recall seeing the finish mats pass under my feet and realizing that I could stop. I glanced down at my Fitbit as I stopped it--I'd done it! I stood among the crowd, absolutely needing a moment to recover.