I arrived and parked with well over an hour to spare only to find that I'm not as early as I thought. Copps Coliseum was packed already. Two of my friends, Christine and Julie from Runner's Den were running it as well and I met up with them at the 55 section, our usual spot for ATB. I still remember my first run with them as a new runner and that 10k Dundas loop we ran almost killed me. I dreaded that loop and Julie reminded me about it. A little over 9 a.m., we proceeded towards the start line. I wanted to find the 2:45 pace bunny but only found the 2:30. I was hoping I could keep up with it for awhile but it vanished within the first 2k and I had not seen it again.
A perk of running in my own town is the familiar faces I get to see on the course. New Hope Church volunteered at one of the water stations and I got to see Jess with her kids. Sandra was cheering and waiting for her husband who's running it for the 22nd consecutive year. Lexi and Jenni whom I used to run with were at the last stretch, relieved me briefly from concentrating on the discomfort I was experiencing. Perhaps there were more, but these were the ones who called my name and caused me to look up, turned around, and waved. Moments like these made me love the race all the more.
Based on the most recent half marathon time (Corporate Cup), the McMillan calculator predicts my 30k should be around an 8:15 pace. Jamey said I could start with 8 and dial in from there. If it weren't for him, I probably wouldn't attempt going faster than an 8:15 pace early in the race and finished with an 8:06 average. Thanks, Jamey! The last three miles were hard, especially because that's where the steepest hill was at. We are no stranger to that hill since we used to do it in training runs, but we don't usually run 15 miles before that in race pace either. Compare the elevation gain between ATB and Corporate Cup, Corporate Cup actually has more climbs but they are spread throughout the course while all of the hills at ATB are within the last six miles and they are steep. Runners drop like flies during this last third of the race. I tried to imagine what it'd be like doing Blue Ridge Marathon in a month only with five times the hills. Awful thought.
What awaited us after that last hill was about 2-3 miles of a straight, long, boring road. We could see Copps Coliseum about 1.5 miles out but that last stretch was just mentally and physically tough. I kept my head down, trying to keep my rhythm and pace, but looking up had proven to be a disappointment. Copps didn't look any closer at all although it's not true. I finally made it to the Coliseum, made a run onto the blue carpet into the stadium and relieved that I could stop running after 2:31:43. It's all good.
The rest of the Sunday was as good as the race (after it finished). Jacqueline and I sat down, had coffee and a long conversation about anything and everything. We walked back to school to see some friends, which reminded me how much I miss school. Being in school is like living in a time capsule. A lot has changed but it feels otherwise. It's no doubt my happy place.