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August 23, 2010 / elodie kaye

A Midsummer Night’s 15K

The ‘Night’ in the name doesn’t just reference the play.  The 15K started at 6:45 pm this year.  Running more or less the exact middle of the pack at 10 mpm, I ran the last half mile in darkness.  I’m not a morning person, but night races are a pain.  They squat over your whole day because you have to spend the first half of it fueling and drinking, timing it all so you’re not too hungry, not too full, hydrated enough, but not sloshing.  Then you race, and by the time you’ve eaten, celebrated, driven home, and showered, your whole night is gone.  Meanwhile, you’re still jangled at 3 am from having poured out all that adrenaline over the final miles.

To its advantage, the setting for this race is way cool.  It starts in a heavily industrial part of town that’s been mostly reclaimed for park and commercial use.  The city’s biggest sewage treatment plant  still operates and occupies most of the space.  We could breathe in its rank fumes from the shuttle bus, but they’ve done a lot to scrub out the odours.  During the race, we didn’t smell it at all.  The other two smoke stacks that dominate the sky belong to power generation plants, both now out of operation.

The area is called the Studio District now, for the movie studios which moved into the empty industrial lots.  There’s still some manufacturing in the area, and this part of town remains on an over-sized scale.  In the midst of the hulking buildings, power lines, and corrugated metal, there’s open park space — a long finger of pastoral land, with a bird sanctuary that juts out into the lake, and at the point a lighthouse.  Most of the race course is completely paved, but near the lighthouse the path disintegrates to a gravel trail.  The end of the tentative little peninsula feels remote.  A port facility operated here to serve heavy industry, and the land still shows signs of its heritage.  Tall grasses open out to massive, chaotic piles of rusting metal.  Here and there are great concrete slabs softening from decay.  As we ran yesterday in a light mist, we could see past the waves of grass, and strangely sculptural litter, the dull grey ripples on the lake, dissolving into the same monochrome sky.

My own performance wasn’t a very good one, B+ effort I’d say, but I’m pretty happy with it.  I was a little tired going into it.  The 7 days of training in advance of the race were fairly intense even though I didn’t do any speedwork, and no taper this time.  Nonetheless, I’ve executed better tune-up races.  This one was just very soft.  One problem with night races is that you have all day to think about it, and you are more or less forced to every time you put food or water in your mouth.  Like fuel for your brain, you try to mete out just the right degree of hype.  I was too cautious in the early going, found my groove late, opened up late… I was about two steps behind the beat for the whole dance.

As I rolled around the 9K marker I thought, “Okay, let’s race!”  In a 15K, this is not a good sign.  It sure felt good at the time, but what it really means for me is that I should have pushed harder through the middle.  That’s how I should have felt after the first 5K.  The last third of any race, I’m usually bargaining with myself about how I’m going to budget the little I have left.

As flawed as it was, I can’t be unhappy about this race.  It was my first race this year. I haven’t raced at all for over two years.  It was thrilling to feel the familiar hunger when I rounded that 9K marker.  From there on, every runner was a slingshot to the next one.  I finished the final two miles at 9:27 and 9:08, and was disappointed that it was over.  My chip time was 1:33:48, but I had no goals for this race.  I would feel just the same about it if I’d run 1:15 or 1:45.

In spite of the annoying logistics, I would do this race again in a heartbeat.  It was well-organised.  There was sufficient off-site parking that had clear road access even while the course was closed to traffic.  The shuttles to and from the parking lot were frequent, and not too full.  The porta-potties were adequate but considering the field is fully half female, they should have designated a few more for women.  Maybe the most telling sign was that the army of volunteers was cheerful, efficient and not overworked.  Everyone I interacted with had a smile and an answer.

I’m tepid about the pricing for this event.  The early bird price of $49 is fair but lasts only until March 31.  For a fringe distance run in August, that’s ridiculous.  The true price $59 – $69, is on the high side.  However, I think they make an effort to give you reasonable value.  Instead of the typical tech shirt, they gave zippered technical New Balance hoodies in gender-specific sizes.  On the back in a funky, theatrical type face, “Act V: Wanderer of the Night”.  The jacket fits well, I’m not embarrassed to wear it on the street.  They also gave out water in refillable stainless bottles, and had refilling stations.  The other place where they spent your entry fee was the medal.  It’s about the size of a large bagel and thick enough to stop a bullet, should you have a need for body armour.

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8 Comments

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  1. Sara Grace / Aug 24 2010 6:19 am

    And she’s back! Congrats Elodie!! Way to run. The hoodie sounds pretty cool to me!

    • elodiekaye / Aug 24 2010 12:03 pm

      It is really cute, the only race garment I’ve been tempted to wear going out before I even ran the race. The volunteer shirts were cool too, they had “Act V: Mortal” on the back in the same scrawl.

  2. Anne / Aug 24 2010 7:28 am

    This certainly sounds like a fun one, even with the not-so-scenic course. And you held down a good pace for it being a night run where you can’t always see what’s in the road. I’d do it just for the hoodie.

    • elodiekaye / Aug 24 2010 12:05 pm

      Oh Anne… you may be one of the runners who would understand that running the last mile a full minute faster than your average probably means you waited too long to throw down the hammer. My opening two miles were 11:12 and 10:50. It felt great though, and I didn’t expect to have a 9:08 mile in me!

  3. Keith Peters / Aug 24 2010 7:28 pm

    Whoa. I didn’t know you had this going on. Been too busy to spend much time on DM, so I guess I’ve missed a lot. Sounds like a fun race. Most of my races have been early a.m. and one at noon. The schwag sounds great!

    • elodiekaye / Aug 24 2010 8:29 pm

      Nah, you didn’t miss anything Keith. I didn’t mention it last week because I wasn’t tapering, and since I didn’t get home until after midnight, I backdated the DM post. I wasn’t joking about being wired until 3 am!

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