Several of my buddies and I have eagerly awaited this race, as it marks the beginning of our club’s beloved Grand Prix series. The trees blazed with colour and the autumn air felt crisp despite the bright sunshine. Before the race I kept warm with my windbreaker and mitts, but left them at the start. I wore leggings and a short sleeved shirt while I raced.
I arrived early enough to chat merrily with Kathy and help Derek set up the numbered tongue depressors for the finish line volunteers. I snapped a few photos of the start and some friends before the kids’ 1k race began. I cheered on my back-alley neighbours, as the two kids and their dad finished the course.
The 8k group started next, and I with them, so I handed over my camera to Dawn’s daughter, Carrie (she was doing the 4 with her daughter). I said hi to Alan, Nancy wished me well, and away we all went. For the first 15 minutes or so I ran with Kurt and we worked our way up, up, up through the trees. At one point the route took us so far up the valley that it touched on a paved path in the neighbourhood above for a few steps before taking us back down. As I greeted Jason at his course marshal post there I dissed the pavement with a “What is this!” and he shrugged apologetically.
That course must have taken us to nearly every corner of the park, and there were many sharp turns and hills. In the second and third quarters of the race I found myself tucked in behind Clay and someone else who was listening to headphones. They headed down through some winding single track through the woods perhaps an eensy bit slower than I would have done it, but it was still early in the race. They were still pretty strong on the uphill portions, so I bided my time. I used their downhill pace as opportunities to rest going down, and mentally let them pull me up challenging inclines. I eventually passed them on the open prairie, leap-frogged with Clay for awhile, and strove mightily to leave them behind in the last quarter of the race.
Every now and then the 8k course shared the same path as the 4k, and we found ourselves tripping over dawdling munchkins. I caught up to most of them on a grassy meadow, so they were fairly easy to avoid. Half way through the 8k course I came across two boys in a wood that were blatantly bushwhacking across the park. If they’d stayed on the 4k course they could have already been done. Little goofballs.
There was no one around me in my age group that I could see, but I was out there to do my best, and I did. There was walking involved, but I am pleased with the strong effort I was able to maintain for most of the race.
The creeks were fairly thin this year, so mud didn’t inhibit my progress much. Sometimes the path was quite soft with damp fallen leaves and mulchy stuff that slipped underfoot on sideslopes, but I kept my balance. As I rounded one turn I heard Les cheering me on from his volunteer post, “Less than a kilometer, Karen. Go!” I thanked him for the kick-in-the-butt and he said that’s what he was there for.
In the last km I pushed just a little bit more, and encountered Gabino and he chased me to a bridge with his camera. You know you’re a Penguin when a camera-toting director can keep up to you while you race. He told me that Dawn was just ahead, so I savoured that tidbit of info and kept my eyes peeled for pink. With less than half a km to go I spotted her and shouted “Dawn, get going or I’m gonna kick your BUTT!” She just chuckled and whipped out her camera to catch a shot of mine. Technically I didn’t really lap her, as I’d gotten a head start. She’d started with the 4k crowd a couple of minutes after me.
I finished to a chorus of hoots and hollers from assorted friends and volunteers. Karin had just finished a little while before me, and we basked in race-finish afterglow. The finish line crew was on the ball, and had a shepherd to help me through the stick/sticker ritual.
I hugged Dawn shortly after her finish and headed up to the school for soup and dessert. Normally I would have leisurely hung around the finish, food and various announcements a little longer, but instead I changed into my super-mom cape and drove across town a couple of times on chauffer duty.
One down, nine more to go in my goal of perfect attendance in this year’s Grand Prix. If you’ve read this far, thanks for hanging in there with me! If you’re in town on October 21 and want to try this for yourself, let me know. That’s the day of the Confederation Park 3x4k relay and I’m looking for team mates.