After many, many years of not racing in Toronto, I chose the Spring Runn Off 8K to break the drought. It's the first of 4 planned for 2016, the second runs on Mother's Day. This annual run loops up and down the roads and trails through Toronto's High Park. It starts the road racing season in Toronto. I've wanted to run it for quite a few years but injuries kept me from entering. Even this year I had just barely got over a hamstring injury by race day April 9.
We started on a slight downhill section of the ring road that circles and runs through High Park. At around 1K as we looped back toward the Finish Line we encounter the first of the 'bumps'. Not a significant hill but a short, steep rise. Once crested we ran past the eventual Finish Line on our first downhill. Nice....felt good.
A little over a kilometre later it was payback time: The first hill! Still running on fresh legs I felt strong all the way up and even had a little something extra over the top. I still felt great as we again crossed over the Finish Line area and approached the half way mark. Then after a quicker pace down a gently slope, it was a mad dash down the second downhill heading toward the east shore of Grenadier Pond. The trail hugged the pond and brushed the Queensway before heading north back toward the finish. Along the way it flowed up and down over a series of gentle roller coasters. All a preamble for the final climb...500 metres straight uphill to the Finish!
Race organizers have branded this second and final incline, 'Kill the Hill'. They have a timing clock and a timing mat at the base so this 'race within the race' is serious business! I was doing math all the way up striving to beat a mental clock time. Up, up, up...breathing absolutely maxed out as my legs burned with every stride. Approaching the crest with the Finish Line in sight just around a right hand turn, a volunteer shouted out, "20 seconds to go". Truthfully I wanted to slap him but it worked: I dug deeper, found another gear and drove to the finish!
Dun! Killed the hill. Both of them. I finished pretty close to the top half of all finishers and was pleasantly surprised by that even though I was a couple and a half minutes over my target time. I chalked it up to first race jitters...oh, and a couple of hills!
Thanks Navin for some advice you gave me a couple of years ago: 'Just a little faster, just a little faster". It worked!
A great BIG Thank You to Sally for getting out of bed on a frigid cold Saturday morning to drive me to the race and taxi me back home. Couldn't have done it without you!
Until next time...