Final Place:        146 / 487 (Top 30%)
Final Time:        40:21.25:01mins/km pace
Gender/Age Finish:    116 male, 29th Men 30-39
Overall: pleased for it’s size.  Worthy of a serious runners time, but not as a major event.  A decent tune up race.
Pros:
* Nice tune up for the 10 miler
* Scenic
* Decent swag for the event’s size
* Best food at any race I’ve been to
* An evening race is an awesome way to break the 5am Sunday mould for race start times
Cons:
* Longish hill at the end may walk some
* Not enough information when more could and should have been provided
* “Oops” at the second water station
* Late start thwarted warmup
* Yet another cotton t-shirt
Would I do this race again?  Oh yes.

I first decided to do this race very early in the year after looking around for all the races I could possibly lay out for the summer months.  Yumke’s blog entry reviewing the 2009 event was quite positive, so I made this 5 miler–now past its 25th iteration–my June race and the tune-up for July 11th Distillery District 10 miler.  Unfortunately, the race website was simplistic and provided very little data, especially for a first timer at this event.  The race course map, for example, was pleasantly cartoonish, but impossible to read very closely, there were no data on how many water stations or where they were being placed and the usual plethora of pre-race announcements I’m used to from larger events was simply lacking.  If data literally can’t be provided by race directors, I’d at least like to know why so I when I grumble about it, I can at least do so sympathetically.

If you’re arriving by TTC to this event, give yourself plenty of time to traverse the distance from the Exhibition Grounds’ streetcar stop and the race site.  It took me something in the area of 20+ minutes to do so, although this was partly due to G20 security related delays, (the horse palace was crawling with cops, who directed pedestrians in a longer route around the grounds).  I arrived nearly 2 hours before the start, giving me plenty of time to pick up my packet, warm up and enjoy the site before the starting gun.  In an annoying turn of events, the actual start time was postponed by approximately 15 minutes, forcing myself and others to stand around in the corral doing nothing while heart rates slowed and muscled cooled.  Announcements were presented via everybody’s least favorite form of public address: muffled megaphone from too far away to hear anything effectively.

The race begins with a confidence-building downhill run along the side of lakeshore boulevard and returns on roughly the same gradient, in reverse of course.  Old timers in the starting corall near me advised younger runners about the return leg.  It incorporates a 250 metre hill with a moderate grade–not so hard on its own, but its placement in the last kilometer of the race made it a challenging obstacle.

The course was partly on well marked road for the outbound leg,  but narrow in places-and shared with pedestrian traffic.  This is what I like to call a “semi-closed” track, versus a full closure of the road/track during major events, or an “open” course like your normal daily training runs or disorganized events.  The course itself is a loop from Marilyn Bell park on the edge of lake Ontario, along the waterfront and back again, undulating in places and covering several kinds of terrain.  There is a beautiful, senic bridge to enjoy at the turnaround, if you’re still in a condition to enjoy things at that point. Later in the return leg it was with tremendous frustration that I found us running through deep, energy-sapping beach sand for a short distance around the 4 mile point.

Two aid stations were provided, one each on the outbound and return legs.  On the return leg, just as I was desperate for a drink, the volunteer I’d “picked” twisted suddenly as I went to grab the cup, spilling all but a few dribbles of water.  On such a short race, there simply wasn’t time to go back and get another.

Finally, that hill came up.  I’d run it earlier in my warm up jog and had actually raced up it during last year’s Waterfront Marathon, so it didn’t overly concern me.  From the top, however, there’s another 600 metres till the finish, and maintaining one’s pace becomes difficult; increasing it for a final “kick” near the end is arduous, but I did so; it felt like the end would never come, especially those last 300 metros when the finish-line came into view and only approached me from the horizon with lung-busting slowness.

In total there were 487 runners who finished the race, but the weather that day was predicted to be a bizarre combination of high heat, humidity, thunderstorms and, earlier that day….a 5.5 magnitude earthquake in Southern Ontario.  Speaking to the race timing technician guy (what’re these people properly called, btw?) I was told that around 600 or so had actually registered.  Presumably running through a boiling hot thunderstorm after an earthquake only appeals to slightly over two thirds of competitive runners.  The rest are just, y’know, crazy.

I’m pleased to report placing in the top third of all finishers, a result more than meeting with my goal of being in the top half of as many races as possible this year.  I had originally set my race goal of about 40 minutes back by 10% to 44 minutes to compensate for the heat, but I finished in approximately 40:21.  The only other time I’ve run this distance faster was in the first 8k of the Downhill 10k on May 3rd of this year, so given this context I’m very happy with my performance.  Considering the hilliness of this course and its virtually nill net change in altitude from start to finish, I think my fitness is improving markedly.

A race of this small size offers no medals but a ton of freebies were to be had, thanks to sponsors, and the best eats I’ve ever had after a race.  Veggie dogs, krispy kreme doughnuts and carrot cake were plentiful in addition to the usual aspirin-flavoured bagels, fruit and water/gatorade.

I also grabbed an armful of previous years shirts and scored 2 mesh carry bags from the charismatic event MC, who barraged the crowd with all manner of visors, bags, lunch containers etc.  I really hope to see this same guy at events in the future and the Night Crawler next year.

Overall the best tune-up race I’ve ever attended, and at about $25 it makes a great value.

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