This morning, I ran my first serious race of the 2019 outdoor season: the Bum Run 5k.
I’d first heard about the Bum Run from Alex Hutchinson, who won the race for three straight years in 2015–2017. Apparently the race had big cash prizes but was somewhat under the radar, so these prizes were within reach for runners like me. I was curious, but also a little leery of stepping on toes. But a few weeks ago Alex told me he didn’t plan on running it this year. Then Jay, Simon, and Phil from my club expressed interest in forming a team and running it together. I was in.
The prizes weren’t so great this year — in fact, it wasn’t really clear what they would be, beyond possibly involving Saucony shoes — but there was plenty to get excited about nonetheless. The route was appealing to me: starting in Queen’s Park, then heading around the U of T campus before looping back along Bay Street and St. Michael’s College, it was close to home and passed many of my favourite spots in the city. My friends would be there. And the race, which is run in support of colorectal cancer research, has a very good sense of humour. For instance, there was was a gigantic inflatable rectum at the start/finish today, big enough to walk through. Truly “a 5k to get behind,” as their tagline goes.
Leading up to the race, I received several anatomy lessons — none, thankfully, rectum-related.
Since I’ve become a runner, I’ve learned a lot about my body. I now know the names of hundreds of ligaments, tendons, muscles, and joints — because I’ve injured them. I’ve been pretty lucky with injuries — no major injuries in my three years of running, knock on wood — but I’ve had my share of aches and pains in my ankles and feet. Leading up to Boston last year, I pulled my flexor hallucis brevis and had to take a week off. Last summer, something terrible happened to my plantar fascia, thankfully resolved once Coach Paul told me about massaging them with a lacrosse ball.
Well, two weeks ago, I started to feel something painful on the outside of my right foot. I noticed it especially when my shoes were tied really tight — something that’s often the case with me, because my weirdly-shaped feet (super long second toes) force me to buy shoes too big for me. I brought this up with Coach Mike at a track workout last week and he immediately cut my workout intensity way down and made me promise to take the weekend off running. He was afraid it was a stress fracture, and so naturally I was too.
I iced it the next day, my usual day off, and took lots of Advil, and it was feeling fine by the end of the day. It definitely didn’t exhibit the sharp pain symptoms of stress fractures. So I defied Mike’s proscription and ran my usual Mount Pleasant tempo, which I ended up doing in record time. I kept icing it and taking Advils for a couple of days, just to be sure, then thought I was over it. But then other parts of my foot started hurting throughout the week, and after a hard track workout on Tuesday and a hardish “fartlek” on Thursday, my whole foot was hurting by Friday, including the outside once again.
I’d tried massaging it with the lacrosse ball earlier in the week, but hadn’t felt anything. Well, I tried again on Friday, and zing — it felt insanely painful. This was actually a good sign. Whatever was going on was finally “massageable.” I lacrosse-balled the hell out of it Friday and Saturday and, though still painful, I could see it was getting better.
(I’d write about my annoyingly persistent cold here, too, but I can see how boring this section is getting. Suffice it to say: three weeks after getting sick after the Spring Run-Off, I’m still coughing up phlegm for some reason. It’s getting better, though.)
The worst part of the Bum Run is definitely its way-way-way-too-early start time, 8am. Given that I like 2.5 full hours before a race to eat, give my digestive system a chance to do its thing (you know what I mean, Bum Run), and warm up, that meant waking up at 5:30. My natural wake up time is around 9 or 10am. This was not ideal.
But (pun intended) two things can get me out of bed earlier than that: running and watching live European sporting events. Mount Pleasant tempos and Spring Classics have been doing that lately.
Today, it was a two-for-one: I had to be up at 5:30 anyway, and the London Marathon action would just be heating up around then.
I dragged myself out of bed, googled “bbc one live stream,” found one that worked, got out my beet juice and saltine crackers, and settled in. (I had to spend some of the time massaging my foot, which had tightened up over night.) I had exactly enough time to watch the women’s and men’s elite races conclude before jogging to the start line to meet Jay.
I knew exactly what I was dealing with with this race. It’s run in my back yard, basically. And I had previewed it not once but twice. To the non-Torontonian it probably looks like a pretty flat course. To an insider, it’s fraught with peril. The second kilometre, up Spadina, is steadily uphill. The Bloor Street section is never quite flat, descending into and rising out of creeks buried but not forgotten. The last bit is mostly downhill, but has a steepish uphill northward section on Queen’s Park and an overpass to deal with.
The weather was not ideal. It was 3 degrees at race start, with a significant north wind and a windchill of 0. I wore my Tracksmith wool base layer and my half-tights and felt comfortable throughout.
Anyway, I knew my strategy and my goal. Steady on the first km, ease off a bit on the Spadina uphill, push all across Bloor Street, and then hammer from the corner of Bay St. to the end. If I was on a good day, I could get a PB and maybe even go under 16:00 — especially since I was wearing my magic Vaporfly shoes.
Things got off to a good start. I lined up with Jay, Simon, and Phil, and got off to a controlled start, running my first kilometre in about 3:08, right on best-case-scenario goal pace. My watch beeped about 30 metres before the 1km marker, though, which was immediately annoying. I was drawing distance information from my meticulously-calibrated Stryd footpod to eliminate the GPS problems presented by the tall buildings along Bay St — so I was pretty confident in my equipment. Had I already run my tangents off to the extent of messing my distance up by 30 metres? Or were the kilometre markers in the wrong spots? Not useful thoughts on a race course.
As I was nonetheless thinking them, I turned right on to Spadina. I was in about fourth or fifth position, behind a group who’d gone out really fast. I noticed that several of them were slowing and focused on pulling them back as I headed up to the Athletic Centre (where I did all my indoor workouts this winter — nostalgic associations). Eventually, I pulled back one or two of them — but then looked down at my watch I saw I was only moving at about 3:30/km. By concentrating on catching those runners, I’d lost track of how fast I was actually going. Fatal mistake. When my watch beeped again, it said I’d run my second km in 3:25. Sub-16:00 was already out of reach.
I accelerated along Bloor Street and passed everyone but the person in first place, who was by now well out in front. Nevertheless, I ran the third km in 3:18 — not nearly fast enough. By the time I hit Bay Street, I really did start to hammer. I ran my fourth km in 3:05 and my fifth in 3:08 (and that included plenty of uphills and the overpass). Clearly, I’d left too much in the tank. I finished in 16:21, only one second off my PB, but disappointing nonetheless.
My consolation was that the course really did seem to be mismeasured, or else I ran really lousy tangents, because my Stryd had me at 5.11km total, crossing 5km in 16:03 — which is pretty amazing given how horribly slowly I went out. Strava gave me an “estimated best 5k” time of 16:00, which was generous. Still, I know I could have raced better.
My fitness is good, but I have a lot to learn about racing and pushing myself.
Anyway, on a cheerier note: I did really well in terms of placing. I got 2nd overall, 1st M35, and my team (“UTTC”: Jay, Simon, Phil, me) came first. Also, I got my first ever prizes. Sadly, no cash. Sadly, nothing I personally am interested in having or using. But the prize — about $200 of Lululemon clothes — through fully included a gift receipt, which I will turn into a gift card for my mom, who loves their stuff. Which is nice.
I’m now debating whether I should run the Sporting Life 10k in two weeks, possibly hammering the first 5k in an attempt to set a PB and then dropping out… But I’ll probably just refocus on my actual goal of running fast 1500s this summer and return to base building and hard aerobic workouts. To that end, I’ve spent the afternoon reading Chris Lear’s book on Allan Webb, Sub-4:00. It’s already got me pumped for middle distance.