Melissa’s 2019. Colder, but less snow so I’ll take it.
Race nemesis: the Grey phantom.
Here’s the TL;DR if that’s your thing – I ran a good, solid race but I also feel like I ran a no-risk-no-reward race.
Now here’s the chronological summary, with some foreshadowing right off the bat – I got up in the morning and blew my nose and it bled a little bit. Oh fucking great I thought, just don’t bleed during the race.
But back to the beginning… the race isn’t til 10:30 so I had time for a huge breakfast, hampered slightly by the fact that all the food we brought froze overnight in the hotel fridge. Still, I had some fiber and some protein 3 hours from the race and some carbs 2 hours out. And I think that contributed a lot to my sustained energy through the whole race.
Liv bought me a toque, I caught the shuttle and listened to Frank Turner.
I checked my jacket at bag check and kept warm by moving and watched the thousands of people running the 5 & 10k take off for over 20 minutes. Then it was finally time for the real runners.
I took my caffeine pill. My hypothesis being that if I take it at race-start then it will get into my blood stream mid-race or later and keep me consistent – which again, seems to have worked.
Me and two other guys were the only people with the balls to toe the line. But of course some people burst out and fade, others burst out and don’t fade.
The leader pack thinned out and I was leaving people behind but I couldn’t catch up to someone in full leggings and a grey jacket with their hood up. So I called them The Grey phantom and assumed they had no gender. Eventually they were stopping at water stations and Porto-potties so I was passing them periodically though and it turned out to be a dude, probably in his early 40s. Seems my race nemesis is always someone with an intermittent style, I guess because anyone else consistent like me will have found their place in the chain by mid race and we all move relative to each other.
I saw some caribou again this year, just a whole family of ’em chilling on the golf course. Not as cool as last year when one went across the race course in slowly falling snow silent as a ninja but better than not seeing them.
So around 12k I got the first great endorphin rush but I told myself not to get cocky – I remember how bad the last 4 k were last year. If I could gift anyone my neurology for a moment it would be the testosterone, endorphin, and whatever else cocktail the brain gives off around 12k. The body feels powerful and running hard feels great, your brain fills with war movies and Rocky and hip hop lyrics and it’s fucking rad. You start trash talking other runners in your head and picking people off to leave in your dust. It’s wonderful.
Like I said though, this year and told myself not to get too into it – remember how bad the end of the race crushed me. So I kept it cool, chatted with a few other racers too. We were all taking off our hats and gloves and stuff to cool down then putting them back on when they dried and bit and we were cold again. But it’s not a hassle.
After k15 is when my nose started bleeding. That’s a fucking hassle. And with my blood pressure up it really bled. My gloves got soaked but I did okay keeping it off everything else. Of course it was still caked into my beard though. I didn’t let it worry me though, nothing to be done about it and I didn’t want to lose any time. The body is in fight or flight mode anyway so it’s going to patch up any leaks as best it can pretty quick.
I felt like I was doing good and I was primarily waiting for Cork Screw Hill.
Cork Screw Hill is what killed me last year… because last year after mid-race I was running on fumes, holding on and just telling to not slow down.Which works by the way. You can just pick a pace and not let yourself dip below it for hours. You gotta keep your internal drill sargent firing and just let your body go through the motions. But what happened last year was I forced myself not to lose any pace up the hill. It was a knock-down drag-out fight but I got up Cork Screw Hill at the same pace. Which of course means I’d doubled the power-output needed and when I finally crested the monster I was fucking dead. And the last loop around the park was a death tunnel of me begging for mercy.
Fearlessly fast, fearlessly slow. That’s my motto when need be. So I slowed down up the hill and it was such an emotional test. I did not like doing it. Instead of an internal drill sargent it was internal yoga instructor. Just breathe, just relax, just be here now, trust that this is part of the plan, yes you look like a giant pussy but that’s okay… But I crested the hill feeling fine and at the top caught up The Grey Phantom again – who was dying. And we laughed about the Hill and I told him how it killed me last year as I passed him.
I started the final loop around on the gravel path, still feeling good and still saving some energy expecting to be dead at the final push.
Then I looked up and I was at the final turn and I was like oh shit and started booking it to the finish. I could suddenly hear the finish line announcer and he was saying someone had just finished at 94 minutes on the dot and a volunteer was telling me I had 400 meters left and I just had no idea how I zoned out that hard. The thing is about the end of Melissa’s is there’s a lot going on around you. When you get onto the gravel path there’s straight up pedestrians walking around, there’s cars trying to park, there’s golf carts and tractors and you’re just following the feet of the runner in front of you to not get lost.
I had a lot of energy left in the tank so I got to the line nice and strong and fast but already feeling like I should have pushed harder sooner.
But the real obstacle isn’t the race, it’s immediately after. Last year, you may recall, I just about blacked out from suddenly stopping exercising and being cold and damp in the freezing wind.
So Liv and I had a plan for her to meet me at the finish line with fresh, dry, warm clothes. I crossed the line and started feeling the glassy-eyed darkness and I was like stay moving, Spartan.
I ripped my shirts off and put my sweater on, and something in me was like this is a lot of work just take a lie down brah… but no, this was the true test. I started coughing really bad.
And once I was changed I started feeling better. Next was cleaning the blood off my face. I should have taken my medal selfie first but it slipped my mind until we were actually back at the hotel. I got my medal, my shirt, my beer, and then it was freezing so we had to take off. The weather was supposed to be worst around noon and it was.
Which is a bummer, I hate leaving the festival atmosphere after an event but there really wasn’t one this year. It was cold, and dark, and getting colder and darker. And snowing.
Thing is though, leaving so quickly added to the impression that the race was just a thing to get done. We executed the pre-race plan, I executed the race plan, and we executed the post-race plan. The whole thing kind of went by on paper. We had quite seriously done a completely frivolous thing.
Naturally, I chased the feeling of celebration into complete hedonism. After we got cleaned up and changed we hit the English pub, I got my usual prime rib at Park Distillery, and then we went to the official after-party then toddled off to bed.
Dealt with a garbage breakfast and a slog of a drive home and that’s Melissa’s 2019. Will there be a Melissa’s 2020 for me? I had said no before this race but when Liv and I were talking we agreed that we need some reason for Banff weekend every year, why not Melissa’s?