Eeeeeek! It was finally here! Melissa’s Road Race 2013! Despite some crappy injuries and training setbacks throughout the summer, I was prepared for this to be my best race yet…
I registered for Melissa’s online waaaay back in February, so this had been a long time coming! Race package pickup was fine, uneventful at the Running Room Eau Claire. On a separate but related note: man, do I hate downtown race package pickups. No, I do not want to drive around the neighbourhood 15 times searching for a spot, only to have to go to the parking meter machine, pay $4 for 10 minutes, take the ticket back to my car to put it in the window, go into the mall for 30 seconds to pick up my bib, and go back to the car to drive through all that downtown traffic on a Friday afternoon. …But, I digress. They made everyone test their chipped bibs on the way out of pickup, which I thought was a smart move.
I was in full-on race planning mode the night before: new playlist, outfit selection, packing a post-race bag. For anyone who needs some new fall playlist inspiration, this is what I was racing to:
I had a really terrible sleep – I was just too excited! – and the morning came early. We left 2.5 hours prior to start time in order to negotiate the drive there, entry into the National Park, parking, and a walk to the start line. I had my usual pre-run breakfast of peanut butter toast and some juice, and we were on our way.
The drive was beautiful, as always, but we did encounter two construction-related traffic slow-downs. I got crazy-panicky at both of them: “Do we have enough time? This better be short. Why are they making all of us go into one lane? This really needs to get moving.” In the grand scheme, they were pretty minor and only cost us a couple of minutes each, and before I knew it we were parked and jumping out of the car in Banff! We headed toward the start line, making a pit stop at McDonald’s so that the other half could get some breaky, and I could have one last bathroom break with a toilet that actually flushes and doesn’t make me claustrophobic!
Once we got to the race site, it felt like it took FOREVER before the race started. In reality, it was probably 20 minutes, but I was chilly, and alone, and trying to keep my nerves in check, so it felt like 20 years! I tried to get chatty with people at the start line to pass the time. The Running Room provided pace bunnies for the 10k as well as the Half, so I sidled up next to the 55 min pacer. I knew that was a stretch, but I figured it would at least get me out in front of the walkers, and if I saw the 1 hour pace bunny pass me, I knew I had to pick it up. Finally we started!
Thankfully, I had seeded myself appropriately this year (last year I had to duck and dodge people who were doing run/walk). This was going well so far! That is, it WAS going well, until I crashed. We started the big climb up Tunnel Mountain, and by the time I saw the 3km marker, I was beat. “I think I need a rest. … I think I should stop. … Maybe I will just get to the next water station – maybe they have some food there.” I had packed myself PRO Bolt Electrolyte Chews from my Stridebox, which I planned to eat later in the race for some extra finish line umph, but I couldn’t wait. I started walking, and chowed down. By about 5km we started our descent down the mountain, and I just let it rip. Going downhill really got my knee pain flaring up, but I felt like I had to make up time from all the walking I had done so far. “OK, this sucks. Can I be done now? I’m done. I just want it to stop. … But…I haven’t seen the 1 hour pacer go by yet…?”
We finished the downhill around 7km and from there it’s pretty flat to the finish. I finally started to perk up and felt like I was emerging from the haze. My playlist ran out at 9km, but thankfully we ran by a great band who gave me something to bop along to. I thought I had about 14 songs on my playlist, so surely I was around 1:10. Evidently, the 1 hour pace bunny MUST have gone by me, at some point while I was zoned out. Ah well, it just wasn’t my day. When I turned the corner and saw that the clock said 1:03-something, I was really surprised. This race totally felt like crap…but obviously it didn’t go quite as badly as I thought.
Official time turned out to be 1:03:01. Last year, I was healthy, didn’t take any walk breaks, and also didn’t take any food or water, and finished 1:01:42. So…considering I had a bum knee, a potential fueling problem, and lots of walk breaks, this was actually a pretty decent finish, being only 1:30 off PR pace. It was also my fastest 10k finish this year. …Maybe I’m starting to get my mojo back…
Post-race I snagged my t-shirt (you don’t get these ones at package pickup; you actually have to make it to the start line to get them!), and refueling goodies including juice, yogurt, and a cake donut. We didn’t stay for the festivities – I was starting to get chilled, and the other half was getting bored and cold as well. I’m thankful that he actually pulled out his iPhone to snap a few finish line shots, as the official ones turned out to be overpriced, and just not that great.
…So, that’s the story of Melissa’s 2013! I will definitely be back again next year – I love the competitive crowd that comes out to this race, and the scenery is unbelievable. It’s my most challenging race of the year, but it keeps things exciting, and is always a highlight!
Did you run Melissa’s this year, or have you ever? It’s a great destination race, for anyone looking to make a trip to Canada…! 🙂