So I went back to Truro today; it was only the second or third time I'd taken junction 13 off the 102 instead of just driving through with a steely resolve to look neither right or left as I was en route to somewhere nicer and sunnier; Magog, Coteau du Lac, Ingonish or, God help us, New Glasgow!
It was going to be potentially worse as the race started about 500m from my old place. Short of starting at the AC, this was as bad as it could possibly be. On the other side, I had to bite the bullet and go there at some point.
I was worried about the race too; there were many names in there to be worried about. David Holder has been giving me a kicking all year; dropped me like 3rd period French at the Moose, was sub-3 at Boston and ran away from me at Enfield like I was standing still. Terry Molloy, former provincial champion at the marathon and winner of the Bluenose half in a very good time. Sure, I had the better of him at the St Andrews half in 2005 and he always calls me a "nemesis", but that result was a life-time ago in running terms. Navy Tridents coach Tom Soehl has been running well this year; an 18' at the Lung Run 5K and a 38' at the Bluenose 10 (and that isn't a flat course). All in all, he's running at my speed but to my mind an unknown quantity over the longer distance but that doesn't mean he should be discounted. In fact he was looming large in my mind as the dark-horse. Then I saw Dan Murray, HOTH RD warming up. Dan pushed me hard at Cabot Trail up and over North Mountain and as a cross country skier (like Tom) has the gas to go all day. Still, no Rami, no Ray, no Shawn Deleu, no Denise, no Solomon, no Azuf, no Derek, no Harry (the list goes on, and on).
I counted my blessings that at least the really speedy guys weren't there as we lined up at the start. I still seemed to be at work, helping Luc from Atlantic Chip corral the cats without people crossing the mat. Handshakes all around; really, this is a civilised pastime; we may hate each others guts and wish harm on each other for 60-90 minutes every other Sunday but other than that, we're all friends. We listened to some heart-tugging words from Chris Cashen on the anniversary of his stroke and we were off.
Boy, it was a fast start. Dan, David, Terry together with Matt Callaghan and Ian Holdway. We soon found out Ian was running the ten and discounted him, but we ended up running to the turn with him anyway. The whole front group, with with exception of Ian, was for the half. So we had the long race leaving the short race behind! That's screwed.
We clocked 3:36 for the first kilometer. As a measure of how hard the race was, and how hard it continued to be, the only words spoken between all of us for the duration of the run were
Me: "Is it me, or is 3:30 a little fast?"
Terry: "Not for a 5 K"
Group: (general murmuring of assent)
And that was it.
The group slowly shed members. Actually, the first casualty was Dan's shirt, which he shed after a kilometer or so. Ian kept on breaking off the front, and Matt kept on pulling him back. We all keep on telling Matt he starts too quick and then blows spectacularly. He knows his but still can't rein it in at the start. Oh well, his loss. We let him do the leg-work and drafted him. He fell behind at the 5K mark, as did Dan.
This left David, Terry and I. The view after the 10K turn over the bay of Fundy was truly spectacular, but there was little time to enjoy it. We were knocking out 3:50 kms and were concentrating on staying in a tight little group. Some people said to me later "boy you lot were drafting" (a nod to the triathlon official in me who spends all summer telling people not to draft). Truth be told, we were running so tight, we weren't just drafting we were bump-drafting; there were plenty of inadvertent knees and elbows.
We hit the 10K at 38:02. Last year I did the 10 in 37:55 and my two outings over 10K this year (Pictou Lobster and Shelia Poole) were 38 highs. This pace was possibly too much for me, but I took a leaf out of an article in Triathlon Magazine Canada by Lucy Smith (there's always a Cyclesmith connection) where she talked about not letting negative thoughts into your head during a race. So I focussed on how I felt; relaxed, loose, in control, in the right place, in the mix, leading and not following instead of oh-my-God, I haven't run consecutive sub-4s since Natal Day and that was only for 6 miles not 12 and it nearly killed me.
I had my rough spot between 11 and 14 kms. First Terry and then David hit the front and in both cases I felt they were pulling away, the elastic was stretching and I couldn't get it back. In both cases, I fought back onto the heels in front with the help of the other one, when they thought I was about to let the race get away from us both. I was running like a cyclist; drafting, spending energy now to save more later, drafting some more, running in single file not abreast.
I think I pissed Terry off a bit with this, but as he said later, he's not used to running with a group. There's some truth to this; usually we're spread out to hell and back in ones and twos. Rarely are we in a larger group, and more rarely still is it a fast competitive group pulling complex moves like drafting and through-and-off.
At 14 kms I came around and started to take my turns on the front again. Soon the 10 km turnaround was in sight and knowing there were only 5kms left really made me feel confident.
Terry was tailed off around 16 kms. I don't really know how it happened; one minute he was there, the next he was gone.
Then, there were two.
I didn't want to get into a sprint with David; his legs are longer than mine and will win any sprint by default. I wasn't sure if I had the legs for a long flyer either. So much for having a race strategy. Actually I don't usually have one anyway, I just go out and let the cards fall where they may. However, the cards had fallen and I had no idea how to read them.
With about 2 kms to go there was a little up-and-under where the trail went over a paved road. Somehow here I got a little gap on David, only 10 m perhaps, but over the next few hundred metres the gap didn't come down. So it looked like fortune had forced the race, I sure as hell wasn't giving up a gap with 1500m to go, so I decided to use it.
I slowly raised the pace (I didn't quite have the legs to "boot it" in the classical sense of the term) and eked out the gap. I think I spent most of the last 1000m running scared I was going to hear David's footfalls behind me. After all, for most of the race he had been toying with Terry and I, seemingly letting himself get dropped and getting back on with ease. I was told I didn't look back in that final K. Why would I? I'd shot my bolt, this was all I had. Anyway, somehow, he didn't have the legs to close the gap, and with 400m it looked like I had it. I saw Joshua, Daniel and la belle cheering with 200m to go and I allowed myself a smile and a wave, it was definitely mine now.
I daren't slow up until I hit the line (Eric Zabel in the 2004 MSR anyone?) but I did allow myself to put my hands in the air, celebrate a little and enjoy the finish. Mac reckons I would have been sub 1:20 if I hadn't been aeroplaning down the finish chute like a Premier League soccer play who's just scored a goal. In my defense this was my first win in a year, since the last Run Runners, and I've clocked up nearly 20 races since then, so this felt even more sweet. Winning in front of your children? That's an indescribable feeling. Plus, I didn't expect the win, not with David and Terry et al. A fist-pump from a 40 y.o. age-grouper never looks pretty, but I was releasing some of that tension and that joy at finally getting another win.
Plus, as the first running of the Cobequid Half, this was the de facto course record too. Someone tried to deflate my bubble telling me that folk would be gunning for my "soft" record but this didn't bother me; I'm on the books as having the slowest winning time in the Valley Harvest full ever, and I'm perfectly at ease with that.
I toyed with the idea of finding the Truro Daily News hack and telling him (her) to make sure they captioned my picture with "Andrew Dacanay, formerly faculty at the Agricultural College on Pictou Road until he was screwed over by Hossain Farid", but thought the better of it. Even the Daily News wouldn't print "screwed over". Besides, my erstwhile colleagues will see it anyway and say "Did you ever find out what actually happened? I heard a story that......" and start the chatter and vaguely informed innuendo and that's better than any industrial tribunal.
Besides, I finished the day with this;
Something different to hang the Boston medals off, no?