When I first arrived in Calgary back in the summer and started looking into running races I was told that one of the most desired races to participate in was the Melissa’s Road Race. It is held at the end of September, this year being on Saturday, Sept 28th. I was told it sells out within 2 hours so you need to be right on top of it when registration opens. So intrigued of its popularity I put it on my Races To Do list for next year.
To make a long story a little shorter, three weeks ago I was given the opportunity to buy a Melissa’s 10k bib off my sister’s friend. Now I was already registered for a 10k race the Sunday before but I figured what the heck, I can make this a practice run. One of the great things about this race is that it allows for Bib ownership changes which is great. The only other race I know that does this is Around the Bay. Personally I think more races should accommodate this.
One interesting fact about Melissa’s race it is that it is truly a running race and offers two events, the 10k and 22k event. Due to tight road closure restrictions within Banff, the event is not able to accommodate any walker participants. Mike noticed how strict they were with this when they started opening the road before the last stragglers even made it to the 1km mark.
Given that I wasn’t planning to do this race, I had not trained at all for what was to come. As you will note I had to climb a mountain – eek. It brought back fond memories of the Huntsville Half that I didn’t end up running due to injury and being grateful I was spared such an experience. In the end I think Huntsville Half is still more gruelling. Regardless I was going to enjoy this race and let the cards fall where they may.
The race started at 10.30 am and given I had no idea what to expect and that parking would be at a premium we left at 7.45 am and arrived just after 9 am. To our luck we found a great parking spot that was had a 3 hour free parking window. The instructions to the start line were a little vague so we (the family) just followed the crowd of runners hoping they would get us to the starting area.
The race couldn’t have been in a better back drop as you stood in the venue field with mountains surrounding you with snow already on their tops but the trees and overall vegetation was still alive with lots of rich colours.
I had picked up my bib on Friday but you were to pick up your race shirt on the day off, so off I went. Despite the 4000 participants, most of them in line to pick up their bib, I easily picked up my race shirt. It was a little disappointing for it was a white cotton long sleeved shirt, not even a v-neck, with the Melissa’s Road Race log on the front. A shirt that wouldn’t get any use. This is the second race that I have done that has given out cotton shirts 😦 I then made sure I got my beer ticket to make Mike happy post race.
I usually shy away from participating in any organized race warm-up and instead would do my own thing involving running a couple of kilometers and doing some light stretching but there was really no easy way to accomplish this so I got my groove on with London. Thank god there is no video or photos documenting this. It did the trick though in terms of being warmed up and reinforcing I am not that coordinated in the dance department.
Then it was time to make our way over to the Start Corral. To my pleasant surprise they had race bunnies for both the 10k and 22k event and people seemed to be lining up based on their desired pace and end time. Given that this was going to be a practice run I debated – do I run with the 60 minute pace bunny, or the 1:10 or do I go in between? In the end I thought let’s start with the 60 minute pace bunny and then I can always drop back. I set the goal of finishing in 1:05 but would be secretly thrilled with 1:02.
So off we went with me pretty much glued to the 60 minute pace bunny. I told myself to pretend that this pace bunny was my personal running partner and she was going to make sure I got up and over the mountain that was coming. The first km we were on pace but slowed down a bit on the second kilometer because of the scheduled walk. At first I was thinking oh man I should have set my goals a little higher, so far this was very doable but then I had to eat my words or at least choke on them a bit as we started to ascend up the mountain.
I called on my hill running legs and managed with effort to get up the mountain wondering when we would come to the top, for then there would be a sweet slide down the other side. The crest finally arrived and I flew down the hill like a bat out of hell making up time that I lost on the climb but then was rudely confronted with another uphill climb that I was not prepared for mentally. I had to bid my personal running assistant farewell as I walked up this second hill. At this point the road was divided into two – runners on the left and walkers on the right. An equal representation of each on both sides. I vowed though next year to be on that left side running up this second peak.
At some point near the top I took up running again and eventually another descent was before me and once I again I was determined to let my legs fly like there was no tomorrow and prayed that I wouldn’t trip. It was an exhilarating feeling flying down the hill and knew that I was in for a world of hurt the next day with my quads. Surprisingly though as I write this two days later there are no memories of what I did on Saturday within my legs.
After this descent I could make out the 60 minute pace bunny ahead, a little too far to catch up but at least she was in my sights. At this point we were only at 6k and I was hoping the descent would have been a lot longer but no such luck. At least the worst was behind me. My strategy from that point on was simply to stop looking at the Garmin and to try to find a good groove. By the 8km mark I was starting to fatigue and at 8.5 km I finally gave myself permission to do one last walk with the agreement to give it my all in the end. A lady passed by immediately after I stopped and she said that I am so close and to keep on going. For some reason that is all the motivation I needed and started not only running again but found a higher gear within me.
At the 9 km mark I told myself not to take it up another notch just yet and tried to hold the pace. I waited until I saw 9.5k on my watch and I ran like my life depended on it. I am not sure why I did this, maybe I wanted to test how much I really had left in the tank or maybe it knowing that pace bunny was just ahead and that just maybe I could get 60 minutes, not the 1:02 I would have been thrilled about.
Well I ended up doing much better than 1:00 and finished in 57:40 – 142/976. I will take it!!!!
Once I caught my breath I realized that once again there were no medals being handed out, again this is the second race I have done without any medals as well as cotton shirts. Hmm. I then went to get some post-race food and the desired beer for my other half. There were no line ups but within 5 minutes the line-ups that formed were insane. It certainly pays to be slightly below the average running time in an event. The post race food was pretty standard – yogurt, granola bars, oranges, bananas, and plain donuts. Nothing to brag about but enough to refuel you immediately and please your kids.
They had a band playing at the venue and eventually they started to give out draw prizes. It was quite chilly out with the wind so we thought it was best if we take-off and instead wander the Banff downtown area, Mike needed his fudge fix and London was anxious to spend her allowance in one of the many candy stores.