Monday, September 24, 2012

Lions and Tigers and Runners, Oh My!

This weekend marked a new chapter around our house.  It was the first race our entire household ran together.  Well, almost the entire household - sorry Scooter.

Since my sister is running the WDW Marathon Weekend Half Marathon, and didn't want to end up in the very last corral, we decided that a practice race was in order.  We also wanted Greg to get a decent individual chip time recorded (aka, not dragged down by my slow-ass) so that his corral placement for the Marathon portion of his Goofy Race and a Half would better reflect his actual abilities and also give him a little breathing room.
We chose the Oasis Zoo Run 10K for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was that running through the zoo sounded like a lot of fun.

The morning started out a little... unevenly...  I thought I was organized, I really did, but when it came time to get dressed at 6am, I found I didn't have the right pants laid out, I couldn't find my calf sleeves and I was generally a shambles.  There was breakfast to make, a dog to give his morning pills, walk and last minute details to attend to.  Not the usual race day morning.

We got out the door a good half hour later than we meant to, which meant things were going to be tight getting to the zoo and getting checked in.  We hit pretty bad traffic for the final 2km, so there was a little stress about being able to pick up our packets before things shut down.

Turns out we should have been more worried about checking our race bags from check in.  We pinned on our bibs, consolidated all our bags into one, turned around and the bag check truck was gone!  We were about 5-10 minutes to race start and a good 500m from  our car.  Greg grabbed the bag and ran back to the parking lot to put the bag in the car.  He made it back too late to get in his corral, but Rachael and I were still standing in line for the porapotties, so he joined us there and then joined our corral to start.

By the time we were done with portapotties and in our corral, we were just minutes away from starting.  I synced up my Garmin, wished Greg & Rachael luck, and we were on our way!

The first three kilometres were outside of the zoo.   Running out of the parking lot and a little bit down Meadowvale Road.and doubling back north (where we got to see Greg moving up in the pack and cheer each other along), right on Old Finch Road and then doubling back to a rear entrance for the zoo.

Once we got into the zoo itself at about 3.5km there was a refreshment stop set up with water and PowerAde, and lots of enthusiastic volunteers shouting our names and encouraging us along.  We were pretty far back in the pack, so they had been out there for a while, but they were as enthusiastic as if we were the first runners they'd seen.

After the refreshments, Mother Nature gave us some refreshments of her own in the form of rain.  It was light, and it didn't last long, but it was a fun distraction.  We were running on a dirt/gravel access road at this point - away from zoo guest areas - so we were getting the full splashy experience.

My favourite kilometre had to been the one between 5K and 6K.  Beautiful, lush tree canopy overhead, wide open trail, fresh woodland smells.  It was everything I love about nature.  It's that kind of environment that makes me feel alive.

After 5K, Rachael and I checked in - how are we doing, how are we feeling, that was a good 5K time for us... can we go faster, do we need to slow down.  We both felt strong, so we decided to keep plugging along and maybe pick up the pace a little bit.

We'd been warned that this course was hilly, and it was, but we had expected much worse.  By the time we ever really 'felt' any of the hills, they were pretty much done.  We found it to be very manageable.

Animal-wise, we saw a few once we were farther along into the zoo.  We saw a giraffe having brunch and watching us race by, we saw a rhino, some warthogs and a very ornery batch of water buffalo (Is it a 'batch' for a group of water buffalo?  I'm going to say, yes.).  As I was coming around a corner, I just caught one of the water buffalo charging the fence and ramming it with his head.  I wasn't sure if he was mad at the runners, or the younger water buffalo in the pen, but they were running around their pen like crazy.

Now, the course map shows 3 water stations.  One at 3.5K, one at 7K and one at 8.5K.  I genuinely don't remember there being 3, but there's a very good chance that I had a case of race brain, and forgot one.  Either way, I was glad that I had gone to Mountain Equipment Co-op the night before the race and bought one of these babies:

Not my favourite colour, but it did the trick.  And it was on sale!
Not too bouncy, roomy pocket, good functional bottle with no spills.
Now here's a tip for all you aspiring Course Marshals out there.  Know exactly where you are in the course.  If you're BEFORE 7K, don't say "only 3K to go".  Because when people hear that, and then get to 7K several minutes later...  Well...  That's frustrating.  And by the same token, if you're positioned AFTER 7K, don't say "only 3K to go", either.  Because we heard "only 3K to go" for about a full kilometre, and it made me want to throw Honey Stingers at people's heads.

The final kilometre was mean.  It was all up hill.  Or at least if felt like it.  But the good news was, as soon as it felt like it was all going to be a bit much, boom.  There was the finish line hidden around the corner.

Rachael and I crossed the finish line together with the announcer calling our our names, crushing our lofty goal of 1:30.  Chip time 1:25:57.
Greg was waiting at the finish line for us, and we went together to collect our medals, and through to the food area.  Food!

They had bagels, greek yogurt (yum!) apples, bananas, cookies, and a package of Werther's candies.  Pretty good haul, food-wise.  And very welcome.

This is the mischievous 7K point.
Notice how it is now disguised as the 2K point for the 5K racers.
Sneaky.  Very sneaky.

Here we are, basking the the glow of a race well run.

Greg did great - he ran the 10K in less than an hour!

This is the weirdest pose.
We're trying to duck down so you can see the "Toronto Zoo" sign waaaay in the background.
I would certainly recommend this race to others - it's fun, well organized, and the medal is adorable - this year it featured a Polar Bear Cub.
You get to run on the same course as some very elite Canadian runners (some Olympians) and you're free to spend the day at the zoo with free parking afterwards.  We opted to go home, get warm and nap, but we also received in our race bag a 2 for 1 admission coupon, so we can always go back later.
There was also a 5K, and a Cub Run for kids, so this is also a good race for families to enjoy together.

And in the race bag, there was a card for a very tempting Half Marathon in November...

That medal is so cool!  Tempting... verrrry tempting...

Have you ever signed up for a race, simply because you liked the medal?

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