Last night I ran the Midsummer Night’s 30k. It was my first time doing it, which takes you through the docks, Cherry Beach, the Leslie Spit, and Ashbridges Park. My plan heading into the race was to use it as a measuring stick for where I’m at with my Chicago training. I figured if I could hold the pace I plan to run in Chicago for 30k, then over the next 8 weeks I could develop the endurance for the last 12.2k.
- Run no km 4:10 or higher
- Be light on my feet
- Keep foot turnover high
- Finish FAST
We arrived at the race at about 5:00PM for a 5:30 start. I didn’t do much of a warmup, maybe 600m total with a couple short stride accelerations. I took a gel at 5:10PM and then waited for the start. In my head I was thinking if I had a good day 2:01:XX could be in the cards, but thought something closer to 2:03:00 was more realistic. I knew my first km or two would be fast but the plan was to settle into my rhythm by the time I was done 2k because 30k is a long way to go.
In terms of nutrition a night race caused a few problems. Over the last couple weeks I’d had stomach issues when I’d run in the evening. For breakfast Saturday morning I had scrambled eggs with turkey sausage on a white bun. I had a white bagel with almond butter and honey for lunch. I also had a couple of rice cakes with almond butter, a rice crispy square, and a Cliff bar as snacks throughout the day. During the race I planned on taking a gel around 10k and 20k. I didn’t know if this would work but I’d cross my fingers and hope for the best.
I positioned myself near the front of the pack at the start (I knew from previous years results to not expect too many runners under 2:05). The horn sounded and we were off. The pack strung out very quickly and there were about 8 runners in front of me. Before I knew it we passed our first km marker, I’d run a 3:42. Fast, but I knew that would happen. The second km of the race flew by just as fast, 3:50. Still fast, but my legs felt surprisingly light; I barely felt like I was working. I wasn’t going to force myself to run slower than my legs wanted to go, I was comfortable, breathing fine and light on my feet. My pace cooled down a bit (high 3:50’s) and I passed through 5k in 19:24.
Just passed 6k we were out onto the Leslie Spit. It was windy heading out (which would provide a tailwind coming back). I was in behind a couple other runners but their pace seemed to be slowing. My first km on the Spit was 4:01, this was my first km over 3:59 in the race. At this point I decided to run past the guys I’d been tucked in behind. My next 4km out to the far end of the spit were also just above 4:00/km. At this point I was 11k into the run and was about 29sec faster than 4:00/km pace.
The next few km’s were uneventful and I crossed 15k in 59:11. Halfway home and I only needed a 4:03 average to come in under 2:00! I still wasn’t sure how my body would hold up but my legs didn’t feel too bad and my lungs weren’t overworking. As I ran off the spit and towards Ashbridges Park the course again was empty. I could see someone a few hundred meters ahead, and though I didn’t both looking back I didn’t think anyone was that close behind me. As I made it into the park I began a zig-zagging run through the parks paths. The course was poorly marked and at times I wondered whether I was running the right way. According to SportStats I crossed a timing mat near the 21k mark at 1:22:26 in 10th place. My legs were getting heavy, but I was still managing to tick off the km’s under 4:00.
As I weaved through Ashbridges Park I saw someone in a maroon singlet who had dropped off his earlier pace. This was the first person I passed since the early km’s and gave me a bit of a boost to keep going and to try and catch anyone else who’s pace may wain in the latter stages of the race. My next target I spotted as I turned back onto the Lakeshore. It’s a long, straight stretch and there was a white tshirt that was about 400m ahead of me. I was still running really well and used catching him as a motivation to continue to keep my leg speed up. I caught the white tshirt around the 25k mark and wanted to put a stamp on the pass to discourage him from trying to pass back so my pace for that km was 3:48.
The final 5k was tough; my legs were getting really heavy, the pads of both of my feet hurt, and the course was clogged with 5/15k runners and walkers who were taking up the entire lane. A number of the racers I passed were nice enough to call ‘Runner on your left’ to help clear the way, but there was still a lot of congestion.
With about a mile to go I made a turn onto the final stretch. As I made the turn I saw Lisa, who had come out to cheer me in. I began to accelerate. I didn’t know if anyone was behind me (the course had too many people on it in the various races) but I thought I saw another 30k runner in the distance. As I began to accelerate I felt like there was no limit and I could keep getting faster. With about 800m to go I’d caught the singlet in the distance who I could have sworn was up the road from me just a minute ago. This close to the finish line I definitely wanted to make the pass stick. I continued to run faster and with about 500m to go I noticed another singlet ahead of me. I didn’t know if I had enough time but I was going to give it all I had. Sure enough just before I made the turn into the finish chute I had passed him too. As I made the turn I saw the finish line and did my best to sprint. I ran through the line and immediately needed to grab the fence to help steady myself. I looked down at my watch and saw that I had just run my final km in 3:22! That is the fastest I’ve ever run a km.
Post Race (1:57:17, 3:55/km)
I covered 30km in 1:57:17 for a 3:55/km pace which was good enough for 6th place. I’m really happy with the race, I feel like it was a breakthrough for me. I didn’t really consider sub2:00 a possibility coming into it. 24 of my 30 1km splits were under 4:00, mentally this was a big win for me. I still think of sub4:00 over any distance to be fast, so to be able to do that over a 30k really had me surprised with my performance. Even though I was exhausted at the finish line I felt like I recovered relatively quickly in the finish area. This race has caused me to re-evaluate my goals for Chicago. I still have 8 weeks left to get ready and now the 2:48:48 marathon time that I hold in such high regard could be my new target.