With the coming of the unpredictable Ottawa spring, countless locals, pasty from the winter dark, don their shorts and skirts for the summer. To distract attention from the mass of reflective white bodies suddenly in evidence, the community came up with a wonderful idea: hold a massive running race weekend in May. Thus was born the National Capital Race weekend. A number of XC Ottawa members, our no-longer-spandex-covered bodies just as pale as everyone else's, decided that these races would be a great opportunity to stay in the competitive groove and wake ourselves up a bit for a long summer's training.
Karl, Arno, Sheila, and myself elected to do the Nordion 10km race. These races are unlike anything we do in skiing, with upwards of 5000 starters all together. In addition, they go out of their way to attract top runners from countries like Kenya, which gives the running equivalent of lining up at a start with Norwegian World Cup skiers. Despite the congestion, we four managed to bump into one another at the start line, dispensing some last minute words of encouragement, wisdom, and sympathy. At long last, the horn went to start the multitude moving. The course started down Elgin St. in downtown Ottawa, which had been closed for the occasion and was packed down both sides with spectators - it was an amazing feeling to have crowds of people cheering everyone on. I decided to stick with my original race strategy, which had two main points: 1) run with Karl, and 2) don't die. Unfortunately, the two seem to be mutually exclusive.
After leaving Elgin, the course followed the Rideau Canal down Queen Elizabeth driveway, and I followed Karl, who seemed to be running strong - too strongly for me, in fact, for I had to settle in drafting with a group about 10 metres behind his. As the wind was in our faces, this drafting helped save energy and, I reasoned, on the return trip we would have a tailwind, which could help with chasing, right? Right? Wrong. The course took a right turn under Bronson bridge and up a climb over the bridge, before turning around on the other side, after the halfway point. Somehow, turning around increased the headwind, blowing us back down the canal. As I watched Karl's blue shirt pull away, I could only blink back a tear, and focus instead on how cool the 5-year-olds cheering on the side of the road were.
I fortunately found a second wind, which made the finish much more fun than it could have been, but regardless of finish, I don't think there was any way not to enjoy this race. In no other event are there spectators at every point on the course, cheering for everyone. In no other event is there such a broad range of participants, thanks to the simple nature of running. In few other events are there so many volunteers doing so much work.
I think I'll try again next year - maybe there'll be a tailwind…