This has been a great fall for running – cold and windy, yes, but it has been dry, and being dry is always good. So, when the Egg Nog Jog looked like it was about to sell out weeks ahead of time, I decided to take my chance on registering for this typically cold and snowy December race. Until Saturday, even with areas surrounding Oakville being blasted with flurries, I thought my second-last race of the year was going to be dry. Even when I went to bed in the wee hours of the morning (I never sleep well the night before a race), I thought the skies would be clear when I got up. But when I woke, it was pouring.
“Great,” I thought. “A 45 minute drive with Daddy and the boys to race in the cold rain.” But, no one complained. We picked up Shawn who also commented on our squirrel-like brains but the five of us headed north.
As soon as we got north of Highway 7, we saw the snow that had been predicted. Closer to the venue, we also started to see signs of the hills we would have to climb for 10.8 kilometres. To make things more interesting, the roads were covered in ice and the rain showed no signs of relenting.
The Egg Nog Jog is described as the toughest road race in Ontario. The start has a fast downhill for the first 2K, but the climb is gradual until the 9K mark, where the roads gently roll to the finish. The total ascent is approximately 150 metres; when friends see the elevation map, they only comment “Wow!”
My strategy was simple enough: go out slowly and don’t let anyone pass you. This was easy enough because of the ice. As soon as we got to 2K, almost all of the runners stayed on the 12 inch wide pathway that our feet trenched through the roads. Basically, for the rest of the race, it was a game of “Follow the Leader”. If you wanted to pass people, you either had to run on the gravel shoulder which was covered in wet, slushy snow so that your feet sunk or run on the icy roads and hope you don’t slip. I divided my time evenly between the runner-made path and the snow-covered shoulder.
Once we started to climb the hills (from 2K to 9K), I was able to pass people. I was more concerned about getting ahead of the women and I had no idea where I was in placing. As long as none of them got ahead of me, I felt I’d be in a good position. I chased down (or “up” for this route) all that I could; one gal was far enough ahead that I could close the gap, but I needed a few more kilometres to pass her.
I was glad that I didn’t have to chase down the guy from the Matrix who was at the Chilly Willy; his coat would have been impossible to run around here. Instead, though, I had to follow some guy who had his own gap to narrow – the one between his shirts and tights. I noticed him around the 5K mark and, as I got nearer, I wondered how he could possibly run wearing tights in which the waist was wrapped halfway down his butt. Yes, I saw his crack! Seriously! Now, even on the best butts, that just isn’t a good view. If nothing else, this drove me to pull away from the ladies behind me and move ahead of him and, once ahead, I ran further and further away.
At 9K, I heard the engine coming from behind me: the grader. It had to be the same grader that did a U-turn on a country road at the 6K mark, realizing that there was no way he could safely plow the roads. By 9k, the ice was becoming slush from the rain, and the grader was in a hurry to go somewhere. Once it passed me, I felt compelled to run after it. Fortunately, the course was downhill at that point so I was exhaling much more than the gas fumes I was breathing in for the last mile.
I crossed the finish line, feet soaked (my shoes are still drying out, a day and a half later) in a time of 50:10. Knowing what the elevation was like, I thought I’d finish in 46 to 47 minutes to account for the hills. However, Shawn did finish in that time-frame – and he was shooting for 43 minutes. Hubby finished in 1:06. Really, our times were irrelevant.
What did matter, though, was placing. I finished 2nd in my age group (40 to 49), earning a nice little gift card to “Feet In Motion” in Georgetown. I can’t wait to check the store out for foam rollers, sticks and other “must haves” to get through winter running. Once again, Shawn finished fourth in his.
The course was one of the toughest courses that I’ve ever run. Conditions were harsh – frozen roads, slushy shoulders and cold, wet rain – and the hils were brutal. Would I run it again? Absolutely! Now I know what to expect so I can better prep for the hills. Besides, this year’s time is only good for this one event; I can’t compare it to any others. So, I need to put another 10.8k on the books and watch, hopefully, for new course PB next year.