Last night I participated in the Banff Winterstart 5 Miler for the first time. I have to say, I doubt it will be my last time!
I headed to Banff with my good buddy Tigger, who was also a Winterstart first timer. We were meeting up with about eleven others from the Cochrane running club, which was awesome. We do like to take over in our nifty neon yellow club jackets!!
Before congregating at the start line a couple of the veteren Winterstart gals handed us some glo-stick anklets, braclets and necklaces. Hmmm, glo-stick you ask?? Why for? Well, let me tell you, Winterstart is not your ordinary race. It's starts at 7 at night, and you run out of the Banff town centre and into the dark streets heading up Tunnel Mountain.
I wasn't sure why the girls brought out glo stuff as I knew we'd be getting a glo-stick at the start. But as we made our way to the start I started to understand. There were tons of people with glo-stick glasses, Christmas lights around them, head lamps and all sorts of fun stuff. Now these were my kind of people!
When I got my glo-stick from the race gal I had an immediate flashback to Ironman...I looked at Tigger and could tell she was thinking the same thing. This time though, running through the dark would be different...for one...we'd be friggin RUNNING! LOL.
The countdown began and finally we were off like a hurd of turtles! As always in a race like this there is a bit of walking and shuffling at the beginning, but soon enough we were running. The Cochrane gang started as a group and then we naturally split up. Janice and I ran together the majority of the race.
Running through town was easy, but once we got past all the streetlights it was hard to adjust the eyes. Cars would be coming towards you and with their headlights glaring in your eyes you'd lose perspective of the road.
In addition, the organizers had arranged little flashing orange construction lights along the road to guide us. A good idea in theory, but when you have hundreds of people running en mass the lights were hard to see and many a runner tripped over them...including Janice. I'm pretty sure she managed to take out a few of them even with me yelling 'LIGHT!!!'. It was pretty funny actually, I'd yell light, then hear her trip and kick a light, then a laugh as she said she'd gotten another one! At least she didn't fall. In fact, I think it almost became a game!
I knew there was a hill on this course, but wasn't sure what to expect. Would it be as long and grueling as Melissa's? Would my Cochrane hill training assist me once again? We were about to find out.
As we rounded the corner onto Tunnel Mountain Rd. all you could see were bobbing little lights. I could tell people were running uphill, but couldn't guess the gradient. As it turned out I rather liked this. There wasn't a visual to psych me out or intimidate me. I just kept my steady pace and let my feet and legs do all the work figuring out where they had to go. There seemed to be several around me huffing and puffing, but I felt quite good. It was dark out so I have no idea of my pace or heart rate, but I knew I was running harder than I would on a Saturday morning run and yet not so hard I wanted to puke my lungs out. A perfect balance I think! haha.
We rounded the turnaround point and headed back. I decided it was downhill so why not pick it up a bit. I didn't have a time goal for this race because as far as I was concerned it was all in good fun. Personally, these are the best races!! It was still hard to see, but it was a blast running downhill in the dark!! We were bobbing and weaving around people and their wee lights, silently praying that there wasn't a pothole, or in Janice's case a construction light, ready to trip us up as we passed the next person. Weeeee!
At the bottom of the hill we turned the corner and headed back onto the main stretch towards the finish. It was then that I reflected on how much has changed in the last two years with my running. I had a lot of strength and felt great. I was challenging myself, but had a ton of energy to do it. I can't wait to be able have this type of steam at the end of a long race!!
Finally I was back into the light of town and only a few blocks from the finish. I picked the pace up a wee bit more, rounded the corner and finished under the strings of white Christmas lights. My time was approximately 49 minutes. Nice! I had a great run and felt awesome!!
After the race they had a gathering in the underground parking of the sponsor hotel. Beer and treats were available and a ton of door prizes were given away too. Alas, I did not win anything. Is all good though, the race shirts, although cotton, are pretty cool.
Later on Paddy, Doug, Tigger and I got cleaned up, had some grub then headed to the Rose and Crown where we met up with Chris and Chantal. A band was playing named Silo, who were awesome and sang a bunch of my favourite alternative rock tunes. I was in head banging, grunge loving, doc marten heaven!! Of course a couple glasses of Jack Daniels, aka the sweet nectar of the gods, were consumed in honour of the race. Then it was time to dance or jump up and down like a maniac, depending on what your preference was... I managed to get Tigger onto the dance floor and into a mini mosh pit that had formed too!!! Hooooyaaaaah!!
What a great ending to a great race!!! Now if only I could have this much energy and feel this good after an Ironman race! LOL.
I'll definitely be back for next years Winterstart!