Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Post Tely race-mortem

I'll say this much: Waking up for a race at 5:30 in the morning makes for a long day. In short, the Tely 10 race went reasonably well. More on that later. The day after racing I went for a hike along the East Coast Trail, from Cape Spear to Maddox Cove, (then into Petty Harbour and finally into the Goulds). That walk put me over the edge. I'm officially tired. And tonight is a bachelor party of sorts, so I'm avoiding excess leg movement; it's 2 pm and I haven't left the house. That gives my time to write out some memories before they fade.

Let me review the Tely 10 race, both from a personal point of view and more objectively speaking.

Organization: The race planning was improved this year from last. You can tell this from the little things that go right, such as baggage drop-off, which last year went terribly wrong when only one bus showed up, and on a stormy cold day when much baggage was in need of checking. This year they had five buses ready from 7am onwards. Well done.

Everything else went off without a hitch. After the traditional 'Ode to Newfoundland' was sung, the race began promptly at 8 am. Volunteers handing out water were much appreciated in one of the warmer/sunnier Telys in recent memory. Slight breeze to our backs also meant excuses were scarce. The course was clearly marked, lots of spectators, and no traffic issues thanks to good policing of the intersections. As Matt Loiselle said after winning in 48:08 "A lot of courses, even in Toronto, you’re running and you’re hearing the crickets chirping. Not here". Very true. Even the first few miles were lined with onlookers. It helps when a city collectively favours a race; it means few people complain about roads closed to traffic (except for this comically cranky comment posted at end of the a Telegram article).

Small quibble: the running t-shirts this year weren't great quality (compared to last year's really nice ones) and they ran out of them too early (insert "the food is terrible / And in such small portions!" joke here). This might not even be anyone's fault; I believe they were caught off guard by the sheer number of new racers. Predicting the unprecedented is certainly an art.

But regarding the record number of runners, one question remains: Why is the bib pickup time so short and the venue so sparse? There are thousands of people claiming stuff, yet nothing merchandize-wise to keep anyone there for more than five minutes. The total time for claiming baggage is 90 minutes on Thursday and another three hours on Saturday and all done in an open, otherwise empty curling rink. Why are no potential sponsors using the extra floor space? Scotiabank is taking control of this race, but there's room for other names on banners, in goody bag bonuses, etc. The race coverage itself is hosted by a newspaper. Why is no-one else is taking the opportunity to affiliate their logo with the Tely?

I like to compare the Tely to a mini Boston Marathon: both races are generations old, no shorter races are hosted the same day (i.e. 5/10 ks), in both starts they drive everyone up to the far outskirts of town in a parade of yellow school buses, and both courses are mostly downhill (with a short climb 3/4 into the race). Perhaps some day, like Boston, organizers might consider having qualifying times too?

]There have been a lot of new tweaks to the race these past few years: online registration and prize money in 2008, a permanent start line and finishers medals (both in 2009?), course record bonus money in 2010, and permanent mile markers in 2011. Lots of potential ideas to be had. Might I suggest the markers be made bigger? I missed seeing all but two of them.

Another potential suggestion (actually a friend Scott's): the prize stage. If you spend thousands of dollars setting this stage up for awards, and everyone is standing around for an hour waiting until the announcer starts the trophy handout, why not use this hour for some entertainment in the meanwhile? Hire a local band, (even a school band) and play some music. The stage is just going to waste otherwise, not unlike the curling rink.

Ok, one more suggestion: add some poles with letters/numbers scattered about the baseball finisher's field to help with family render-vous. With 3600 runners it's getting hard to find people. If there's some tall markers people will be very appreciative (also encourages them to hang around near the stage, if so desirable).
Minutes away from Tely 10 start 

My own experience would be tied into the ten miles between Paradise and Bannerman Park. The miles went by quite well, all things considered. A small injury in my right leg was easily ignored, so after the gun I ran with Colin and Matt. Neither had any reason to consider me a threat, but I had to try for at least a few minutes to know their pace. Then tiredness set into my legs and I relented. Others were close behind me. Any slack would lose my third place potential. Thankfully after mile two, when Colin and Matt were well ahead and fourth was safely behind, I kept pace within myself or, in other words, autopilot. Mile six went by at 30:11, which is probably as fast as I've ever run six miles (roughly equivalent to a 31:30 10k). Thereafter, beyond the few uphills and a couple downhills was the finish, where my parents, out-of-town friends and fiancĂ© (naturally) were waiting for me in a time of 51:11. It was four seconds outside the top 25 all time list. Bah. Will have to run next year faster.

No matter; it was a nice finish, the morning was nice too, sunny enough to almost fry my brain. Later that afternoon I spent at my finace's parent's place eating a lot and canoeing some. All like it was a different day.
Just to throw in some numbers, here's my six Tely finishing times compared with Colin Fewer's last nine outings (with victories in 2005-2011). I'm excited to finally be in the same ballpark. Though with Matt's arrival/victory this year, the days when a time north of 50 minutes could win might be over. Better train some more.

A little side-by-side comparison of running times progression

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