I always look at a course before racing it. Previewing a course takes the mystery out of racing and gives you concrete landmarks to focus on during the race. Knowing where the hills are, the corners and the straight stretches, including areas likely to be windy or calm is an integral part of setting up a pacing and racing strategy and getting ready for race day. Over the last two kilometres of the race, as the legs start to tire, knowing how long you have to go is a good way to push through the final moments of discomfort.
Here is my take on the course, with tips for both beginners looking for pacing and completion cues, and more seasoned athletes looking for personal best times.
Pacing: very fit runners will be able to absorb the fast start as their legs will be fresh, and be able to take momentum in the small rollers around Yates and Vancouver, but for beginners I would advise to pace conservatively over the first three kilometres of the course so as not to go out too fast with excitement through town, and leaving too much energy on the early stages. The training you have done should give you some idea of your pace, and if in doubt, start on the easy side and build your way through the race.
Start: It’s easy to get excited here with the beautiful inner harbour adding inspiration to the morning. There will be plenty of spectators on the causeway in front of the Empress and along Government. The first kilometer is open and flat along Government to Yates so a good place for competitive runners to get out to a fast start and for the rest of the pack of runners and walkers to find space and a comfortable pace.
1-3K Mark: A right turn onto Yates at 1 km brings the first uphill stretch of the race and the start of the rolling section which lasts for 2 km. Yates is not a huge incline, and it rises and flattens at Douglas, and again at Blanshard. Runners should be thinking ‘light’ and ‘quick and relaxed’ on the hill, working on getting up the rise effortlessly by using the arms well and breathing deeply. Focus on getting to the end of each block well. Novice racers will want to make sure they are running and walking their own race and not ‘sprinting’ to keep up with others in all the excitement. The end of the first uphill section comes just before 2 km at Quadra, and then there is a fast section down around the corner onto Vancouver. Use gravity and try to carry momentum past View Street and up the hill across Fort and to Burdett, where you get to feel the pull of gravity again as you turn left onto flatter Richardson and get to find your rhythm all the way to Moss Street in the heart of Fairfield.
3-4K Mark: Moss Street is a long straight stretch where runners can really start to find a rhythm and enjoy the race in this beautiful neighbourhood. A sharp left at May Street gives a short 20m uphill surge before a 1 km gradual downhill to Memorial and the Ross Bay Cemetery. For athletes hanging on for personal bests, maintaining contact up this little surge will be important. At this point, just before 5 km, the course bounces you onto beautiful Dallas Rd and at this point, you feel you are racing for home. However…
5-7K Mark: This is where the race typically starts to feel hard and participants should expect discomfort to rise and have prepared some strong positive thoughts here. What’s there not to love about the second 5 km of the TC 10K? The only major hill of the race appears right after the 5 km mark, as runners climb past Clover Point (just keep focussing on the top of the hill, pretending there is a magnet with your name on it, pulling yourself up mentally) to wind their way past the bottom of Cook Street and Beacon Hill Park. This section can be windy and knowing that you might be up against a headwind is always good to anticipate. Work on relaxing and being calm into the wind, and know that everybody has the same wind to deal with.
7K Mark: There will be a lot of cheering around the beautiful Beacon Hill Park and when you get to Mile ‘0’ and the Terry Fox Memorial, you start the wonderful fast downhill to Ogden Point. There is about 3 km to go at this point in the race and you can now start counting down the minutes left until you cross the finish line. Knowing that you have 10 or 15 or 20 minutes left to run is positive information! You should feel gravity working for you in the section (“Fly! Glide!”) As you start your push for the finish, and just past the Duck Pond you will be able to see the tall red and white striped towers of the Coast Guard station less than one kilometre away, which stand at about the 8 km mark of the course.
8K Mark: When you get to Ogden Pt and start the journey through James Bay to the inner Harbour, you should be drawing on all your resources to finish as strongly as possible. You can remind yourself to relax, to focus on good form, recall all the dedication and training you have done to get here, tell yourself to be tough. There is only 2 km to go!
9K Mark: Just before 9 km you can see the massive glass topped condo of Shoal Point. Starting here, at Erie, there are seven (7!) corners to run through before the finish! I try to run through these corners like an elastic band, slingshotting past each one. As you get closer, the roof of the Empress comes into view, then the IMAX sign on the Royal BC Museum. As you round the last bend onto the finishing stretch on Belleville, the old Wax Museum building (now the Robert Bateman Centre) is the last main landmark to focus on, and about halfway between you and the finish, before you round the slight curve and see the finish line banners. With people lining the street, finding energy to finish strong is not a problem! It is often the effort of the last two kilometres that makes your race: how deep into the well can your source your inner and outer strength? Celebrate your efforts and soak it all up!
RunforJoy Founder Lucy Smith is a 6 time Winner of the Times Colonist 10K and 19 time Canadian Champion in running and multisport. She has run various incarnations of the course over the last 20 years and looks forward to testing it out as a 52 year old this year!
Here is your eat, sleep, start, pace, and complete race day low down for the TC 10K!
There's a lot to cover, I've left out my usual storytelling and made it brief!
The day before the race, eat well. Eat normal, healthy, wholesome meals, the same as you always would. Do not overeat or undereat. A common favourite pre race meal is pasta with grilled chicken and some veggie. Basic. Potatoes, rice and some protein are also good, as is a tuna sandwich. There is no magic food, just simple and good food that you know works for you.
The morning of the race, get up and have your pre race meal at least 2 hours before the event. Don’t drink more coffee than you are used to and don’t drink a massive volume of water. This just makes for inconvenient bathroom stops.
Try to practice your pre race meal at least once before race day, before a morning training session. A favourite pre race meal is a toasted bagel with peanut butter and honey, and a coffee. If you are a smoothie person, throw one on. If you find something that works, don’t veer from this.
If you are going to be on course for more than 90 minutes, you may want to consider a gel or small bar of approximately 100 calories at 45-60 minutes but this is something you want to practice in training as well.
Stay hydrated the day before the race, but it’s not necessary to over hydrate or pre hydrate or take any special hydration formula. Do what normally makes you feel good for training and in your daily life. Avoiding too much alcohol or caffeine is a good idea however, as both can interfere with a good sleep and hydration.
If you are going to drink on course, take small sips at aid stations.
Well before bedtime, the night before, put out your pre race clothing, pin your number, have your favourite lucky socks and underwear ready to go. Plan when you will leave the house and where you will park if you are taking your car.
Go to bed at a normal time and get your normal amount of sleep, but don’t sweat it if your sleep is short or not too great. You’ll still have plenty of energy for race morning. If you are a bit keyed up, then do something to stop that. Read, have a cup of sleepytime tea, or lie in bed and listen to a calming sleep meditation. Or simply lie in bed and relax and breathe. Imagine yourself on race morning, being calm, excited, ready and confident. Tell yourself that all is OK, and then rest.
When you wake up, switch that pre race brain on, the one you prepared the night before. Everything is planned and ready to go so there is no second guessing or thinking about that logistical stuff.
Eat your breakfast and drink your tea/coffee in the peace of your own space and feel happy that it’s finally race morning because it’s going to be a great day!
You already have this figured out. Leave early enough to nail this! There is lots and lots of parking on city streets, all within 1.5 km of the race start. And it’s simply a fantastic walk through downtown to the Legislature from any direction.
Start Area and Bathrooms
Study the maps online before race morning, and if you have time, go check it all out in the weeks beforehand. Find out where they are and line up early!
If you don’t have a Sherpa handy (AKA personal assistant, spouse, BF of GF or mom) then use the clothing drop. It’s a handy service and never a big deal.
Pre Plan your warm up. You may want to do an abbreviated version of what you do on clinic night or a light walk or jog about 30 min before the race. Light, slow and easy, just to warm up the body temperature. Do some arm circles and light stretching and simply stay calm and in the moment. Be amazed at yourself for being there, at this super cool event!
Have an idea of where you should be in the corrals and seed yourself accordingly. If in doubt, be conservative as it’s much easier to run past people at 3km, than to feel like the world is swimming over you at the mass start.
Standing and Waiting
Make friends, and simply be patient. Swing your arms and check your body for being relaxed. Check that your laces are tied tightly, for the 15th time.
Remember, there may be thousands in the race, but you are only really starting with the 100 friends that are right with you. Don’t think too much about the numbers of people, there is room for us all.
Look up, look ahead, and make space for yourself. Be agile and ready to break stride or to move around someone. Especially, right off the start gun, where it is really crowded, don’t fiddle with anything or make any sudden unexpected movements. Hold your line steady and be super aware.
OOPS! Have to tie your shoes because you didn’t do it in the corral while you were waiting for the singing of Oh Canada? Forgot to start your Garmin? Please don’t stop abruptly in a foot race as this will cause a pile up behind you. Slowly make your way to the side of the road, in a diagonal forward moving fashion. That is, don’t suddenly shoot sideways to the curb across oncoming runners. Once safely out of the way, take a quick look behind you before stopping and re tying your shoes.
Start slower than you think you should. It will still be too fast. Let people pass, check your ego, listen to your effort and sense of work rate. Think Zone 2 effort, patience and consistency. Slow down on the up hills while keeping energy constant.
If you feel you need to walk, this is totally ok, but start using your watch and give yourself 2 min walk breaks for every 10 minutes of running, unless you have a pre set walk/run plan.
Making Friends/going solo: the Extrovert and the Introvert Runner
Some people want to run with others, some people want to walk alone. Some people laugh and chat all the way through a race, and seem to be able to make lifelong friendships through the shared gruelling experience of endurance, while others will be quiet and draw only on inner strength. These athletes have a look of intense concentration and focus and just want to do their thing. Alone. There is room for both types of athlete on race day - however recognize which type you are and be mindful of others. The last thing an introvert wants is to have a chatty run partner knocking their elbow for 8 kilometers.
Do what comes naturally. To that point, there is no rule about how much fun you can have while participating in an event. As long as you aren’t getting in the way of other people enjoying their own race, and you are using common sense and good sportsmanship, then go ahead, have a great time!
Be aware, keep your head up, no sudden movements, and keep your place in the queue. Yep, be Canadian at the water stops and be polite. It helps to make eye contact about 10 metres out of the station, with the person you want to take water from. You can point to the cup in their hand, which indicates that you want that cup and that assures you are both ready for the hand off. If you miss the cup, try to avoid putting the brakes on as there is likely a runner right behind you and you’re going to cause a collision.
Sportsmanship: Be Nice and Have Good Manners
This includes being nice to volunteers and spectators as well. Foot races are what we do for fun, and they are not a contact sport; aside from the jostling that may go on at the beginning of the race, or during a water station, give other participants space to do their thing.
I am not even going to elaborate on this. Just BE NICE.
Drafting and passing
The nuances of playing the game of racing while still being a good sport.
There are no rules against drafting others in foot races, but there are the usual unspoken rules about doing your part and not being a total ‘taker’. It can often be windy coming back along Dallas Road from the Ross Bay cemetery in the TC 10k, and if you are with a group of runners, it makes sense to take turns pulling and drafting. Pulling is the name for the person in front, who is leading into the wind. Drafting is what you are doing if you are running as close behind that person as possible in order to stay out of the wind. You save energy by drafting, a significant amount of energy, so it’s only fair that you do your bit and run at the front for a bit as well. Sometimes you are barely hanging on in the draft and when you go to the front to pull, your place slows considerably. You may get passed back quite quickly, but hey, at least you tried and you made the effort. That counts as being a good sport. Drafting for 9.9km and then outsprinting the dude who pulled you through the whole race just doesn’t cut it.
The only thing you need to know about passing, is that you need to make it clean. Don’t feel badly about needing to pass anyone, as this is your race. You can give the person a nod or smile of encouragement as you pass, and just make sure you don’t cut them off too soon after the pass.
A side note here about passing at the start: Seeing as most people start too fast and have to slow down, a lot of passing and jostling happens at the start of races. Eventually the back and forth ends as people settle into pace. You can simply avoid the energy cost of all that accelerating, by being patient for the first 1-2k and don’t get caught up in having to pass or chase every person out there.
I think the biggest thing to remember is that while a lot of blood flow is heading to your heart and lungs, your brain is still working. Use you head and stay calm and positive. Even when swept up in the heat of the moment and the fun of the competition, we need to keep perspective and use good judgement. Remind yourself often while you are out there, that it is your choice to be in the race, that it is a wonderful gift to be able to run through the streets of Victoria on a Sunday morning. No matter what happens out there, you put in a lot of effort and training to get to the start line - be proud of what you've done!
I hope this answers a lot of questions for race day, and is a refresher for those who have raced before. If you still need an answer to that concern or question you’ve been mulling over, please contact me here. I love helping to make race day smoother for you all.
Run For Joy
If you have been training for the 30th Annual TC 10K over the past few months you have likely learned one of the greatest lessons in sport:
You can’t wait to feel motivated. Motivation happens as a result of good planning and great habits.
It only takes a brief scroll through Instagram to notice that the world is full of inspiring words and photos, however, one of the most important things people learn through this process of following a training schedule, is that habit and action create far more meaningful results, than does reading about motivation or inspiration.
Right now, with 3 weeks remaining until race day, and the pull of the start line is coming, I would like to plant the seed that will help you continue your motivation to train.
I encourage you to approach the last weeks mindfully - that is, do your training, as you have been doing it, with good habits and practices (nutrition etc) - and TRUST that you will be as ready as you can be for Race Day (if you have been (mainly) consistent with training until now).
Your fitness may be to the point where you can work well in discomfort by now, during your faster intervals, but resist the urge to go beyond that in the hope that you can boost your fitness even more right now.
Resist the urge to test yourself too much because you are curious. Save that curiosity and challenge for race day, or you risk leaving your race in a training session. The training over the next 3 weeks is to prepare you for your best effort, not BE the best effort.
With weeks of training under your belt, your body is fitter and stronger, but also is carrying fatigue and you have to be particularly careful not to overdo it right now – which is easily to do with your excitement and enthusiasm! Injury prevention is still our goal.
Maintain patience for the process, and trust that you don’t need to do anything extra or find extra magic out there. The magic is in the process and the mental preparation for things to go well.
It isn’t over at the finish line: Are you ready for the day after the TC 10K?
As we get caught up in the momentum of our training, planning and preparing for sessions meticulously (or even winging it) we sometimes can’t see that we are giving an energy and passion to something that is unmatched elsewhere in our lives. You have a training plan mapped over several months and every couple of days is a session that brings you closer to your goal. From taking care of your time management to tinkering with your nutrition and gear, you create a forward momentum to your goal race that becomes a constant part of your life. You are committed to eating well, sleeping well, and making positive choices on a daily basis to support your clinic night and goal race. You even have a vision of what that finish is going to look like and how you feel crossing it. This is awesome and a fantastic part of sport, but do you have a picture of the day after?
Without even knowing it sometimes, athletes have a huge emotional-as well as physical-- investment in their goals. The more important the event, the larger the investment and when the event is all over, there is sometimes a feeling of letdown as all that energy dissipates across the finish line. Without the goal pulling you forward, there is an emotional void and a sense of letdown or post-race blues after the adrenaline wears off. This is totally normal behaviour and being prepared for the week after your goal race is as essential part of season planning.
A Zen approach would suggest that all events are neither good nor bad, they just are. While sport is full of highs and lows, weathering everything with a sense of the satisfaction and wonder creates a peaceful relationship with your journey. Here are some other general tips for preparing for the ‘other’ side of the finish line.
1. Have a plan for what’s next. Whether it is a two week vacation, signing up for another clinic, or a detailed recovery plan, plan your post-race training well in advance to race day. If you are planning on a break, then make sure you know how you are going to fill your time. Knowing what to do and what you want to do after the race goes a long way to filling the void.
2. Put that energy to good use. Plan on a few projects or goals that don’t revolve around racing. Switching gears and getting some other things done provides a nice balance to the single minded focus of big goal. Choose some alternate sports for a while, and ones that you can enjoy with your friends, partner, kids etc.…
3. Plan to reflect on your race and your season and review your process. Reflecting is a great process for appreciating your accomplishments and finding a sense of purpose and happiness including things you love about your activity. If journaling isn’t a smooth process then simple lists will do. Make sure you include things that you did well and things that need improvement when looking at your past 14 weeks. List 5 goals you accomplished during the season and 5 workouts you loved. Note 5 things you want to learn or improve upon.
4. If your race ends in disappointment, wait several days before writing your review and give yourself time to absorb the experience before making decisions. All races are opportunities to learn, and while disappointing races are hard to take initially, they are often the ones with the biggest hidden gifts of making us more resilient, smarter and appreciative of the good moments.
5. Live in the moment AND think ahead. While most people think only of their next race or in one year season cycles, great training encompasses development in 2-4 year spans. When you know that your last training clinic is only a part of a bigger picture, you get a good sense of perspective that allows you to fully appreciate all the moments that a season offers.
More on post-race planning and action coming soon! Meanwhile, keep loving your walking and running program and feel proud of where you ARE RIGHT NOW!