By: Matt Setlack
This article will outline my experience at the Edmonton 21.1k road race on Sunday 20 Aug 2017.
Everything went really well. I drove down to Edmonton on Friday evening and settled into the race hotel, Chateau Lacombe. 10 minutes after I arrived, Dylan Wykes arrived from Vancouver. The ironic thing is that it likely took Dylan less time to get to Edmonton from Vancouver (1.5 hour flight) than it took me to drive from Cold Lake to Edmonton (3 hour drive). haha I found it strange being roommates with a friend but also a fellow competitor, Dylan (a dichotomy?). In any case, the amazing thing about being an elite runner is that all you have to do is show up and everything is taken care of. It was so awesome! Thank you so much, Brian Torrance!
On Sat 19 Aug morning, I went to the Running Room Friendship Run at the Shaw Conference Center. I always enjoy going to these runs as it gives me an opportunity to meet other runners in a completely inclusive environment and as an added bonus, they usually have free food after the run. In this case, they had free food AND free Starbucks coffee. I talked with Cam Cook at the run and also met Jonas Eastcott for the first time.
After the Friendship Run, I made sure to pick up my race number and race shirt. I know all too well that if I leave these things to race morning, it is very possible to miss the start (ref: Edmonton 10k a few years ago). In the afternoon, I went to the grocery store and bought pre-race breakfast foods that I like (bagels with peanut butter, Clif bars, bananas, sparkling water, vanilla Greek yogurt, granola). Although the race hotel did provide breakfast, I did not want to risk it.
Race Day (Sun 20 Aug 2017)
The Edmonton 21.1k race start was at 8 am (the perfect time to start a race, I think) so I woke up at 5:30 am and ate breakfast. One hour before race start, I did a 25 minute warm-up (usually I do 35 mins) on a treadmill in the hotel fitness centre. I like doing this for a number of reasons: the bathroom is right there, the temperature is warm, I can wear my race outfit and ensure everything is good to go, I can get in a continuous warm-up (any speed) without having to worry about traffic, other runners, obstacles, etc., and there is a neutral energy in the air compared to the typically extremely nervous energy that you find at the start line.
The unusual thing about Edmonton 21.1k was that in the days leading up to the race and right before the gun went off, I didn't feel nervous at all but instead felt completely mellow. Not sure if this is a good thing or not. I can always tell if I'm ready to have a great race because I can feel an energy deep within my soul; I feel like I'm ready to attack the race (be on the offensive rather than reacting to whatever comes).
I really liked that the race organizers played our national anthem at the start of the Edmonton 21.1k. I am extremely proud to be Canadian and I am not at all afraid to show it. Whenever our national anthem comes on, I sing as loud as I can. The gun went off and the race started at a very relaxed pace. I was wondering when Daniel Kipkoech was going to pick up the pace and it wasn't until about 500m to 1 km in that the pace started to speed up. Within 1 km of the start, the front 5 runners had fragmented (group 1 was Daniel and an Ethiopian, group 2 was Kip Kangogo and Dylan Wykes and group 3 was Matt Setlack). I didn't want to go out too fast and blow up (perhaps there was some residual feelings from Long Course World Mountain Running Championships?) so took it pretty easy in the beginning.
Around 2 km in, we started passing the 10k runners going the other way (they started 30 mins earlier than us around 7:30 am). At first, I started cheering for all my friends in the 10k race (Michael Stewart, Lisa Flemming, Shari Boyle, Alecia Kallos, Marie-Michele Siu, etc.) but after a while, because I was cheering so much, I started to lose my breath so I had to stop and switch to attempting to smile and giving a thumbs up.
At the first 180 degree turn I could see Dylan up ahead. I think he had a 30 second lead of me and with around 12 km (?) left in the race, that meant I would only need to increase the pace by 3-4 seconds per km to catch him - completely doable.
On the 2nd 180 degree turn, the gap between Dylan and I had narrowed and there was an even bigger gap between me and the guy(s) behind me. There were a lot of twists and turns running around a residential area for quite a while. Around 10k, I believe, Dylan stopped running because of an issue with his hamstrings so then it was just me. Up until this point in the race, I had seen Jody Bailey way up in the distance on his bicycle with a massively long lens taking photos of the racers. Thank you Jody for being there; it really made the race feel less like a personal time trial.
Coming out of the residential area, I joined many hundreds of other runners again but it was pretty good for me because I could run in a almost entirely clear centre lane. I also like running by people because it makes me feel like I'm running faster than I actually am. haha
I crossed the finish line in 1:10:55, which is by no means something to write home about (not a personal best) but I was really quite happy with this time considering that I ran completely by myself in "no-mans land" for 20.5km. I really enjoyed the race. For the first time ever, I just took it all in; I read the encouragement signs (there was one sign along the lines of, "You trained in sleet for this" and I was thinking, I'm from Cold Lake...I've trained in much worse conditions than sleet haha).
As I was running down the middle of the road in downtown Edmonton, I was thinking about how lucky I was to be doing this and to have the incredible support that I have. All of the volunteers and police officers came out early (on a Sunday morning at that!) and stood for hours blocking off the streets (and gave water and cheered) so we could run. How cool is that? All I had to do was show up and do something I love to do!
After the race was over, there was a brunch in the Shaw Conference Centre. This is one of the greatest post-race brunches I have ever seen and I was super impressed with it. I warmed down with a few of the Running Room athletes and ended up missing the awards ceremony but thankfully Marie-Michele Sir was there to pick up the award for me. Thanks, Marie-Michele!
I am currently looking for another 21.1k race to do this autumn. Although I have never raced them, I have heard that Victoria 21.1k (08 Oct 2017) and Philadelphia 21.1k (18 Nov 2017) are both good races. After that, if selected, I will be competing in the CISM Military World Cross-Country Championships in Hungary from 03 to 07 Nov 2017.