September 22, 2013 - Once in awhile I enjoy toeing the line at one of the big
metro races, as I used to do back in my glory days.  There is always a certain
special atmosphere that you feel when thousands of healthy people assemble
to test their mettle.  While I no longer am competitive at road racing it puts
a smile on my face to mingle with those who place great value on ever
improving their personal best at running a given distance.

Knowing we would be vacationing in Quebec I registered for this event early 
in the year, never anticipating that I would be burdened with injury and that
I wouldn't be able to give 100%.  I am prepared to run trails for a long time
and climb steep grades that never end; racing flat out is unfortunately no
longer a part of my physical repertoire.  So I entered the fray with a full
appreciation for that perspective and decided just to jog through the course
at my usual ten-minute training pace and enjoy it.

The day dawned to overcast skies and 50-degree rain.  Dressed in training
attire, basically, I was ready for the rain and the wind in the canyons of the
city, glad that I didn't feel the need to strip down to a singlet.  Montreal is
a fairly unremarkable city, as cities go, but it was appealing to me to begin
the race in the middle of the Riviere Saint Laurent high above on the Jacques
Cartier Bridge.  Eighteen thousand contestants lined up on the bridge
overlooking the city and the river in corals that stretched nearly the entire
length of the kilometer-long bridge.  I arrived in Coral 4 a half hour before 
the start and bided my time stretching and taking it all in.


Between blasts of music I listened closely to the announcer enthusiastically
introducing some of the better known athletes and counting down the time
to the start.  My French is rusty, but I was able to understand a fair amount
of what he was saying.  The bridge was alive and noticeably bouncy with
some wind and all the activity.  As the start approached, looming dark clouds
cut loose with rain that lasted for half of the event, pooling in puddles along
the route and making the road slippery, especially where lines were painted.

I was stiff from standing in the cold when things did get underway.  We
headed off the bridge immediately into Parc Jean Drapeau where we wound
north before returning under the bridge at about 5K.  I settled into a 
comfortable saunter as I let people race by me without any concern or
ambition to chase.  There was little need to partake of fluids at the aid
stations with the cool temps and rain.  By 11K we recrossed the river into
the downtown of Montreal on the Pont de la Concorde (bridge) before
winding our way through city streets to the finish at Parc Lafontaine.

Most of the cheering along the route was in the French language, but a
surprising amount was in English.  With our names on our race numbers,
cheering fans could cheer for you by name.  It was cool to hear "Allez, allez
Larry" many times.  Makes you feel right at home.  Being a Rock 'n Roll event
there were at least a half dozen bands along the half marathon course that
rocked us on.  Interestingly, most of the music was American and most of
the singing was in English.  While I enjoyed the feel of the entire event, I
find road racing to be not as social or friendly as trail events - everyone is
more concerned with looking repeatedly at their watch.

With a kilometer to go I had a young man crash into me from behind as he
raced to get to the finish as quickly as he could.  I haven't had that happen in
a long time; while it turned me around I managed to stay on my feet and
cross the line with some resulting shoulder pain.  The finish was congested
with runners and family, so I didn't linger any longer than necessary
making my way back to my car near the Jacques Cartier Bridge.  After
changing into something dry I zig-zagged through the city around areas
cordoned off for the race, past Place Bonaventure where the event expo had
taken place the day before, then drove the hour and a half north of the city back
to the condo where we were staying at the beautiful ski resort at Mont-Tremblant.

I hit my target of ten-minute miles exactly.  While it was slow for a race
result, I could have gone on another 21K, and probably another, and so
on.  I think I can conclude that my leg speed is gone, but not my passion for
rock running and going vertical.  Back to the trails.