What were you doing the afternoon of May 31 1985?. I was 11 years old living in Toronto when the sky turned green and the air was sucked from my lungs as I was standing in my back yard.
It seems like yesterday, now that I’m writing about it but for the families in Grand Valley and Barrie and everywhere in between it was a nightmare that I’m sure has lasted for years!
It was May 31, 1985 — a defining day, not just for Barrie, but for much of Central Ontario including Grand Valley. The Barrie tornado was actually one of a series which devastated the province that afternoon.
There was a second, just as mighty as the first F4,that hit the ground hard just north of Arthur, tracking a path parallel to the first. Hydro towers were crushed and the only lines carrying power from the Bruce nuclear plant to the west side of Toronto went out of commission.
Cars without drivers moved down the road, the roof of the library was tossed
200 metres onto a house.
One-third of the town of 1,300 people was destroyed. Matilda McIntyre, a 76-year-old visitor from Scotland, was killed. Farmer Barry Wood died while driving his truck to his horse stables.
Along the way it sucked up the Mono Plaza on Highway 10, narrowly missing Orangeville, and headed for a farming community south of Tottenham.
The Grand Valley Tornado might have ripped out the mighty maples tree from the ground and devastated the town but in the Valley the heart and soul live on 29 years after that awful day.
The organizers host a kids’ fun-run 1/2k that starts at 9:30 a.m a 10k race & 5k walk at 10:00 am.
The course description for the 10K I was running is accurately measured and every km is clearly marked. The route is 7.2k paved road, 1.2k well packed unpaved road, 1.6k rail trail. 90% flat, only 10% hills but they are significant. Runners run down Main Street and you are sure to pick up lots of speed. Then it crosses the Grand River 4 times via 3 different bridges. The Uphills are at 1.5km, 5.5km, 9.2km. Very pretty, wide open countryside.
2 Days Pre Race
Bib pickup was a breeze. I just walked into Running Free 2 days before and registered for the race. Nice and easy and since I know everyone there I found myself talked longer than I had time for. 3 listing appointments and a few showings was in store for me that day.
Typical race bag and goodies were offered including bib and timing chip, race shirt a few treats and safety pins. I don’t know about you but I generally do not have spare safety pins lying around in the house.
Plenty of parking at the Grand Vally community centre. It’s a fairly small race so parking
was the easy part. I was able to see lots of my running friends and was able to reconnect with a few that I haven’t seen in a while.
The race started about 3 minutes late waiting for cars to stop driving down the road. Our local police that were on traffic duty had his times mixed up.
BOOM, the gun went and the first 400 meters was all downhill. Despite trying to hold back, I found myself pacing 3:57 at one point…way too fast. But then I passed the 1 km marker at 5:09 and running headlong into a world of trouble. My primary goal was a sub-52 minute since this was only a month after my half marathon in Mississauga and my Achilles were still not feeling that good. I planned to run a 5:00 to 5:05 first 10km then hammer it out on the back-end. As it was, by the time I completed km 3 (5:34), I knew 52 might not be in the cards.
In retrospect, I think the race was salvageable if the course remained flat…except that within the first 3 km, we faced 3 inclines that weren’t monsters by any means but enough to tip me over because it was so early in the race and it was soon HOT (26C). After the first 5, I was breathing way too hard for my own comfort and I still had a HUGE hill still ahead of me. As I ran along the trail I passed my clients house that I just sold a few days before the race. I need water I thought VERY soon….and with that thought the water station was just up ahead.
Heading into the back half I had 2 hills and the one at 7km was 1000 metres uphill, I braced myself for the pain. I could see other runners way out in the distance since the hill was so long. I can just see the race director thinking “you didn’t honestly think we would let you off easy, did you? (insert evil laugh)”
Sure enough, each step felt heavier as county line 10 began to exert its dominance. Strava displayed 5:15 then 5:25 then 5:35 as I reached the apex before needing to turn left for the remaining 3km. Free of the hills’ grip, I forced my legs to churn as fast as possible but before I could a lone female just passed me. Really I have been passed by lots of females and males but I really must have died on the hill. As she passed we talked for a minute and she mentioned that this was her first race ever. Wow, that’s awesome I replied as she continued into the distance. I think I need to dig a bit deeper I thought.
After catching my breath, I began thinking about what I would need to do over the next 2 km to keep up with my goal. My goal was is coming up and if this race were to be used as any indication of how I will do then I am in big trouble. BIG trouble indeed. This was definitely not the run I envisioned…not by a long shot. So I kept the legs moving and moving and moving.
I couldn’t dwell on this too much because I needed to switch my mindset and finish what I had started, then Starva yelled 5:16. Then I was going down hill fast, I didn’t realize how fast but I saw my lone female again but this time I was the stronger one. I asked if she was ok, yes came the reply so I asked her if she wanted to run faster and finish strong? Yes come the reply. Hold on I said just stay with me and I’ll pace you to the finish. And with that I forgot about my race goal and focused on getting her to the finish in one piece (5:02).
At 9k I asked her if she wanted to finish strong, I saw a quick nod of the head. Ok then when I say go, you run as if someone is chasing you down a dark ally. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…..GO! We ran together like the wind…my checks were shaking and sweat was everywhere, 300 metres to go, 200, 100 and I looked back……she was slowing…we make eye contact and saw her give it everything she had…She had this and I was so proud to be part of her first run. We crossed the finish line together! Time 51:53
I didn’t realize she was from Grand Vally (local girl) until later in the day and I also forgot that I achieved my GOAL of sub 52 minutes…LOL
Well today was my first local race and it was a hilly and hot start to the day! The race didn’t go according to plan and the HILLS….OMG!!! Killer HILLS.. A Brandi passed me at the 8.5km point in the race and I wished her all the best as she went by. On the downhill I passed her and asked if she could speed up and we could finish strong….I was able to pace Brandi into the finish for her first race! Brandi came in 3rd in her age group (30-39) and I came in 5th (40-49). I was yelling at her to dig deep and put the hammer down on the last 1km smile emoticon….I was so proud of her and was VERY happy I was part of her FIRST race!!!!