I don’t have a whole lot of running friends and I’m okay with that, for me the best runs are solo runs. But one of my favorite running friends says Valley Harvest is his favorite and he’s even done the full there three times! So when the perfect opportunity to run the 10k there presented itself you bet I was in! So here’s how that was originally supposed to go down. The trainees were all hopped up on serotonin from their first 5k at bluenose and apparently they went right home and registered for two more races one of which was valley harvest 5k. So I was all like “perfect, I’ll be in great shape after the triathlon, add some speed work and a I’ll PR in the 10k and they can drive me there, yeah!” That is not however what happened, however what did happen lead to my best race photo ever so it’s all good! That’s a PR category right?
Once again my ‘look what I’m doing’ text message was met with one from one of my trainees that changed it all up. Turns out my stepdad wanted to switch and do a 10k. That’s a pretty big deal for anyone let alone someone his age so of course I was going to do it with him! Mom however decided to stick with the 5k but has since caught a case of the distance envies so stay tuned for that one. So I did this one as a personal pace bunny and that was pretty cool! He even followed my 10k plan to the record choosing the first time advice and he’ll be doing a guest post about his experience about it on here. How cool is that?
A bit about the race
Valley Harvest has apparently been going for 25 years! That’s 10 years longer than Bluenose! There is every race you can imagine a kids 5k, legit 5k, 10k, half, full and even an ultra, #goals. Over 3000 runners participate and the event is centered around the Acadia University field. It was held this year over thanksgiving weekend (the Canadian one) with the kids run on Saturday and the rest at ass crack of dawn early. Wolfville is one of those impossibly pretty towns that the Gilmore girls would feel at home in. In fact an unbiased observer might say Wolfville is the nicest town in the whole of the Annapolis Valley. This time of year the leaves are at their peak of color and this makes it a destination race for city goers. In terms of categorizing the race weekend as a whole it kinda hits on all three but that small town vibe thing has a lot to do with that. It’s big and shiny in the sense that it’s a well oiled machine, you get the whole field at Acadia University for part of your race day experience and the bling was pretty dang great this year (but that might have been a big anniversary thing). It’s also a lot like a big one in town race like Bluenose around here or the marathon in big city’s for the crowds, buzz and how much of the major part of the town is shut down for you.
The great thing though is it really hits a lot of those small charitable race boxes too. Because Wolfville is one small, pretty, close knit, Gilmore-esque small towns the people there get the credit for that one. Their major race sponsor is the Rotary Club, they manned all of the non-turn intersections (RCMP were at the others) and a lot of the people at the field were wearing their hats along with their VH shirts. There are some other big corporate sponsors too like Farmers Dairy and lots of smaller business too. There is a full on race expo but I had my people pick up my kit so I don’t know about that. But…. I’m just guessing here I’d say there are a few core volunteers behind the organizing and the race turns a profit. I say that because there is also a list of legit charities the weekend supports. So over all I’d say it’s like a small certifiable town race that’s made it big and that is a small category of races!
Parking and weather
A couple of things to know here but NONE of them are big deals, like at all. You might be getting the sense that I’m pretty important as I have ‘people’ to pick up my race kits, shuttle me around on race day and hold my stuff and I’m a let roll with that idea, but it’s not really the case. Remember when I said people were going to drive me well I had to get my own butt to Wolfville, how rude right? Since it’s an early start the trainees decided to stay over the night before so I was to meet them there and then my poor brother in law was tapped to get us all tho the start line in time. Turns out Siri hates me se still, it’s been a long term rift, and she took me to the wrong guest house address. They had booked a typically beautiful home and this address was on a dirt road, with a gate and cameras and was decidedly more murdery. So I called them up and said get yourselves to the start line and my anxiety went up. They wanted to wait for me but if there is a race day issue for one person the best idea is to separate so that everyone else’s race isn’t in jeopardy. I guess it’s the opposite of when one of your friends doesn’t get into the club, then you stay together.
I mention this because there is a street closure very close to the field before the start times for the regular races for the wheelchair race. But it’s literally two blocks from the field and there is ample parking right around there too. The pre-race emails made it seem like a bigger deal than it actually was and we were all nervous about it until we realized just how close it was. So if you get the scary email don’t freak out! Since it’s thanksgiving weekend Acadia is a ghost town, all the students are home, so there is lots of parking available on campus.
Weather on the day was pretty great there was a pretty good chance of showers but they held off. It was overcast with no real wind to speak of and it was 9 degrees Celsius or 48 f. So we couldn’t have asked for better weather but I brought zippies for everyone just in case.
The 10 k and the 5 k are out and backs but be prepared to run back on the wrong side of the road which felt weird. We went out through a back alley, then down the main road (Hwy 1) to Hwy 358 before turning around. It was really pretty but a little hilly. Not really hilly but they were there. It also might be about 100m to 200 m short based on our GPS data and my mom found the same thing for the 5k. Make sure to take some pictures if you are just having fun like me. My trainee however came pretty dang close to leaving it all out there and doesn’t remember what he ran by. There were at least two but I think it was three water stations on course with water and gatorade, each of which you pass twice so that makes 6. Given our projected time I was a bit worried about Ernie as he hadn’t fueled in training but given the pace we were going at I wanted to make sure his hydration and fuel was on point. He opted to skip the first water station but I made sure that he hit every one after that and got gatorade at the last three. The risk there was that it would upset his tummy but hitting the wall is no fun either. But he was all good and pushed hard until the end.
If you’ve been paying attention this year you might notice that honey hasn’t been my one and only cheerer this year. In fact he missed the Lifemark 5k and the Tire Trot completely. However he definitely got the spectator of the race award at that triathlon, seriously the race director should have given him a medal too for his quick thinking and actions for cleaning up the glass in the road after a bad accident. Plus he did pretty dang well at the half marathon too. In fact I gave him a pass on this one since my sister, her husband, kids and my mom would be cheering us on and we had to leave the house at 5:20 am! He was like “I’m going but it’s not for you someone has to be there for your mom!” So yeah he held all my stuff in the bum bag but that was just a side benefit this time. He did a great job since she finished earlier he really felt someone had to be there. He took her picture and a video of her finishing, she didn’t do a great job of getting herself in race photos so that ended up being a great thing. Richard was there from start to finish for all three of us and my sister and her fam came to the 10k finish. Also for no really great reason that I could find my brother in law drove us all there and dropped us off, I could have done that but oh well. He’s a pretty awesome race supporter too, what ever is decided he should do he just does. At other races he’s also the one to show up with whatever kid had a good night when my sister stays home with the one that doesn’t. Even though he’s not a getwifed reader (that I know of) it’s important to me that I show him some love!
Logistics and support
This race runs smoothly and well for the most part as well as Bluenose and I’m really grasping at far away straws here! The website wasn’t working that well before the race they switched it up so next year that shouldn’t be an issue. I included the link to the new .ca website for this article. As previously noted there are lots of aid stations on the course and the whole thing ran really smoothly. I think more than a few people are like me and commute from Halifax so I do question the need for an 8 am start. In this case I’m lucky to live in the last 5 km of the city so it’s that much closer for me. They start the ultra runners early and give the marathoners an option to start then too. Given the time of year, it’s not that hot any more why can’t they start at 9, hell I’m down for a 10 am start? In fact it might be nicer if it was a degree or two warmer at the start line. Whatever building is next to the field is open and warm and has lots of windows so you can see the action if you’re freezing. Also I think this is the only time ever in the history of races I didn’t have to wait in a line for my pre race pee! This race also has a bib chip, that’s getting so common now is it even worth noting anymore, so just pin and go!
Originally I thought after the triathlon at the end of July I’d keep doing 10k’s and lots of hill running and go for an end of season 10k PR and hopefully finally break one hour. But that changed once I became a personal pace bunny. I knew my trainee was capable of a faster time than he knew when I did his 8 and 9 k long runs with him. Since I was there we were doing them quite a bit faster than he was planning too and he was talking easily the whole time. He told me his goal time for the race and I pretty much ignored it knowing we’d be faster than that. I remember he said maybe he’d be done in an hour and a half at one point but I knew we’d be a lot faster than that. I figured 8:15 per km would be possible if not faster than that. We planned on running at about 8:30 for the first 5k and then treating it like an interval run after that.
Holy race kit batman! Now I’m not sure if this is regular or if it was for the 25th anniversary or even if it was the 25th anniversary (it’s at least that old). The medal was top notch and heavy but you also got a long sleeved shirt, mug and a running hat so let’s break it down further. The shirt is nice, certainly a wicking fabric and it has a neck zipper and those cool thumb holes everyone loves. That said I think I’ll still be cutting it up for the race shirt quilt I’ve been working on but it’s almost a shame. I finally found a cute triathlon fabric on Spoonflower so it’s starting to come together. The thing is three years ago honey bought me ALL the winter running gear including three long sleeve shirts of varying thickness and a big heavy nike sweater. I thought about keeping it a base layer for holiday themed runs but my sister bought me a white one, you can read about why I don’t love the color of it here, but it’s gotten a lot of use for Christmas runs lately.
Next the mug well it’s just s pretty mug but still pretty cool. Last but not least let’s talk about the hat. It’s pretty ugly right? The thing is it shows the track you ran into at the finish line on the cap. I pretty much thought that I would do nothing with it and maybe add it as an appliqué on the quilt. But it’s really light and it feels like it would preform well as a running hat. Chances are I’d wear a more stylish hat for a race even if it was heavier. I’m thinking about saving it as a regular rainy run hat but let’s be honest if it’s raining that hard on a regular day I’m probably not going running!
Time: 1:20:53 (chip)
Overall: 539/ 575
Category (f 30-39): 118/128
Shoes: Asics Gel Cumulus 19
There really isn’t anything I would do differently for this race. I think if you’re thinking about racing the Valley Harvest 10k there are a couple of things you should know. It’s great for first timers due to the fact that it’s well organized and a big exciting race but since it’s not huge, huge it’s not very intimidating. Also the fact that there is a lot of support on the course means you’ll have a pretty easy time of it. That said it’s probably a course that’s not likely to lead you to anything but a hard won PR and unless you’re super local the early start time and location means it can be a bit of a production to get to. With the beautiful fall scenery I see why it’s my running friend Cory’s favorite race for sure. I would totally do it again by myself or with others. However it’s not on my ‘have to’ list for the very next year. One thing that does intrigue me is the idea of doing a road ultra here at some point but I’m probably at least a decade away from hitting that point, if not more!