Beamsville Bench 5k

I don’t like 5ks, I don’t like 5k training runs, I don’t like 5k races.

So obviously I signed up for a 5k race.

In July.

With a 10:30am start time.

Clearly this was going to go well.

The Beamsville Bench 5k is part of the Niagara Running Series, and the only reason I signed up. However after doing 3 10k races this season I had a new appreciation for 5ks. I am a distance runner and this has been confirmed by the fact that I do not do as well in 10ks as I should be, based on my half times. I just don’t like the whole laboured breathing aspect of the 5 and 10k. I realise the irony in this as a swimmer but let’s move on. Having done all these 10ks, the 5k was sounding more appealing, the torture of laboured breathing would be over much shorter. So I was feeling a bit better about facing this 5k. In the days before I was mentally preparing myself for torture, telling myself just to completely suffer the entire time. I was keen to find out what my 5k time could be if I just went for it. A few weeks previously I’d run a 27:34 5k during a training run. I wanted to beat this.

I was worried about the heat, and the website describe this as a ‘tough course’ but provided no map or elevation graph so I didn’t know what to expect.

The race took place at a winery and like the rest of the series kit pick up took place right before the race. So at 9am me and a couple friends I dragged along to join me headed out for the short drive in to Beamsville. We parked within the vineyard in a very organised system, they had marshals directing cars on exactly where to park in order to maximise parking. It took some time but was worth it as it was very easy to get out. After we were parked we made the short walk over to the start and I got my kit. Nothing eventful, aside from a different coloured shirt (burgundy this time) it was identical to the one from the Peach Bud.

With time to kill we wandered around the little shop from the winery and looked out at the view of the vineyard it over looked.

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With 15 minutes to race time I left my friends and headed over to the start line for a warm up jog.

The start line was on a steady steep hill. A hill we were going to have to go up. Twice. Due to the double loop course. The sun was already blazing hot. I was in trouble.

Despite this I tried to keep my optimism, less than 30 minutes of suffering. That was all I had to do. The race started and I was actually doing well with this. I ended up running my fastest mile ever according to my garmin. But then things went downhill… as I went uphill. Leading up to the hill was a stretch of direct sunlight. I’ve mentioned before I’m sensitive to the sun, I had a hat and sunglasses on but they only do me so well. So I’m feeling bad from the sun, and then I get to the uphill. I’m trying really hard to get myself to keep running, even if it’s slow. But I had to stop and walk or I would have been sick. I walk the uphill then start running again as I cross the start line where the cheer section is. I pass my smiling waving friends and I try to smile back but I’m miserable and feel awful.

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I end up walking a lot of the second lap, I’m pulling out as many positive thoughts as I can but it’s not doing me much good. There’s a downhill shaded section of the course that feels amazing, and just after there’s the water station. But after that it’s all sun until the hill for the last km. I’m prepping myself to just power through 5-6 minutes and I’ll be done.A man who lives on the street has set up a sprinkler to spray us and has water out. This man is the greatest man. But the hilly course and the sun are doing quite the number on me, I’m less than 500m from the end and I’m walking. I feel better about this though because everyone around me is walking too.  Misery loves company so this gives me just enough strength to finally power up and finish as strong as a possibly could in that moment. Crossing the finish line after just a minute of running I was seriously ready to be sick or pass out. I wasn’t sure which so I just headed for shade immediately and then went in to the building and headed for the bathroom to splash some water on my face. Not even caring about my friends, figuring I’d find them later.

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The Beamsville Bench 5k is awful. There’s only a very small section of flat (where the sun is shining bright) the rest is all rolling hills plus the climb up to the finish. The late start time at the end of July just makes this even worse. It is the perfect setting if you want to torture yourself to the point of near puking and/or passing out.

The redeeming quality? The post race festivities. What’s a race at a winery without a free glass of wine? Bonus, my friends who came with me also got a free glass of wine and did not have to pay the $5 admission for this wine and – wait for it – food truck fest! The age group winners also received a bottle of wine (I so did not win my age group, I came 6) There was also free food for the runners, the standard Niagara running series food, pizza from Boston Pizza, some granola bars and a banana. We sat in some shade in the grass while I ate and we waited for the food truck fest to open.

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About quarter to 12 they announced the fest opened. We were given our free souvenir plastic wine glass, our fest bracelet and then got in line for our wine (I got red). We then explored the food truck offerings. They had quite a few trucks there, I can’t remember exactly how many but probably around 10. As I had already eaten I only had 1 truck in my sights. Ice cream. While I was feeling much better and pretty well recovered from the race, I was definitely feeling ice cream. It was create your own ice cream sandwich and it alone was worth the horrible 30 minutes and 47 seconds it took my to run (and walk) 5k. This is actually technically a PR for me as it is my fastest timed 5k as it’s been nearly a year since I did one and my last was part of a 13k event (and I also felt awful during that one). But 3 minutes off what I had completed and where I was expecting the race to go.

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We all got our desired food and then sat under a large tent they’d set up with chairs for people to sit and escape the sun. They also had water cooler out for everyone to get some water which was possibly the nicest touch for the whole event. When do you ever go to an event that has free water for people?

Other good things? They had timers at all the km markers on the route with the race time, it was nice having that without have to check your watch. And the course was actually really great, if it wasn’t so hot I would have enjoyed it as I do love my hilly road runs.

The Peach Bud has a start mat for chip time so i was sad to see they did not have one for this race so results are based on gun time which is unfortunate because people were every slow to get moving so it took some time to get to start line even though I was pretty close to the front.

I would not recommend this race, unless you super love torturous 5ks. The late start time in late July heat just make this race too awful to consider. If it had a more appropriate start time I’d reconsider, but 10:30 is just ridiculous and I do not understand why they didn’t start it early. Anything later than 9 for a summer race is not worth it. Skip the race and just save your money for the wine and food truck admission and awesome food there.

But hey, least I got some extra points for my series championship total and had a great time hanging with some friends at the festival after.

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