Race report: 2014 Modo Spring Run-off 8k

This was the 8th running of the Spring Run-off 8k (I’ve run all eight so far!), and the first under the title sponsorship of Modo, the locally-based car-sharing cooperative, of which I am a member. The sponsorship gives the race a nice local flavour, and Modo certainly made strides to highlight that, showcasing other local programs and initiatives at the expo in the Stanley Park Pavilion, as well as putting on display several cars available in Modo’s fleet.

As for training for this race, I considered this as a maintenance period between two half marathons. I put in some strong tempo and interval sessions, and added some race-pace practice in the middle of the weekend long runs. Considering how I’ve been getting closer to the 40-minute finish time in past years, I felt I can challenge myself to break it this year.

I went to the start line, thinking I can start conservatively (around 5:05-5:10/km) and get the negative split. For some reason, the corral system didn’t work as planned; when the gun went off, I had to weave around some people, which can be dangerous in tight confines and on a downhill. Once the crowds separated themselves, I found myself finishing each of the first two kilometres under 5:00. I quickly changed strategy to ease up for km 3-5, hoping I’ve banked enough time. I found some folks with whom I kept pace, and that worked: I ran about 5:05/km for those three kilometres.

It became a different race when we passed the Prospect Point lighthouse and went into a headwind. Without many people I can chase, I decided to do small surges over kilometres 6 and 7. The second and last aid station was just after the 7 km marker, but it was also at the base of the long uphill (the first one). I should have foregone the sport drink and used the momentum from the last moments of the seawall to take me up the hill. Nevertheless, I reminded myself to use my arms to propel myself uphill, and even started passing other runners. There was a 400-metre flat section of reprieve before the cruel, final uphill to the finish. Throughout this last kilometre, I was very aware of my time and whether I can hold on to stay under 40 minutes.

When all was said and done, my chip time was 39:52. It was definitely one of the toughest races I’ve run. I’m happy I can now run a sub-5:00 pace (albeit just barely) for 8 km. The next challenge, of course, is to replicate that on a 10k race. But that’s for another time. My next race is the Scotia Half, and I’m hoping for more positive results!

39:52 (4:59/km, 8:01/mi)
198/771 overall
142/412 males
30/68 males 30-34

Race report: 2014 First Half Half Marathon

I just ran a winter race in conditions so ideal I thought I was running in the spring or fall. It certainly kept me off guard, as I was bracing for ugly weather; I even brought a hat and a toque to ensure proper head coverage. And by the end of mile 1, I was thoroughly overheated. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful day for the first half of the year!

Let me backtrack to the training. A couple of colds at the beginning and end of January really affected my running, and it was a little demoralizing as well. I even forced myself to cancel a weekend long run, which was beneficial to fighting the cold, but frustrating that I couldn’t do the run. By the time the second cold subsided, it was taper time, and I just accepted that these things happen, and to trust the training that I had done not just to that point, but over all the years I have been running.

Before the start, I was thinking of being really conservative in terms of pacing: 9:20-9:30/mi (5:47-5:54/km). As soon as the race started and I found myself running a 5:30 for the first kilometre, then a sub-9:00 first mile, I knew I might not be able to sustain it. As I mentioned earlier, I got overheated, but since I was wearing tights and no jacket, there aren’t places on my person to store them my toque and gloves. I thought of the next-best thing: between my tights and the shorts I was wearing under the tights. It wasn’t elegant, but I couldn’t really bear to part with those items of clothing.

As I usually do at half marathons, I mark split times on my watch at 5 km, 10, 15, and the finish. Interestingly, I recorded identical split times at the 5 km and 10 km markers: 27:33, or 5:31/km (8:52/mi). I slightly eased up, but my body was already ahead of my mind by that point. When the course entered the exposed part of Stanley Park, the cold headwind sapped my already-flagging energy. By that point, I was easing back toward a 9:00/mi average. (The course has markers each mile. I don’t know how I managed to calculate per-km and per-mi paces as I passed various distance markers.)

As the course left the seawall at Second Beach and made its way around Lost Lagoon, that’s where I felt totally drained. It was there that I passed the 10-mile marker at around one hour, 30 minutes (or 9:00/mi). Like I did in Kelowna last October, I started doing the reverse calculation: could I finish the last 3.1 miles in under 30 minutes? It didn’t get any easier, with an uphill section, and a stomach that could rebel if it wanted to, as it had done in earlier training runs. I had to take an extended walk break to calm down.

I passed the 20 km marker and figured that I had about six minutes to finish under two hours. Challenge accepted. I set aside what had happened in the last few kilometres and went for it. An uphill led to a downhill coast along Pacific Boulevard back toward the start/finish zone. By then, I was keeping an eye on my watch, hoping that I can make it. As I sprinted the last 50 metres toward the finish line, the gun time crossed two hours, but my watch still showed a 1:59 when I stopped it.

Finisher's medal and fridge magnet marking the finish time for the 2014 First Half Half Marathon

Medal and time-plate magnet with my chip time

1:59:37.67 to be exact! It was a finish that I’ll take pride in, because of the way I fought back in the last kilometre to save the goal time. Fighting the mind when self-doubt creeps in, fighting the body when there’s nothing left: it’s the quintessential race experience.

(Update, 02/20/2014, 22:50 PST: after reading one of the comments below, I realized I hadn’t put down what I had stuffed into my tights. Now you know…)

2013 wrap and running goals for 2014

Oh, 2013. It’s over already? But it was a good year overall: I was employed for almost all of the year, I became an uncle, and I got engaged! Cheryl and I will be married this July.

As for my running in 2013, I made significant breakthroughs. I entered a variety of race distances, including my first 5k, and raced well in all of them. So well in fact that of the six races I entered in 2013, I set or broke a personal best in five of them. (The sixth, the BMO Vancouver Half, was still under 2:00, which was my goal). I had set for myself just to break the PB for the half marathon at the beginning of 2013, but I went ahead and broke PBs in three other race distances.

For 2014, I want to break at least two more PBs. Unusually, I have already set my race calendar, which includes an 8k, a 10k, two half marathons, and concludes with a return to New York in November because of the cancellation of the 2012 NYC Marathon.

I’ve been content to run three times a week, scheduling them in advance. The thing that still eludes me is the cross-training, which I indicated last year. If I can schedule my runs, then I can certainly schedule cross-training at least once a week. I think Friday evenings are a good place to squeeze those in.

As for my running mileage, I finished the year 2013 with 1,505 km (935 mi), which was short of my goal of 1,609 km (1,000 mi). Sometimes life gets in the way, so I wasn’t too fussed; in any case, it should be more about quality over quantity, right? My mileage target for 2014 is set again for 1,000 miles. Training for a marathon in the summer and early fall will definitely get me there.

This is going to be an interesting year: lots of races, with a wedding in the middle of the year. I’m ready!

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2014!

Race report: 2013 Fall Classic 10k

Better late than never to report on my final race of 2013. I was partly drawn to this year’s swag; instead of the typical shirt, of which I have way too many, the race organizers have offered a pair of tights. It was only in the last year that I have started to wear tights for winter running. Considering how expensive tights usually are, I took the opportunity to snag a pair and enter a race.

Race weather was good, i.e. not raining. As I have run this event in past years, sometimes in brutal conditions, it’s practically a miracle. I was in maintenance mode between finishing the Okanagan Half and the start of this race. I wasn’t looking to break a personal best, but at least I was going to give myself a chance to do so.

I knew there was an uphill in the first 3-4 km, so I had a tentative start. It was in the second half that I really noticed the slight inclines on the course. When one races at a really fast pace, these things seem more obvious.

There was a wind-tunnel effect in the one-kilometre straightaway on UBC’s Main Mall. But we turned 180º for the last kilometre, so I combined a tailwind with a late surge and carried it to a sub-5:00 last kilometre and finished with a chip time of 52:49. I beat the 10K PB I only set two months ago by 29 seconds.

This result was the proverbial icing on the cake that was my 2013 race experience. I’m very happy with how strongly I’ve raced in every event. Now that I’ve set my race calendar for 2014, the expectations will be just as high.

Happy 50th, Doctor Who!

Google doodle for November 23, 2013, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who

You know you’ve made it when Google makes a special interactive doodle!

50 years is a remarkable achievement, but for a television programme to get to that point is more astonishing. When I wrote a reflection on Doctor Who‘s 45th anniversary, I noted that its flexibility in terms of storytelling has made the show endure the test of time. It’s not just the companions who have shared in the Doctor’s adventures; millions of viewers, including myself, have also been part of the journey, taking in the wonders of all of space and time through television, audio, and print over the last half century. It’s a rich history that can appeal to almost anyone.

As the next 50 years begin, I want to thank William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith for taking us on a wonderful trip, and here’s to 50 more years of Doctor Who!

Race report: 2013 Okanagan Half Marathon

I last ran this race in 2010. I broke the two-hour barrier, establishing a new personal record in the process. I registered to run again in the Okanagan Half to see if I can run as fast, or possibly faster, as I did three years ago.

The training cycle for this race followed the usual format. However, there was a point during August (because of visiting family) when I struggled to find time to run. Even the high-intensity workouts (such as tempo) were not at the paces that I’d like to have.

I was therefore resigned to go to Kelowna and at least break two hours. It’s a reasonable challenge given the state of my training. I arrived Friday afternoon and basically rested up for the race on Sunday morning (October 13). For the first time in a long time, I was content and relaxed and ready to run.

Read the rest of this entry »

Race report: 2013 Vancouver Eastside 10k

For me, this race is part of the lead-up toward the Okanagan Half Marathon. With four weeks to go, this 10k is a good test to see how I can handle the big race. My August was not what I was expecting in terms of training; a number of events that month took the focus off the running. As a result, the total distance run for the month is less than 100 km, the first time this year.

The Eastside 10k is a new race; the route is more-or-less an out-and-back that incorporates the parts of the old BMO Vancouver route through Strathcona until new courses were unveiled in 2012. It’s nice to have a run race back in East Vancouver, which is why I’m very enthusiastic about this race. The race’s charity partners are also very local and relevant to the neighbourhoods in which the race is run.

It was a dreary Saturday morning for a race, especially for one in late summer. There were about 1500 people ready to take on a whole new experience. The race starts on one of the viaducts leading into downtown Vancouver before emerging onto Prior Street in Strathcona. I know the terrain, since my bus commute usually goes through Prior, so I’ve anticipated the hills. The whole race does have a lot of small hills that can be off-putting to some, but for me, I like the challenge. I’ve always enjoyed powering through the uphills and passing people along the way.

The course goes through historic Gastown (technically not in the Eastside) before turning around and making its way back to the start line. It’s nice to run on the cobblestoned streets, but disappointing that not a lot of people were around to watch. At the time I was running through, I was thinking about the annual cycling race that does laps around Gastown (held on a weeknight with plenty of spectators) and whether a race held later in the morning could attract more crowds.

The theme for the races I’ve run this year seems to be humid. Because of the mist-like conditions that morning, the humidity was pretty high. I was sweating very early on, and I’m sure that wasn’t because of how fast I was running. By the end, I was regretting not packing a change of clothes.

Another theme that has emerged is new personal best. With a chip time of 53:18 (on a negative split), this is the third separate race distance this year for which I’ve established or broken a PB (or PR, I use them interchangeably). The half marathon beckons in less than four weeks. Can I make it four PBs in one year?

Overall, I’m definitely going to put the Eastside 10k as a race to put on my calendar from now on. By itself, it’s a great course, but it’s also scheduled so that it can be a dress rehearsal for a longer-distance race later in the fall. This is a great addition to the Vancouver running calendar.


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