Today is the first day of a very brief training cycle. I am 5 weeks away from racing the 5 km event at the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. Believe it or not, this will actually be my first ever 5 km race.
Based on recent performance on other race distances, I could break 25 minutes for the 5k distance. However, I’ll be training instead to go under 26:00. I think it’s a realistic challenge, especially considering the short span of time in which to train. I adapted a program that was published last year in an issue of Runner’s World. The miles-to-km pace conversion was a pain, but I think I calculated the appropriate paces for the various workouts.
There isn’t much of a change from the last training cycle as there is one day for tempo, one day for intervals, and a long run done over goal race pace. Given my current runemployment status, and allowing for nice spring weather, I’m hoping to increase the number of my runs per week from three to four; a fifth day can be used for an easy run or cross-training. Do you think my approach will work, both for a first-time 5k, and the short period of time to train for it?
Before I tell you about what happened during the race, let me catch you up with what has happened in my training.
I more or less followed the Furman FIRST program all the way through. Without a GPS watch to track instant paces, I found myself running slightly faster than I should be during the weekend long runs.
With six weeks until race day, I ran the Spring Run-off 8k, and broke my PB at the distance. I felt really strong throughout, and finished fast in the last kilometre despite a sustained uphill. This performance definitely gave me a boost in the final stages of training.
The morning of race day was unusually warm for Vancouver, and this was for a 7:00am start for the half marathon. The temperature at that time was around 15°C (59°F). Given the conditions, I brought a water bottle and some extra gels with me, and resolved to take it easy in the early sections of the race. My goal was still to break two hours.
I don’t know if I took my advice too seriously, or if it was the slight uphill that marked the start of the race, but the 1st kilometre was run around 6:30 (10:27/mi). I did gain pick up the pace on the downhill toward the Cambie Bridge (taking care to control the descent), but the warm spring day was really felt on the bridge deck; without any buildings to provide shade, it was the first real test racers had to endure.
I reached the 5 km marker just under my target time, so I was surprised given the first kilometre. The downtown and Yaletown segment was tougher than I expected: long stretches of uphill, uneven pavement, and constant turns. But I got to the halfway point just over one hour, which put me in a good position provided I could nail the negative split.
The second half was along Beach Avenue, into Stanley Park and out to the finish line on Pender Street. The shade provided by the trees definitely helped with keeping things cool the rest of the way. There were some hills here too, notably on Pipeline Road; I considered that the make-or-break part of the course in terms of a strong finish.
The last 600 metres were run on Pender, and despite the early hour, the crowds were there, 4 or 5 deep, cheering us on for a strong finish. I thought it was great to see everyone there, and the atmosphere was electric as I crossed Bute Street and the finish line.
My chip time was 1:59:02. Considering the morning heat, I was totally happy with my performance. I feel the training paid off, and that I’m in a position to challenge my personal best of 1:57, which I’ll likely do this fall.
The half marathon was capped at 10,000 runners, and despite the corral system, I felt that I had run with most of those 10,000 the whole way. There just weren’t many areas where runners spread out. This was clear in the water stations; I had to stop dead a few teams in order to weave around other runners pulling out with their water.
The race directors do get some props on placing the bag pickup mere metres from the finish line, instead of the long slog to the convention centre last year. (At least it was long for me, considering how I finished the marathon in 2012.)
So far, 2013 is turning out to be a good year for running, and with at least three more races the rest of the year, I hope that it gets better.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, but I’m taking the opportunity of the new Family Day holiday here in British Columbia and put something new on the blog.
You can see on the sidebar on the right my race schedule so far. My current training cycle is for this year’s BMO Vancouver Half Marathon. I’ve also signed up for a series of races ranging in distance from 5k to 10k. Apart from the annual 8k Spring Run-off, 5k and 10k races are quite lacking in my schedule. In fact, this year’s Scotiabank 5k is the first race I’ll run in that distance.
For my current training, I’m using the Furman FIRST plan, with slight adaptations. One of them involves the weekend long run. Over the 16 weeks of training, I’m gradually increasing the distance at which I’d be running at a pace that is slightly over goal race pace, instead of running the full distance at that pace. It’s been a few years since I attempted long runs with some race pace in it, and with the intensity involved in this program, I do need a few kilometres of easy running.
The Furman plan recommends including cross-training on one, maybe two, days that I’m not running. As it’s one of the goals I set for myself this year, it’s something I haven’t done yet in this cycle, but hopefully I can squeeze some in before the race in May.
I started composing a post soon after learning of the cancelation of the 2012 New York City Marathon, but I was so affected I couldn’t put anything into words.
Having arrived in New York a few days earlier amid the growing controversy over letting the marathon continue as scheduled, I personally felt torn about running the race while recovery efforts continued. It also emerged that Staten Island, where the race normally begins, was hardest hit within NYC.
I went to the convention centre on Friday to the race expo, but the reservations grew, especially as I made a slight detour through Chelsea, where emergency food rations were being distributed in a park. I picked up my bib despite those reservations. At the time, I figured I can run the race, and help out in any way I can afterward.
I returned Friday evening to the hostel where I was staying to use the wifi (no exorbitant data roaming for me) and see the twitter explosion about the race cancellation. “Shocked, but not shocked” formed part of my reaction tweet.
Saturday morning, the hostel organized a cleanup of a local park. We were shuttled by a parks employee to the riverfront park in northwest Harlem. There are signs of storm damage here, such as fallen trees, but our group was just tasked to rake the fallen leaves gathered at the edge of the basketball courts. Not what I expected, but every little bit helps, I supposed.
When we got back to the hostel, I discovered a newly-created Facebook group, New York Runners in Support of Staten Island. The group’s plan was for runners, whether or not they were supposed to run the NYC Marathon, to head to Staten Island to drop off needed supplies for the relief effort. So as not to overwhelm what’s already happening there, various groups would spread out across Staten Island, according to one’s intended running distance.
Sunday morning, I set out for the Staten Island Ferry. Accompanying me was John, who was also staying at the hostel and was also set to run the marathon. I had told him about this initiative, and he was keen to go. On the way, we could see many people clad in orange, as that was the uniform for those participating in this endeavour.
It was great to see thousands of runners, carrying backpacks full of stuff, but others had boxes, and one even had a suitcase. The vibe was positive, and there were great cheers when the organizers starting using a bullhorn to make announcements (see above photo). John and I settled on the group running 10-12 miles total.
Once on Staten Island, the various groups splintered further, and we set off toward our destinations. I’ve never run with a backpack, let alone one that is filled with clothes and food, but this is not a race. Everyone went along at their own paces. For the first 5 miles, I saw what I’ve already seen on Manhattan: downed tree branches, and broken signs.
Soon after I saw curbsides full of garbage and a pump sucking water out of a house. We reached our destination, which was a distribution centre for relief supplies. One of the volunteers who was there requested that we take some items and pass it on to other centres along the way. We gladly dropped some of our stuff, took more, and continued on.
The scene changed very quickly. The severity of the destruction became more acute as we ran toward the ocean shore. John and I, along with two other runners, encountered a pair of brothers who were there to help out their parents, who live on Staten Island. According to them, their parents punched a hole on the roof of their house to avoid the rising waters.
There are many more stories like that from everyone who lives on Staten Island. We helped clear out the garbage and disassembled the shed of the house of Mary Anne, a 70 year old who lived not far from shore. (A photographer from the island newspaper stopped by and took this shot of her and John hugging.) As the flood waters were rising, she tried to call the attention of a passing rescue boat, but it was full. She then scrambled out a window and clung to her house’s gutter until someone finally rescued her. While she was clinging to the gutter, she witnessed a nearby fire to a house, the remnants of which are in the photo below:
Having never witnessed such destruction in person, I was humbled to see it for myself, and to be a part of the recovery. I totally agreed with the runner-volunteer who was quoted at the end of this New York Times article: “We had our marathon today. But it was just more of an emotional one.” I did run about 12 miles out-and-back that day, all told, but that is irrelevant compared to what happened between those 12 miles.
There were some moments of levity, mostly before we ran into the devastated area. While waiting for the ferry, I met members of Team Takbo, an NYC-based run group, some of whose members had been ready to run the marathon. There was some Gangnam Style dancing as the ferry docked on Staten Island. This is John, a French runner-volunteer, me, and two members of Team Takbo; we were at one of the distribution stations at the parking lot for the beach at the end of Midland Avenue:
But just because we runners have gone through, the emergency is not over. There is more to be done on the ground to help storm victims get back on their feet. New York City’s Service page is one resource where you can volunteer or donate.
I’ve totally neglected the blog over the last couple of months. But I’m not going to neglect the tradition of posting a report after a running race. This past Sunday was the inaugural running of the Surrey Marathon. Like the Green Sock Half this past March, I’m treating the half marathon event in Surrey as a stepping-stone in my training for the NYC Marathon. My intention was not to break my PR, even two hours, but to get a feel of marathon race pace for the big day in New York five weeks hence.
It was a great fall race: the weather was cool and cloudy, and the number of participants was small enough that everyone spaced themselves out after the first kilometre. The course looped counterclockwise around north Surrey, touching a number of the city’s largest parks before returning to the start point in the city centre. The course was generally flat with some gentle hills, but there are a number of turns, including a turnaround point on a (closed) Fraser Highway in Green Timbers Park. I personally liked when the race went off-street and into a couple of greenways that felt really serene when I ran on them.
The plan was to go very easy for the first few kilometres, pick it up to marathon goal pace for the majority of the half, then finish at a slightly faster pace. I executed it perfectly: averaging about 6:40/km (10:45/mi) in the first 5 km, and 6:25/km (10:20/mi) in km 5-15. I wasn’t thinking of a particular finish time, but 2:15 was reasonable. When I got to km 15 and noticed I would have to pick up the pace just to make 2:15, I picked up the pace. At some point the lead marathoner passed me (completing a 2nd lap of the course), and I vainly tried to catch up, finishing that particular km in a time of 5:25. In this last section, I assessed my progress each kilometre and felt I was on track to beat 2:15. Knowing this I slowed down slightly, but picked it up again in the last 500 metres, finishing in a chip time of 2:13:42. The last 5.1 km were all run under 6:00/km (9:40/mi).
Surprisingly, I didn’t cramp near the end as I had done in previous races. It was also a good thing I wasn’t gunning for a PR, because the first half of the race seemed to lack adequate fluids at the designated aid stations. What could have been a table for drinks was shockingly empty, and I was left to downing my gels (at my usual long-run frequencies) without the requisite water. And speaking of water, I was disappointed that among the post-race treats for runners was bottled water.
However, I was quite pleased with the “music markers” scattered throughout the course; in keeping with the international theme for the race, a number of different countries were represented. The “Indian mile” along 88th Avenue, and especially the high-tempo performance when I passed in front of Bear Creek Park, was one of my favourites. Overall, I liked running in Surrey, and it’s now added to a dizzying collection of area races held around this time of year (the others are Victoria and Okanagan). Next year’s fall race might be a tough one to choose!
I picked up these two books I had placed on hold at my local library. I hope to spend some time in New York (likely after the marathon) exploring, both by transit and on foot. The book on the left should be a good introduction to the High Line, which is an abandoned elevated railway that has been converted to park space. It would be a good chance to see what, if anything, can be applied to Vancouver’s situation, particularly with the ongoing viaduct debate.
As the title of my post suggests, I still have to find a place to stay. I’ll be researching reasonably-priced accommodation in the next few days; this is where you come in. If you have been to New York (not necessarily for the marathon), where did you stay? My price point, by the way, is under $100/night. I don’t think that’s impossible, which is why I’m trying to book it now.
15 weeks until race day! Training has been going well so far. I’ve been going to hot yoga twice a week (got myself one of those online deals for a month of unlimited yoga for a dirt-cheap price), and my last long run has gone up to 18 km.
I have just started week 3 out of 22 in my training for the NYC Marathon. I’m using the same 22-week schedule that led up to the Vancouver Marathon to train for NYC. I plan to run at least three days a week (tempo, speed or hills, and weekend long run), with extra days for easy runs or cross-training when I can fit them in. I want to see if it was the training or race-day actions that contributed to my massive bonk on the Vancouver course.
I’ve also booked my flight to New York, so it’s getting a bit more real; it’s a bargain, but I’m flying out of Sea-Tac. As much as I would love to fly out of Vancouver (YVR), and on a non-stop to boot, the lack of choices (only two non-stops) and high cost forced my hand to fly out of SEA. I still have to book accommodation, and that cost will make me more determined to find work in order to finance this trip.
How about you: are you training for a race this summer? Tell me about it!
My brother got me this shirt from his trip to the UK earlier this month. With me heading to New York later this year, the shirt got me to thinking about future marathon plans. London will definitely be part of it, as are Chicago and Berlin. With Boston and New York, the five races form the World Marathon Majors [wiki]. Running while traveling has become a norm for me (see my previous posts on running in San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Hawaii), so I’ll probably keep an eye on racing calendars next time I plan a holiday. I’m also accepting suggestions!
Someone sent me an email about a documentary on CBC Radio’s Ideas program. “Footprints Kenya” explores the rise of the Kenyans as the dominant runners in recent years, and how a visit to a training camp in the Great Rift Valley shows their incredible work ethic. Kathrine Switzer provided some insight, and there is an interview with Mary Keitany, winner of the 2012 London Marathon and a favourite to win gold this summer at the London Olympic Marathon. The program aired May 14, but is available to listen on demand by clicking on the link, and it’s also available as a podcast.
Yes, I’m smiling in that picture, but the elation has slightly given way to frustration and self-doubt.
It might have started when I caught the bus to get as close to the start line as possible. It detoured away, but when I realized the bus is not going to stop until a transfer point next to the Canada Line, I almost freaked out. But I briefly forgot that I can take the Canada Line one stop to King Edward, the closest stop to the start line.
Besides the new courses, the race organizers set up corrals for runners, based on predicted finish time. The thing is, I didn’t know which corral I was assigned until I got to the start area. For future races, that should be something for the organizers to include for runners picking up their bibs.
Less than 24 hours to go until the start of the Vancouver Marathon. I’m not nervous now, but I’ll probably feel it a bit more when I’m standing in the corral, waiting for the gun to go off.
The marathon is the culmination of almost six months of solid training. And that training is as much a milestone as finishing the race itself, so that mission is accomplished. It almost fulfills the “Redemption” theme I gave myself at the start of the year.
I’ll also be going into this marathon knowing I’ll be doing this all over again in six months. I somehow managed to be selected to run the New York City Marathon! I’ll detail my future plans with my next post, when I run down my experience at my hometown marathon. For now, to everyone who’ll be joining me at the starting line on Sunday, whether in the full or half marathon in Vancouver, or in the many other runs taking place around the world: have a great race!