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.
For 2010, one of my running goals is to break 2:05 in a half marathon. To me, it was realistically attainable. My first test to see if I can get there was the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon. Having run the same course in 2008 and 2009, it’s familiar and yet still a challenge.
I applied essentially the same training program that I used in the leadup to last year’s Royal Victoria Marathon, but of course the long runs don’t go to astronomical lengths. For the most part, I stuck with it, and improved on the mileage from last year: 407.2 km (253 mi) run in 16 weeks. I think that was a contributing factor to my chip time: 2:07:23, a new PR for the half!
An analysis of my 5k split times indeed shows great improvement over last year; the biggest difference was in the third segment that includes the hill to Prospect Point. The hill training worked: I powered up that incline; it just felt so good to pass so many people walking or shuffling.
Unfortunately, I might have paid for that at the end of the hill, as my left knee starting acting up on the downhill. I carried on regardless, finally averaging sub-6:00/km over the last 6.1 km.
What was different from the last two years was the weather. It started to drizzle just before the start, and it never really stopped. It only seemed tolerable because it wasn’t a downpour, but rather just showers of varying degrees of intensity. Over the several years I’ve been running, I’ve learned to accept that running in the rain is essentially a fact of life in Vancouver, and it never did bother me as I went through the course.
As for the race organization, I think it’s quite well organized race: great volunteers, an efficient expo experience (ie. quick to retrieve the bib and chip), and even a step toward sustainability by going bottled water-free and using biodegradable cups at water stations. I did find an issue with crowd control in the finish-line zone. After you get your medal and your blanket, the only path out suddenly narrows, resulting in a bottleneck. I can understand the need to keep spectators out, but for the participants, who are cold and wet from their run, the need to get them dry and warm should take some priority.
For next year, I’m seriously considering running the full marathon, which will be the 40th version in 2011. It gives me that chance to run in my hometown, and it would be great experience. For now, I still have to meet my 2:05 goal for the half, and I think I have a great chance to do it before the end of the year.
What a difference a year makes! Last year, I logged a time of 2:19:47. This year, I had as my goal to beat that time. Little did I realize that the 2:12:13 in this year’s BMO Half is a new personal best! I can point to two main factors why I did as well as did this year:
- I ran the whole thing non-stop (except for walking pauses to consume gel or water that never exceeded one minute). In training, I consciously made the decision to move away from the run-10-walk-1 method I’ve used in training for, and running in, the last four half marathons. I quite surprised myself with the result, not just in the time, but in the fact that the whole run was consistent from beginning to end, and as I’ve tweeted soon after the race, I took great pride in that.
- I knew what to expect. The hill heading to Prospect Point is the main challenge in an otherwise flat course on the Downtown Peninsula. This year, I forced myself on to those grueling hill sessions with progressively steeper inclines. This was what was neglected in previous training sessions, and I did ignore them at my peril. I also knew to conserve my energy once the run entered Stanley Park. This paid off too: my speed in the section that included Prospect Point was greatly improved over last year.
Training Summary: The total km logged over 16 weeks of training was 352.2. I’m sure that had a lot of influence in this year’s result (vs. 275 km last year).
Next up: I think I’m going to capitalize on the momentum of this result by registering this week for the Royal Victoria Marathon. What I did today shows I am more than capable of taking on the rigors of training for a full marathon, and I’m keen to get started!
1. Record Store Day [Alan Cross article] – It’s sad that many people are abandoning purchases of physical albums in favour of MP3s. Record Store Day is the response. You’ll likely get shades of High Fidelity, but the independent record store is still the best place to discover something new, even if you weren’t looking for it.
2. Happy birthday, David Tennant! “Planet of the Dead” has now aired in the UK (and coming soon to Space in Canada). I only bring this up because I have just finished reading the 1st Doctor novel The Time Travellers, and in page 267, there is a date mentioned: 18 April 1971. Guess what? That’s Tennant’s birthday! It’s probably not coincidence – this novel was published in late 2005, around which time Tennant’s 10th Doctor was about to encounter “The Christmas Invasion”.
3. BMO Vancouver Half Marathon is in two weeks. I completed the last long run of my training this morning, and I think I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. So far in my training, I’ve run almost 300 km, which is already more than the total amount I trained for last year. And this year, I’ve eschewed my 10-and-1 long run approach and went for straight running (with appropriate walk pauses for hydration). Let’s see how this will work under race conditions.
(Simpsons fans will automatically recognize a line from “Treehouse of Horror VI” for my quotation in the title.)
It’s the beginning of April. It’s supposed to be spring, right? It snowed in the higher elevations earlier today; elsewhere, it was just a cold rain. I didn’t mind all the snow this past winter, but I do have a tipping point when it comes to enduring cold, rainy weather. And I think the volatile weather of late is part of the reason I’m now fighting a cold.
In theory, I could have gone for a run this week; supposedly, that can help fight the effects of the cold at the same time. But after my hill-training session last week in the same dreary cold rain, even I couldn’t face another round, particularly on a planned steeper course. Mind you, hill training is essential for the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon, with a killer hill in the middle of the course.
I know that a runner in Vancouver inevitably has to run in the rain, and I’ve accepted that. But I just might have run into training fatigue. Until this week, I’ve followed my three-day-a-week training program pretty well. And with my schedule busy enough as it is, that is an accomplishment. But have I been overtraining? I still have three more long runs before I taper for the BMO Half. When I told that to a fellow Twitterer who is also training for the same race, she told me that she only has one long run left before the taper. Hmm, I don’t know if there is an ideal taper time; it is different for different people, even different for the type of distance about to be run.
I think the priority for me would be to get better, then get back out and pick up the training where I left off. The rest will certainly get me itching to get back to the running!
(Welcome to those who are visiting this blog as a result of the recent monthly Vancouver Blogger Meetup, or Jan Karlsbjerg’s customary roll-call of the meetup. If I didn’t meet you, there is always next month’s meeting!)
The title of this post refers to the fact I have 262 days to train for the 26.2 miles that make up the Royal Victoria Marathon. I’m splitting it in two, basically: right now, I’ve just started 16 weeks of training for the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon. As soon as that’s over, I’ll be training for the marathon proper.
It’s still a long way away, but I know that preparing to run a marathon requires as much mental training as physical. And a lot of that mental training should include some positive reinforcement. But then again, my goal right now is just to finish a marathon, so I have a bit to go in that category. Hopefully I can use all my previous experiences and channel that into a confidence-boost that should get me to the finish line in a time that I can claim with pride.
So many miles
Those days are gone
You’re still alive!
And after so,
So many miles!
- Sarah Slean, “So Many Miles”
The first line of that chorus (above) rang in my ears through most of the run. I looked up the lyrics when I got back, and it just seems so fitting.
16 weeks of training culminated in 21.1 kilometres through Strathcona, downtown, Stanley Park, the West End, and Yaletown. Here’s how the morning unfolded (UPDATE: Link to the route map, in case you wanted to follow along):
- 03:59: My alarm clock wakes me. I crawl out early enough that I didn’t need the backup alarm on my iPhone.
- 05:55: Walk out the door to catch the first bus heading downtown.
- 06:30: Arrive early enough to see off the marathon walkers.
- 06:40: 20 minutes of warm-ups, and I was already starting to sweat.
- 06:55: Officially join the horde at the start line.
- 07:03 (timer starts at 0:00): I cross the start line.
- 7:00 (7 minutes in): I turn on to the viaduct, and the sweat has already started.
- 15:00: The crowd is still thick along Prior Street.
- 21:00: Three runners pause to catch a bird that had something caught in its feet. The passing runners cheer as the bird is allowed to fly freely.
- 25:00, 35:00, 80:00, 110:00: DJs along the route blare out electronica from turntables. There’s nothing better than rave music on a Sunday morning. It did give me a boost, though.
- 40:00: Spectators were cheering a couple of girls wearing bunny ears. I had seen them a few minutes earlier, but at this point I noticed their stuck-on bunny tails.
- 53:00: I started to feel little twinges on my knee. Shouldn’t be enough to slow me down:
- 71:00: Halfway through! Could be on pace for 2 hours, 20 minutes.
- 85:00: Started the punishing push up to Prospect Point.
- 90:00: Still pushing up to Prospect Point.
- 94:00: Passed Prospect Point, but it still looked like we were heading uphill.
- 98:00: Did my usual one-minute walk after 10 minutes of running, which was kind of hard during a downhill.
- 102:00: Passed 15-kilometre mark. I could still make 2h20.
- 120:00: The president of my company (a runner himself) was handing out water in front of English Bay Beach. He had told me that he would be volunteering there, so it was no surprise to me.
- 130:00: The final mile, a crawl up Granville under the bridge.
- 135:00: Still in the middle of Yaletown, but I’ve been pushing since I left Stanley Park.
- 138:30: Made the final turn, with the finish line in sight.
- 09:23 (139:49 by my watch, but it should be close to the chip attached to my shoe): Crossed the finish line, just under the 2h20 I had been on pace to finish.
- 09:45: After de-stretching, I headed inside BC Place for the usual post-race eating fun, but I passed it completely and ended up in the corral on the other side. I went back out and in, but gave up and just passed through the gate for the food.
- 10:20: Left with my baggie full of bagels and fruit and walked back to the bus stop.
Quick analysis: The course had distance markers every 5 km, and my watch calculated the splits from those spots. After averaging about 6:50 after 15 km (or 33-34 minutes for 5 km), I picked up the pace and finished the last 6.1 km in under 38 minutes, which allowed me to make the 2h20 pace from the halfway point.
Training summary: After 16 weeks, and including today’s run, I logged a total of 274.6 km.
What’s next: I don’t know, at least in terms of training for anything. But after the requisite week off, I’ll be back pounding the pavement, trying to go three days a week, with a slightly longer one on Saturday. It would be like the training schedule I just finished.