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.
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!
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.
Two races in eight days? That might be a record for me. After last weekend’s semi-relaxed half marathon at Burnaby Lake, I went to Stanley Park to
run race at one of my favourite events, Harry’s Spring Run-off.
This race is special because it’s a fundraiser for prostate cancer research (a cause that’s near and dear to me), but also because most of it is on the Stanley Park seawall. This year, the direction has been reversed: runners go counterclockwise along the seawall, on the south shore of Lost Lagoon, and back toward the start/finish area at the miniature railway (moved from Lumbermen’s Arch).
I was cautious going into this run; I probably shouldn’t have eaten the dinner that I had had the night before (suffice to say that some of its ingredients conflicted with my lactose-intolerant self), and one of my hamstrings had tightened up over the previous day. But after warming up, and getting psyched up with a few of my favourite warm-up songs (the newest of which is Ingrid Michaelson’s “Fire”), I was ready.
Also new this year was a corral system; the corrals are not really separated, so it’s more voluntary than anything else. I put myself at the front of the red corral, which would get me around my goal time of under 44 minutes. The first kilometre was quite fast, but on pace, so that gave me momentum heading on to the seawall proper. Once there, I settled at around a 5:15/km (8:27/mi) pace and started passing other runners. 5:30/km is all I needed to get to 44 minutes, so I was aware of watching my effort level. Given my tight hamstring, I didn’t want to exacerbate it further by pushing myself unnecessarily.
By kilometre 6, I felt some fatigue, but not enough for me to ease up. At 5:15 pace, a quick mental calculation told me I could break 42 minutes. When I got to the 7 km marker, and felt that I could get under 42, I increased my speed. Not even two uphills in the final kilometre (including in the last 50 metres) slowed me down, as I recorded my only sub-5:00/km (8:03/mi) split, finishing with a chip time of 41:47. Not only did I exceed my race-day expectations, but I broke my PR for this distance by more than two minutes!
I wanted to take advantage of a complimentary massage after the run, but the wait was too long. I’ll just rest for a few days, but that’s all I’ve got. The final push toward the marathon is coming up, with three straight weekends of 30+ km, and then the three-week taper.
This race provided slightly different swag: green technical socks. For me, I preferred them over another technical shirt, of which I have way too many. I entered this race partially as a dress rehearsal for the marathon (now
six seven weeks away), but also to run off-road for a change. The trails around Burnaby Lake aren’t that technical, but it’s different enough from the concrete and asphalt on which I usually run. I also figured that the effort required to expend 21.1 km (at 6:00/km pace) would be about equal to the 30 km at 7:00 pace I originally scheduled for this day.
My goal for this race was to run at my marathon goal pace of 6:10/km (9:55/mi) for most of it and attain a negative split. There were also race lengths of 5 km and 7 miles, but the field was small enough (capped at 300) that everyone started at the same time. After the usual logjam in the first kilometre, the crowd quickly thinned out, while I settled on that goal pace. While I have run on the north-side trails of Burnaby Lake Regional Park, this was the first time I ran on the south side, and thus completing a loop of the park. It was cool and cloudy during the run, with occasional misty bursts; in other words, really nice March running weather.
In order to achieve a negative split, I intended to increase my speed slightly in the first half of the second loop around the lake, then really go for it in the second half. (The race course crosses a small dam across the Brunette River, marking the unofficial split between the two halves of the loop.) I executed that plan perfectly. I did want to break at least 2:06, or 6:00/km (9:39/mi), but as I made my way past the 20 km marker, it didn’t look likely. But I found that I crossed the finish line in under 2:05 – 2:04:43.7 to be precise (PDF of results). The time on my watch was pretty close, but the distance wasn’t: 20.77 km was what my Garmin recorded. Until the race organizers confirm it, I’ll take Mr Garmin as accurate based on the km splits (most of the on-course markers were actually placed 100 m ahead, so that the 8 km marker is actually 8.1 km).
I’m not too fussed right now on the distance discrepancy, since it’s a small race. Considering how well I did in pace management, it’s not that big a deal for me that I didn’t exactly run 21.1 km. How much of a difference in distance (over or under) would get you to complain to the race organizers?
(Updated 03/20/2012, 20:15, because I seemed to be a bit too eager in counting down to the marathon.)
This year’s Fall Classic had much better conditions at the start line compared to last year. It was still cold: just below 0°C (32°F) at the start, but the roads were mainly clear of ice and snow. That allowed me to be in the mindset to break two hours. It’s smack dab in the middle of an acceptable 2:05, and a 1:55 had the run gods been smiling.
I have to say that this half marathon was a redemption race of sorts. After overtraining and missing out on the Vancouver Marathon earlier this year, I fought my way back and had a great 15-week training session to prepare for this race. I mostly ran four days a week, one of which was a faster-paced session, usually around a track. I almost got sidelined with some IT band issues closer to race day, but a couple of visits to my chiropractor had me fixed up well enough to line up at the start line.
It’s the same double-loop course as last year. I started near the back and settled at a nice, but challenging 5:40/km (9:07/mi) pace. I managed to speed up to about 5:35/km (9:00/mi) for most of the rest of the way. I could have challenged breaking my PR of 1:57 (especially considering I was around that pace at the halfway point), but my “break two hours” mindset pretty much stuck all the way through. When I knew with about 3 km left that I wasn’t going to beat 1:57, I eased up slightly, but managed to stay under 5:50/km (9:23/mi), and even then, I was still recording km splits around 5:35/km after km 20. Coincidentally (or not), my calf started to cramp near the end. There was a slight one at about km 18, but when I started feeling more of them after km 20, and especially in the last 100 m, that told me that I hadn’t fueled properly in the critical last quarter of the race.
My official chip time was 1:58:34. It’s essentially halfway between my PR and two hours, so I’ll definitely take it. I believe I can find that extra gear to get under not just 1:57, but even 1:55, which I’ve set as my next half-marathon target time. And my road to redemption isn’t yet complete. My next major goal race will be to try again for the Vancouver Marathon. I’m taking a week or so off, then I’ll get ready to spend 22 weeks to re-familiarize myself with the rigors of running really long distances.
On a race that was held on Thanksgiving, I have to give thanks that it wasn’t the rainout that was expected a few days ago. Even still, there was a brief downpour at the start, and again when I finished. I’ll take it.
Twitter friend Tina (blog) invited me to join a team that she was organizing for this 10k race that’s based at Granville Island and makes its way around the False Creek seawall. When she and someone else told me about the post-race food, I was sold. Since it’s two-thirds of the way through my training for the Fall Classic, I figure it would also serve as a test of how my training has progressed so far, and an indicator of the distance I could reasonably race in November.
Despite being a runner for five years, this is only my second 10k that’s not the Sun Run (ie. a smaller race in which I can race instead of weave). All I know is that the distance is long enough that going all-out from the get-go might not work. But I had in my mind a plan to start conservatively and hope I have enough speed near the end. Being on the seawall means it’s mostly flat, except for a stretch on the Burrard Street Bridge, which happily is in the first 2-3 km of the race.
Even though I’ve run on this seawall many times, racing it is completely different, and one thing I’ve noticed is the many types of surfaces on this course, from asphalt to cobblestones to a wooden boardwalk near the finish. With the on-and-off rain, some of those surfaces can prove slippery if you’re not careful. Luckily, nothing untoward happened on that front.
It turns out that I ran this 10k exactly as planned. I averaged around 5:50/km (9:23/mi) for the first 3 km, then went to 5:35/km (9:00/mi) for the next 3. It was in the last 4 km that I moved to yet another gear; each kilometre split was under 5:20/km (8:35/mi), with the final kilometre in an incredible 4:46 (7:40/mi). My watch displayed 54:44, the same as recorded by the timing chip. Not just a new personal best for a 10k, going sub-55 went beyond my expectations for this race, and I’m happy that I’m not suffering unduly in the day or so afterward.
What dampened my expectations, however, was the post-race food. I’m not sure what was available last year, although I overheard canapes were served. There were the usual bagels and bananas, but at least the bagels were stuffed with cream cheese in the middle. And while there were two separate tables of food, one of them was placed near two monitors that displayed runners’ finish times. Guess which table was frequented more often?
I’ve also gotten an email confirmation from Tina that our team of 5 won the mixed-team category, based on our combined times. We are awaiting word from the organizers as to what prize(s) the team has won.
With a fast course and fun times, the Turkey Trot adds to the myriad of race options that take place over the October long weekend. It just made it harder to pick a race to train for and run!
After three straight years running the half marathon, this was the year I changed races at the BMO Vancouver. For almost a year, I focused on running the hometown marathon for the first time. Unfortunately, an injury dashed those chances at a critical point in the training buildup. Not wanting to be deterred by such a setback, I re-focused and set my sights on the 8k distance, if only as a marker of my recovery progress.
Even in the week or so leading up to the 8k race, I was still having issues with my injured ankle/Achilles. My last hard run (an attempt at goal pace) also left me with sore quads. All of that meant I wasn’t sure how I should approach this race: go conservatively, or run like hell. I was thinking of a finish time of around 50 minutes (6:15/km), which should indicate whether or not I’m progressing well in my recovery.
As I arrived at the race start/finish area, saw off the half and full marathoners (including those I’ve trained with until my injury), and started warming up, there was a silent confidence building. As I waited in the start corral area, someone asked me my goal time, and I told her somewhere in the 48-50 minute range, which means I can average 6:00/km. That pace had been unattainable in more than six weeks, but I felt ready to take it on.
The BMO 8k had an announced field of 1100 (although over 900 are recorded as having completed it), which is quite small compared to the two longer distances. The course is a simple out-and-back that follows the first portion of the full marathon route. Unsurprisingly, the first kilometre was crowded and that kept me at a reasonable opening pace (6:35/km). I gradually picked up the speed such that I reached the turnaround point in under 25 minutes.
So far so good, I thought. I could maintain a similar pace and still finish under 50 minutes. But I was feeling great: nothing major with my ankle, and no other discomforts. That’s when the race instincts kicked in. Thanks to a downhill that helped my momentum, I clocked sub-6:00/km the rest of the way. The last kilometre was an outlier; after the final turn, I just went flat out and finished that kilometre in about 5:00, and the full 8k in 47:18.
I was very happy with my overall time, especially the final surge to the finish. It likely means my recovery is complete. But I’m in no hurry to test it further. In fact, for the first time in a long time, I am not registered for any races. I’ll probably re-build my base for a few weeks, then figure out a suitable distance in which to train. Can you suggest a local race (ie. in Greater Vancouver) I should try this summer?
Just imagine: almost 100,000 pairs of feet pounding the streets of Vancouver on a Sunday morning. Some of them are running to beat personal bests, others are setting them. It can only be the Sun Run. And I returned to the race that started me off with running five years ago.
In my case, I wasn’t going to attempt to race this. I’ve learned even in the last two times I ran the Sun Run that weaving around slower participants can actually eat up time. (Apparently, this practice is cheekily called “clockblocking“.) In any case, my ongoing recovery means I wouldn’t be in any condition to toe the line at my appropriate chute (green bib, which is a step up from the white bib of 2007).
Nevertheless, I ran with my dad, who was doing his second straight Sun Run as part of his company’s team. He was looking to improve on his time, and I told him that I would certainly help in that endeavor. He’s been going to a gym a few times a week. My sister bought him some proper shoes at a proper running store, my brother gave him a technical shirt, and we’ve all given him some advice along the way. He was ready to break his time from last year.
I told my dad that I would stick with him; I didn’t say it, but I was his personal pace bunny. Even though I had the green bib, I went to his designated chute for purple bibs. Being this far back usually meant the winner would have crossed the finish line well before the purple- and red-bibbed participants even got to the start. Not that it matters one bit, thanks to the magic of chip timing.
My dad and I finally got going about 9:50. Before we started, we had agreed upon doing a run-5-minutes-walk-1-minute program. I gave him some well-timed advice and encouragement along the way, such as taking it easy on the initial downhill and keeping the weaving to a minimum. At some points, such as near Lost Lagoon, the narrowing course and mass of humanity meant extended walk breaks. About halfway, we modified the program to run-3-walk-1, and this proved to be more manageable for my dad. From the halfway point onward, we were on pace to break 90 minutes (9:00/km), so I made sure we kept to that pace, even with a bathroom break near the end. He’s a warrior, my dad. He was just as keen to break 90 that he was even running up the on-ramp to the Cambie Bridge! That might have been the difference, as we crossed the line, together, at 89:01.
I’m so happy that I helped him beat last year’s Sun Run time by over 10 minutes. It was a great experience, and I’ll certainly do it again next year. And if my dad wants to do any other races in the interim, I’ll definitely support him with that.
(Photo credit: flickr user mafue)
Harry’s Spring Run-off, a fundraising run in support of prostate cancer research in Vancouver, began in 2007. Its cause was given greater importance for me earlier that year, as my grandfather had recently passed away from prostate cancer. I promptly signed up and began raising funds. And I’ve run and donated to the cause ever since.
For me, the 2011 edition of Harry’s is a little different from past years, when I’ve essentially raced it, and with progressively faster times each year. My nagging injury from the previous week meant I couldn’t run this one fast, but I felt OK enough to treat it as an easy run. I may try to make it an easy run, but the challenge was to do that during an actual race, when the competitive juices start flowing. Starting near the back was a good way not to be swept up with the others who were actually going to go faster than me.
Fast or not, it turned out to be a very great day in which to run. Sunny and not too cool were the conditions at Stanley Park on the last run of winter. It was so nice that I ran in shorts; at least I can say that I did a winter run in shorts! I almost regretted that, however, when the sun disappeared around the north side of the seawall; the gloves I brought with me slightly took the edge off the cold.
Even though I kept an easy pace, I told myself to speed up in the last 2 km, but only if it felt right. After averaging 6:45/km for the first 6 km, with minimal discomfort, I slowly turned it up so that I went 6:31 during km 7. Still feeling good, I increased speed for the last kilometre, which I finished in just over 6:00.
Harry’s is always a great race experience; it’s capped to 2000 runners, and the 8k distance means it can be a good test before the Sun Run or Vancouver Marathon. And who can argue with a run along the Stanley Park seawall? I’m not too keen on the provided lime-green technical shirt (2nd year in a row), but that’s going too much into the details. An off-colour shirt is not going to stop me from coming back to this race and running it for my grandfather.