Race report: 2010 Okanagan Half MarathonPosted: 13 October 2010
In 2006, I ran my first half marathon in Kelowna. I had no expectations and ended up with a time of 2:14. Four years and eight half marathons later, I’ve returned with a clear goal: to break two hours.
A year ago, I went into the Royal Victoria Marathon with a personal best at the half of 2:12, only 2 minutes better than my first-ever race. With each race since, I’ve chipped away at this time, such that I toed the line in Kelowna with a 2:03 PB.
If you’ve been following my updates, the training cycle leading up to the Okanagan Half has been quite different from what I was used to. I changed to a clinic where there was greater emphasis on intervals, tempo, and inserting goal-pace sessions during the Sunday long runs. I started practicing yoga. My continued unemployment had some upside, too: I added more runs, such that I was running four times a week for most of this training. All in all, I felt strong, confident, and ready to break a finish time that I once considered improbable to achieve.
I left for Kelowna on Friday; I figured I would need the extra day to freshen my legs after a grueling six-hour bus ride. I also based myself at a hostel so close to the the start/finish area that I could hear the preparations and announcement tests on Sunday morning. In retrospect, those were two great moves. While there, I didn’t do much, save for a trip to the cinema on Saturday morning to watch live Met Opera (Das Rheingold).
Then came Sunday morning. As some motivation and inspiration, I reached into my iPhone and listened to, among others, Tegan and Sara’s “Hell”. The song title seemed apt, and the chorus carried into my head during the run.
For a few days, I was fretting over the likelihood of rain during the race. I don’t know why I was worrying; I run in Vancouver rain all the time, so why should Kelowna rain be any different? Right at the start line, about 10 minutes before the race start, there came a downpour. But that was actually the worst of it; it eased off at the start, then became spotty showers the rest of the time I was on the course.
For this race, like all the half marathons I’ve run recently, I’ve broken it down into 3 segments of 5 km, then the final 6.1 km. My intended split times were 29:00+28:00+28:00+34:59 = 1:59:59. Despite the usual start-of-race chaos, I managed a first kilometre under 5:30. Learning my lesson from Victoria last year, I eased up, but not too much. I managed my first 5k just under 28:00 (or 5:36/km pace); I felt fine, but knew I can bring it down a bit more if I wanted.
Around km 7 or 8, I felt that twinge in my right knee that has happened recently when I bring on the speed. Momentarily, I was thinking of the potential pain, but it faded until after the race ended. At km 10, I had a split time of 28:18 (5:40 pace); I’m well on pace halfway through the race.
The third segment could be considered the make-or-break point of the race; I’d either keep my pace, or hit the wall. It was also a mental test to stay positive and focused. Somehow I pulled off a 5-km split of 28:04 (5:37 pace). I’m well on my way now!
The way I figure it, the last 6.1 km is about equivalent to the distance I sometimes run at tempo pace, so this shouldn’t be too hard; but then again, I’ve already run 15 km at a pace that is essentially tempo, so I wondered if I could hang on. Maybe it was the competitive juices flowing, or the resumption of rain, or the great encouragement from the pace bunny that I finally passed near the end, but after around km 17, I found that extra gear that I was hoping would be there at the right time. Even at km 19, when I was sure I’d break two hours, I tried not to think about that; anything can still happen. As I made the final bridge-and-tunnel crossings to the home stretch, I stopped looking at my watch and focused on a great finish. I approached the finish, and the gun time above the line was still under two hours, so I felt assured of that. After collecting my medal, I stopped my watch and saw a “1” in the hour column. That’s confirmation that I did it!
The final push was evident: 32:47 in the final 6.1 km, or an average 5:22 pace. That was faster than some tempo runs during training. 1:57:07 is the official chip time; I beat my previous PB by exactly six minutes. In the last year, I’ve knocked off 15 minutes from the 2:12 at BMO Vancouver 2009. Needless to say, I am quite proud of my performance, not just during this race, but over the last year.
A few notes about the race in general: I liked the small expo (not even a football-field’s length across), and its minimalism with the gear bag – nothing too extraneous in there. I believe the route has changed since 2006, but then, as now, it’s an interesting mix of residential, industrial, and lakeshore, with way too many turns for my liking – we could have run a bit over 21.1 km! But it’s mainly flat, which is why I’m definitely coming back to Kelowna.
As for the future, I’ve going to spend my winter training for the First Half in February, then the Vancouver Marathon in May. But before all that, the Fall Classic Half Marathon (November) is looming. Nothing like signing up for some more races to stay motivated. Keep on running!