Race report: 2012 Vancouver Marathon

Displaying the finisher's medal for the 2012 Vancouver Marathon

This year’s slogan/hashtag for the race was #runvan. I love how the medal emphasized the past tense: “RAN FULL”, with “RAN VAN” on the other side.

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.

Once I settled into my corral and waited for our group to get closer to the start line, I actually felt calm, as if running marathons was something I do regularly. (Actually, no: this was only my second.) My goal was a sub-4:20 finish, with a conservative start and negative split. Thank goodness the corral system did what it was supposed to do, and spaced out the runners. It wasn’t too crowded, even in the first kilometre. Even so, I stuck to my guns and started slowly. By km 3, I felt warmed-up enough that I was up to my goal pace of 6:10/km (9:55/mi). I went for 6 km splits, so as not to overwhelm myself with numbers. 37:00 for 6 km is 6:10/km pace.

Promotional poster for the Vancouver Marathon: "A marathon so beautiful you'll wish it was longer."

Promotional poster for the Vancouver Marathon

A little bit on the course: yes, it’s beautiful. Living in Vancouver, I occasionally run on parts of the course as part of my training. But to run it all at once (the outer ring of the medal lists them: Cambie, West 49th, Pacific Spirit Park, UBC, Kits, Stanley Park seawall, and Coal Harbour) makes this race very special. Running it on a sunny spring day was the clincher.

I managed to stay in the 37-38 minute range for my 6 km splits, right through the hilliest early sections of the course. Around the halfway point, we were along NW Marine Drive in front of Spanish Banks. Looking out over the water, I noticed a very low tide, thanks to the previous night’s supermoon [wiki]. In front of Kits Beach, Sonja, a board colleague with the Community Arts Council, ran with me for about a block. It was nice to have some company, but when she stopped running with me, the fun stopped soon after that.

When I made the turn into Kits Point, about km 27, I felt the first twinges in my right leg. It would prove to be the first of many. Also around this time, I was also feeling the call of nature. By the time I got over the Burrard Bridge, I knew I wouldn’t last the rest of the race in this condition, so I got into the next portable toilet and did what I had to do.

But the cramping in my right leg became more frequent and more severe. By then, I was nowhere close to attaining my goal, my next best shot was to match the sub-4:40 from my first marathon. At one point on the Stanley Park seawall, my right calf seized up completely. After a quick massage, I was on my way again. I wanted to run continuously in the final segment between the seawall and the finish line, but I just couldn’t. I did avoid walking in the last 500 or so metres, and crossed the line with a chip time of 4:44:32.

It was telling that when I cleaned out my fuel belt when I got home, and I fished out some gel packets that I had picked up during the race, I also picked out not one, but two of the packets that I had packed before the race. I thought I had fueled at regular intervals, but it obviously was not enough, given the cramping my leg suffered in the last 15 km. I don’t want to dwell on what-ifs, but given how steadily I was running in the first half, I could have gotten close to 4:20 had I been downing gels and water more often.

Now what? As I mentioned in my last post, I got selected to run the New York City Marathon in November. It’s an opportunity to try again: once the aches from this race go away, I’ll re-start my training. I don’t think the training itself was the issue (although I could add an extra run and/or cross-training to the mix), but the in-race fueling.

I won’t kick myself too much on the result of this race. Live and learn, as they say. I have another chance to try again, and that chance will happen in six months in the five boroughs. I’m excited for this!


2 Comments on “Race report: 2012 Vancouver Marathon”

  1. […] I am in the middle of a contract, but nothing is guaranteed at the moment. Goal #2 (completing the Vancouver Marathon in 4:20) proved to be slightly optimistic. I applied the lessons for training for that into the NYC […]

  2. […] 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.) […]

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