Race report: 2016 Shaughnessy 8k

My short-distance racing season continued this past Sunday at the Shaughnessy 8k. It was the first time I ran this race, organized by the Lions Gate Road Runners. For me, it was a chance to stay in training mode, as well as to experience a new race setting.

It was also my first race in my latest runemployment chapter, which gave me a little bit more freedom with when I run and even with whom I run. As a result, I’ve had a few quality workouts in the lead-up to this race.


Stretching it out! (Photo credit: Debra Kato)

As I was warming up at the adjacent track, I got my photo taken, mid-stretch, by Debra Kato, who is an incredible supporter of the local running scene; you’ve likely seen her in a costume, taking photos of everyone. (Here’s another photo Debra took of me, after the West Van Run 5k.)

The race itself is a double loop of Vancouver’s Shaughnessy neighbourhood, full of winding streets and, as I discovered, undulating hills. I also discovered that it is a small race, with 222 total finishers this year. It allowed the field to spread out rather quickly; the initial uphill also helped with that. When I looked at the map, I knew there was a hill on 37th Avenue, which I’ve run in the past (uphill in the first kilometre, downhill in the last kilometre), but I didn’t think the rest of it (the 3 km loop section) had hills as well. This is where a preview of the race course would have been helpful.

When I looked at the timed kilometre splits for the race, I somehow held my own on those hills, as most of the splits were within 10 seconds of each other (4:55-5:05/km). I finished in a respectable 40:10.

Going in, I had a few goals for the race: finish under 42 minutes; finish top half or top 100 overall; finish top 10 in my division; and don’t get lapped in the second loop. That last one I thought of as I started the run. I can proudly say I succeeded in all those goals:

76/222 overall (top half and top 100)
57/119 males
7/10 males 35-39 (only 10 in the group, but it’s still top 10!)

And since I didn’t see the lead pack (or the pace car) until the end, I assume I wasn’t lapped.

I’d definitely do this run again; it’s a good springtime race in one of Vancouver’s nicest neighbourhoods.

Race report: 2014 New York City Marathon

Selfie with a subway advert for the 2014 New York City Marathon

Get Your Together On

It was not my fastest marathon I’ve run, but of the three I have now completed, I must say that this was the most satisfying in that I had a strong finish.

But let’s start at the beginning, in 2012, when I was originally scheduled to run this race. Of course that didn’t happen, and I chose to come back and run it this year. Throughout this training cycle, including two 10k races, I’ve felt I could have a chance to break my personal-best time, but I also wanted to have fun in this race and soak in the atmosphere, the joy, of running through New York. In my mind, they’re not mutually exclusive, but I’d go for the latter if the former becomes out of reach.

I tried not to stress myself out between landing in New York and the race, although getting into the expo to pick up my bib was a bit of an ordeal (the queue wrapped around several times on the streets surrounding the convention centre).

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Race report: Cunningham Seawall 10k (Rock ‘n’ Roll Vancouver)

With a week to go, this race is the final tune-up before the NYC Marathon. For my training, it combined the last long-distance run before the marathon with a pace that is effectively tempo.

The Cunningham race has been running for more than four decades, but has now been incorporated with the inaugural half marathon for the Rock ‘n’ Roll series in Vancouver. Since I normally run most of my fall races in early October, I’d have shut down my racing season by the time this race comes around. With the NYC Marathon in early November instead, this gave me the opportunity to join in the tradition.

Since I last raced at the Eastside 10k, my marathon training has peaked with the longest runs of the cycle, at 18 and 21 miles. Despite the usual pre-run anxiety, I managed to survive those runs, and with some bursts of speed mixed in for good measure.

Back to the race at hand: it was a little chilly, which is typical for Vancouver in late October. There had been a storm the night before, but it went away in time for the race. I was aiming to run this around 55 minutes (not a PB, but hard enough to put in some effort), and so I was placed in a top corral.

The race starts on a downhill before leveling out on the Stanley Park seawall. There was the usual first-kilometre frenzy, where I went out a little too fast, but I settled on a rhythm after about the 2nd kilometre. For most of the run, I was trailing a couple, one of whom was wearing a devil’s-horns headband. They seemed to be going at my intended pace, so I just stayed with them. My pacing was good: around 5:25-5:30/km (~8:45/mi) for most of the intermediate kilometres. I made my surge in the last 800 metres or so, passing devil’s-horns guy, and finishing in 54:05.

The distance, both extrapolated from my watch and measured separately on a map, suggested it was more than 10 km. I’ve only questioned the measured distance of a race once before. It’s not that big a deal (most middle-of-the-pack racers ultimately run slightly more than the advertised distance due to weaving and not running on the tangents).

After the race, I found John, with whom I run at the weekly East Van Run Crew meetups. He told me he ran a PB on the race, so congratulations to him! (Here’s an instagram picture of the two of us with our medals.) I then made my way to the beer garden for my complimentary beverage. It was just after 9:00am, but I didn’t care, as it was a great reward for a job well done.

I quite enjoyed this race, and wish I started running this sooner. And with the half marathon also part of the race day, it does give me a local option for a fall half in the future.

369/2808 overall
219/752 males
37/112 males 30-34

Race review: 2014 Vancouver Eastside 10k

Selfie before running 2014 Vancouver Eastside 10k

On the way to the start line

When I first ran this race last year, I immediately fell in love with it. The Eastside 10k has that something that makes it a go-to race to run each year. It could be the route, or the small number of participants, or the late-summer weather. This race has all three.

First, I’ll bring you up to speed on my current training progress. The Eastside 10k marks the halfway point of my training for the New York City Marathon. The week before the race, I finished a 16-mile long run in which I felt comfortable throughout, and didn’t feel too many aches at the end. I’m crossing my fingers that the really long runs (18- and 20-milers still to come) will go just as well.

Also this summer, I started running with the East Van Run Crew (EVRC), a very social group with a weekly run that starts and finishes in front of Parallel 49 Brewing. I couldn’t resist the run + beer combination! The organizer printed up a few shirts, and I wore one of them during the Eastside 10k.

I got up the morning of the race not feeling very well. I barely had my usual pre-race breakfast, and felt nauseated. (Looking back, I think the case can be made for carb overloading the day before.) Nevertheless, I got dressed and made my way to the start area. I wasn’t aiming for a personal best on this race, but I still want to get in a decent time of under 55 minutes. At bag check, I found Sarah, who also runs with EVRC and was also wearing one the crew’s shirts. (She posted a picture of both of us, with our shirts, on her instagram.)

Once I got to the start line, the nausea has mostly gone away, but I still wanted to be cautious. At the last moment, I also made the decision not to look at my watch once I start the timer. I figured that if I wasn’t chasing a PB, I could just run by feel and not worry about time. It was quite liberating, actually. Not once was I even tempted to glance at my watch to check on my progress. The only point when I had an inkling of my time was at the finish, which showed the gun time. My chip time ended up being 56:39, which is off my sub-55 goal, but considering what I had gone through, I’d say that was a decent finish.

I was greeted at the finish line by Alan Brookes, race director for the Canada Racing Series, which organizes the Eastside 10k. He must have seen my shirt, as he stopped me after I received my medal and took a picture of me. I don’t recall saying what he quoted (I did just race 10 km), but I’ll claim it:

NYCM training is now in the 2nd half, and the excitement is building. Let’s get it done!

56:39 (5:39/km, 9:07/mi)
749/1462 overall
478/694 males
82/109 males 30-34

Race report: 2014 Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon

Even though I’ve run this course before (the last time in 2010), I found that the hills (up and down) made it more tough when attempting to run for a personal best. But I had an almost perfect training cycle, which ultimately paid off with a new PB!

In my last update, I reported that training had been going well so far, especially in the month of May. It extended for most of June even though I had to juggle my runs around other things happening. There wasn’t much change in the format of the training (three days: tempo, intervals, long run with some race pace), so why mess with a good thing?

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Race report: 2014 Modo Spring Run-off 8k

This was the 8th running of the Spring Run-off 8k (I’ve run all eight so far!), and the first under the title sponsorship of Modo, the locally-based car-sharing cooperative, of which I am a member. The sponsorship gives the race a nice local flavour, and Modo certainly made strides to highlight that, showcasing other local programs and initiatives at the expo in the Stanley Park Pavilion, as well as putting on display several cars available in Modo’s fleet.

As for training for this race, I considered this as a maintenance period between two half marathons. I put in some strong tempo and interval sessions, and added some race-pace practice in the middle of the weekend long runs. Considering how I’ve been getting closer to the 40-minute finish time in past years, I felt I can challenge myself to break it this year.

I went to the start line, thinking I can start conservatively (around 5:05-5:10/km) and get the negative split. For some reason, the corral system didn’t work as planned; when the gun went off, I had to weave around some people, which can be dangerous in tight confines and on a downhill. Once the crowds separated themselves, I found myself finishing each of the first two kilometres under 5:00. I quickly changed strategy to ease up for km 3-5, hoping I’ve banked enough time. I found some folks with whom I kept pace, and that worked: I ran about 5:05/km for those three kilometres.

It became a different race when we passed the Prospect Point lighthouse and went into a headwind. Without many people I can chase, I decided to do small surges over kilometres 6 and 7. The second and last aid station was just after the 7 km marker, but it was also at the base of the long uphill (the first one). I should have foregone the sport drink and used the momentum from the last moments of the seawall to take me up the hill. Nevertheless, I reminded myself to use my arms to propel myself uphill, and even started passing other runners. There was a 400-metre flat section of reprieve before the cruel, final uphill to the finish. Throughout this last kilometre, I was very aware of my time and whether I can hold on to stay under 40 minutes.

When all was said and done, my chip time was 39:52. It was definitely one of the toughest races I’ve run. I’m happy I can now run a sub-5:00 pace (albeit just barely) for 8 km. The next challenge, of course, is to replicate that on a 10k race. But that’s for another time. My next race is the Scotia Half, and I’m hoping for more positive results!

39:52 (4:59/km, 8:01/mi)
198/771 overall
142/412 males
30/68 males 30-34

Race report: 2014 First Half Half Marathon

I just ran a winter race in conditions so ideal I thought I was running in the spring or fall. It certainly kept me off guard, as I was bracing for ugly weather; I even brought a hat and a toque to ensure proper head coverage. And by the end of mile 1, I was thoroughly overheated. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful day for the first half of the year!

Let me backtrack to the training. A couple of colds at the beginning and end of January really affected my running, and it was a little demoralizing as well. I even forced myself to cancel a weekend long run, which was beneficial to fighting the cold, but frustrating that I couldn’t do the run. By the time the second cold subsided, it was taper time, and I just accepted that these things happen, and to trust the training that I had done not just to that point, but over all the years I have been running.

Before the start, I was thinking of being really conservative in terms of pacing: 9:20-9:30/mi (5:47-5:54/km). As soon as the race started and I found myself running a 5:30 for the first kilometre, then a sub-9:00 first mile, I knew I might not be able to sustain it. As I mentioned earlier, I got overheated, but since I was wearing tights and no jacket, there aren’t places on my person to store them my toque and gloves. I thought of the next-best thing: between my tights and the shorts I was wearing under the tights. It wasn’t elegant, but I couldn’t really bear to part with those items of clothing.

As I usually do at half marathons, I mark split times on my watch at 5 km, 10, 15, and the finish. Interestingly, I recorded identical split times at the 5 km and 10 km markers: 27:33, or 5:31/km (8:52/mi). I slightly eased up, but my body was already ahead of my mind by that point. When the course entered the exposed part of Stanley Park, the cold headwind sapped my already-flagging energy. By that point, I was easing back toward a 9:00/mi average. (The course has markers each mile. I don’t know how I managed to calculate per-km and per-mi paces as I passed various distance markers.)

As the course left the seawall at Second Beach and made its way around Lost Lagoon, that’s where I felt totally drained. It was there that I passed the 10-mile marker at around one hour, 30 minutes (or 9:00/mi). Like I did in Kelowna last October, I started doing the reverse calculation: could I finish the last 3.1 miles in under 30 minutes? It didn’t get any easier, with an uphill section, and a stomach that could rebel if it wanted to, as it had done in earlier training runs. I had to take an extended walk break to calm down.

I passed the 20 km marker and figured that I had about six minutes to finish under two hours. Challenge accepted. I set aside what had happened in the last few kilometres and went for it. An uphill led to a downhill coast along Pacific Boulevard back toward the start/finish zone. By then, I was keeping an eye on my watch, hoping that I can make it. As I sprinted the last 50 metres toward the finish line, the gun time crossed two hours, but my watch still showed a 1:59 when I stopped it.

Finisher's medal and fridge magnet marking the finish time for the 2014 First Half Half Marathon

Medal and time-plate magnet with my chip time

1:59:37.67 to be exact! It was a finish that I’ll take pride in, because of the way I fought back in the last kilometre to save the goal time. Fighting the mind when self-doubt creeps in, fighting the body when there’s nothing left: it’s the quintessential race experience.

(Update, 02/20/2014, 22:50 PST: after reading one of the comments below, I realized I hadn’t put down what I had stuffed into my tights. Now you know…)