February 12, 2009

First Half Marathon

I'm running the First Half Marathon in Vancouver on Sunday. It will be my first half since April 2008, where I ran an 88:13 PB. I was surprised to realize it's been that long. While I've raced in 10km's and two marathons since then, a half just didn't suit my schedule for some reason.

I like racing half marathons. My first-ever race I did was a 20-kilometer event through Brussels (Belgium) in May 1997. The race has been held annually for 29 years and draws thousands of entrants. Click here to check details. It took me 2:00:18, which placed me 12,484 th.

I was so happy with simply finishing it and proving to myself that I could run 20 kilometers. It wasn't until February 2000 that I ran my first half marathon. By then I did have a few more races under my belt, varying from 10km, 16km, 30km, a marathon, and an off-road marathon that was cut about 3km short because of a sandstorm.

It was absolutely pouring during that first half marathon in Peterborough, Ontario (Canada). I finished in 1:54:15 (net time). My splits were very even: 57:02 for the first lap and 57:15 for the second.

I ran my second half marathon in August 2002 in Lake Macquarie, NSW (Australia). By then I training and racing mostly as a triathlete. While I had raced the half marathon distance two or three more times in between, it was after swimming 1.9km and riding 90km.

My Lake Macquarie half marathon had an amazing outcome: I finished in 95:35 and won my age group, both big personal milestones. In 2 1/2 years my half marathon time had improved by nearly 20 minutes.

The next big breakthrough came in September 2006 at the Sydney Half Marathon where I broke 90 minutes for the first time, finishing in 89:29.

Three months later, I found myself taking the lead in the Central Coast Half Marathon (NSW, Australia) at the halfway mark. My strategy was to run as hard as I could for the next few kilometers and hopefully open up a gap big enough to discourage anyone to close it. I won my first half marathon in 89:16. I won my second the following year in Joure, the Netherlands, though as it turned out afterwards the course was 500m long. I ran 21.6km in 92:10.

My next half marathon was at the Sunshine Coast, BC (Canada) in April 2008, where I set the PB as mentioned above 88:13. My time was good enough for 10th female. In the First Half 2008, the 10th female ran 86:11. I am looking forward to be inspired by the high level of runners that are drawn to the First Half.

My coach told me to stick to 4:15/km pace, and definitely not faster, for the first 10km. After that I should "wind up the pace slightly". Of course I will heed his advice. Since I am not sure whether there are mile or kilometer markers on the course, I also worked out that 4:15/km translates to 6:50/mile.

A month ago I ran a 10km race in 40:36, or just under 4:04/km. So I should feel relatively comfortable after running 10km at a speed that is 11 seconds per kilometer slower. I should reach the 10km mark at 42:30, or the 6-mile mark at 41:02.

The race starts at 8:30am. Since we (Tim and I) are driving from Squamish and still need to pick up our race package, we'll leave the house no later than 6:30am. That means our alarms will go off at about 5:45am.

I'll have a couple of plain Powerbars as soon as I wake up, and will drink a total of about 750ml water between then and 8am. (I always stop taking fluids half an hour before the race start - it's no good to start with a sloshy stomach full of water.)
I'll also have my morning coffee as usual.

This breakfast should get me through the first 45 to 60 mins of the race. I will take a sip of water as I take a cup or whatever it comes in as I run through every aid station. I will also bring 2-3 gels of which I'll take at least one.

Right now, the weather forecast for Sunday is Sunny, with 0% chance of rain, temperatures between 0 and 6 degrees, and wind of about 10km/h. Sounds pretty good to me!

Today I only have a light speed session, followed by two days without running. I'm looking forward to that after my training volume has steadily increased with my key goal the Vancouver Marathon on May 3.

My training has been going well, despite the fact that this former Australian resident still struggles with the Canadian winter weather - even as mild as it is in Squamish compared with other parts of the country.

It doesn't get below 5 degrees often in Sydney, where I lived for seven years. The challenge for runners there is in fact the opposite: dealing with the heat and humidity in summer.

Training during a second consecutive Canadian winter has allowed me to adjust to the cold and snow. My biggest problem with winter is when the roads/sidewalks are icy and a lack of variety in running paths because of safety when sidewalks have disappeared under a big layer of snow, leaving only the roads to run on.

This winter I got a gym membership for four months, so I've done some training on the treadmill on days when it wasn't safe to run outside. Now the snow is slowly but surely melting away. The days are getting longer and the sun has come out for some beautiful days. I know we are not quite there yet, but I cannot help but get so excited about spring time.

I'm planning on kick-starting my spring with a great half marathon!

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