February 13, 2011

First Half Vancouver race report

This is an awesome race that draws a great crowd of runners of all levels. The volunteers are absolutely awesome, cheering and smiling. The weather was perfect - dry and around 10 degrees, a nice surprise since we left Squamish at 6:30am in pouring rain.

I didn't sleep well the night before, waking up at midnight. My mind was superactive, thinking about two friends who'd run into a couple of cougars that day on the trails I use a lot for running and walking with our dog Luka. One of the runners carried an airhorn and the noise chased the big cats away after an encounter that was way too close for comfort. She said that in her 13 years of running on the Squamish trails she'd never come across a cougar before.

Other things on my mind were my new book A Hundred Reasons to Run 100km and the work left to do on it (it's very close to done) and an interview I'd done about my books, running and writing earlier in the day with fellow authors Sue and Andrew O'Brien (Couple on the Run) as part of their book launch. I'll post a link when it's available. 

I'm not sure when I fell asleep but when the alarm rung it woke me from a nightmare where I'd missed the start of the half marathon. I often have this dream before a race and just can't seem to make it to the start in time: I'm always a kilometre or two away when the gun goes off.

Then my nightmare almost came true when our car wouldn't start. After repeated efforts, we called our friend Volker who was also racing and was hitching a ride with us. He said he'd come pick us up instead. It was 6:20am. I asked Tim to try to start the car one more time, as Luka was coming too. And for some reason, it did start now.

We called Volker back quickly, and then drove off to get him. Pfew.

We were at the race start an hour later, with an hour to spare until the gun. Perfect. Tim dropped us off and found a place to park the car while Volker and I picked up our race packages. We did a 10-minute warm-up of easy jogging and four strides, and re-familiarized ourselves with the hill we'd have to climb within the last kilometre from the finish.

Volker and I ran together for most of the first half. Despite my good intentions to start easy, see my previous post, I began at a pace that felt comfortable but turned out to be faster than the planned 6:50/mile for the first few. It felt good, however, and I got into a nice rhythm.

The weather was much warmer than expected and I was hot after a mile. We ran by the start area again so I peeled off my long-sleeve shirt from under my short-sleeve Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend one and handed it to Tim when I passed him again, without barely breaking my stride. The (fleece) gloves came off, too.
By the third mile, I'd found a pace that was closer to the original plan and felt comfortable. It was a good rhythm and my breathing felt good, too. Volker pulled away from me somewhere before the 10km mark and I let him go. (He'd run about 2-3 minutes quicker in a 10km in August 2010, and his PBs are faster than mine so I knew I had to run my own race.)

I glanced at my watch at the halfway mark and saw 43 minutes, but didn't notice the seconds. Perfect. On track for a PB. I was running with a few other people at this point, and they had a great pace that was challenging but seemed manageable. "Stick with the train" was the sentence that I repeated in my head I don't know how many times.

Meanwhile, I was taking in the gorgeous views that running the perimeter of Stanley Park offers. A stunning day. However, by 11 miles I slowed. I lost about 15 seconds in a mile. Two women ran past me. I cheered them on and focused on staying calm and running the best pace I could. Two miles to go, which include a couple uphills that sapped my energy.

I tried to focus on the downhill that came with it and tried to maintain my effort as best I could. I knew I was slowing but I forced myself not to think about that. Maintain effort. Another woman passed me. Then it was time for that final uphill with a kilometre to go. I aimed to run up it as efficiently as possible, and thought about the flat and the finish that followed.

When I survived the hill, I focused on surviving to the finish. I was running with another woman, and I think we drew energy from each other. Almost done, I thought. Just maintain. Then, on my left, I noticed another woman coming up behind me. I couldn't help myself and sped up. I bolted and ran as hard as I could for the finish. The time on the clock was 90:00:00.

I couldn't believe it. All that hard work? My net time was 89:46, as I had started a few rows back. Oh well. I was disappointed as I thought I was in 88-minute shape. However, two years ago I'd run this race in 89:39, which came a month after I ran a 40:39 10km. My most recent 10km time is 41:00 on a flat 10km in early August. Since then, the only other race I've done was the Haney to Harrison 100km.

My splits were as follows: 12:52 for the first 2 miles (average 6:26 per mile), then 6:43, 6.49, 6.49, 6.46, 6.44, 6.42, 6.49, 6.52, 7.03. Then I ran the final 2.1 miles in 15:34, or about 7:22 per mile. Whoops, not quite a negative split. I've been pretty stuffed for the rest the day, and have taken advantage of our couch!

My loyal spectators Tim and Luka were tired too, though Triathlete Tim hit the pool and the treadmill in the afternoon. He's got a few triathlons, mainly half Ironmans, and a marathon on his schedule this year.

Our friend Volker, jetlagged and all from a three-week overseas work trip, finished more than a minute ahead of me, in a solid 88:29. Nice work! Check out his cool blog "Squamish to Kona".

It's great motivation to sink my teeth into training for the Vancouver Marathon on May 1. Check out the results here, with a superb course record by Dylan Wykes and a fantastic run by Ellie Greenwood.

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