February 12, 2012

One for the record books

My plan for the First Half Marathon was to use it as a marathon race pace training session for the Vancouver Marathon on May 6, which is my key goal race for the first half of 2012. As mentioned in a previous post, my session today called for running 16K (10 miles) at 4:15 per K (or 6:50 per mile) as part of the race.

Then I would be free to run whatever I pleased for the remaining 5.1K (1.1 mile); if I felt good, I'd sustain or perhaps even pick up my speed. If I felt tired, such as from this week's 108K including the half marathon, I'd allow myself to 'jog' home.

Of course I hoped to finish in 90 minutes or less, especially after the organizers were so kind to give me a competitive start spot by exchanging the BIB-number 841 of my transferred entry, after I had forgotten to register for the competitive slot offered to me because of my 2011 89:46 by the January 14 deadline.

(The race offers elite and competitive entries; the latter is for men who ran sub-80, women who ran sub-90, or those who finished top 3 in their age group in the two previous editions. In fact, the awesome woman who agreed to give me the competitive BIB #190 told me on Friday night, smiling, You'd better prove me right and finish sub-90!) 

Tim, racing though not race fit, and I left Squamish early to meet Angelique, who's also maintained a low-volume running regime since her debut marathon in October, at her place which is less than a K from the start. We did a warm-up, which we decided to cut short to two minutes because of the rain, before going up to Angelique's apartment.

We left her place at 20 minutes before the start, then wished each other well after another short warm-up that included a few easy strides. Then it was time to line up, listen to Oh Canada and get started.

I knew I'd likely be a little too fast in the first mile, as this amazing field starts at a cracking pace, and wasn't surprised to see 6:36. I settled into a pace that was a touch slower, though missed seeing the 2- & 3-mile markers. The weather was perfect; cool, with some light rain in the early stages of the race. I was glad to have only worn a sleeveless top, though did wear capri tights (Under Armour's amazing so-called heat gear) with knee-high compression socks.

While I was keeping an eye on staying on my 6:50 mile plan for the first 10 miles, I also focused on how I felt. After another 20:15, I hit the 4-mile mark, and realized I felt strong and comfortable. It wasn't a walk in the park but my pace, though requiring effort, seemed well within my ability today.

I had taken a cup of water at the first aid station and had a gel somewhere around 4 miles as we began circling Stanley Park with its stunning vistas. 'Stay comfortable' became my mantra. It reminded me that I was comfortable, and needed to keep on a pace that allowed me to feel that way.

I focused on maintaining my pace, which was a touch quicker than 6:50 I realized, as I did the math quickly at each mile marker (5 x 7 = 35 minutes, minus 5 x 10 seconds = 34:50, and compared it to the time on my watch, which was 34:33. A little fast but, again, I felt good, comfortable.)

By this point, I was running with a guy who I'd end up sharing the rest of the race with. We didn't speak. The only thing I said the entire race was, Thank you, when he thoughtfully gave me space to avoid a puddle of water. (Actually, I also said or mouthed Thank you to the volunteer who handed me water at aid stations.)

By 10K it was time for another cup of water and another gel. I was just shy of 42 minutes, a little faster than the 42:30 I was aiming for, but I was still comfortable in line with my mantra of the day, 'Stay comfortable.'

I was focused, felt relaxed and strong. Would it last? I believed it would. At each mile marker I saw, I hit the lap button, mostly for a record of my splits afterward. To gauge my progress, I kept doing the math by multiplying the number on the mile marker by 7, and then substracting the same number times 10 seconds from it, and compared it with the overall time displayed on my watch.

Time and miles seemed to be flying by. I hit the halfway point at 44 minutes (give or take a couple of seconds); 88 minutes flashed in my mind but I immediately pushed away that thought. I was 1 minute ahead of my planned pace, the 4:15 per K or 6:50 per mile marathon goal race pace, after all and I clearly remembered doing the math a year ago at exactly the same point.

In 2011 I hit the halfway mark in 43 minutes, prompting visions of an 86-minute finish, before dying at about 16K - after rounding a pretty pond - and finishing in 89:46. So I refocused on maintaining my pace and level of comfort; it was all about the 16K at marathon goal pace. I still felt strong.

When I hit that pond, and the painful memory of last year's race, I had another gel which I'd saved for the occasion. I still felt good, so good I missed the 10-mile marker (16K) which signalled the end of my key goal for the race. I was supposed to hit that in 68:20. When I checked my watch again, I was at 71 minutes and knew I had missed the marker.

My main goal for the race was accomplished and, feeling strong, I decided it was time to see if I could pick it up a little for the remaining 4-1/2K. As I accelerated, I still felt strong, though slowly but surely less comfortable. That was OK, however, as there were only 2 miles left to go.

Though I knew it was there, I had forgotten about the nasty uphill incline in that final kilometre before the finish, but thankfully it didn't feel as steep as it had last year.

I see 87 on the clock Rita Ivanauskas
Now there was just a 500-metre stretch to the finish left and I gave it all I had. Volker, a fellow runner from Squamish, said, That'll be a PB for sure, but I didn't have the breath to respond.

As I crossed the line, I wasn't sure about the seconds but had very clearly seen the minutes: 87.

Eighty seven!

It was 5-1/2 years ago that I first ran sub-90 (89:29 in the Sydney half marathon) but until today I had only run faster than 89:16 twice; that was 88:13 in the 2008 Sunshine Coast Half Marathon and 88:30 in the 2010 Scotiabank Half Marathon. My official net finish time for today turned out to be 87:27, a personal best by 46 seconds. I couldn't be happier with that result and the way I felt during today's race.

I looked for the guy I'd spent more than half the race with. We highfived and congratulated each other; it was a PB for him too.

As a bonus, my PB earned me 2nd place in the F40-44 age group (behind Lisa Harvey who was second overall with a blistering 1:18:43.)

My splits were: 6:36, 20:15 (an average of 6:45 for three miles), 6:42. 6:52, 6:43, 6:43, 20:13 (an average of 6:44 for three miles), 6:22 and 7:02 for the final 1.1 mile.

Tim and Angelique both had solid races too, finishing in 93:30 and 2:11 (Angelique's 3rd half marathon), and were happy to establish their current level of fitness as a benchmark to step up their training for the next race, the Sunshine Coast Half Marathon on April 1.

Dylan Wykes improved his own course record to 64:21 as he prepares for the Lake Biwa marathon in Japan in three weeks where he hopes to secure a qualifying time  (2:11:29 or better) for the Olympics in London, while Natasha Fraser was the female winner in 1:16:17.

More inspiring performances came from Betty Jean McHugh who, at the age of 84, ran 2:26 and Frank Kurucz who, at the age of 80, did 2:07. Or how about Carol Peters (F60-64) with 1:43 or Scott Stewart (M60-64) with 84:53. Mark Bennett set a new course record for the M50-54 division with 73:46.

(Check out the full 2012 First Half Marathon results here.)

I am on a high and looking forward to a big week of training; 135K starting with tomorrow's double recovery run, 10K in the morning and 6K in the afternoon.


Tina @GottaRunNow said...

Really enjoyed reading about your half marathon. What a fast training run and a huge PB!

Margreet Dietz said...

Thanks very much Tina. And congrats on your half this weekend!