April 02, 2012

Best half marathon yet at Sunshine Coast

Sometimes it takes four years to improve on a personal best for a distance, sometimes it takes only seven weeks.

In April 2008, I ran 88:13 in the Sunshine Coast April Fool's Run, a certified half marathon distance. Aside from the 88:30 I ran in the June 2010 Scotiabank Half Marathon in Vancouver, I didn't manage to get under 89 again, or even 89:30 for that matter (89:39, 89:44 and 89:46) until the First Half Marathon seven weeks ago.

At the First Half in February I ran 87:27, my first improvement on the 21.1-kilometre distance in almost four years—and by 46 seconds. Wow.

After my dehydration fiasco earlier in the week, I wasn't sure what to expect for the Sunshine Coast half marathon on Sunday. I hoped that the forced days of rest on Thursday and Friday would have helped; at least I felt normal again on an easy pre-race 11K run on Saturday.

My goal for the race had been to do another marathon goal race pace run, aiming for 4:15/K, or a time of just under 90 minutes.

However, looking at my splits for this race four years ago, I realized that the undulations of this course made it a little challenging to aim for a steady pace per kilometre. Then there was the lure of another 87-minute time, perhaps even a PB.

My plan was to stay within a certain comfort zone; it would still be a challenging effort, but comfortable compared with the 10K of last weekend.

As had been forecast, there was wet snow when I walked Luka in the dark at 5:30am in Squamish on race morning and it was raining steadily as we drove toward Horseshoe Bay at 6:15am.

However, when we got to the ferry about 40 minutes later the weather had cleared. By the time the school buses had driven us from the ferry in Langdale to the race start in Gibsons, conditions were perfect; cool and dry.

We had about half an hour to pick up our race packages and do a warm-up; we ran about 2K and did three strides. Perfect. Then it was time to start.

It didn't take long to settle into a rhythm that felt good. I focused on conserving energy on the up hills and using all the free speed I could get on the down hills (hence, my fastest split being a 3:38).

Here's my race in numbers—I didn't press my watch hard enough a couple of times, hence the longer ones, and I stopped taking splits after 16K, though checked my watch at 17K and remember seeing 1:13 though I don't know the seconds.

From my kilometre splits you might think my pace was all over the place but that's just the nature of the course. I felt I ran a very well-paced race and focused on sustaining a steady effort: 4:10, 8:00, 4:17, 4:21 (5K in 20:48), 4:18, 8:00, 3:38, 4:16 (10K in 41:00), 4:11.8, 4:04, 3:58, 4:07, 4:29 (15K in 61:49), 4:43. At 16K, I had taken 66:32, or an average pace of 4:09.5.

I ran the remaining 5.1K in 20:22, or an average pace of 3:59.6, still maintaining my strategy of conserving energy on the final 1.5K left of the main 3K hill and using gravity on the way down—you can imagine what my quads feel like today hammering those down hills:-).

I crossed the finish in 86:54, another personal best by 33 seconds. W o w!

Running my second half marathon PB in less than two months gives me a lot of confidence that the training I have chosen since July last year is the right path for me; I have barely had time to wrap my head around the 87:27, and now my best time starts with 86.

I couldn't have asked for better motivation in the final five weeks of training until the BMO Vancouver Marathon on May 6.

My next, and probably final, race before then is the Vancouver Sun Run 10K on April 15, where I am hoping to improve my 39:51 PB, set all the way back in January 2008. Since then, I've run Sub-40 only once, in March 2008 when I did 39:55, though I've run close to 40 minutes a few times.

In the 2011 Sun Run I ran 40:09, according to my watch, but found out afterward that my timing chip had been mixed up with someone else's from the Pacific Newspaper Group Pacers team. I believe my official time, listed under another name, was 40:07. It was the closest I have come to 40 minutes in three years. I ran 40:15 at the Squamish 10K in August that year.

The other Squamish runners had solid races too; Tim ran his second-fastest half marathon (his PB is 89:06 from 2009), and his 90:10 earned him third place in the 45-59 age group. Next up for him is a 10K in Toronto in three weeks. 

Volker proved he's getting in shape for another Sub-3 marathon next month with a swift 84:44, after running the First Half seven weeks ago in 87:23.

Zoe earned her first Sub-90 half marathon with an excellent 89:29 finish.

Sean, who has spent most of his winter coaching a soccer team, was pleased to kick off his running season with a 91:01.

Last but not least, Heather who did her first half marathon in 2011 earned 3rd place in the 60-64 division.

This was the 35th edition of this annual event and, just like Tim and I remembered from four years ago, it was superbly organized. If you haven't tried this scenic race, I would highly recommend you do next year.

Overall winners were David Palermo in a blistering 70:57, or 3:22 per K, and Lisa Brooking in a swift 81:56. For full results, click here.

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