April 23, 2012

Marathon taper week 1 of 3

The first week of my three-week taper for the Vancouver marathon on May 6 is complete. It went well, and I ran 110K all up. Technically this should have been a decrease of my training volume.

But with a few missed sessions because of illness and adjusting of the program to accommodate races, I have run less than I was supposed to in the previous three weeks (69K instead of 137K, 112K which was close to the 117K I was supposed to run, and 100K instead of 130K).

I already have three months of solid training under my belt, so I am not worried about the early drop in volume.

Monday through Friday went well, and I did all my sessions as planned. On Saturday I did a 10K race; I hadn't expected to do another after the Vancouver Sun Run the previous week but I found one that was in a convenient location (Stanley Park) with a 10am start.

The race was $20, with a $2.50 processing fee for registering online through the Running Room website. I knew that there was a chance the 10K was an approximate measure but the most important reason to do it was to get myself to race the distance, or something close to it.

I had brought the Garmin so I wouldn't feel unduly excited about a PB (or defeated if it happened to be long); since the course took us along the perimeter of Stanley Park which is 9.5K, I suspected that, if anything, the race would be short.

After a pre-race group prayer (a first I believe in my 15 years of racing), the organizers took us 300 metres back from the finish line for the start to get to 10K. With a 5K and a 10K, there must have been no more than 70 people. It was a young crowd.

I had positioned myself at the front. A couple of guys sprinted ahead. Great, people to chase. Unfortunately the chase didn't take long as I passed them just before we had covered the first kilometre.

Now it was up to me to push myself, so I tried to run as 'scared' as I could, assuming at least one of them was right behind me, waiting for me to slow down.

By now I have run the perimeter of Stanley Park many times in various races and of course love doing so; it's flat and the views are stunning. 

I had to slow down a couple of times for pedestrians, nothing major but it broke my rhythm. I also realized that there are a couple of zigzag gates that are removed for the bigger races. Again, nothing major, just a minor brake. I glanced at the Garmin from time to time to check my average pace. I felt good, just like last week, not great but definitely good.

Even though it was a small race, it was fun to run at the front. I didn't hear anyone running right behind me but wasn't going to check; if no one was close I might lose the motivation to push so I just tried to keep running as hard as I could.

With the finish line in sight, there were two ways of getting there. A green paper sign seemed to point to keep moving straight ahead, which made sense, so I did. Here was where I encountered the second zigzag gate, and then I got ready to sprint across the finish in 39:06. My Garmin said I had run 9.82K with an average heart rate of 168bpm (these days I rarely wear a heart rate monitor in races but I was curious and had opted to do so today).

At 3:59 per K, if the course was indeed 180 metres short, it was still a Sub-40 10K. Most importantly, it was another chance to practice the intensity of 10K race pace.

My sister and her partner were going to meet me at the finish; with the race starting at 10am, I had told my sister I'd be done 39 minutes later. But the start was postponed until 10:15am, and I had no chance of letting them know. When she showed up just before 10:39am, she asked one of the two people from the Running Room about it, explaining that I expected to be done in 39 minutes. They seemed skeptical, this was a small event after all. They told her about the postponed start.

By the time I finished, I didn't see Angelique. The man she had spoken with, meanwhile, asked if I had a sister and that she had been here earlier. I suspected she'd be back and went for a short cooldown jog in the area. She returned in the meantime, annoyed that they had taken a wrong turn in the park and missed my finish. The man saw her and told her that, as predicted, I had finished in 39:06. I later had a chat with him. He's a marathon legend (though he was of course too modest to tell me about that).   

I got back shortly, and Angelique encouraged me to stick around for the awards. I am glad I did as I received a pair of ASICS Cumulus for my efforts.

On Sunday, I went for a 27K run and was looking forward to meeting a new runner in town who had come across my website and sent me an email recently. We had agreed on a meeting point about 6K into my run and we shared the next 15K together, which was fantastic. She's a masters runner too, and I hope we can push each other along in training.

It was another solid week of training. In the next 7 days the volume drops to 87K.

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