Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Victoria Half-Marathon, October 12, 2014

Victoria Half-Marathon, October 12, 2014

Chip time:  1:58:59  (hey, I’ll still call it a 1:58:xx ;) )
Place:  1389/3795
Female :  621/2385
F45-49 :  57/283
10K split:  56:52

I have not had a good half-marathon race in almost three years.  This spring I did have a decent half at BMO Vancouver in May, but I did it as my last training run before the Abbotsford Marathon.  I would not run a half like that again; it took more out of me than I planned, and I ended up having a really tough marathon with a difficult recovery.  It has taken me several months to feel like myself again; in the meantime I have been doing lots of cycling and swimming and I have enjoyed the varied training.  The alternate activities have helped to keep me from overdoing the running and getting injured again.  Pat has started coaching me again, and in the weeks leading up to this half-marathon I have been feeling very good.  The goal for this race was to run strong and as hard as my fitness would allow without overdoing it.   It has been a long time since I have been able to race a half and find that right pace from the start—I needed to get that feeling back again. 

Based on my training I felt I could hold a pace around 5:30-5:40/km.  I have been doing long runs of up to about two hours, and tempo runs and repeats in the 5:20-5:30/km range.  My run mileage has been pretty low (averaging about 40K/week), but I figured the cross-training would count for something.   I thought if I had a perfect day I could be around 1:55-1:56, but I would be happy with anything under two hours.  Mostly I wanted to run strong with pretty even splits and avoid the difficult slowdowns I have had in previous halfs. 

There were no official pace bunnies in the half, but they did have seeding signs; I started out in the 2:00 staging area.  This made for a very crowded start, which allowed me to ease into the pace in the first couple kilometres.   I did the first kilometre about 6:00/km, but then quickly got down to around 5:30.  I tried to look around and find someone to pace off of, but in the end it was my own body that did the pacing.  It felt right, but I started to wonder whether I could hold it.   I pushed out those doubts and just kept going.   

I have to say I really enjoyed the entire experience.  This is a beautiful course; I have done the marathon twice and the half is essentially the same as the full course minus kilometres 14-25.  It is hillier than I remembered, though.  In my memory, most of the hills were in the marathon-only part that goes into some of the Oak Bay neighborhoods.  But I was wrong- most of the course is rolling hills.  We lucked out with the weather; although rain was in the forecast, it held off till later in the day and the morning was mostly dry.  The temperature was good, but it was still fairly high humidity- this did not seem to bother a lot of people, but the humidity always slows me down (I seem to sweat way more these days).

I did not carry water, a decision I sort of regretted in the first 8K when we had so far only passed one water station (note to self—look at map more carefully next time!).  But it worked out well—I stopped for water at about 4K,  9K, 13K, and 16K.  There were gels at 13K but I missed getting one; I had two with me but only ate one (I also ate one right before the start).

I found myself mentally breaking the course into chunks:  first 5K to Beacon Hill Park, then to Dallas Road at 9K, turnaround 13K, etc.  The last stretch along Dallas Road from 16K and to the finish was just gorgeous.  After 18K I picked up the pace and saw a split of 5:13 at 19K; I thought I could hold on to the low 5s, but there are lots of turns and little inclines in the last couple kilometres making it hard to really hammer it.  Still, I held on to a pace in the 5:20s and pushed on for a finish of under 1:59.  

I was very happy with the race overall.  I enjoyed it the whole time and feel like I finally remember how to race a half-marathon.  Now I can work towards continuing to race strong and get back a bit of my lost speed.

Thanks for reading.

My splits (after the first slow kilometre, pretty even when you account for the hills and water stops):
1                              6:02
  2                            5:40
  3                            5:31
  4                            5:18
  5                            5:39 (water)
  6                            5:45
  7                            5:42
  8                            5:31
  9                            5:42 (water)
 10                          5:23
 11                          5:37
 12                          5:41
 13                          5:43 (water)
 14                          5:41
 15                          5:27
 16                          5:36 (water)
 17                          5:37
 18                          5:41
 19                          5:14
 20                          5:27
 21                          5:25

 21.3                       1:37 (5:11/km)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Pt. Grey Triathlon Race Report 2014

Pt. Grey Triathlon, sprint course (at UBC in Vancouver)
July 27, 2014

700m swim (7 laps of the 50m indoor pool)
20K bike
5K run, about half on the UBC trails

My results: 
Total:  1:40:15  - one second(!) faster than last year, but parts of the course were actually longer
Placement:  103/166 overall; 5/7 in F45-49 AG (actually 9 started but two were DQ’ed presumably for skipping a bike loop)
Swim:  23:25 (which included most of T1 plus 19:25 for the actual swim, 2:49/100m)
Bike:  47:29 (for 20.5K bike plus parts of T1 and T2, bike speed was 27.2 km/hr)
Run:  29:22 for 5K, 5:52/km

I was assigned the second swim heat, which meant I had to check in at the pool by 7:00 am for my timing chip and body marking.   I planned to get to UBC by about 6:30 am to have enough time to park, check my bike into transition, and change for the swim.  Triathlon is way more complicated than a running race; aside from the obvious need to transport the bike (which means it is harder to get to races by public transit), there is also a lot of gear to lug around-- goggles, swim cap, helmet, bike shoes, running shoes, visor… Even for a sprint, I need about twice as much stuff for a triathlon as a running race.  This was my first triathlon this year, but I remembered the logistics from last year and was pretty relaxed about it.  One change I made this year was to wear a tri top and tri shorts for the whole event which greatly simplified my first transition.  

At the pool deck we received our timing chips and body marking (left calf and right upper arm).  They started the first heat late so we got to watch most of the early swimmers. When it was our turn we lined up according to expected swim time, and I made sure I was near the end.  The range of swim times for this group was supposed to be 17-22 minutes, and I expected to finish the swim in close to 21 minutes.  They sent us off every 10 seconds, and we had to swim up and down the lanes across the pool (under the rope in the deep end).  I was able to quickly get into a smooth swimming groove, and overall it felt really good.  I did not pay much attention to my time, but I did notice after five laps I was at just over 14 minutes.  Wow, only two laps to go and I was swimming faster than I expected.  It helped that I did not get held up by anyone slower ahead of me, and did not have to stop to wait for people behind me to pass.  After the first lap, the guy in front of me did let me pass, and he and I stayed pretty much at the same pace until the last length.  At that point there was some congestion of about three or four people ahead of us, and I had to slow way down.  Because people were swimming up and back in both directions, we were only supposed to pass at the end of a lane.  But in the last length there was a wide area where in theory we could go around.  The guy behind me did try to pass the group, but I figured that would take way too much mental and physical energy; therefore, I just relaxed and conserved energy for the bike.  I figure this probably cost me about 10-15 sec max.    When I finished the swim I hit the lap button on my watch, and saw that I had finished in 19:45 (2:49/100m).  I was pretty happy with this time.

We exited the pool and had to walk all the way around to the opposite side of the pool to the exit.  The volunteers specified walking here for safety, but later I did notice people running—no penalties were issued, though.  Outside the volunteers handed us our wetbags; there were change tents for people that wanted to change out of swim suits, but I learned last year that this just takes way too much time.   In my wetbag I had my socks and bike shoes, a towel for drying off my feet, and my race number on a race belt.  I put on my socks and shoes, left my swim cap and goggles in the bag, put the bag back in the bin, and was off toward the bike transition zone (about a 300m).   Because we were in the indoor pool this year, the distance to transition was longer.  Transitions were not measured separately in this race; there were only two transition timing mats- one when entering the transition zone before the bike leg, and one when exiting before the run.  But I wanted to measure them separately so I would know my actual time for the swim and bike.  I measured T1 to be 4:39- almost the same as what I had last year, so the longer distance this year was offset by my longer clothing change last year.  My official swim split which included most of T1 was 23:25 – almost a minute faster than last year.

The bike course was similar to last year—two laps of roughly 8.5K each plus an out and back section of 1.5K.  A few changes this year made the bike significantly longer—20.5K on my watch this year vs. 19.2K last year.  I actually missed one of the turns that they changed so I had to backtrack; annoying but it was only about a 100 metre detour that cost me about 20 seconds.   I really enjoyed the bike leg- cycling is so nice on streets where there is no traffic.   There were not that many people on the course when I started, but I did pass a couple people who were ahead of me (and got passed in my second loop by some faster guys who must have been in the next swim heat).  I did have to slow way down on the hairpin turns (or “dead turns” as they say in Glasgow), and there were five of them.  But overall my bike was faster than last year- 27.2 km/hr vs 26.2 km/hr.  I am not sure how to explain that because I have done very little bike training this year, but I have been using my bike more for commuting/riding in the city.  So I assume I am just getting more confident on my bike.  My bike time on my watch was 45:01 for the 20.5K.

Coming back into transition I dismounted too early (I got off at the warning sign and not at the dismount line), but was able to easily run into transition with my bike.  My bike was racked pretty close to the exit, which meant less running with the bike, more running in run shoes.  This bike rack placement probably saved me time over last year’s race in both T1 and T2.  T2 was uneventful other than some difficulty in changing my shoes—I must work on this.  I measured T2 to be 1:26; my official bike split time was 47:29 (which included my actual bike time, my measured T2, and part of my measured T1).

I have not been able to do any fast running lately, so I knew the legs were rusty.  I also have not done any brick runs.  So my goal was simply to run as hard as possible without losing steam.  My legs felt heavy coming off the bike, but not too bad.  Within about a kilometre they felt pretty normal. I remembered this 5K course well and really enjoyed the part that goes through the forest trails.  One nice thing about an early swim start is that it had not gotten very hot by 9:00 when I started the run.  I was keeping a pretty steady pace of just under 6:00/km, which is as expected given the circumstances although I thought I could have been faster.  Interestingly, my speed seemed most limited by my leg muscles and not my aerobic capacity.  (Translation—need more bike training!) My time on the run was 29:22, which is the only part of the race where I was slower than last year (28:15 last year).  Finish time:  1:40:15, just one second faster overall than last year but parts of the course were longer.

I am very happy with my race; it went much better than I expected given my limited training and recent health challenges.  I surprised myself on the swim and the bike when I was sure I would be slower than last year.  I worried that in the run I would feel that same kind of crash I have felt at the end of some races like my half-marathon in February.  But I did not get that at all.  I know I have a lot of room for improvement in this sport when I put in more training.  I am already seeing improvements in swimming, I can do a lot more bike training, and my running will eventually come back.  But mostly I was pleased with how much I enjoyed the race; there is definitely more triathlon in my future.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Run For Water Marathon

Run for Water, Abbostford
May 25, 2014
Finish time: 4:32:37

Splits from my garmin:

I ran my fifth marathon yesterday, my first since fall 2011. It has been a training season with lots of challenges, and I am very grateful that I was able to do this race. It turned out to be a much more difficult race than I planned, and I finished with a time of 4:32 for a PW. I have been having trouble writing this report, but I will do my best to put my experience into words.

I started training for this race in January, with the plan of following a modified version the Hanson Beginner Marathon Plan. The Hanson plan is a challenging plan and has the unique aspect of maxing out at 26K long runs (vs the standard 30K+ runs). Instead of placing so much importance on a single long run, it spreads out mileage more evenly through the week and maxes out at pretty high volume. The plan also has marathon-paced tempo runs which max at 16K at pace, plus various speed workouts. The concept of the plan relies on “cumulative fatigue” which makes the training effect of the 26K runs more like the longer runs of other plans. Rob has done really well on this plan, improving significantly over the past two years. I was anxious to give it a try, although I was still dealing with some injury recovery issues from last year. I used 4-hours as a tentative goal for setting the paces of the workouts, but I modified the plan to reduce the early speed work. Overall I was able to handle the workouts and the mileage in the plan fairly well. I did have a setback in February when I had difficulty recovering from an early season half-marathon, but was able to come back strong in March and April. A very strong 30K road race at the end of March gave me the confidence I needed to keep training for the marathon. However, things did start to go a bit south at the end of April. I had some strong weeks of training, but then was starting to feel some fatigue. I had worked two races more into my plan, with the intention of modifying the paces of the weeks’ workouts to accommodate them (a 10K on April 27 and a half-marathon on May 4, three weeks before the marathon). Looking back I realize it probably was not wise to do both of these training races, although I might have simply been suffering from a bit of over-training by then anyway. In this plan it was hard to tell the difference between the expected cumulative fatigue and actual over-training, and think I might have crossed that second barrier. 

I have to repeat that I am very grateful I got to the start line of this race. That was half the battle. The half-marathon on May 4 went really well and I executed my plan perfectly, but afterwards I had a very difficult recovery. By adding a 5K warm-up and keeping the pace in control, I worked it into the plan as my last 26K run. I modified the paces of some of the runs before and after the race, and was hoping to be able “train through” it to finish the last three weeks of the training. The plan continues with another week and a half of pretty tough workouts and mileage before the real taper begins about 10 days before the marathon. And I was not able to do any of those. So this de-training combined with already losing some before the half probably contributed to my marathon difficulty. Still, I thought with a modified goal I would have a decent chance of finishing well.

My race plan was to start around 6:00/km, a bit slower in the first 10K and close to that in the second. If it felt good after 20K I would pick it up a bit for the next 10K, and then try to hang on for the last 12K. The plan actually worked really well for about the first 30K. The 6:00/km pace felt smooth and I kept it fairly steady with it for the first half (crossed the half-way mat at 2:07, right where I wanted to be). The pace came pretty naturally, and the kilometres seemed to pass with ease. After the half-way point, I did start to get a burst of energy and ran the next few kilometres just a bit faster, trying to execute the race plan as well as I had on May 4. But I worried that I was getting overzealous and just continued to stay close to 6:00. I was taking my gels every six kilometres, so mentally I was thinking of the race in 6K chunks. After 24K I was thinking, “OK, make it to 30K, then just one more 6K segment. The last 6K will be tough after that but I’ll just tough it out by then… this can work.” Up to around 27K I still felt pretty strong. But soon afterwards, I started to get slight twinges in my right calf, which in past half-marathons have preceded all-out seizing cramps. “Oh, no- not again.” I still had a long way to go, and did not want to be hobbling in this marathon. I modified my gait and slowed my pace a bit to make the cramping stop, and walked through the next water station. I thought I could manage it, but I knew I would have to try to relax and keep my pace slower. As I was approaching the 3-hour mark I started to think about Rob who was hoping to finish under 3:20. He said he would text me when he finished—so I was expecting I would be at about 33K by then. In fact, I was just over 33K when he did text me at about 3:25 to tell me he had finished in 3:20:something. I was ecstatic. He also texted me some short inspirational messages – “Go Jen Go, You can do this!” It really helped and I tried to relax and keep going strong. I managed to text back, “I’m hurting.” He was worried and asked, “Are you ok?” I answered back with a simple “Yes” just to let him know I was ok enough to finish. In fact, at this point I even hoped I could run reasonably strong and still come in close to 4:20-ish. I really hadn’t lost that much—yet.

After about 34K the cramping stopped, but I was going so much slower and walking every 10 minutes or so. I just couldn’t go faster. I guess the proverbial wheels fell off somewhere in there, so it was not just the cramping that slowed me down (maybe that was more of a symptom than a cause). When the cramping had started, I also noticed that my fingers were quite swollen. Not enough salt, apparently. I had taken my usual diluted Gatorade bottle plus fluids on the course, and gels with electrolytes every 6K. But maybe I didn’t eat enough of a salty meal the night before. I also forgot my morning banana. All of these things didn’t help, but in the end I think I just wasn’t prepared, for several reasons, for the pace I was trying to run. Despite it being essentially my long run pace and much slower than the so-called “marathon pace” I was using for my long tempos in the plan.

The last 7-8K seemed to last forever. I was passing a few people, being passed by others. Jogging easy was not always possible, so I walked every 10 minutes or so. We merged with the half-marathon route at around 35K, but these people were already over 2 hours into their race with 7K to go. So most were walking. It was very tough, but I just kept moving forward, waving at volunteers and spectators and trying to encourage others. I kept smiling as much as I could. At some point the plan became just to finish and I wasn’t even that upset when the 4:30 pace bunny passed me with about 2K to go.

At about 500m from the end I could see the finish line and was ecstatic. Just keep moving. Cheryl was watching and cheering about a hundred metres from the finish, and Rob shortly after that. It was so great to see them. My husband and son were watching on the other side, but unfortunately I did not see them. Still, it was nice that they came out to see me finish. I heard Steve King announce my name and my 4:32 finish time, and I was just so glad to be done. I wasn’t walking all that well afterwards and cried a bit at one point, but was able to get myself together and change into some dry clothes. The beer at lunch never tasted so good. 

So there it was—my “comeback” marathon after a 3-year gap. I am still not sure what is next, but I plan to focus on a strong recovery this month. This wasn’t the strong race that I wanted, but I am truly happy that I was able to run another marathon. Running is a gift that I will never take for granted. 

Thanks for reading.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Plan the run, run the plan

BMO Vancouver Half-Marathon
Celebrating my 10th anniversary of my first half-marathon 8)
May 4, 2014
Finish time: 2:02:37

My goal race this spring is the Abbostford Run for Water Marathon on May 25, but I also wanted to participate in the BMO Vancouver Marathon in some way. This year marks the 10th anniversary since my first half-marathon (on the old Vancouver half-marathon course). I could not run it last year, and I knew I would be sad to sit on the side-lines again of a race that begins practically in my backyard. So I registered for the half-marathon with the intention of “training through” the race and doing it at approximately marathon pace. A 5K warm-up run before the race would complete the 26K mileage needed for the day. Rob is training for the same marathon, so he planned to run with me for the half. For him it would be an easy training pace, for me a substitute for the marathon pace run and speed work of the week. In theory it sounded good, but in practice it became difficult make it work with my training plan. Yesterday was scheduled to be the last 26K run of the plan, at the end of the highest week of mileage (over 90K) of my Hanson beginner marathon plan. I have been feeling the effects of the cumulative fatigue of the program, including after last Sunday’s Sun Run on tired legs (another race I would have been sad to miss). I ended up cutting back my mileage a bit for the week, but I was still feeling very fatigued. In this plan it is hard to distinguish normal “cumulative fatigue” from overtraining, and I feared I had entered the overtraining zone. But somehow on Sunday morning I felt much better, and felt like I could have the day I wanted.

The weather on Sunday was not great; it was raining pretty steadily when I woke up, but at least it was not cold or very windy. The race started at 7:00; the plan was for Rob to come by and get me at about 5:45, and he would park his car near the Skytrain station to make it easier to get to later. We started our 5K warm-up from the car, jogged to the bag check (about 1.5K), checked our bags, and then finished the warm-up. A long port-a-potty line-up meant we were not waiting around in the corrals at all during the start, but managed to get in and start with the second wave.

In my journal last week I wrote that I was not trying for my best time in this race. The plan was to practice controlled pacing for the marathon, at a pace that would allow me to recover well to finish the last three weeks of marathon training. The plan was to run the first 5K about 6:00/km (and since this is net downhill, the effort should be easier), the middle 10K about 5:40-5:45/km, and the remaining 6.1K no faster than 5:30/km. This plan worked out about as perfectly as I could have hoped. Finish time was 2:02:37, average pace of 5:49/km. First 5K was at just under 6:00/km, next 10K at about 5:45/km, and the last 6.1K at about 5:35/km. We passed the half-way point at just over 1:02, so finished the second half in about 1 hour. The splits can be found in the Strava link above (although these are Garmin splits; course splits were a little off but not too much). I had forgotten how rolling the course is—there are not many spots of flat running. I also didn’t carry water, so I was stopping at some of the aid stations to drink. (I still have not mastered drinking from a cup while running.) Rob stuck with me the whole time, but I was setting the pace. He was worried he would have to keep me in control, but he did not have to. The “sea of humanity” that Ian predicted was a reality—we were always in a huge crowd of people with goal times of about 2 hours. This might have been annoying if I was trying for a time goal, because a few times I actually had to weave around people slowing down, run-walkers, and others. But on a day when I just wanted to run strong and well, it was nice to be in a crowd. The course is beautiful, but definitely challenging. I found myself using the power of positive thinking to convince myself that I actually like hills. “Hills are fun!” Yeah, right. :)

There were a few other times when my brain started thinking too much. At just before 5K when we were getting ready to pick up the pace, I was thinking that I had been already running for 10K easy by that time (with the warm-up). I pushed that thought out and just reminded myself to keep it strong. Approaching 18K I remembered that was where I cramped badly in this race in 2012. I kept saying to myself, “today I will stay strong.” In the last 6K I was able to find a groove and just stuck with it without really thinking about the pace. The last kilometre was brutal—around the bend and up a gradual but significant hill on Pender Street to the finish. It was hard to pick up the pace, but I did stay strong and controlled, and finally heard Steve King doing his monologue at the finish. I heard Rob’s name, but not my own. :) That’s ok- it was just so nice to be done and I felt great. Thanks for sticking with me Rob, and I am glad you didn’t have to yell at me to slow down. It was great to run with you.

I am very happy with how this race went. The pace felt challenging and hard, but “comfortably hard” like a long tempo run. I always felt in control. I am not sure how I will pace the marathon, but I somehow want to find a pace that does not force me to slow down. This will be tricky and I have never succeeded in this for marathon pacing. I will see how these last three weeks of training and taper go, and decide later on. I am looking forward to the next challenge.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Birch Bay 30K

Birch Bay Road Race, 30K
March 29, 2014
Birch Bay, Washington

Short version:
Finish time 3:02:45. 
I really enjoyed this race. :)

The story:
This is the fourth year I have gone to Birch Bay, having done the 15K in both 2011 and 2012 and the 5K last year. The race is beautifully located just south of the border, partly along the ocean bay and partially inland on the country roads. The distances are set to line up with spring marathon and half-marathon training plans, so many people like to do the 30K as part of marathon training.

This spring I have been training for Abbostford Run for Water Marathon using the Hanson Marathon program. Because this race is late in May, the Birch Bay Road Race comes about midway through the training and I planned to run the 15K distance. The Hanson program is very challenging, eventually building to 90-100K on six runs per week; one signature of the program is that it limits the long run to 26K at this mileage such that the long run does not become more than 30% of the total weekly mileage. Rob has done well on this program for a few marathon cycles, and I was excited to give it a try. 

Unfortunately, the marathon training has not been going as well as I had hoped. Things were actually going well in January and early February; I was a bit ahead of the plan because I was preparing for the First Half half-marathon in mid-February. That race was much harder than I expected; I had difficulty recovering, found out I was borderline iron-deficient, and lost a few critical weeks of training after the race. I started to have doubts about continuing the training: Had I jumped into marathon training too quickly after injury recovery? Would I be able to get back on track with the training or had I lost too much? How much would the iron deficiency affect me? Would it be better to switch to the half-marathon this spring? I decided to just keep going with the training as best as I could, but the whining and doubts and waffling continued. Then about a week into March I started to feel better and had a few really good weeks of training. After a strong 24K long run last Monday in the humidity of south Florida, I started to think that maybe I should try the 30K at Birch Bay. It was a bit late to be moving things around; if I had planned this properly beforehand, I certainly would not have done the 24K long run just five days before the race (and I may have been still feeling some fatigue from that run). And that 24K run was the longest I had done in over two years. So maybe switching to the 30K was not the smartest choice, but I decided to do it anyway, knowing I would have to hold myself to a very moderate pace. In a way maybe it was actually smarter than tempting myself to push it hard in the 15K. My race plan was to run the 30K at about the same pace as my last two long runs (just over 6:00/km). While a sub-3:00 finish time on paper would have been nice, I decided that was not as important as keeping strong through the race. So that is what I did.

Race day:
All week we heard of heavy rain forecasts for Saturday, but as often happens on the west coast, the storm held off for us. We did have some very light rain, but mostly very pleasant, somewhat windy weather with a mix of clouds and blue sky breaks. I mentally broke the race into three 10K sections, planning to run the first 10K at about 6:10-6:20/km, the next 10K no faster than 6:00/km, and the last 10K a bit faster if it felt good. Much of the race course was familiar to me, having run the 15K twice. Of course, those times I was running must faster, around 5:00/km. Not this year. The first 10K went as planned, and I finished in just under 1:02 (6:12/km). The 30K and 15K courses start together down a short hill to the ocean, then and out-and-back along water and into Birch Bay State Park. The turn-around point was at about 6K so I was able to see Rob on his way back (he was already about 2K ahead of me at this point) and Bryan and Mary on their way back a few minutes ahead of me. We had a bit of a headwind at the beginning with a tailwind helping a bit on the way back. I felt strong and it felt like a pace I could hold well for the 30K distance. I was running near a few women who helped me keep my pace under control; unfortunately they were all running the 15K which turned back toward the finish area just before 14K. At this point those us running the 30K continued north, off the bay and up a hill, with a turn-around at around 21K. I love out-and-back races in that you get to be a spectator in your own race; I knew that I would be seeing the leaders when I was at about 17K and Rob shortly after. It was easy to spot him since the race was pretty small, and there were only about 12 runners ahead of him.

I am glad I didn’t look carefully at the elevation profile for the race or I might have been scared off by the steady climb from about 14K up to the turnaround at 21K. Even after 16K I was starting to feel it. A guy passed me, and I said, “I hate uphills!” He said, “We just passed exactly 10 miles.” I said, “Awesome.” I reminded myself to just keep running strong and steady up the hill, and then it would be much easier after 21K. I really started to enjoy the whole experience at this point; in a way it is so liberating to not worry about a specific race goal. Still, I did want to hold onto about a 6:00 pace, and I finished the second 10K in just over an hour. That felt pretty strong considering the long steady hill.

On the way down the hill, we had a bit of a headwind which picked up more as we headed to the water. The tailwind had helped us up the hill, and now the headwind was holding us back a bit. I had finished my bottle of Gatorade by then so I was stopping every 3K at the aid stations. This also helped me break up the race mentally; I was taking gels every 6K, so I knew that after the 18K gel I would have only one more gel break. So gel break at 18K (just before which I saw Rob), 21K turnaround (with water stop), and then 24K last gel. At 24K I actually stopped to refill my bottle a bit so I would not have to stop again. From 24K to 27K it would be mostly downhill, and then I could just cruise into the finish. This wasn’t so bad! But the last two kilometres we were back along the water with a very strong headwind. I would have probably been able to pick it up to under 5:30/km at this point, but it was like running into a wall of air (my actual splits for those kilometres was just over 6:00). In the last few hundred metres we had to run back up the hill we came down (but on a different, steeper street). Mary and Bryan and their friends who had finished the 15K earlier were all waiting and watching and cheering at the top of the hill. It was awesome to see them, and Bryan ran a few metres with me after that. “You’ve got this, Jennifer, you’re looking strong,” he said. When I made the turn toward the finishing chute, I saw Rob waiting for me smiling. Official time was 3:02:45, and I could not have been happier.

So in the end, I am really happy I did this race and changed to the 30K. It is a 30K PB since I have never done 30K before. :) But what about the marathon? I am now confident that I can continue with marathon training; my training may not go perfectly as planned, but I can still do the race with some modified pace expectations. I am looking forward to it.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Point Grey Triathlon Race Report 2013

Race: Point Grey Triathlon at UBC (July 28, 2013)

Time: 1:40:17 (Placing: 187/247, 77/118 F, 6/8 F45-49)
Swim: 700m (in 50m pool), 24:14 (includes most of T1 in change tent and 250m run to bike)
Bike: 20K, 47:13 (includes time in T1 and T2, about 3 min total)
Run: 5K, 28:51

Summary:   This was my second time doing the sprint distance just two months after the North Shore Triathlon in May and about four-and-a-half months after my very first super-sprint in March. I was about the same pace in the swim and slightly faster in the bike and run as in the tri in May. It was a gorgeous day and a lot of fun. :) Clearly I have left a lot of room for improvement in the sport of triathlon.

Race report
I arrived at the race site at about 6:15 am, or a little over an hour before my 7:25 am scheduled heat. Because I'm a slower swimmer, I was in the second of seven swim heats. I checked in my bike, organized my stuff in transition (spending about 10 minutes deciding whether to leave my bike shoes there or leave them in my pool bag, eventually deciding on the latter option). I then went to the pool to change and got to the pool deck at about 7:10 to get my body marking and timing chip. The race started about a half-hour late, so after a lot of waiting around I was more than ready to start. I seeded myself pretty far back in the heat; I had predicted 19 minutes for 700m, but started with the 20-minute people because I know most people seed themselves too slowly. We swam in the beautiful 50m outdoor pool, going up and back across the seven lanes. I was going at a slow but steady pace, and got passed by one person around the second lap. I seemed to have more space after that, but still it was hard to relax completely. After about 500m, I got stuck behind a huge traffic jam of people. It seemed one person slowed down in front of about five others, and I caught up to them; at one point I was swimming breast stroke so slowly I had to stop and walk. At the end of the lane we were able to get past the one slow person, but similar back-up happened again in one of the last laps. This was the kind of traffic jam I managed to avoid in my last triathlon. I thought to myself “What can you do?” and I figured I'd save some energy for the bike leg. It seems many inexperienced swimmers don't pace themselves well in the pool, starting fast and then slowing down. I tend to swim pretty steady-paced. I did try to power through the last length after I passed one person. This pool congestion probably cost me about a minute or so in the swim, and my time in the water was just over 20 minutes. I exited the pool feeling good.

My friend Rob took some video of me during the swim: (I am in the first lane with the yellow cap.)

I tried to have a quick transition, but it was hard to get my shorts and tank over my wet suit. I slipped on some sandals for the transition run, grabbed some Powerade and was off to bike transition (about a 250m run on narrow sidewalk before the transition timing mat). The whole process of putting on new clothes and running to the entrance of transition took me about 4 minutes.

I slipped on my bike shoes, clipped on my helmet, gulped down some Gatorade, and started running with my bike out of transition. The bike was fun and fast on the gradual downhill, but slow on the gradual uphill. I don’t bike a lot, and this is about as long I’d want to do in a race. They added a bit of a technical section with curves and narrow parts, and I slowed more than I probably had to there. But overall the bike was good; about the same pace I did in my last sprint, and I finished feeling a bit better for the run.

Bike to run transition was also a bit slow. My bike time is listed as 47:13, but my Garmin shows just under 44 minutes for the actual ride, so about 3.5 minutes total in T1 and T2 (not including the other part of the swim-to-bike transition before the timing mat). My friend Tim got a picture, and it looks like I need to learn some HTFU. :) (he also got some pictures on the bike, but they aren't very good)

The beginning of the run was a bit of a confusing maze of fences as we exited from transition, until a few hundred metres in when we were on some residential roads. We worked our way to some of the Pacific Spirit Park trails, and then around to Marine Drive. I was running as fast as 5:30/km but I could not maintain that pace on the trails and some slight inclines. It was a gorgeous run and I was wishing it was a longer part of the triathlon, since by the end I felt I had warmed up more into my pace (last kilometre was the fastest, even with a slight incline). I did manage a slightly faster average pace for the run than my last triathlon. I crossed the finish line at just over 1:40, and was overall really happy with the race. Triathlon is so much fun, but the experience is so different than road races. My friend Tim took a picture of me coming toward the finish:

Post race thoughts

I am still learning a lot in triathlon and I really enjoy the varied training. The race was fun, and I did race well and strong for my current fitness. I do realize that gains in this sport will take me a LOT more dedicated training, especially on the bike. As a newbie I have enjoyed getting into the sport of triathlon with no real time pressure or expectations. I am not sure how much I will continue to enjoy it without setting improvement goals for myself and training towards them. Truthfully, I'm just not used to being at the bottom of the pack, and it is quite humbling.

Now that this triathlon is done, I am looking forward to getting back to mostly running and working toward getting back my run fitness. I have realized lately that as much as I am enjoying the varied triathlon training, I'm missing being able to do more run mileage. I know my return-to-run fitness has been slowed somewhat but the time spent in the other activities. We will be travelling for much of August, but i will definitely have time to do a lot of running. I have a half-marathon planned for October and maybe another in November. After that I will think about spring goals. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon, June 23, 2013

On June 23 I ran the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-marathon, my first half marathon in over a year because of the injury.  I was relatively undertrained, having only done a few long runs within my triathlon training.  But I got it done, and I had fun.  I never posted a full report for this race.  Instead I will now post a copy of what I wrote in my Runningmania journal  (

My plan was to start easier, about 6:00/km. But I good at the beginning and just got into a groove at closer to 5:30/km. The course starts with a gradual downhill for the first 3K which helped the pace. The course also has a very nice 2K downhill coast from about 8-10K. So it's not too surprising that my first 10K was in just over 55 minutes. I thought I might be able to hang on to that pace, but the course is more difficult in the second half and I was paying a bit for my lack of run mileage. I slowed down on a few of the hilly parts, and then had to take an emergency potty break at around 17K. I was also getting some calf cramping from about 15K on which forced me to slow down a bit, but I was able to relax into it and not let the cramping buckle me as it did in my last two halfs. So I'm happy about that. The last 5-6K really became mostly about keeping strong and steady.

I finished in 2:02:19, which is better than I expected but not as fast as I had hoped (if that makes sense ;) ). I'm mostly just happy that I was able to be out there racing and finish with no injury issues. Never take racing and health for granted. 8)

Here's a link to my Garmin Connect file for the race:

You can clearly see how I slowed in the second half on a few of the hills and lost more than a minute in kilometer 17. And the elevation profile gives a bit of an idea of the course.