“At about kilometre five you'll get to the first aid station with water, Gatorade, and candy. And at the second aid station at kilometre 10, you'll find more water and Gatorade, and chips and M&M's.” Chips? As in potato chips? M&M's? This race is going to be great, I thought.
We were listening to the course description and race instructions before the start line of the Coho Festival Run, a 14K race on roads and gravel trails from Kits Beach in Vancouver to Ambleside Park in North Vancouver. It was one of the first really rainy day of the season and I had a race to do. My plan was to run as hard as I could, treating this race as a fitness indicator for my upcoming marathon in just four weeks.
At the start of the race we were to loop around Kits pool. The field of 450 people bottle-necked onto a path about five metres wide, so for the first half a kilometre I felt like I was barely moving. But eventually I got into my groove and was hitting about a 5:00/km pace. Kilometre 4 took us over the Burrard Bridge, which would prove to be pretty easy at this stage of the race (recall how it felt for me on very tired legs at the end of my last race). On the other side of the bridge I felt like I was still working hard but maintaining a very steady pace-- until the real work began. The course took us up to the peak of Stanley Park, on the trail up Prospect Point hill. I've been running this hill almost every week in training, but when you are at or near lactate threshold it is a different animal. I actually had to... stop and walk. It cost me at least a minute. But I fought through it, made it to the top, and got a small handful of M&M's at that 10K aid station. That was a nice treat.
The rest of the race was tough going, but I just kept pushing. Running over the Lions Gate bridge was glorious and inspiring. On the other side of the bridge, the 12K mark came a few hundred metres early on my watch on this “perfectly measured” course-- whatever, I'll take it. I ran the last 2K in hard for a finish time of 1:11:38 (5:07/km pace). That was good enough for 148th overall and 15/82 in my F40-49 age group (strong field-- winner of this age group came in at 57:43).
I really enjoyed this race, and thought it was a good indicator of where my fitness is now. I do feel like I was working pretty hard for a pace which about the same as my last half-marathon, but I also know that this was a tougher course and I wasn't tapered or rested for this race. I am happy overall with my result and the effort I had yesterday, and I am excited about the rest of my training. Bring it on.