Saturday, November 27, 2010

Racing plans for 2011

As 2010 starts to wind down, I am thinking about my racing plans for next year. So far here is what I have planned:

January: I would like to do at least one race in January, but I am not sure which one. I am thinking about the Chilly Chase 15K in Langley on January 16. A 15K race would be a good speed test and preview to my February half-marathon, but I have been warned about varying road conditions and weather. This race has a strong following and will fill up quickly as the end of the year approaches. If I do not do that one I will think about the Steveston Ice-Breaker 8K on January 30.

Feburary: "First Half" Half-marathon on February 13. This one is a definite (it sold out quickly when registration opened). I am looking forward to doing this race again. I have run in this race four times, all under different circumstances with varying results. In 2006 I did it as a training race as part of my Vancouver Marathon training; I was aiming for a marathon-paced time of two hours and finished in 1:56. In 2007 I raced it as an "early season fitness indicator", and got a time of 1:51:17. That time would stand as my PB in the half-marathon until June of this year. In 2008 I was returning to running after a difficult fall (various health issues), and managed a decent time of 1:52. In 2009 I had planned to race it again, but had a work-related back injury that forced me to do it as a slower training run (2:04 finish). In 2010 the race was canceled for the Olympics, so many of us are eager to race it again. I will be hoping to shave a few minutes off my PB time, but I will have a better idea of my goal as the date gets closer.

Often in March I like to do the Dave Reed Spring Classic 5K, but we will be away that weekend next year. So instead I will do the St. Patrick's Day 5K on March 12. I may also do Harry's Spring Run-Off 8K on March 20.

April: I will definitely run the Vancouver Sun Run 10K on April 17, although I am not sure if I will be racing this or running it with my kids. This is one of my favorite races-- I love the excitement and buzz and the huge-race feel. It attracts local and international elites, recreational walkers, and just about everyone in between. At over 50,000 runners, the Vancouver Sun Run is by far the biggest road race in Canada and one of the biggest in North America. The years I have raced this I have always gotten my best 10K times, and my time from 2007 still stands as my 10K PB (47:00). This year the race was moved to Mother's Day, and I enjoyed the morning running/walking with my kids to a 1:25 finish. With the wave start, we did not even cross the start line until about 10:30 am, or about a half-hour after I would have FINISHED had I run the race on my own. So I am not sure how I will experience this race next year; while I would like to race it on my own, I will have to see what we decide to do as a family.

May: I will definitely be participating in the BMO Vancouver Marathon, although I am not sure what distance. More on this marathon decision in a later post. There are some shorter distance races I may also consider for May.

I am tentatively planning on doing the Sandcastle City Classic 10K again on June 12, as well as the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon on June 26. There is also a new half-marathon in Whistler on June 4 that I have my eyes on; I doubt it will be a flat easy course, but it may make for an enjoyable weekend away and fun racing. My June racing will partly depend on whether or not I do the marathon in May.

Several of the above races are part of two of the local race series: The Lower Mainland Road Race Series and the Timex BC Road Running Series. These series award points for the top twenty finishers in each 5-year age group category, and at the end of the year prizes are given to the top points-earners. Therefore, these races tend to bring out many of the top runners in the area as well as the motivated recreational racers. In order to qualify for prizes, you must finish at least five races in a series; I would like to do few more of the 5k and 10K races in order to qualify. There are some great 10K races that I missed last summer that I would love to do this year, like Summerfast in July and the Richmond Oval 10K in August.

I will think more about the rest of the year as it unfolds, but there is one fall race for which I have already registered: The New York Marathon on November 6. I have a guaranteed entry to this race after being denied in the lottery three years in a row. I am really looking forward to this race as both an exciting international event as well as a training goal. More on this in the months to come.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fall Classic Half-Marathon, November 21

One last race to finish off the year: Yesterday I continued my plan of trying to capitalize on marathon-training fitness, and I ran the Fall Classic Half-Marathon at UBC. I have not done a lot of volume or long runs since the marathon, and nothing over 18K. However, I have done some strong key workouts and had a great result at Haney to Harrison two weeks ago, so I thought I would see what I had for a hard effort in the half-marathon.

My rough race plan was to try for about 41 minutes for each of the first 8K, and then try for under 26 minutes for the last 5.1K. The start was fast as I realized we were going slightly but steadily downhill. But what goes down must come back up--just slightly but enough to make a difference, especially on the second loop of this double-looped course. I did hit the 8K marker at almost exactly 41 minutes, and 16K at 1:22:12 so I knew I was on track, but I didn't have the kick in the last 5.1K I needed to keep up the hard effort, especially as we climbed ever so gradually. Still, I was able to pick it up a bit in the last kilometre or so, and finished at 1:49:30 on my watch (so about 27:18 for the last 5.1K). That was within seconds of my PB at the Scotiabank Half in June. I was anxious to see the official time to see whether I had pulled off a PB, but somehow the timing equipment failed and I had an official time of 1:48:09. That would be nice, but I know it isn't right-- several people seemed to have gotten messed up times.

I had been hoping for a minute or two faster, but I am still happy with this result. Considering how long it took me to break 1:50, I am happy that I could do it yesterday with a less-than-perfect race on a tougher course. It has become my new base-line time . A lot of people have mentioned the conditions-- colder than we are used to (about zero at the start), some icy patches-- but overall the conditions were not a huge factor for me. I did have one annoying shoelace-tie stop, but that alone wouldn't have slowed me too much (it was in the first 8K); it was the pace slow-down in the last 5K that hurt me the most, and that was nothing but fatigue (I think because of my lower training volume).

Overall it was a great way to end the year. I have nowhere to go but up from here. 2011, here I come. :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Haney to Harrison Relay, November 6, 2010

A group of us have participated in the Haney to Harrison (H2H) Road Race each year from 2005 until this year. This 100K run starts in Haney (part of Maple Ridge) and winds its way to Harrison Hot Springs. There are ultra-marathoners who run the whole 100K; we participate in the very popular 8-staged relay event. Sadly, this was the event's last year, but a new event is set to take its place in Whistler next year. In the meantime we were determined to make this year our best ever, and we didn't fail. We have shuffled around runners and added and lost people over the years, but there have been a few of us at the core of our group:

Team name: Take the Rains

The players:

Steve (a good friend of mine, our fearless leader and Stage 2 runner this year)
Heather (Steve's wife, Stage 3 runner)
Marcia (injured this year, team support person, photographer, cheerleader)
Steph (new runner this year, friend and neighbour of Steve and Heather's, Stage 1 runner)
Mike (another good friend and my almost-weekly running partner, Stage 7 runner)
Cindy (partner to Marcia and our team volunteer- her role is exchange captain at exchange 4)
Julianne (Cindy's niece, has been running with the group for three years, Stage 5 runner)
Rob (a new running friend of mine and new member of the team, Stage 4 runner)
Jennifer (Me, Stage 6 runner. I've done this same stage each year.)

Since Rob, Mike, and I were running later stages, we planned to meet up with the group at exchange 3 before Rob's run start. Mike and Rob picked me up at the Skytrain in Surrey at about 7:30 am, and we made our way through Maple Ridge and Mission to try to watch some of the early running. Our team start time was at 6:00 am, and we found out that Steph, our Stage 1 runner, had had some problems on her run. She had knee pain (ITBand) and was forced to slow down to a run/walk hobble by then end, but she did finish her stage and handed off to Steve. Soon after she went home ice and baby her knee, so we didn't see her for the rest of the day.

Stage 1: Steph, 9.57K, 1:07:59, 7:07/km

We tried to spot Steve on the road, but he was too quick for us and had already handed off to Heather by the time we drove through exchange 2. He finished with an impressive time given his limited running since Victoria Half-marathon.

Stage 2: Steve, 13.51K, 1:13:17, 5:26/km

Driving from Maple Ridge to Mission near the Stave Dam we did manage to see Heather on her run. She was climbing one of the challenging hills, and well on her way to a very impressive finish. This is the best she's done in this relay, following a string of PB races in her first year post-baby #2. Great work, Heather.

As we were looking to spot Heather coming into exchange 3, we saw another runner with bunny ears. Steve said, “She's not too far behind the bunny.” We kept watching and soon she came in, looking strong, and handed off to Rob.

Stage 3: Heather, 15.12K, 1:21:45, 5:25/km

Steve took Heather home and we would meet up with him later at exchange 5 before my run. He also planned to bring Patty, another friend and neighbour of theirs, who was to run Stage 8. Meantime, Mike, Marcia, and I then drove on toward exchange 4 where we would meet up with Julianne and see Cindy, exchange 4 captain and our team volunteer. While driving along Stage 4 to the exchange, we did manage to see Rob a few times and stop and take pictures. [Marcia has those pictures so I hope I can get one up here later.] Rob had never met Julianne before, so I told him to look for someone “very blonde” (we didn't know what she was wearing). Thankfully, exchange 4 went without a hitch as we spotted Rob coming down the small hill and alerted Julianne. She was off.

Stage 4: Rob, 14.42K, 1:12:02, 5:00/km

I was a bit nervous about getting to exchange 5 with enough time to warm up and get changed, so we started driving soon after Julianne left. We got there in plenty of time and Steve met us there just as I was starting my warmup. As I was warming up, it occurred to me that Steve was alone-- where was Patty? Well, Patty was sick at home with a bad migraine and couldn't run. While I was warming up, Mike, Steve, Rob, and Marcia were discussing who would run Stage 8 (a very flat run of about 8K). Heather wasn't feeling up to doing another run and she was home with the kids; Steph was obviously out, and Julianne was also making her way home as she needed to go to work. Rob's calf had seized up badly at the end of his run; he was OK after some icing and stretching, but not willing to risk another run on it. Mike could do it, but wasn't sure he was really up for back-to-back runs totaling about 21K. In theory, I would have been the best choice, since I'm not too far from marathon mileage, but they didn't want to suggest this to me and possibly force me to run slower than I wanted to in Stage 6. That left Steve, who thought he'd be up for the task, but we decided to wait till I finished running to confirm. They encouraged me to run Stage 6 as fast as I could, and if necessary I could jog the 8K afterward. That turned out not to be necessary (Thank you Steve!), and I'm glad I didn't even consider holding back on my run.

Julianne came in looking strong but a bit earlier than we expected, so I wasn't quite ready. I quickly went to the exchange mat, getting my Garmin and iPod ready. I had a great playlist prepared and I didn't want it to go to waste!

Stage 5: Julianne, 13.12K, 1:13:22, 5:36/km

My run went about as perfectly as I could have expected. My goal was to be as close as possible to 5:00/km; in earlier years my best pace was closer to about 5:15/km on this slightly hilly route. I locked into a pace of about 5:00/km early on and stuck with it. It felt TOUGH as early as 3-4K, but I just kept telling myself to hold on. I didn't let my heart rate freak me out, even as it crept up near and over my lactate threshold pretty early. The hills slowed me down a bit, but the downhills seemed to go on forever. Even though this route does have a slight net elevation gain, it somehow felt like I was going down more than up. I liked that. I was passing lots of people, including the bunny-eared team member. About a third of the way in I caught up with guy wearing a yellow-singlet, and stuck behind him for a while. I passed him at one point, and then he passed me-- this would happen back and forth about three times before I finally passed him for good.

I remember mentally breaking up the run into 2K chunks, telling myself, “OK, just get to 6K, 8K, 10K...” Each 2K bit would take about 10 minutes, and after 10K I knew I just had to stay on cruise control. Don't get me wrong-- it was TOUGH, but I remembered, “This is a race--- not too much longer to hold on.” When I saw the exchange tent I just kept pushing, and then handed off to Mike. “Have a good run!!” I was THRILLED to see my time of just under 1:06, or 1:05:54 to be exact. 13K at 5:00/km is exactly 65 minutes, but this run was just over 13K (13.08K by course measurement) which gave me a pace of 5:03/km. I'll take it, and then some. :) That's almost three minutes faster than my previous best time on this course. Here's a link to the data in case anyone is interested:

Stage 6: Jennifer, 13.08K, 1:05:54, 5:03/km

Rob and I quickly got back to Mike's car, and Steve and Marcia drove Steve's van up ahead. We decided to stop along Stage 7 to try to take pictures of Mike running and discuss the plan for Stage 8. We passed Mike, stopped somewhere about half-way, and then decided that Steve would be our double-duty runner. I was relieved. :)

Mike's run had a huge hill up and a long hill down, and he really rocked it. He finished with an impressive time given he's taken some downtime from regular training and is now getting back into regular running. Soon he'll be wanting to run too fast for me on our weekly runs. :)

Stage 7: Mike, 13.47K, 1:09:45, 5:11/km

Mike came in to exchange 7 and handed off to Steve, who would run Stage 8 at a pretty quick clip considering his lack of training and running on supposedly tired legs. :) We drove along to the finish area hoping not to miss him. Marcia managed to get a picture of him coming under the finish-time clock and approaching the timing mat. That time would be our best in all the years we've done this as a group. Not bad considering we are not fast-stacked and we had some injury issues along the way.

Stage 8: Steve, 7.87K, 40:18, 5:08/km

Total: 9:04:22

I will definitely be sad to let this race go. I had a great time running with everyone and spending the day together. This report doesn't even mention many of the funny and fun things we encountered along the way (I figured it was long enough ;) ). I hope our group can stay together for future versions of this race. Thank you all for such a great experience.

I'm having trouble uploading the pictures to this blogpost, but you can see them in this Facebook album.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I love short races!

James Cunningham Seawall 9.5K Race

And I loved this race yesterday. I have never raced this one before, but it follows the same course as some other races and many runs I have done, around the seawall of Stanley Park. For historical reasons they keep the distance at 9.5K, and many runners seem to not like the idea that it's not an actual 10K race. Maybe that would have turned me off if I thought I was in PB shape, but I knew I wasn't, so I went out to just do my best and have a good time.

My goal was to hold about a 4:45-4:50/km pace which I thought was reasonable but challenging enough based on my recent training and fitness. The first kilometre was a bit slow in the crowd and it ended on a bit of an uphill, so I wasn't surprised to see 5:05 on my watch. But I felt great and hit my stride, and from then on was hitting the splits all between 4:45 and 4:50. It wasn't easy, though; even before 5K it was already feeling tough, so I just took it one kilometre at a time. I knew that once I passed around 6 or 7K, my body would continue if my mind didn't give up. Having a few helpful racers as pacers along the way as well a good knowledge of the course made the mental battle a bit easier. The best thing about a 9.5K race is that it's over earlier than a 10K race. I was actually able to pick up my pace just a it on the last half-kilometre, which gained me about 10 seconds. I crossed the finish line just over 46 minutes, which turned out to be a 45:58 chip time. That was good enough for 4th in my age group in a pretty speedy crowd (to get top 3 I would have needed a time of 42-something).

I am happy with this time; the pace equates to about a 48:20 10K, which is faster than I was able to do in June without the downhill help of that course. I have done very little speed work other than tempo pace throughout marathon training and since then, so I know I have a lot of room for improvement. I am looking forward to this Saturday when I race stage 6 of the Haney to Harrison relay. My best pace on this hilly 13K stretch has been about 5:15/km; I'm hoping I can get that down closer to 5:00/km this year.

The best thing about short races is that there is no wall when you know how to pace them properly. I guess that's the same for marathons, but I have done so few of them and haven't quite figured out the pacing yet. I haven't given up on the marathon yet, but I want continue to work on my speed before I tackle another one. I am already looking forward to the spring.