Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Taper time- let the madness begin

I did my last long run for my marathon training yesterday, and it was a great one. I ran around Stanley Park three times, including twice on the road over Prospect Point hill. The total distance was 34K, and it felt stronger than any of my other long runs have felt this season. The run took me 3:24 for an average pace of 6:00/km. I am now ready to back off a bit on distance for tapering. The marathon is just seventeen days away, and I will be leaving for New York two weeks from tomorrow. I am already starting to experience that nervous excitement that will build even more as the race approaches. I am trying to remain calm and relaxed, though. I find myself thinking about my goals and studying the course map and elevation guide. It looks like it will be a great course, but the hills will not be trivial. I am starting to think about my pacing strategy, which I hone a bit as the race gets closer.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Back to blogging

My plans to get back to blogging in August sort of fell apart again. And now here I am at the end of marathon training for New York. I did train well, and many people followed along on DailyMile, Itsmyrun, and Runningmania. I kept this blog open as a portal into those sites, and if you are interested in the details of my training you can read about them there. I had to stop racing for much of the summer but had a good half-marathon race last week (report posted). Now I have one long run tomorrow before the taper begins for New York, and I can honestly say that my training has gone as well as I would have hoped. I had some solid peak weeks, some strong workouts and long runs, and a great week of running with my coach back in July. My training has been consistent with about a 3:50-3:55 goal pace for the marathon. However, I've always had trouble hitting my "expected" pace in the marathon, so I will likely aim for a reasonable 3:55 goal time. Even this sounds ambitious to me since my previous best is 4:06, but I do think it is aggressively achievable.

Portland Half-Marathon Race Report

Portland Half-Marathon
October 9, 2011

Gun: 1:49:33, Chip 1:49:14
181/2272 overall, 56/1668 Female
7/218 F45-49 (not a hugely competitive race with a large charity runner/walker component, but I'll still take it ;) )

As I planned my marathon training for this fall, I knew I wanted to do a half-marathon in October as a tune-up and fitness test. I picked Portland as a change from the BC races I've done before. I had heard lots of good things about this race; plus, we have friends to stay with which made it a nice mini-vacation. In preparing for the race, I thought I was in shape for about 1:45, which would mean a pace of just under 5:00/km. My training has been really strong overall, but I had mild cold last week my paces were dragging a bit. I was not sure if it would affect my race time, but I decided to wait and see how I felt as the race got started.

The 7:00 am start was early for my liking, and it was actually still dark in Portland we assembled in the corrals. The half-marathoners and marathoners start together and much of the beginning of the course is the same. Rob and I had met for coffee before the start, and we wished each other good luck as we went to our respective corrals. The gun went off and I quickly got into a smooth steady pace. The course starts on a gradual uphill which was a bit difficult, but nicely starts to come down after about mile 3 (just after 5K). I had settled into a pace that was over 5:00/km average, but the downhill was fast and felt great.

I probably should have studied the course map a bit more carefully because I didn't realize I would be running most of the half-marathon race with the marathoners. I could not remember where the split was, but as I approached the half-way point I thought it should have been earlier. This race has way more marathoners than half-marathoners, and I kept peeking around me to make sure there were still some half-marathon bibs near me. There were... but not many. After a stretch along the river in downtown, we went on a long out-and-back along the railroad tracks. After the 6-mile mark I finally saw where the marathon/half-marathon split was on the other side of the road (around 11 miles). I thought to myself, once I get to there it won't be long before we're done.

My pace was pretty steady but I always felt like I was fighting for it. I remember hitting the 5-mile mark (just over 8K) at about 41:30, which I knew was off my original goal pace but I was still running pretty strongly and consistently for what I had that day. I did not bring water with me and stopped three water stations on the course-- at one of them the cups had about 20 mL in them each. I don't know what those volunteers were thinking! I took about five of them. And at another I got to the last table and it wasn't water but gummy bears. I took some but later threw them down. In retrospect it might have been easier to have my own bottle with me, but I'm not sure how much difference it makes on a half-marathon course. I made my last stop at a water station around 9 miles where I also took the gel that Rob generously gave to me.

As a faster half-marathoner for this field, I had been assigned to start in the first corral. This was odd, though, as my expected pace was slower than the marathoners in that corral. The 3:15-marathoners and slower were in the second corral and a minute or two behind the start gun; therefore, the various faster pace groups kept catching me and passing me. Around 6 miles I was passed by the 3:30 pace group, knowing that they were going approximately my goal pace. I hoped maybe I could hang with them, but I couldn't. At this point I wanted to make sure at least the 3:40 group never passed me, because that would mean I had slowed to slower than a 1:50 time. They never did. Rob was in that group, who did see me on the out-and-back section and tried to reach out his hand to wave/high-five. I didn't realize it was him until he passed, but the gesture was still appreciated.

I came upon the 10-mile mark (just over 16K) at exactly 1:23:00, so I was keeping a very even pace. I knew I could hang on for the last 3.1 miles (5K) and had hopes of possibly speeding up to squeeze in under 1:48. But instead I had a pretty hard time hanging on at that point and actually slowed a little bit. I am not sure why- this never happens to me and I was pushing pretty hard on the course. The last 2-3 miles felt like they went on forever, but I finally came in just over 1:49 (official time was 1:49:14).

My time was two minutes slower than my PB from May, but I am still very happy with this result given how I felt overall. I remember after that race in May I wrote that sometimes you feel like you have to fight the whole way to keep your pace, whereas other times you feel like something is giving it to you and you just have to hang on. I will not always have that magical feeling, but I can still have a lot of good races. I had to work hard for it Sunday, but it was so worth it. The overall race experience was amazing and I would definitely do this one again.

Now with less than four weeks till New York and just a handful more key workouts, it's time for sharpening and tapering. I am so looking forward to that race.



My kilometre splits from my watch for anyone who is interested in these things. (The course is marked in miles, but I still like kilometres on my watch.)


1 5:08
2 5:08
3 5:07
4 5:14 (uphill)
5 5:15
6 4:46 (downhill, yay!)
7 4:46
8 5:11 (still downhill but water stop at end)
9 4:58
10 5:04
11 5:05
12 5:10
13 5:11
14 5:27 (water stop)
15 5:07
16 5:08
17 5:13
18 5:14
19 5:17 (small hill, but still surprised to slow here)
20 5:10
21 5:12
21.26 1:14

Final time: 1:49:14