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.


  1. Sounds like a smart race - good stuff!

  2. Congrats on a well executed race! Great work out there on a not so nice day. I can't drink out of a cup while running either...I stop and/or walk through the water stations to drink :)

  3. Jen: Good job! I started running last year and just finished my first 1/2 marathon in April in 2:20 - not fast but no EMTs needed either! Next time you visit us in PDX I'll show you some great places to go for a run. You will have to seriously slow down for me though! Tim

  4. Thanks Tim! I didn't know you started running... Portland is a great place to run but very hilly around your place. :)