Monday, May 2, 2011

Race report: BMO Vancouver Half-marathon

BMO Vancouver Half-marathon
Sunday May 1, 2011:

"Sometimes it just works."

Official time: 1:47:20 (PB by two minutes, course best by five minutes)
Overall placing: 806/6522
Female: 214/4165 (wow, a lot more women doing this race than men!)
F40-44: 30/568 (top 5.2%)

A bit of history: This is the sixth time I have done this race. It was my first half-marathon in 2004 and my first sub-2:00 in 2005. In 2010 and 2008 I ran strong races having come back from difficult injury or other issues. 2007 was the only year I had a very disappointing race, coming off a great spring race season. I had run the 10k race of my dreams three weeks before and had high hopes for the half-marathon. I ended up having a very off day and difficult race with a 1:52 time. I was able to repeat that time in 2008 and 2010, and later in 2010 improved on that time to get my sub-1:50 PB.

Fast forward to this spring: because of family and time issues I have not had a very focused season of training. But I have been doing good workouts when I can, including some strong speed work and long runs every other week or so, and I have been getting in consistent mileage (although lower than I've liked). Previously I would not have thought that this style of training really suited me, but I have been having some decent results with it. I had two really good 15k races in January and March where I was able to average under 5:00/km, but I had to miss my favourite half-marathon in February. I was eager to test out my speed two weeks ago at the Sun Run 10k where I had that magical PB four years ago, but came up flat this year. It just wasn't my day.

But some of that magic came back yesterday.

I felt very good as I waited in the starting corral for the gun; after the gun went off and we started to move forward I felt an amazing sense of joy and excitement. We were blessed with perfect race weather and somehow I knew that this was going to be a good day. I had to do some weaving at the crowded start, but very soon found my groove. As early as 4K into the race I knew I was having a great day. It is hard to explain, but some days you feel like you have to fight for the pace the whole time, and some days you feel like something is giving it to you and you just have to take it and hold on. That is what I felt yesterday.

This is a gorgeous but tough course with some rolling hills and a long climb in Stanley Park up to the top of Prospect Point. This is one of the biggest hills I have ever seen in a road race- a 200-ft climb over about two kilometres starting at the 12K mark. Since I have done this race so many times, I knew the course well and knew exactly what to expect. I knew the hill would slow me down and I figured this into my plan. I thought I could pace for about a 1:47 finish, which would require an average pace of 5:05/km. My plan was to stick to a pace of just over 5:00/km average for the first 12K hoping to be under 61 minutes. Then I would attack the hill, expecting but not fearing the inevitable slow-down. If I could stay strong to that point, I knew I could use the downhill after 14K and push hard to the end. I am not exactly sure how I did it but I was able to execute this plan perfectly. The early kilometres felt tough but strong and the pace was coming just as I wanted. At 12K, just at the start of the uphill, I was at about 1:00:40 on my watch. The climb was slow but I just pushed as hard as I could without feeling like I was going overboard. I passed the 14K marker at just over 1:12, so I slowed by about 40 sec/km on that hill. After 14K I was ready to take the gift of the downhill and hold on strongly to the finish. It felt really hard in the last kilometres, but I knew I could hold to the pace as I pushed through. The beautiful weather brought out a larger than normal number of spectators and running through the tunnel of cheering along the Beach Ave corridor helped me greatly. I did have some calf-cramping which forced me to back off the pace just a bit, but I was still able to average about 5:00/km in the last 7K. I crossed the finish line at just over 1:48 on the clock with a chip time of 1:47:20. That is more than a two-minute PB and about five minutes faster than I have been able to do on this course in the past.

Overall I had close to what I would call the perfect race. I am hoping I can build on this success as I do more races this year, so keep watching. :) Thanks for reading.


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  2. Congratulations Jennifer! That's a fantastic time. You did a great job in planning and execution - you need to teach me how to do that.

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