Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"First Half" Half-Marathon race report

First Half Half-marathon, February 12, 2012

My results, by the numbers:
Chip time:  1:50:51
Gun time:  1:51:02
Overall placing:  724/1982
Age group placing (F45-49):  33/158
Placing out of all females:  284/1166

A bit of history of the First Half and me:

2005 - volunteered and was hugely impressed with the race organization and quality
2006 - raced it as a training race on the way to my first marathon:  1:56
2007 - had a great race with a 1:51; that would stand as my PB for over 3 more years
2008 - was away
2009 - had been injured but still ran as an easy run:  2:04
2010 - race cancelled because of the Olympics
2011- had to miss the race at the last minute because of my mom's stroke
2012 - so happy to be back- one of my favourite Vancouver races

Although I had to miss this race last year, I did do three other half-marathons:  Vancouver Half-Marathon in May with a PB of 1:47, the Scotiabank Half in June with a disappointing 1:54 (bad calf cramping in last 7K), and a decent showing in Portland in the fall with 1:49, a month before my marathon.

The original plan in training for this race was to build off my post-marathon fitness toward a possible new PB.  But a slight injury setback in mid-December forced me to cut back my distances and intensity for about a month.  Starting in mid-January I was able build back my distances and ease back into the hard runs.  My race plan yesterday was to start at a pace of around 5:15-5:20 and bring that down later in the race if I was feeling good.

I started faster than planned and found myself at closer to 5:00/km.  It felt great for the first 5K, but I worried it would be tough to hang on with my lack of hard training lately.  Perhaps I let it get to my head a bit, but I did settle down into a pace closer to 5:10-5:15 for the middle 10K.  Overall it felt tough but really good the whole time; I was able to tackle each kilometre and mile as it came without looking too far ahead. The course is mostly flat with a little jaunt through downtown, a scenic run along the water in English Bay, and then a beautiful trek around the entire Stanley Park seawall.  I know the route very well, running on these paths often several times in a week.  We were blessed with much better weather than I had expected; just a light drizzle and almost no wind. So pretty much perfect conditions for racing in the park.

The half-way point was in Stanley Park and I was still feeling quite good.  My watch said 54:something and thought I might even be able to pull off a 1:48 finish.  But I started to really suffer after that; every kilometre was a push, but I just kept on.  Seeing Chantelle at her volunteer post at around the 14K mark gave me a huge boost, but the rest of the loop around the park was still really tough physically and mentally. 

Before heading out of the park we did a quick loop around Lost Lagoon. I was anxiously awaiting the 10-mile mark, for me the real beginning of the end of the race, which I knew would be part-way around the Lagoon.  At that point I was at about 1:23;  I did some mental math and figured I could still come in under 1:50 if I could maintain close to a 5:00/km pace, but my legs just did not have it  for the final stretch.   Funny thing about an “almost flat” route-- you really do feel every hill (or at least I do).  My pace suffered on every  bit of an incline, including one coming out of the park around 18K and two brutal little ones in the last kilometre (coming up under the Burrard and Granville bridges).  In my good races I can power through the last 5K at a faster pace, but I slowed quite a bit yesterday.   Still, I was able to hang on strong enough and was thrilled to come over the line with 1:50:xx on my watch, 1:51:02 on the clock.  My splits from the Garmin can be found in this file if anyone is interested.

So it wasn't a perfect race by far.  I ran with a slight positive split, having started a bit faster than I planned and slowing at the end. But I am very happy with what I had yesterday.  It felt great being able to push to the limit again, with no injury pain or discomfort at all, and with a time slightly better than I was expecting (just 3 minutes slower than my PB).  As usual, the race organization was superb with so much volunteer support.  I saw almost all of my running friends at this race, many of whom ran PBs or close to them.  I did not get to see Dylan Wykes on the course since there is no chance to see the leaders while running this race, but I was thrilled to find out he set a course record with 1:04:21.

Next up?  I am still waffling between doing the full distance the BMO Vancouver Marathon, (I am already registered) or switching to the half-marathon distance there.  I know I can be ready for the full distance but I am just not sure that it is the best race choice for me now. I will also likely go to Birch Bay again at the end of March for either the 15K or 30K distance.   And in June I will probably do the Scotiabank half-marathon.  After yesterday's result it looks like it could be a good spring for racing.

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