Thursday, 15 May 2014

2014 BMO Vancouver Marathon Race Report

It has taken me a while to process this race, let alone finish this post and RR....

I am humbled.

For all my training, discipline, early morning training sessions, training races, ambitions, and sacrifices, I am humbled.

The 2014 iteration of the BMO Vancouver Marathon is the same course that has been since 2012. Three years of running the same course. And although my fitness is better than 3 years ago (stronger), my mental stubbornness more acutely refined (tougher), my speed improved (quicker), my experience!?) (wiser), this marathon punched my ticket. 


In fact, no matter my hopes for a strong finish, consistent pace, and conserving my energy, I was again struck on this very taxing, very difficult course with giving up my time goals when the writing was on the wall. Just after I hit "the wall".

The day started with a ride down from the New Balance store with Franco, Gord, Sarb, and Pam. We piled into Franco's loaner vehicle at 6:30 and made our way to the River Rock, and on to the King Ed. Station on the Canada Line, where we would be soaked by the rain showers while getting to the start area. Inside the community center, a warm place to settle, I got ready for the run, and packed all of my stuff away into my rain soaked bag.

A couple of trips to the port-a-potties, and some warm-up on the hill about the start area at Q.E. Park, and I was (somewhat) ready to go. I did see Joel Payeur and Shannon Penway at the start line rocking Hoka's and a full trail setup, along with Hans Zimmerling, and Chris Barth. Hans was shooting for a 2:52, Chris was running his second marathon in 3 weeks, and Joel and Shannon were hoping for a 3:30.

The gun went off and I settled in for a long morning. 4:15 min/km was my goal, and I figured I had the strength to suffer for the 42.2k at that pace. I was fine through 8k, where I met Jordan from Victoria. We had the same time goals, and the same finish time from Victoria in 2013 at 3:06. Running with him, I had to duck out and hit a port-a-potty again, losing 35s while I did my business. Back on course, I met up with Franco on 49th.

The two of us were then inseparable. Within the race, my main goal became to stay with Rika Hatachi--a very consistent and capable runner from Coquitlam in her late 40s. I had the edge on her after rounding UBC, and thought that I had dusted her off for good. But the hardest part of the race was yet to come. I crossed the halfway point in 1:30:55. A good sign, but I still had another half marathon to run.

The stretch between UBC and the Burrard Bridge is a very deceptive part of the run. It seems to always be climbing, or a false flat incline upwards. Heading just into the heart of Kits--Arbutus Street to be precise, the cheering section was near deafening. It was amazing to see so many spectators boosting up the runners in this section of the course. It was here where my pace began to take a serious hit heading up the bridge. Yet on the downside of the Burrard Bridge, I felt surprisingly good, and only had 11k to go. Entering English Bay, I saw Alex Lea and Solana Klassen, cheering raucously! It is amazing the boost that having friends on course can do for a runner.

But soon after seeing my favorite cheerleaders on course today, my body came to a grinding stop. I physically did not stop, but my engine sputtered, slowed, and began to simply run on fumes. I was toast. Not hitting the wall hard like last year, but more of a shift from 5th to 3rd. And I could not get out of 3rd.

Perhaps it was a lack of on course nutrition, perhaps I should not have run the Sun Run the week before. Maybe I should have rested more in the week leading up to it. Whatever it was, I was tasting the bitterness of a race that had just beat me, and felt the cold bite of this May rain. I was not shattered emotionally, I knew that my goals would not be met today, yet I still had 20 minutes to run just over 5k. At the pace I was setting, I knew I would finish outside of another Boston qualifier.

I smiled slightly, and resigned myself to finishing the course. Being out there any longer than I needed to was insult to injury in the state that I was in. With 1200 metres to go, I saw my good friend, Jake Francis' father snapping photos. He got one of me while I smiled for him. Although it does not look like it, I am (trying) to smile in the pic. At least, I thought I was smiling. It felt like I was smiling.....

In a dark place....
...determined to squeeze speed from my body, when that would not happen....
I thought I gave Doug a smile....Does that look like I was having a good time?
Crossing the finish line Running Room owner John Stanton presented me with my finisher's medal-- kinda cool, that. I stiff-legged-ly walked to the end of the chute to collect my bag, along the way collecting a lunch box, some water, and fruit. Grabbing my bag, I hit the change tent where me and about 20 other dudes got right close with each other as we dealt with cramps, spasms, and not being able to bend our bodies over to get out of our wet running clothes. The pissing rain outside did little to motivate me to hurry up and get changed.

2014 Results. Running on fumes to the top 200.
Some fancy graphs that tell you about my splits, and where things went wrong... 
Portioning out my HR zones. Perhaps a little high, but it is a race.
Bottom line is this: I am done with the Vancouver Marathon. For now. 

I will not be back next year to run the full marathon in this city. Nothing against the race organization, the expo, or the setup. I just can't seem to solve this course. I need to run in some different places, different events. I will come back to it, just not next year....

That said, the half marathon looks like a good way to still stay involved in the event.

Oh, and Boston calls. I will go there to make magic happen. I can leave well enough alone on this course. It has my ticket, and I am resigning from challenging it for at least 2 years. Maybe 2016. But really, I would like to do Boston, figure out the Chuckanut 50 in 2016, along with some other races, 5 Peaks and whatnot. This one--the BMO Vancouver Marathon--not being a focal point for my spring---will help me get organized for some other, different events.

The marathon is a race that must be respected. It cannot be taken for granted, it cannot be referred to as easy, or minimized simply as just a double half marathon. If run correctly, there should be nothing left in your tank by the end of it, and the recovery should take at least a week or two. I may not have run it correctly on that day. I had little left by the end, but did not run it correctly. Almost two weeks on, I am feeling almost back to normal.

Up next: well I just registered for the Sandcastle 10k, and am gearing up for either the Kamloops full or half marathon. That one is a coin toss, really. It is a BQ race, and it is flat, so there is a chance at redemption there. However, I could put all my eggs in the Victoria Marathon basket, and save myself from the recovery of another marathon effort.

We shall see.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Sun Run 2014: A new PB, but just off the pace I wanted

I have been a bit of a whiner with this one. Both pre and post race. Approaching these two weekends, the Sun Run and Marathon respectively, I posed a question to myself:

  • Is it smart to go balls out for the Sun Run this weekend, then try to PB the marathon next weekend
  • Would running hard and fast interfere with my taper, and have me in recovery mode instead of taper mode?
  • Am I over thinking this little fabricated first world dilemma of mine? 
  • Should I just go out and race both and be smart during the week with sleep and meals?

Race morning had me putting on my usual routine, 6 AM wake-up, out the door by 7, on Canada line by 7:30, at the race start by 8:00 am. Not many other souls were on Georgia Street by that time, but it filled up quickly. I met up with Hans Zimmerling, and we did a warm-up with some strides. A full cast of characters made it out to this one: Chris Barth, Tim Abercrombie, Ryan Hayden and his group from our corporate team were all at the start in the elite corral. Finishing my warm-up, the goal was to turn out 3:30/km's for the duration, putting me in for 35 minutes. I thought that to be a lofty goal, but hey, I set lofty goals.

The gun went off and it only took a second or two to get over the start line. Hans, Tim, and me ran down Georgia Street into Denman. We stayed fairly close together through 3k. KM 3 to KM 5 started to wear on me and I could tell that my pace was dipping every so slightly on the false flats. In fact, I do not really remember much from those two kilometres. Hans started to pull away from me here, and I let him go. I slowly climbed Beach Avenue up to the Burrard Bridge, passed by a spectating Alex Lea, and began climbing the Bridge. On the downward slope, my buddy Darbara caught up to me. We ran together from 6 to 8.5 when he slowly began to distance me slightly.

I went into a pretty dark place between 8k and 9k. The Sun Run, or any 10k, is a very short, very intense effort that is almost over before you know. Having said that, there is enough time for a runner to question why they are doing what they are doing. That happened for me in a short distance near the end of the race.

In fact, the Cambie Bridge, albeit uphill then with a nice run out into the finish, was a welcomed sight that snapped me out of my "Luke Skywalker in the cave on Dagobah" funk. I managed to get some time back on Darbara and close the gap to 8 seconds. Hans finished a full 24 seconds in front of me, with Tim "the Terminator" Abercrombie coming in at 35:04! And he is not a runner, he is a cyclist! And years ago, a triathlete! So I guess he is a former runner. He has an engine, a big engine at that! Chris Barth came in at 34:

It has been a long time since I did a Sun Run. I think the last one I did was in 2005 or so, in 45:22. Good enough to be the 1614 finisher across the line. Coming back to the Sun Run this year I had some high expectations for myself. As with any race, I tend to try and shoot for a PB. This race was no different--I jogged out 36:54 bettering my PB from last year's Sandcastle 10k by 22 seconds. Good enough to get across the line in 134th place. I missed my goal mark by over a minute, but that is for next time. I know how 35 minutes will feel, and know what I need to get there. Chris Barth told me back in the autumn to focus on the shorter speedier races, and it seems to be paying off!

This one was a very fast 10k race that almost does not justify the race entry fee for the time I am out there, but the competition, festivities and roads to run on were awesome! I will definitely be returning to the Sun Run next year. This is a very smoothly oiled monster-machine to be able to support 45,000 finisher.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

March (and February) Training Recap: Racing and Fatigue, Recovery, and More Racing!

March started off like a lion, and went out like a lamb. My training at the beginning of the month was bonkers, as I hit out for 184 in the first two weeks of the month.

But then a little thing called spring break happened. I had high hopes to run 2 hours a day, and nail down two solid weeks of training. Like all good plans, that one took a dump, and I ended up drinking more beer than the first two months combined, running in Kelowna with little motivation, raced and rested instead.

On a side note, I attended a talk at the New Balance North Delta store. The speaker was this guy:

Yep, Rob Watson showed up to talk about his Boston Marathon experience from 2013. He finished the race in 2:15, running 11th across the line. But even better is the face that he lead the race through 16 miles. He was pretty open to any questions: nutrition both on the run and for race prep, training miles and hours, sleep patterns, telling stories about nearly crapping himself in that Arizona Rock N Roll Half (Sorry for asking about that one man!). A pretty informative night with a pretty amazing runner. 

Listening to him speak about Boston, I have pretty much made up my mind that I will be going,  confirmed my appearance for next year at the big show. I don't know how many more chances I might have in life to qualify, and it is something I would like to be a part of. 

Me and Rob at the New Balance North Delta Concept Store
March finished up with a week in Kelowna running on Knox Mountain, and a Dirty Feet Race in Kamloops. Some pretty good times were had trail running in late March.

Way back in February:

February was a month of fast, tired running, fewer kilometers, and a bunch of races--the focal point being the First Half Half Marathon and a sub 1:20 finish. That did not happen due to a bit of illness, lack of recovery and all around not treating myself the best in preparation for the half marathon.

I did manage to run a solid Aldergrove Mud Run 8k for second place, just off of Ryan Hayden's win, and close out the month hurting at the Fort to Fort 8k, running slower than at the beginning of the month. I take all this in stride, and in the past two weeks, I have taken some downtime off of running hard, and hit it back up again with a solid 5 days at the beginning of March.

The next few weeks I see as being crucial for more volume and to get my speeds up during my distance runs. With 4 weeks before the Vancouver Marathon, cranking up in the next two to build on the last 3 will help with the strength I need to reach my goals.

April is already in full swing, the sun is out longer, and I just want to get out on the trails any chance I get!

February Beer Tally: 24
Races: 3
Running KMs: 198

March Beer Tally: 57 (Ugh!)
Races: 1
Running: 268 kms

YTD totals:
Beers: 109
Races: 6
Total Kilometers running: 732

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

2014 Dirty Feet Trail Race #1: A mixed bag of weather and terrain.

After the 8k Fort to Fort trail race, I was a bit mentally and physically exhausted. Enough for me to hit the reset button and try my hand at a consistent block of running and having some fun. Less structure, more volume, short, long, all of the above.
Mud all packed up in the lugs after the first Dirty Feet Trail Race of 2014.
Thank goodness Spring Break arrived, and with it, a trip to the interior. We had planned some time in Kelowna instead of the usual Kamloops for a change, someplace to make us feel like we were on vacation. I had scouted out Knox Mountain for a neat place to get some trail running in. The night that we arrived, we took the kids up the Apex trail to the lookout over the city. This proved to be my recon for the next few days of running. Paul's Tomb, Apex Trail, and Knox Summit all factored into my last few morning runs setting up for Sunday's Dirty Feet Trail Race. I loved the fact that the climbs started straight up right from the base of the hill. Running in a place that I had never been before made for some rather exciting efforts! Knox Mountain park is the jewel of the city. Every city needs some wicked terrain like Knox. The best part too is that it has so many friendly users who don't mind getting out there an hammering up this hill. The Gordon Trail climb off of Paul's Tomb trail was my favorite--steep switchbacks, not a soul in sight--a good challenge for a 8-10 minute well paced climb.

The Base of Knox
Apex Trail Summit at sunrise, filtered.

Apex trail lookout.
The trails high above Lake Okanagan.

Looking across to Bear Creek Prov. Park. Some more good trail running in the canyon, so I am told.

Looking to the Westside.
Sunrise on Knox Summit.
But enough about Kelowna...On to Kamloops.

Dirty Feet always seem to put on an amazing grass roots event, whether running or cycling. Both Phil and Grace Hiom are racers themselves. The events that they put on are the sum of all the other events that they have done as racers. It is clear that they they parlay those experiences--what other races do well-- into making a Dirty Feet events a super fun, racer centred experience for all that toe the line.
Walk to the start from the shuttles.

Snow dusts the ground, but by mid race, it would all be gone, replaced by mud.,
 The first DF trail race of 2014 was no exception. Set in Bachelor Heights on the north shore or Kamloops,  the course consisted of a short 5k opening loop, followed by a pretty awesome 10k loop with some serious climbing, finishing with the same 5k loop as the start. My Ambit recorded 20k, not the 21.1 as advertised. That may be a function of some dropped signals, or a mis-advertised race distance. Since there was no tree cover at all on this course, I suspect the latter. Anyway, a trail half sounds better than a 20k trail race....

The Course Layout
...and elevation profile

I approached this race having looked at the registration list, recognizing a few familiar names:

  • Hans Aabye--I have race with him before--he is a lithe, lanky, and graceful runner. One of the most graceful runners I have seen! 
  • Matthew Fortuna--I raced with him in 2011 on this course. I remember the exact spot on in the race that he passed me then. I thought I might have a chance to keep with him, but his Athlinks page shows that he has gotten speedier since then, as well as taken on more ultra marathons. 
  • Ryan Day-- He is a 2:16 marathoner from last year's Victoria Marathon, and a former 3rd place finisher at the BMO Vancouver Marathon. I had him pegged to win, being the fastest guy in the race. But like many race days, anything can happen.
The desolate beauty of Kamloops.
I realistically felt that I could finish as high as third or fourth, knowing who was in this race, my prediction went as follows:

1st----Ryan Day
2nd---Hans Aabye
3rd---Me or Matt Fortuna

So there it was: 3rd or 4th place for the race. But like Murphoffroad says, shoot for a time goal, not a placing. My time goal was to be better than 1:46 from 2011. I figured I could come close to 1:35 or so.

My pre-race prep in Kelowna and Sun Peaks had me imbibing in a few carbonated brews, but none to excess in the week leading up to the race. The evening before the race I abstained from any fun beverages and opted for the bottomless plastic cup of water, generously offered to me by Kyle and Magda Recsky in Sun Peaks. We shared a lovely evening catching up on all things family and kids....It was great to see them!

Quite literally, the coffee table book at the Recsky's Sun Peaks condo. Heavy reading, as Magda brings her work home for some study time. This textbook was 3.5 inches thick. 
The morning came, and I had to leave our place in Sun Peaks at 6:30 for the 9:30 start time. The trek down the mountain was snowy and slippery from the weather the day before, and took longer than usual. I jammed back some breakfast at my parents house, only an hour and a half before the race--not my standard 3 hours to be finished before the event. Oatmeal and a Tim Horton's coffee before the race would have to do. I made it to the shuttles (this race had participants shuttle from a designated area in Kamloops out to the race course--very cool!) on time at 8:30, and arrived soon enough to get a short warm-up in. I chatted with Ryan, Matt, and Hans, and set my plan in action. Those snowy, freezing conditions from Sun Peaks had also blanketed the ground in Kamloops.

My biggest decision of the morning was which footwear was I going to opt for the standby, relatively light, reliable Salomon Sense Mantra's--my preferred training shoe at 6mm offset. I have never raced in them, but they are my go to. Or, the Speedcross 3--a hearty, heavily lugged bomber of a shoe that would give me ample traction if the temps rose and the ground softened.

I chose the Speedcross 3 for the race, hoping that it would be the best decision. I would find our that it would, and it wouldn't.

On the warm up, I came across Ryan Day. We chatted and discussed footwear for the race. He chose my favorite New Balance MT110--I have burned through a few pairs of those. But I am not Ryan--not nearly as fast or technically skilled. Plus, I left my MT110's at home.

DF start banners.
We lined up, the gun went, and right away, I was in 6th place. Ryan took the lead, followed by Hans, Matt, and a couple of other guys that I did not know. The start was fast, as the five in front were kicking up mud and dirt into the air, landing on my face and shirt. I was officially holding down 6th. The first 5k loop was great--some downhill and undulating terrain. The front 3 steadily built a lead, while I tried to keep the next two in front of me. My shoes proved to be a pretty good choice for traction, however I had thought of swapping out just before the climb in order for something the Sense Mantra's with a smaller offset. The 5k had me feeling like I was too high in the 12 mm offset. 5km done, then into the big, steep called Lac du Bois climb. It is a bit of a leg burner. I opted to run/power hike the climb, and made up some ground on the two guys in front of me, whom I affectionately deemed "Orange shirt", and "Tank Top".

I ditched the beenie partway through the first 5k.
Coming around the backside of the tower hill and descending from Lac du Bois climb, I hit sub 3:45/k paces, and felt pretty good approaching 10k. Halfway at 47:32 Had me looking pretty good for a strong finish; I was not worried so much about time, but about catching the two in front of me. I noticed Ryan Day right in front of me, about 300m up the trail. WTF! Ryan Day was having a bad one. I knew right away that he probably ran off course (which he did). I then proceeded to use him as a carrot. However, this carrot was going to fast for me.

I made the catch on Tank Top, and we ran together through the second big climb on the course. We chatted about running as I asked him if he was a distance runner ( I knew he wasn't because of a couple of clues: 1. he was wearing TRU Wolfpack shorts, indicating he was on the cross country team; 2. he was really young). He told me he was a cross country runner, and he had done one marathon. He was a better descender than me, but I could make up ground on him on the flats and climbs. I paced us over the top of the mountain, and he took off on the descent, as I had observed prior. I knew at the base of the hill, there was only 5k left to go. If I was to make a move, I would have to happen soon.

The second catch of Tank Top happened as we started the final 5k circuit, where I left him behind. But by now, the sun was out, I had gotten rid of my gloves, arm warmers, and hat, and the ground was greasy, soft, and slippy. My Speedcross were great up to that point, but with 5k to go, my shoes were akin to a set of muddy cyclocross tires: the tread had picked up so much mud and bunch-grass that they nearly tripled in weight. I was running in shoes that weighed over 3lbs each, the debris was not clearing the tread pattern. My pace slowed every so slightly, but I still ran hard enough to keep drilling time into the young buck that I had passed at the beginning of the final circuit.

Happy to finish and hold down 5th!
I finished up the race with a well earned 5th place finish, 5 minutes behind Ryan in 3rd place. He took a sprint by 4 seconds over Orange shirt. For me, this was a good high tempo training effort. I did not want to put myself too deep in to the red, knowing that I have bigger fish to fry coming up at the start of May. This race confirmed to me that I am heading in the right direction for the BMO Van, and enjoying the process along the way.

From Left: Ryan, 3rd; Hans, 1st; Matthew, 2nd.  Photo: Hans Aabye

Official results for the Men's 21k race.

My HR was about normal.

Movescount Data. 

Signing up for Strava Premium has given me the ability to see my race data in a pretty concise format. I don't know if I would switch from using Movescount, but this is kinda neat.

Things look pretty good from here.
A bit of a muddy affair back there.
Mud. A disastrous mess.

Catching up with a very inspiring and  recently retired Jim Fulton! Well done Jim!
Yet another great race put on by Phil and Grace. If you are ever in the interior and find yourself jonesin' for an awesome race experience, check out Dirty Feet. They put on a many races--trail running, ultra's, snow shoe, and mountain bike--throughout the year, and have dialed in their product to compete with the other best race organizers around!! Truly superb!

Thanks to all the volunteers and sponsors for making this race very, very fun! I will definitely be checking out Wild Mountain next time I am in Kelowna!

All of the results are HERE!

This spring break has been a good one, in both Kamloops and Kelowna!

Next up: the Vancouver Sun Run, and the following weekend: the Vancouver Marathon!