Monday, 27 May 2013

Searching for the run of my life: The BMO Vancouver Marathon

Finishing up the Marathon. Photo: Doug Francis

It has been a while since I last made a post, and much has happened since the Chuckanut 50. A trip to L.A. with the family the day after the ultra, 10 days in SoCal at staying in Santa Monica with my close friend and adolescent travel partner Andy O., visits to the amusements parks (Disneyland, et al.), and hitting the beach in San Diego made March very memorable. The weeks leading up to the Vancouver Marathon had me plagued with a serious Achilles tendinitis injury. I had to undergo some PT treatment at Physiomoves by Christine for a few sessions to deal with it. It lingered for the whole month, putting my marathon in jeopardy. I was left before the race thinking that I could go out and run right through the pain, and risk being laid up post race, or take it easy and have fun.

I wrote the following the night before the BMO Vancouver Marathon:



Tonight is the first night I have had any pasta in a while, and also the last night before the run I have set my calendar for: the BMO Vancouver Marathon, my third in as many years. I am shooting for an ambition 2:57, which translates to a 4:12 min/km. I ran a 4:00 min/km at the First Half in February, so this is going to be a challenge over the 42.2km distance. Tomorrow a BQ is likely barring any injuries, or heatwaves, of which both I am experiencing this weekend.

What I have in me is a tonne of experience, a high tolerance for pain and fatigue, determination, and a good set of specific training. Oh, and mental toughness. I have that in spades. The final preparations are being set in place, and in a few hours, I will be toeing the line to flog myself for just under 3 hours.

I wrote the following immediately after the marathon:

What happened yesterday was simply a confluence of factors that prevented me from meeting my goals: A sub 3 hour marathon, and a Boston Marathon qualifier. I was so close, even the birds in Stanley Park were taunting and teasing me about my inability to get it done. Let's get to the race report.

My marathon training began in December, when I ran 26 of 31 days, injured for some of those run days. I had a great January and February, but a not so stellar Chuckanut 50, and a subsequent injury--Achilles tendinitis in my left foot which hung out with me from the middle of March to the present. That injury had me off of my feet, resting and trying to time my return back to running right as to not miss a heap of training days.

On the flip side of training was nutrition. I have definitely cut back on carbs and sugar, coffee and candy, and have made a huge effort to eat many veggies and protein. In all, I managed to lose almost 10 pounds, going from 190 to 180 by changing my diet, but keeping the training hours the same. I detailed my observations here

With that diet change, I noticed a few other things: my sleep has been better, my energy is up, and I feel like a clean burning engine that can recover from hard efforts faster. When I ate the crap food, such as after the Chuckanut 50 and the trip to Los Angeles, it was a very slow recovery while on vacation. But enough about me and my training.

The Marathon Raceday:

This year the BMO Marathon expo was as good as it has ever been: well laid out, great vendors, awesomely friendly people to meet and talk to. I even signed up for the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon just to make my Thanksgiving a bit more interesting.

It just so happened that the weekend o the Vancouver Marathon was the hottest weekend we have ever had in recorded history for the first weekend in May. Saturday was a lovely day, and Sunday was a scorcher.

The race plan was to run an average of 4:15/km for the race, knowing that I would slow down towards the finish, but hopefully it would average out and a BQ would be possible. I was stuck in the porta-potty lineup just before the start, and a warm-up was not going to happen this year. However, when I did hit the start line, I found Alex Lea. We had discussed our goals and I had decided to run with her for the race. That sort of flew out the window when my footpod was showing that I was running slower than I wanted, as symptom of the bloody thing not being calibrated properly (that is poor race prep on my part). I had 8km done in 34 minutes, but my watch was showing 7km. Knowing that I was running too fast, I tried to back off a bit to recover, but I had already spent some important energy at the be some lost energy. At 10km, Alex gaped me on the hill up Camosun as I tried to catch a drink and dunk my head. She continued to distance me for the next 11kms.

However, amidst the footpod calibration fubar, the lack of a warm-up, and going out too fast, I thought things were going great. I was way wrong. My Half Marathon time was my 3rd fastest ever, and coming around Jericho beach,  the sun began to beat down on the race:

10km @ 42 minutes
21.1km @1:30:07
30.5kms @ 2:15:36

Just after the halfway and into Corwall Ave, a few things happened: I saw my old manager Vinh Truong from my years at the YMCA at Alma and 4th; and, the race became harder because of the direct sunlight and rising heat. I could feel the hurt coming into Kits and the Burrard Bridge. I had underestimated the bridge and it's length and grade--this was a particularly nasty little section. Even though I run trails, mountains, ultras, etc., trying to keep a high pace by 30km on pavement seemed to take a chunk out of me. The Seawall heading around Stanley Park was a familiar story for me. I slowed my pace and had a tough time trying to meet my km pace goals. Hitting the seawall, I knew that a sub 3 was not possible, and my speed was diminishing. With 5k to go, I had 20 minutes left to run a sub 3:10. Running a 4 minute kilometer average that late in the game in the state I was in was too much. and the 20 minutes ran out. I was done.

I finished the run in 3:16 and change, white as a ghost as I was going backwards to all the folks passing me right before the line. Crossing the finish line,  I B-lined for the bag check, search around for Sean, Catherine and a couple of other racers I knew, and then headed for my massage-trigger point release session that I had pre-booked as part of the marathon reg. Jordana took care of me--inflicting all sorts of pain and torture to my body in order to get it back on track. I have not felt this sacked after a run in a very long time.


This year's Vancouver Marathon was a tough one. I wanted to improve my marathon time from last year's PB in Kamloops, earn a BQ, and shatter 3 hours. I did neither of the three with this attempt. Looking back, the ankle/Achilles injury, coupled with the weeks off after the Chuckanut did not help me out. I essentially cut back on my track/speed work a week before the Chuckanut, and only go two session in before the marathon. The race day was hot!!

2012 finish:     3:12:40/3:12:31 chip    4:34/km      182 overall       44/338 in M35-39        160/2406 gender

2013 finish:     3:16:18/3:16:12 chip    4:39/km      158 overall       24/393 in M35-39        140/2815 gender

HR and Elevation Profiles from Movescount.
Movescount Body metrics. Change from "Very Good" to "Shitty" after 35kms into the run.

I suppose one could look at the results and say that this was an improvement. I think it indicates that the heat took it's toll on everyone, including me. I believe that I had a sub 3:10 in me that day at least, but lost speed as the sun drained me. I dumped cup after cup of water on my head to help the cooling, but even that could not help. One good thing from this run is that with the faster tempo of the race, my ankle did not bother me at all during, nor after the race. We are almost into June now, and my Achilles issues are no more. Perhaps running fast is the cure-all.

It was a bitter pill to swallow, coming up slower than last year, after all the changes to my training that I have implemented. I look forward to the Knee Knacker, Meet Your Maker as two runs that I will do for fun, and then set my sights on Victoria in October.

The best part about not having to train so diligently for a marathon right now is that my body feels great, my Achilles is not painful, and I can ride my bike early in the day. Getting back on the bike has been nothing short of amazing for me--a much needed changed to the grind of running, of focusing on something for so long.

Now I get to focus on some shorter races--and some longer. The Axel Merckx Penticton Gran Fondo on July 7th is coming up fast--a 160km ride that looks like very much fun. The Daryl Evans Team will be there in force!

This year's BMO Vancouver Marathon was not a bust, just an anomaly of a hot day that we have not seen since. No matter how emotionally attached we get to our goals and trying to achieve them, I will run more marathons and am not discouraged by this result. That is the silver lining in looking back on the 2013 BMO Vancouver Marathon.

2014 BMO Vancouver, here I come!