Race Reports, Running, Triathlon

Spring Racing Roundup – Okanagan College 10k, Cherry Blossom Triathlon, PLAN Okanagan Half Marathon

It’s been a bit quiet on the blog recently, as I’ve been very busy working and training. I did however manage to squeeze in a couple of races this spring…

Okanagan College 10k

I nearly didn’t enter this event. The main event is a half marathon and the 10km event always feels a little “tacked on”. Pay almost as much to run half the distance…and we didn’t even get medals like the half marathoners did!

Now, I know many seasoned runners will scoff at participation medals, but the child in me still likes receiving a medal as I cross the finish line. Rationally, I know that they have only the value which the recipient places on them, but the chances of my gaining a medal for placing in my age group are currently slim to none, besides, they are a nice memento…and so shiny!

Anyway, in a last minute decision(and I do mean last minute, as in five minutes before registration closed on race morning) I entered my second 10km of the year. The last one, at Lavington had gone really well and I hoped to improve on that.

I knew how I wanted to run this race – for the first time I had an actual race plan, and it didn’t include ‘pray to reach the finish line…’

I was going to start out a bit slower, but steady. The course was in a familiar area and largely outa and back so hopefully no surprises. From the mid-point, I planned to strategically pick up my pace and if all went well finish fast and strong.

Suddenly we were off, before I even had time to turn on my GPS. Far from starting slowly I allowed myself to be carried along by the crowd and started way too fast. As the field thinned out I fell into a more appropriate pace.

1km, 2km, 3km…Being only at the 2kn mark no longer fills me with dread.

Just keep going – I know I can do this.

Finally, the turnaround point – 5km. Half-way and I’m feeling good. I checked my pace, it was slightly under my goal at 6:30/km.

I began to cautiously run a little faster. 6km, 7km I kept running, trying to go a tiny bit faster at each marker; chasing what I was sure had to be a negative split (a second half faster than the first, much sought after by runners everywhere).

8km, this is it, only 2km to go. I have totally got this!

That last kilometer was one of the longest of my life.

Keep running, the finish line must be just around that corner…

OK, probably the next corner

Dammit!

Just as I was beginning to worry that I had overestimated my abilities for this final stretch, I made one last turn and the finish line came into view, one last push and I was done: 1:02:44 PB!It was gratifying to know that I was able to successfully create and execute a race plan; I was able to listen to my body and adjust accordingly. This is a big step forward both in fitness and from a training and performance perspective.

Cherry Blossom Triathlon

My second triathlon of the year, this is a fun local event. Last year at this event, it was cold and rainy; it was also the day that my ankle started hurting, which lead to the summer off with that stress fracture, so I was hoping for a better outcome all around this year.

It didn’t start out well. This race takes place about 5 minutes walk from my house, so predictably, (certainly for those that know me, incredibly not so much for me) I was running late. I was still in the line to pick up my timing chip when transition was scheduled to close; this left me rushing to set up my transition area which didn’t help my nerves at all.

I headed to the pool deck for the pre race meeting, to see that the pool water had been dyed purple for the occasion, which I thought was a rather cool touch; that was until I jumped in for a warm-up and realized how disorienting it was, and how much visibility was reduced. It was quite surreal.

Happily I got used to it quite quickly and thought the swim didn’t feel very fast, I completed it without incident. After a quick run through the parking lot I was out on the bike course.

The bike course consists of three laps, with a timed hill climb each lap. I had already thoroughly accepted that there was somewhere between zero and a snowball in Hells possibility of my winning the hill climb, so I had decided to simply try to maximize my lap times rather than wearing myself out unduly in that one area.

On lap one I passed another cyclist, but I couldn’t stay ahead of her, I was going just too fast to stay easily back out of the mandatory draft zone (12m) but not fast enough to pass and make it stick. We passed back and forth a couple of times before I finally began to draw away slightly on lap two. I felt incredibly slow, but just kept going.

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Photo Credit: Dirk Handke

After my third lap, I headed out confidently on the 5km run. Last year by this point I couldn’t feel my feet, they were so cold, but this year the weather was perfect. The run went well, nothing spectacular, but a good strong effort and I came across the finish line smiling.

As it turned out, my race was almost nine minutes faster than last year; I had improved in every area. Clearly some of this improvement can be attributed to the increased temperature and also the absence of a stress fracture. Nevertheless, I was happy. My ‘slow’ swim was 30 seconds faster, I gained 4.5 minutes on the bike and almost 3.5 on the run.

Photo Credit: Dirk Handke

Photo Credit: Dirk Handke

All in all, it was a totally uneventful race: nothing went really wrong, no unexpected surprises, no insecurities about my ability to complete the distance. The internal monologue just confidently said “You can do this, no problem”. I feel that this really opens up possibilities for improvement now that the majority of the basic skill and fitness level has been achieved.

PLAN ½ Marathon Run for Friends

My third spring event was a half marathon. The PLAN event is very small and in many ways could barely be called a race. I entered at the last minute with a couple of friends.

As the course was explained at the start I noted that most people were doing 5km or 10km. There were only a handful of 1/2marathon bibs, maybe 10 or 15. A small field.

The familiar refrain kicked in: LAST

You might come last!

Oh well, I would have to deal with that if it happened.

The course was simple: go 5km up, turn around, pass the start/finish and go 5.55km, turnaround and come back. All on the Greenway, a packed gravel trail.

I had already considered a race strategy for the occasion, it mainly centered on going slowly for the first half and then speeding up in the second half, hoping for a negative split. I planned to run 10minutes/walk 1 minute.

As they counted down the start, I turned on my GPS: first newbie mistake…

“Where’s my pace?”

My GPS was programmed to show speed (kilometers per hour) rather than pace (minutes per kilometer).

This left me running along, trying in vain to calculate the required speed to maintain a 7:30 pace (the answer of course being 8kph-easy when you are sitting in your living room, for some reason, nigh impossible for me to calculate on the run).

Anyway, I kept running, trying to go slow. I knew the number should be under the 9.5-10kph I was currently doing. Everyone was passing me.

Everyone is passing me…and I’m not even going slowly enough!

Of course, most of the others were going less distance and could therefore afford to run faster. After and alarmingly short time, no-one passed me anymore.

I’m last

It’s happened, and I’m only 3km into the race.

The only thing to do was keep going…so I did.

And going…

And going.

My mind was wandering, but I just tried to keep running consistently. I even caught up with a 10km runner for a little while before she pulled away from me, never to be seen again.

As I neared the turnaround, I began to see runners coming back.

Maybe I wasn’t as far back as I thought?

My heart leapt, but I soon realized I was not as almost there as I was being lead to believe. I soldiered on sadly.

I crossed the bridge which I knew was close to the turnaround, I wondered if anyone would notice if I turned around here…

Probably not.

Except me of course, I’d always know. I kept running to the turnaround cone.

Then out of nowhere, two runners appeared.

I wasn’t last!!

I stayed with these ladies for about the next 4km, when they started inching away from me. Now I knew I was last. I just tried to keep them in sight.

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Photo Credit: SeeKayTri

As I came through the finish line at the 10km point, I looked at the clock:

1:06!

That’s way too fast! My PB over 10km is only 1:02.

Never mind, that’s done now, just keep going any make the best of it.

I kept running. This leg of the race was interminably long. The leaders passed me on their way back. Finally the second turnaround came into view. It was unassuming, just a little sign, not even a volunteer guarding it.

Great, just over 5km to go then. Slightly uphill of course.

But I know I can run 5km, so this is going to be OK now.

I headed back. As far as I could make out, I was probably going to miss my 2:30 goal, but I did seem destined to finish at least. I lost sight of the other ladies some time ago, I’m on my own.

Just at the lowest point of the race, my good friend Kay appeared with her partner, cycling up behind me. This was just the boost I needed.

“I’m last, but I’m still going!” I told her.

She informed me that I was looking good and strong and almost there and she would see me at the finish. (It’s great to have friends who are good enough to lie for you!!).

A few minutes later she returned to tell me that the two ladies were actually quite close ahead of me and I could probably catch them.

I focused on running strong and consistent, and sure enough, those ladies appeared and I was reeling them in, oh so slowly. I wasn’t sure how much longer I had or if I would pass them, but I realized that it didn’t matter after all. I was going to finish, and finish strong.

As it turned out I did catch them, and pass them. I kept running. The finish line had to be close now. Just keep going. Jeanette, the friend I had started this race with appeared about 1km from the end and ran in with me. As I came to the end, and the clock came into view, I squinted to read it.

2:29!

It’s still under 2:30!

Photo Credit: SeeKayTri

Photo Credit: SeeKayTri

I raced for the finish, racing that clock, ticking towards 2:30.

And I made it.

2:29:38

I could not have been happier.

At Disney I had finished in 2:37 and I was very happy with that. This was faster, but I feel like there were a few areas with easy (ish) potential for improvement, not to mention this race was on gravel trail which is harder anyway, so when all was said and done, a very positive performance.

I feel great going into the summer season. Stay tuned.

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Race Reports, Running

The Happiest Place on Earth

How could an Avengers themed half marathon at Disneyland not be fun?

I posed this question to a few friends, and it turns out they had a rather long list of reasons.

Most seemed perturbed by the half marathon aspect, but wished me luck anyway. Those not averse to the thought of running 21.1km thought that Disneyland was generally excessive and not very serious. – but were ‘sure I’d enjoy it’.

Still being the ‘collector’ type, I signed up anyway.

avengers phone camera (2)

Now, if you have been following my blog (if you haven’t, where have you been?), you will know that having signed up for this race in the spring, my training rather got derailed over the summer. Four weeks out, as I checked my calendar, my longest run had been 9km. Not even half of my upcoming half marathon.

This of course, is the danger of destination races – whether I ran or not, I still had a California vacation booked. I decided to make the best of it and attempt some kind of run/walk strategy.

After a short chat with Coach Luke, we had a plan: 5 minutes run, 1 minute walk, repeat for 21.1km.

I hadn’t used this kind of strategy since I had learnt to run six years ago. Then it had been necessary as I didn’t have the ability to run further. As I had got fitter, I had left it behind to become a ‘proper’ runner that didn’t need to take breaks every few minutes.

As much as it felt like a step backward, I knew it was a smart choice if I was to attempt this distance without the requisite training. And whilst an x-ray had confirmed that the fracture was officially healed, there was still doubt about the strength of my ankle over 21km on the road.

I got on the plane in -10 degrees and stepped off a few hours later in Los Angeles to perfect running temperatures. The day before the race I was due to pick up my race package at the expo. Which, once I located it amid the sprawl of Disney, was very well organised and enjoyable.

Whilst at the expo, I took in a presentation by Jeff Galloway, Olympian and writer of a number of running books. Obviously he was promoting his preferred run walk run brand of training, which it turns out, involves a lot more walking than I was planning. His message was to take walk breaks right from the start, reasoning that any energy saved early on is available for use during the last few miles.

Remember that

All in all, it was a very interesting talk. I might not be switching to the 15/15 seconds he claims to use these days, but it definitely gave me more confidence in the plan we had selected.

The race itself starts at the eye-wateringly early time of 5:30am. Presumably to accommodate the extensive road closures and protect park revenues. So, at 4am I woke up, ate breakfast and walked over to the start. I spent a tense few minutes on the way over, trying to get my Garmin to co-operate and pair with its heart rate monitor; I decided we were no longer friends.

I lined up amongst the costumed runners, a plethora of Captain Americas, Thors, Ironmen (the Marvel kind, not the triathlon kind – though, who knows?) and other assorted superheroes. The race has around 12,000 participants, seeded into starting corrals based on anticipated finishing time. I was in corral H, the last and largest; populated by slowpokes, walkers, first timers and anyone else who had been unable to prove their pedigree by providing a result from an acceptable prior race. Of the 12,000, probably 11,500 started ahead of me.

The only way was up.

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As it turned out, it was easy to pace slowly at the start, as going any faster would have meant dodging between walkers. Even during my walk breaks (which I took from the start – thanks Jeff) I was faster than many of these people. I decided that even whilst walking, I would make it a goal to keep passing people.

The first 5km of the race winds through the two Disney parks. Actually it was rather less glamorous than it sounds and we took in a significant number of back lots. We did however run through Cars land, towards Paradise bay inside Disney California Adventure. We then entered Disneyland proper taking a route through Frontier land and Fantasyland, up through the castle and onto Main St USA before heading out onto the streets of Anaheim. Progress was occasionally hampered by runners occasionally unexpectedly darting off across the route to join a line (this is Disney!) to take a picture with Thor or Captain America.

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Later as I hobbled around the park, I tried to identify the route we took and was amazed at what I must have missed as I focussed on the job in hand.

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I do remember almost breaking the other ankle on this tram line!

As we left the park, the wind started to pick up. I kept running and walking, running and walking, trusting the plan and obeying the Garmin every time it beeped. It became my new best friend, holding my hand through this challenge. I forgave it for the stress it caused before the start.

The wind got stronger, soon we turned onto a path which ran alongside a large expanse of sand. The sand was being blown across the course painfully hitting exposed skin and making it very difficult to see or breathe. I was reduced to running with my eyes closed, hoping not to run into someone else doing the same. Capes were snapping in the wind and shields and hats flew by. I held onto my race number for dear life as it flapped in the wind, it represented my access to the finish line and more importantly, my official timing chip was stuck to the back of it, so it was clearly a vital piece of kit!

Respite came as we approached the Angels baseball stadium where we entered through the tunnel and ran around the home plate before leaving.

How cool is that?

avengers phone camera (17)

No seriously, I have no idea how cool it is, and I have not even a passing interest in baseball, but I have to admit, images of a dozen movies ran through my head in that moment – yeah, it was pretty cool.

An announcer helpfully informed us that we had only four miles to go, which was useful as the mile marker had blown over just like most of its comrades throughout the course. I took a peek at my watch

Big mistake!

When will I learn?

I think it was a bit of half marathon brain addled maths. But in that moment I calculated that I was on track to finish in over three hours.

Disappointed didn’t even cover it, this was the hardest part of the race for me. I decided the best thing to do was to keep going and hope I was wrong.

Three hours would be a good achievement because I knew I was doing my best.

I continued to remind myself how many people I had passed already and was continuing to pass. I felt pretty good

Perhaps I wasn’t trying hard enough?

No! Don’t change anything now.

By mile ten I was feeling better. I took my last walk break at mile eleven. When my trusty Garmin, which had brought me so far, dutifully beeped to alert me of my upcoming walk break, I ignored it.

Soon afterward, I questioned this decision. But I knew it was the right one. Every beep I ignored, galvanised me further. I tried to speed up, in fact this turned out to be the fastest kilometre of the race. It felt good to open up; I was passing people like crazy now, I just needed to keep it up to the finish.

I crossed the line and collected my fancy Disney medal. Someone handed me a Disney branded space blanket which would no doubt have been more effective if it hadn’t immediately turned into a parachute. The wind was so high that tents were flipping in the finish area and they had to cancel the awards ceremony and move everyone on.

My final time was 2:37:19 – well under three hours, which was a relief

I don’t know if I could have gone faster, though, I think it was probably the right decision not to try on this occasion.

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Things I learned:

I can run a half marathon.  I know that a lot of people claimed to know that about me beforehand, but I certainly wasn’t sure. It is also reasonable to believe then that I could also run a marathon in the not too distant future. Even if it will be slow going.

Jeff Galloway was right, saving at the start pays of at the end. That was a new experience for me.

Trying to walk around Disney after a half marathon is a bad idea.

Do not attempt maths on the course, and never look at your watch.

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