We crossed the Start line about 2 minutes after the gun. I had three time-keeping devices on me, but didn’t really plan to consult them during the race. I had Nike+ recording the run on my iPod nano in my pocket and iMapMyRun recording it on my iPhone in another pocket. I also had my watch on so that I would know what time it was and could get a rough estimate of my time, but I didn’t want to be worried about time down to the minutes or seconds. I just wanted to run.
[Sadly, iMapMyRun failed to record the splits (it’s never done that before) and my nano recorded the total distance as 19.2 km, so those splits aren’t accurate. I’m kind of choked. Time to get a Garmin…]
Kilometers 1, 2, 3
We took off at a fairly good clip, with Keara pushing the pace. I was momentarily worried that I’d started too fast, but it still felt pretty good when I passed the 1 km marker, so I kept it up. The first two km weave through parts of UBC campus that I’m super familiar with, so it’s kind of nice to be back in my old ‘hood. (Though I don’t really miss the concrete bunker they call the Civil & Mechanical Engineering building at UBC.)
Just after we passed the 2 km marker, right before we made the left turn onto SW Marine Drive for the short out and back portion, I followed Keara up onto the sidewalk to pass some slower runners and stepped on a pinecone. I felt my ankle start to roll and somehow managed to recover. I yelped (seriously, the sound was gross), but after a few ginger steps I realized I was totally okay. Good thing, as I don’t know what I would have done if I’d had to quit after two kilometers with a sprained ankle.
|Here’s the map/elevation profile for reference. (I don’t have any race photos yet to share, so this long post is EXTRA dry.)
Kilometers 4, 5, 6
I think it just after we passed the 3 km marker that we saw the first of the elites coming back the other way on the other side of the median. We all gave them a clap as they blew by us, and Kelsey and I joked that Keara should be over there with them. Shortly after that, the first woman flew by, so we cheered her on too. This stretch is always really funny because it’s where people really start to settle into the race. You see people readjusting their hats/glasses/footwear/etc, taking off layers, slowing down to walk because they started too fast. My favourite was the guy in a thick-looking long-sleeved zip-up saying to his companion, “Man, I’m sweating!” Why are you surprised?!
The turnaround for the out-and-back is at 4.5 km, and only then do you realize that you’ve been cruising gently downhill for the last 2.5 km. Well, that’s when I realized, anyway. (Which is stupid because I’ve seen the elevation profile, and I’ve run this route before, but whatever.) I think this is where Kelsey fell behind us a little bit, but we’d agreed to not worry about each other, so Keara and I kept up our pace. (Well, Keara kept up the pace, I just kept up with Keara.) I took my first water at the water station at the 6 km mark.
Kilometers 7 & 8
This stretch takes you into the shade of some pretty gorgeous trees as you run along NW Marine Drive behind the Totem Park, Marine Drive and Place Vanier Residences. I used to run along here when I lived at Marine Drive in 3rd year. For some reason the volunteer standing at the top of the stairs down to Wreck Beach stands out as being really sincere: “Wow, you guys, you’re off to such a great start. I’m so proud of you!”
I think it was along here that a guy ahead of us darted off into the bushes for a quick midrace pee and the woman next to me said (to whoever was listening), “Man I wish I was a dude sometimes.” True that, sister. No portapotties for him!
Kilometers 9, 10
After passing the Liu Institute, the Museum of Anthropology and the Chan Centre, NW Marine takes a left turn and heads down towards the water. This is the famous 2 km of downhill that people either love or hate about this course. I fall firmly in the love category. The spectacular view of the ocean down this stretch is probably what does it for me, but letting gravity do the work for a while certainly doesn’t hurt either.
I was so taken aback by the view that I decided to take a picture while I cruised downhill. (I don’t know how all those other bloggers whose race recaps are full of photos do it; I think this is probably the last mid-race photo I’ll ever take.)
|Trust me, this picture does NOT do the view justice.
The 10 km mark (and timing mat) lies right at the bottom of the hill as you come out at Spanish Banks beach. At this point I allowed myself my first peek at my watch, just to see where we were at. The time was 8:26, so I knew that we were definitely under 56 minutes. Keara’s response was, “Awesome, I thought this pace felt good.”
Official 10k split: 0:54:15. (Faster than my 10k PR. Really must run a 10k that’s not the Sun Run.)
Kilometers 11, 12, 13
After cruising down the long, glorious hill, a long flat stretch is kind of disheartening. I suddenly had to expend a great deal more energy just to keep up the same pace, and I knew it wouldn’t be long before I lost Keara. This is the part of the race where I regretted not eating a slightly larger breakfast and not taking any GUs or Shot Bloks with me. But I knew I only had to make it to 14k for a PowerBar gel, so I sucked it up and grabbed a Gatorade at the water station at 11k and was SO happy that it wasn’t red!
Tangent: When I had mono in 2008, there was a 48 hour period where my throat was so swollen I couldn’t eat anything and could barely force liquid down. The only thing I consumed in that time other than water was half a bottle of red Gatorade. (I don’t think of Gatorade having flavours, just colours.) My throat was so sore that swallowing saliva (which we don’t really think about most days) was unbearable, so I had kind of a spittoon going, and most of that spit tasted like red Gatorade. I can’t drink red Gatorade anymore, and at last year’s SVHM that’s all they had! And gagging is not part of a successful race hydration strategy!
I don’t have any distinct memories of this stretch along the beach, other than it feeling slow and a really excited old guy cheering us on. As I suspected, just before the 13 km marker, Keara started to pull away from me. I watched her blonde braid bob away as I slowed down.
Kilometers 14, 15, 16
That hill up from Jericho beach to 4th Avenue was a major slog for me, but I remembered walking it last year and decided that running at all was enough of an improvement, so I shouldn’t worry about how slow I was running. Right at the top of the hill, “Chelsea Dagger” by The Fratellis came on my iPod. Though it’s the much-hated goal song of the Chicago Blackhawks and a bit of a sore point among Canucks fans, it’s been a staple on my running playlist for years and can totally pump me up when I’m feeling down. I’m pretty sure it got me right back up to Keara pace, and kept me going until the 14 km water station, where I got my much-needed gel. Chocolate flavour, I might add, so I was pretty pumped. (I’ve discovered that while the fruit flavoured ones make me want to gag, the chocolate ones are totally okay because they’re kind of like pudding.)
Just after I turned the corner onto Alma, I saw a former Spark and her mom at the side of the road cheering runners on, so I yelled their names and gave a big wave. That was the first time I’d ever seen anyone I knew cheering at a race, so even though it was more me yelling at them, it felt fabulous!
For some unknown reason, I’ve always hated running the stretch of Point Grey Road between Alma and MacDonald, so kilometer 16 was kind of rough. But there were lots of people out in their front yards to cheer us on, so I focused on the people watching. There was a guy running just ahead of me named Pete who seemed to know everyone along this stretch, so I had fun following him. And then I came up behind a guy with a prosthetic leg. Nothing like someone else’s triumph over adversity to make you say, “What’s my damn excuse?!” So thanks to that guy for helping to push me a little when I needed it, hope he had a good race.
Kilometers 17, 18
This is where the spectators started really being out in full force. The witty signs pumped me up again and I felt pretty darn good for these two kilometers leading up to the Burrard Street Bridge (which I was trying really hard not to think about just yet). My absolute favourite was “You trained for this longer than Kim Kardashian was married!”
Somewhere in this stretch I checked the time again, because I’d told P that I’d be crossing the Burrard Street Bridge sometime after 9:00. It was 9:04 and I hadn’t hit the bridge yet, plus even without doing much math I was pretty sure I was on track for under 2:06.
Kilometer 19 (The Bridge)
|My beautiful art deco nemesis. (Source: khocott on flickr)
This kilometer sucked. A lot. I’m really glad I included it in a couple of training runs, but running it after 8k and running it after 18k are entirely different beasts. For some reason I found that I liked running way to the right of the lane, just feet from where cars were whizzing by me in the other direction. I think the wind made me feel like I was moving faster? I’m not sure; mid-race logic is iffy.
The 19 km marker comes just after you turn onto Pacific after coming off the bridge. You’re recovering from the bridge and you know there’s only a little bit left, and it’s mostly flat. Coming up to the sign I was itching to check my watch, but wouldn’t let myself until I physically passed the marker. Subtracting 6 minutes per kilometer from my goal time for the last two told me that it should be around 9:24. A few minutes after that would be fine, since we hadn’t started right at 7:30, plus I’d be able to push myself a little bit in the final 2k. Imagine my surprise when I finally passed that flag, looked down and saw: 9:17 AM.
I spent the first hundred metres or so of kilometer 20 going, “Wait, what? What? 7 minutes ahead of schedule? Probably more? Even though I’m not with Keara? What?” And then I did the math and realized that 2:06 minus 7 is under two hours. And I freaked out a little. And then double checked my math, and then I sped up even more. I held this pace until I got to the 20 km marker, where I slowed down to grab a cup of Gatorade (still not red!), which I figured would fuel my push to the finish.
Gatorade was a bad choice! It sloshed something fierce in my stomach and I momentarily thought it was going to come back up, but I hung on. Just past the marker and the water table I found my P (and her friend) with a sign! I wish I had a photo, it was awesome! I yelled “I love you!” and kept going. There was no way I was slowing down here.
The whole stretch is crawling with spectators, including all the volunteers from the partner charities. Those guys are pro, they’ve got whistles and cow bells and pom poms and all kinds of great stuff. Partway through the kilometer there’s an ever so slight incline, and at this point in the race it feels like Everest. I pushed crazy hard to keep my pace up. At this point I realized that my family (who I had told to show up at the finish by 9:30) was probably going to miss me. Oops, underestimated myself!
The 21 km marker happens at about the same place you can see the finish line for the first time and where you can first hear the guy calling out names and times. I heard him announce a few names and times, and say something about records set for some of the masters age groups. Then just as I was trying to decide how much I had left in the tank and much of a sprint I had left in me for the finish, I heard the words, “sub-2” and “thirty seconds.” And I just gunned it.
Just after I started my sprint I heard my name from the left – my mom and sisters had made it! I think I might have said hi, but I’m not sure. I was on task. I looked up as I crossed the finish line to discover that I had made the sub-2 gun time – by a minute and twelve seconds. Evidently I missed some words between “sub-2” and “thirty seconds.”
|Way to centre the photo, MOM.
Between the late Gatorade and the sprint and the complete and utter shock of having come in under two hours I forgot to stop my timing devices for a minute or two, so the only thing I knew was my approximate gun time. Which was unbelievable enough.
I found Keara, found some water, a banana and a Gatorade Recover (um, yuck). Keara’s gun time was 1:54:xx. Holy freaking crow. We found our families, then found Kelsey (over 2 was all she knew). We milled about for a while, eating free food and wondering whether Mason Raymond was actually there.
Eventually we found Kelsey’s mama (who hadn’t spotted our Canucks crush either) and we all headed off towards the Boathouse for some brunch. I was surprised to hear from T (who had been unsure whether he would make it to brunch by 10:15 the morning after his birthday celebrations) that he was at the restaurant already.
Several huge glasses of water, a crab cake benny and a mimosa with friends and family sure hit the spot. I could not stop grinning. I had run a half marathon (my second ever) in under two hours.
My grin got even bigger when I found out my official results later that afternoon:
Category F20-24 Category place 67/220
Chip Time 1:56:31.6 Gun Time 1:58:47.5
Pace per KM 5:32 Pace per Mile 8:54
[Keara’s official time: 1:52:32. Kelsey’s official time: 2:06:12.]
Let’s review my goals for this race:
a) Finish – check
b) Beat last year’s time – check – by 19:44
c) Finish under 2:06:36 (6 min/km) – check – under by 10:00
d) No injuries – check
e) Have fun – SUPER CHECK!
Now the only problem will be managing to get a PR in my next half marathon (which I think will be the GoodLife Victoria Half Marathon in October). I won’t have Keara for that one, so I’m going to have to work hard on learning to be my own pacer and pushing myself.
Did anyone read this far? Mad props if you did!
Have you ever had a PR this significant? How did you motivate yourself to continue to improve?
Has anyone ever run the Half Marathon in Victoria before?