Thursday, May 5, 2016

2 out of 3 ain't bad!

My goals for 2016 are exactly the same last year - try to get PBs at 5K (Bazan Bay), 8K (BMO 8K), and 10K (TC10K). Last year I just missed at 5K, tied my 8K, and missed at 10K by a lot.
But this year with another baby due to arrive in the summer I have a little more motivation, as I am very well aware that it will only get harder to train properly with 2 kids and I'm certainly not getting any younger!

The start.
Battling with James Cook near halfway.
My #1 supporter!
The pain face.
3rd place!
The year started off well with a new course best at the Pioneer 8K in a time of 28:29. I had a great battle for most of the race with Lucy Smith with her eventually pulling ahead in the last kilometer and finishing a few seconds ahead of me. That time is only 9 seconds off my PB, which is a nice result considering that it is January and on the Pioneer course which isn't the fastest! And having moved up into the easier 35-39 age group I placed 2nd!

Next up was my goal race for the year - Bazan Bay 5K. After 3 years in a row of running 17 flat I was again determined to break that barrier, in what I kept telling myself was probably my last shot at it. I had some pretty decent training in January and February, averaging about 55 km/week with some good longer runs (16-18 km) and the usual set of speed workouts - mile repeats, 300's, and 40 minute fartlek sessions. As always the struggle was finding/making time to train, and I did end up having to resort to quite a few night runs which I don't particularly enjoy. For specificity I also did two 5K time trials, 2 and 4 weeks out. The first time trial I did at the Oak Bay track and set a new "track 5K in training PB" of 17:48. The second 5K I went out to Sidney and ran the race course to really feel prepared. It was a bit windy (as it often is being on the water), and got off to a slow start (9 minutes for the first half), but crushed it on the way back running the last kilometer in 3:09 and finishing in 17:23 - a huge "road 5K in training PB". Most importantly it gave me the confidence that come race day (2 weeks away) with a bit of adrenaline and some competition I could drop 25 seconds. As a final workout the weekend before I ran 5x1K (also on the Bazan Bay route, 2 mins recovery) and really nailed it - 3:18, 3:22, 3:26, 3:14, 3:11 (16:31 total, 3:18/km avg pace).

So, the training was done, I knew I probably should have done more aerobic training, but it was just so hard to find the time! But at least the workouts had gone well.
This year I decided to actually taper for the 5K (unlike last year), so I only did a few strides and some easy running during the week.

Race day arrives, and the weather forecast is not ideal - rainy and pretty windy (20-30 km/hr). Typical.
As I headed out to run the course for a warm-up it was definitely breezy, but actually quite warm and sunny. But as we stood on the start line the clouds opened up and it started to pour with rain. Ugh. I went over my race plan again - aiming for splits of 3:22, 3:25, 3:25, 3:20, 3:15, halfway at 8:30, 3K at 10:12

Bang, off we went. First kilometer was crowded as usual, and I was running with my friend Mike, but it got too crowded and I couldn't run the pace I wanted so I moved to the outside and picked up the pace. Got to 1K at exactly 3:22 - perfect! The 2K is slightly uphill and with the wind blowing I wasn't able to maintain my pace and dropped to 3:33, not a good sign. Already 7 seconds to slow. The 3rd kilometer is downhill to the turnaround, then back uphill, so it is usually a bit difficult to run a fast K - I pushed down the hill but still got to halfway at 8:39. Already in my mind I was starting to give in to yet another year of running just over 17 minutes. I pushed back up the hill hoping to make up some time, but got to the 3K marker in 3:30 - still way slower than I wanted. At this point my watch read 10:25, and I knew I was now 13 seconds off pace. It was going to take a huge effort to do it. But I told myself to forget about it and just run as hard as I could. Luckily the wind was at my back and I flew through the 4th kilometer in 3:19, passing quite a few people along the way. I was now only 8 seconds behind and only 1K to go! A final 3:15 kilometer would do it... I had done it before (running 3:12 at the end of Bazan in 2013), but usually my last km was 3:18 - which surprise surprise would give me another 17:02... As always the final kilometer of Bazan stretches on and on, and it always hurts. But I knew my family would be cheering at the final corner with 200m to go, so I pushed on and closed the gap on the 3 lead women ahead of me. In the final straight away I passed 2 of them and sprinted towards the line, seeing 16:4X on the clock... finally it was going to happen! I crossed the line in a time of 16:54, having run the last kilometer in 3:09, second half in 8:15, and (since why not) a final 3K in 9:59! Phew. Mission accomplished. The photos show pretty well what I was feeling - a lot of pain! This also got me 3rd overall in my age group which is always nice - you get a medal instead of a ribbon :) Full results here.

The rest of March I mostly just enjoyed a feeling of accomplishment and didn't train too hard. I probably should have pushed it a bit more, but it was nice to relax. April arrived and I used my free entry into the Esquimalt 5K and ran a surprisingly fast time of 17:33, which is over a minute faster than last year, and good for 4th place.

Going into the TC10K I knew I wasn't as sharp as I could be, so I suspected it wasn't going to be a great race. But in the end it was a pretty decent effort, on another windy day. I was hoping to at least break my TC best time of 35:28 (from 2014), and maybe have a shot at my 10K PB of 35:18 (Sun Run 2013). So I had hoped to run the first half in 17:35 to give myself a good chance and maybe even a sub 35 clocking. I started out really strong and got through the first 4K in 14:05, and 5K in 17:42. A little slower than I wanted, but already going up towards Clover Point it was very windy and slow. Sure enough the 3 kilometers along Dallas Road were noticeably slower than previous years (3:36, 44, 42) and I knew it was going to be another battle. I pushed hard, but really didn't have anything left in the tank and got passed by a few people in the last kilometer, crossing the line in 35:30, just missing out on my goal(s). It's frustrating when that happens, but looking at the positives it was a very solid even paced performance (17:48 second half) and my 3rd fasted 10K ever, despite being a few years older! Full results here.

The 3rd and final big race of the year for me was the BMO 8K, 1 week after the TC10K. I knew it would be hard to be totally recovered, but being 2K less does help! This race is always an interesting one as it attracts a lot of runners (usually over 2000) but doesn't typically get the fast/elite runners as there is no prize money or comp entries. After winning it in 2014 and a disappointing race in 2015, I was hoping to rebound this year and run a PB (28:20) and have a chance at winning. Last year's winner Tyler was registered, so I was anticipating a good battle with him as he had just run the Sun Run in 35:18.

The weather was great - warm but not too hot, no wind. Minutes before the start I ran into another runner I know called Robin, who had easily beaten me at the 2015 Victoria 8K in a time of 27:03. So I knew my chances of winning were basically zero. After a bit of a chat, and me mentioning that he should have a great chance of winning, he paused and said "well I have some good news for you... I wasn't able to register in time". The race had filled up, and he wasn't able to register! He said he wanted to run it anyway, but obviously wouldn't be officially in the race. Score.

Before the start I did my usual strides to stay warm and keep the heart rate up, then tried to find a place in the narrow start line. But it was totally packed! All the other runners had squished right up (many minutes before) and it was very difficult to find a place. Eventually I squeezed in at the end of the front row, only to have a much older woman get angry at me because "that was her husband's spot". Oops. I guess everyone is entitled to try and start at the front, but I think trying to roughly organize yourself based on finishing time makes the most sense? Anyway, the gun went off and away we went. Robin and another guy jumped in with the lead pack about 100m in, and one young guy sprinted out to an early lead. But by 500m we had passed him, and the lead pack was made up of 5 runners - 2 "bandits" and 3 official runners (I think?). I was at the back of that pack for the first 2K (so running in 3rd place), then passed one guy to move into 2nd. The lead guy had pulled away a bit, and Robin picked up the pace to stay right behind him. I would guess they were about 50m in front. Far enough that it felt like a mile, but not too far to be out of sight.

The first half was perfect pacing - 3:25, 3:37 (uphill), 3:26, 3:32 (13:58). Around the half way point I started noticing that the lead runner was looking a little more sluggish, and I was very slowly starting to close the gap. Around this point Robin took the lead and opened up a slight gap. I was amused to notice that the lead cyclist stayed right with the lead guy, and not with Robin. So clearly he was aware that Robin didn't have a bib and wasn't in the race. We passed a funny sign that read "Pain Now, Beer Later". Well said! After a slightly uphill kilometer I got to 5K at about 17:38, still very much on PB pace, and now was noticeably gaining on the lead runner (not on Robin though, he was way out front). As we came down past the lighthouse (thankfully this year we took the inner road, unlike last year where they made us run long) and in front of the Aquarium I picked up the pace and flew by the lead runner. The lead cyclist radio'd in my number, woohoo.

Around this point - 6K - we turned off the road and ran along the bike path around the Coal Harbor waterfront. It was quite fun and exciting, being in the lead with the cyclist, and having quite a lot of the half marathoners still out of course walking (and cheering). "Honk honk, stay to the left, move over, runner coming through!" Around 6.5K Robin slowed down (I assume on purpose), and I came up along side him and said something like "come on, let's go". We ran around the last part of the bike path, flew past my cheering family, and turned up the hill on West Georgia. We passed another funny sign saying "If Trump can run, so can you!". By this point I was feeling pretty exhausted and was definitely not pushing the pace. I suspect Robin was just keeping pace with me, he did push the pace a little, but mostly I was content to just grind up the hill. I did a few shoulder checks and knew that there was a large gap behind us, so I was very relaxed about holding on for the win. Of course the spectators didn't realize that Robin wasn't in the race, so they were screaming like crazy thinking that it was going to be a super close sprint to the finish. I picked up the pace around 400 m to go and suddenly Robin was gone, I assume he pulled off and got out of the fenced in finishing area. Instead of sprinting as I usually do this time I enjoyed the moment, gave a few fist pumps, woot woots, and crossed the line, breaking the tape in a time of 28:32 (for the slightly long distance of 8.15K). This race is made purposefully long for safety reasons, so they also list your official 8K time (there is a timing mat about 150m into the race), which was 28:06 - a new PB! Full results here.

It was a pretty amazing moment. I feel very fortunate to have these kind of experiences, as most amateur runners don't often get to experience what elite athletes go through. The rest of the weekend was a ton of fun spent with family and friends, and lots of good food and drink. I might go back next year to try and break 28... we'll see. For now it's time to enjoy summer, and get ready for another baby!

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