Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bluenose 2014 - Half Marathon

Ah is it that time of year again? Yup, this weekend was the Halifax Bluenose Marathon, a tradition in the area for the last 11 years. My wife and I picked up our race kit early on Friday and puttered away the weekend in anticipation of our races (we each ran the half marathon). Pepto Pink shirts this year, and unlike last time, I sized down to get one that actually fit!

So I have been training for this race since December. And I am very glad I started early. Training went very well early on, then occasionally a snag would hit but I would carry right on. In my last 6 week training block, however, things went a bit crazy. I pulled a muscle in my back and couldn't run much. Then recovered but had a persistent leg ache. Nothing that stopped me from running, but something annoying enough to hold me back a bit. And finally I had 2 other races scheduled int he weeks leading up, which really limited my last few long runs. Sigh.

Still, I knew my training went well. I knew I had a good shot at my goal of a sub 1:25 half on a very demanding course. Last year I race a 1:26 and change and I knew I was fitter. Still once you start getting at the faster end of things, the gain don't come easily. But like last year I put my faith in my training system which was developed with heavy input and help from Kinesic Sport Lab and Jeff Zahavich. We use a heart rate based training model, which of course I have blogged about numerous times before. It helps really focus my training and helps prevent injury while training (I of course can injury myself at many other times in my life, ha ha).

Deep down I would have loved to also make up some spots and place in the top 10 for this race, but all those hopes were dashed when the former marathon champ  dropped down to the half and a really fast Kenyan runner popped in as well. All of a sudden slew of really fast guys appeared for a great race. Well, there was always my goal.

The weather turned out to be great. We were a little unsure the day before with a variety of reports and everything from cold to warm to sun to clouds to rain. In the end, the sun was out for the majority of my race with a few cloudy patches to cool things down. Very nice.

I took my place near the front of the race, which is a nice place to start. And very quickly, we were off.

At this point I was still on pace with the Kenyan John. At this point.

I knew that I had to try and avoid the usual start of race crazy pace that I typically have. This was going to be a good strong and smart run on my part. I was basing my pace on the earlier Back to Basics 8 miler I did. In that race I managed a 3:55 pace, and while only 13 km, it was a solid starting point for this half marathon.

Well no sooner did we get around the second corner did I look down at my Garmin and see a pace somewhere near the 3:11 min/km mark. Oh my! By the time I was past Citadel High, I was slowing steadily down but still at a 3:29 pace. It took until I was past the Commons where I was finally slowed enough and now at a 3:53 min/km pace. That would do for now I though, as the leaders were blocks ahead of me and pulling away. Whew!

So it was now stick to the plan and race my race. My Garmin was set to pace and average pace. As I don't stare at it all the time, it is nice to know if my average pace is slipping. Luckily I seemed pretty good as I was passing the early kilometer markers. And pretty soon things started to spread out at the front of the field. A few people passed me, and I passed a few, but eventually I was pretty much alone.

So lonely

I was grabbing a Gatorade on the way by each water stop. For a half I don't really need any food or water, but I do like that little blast of sugar to keep my brain active, and to keep my mouth from drying out. I do wish the cups weren't so full as I probably take in maybe a small sip each time. Seems like a waste, but oh well.

Pace was still good and soon I was approaching the 10km mark. I glanced down, saw that I had about 100-200 meters to go and the time on my watch looked good. So I picked up the pace temporarily, and crossed at sub 39 minutes, 38:47. My first sub 39 minute 10km and right in the middle of the half. Not bad. 

But now the real race began. After the half way point the Bluenose Half Marathon is pretty much up hill. I knew I couldn't push too hard too early on or I would burn myself out. I was zipping through the park and hit the dreaded Serpentine hill. As I started up, I changed to a slightly slower cadence, and used some bigger muscles to power up it. I passed another runner at this point who was struggling. As I hit the top I too was passed. I looked down and saw my pace had slowed far more than I hoped and picked it back up. This new runner was fresher though and even though we ran together for a bit, he eventually too off.

A few more hills and I was approaching the 17km mark. I now was really feeling those lack of long runs over the last few weeks. The first 16 km were easy, now it was just remembering to use good form and not let any little doubts creep into my mind.

You don't realize just how much of a hill South Park is until you start to run up it. And every year I forget that it is in fact actually a decent continuous climb. Followed closely by another climb before a really steep descent towards the finish line. Regardless, everyone else has to run it.

On South Park the runner ahead of me had about a 30 second lead. I never once looked back to see what was going on, after all this was a race against the clock and there was still a decent bit of race to go.

As I turned to corner onto Cogswell, I felt pretty good. I just needed my quads to hold out a little longer. As I approached the halfway point down the hill, a car blew through the intersection almost hitting the nice police officer. As he turned to deal with that situation, another car came through. Oh my I thought. Luckily it all cleared up but I am glad I was 10 seconds faster this year.

It was nice that the downhill section here was separated from the 10K finishers this year. Last year I ran smack into a huge crowd of 10 K runners who were over joyed to be finishing, but not necessarily looking for fast runners barreling down upon them. I loved the luxury of the wide lane I had to myself.

I turned the corner and one more up hill to face as Barrington loomed. But I pushed hard and with 100 meters to go, I dared to glance at my watch and just saw 1:23 on the timer. I pushed and pushed harder and crossed the line in 1:23:52, far better than the 1:25 I had suspected I could run.

A hearty High Five to Myles is as good a finish line picture as I have

So all in all, a pretty good race. A Half Marathon PB by almost 3 minutes. Great weather. Didn't kill myself (though my calves hurt a bit today). Enjoyable finish. What could be better?

Well I lost a bit more time in Point Pleasant Park than I had hoped for. The lack of long runs, as I mentioned, really killed that endurance at the end. So that bodes well for future races were I actually get myself together better.

My heart rate was on par with last years race and I managed close to 7 second a kilometer faster this year, with a sub 4 minute average. My recovery is quite quick as well, which is a great thing. The pictures of my form that I have seen show that my core work is coming along well also. Could Ian run a sub 1:20? I'm not so sure but it is nice to think about.  First things first some Duathlons in June though.

Again a huge thanks to Jeff Zahavich and Kinesic Sport Lab for the help in getting a much more powerful engine in a smart and sustainable way (ie way fewer injuries), Anita Connors for all the physio help and getting me  balanced out, and Luke and the gang at Aerobics First  for taking the time to make sure I got the right pair of ultra fast shoes on my feet with a great fit. 

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