Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Blue Nose Half Marathon 2018

So it is that time of year again where I post about my experiences with the BlueNose Half Marathon. It seem every year I opt for the Half distance at this race, though this year the 15km option certainly was tempting. Regardless, the half it was since this year boasted a new course that maybe could have been faster on paper?

The expo was fun, seeing Aerobics First as the main running shoe company was great. Seeing Eric Gillis in their booth and chatting with him about coaching and running was equally as fun.

Well, months of training, loads of hills, tempo runs that made me throw up, all the good stuff and finally race day came. And so did the rain. Lots of it and the temperature was around 10-14C depending on which weather app you use.  Okay, so that means that the race wasn't going to be as smooth as we hoped, but it was what it was.

I parked by my office and waited there after a little warm up run with Craig and Scott. We switched to race gear and with 15 minutes or so walked over to the start, watching the 10k runners head off.  Then as we started to get near the race start, we saw the crowd at the line and the announcer send them off. What!? We ran to get into the race, only to find out it was the 15km start. Whew, but ahhhh!

Soon though we were lined up and ready to run.

And we were off. My goal was to start out a little above goal race pace as were headed slightly down hill for quite a bit. I ended up going off at about a 3:30 pace, which was way to fast. Still, I just eased up a bit and by the time we hit the 4th kilometre I was on track and with a good group of runners. We tackled our first hill, I eased up a bit and then picked up my pace.

Now I was pretty sure that I would spend a huge portion of this race alone, as is usually the case. The results seem to show people with in a minute of each other, but in reality, you never are near those people.

I tackled the dreaded park with ease this year as it was reverse and thus mostly downhill.  By the time I was back to road running, my pace was around the 3:49 mark.  Ultimately I would have loved to finish this race at or faster than my Moncton pace from last year, as with the course being long, I never got my official PB from that race. But it was super flat, perfect temp and dry unlike today. So I knew that anything 3:51 or below would still give me an official PB in the Half distance. So far so good.

Just as we were we approaching the 10km mark, I picked up a position and saw my 10km split as 38 minutes. Not bad, not my best at the Blue Nose, but perhaps holding back that little bit meant I would have something to tackle the big hills that were coming.

Now though, the wind that was there was gone as was the rain. With the tail wind pushing me along, the humidity in the air and thus the perceived temperature started to climb. I felt it very quickly and it did not feel good. Luckily I dressed light.

What was unapparent was just how much of an incline the flat streets along the water front were giving us. And from that gradual incline, we hit the hills of the North End. First Valour, then Devonshire in quick succession. At this point Lee from the Road Hammers passed me like I was standing still. Zoom. Yikes.

These hills average about  a 5% grade hitting over 7 in some spots. Ugh.  I was able to use my hill skill though, to catch the next runner and put some distance between the 2 of us. Lee was off in the distance though.

Some crazy twisty streets and soon I was on Isleville. Turns out it is a hill too, so much up on the second half with little rest.  I ran by Sarah and Jordan and this year had enough energy left to smile. Last year at 5km in, I was so sick I didn't even see them.

Then more twisty turn and a few bouts of head wind. Yikes, was this ever going to end. I won't lie, but my heart and breathing were totally fine, while my legs were just dying. Maybe the humidity? Definitely the hills. I knew I was quite hot.

Now at the 17km mark a guy ran up to me and we ran together for a bit. I have no idea where he came from, but obviously his legs were a lot fresher as he started to pull away. I looked at my pace as I tried to keep up and we were around 3:36, so I knew I had to ease up just a bit. Now my average pace was 3:50, and while I was happy with it, I certainly would have liked to gotten it lower.

 I knew that the rest of the race was mostly flat with a huge downhill before the finish. With 3 km to go, I managed to convince myself that if I could push the pace a little more that in only 12 minutes I would be done. So I did. Slowly I started to catch Eric, who had taken off with the leader at the start. Last year I caught him with less than 2 kilometres and while I knew he was fading, for me to push to catch him at this point, nope.

Finally the downhill, I did my best and pushed hard, legs feeling like they were done, turning the corner and knowing that I would be in a sea of 10 and 15 km runners. I was right. I started up the main finish line, but was overwhelmed by a sea of people, so I quickly took to the marathon chute (for marathon runners to skip the finish line for their second lap) before ducking at the last moment over the finish line.

Somehow in the last 4km I moved my average pace up from 3:50 to 3:48. Officially a PB and officially a 1:20 half marathon runner (1:20:21 officially). 

I had a great time training with this group, sometimes helping them, and sometimes learning from them. I must say the BLT Runners is really a good crew.

Some of us even placed in our Age Group:

Last year I won, this year I placed second.  Overall I was 8th in a tough field and on a really tough day on a tough course. Sounds like a lot of tough. Well it was the day, we ran it, and it tried to fight back.  I'm feeling it a bit in the legs, but did manage a trail run in Colorado to help loosen things up.

Anyway, back to Blue Nose. Thanks to the support of Aerobics First and the BLT Runners, and the extra push I got trying to stay ahead of Craig during our Parkland Loop runs.

Monday, May 7, 2018

MEC Race 2 - Citadel High, Bring on the Hills!

So I'm a little late getting this blog post up, but I finally have a little time to sit down and compose while I am travelling to a conference.

MEC Race 2 was a couple of weekends ago now, and while I was originally not planning on racing it, ultimately I did. So it is now 2 for 2 in the series I didn't plan on racing except for 1 race later on in the year.

The race does fall at a good time, as I like a 5K Spring race to break up the boredom of training and give the legs a real test (no matter what you do, a tempo run is never a race).

As is usually the case, this race has "fun" weather. Being a top of rather large hill,it is usually a windy affair and cold. This year, for a change, it was actually warm. Of course it was also raining. Can't win them all I guess. Racing in the rain is fine, standing around and waiting kind of sucks. I wore my Salomon rain suit, which is stunning and light enough that I could do my warmup run while wearing it.

Sadly, the Fort this year was mostly off limits to racers. We usually race the Ditch (dry moat), stairs, ramparts and around guns (canons). Construction limited us to starting and finishing inside the Fort and mostly doing a road race. Oh but the hills, this is a hilly affair! 2 loops of hills for the 5K racers, 4 loops for the 10k racers. I did the 5K.

So I warmed up with a single loop and close to 3km. I opted to run in my training shoes (some new Brooks Launch) as I felt my racing flats were not grippy enough for the tight wet corners I would be tackling. While heavier, they gave me a little more confidence.

The 10k racers went off 5 minutes before us but soon we were on the start line. Bam (yup, they use a rifle to send us on our way) and we were running. I really tried to hold back at the start and fell into abut 5th or 6th place. Our group took off, away from the rest fairly quickly.  As we approached the first of the big downhills, I had worked into 4th place and was feeling the effort. We were not heading out slow.

Even with a 5 minute headstart we soon were running through the back end of the 10K race. It wasn't too bad, but there were a few dicey moments.  As we started up the big hill on the far side of the course, I found myself in 3rd. I pushed hard up this hill in an effort to hold my place. Really I was running harder than I could sustain for the whole race, but we had formed a decent gap in the process. Ultimately I looked after the race and found our first kilometer was done at a 3:18 pace. Ouch.

Here I am finishing up lap 1. My lead over 4th had grown.

As lap 2 started my grasp n second had fallen away. Fourth place was a decent bit behind me, but knowing it was Drew didn't leave me feeling safe at all. He is fast. So I had to keep pushing hard. 

The rest of the ace was dodging people, pushing too hard up hills, and knowing that the race as 5.5 km and not 5, so making sure I could actually finish it. 

As I finished lap 2 and headed to the finish line, I did feel slightly safe. My watch beeped, telling em that 5km had just been hit, so fir the first time I looked down. By the time I looked it was at 18:20, so wow, that was faster that I had thought. 

I finished strong, with a time of 20:05 and an average pace of 3:39. That third was a had effort and I was pretty happy considering the hills.  Here is my heart rate graph:

The red line shows how the heart rate just hit a peak, then climbed from there.

Next up, Bluenose.