Thursday, October 17, 2019

Valley Harvest Half Marathon 2019 - Pacing Duty

So my race season was pretty much done with the Riverport Duathlon. It was time for a much needed rest after a lot of racing and hard Park Runs all year. Because so many BLT Runners were headed to the Valley Harvest marathon weekend, I had opted to join them in the form of a Pace Bunny with True North Pacing. The goal was a 1:35 half marathon, something I can do easily enough that i could chat and encourage runners as we ran, but also a pace that was fast enough to feel comfortable for me while running.

The week prior though, I got a request. A friend was really wanting to grab a new PB in the half and wanted a little help to do so.  The catch? It was a sub 1:22 Hmmm.

Well, some wrangling behind the scenes and we found a solid replacement for me as the 1:35 half pace bunny (thanks Bradley), we re-entered me as a runner in the half and I started my taper.  Also, let's be clear, I haven't raced a half this year and while I have been having a great season of racing, pacing out a half at a little more than 1 minute slower than my PB was going to be interesting.

Race day was here and I got up at 4:30 am to be driving our car load to Wolfville for a 7:45 am start. The weather was stunning (it had rained hard the day before) with the forecast showing overcast, low wind and temperatures around 10C. So now it was just up to the old legs to hold.

So after a brief warm up and some chatting we hit the start line. Paula (who I was pacing) seemed ready to go. She had trained really well, and seemed eager to get the show going. 

A solid looking line up for this half, with some fast people right behind as well, as I pointed out which way to go (I start my pacing duties even before the race it seems).

And soon we were off. It is always hard to control the pace of a race from the start. The adrenaline makes a super fast pace feel easy. I looked down after a few hundred meters and we were well above pace. The lead two runners were pulling even more ahead, but I started to ease things back a little bit. We crossed the first kilometer in 3:40. Way too fast, but really understandable and being flat, this would kill us later in the race. 

Soon we were on pace in the mid 3:50's and cruising along. The crowd of runners was still pretty big around us. As we started down the first major hill Paula wanted me to ease back a little bit, and I obliged as we began to figure out each other's running style. A few runners passed us, but we quickly repassed then on the next up. 

My goal, of course, was to stay as close to Paula as possible, while holding our pace at the goal of around 3:53. Part of this is done by adjusting pace to stay with the runner while also easing ahead just enough to pull them to give a little more effort. It is a delicate balance for sure. All the time focusing on the road ahead as well. So for me this meant really listening to Paula breathe and how her foot steps sounded. I have a tendency to push the uphills and so it became very important on this course with long gradual uphills to not overdo it. 

Eventually we seemed to figure this out with minimal communication verbally. We zoomed through the marathoners that had left prior to us, the subtle headwind keeping the temps and nice cool. As we approached the turn around we were well in third and fourth place (or actually both second place for female and male runners). Then as we turned, the wind went silent (tail wind!) and the temperature climbed a little. Still with the overcast skies it was great.

Now began a longish climb. We tackled it no problem, hanging out around a 4:00 min pace, dropping our average from 3:51 to 3:52. Then the downhill began. Valley is hilly for sure, but it is really a series of runnable hills, and this downhill section is fast. This section begins with a kilometer of steep downhill but is almost 3 km long in total and brought our average speed back down a bit. For the steepest part I let Paula run beside me, choosing her own pace, before zipping back in front of her as it lessened in pitch.

As we crossed the dike area (normally a place with a horrible headwind and leg strength sucking hill) it was great to still feel the wind at our back. We were closing in on the final stretch. My concern now was choosing a line to get Paula through as we started to run through the 10 km runners (whose race started after ours). The road is very wide, but I didn't want to waste too much effort weaving around, and luckily we got through easily (the runners were all very good at running consistent lines, which makes choosing your path much better).      

I am not going to lie. At this point I was slipping a bit mentally. I have run much faster paces this year, but not really for this length. If I had been running for placing, I probably would have looked behind me and saw that I had a decent lead and eased up a bit. But I was running for two (that sounds weird) so quickly dug myself out of that rut and pushed us along the road to home. 

I was watching the distance drop and soon we were within the final kilometer. I counted down in an effort to spur Paula along with track like distances hoping to mentally change this from along distance event to a track event in our minds. We hadn't really discussed the finish, but her coach Derek was on hand and yelled out for her to keep push hard to keep on my tail. So I pushed harder to drag her along the track at Acadia to the finish. I also was clearing the path again, though the 10 km runners were still great at avoiding us. 

We crossed the line well under 1:22 and only 2 seconds apart. I saw pictures of Paula's stride at the finish and she was giving a great effort. We crossed the line at a 3:20 pace by my watch. More importantly we crossed the line at 1:21:32 for a 3:52 avg. We both finished in second place for female and male, third and fourth overall and both won our age group. So, yeah, that was successful.

That was great work for Paula. She had the speed that morning. I'm glad I did as well. The run felt great overall and physically I was there no problem.  I have paced a few fast runners before, but usually my longer distance pacing is a much more casual affair for me.  

After a breather and a water, I grabbed my True North Pace Bunny shirt and hat and went back out to find some BLT Runners. I lead Amanda, Jacquelynn and Elizabeth home. They all had great runs, as did many other BLT Runners.  All in all, a great day of running. 

Okay, now I get to rest? Ha ha. 

Oh and a little analysis? The red line (top) is my heart  rate, pegged at around 171 the whole race and the pink line is my cadence. Pretty smooth. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Riverport Duathlon 2019

This wasn't a year I got to do a lot of multisport, but I did get to do what I consider the best multisport around, some duathlons.

The year ender in Nova Scotia is always Riverport, and it never fails to end the year on a high note.

I didn't get to do this race last year, but I was back again this year and to a new course (due to some road construction). Instead of the 4km/28km/4km race I was used to, it was now at the standardized distance of 5km/20km/2.5km.

The day was wonderful weatherwise. The temperature to start was pretty cold, but the wind was low and the sun was bright. 

We racked our bikes, had our race briefing and soon were on the starting line.

As usual, my goal these days is to try and grab a good strong start on the first run. My bike won't be the strongest, but I know that, so i try to get a win where I can. As the race started, I took the lead early and never relinquished it. For the first 2.5km, I could hear Colin and Andreas behind me. I had found a good strong pace early on and went for it. I didn't even bother to check my watch and just ran what I knew I could handle. This si a super flat course, so I knew a fast time was up for grabs.

At the turn around I had gapped 2nd and 3rd by a little and pushed on. By the time I came into T1, I had thrown down a 17:34 min 5km and had opened up a 21 second gap to second.

My T1 time wasn't the fastest but at 28 seconds, was pretty good. I was on my bike fast and off for 20km of hills.

We shared the race course with the Do a Du racers. So the bike course was a 10km out and back, which they did once and we did twice. There was a  slight wind, but overall it was calm riding. I managed to hold onto 3rd place through the first 10km and was doing my best to keep Kevin behind me.

Coming back from the 5km turn around for the second time, I had to stop a little longer at the stop sign due to an oncoming car. This probably knocked me back 15 seconds or so, but it wasn't a huge deal. I was still in third some how until about 2km to go, when Kevin finally dropped me to fourth place. Lucky for me, this was the fastest part of the course and I didn't loose that much time to him compared to the hills.

I came into T2 about 200m behind Kevin, quickly dismounted and then threw down a fast transition time (fastest of the day) of 22 seconds, taking back 3rd place as we headed onto the run.

Nothing feels as "fun" as hitting that second run. With a short distance of 2.5km, though, I knew I had to push to make up any time I could on the leaders.  Alas, the best I could do was put down some fast kilometers and cement my 3rd place overall. I clawed back a little time, but was still 1 minute down on the eventual winner Andreas. We actually shared the fastest second run, both coming in at 9:17.

In the end my overall time was 1:02:47, 3rd overall, 1st in Age Group. I felt pretty good about it. I know my running has improved this year and I think my biking got a little stronger thanks to some good winter training. Still not as good as the top guys on the bike (I was 10th fastest at 34.2 km/hr) but good nonetheless.

Elizabeth competed in the DoaDu and had a great result with her strongest runs ever in this race.

In our three races it was a 2 to 1 win for Colin. I managed to win all the 1st runs in the three Dus I entered this year though and I'll take those wins. 

Oh and with the Age Group win today, I even secured a spot at World's, should I wish to go. I don't think I will opt to go, but it was a nice bonus to qualify.