Sunday, October 27, 2013

Race Report: James Cunningham Seawall Race - October 27, 2013

I had a great time today at the James Cunningham Seawall Race this morning. This was a race I only learned about last year, and put on my list for races I wanted to try to get in this year. I'm so pleased that I did because it was a beautiful day, a great race, and I am very proud of how I did.

Over the last month or so, my fitness has seen dramatic improvement after the setbacks that got me in the summer. The last 3 weeks, my interval runs have been at the pace they were back in the spring, but I'm performing better in them as on a given day, each interval gets faster (rather than starting fast and losing steam). My coach has had me doing my tempo runs every week without pace measurement since the low iron issue came about, and have them be about relative effort instead. This past week I cheated and while I still didn't look at pace during the run, I looked at it after, and was very pleased with the pace I clocked as it was the fastest tempo I've had since pre - San Diego marathon. I've also noticed dramatic changes in my performance at the gym in my strength workouts and what I'm able to do with relative ease compared to before. My core muscles are taking shape in ways I am excited about (I catch myself poking at my own tummy and smiling), my legs feel powerful, and I can't find words to describe how strong and alive I feel. I can honestly notice its translation into good posture and a more efficient running stride.  The last few weeks have been a big confidence boost. I'm definitely back to where I was before, but I am also inclined to think that I'm actually slightly beyond where I was before and on the brink of bigger improvements if I keep working hard.

I was very excited about this race as an opportunity to test my speed. This has been my first real opportunity to do so since mid-June when I ran the Longest Day 5K and two days later, won the 8K at my friend's fundraiser race. While it might be that those races were too soon after my marathon to really judge, today's race was a faster performance than both those June races. I was really careful this week about my workouts following my plan and the food I ate being what would make me feel my best today. This morning I had a really good balanced breakfast, more than what I'd typically eat before a 10km effort, to ensure I'd be amply fueled for the day without want of water or sport drink during the race. I was ready for a good solid race and I knew it was destined to happen.

I am really thankful for a 10am start to this race as I had a bit of an adventure beforehand. Yesterday I went to pick up my race bib at the West End Running Room store and meet a friend for lunch. When I was ready to head home again, my car wouldn't start. I gave it some time to think, tried again, and thankfully this time it started; I was able to get the car and myself home without too much hassle. It also allowed me to come up with a strategy for this morning. After having breakfast, I'd try to start the car, but do so early in case it doesn't start. If it starts without trouble, drive myself to Stanley Park, and hope for the best that it starts again after the race. I'd get there early, but I could stay in the car to stay warm until I was ready to start my warm-up run. If the car starts but only after some convincing, consider leaving it at home to avoid it getting stranded in Stanley Park. And of course, if it doesn't start at all, stop trying to make it work, get on with the day, and do whatever needed to get to the race.

You guessed it, the car didn't start. It gave me no indication it wanted to start; it simply coughed and gave up. I'm frustrated to say the least as I just spent a bundle fixing the cooling system on the car and now don't know what is needed to fix it again. But I put that out of my head and followed my plan. I ran back into the apartment, left behind all my things, swapped my keys, grabbed the bus fare I prepared the night before and off I went to catch the bus. I waited and waited and the bus did not come. It may have eventually come, but I knew if it didn't arrive in the next 2 seconds, I'd miss the connection to the bus that would take me downtown, and it was nowhere in sight. The next one would get me to the race much later than I'd want. I wouldn't be late for the race, but I wouldn't get in a warm up. So I thought, to heck with it, let's start the warm up now! I booted it hard down Lonsdale to catch my connecting bus and caught it in the nick of time as it was just pulling away from the curb. I'm sure the driver saw me running down the sidewalk with my race bib on and was kind enough to stick around.

The bus pulled away and I was able to relax. Took a seat, took a deep breath, and planned the rest of my warm-up. I got off the bus on Georgia and Gilford and ran around the Lagoon and the part of the seawall in the immediate vicinity of the startline. I ran a good 3.5km to warm up (if you include the run from bus stop to bus stop in North Van) and felt like my legs weren't quite loosened up. After freshening up, I ran a little bit more, than found a quiet stretch on the seawall to do 4x100m strides to get the cobwebs out. That helped a bunch and I knew then I was ready and primed to go so I headed to the start line to find my friends that were at the race. It was great to get a few laughs in, and ya, complain a little about my car, and check out all the various costumes people were sporting for this pre-Halloween run.

The gun went off, and it was time for a good race! My goal pace time was to start at 5:10/km but this would be ambitious the first km or so, trying to negotiate the crowds. Instead my first km was a 5:17, then I finally had room to move and I went for it. I made a pact with myself to not look at my watch too much during the race. I have a tendency to do two things when I see my pace on my watch - 1) beat myself up if I'm below goal pace 2) panic and question if I should slow down if I'm going too fast as I don't want to burn out too fast. The thing is though, I've been improving these last few weeks, I don't really know what "too fast" is, and neither thought is productive or positive during a race. Why get wrapped up in the numbers or become a slave to my watch when I'm honing my "body whisperer" skills. If I feel really good while my pace is "too fast" according to my watch, I shouldn't slow down: I should trust how I feel. Not looking at my watch allowed me to be ignorant at my pace and more in tune with me. Sometimes a discrepancy between ideal versus actual pace measurement only equates to a few seconds here or there,  but the negative thought patterns associated with it can be more detrimental to athletic performance. It's way more important to be tuned in to how the effort feels, where my breathing is, how I am feeling overall, and be able to assess honestly whether or not it's sustainable to run at that level for the entire distance. I'm a living being, not a robot, so I should listen to myself, not a gadget.

After that first km of crowd negotiation, I saw room open up for me to find my pace. I went for it, and kept my mind tuned into my body the whole way moving forward from here. I didn't let it wander to any other topic but the course, my race strategy, my breathing, my form, the runners ahead of me I sought to pass...all race-related thoughts the whole way forward. Knowing the seawall so intimately was also an advantage, as I selected visual place markers that I know well to focus on. It helps so much mentally to focus on hitting each place marker than trying to take on the entire overwhelming distance all at once, or again, focus on km markers or "numbers". One thing I'm very good at is finding a pace and keeping it consistent. I looked down at my watch once early on to verify where I was at, then turned my attention away from it; I tuned inwards to how I was feeling to make sure I was maintaining that same pace, rather than letting the watch tell me. I didn't look at it again until I passed the 5km sign, and I was pleased to see I passed it at 25:05 and my body was showing no signs of wavering. I told myself to keep going and not look at the watch again until I got to Siwash Rock. I don't know why I picked this point, probably because I would know then exactly how far I'd have to run to get to the finish line at Second Beach. Again here, looking at my watch was just to verify pace, and I soon turned my attention back on course, back on me, back onto my strength and unwavering stamina, and the runners ahead who were clearly getting tired and I was within reach to pick off one at a time.

Great conversation at my last Tuesday session helped me too. One of the girls I train with that recently nailed an amazing PB at the Victoria Half told me about her strategy and John talked to us both about how we have the "racer" mentality - not allowing the mind to wander from the race during the race. I kept these things in mind the whole way.  I'm very thankful to have community of runners who not only make running fun, but challenge me and add to my running toolkit with every conversation and every training run.

I approached the finish mats and could see the clock still showing well under 50min. I knew it took me a while to cross the start mats so my chip time was going to be much much better than what the clock showed, but I was determined to ensure my gun time would also be sub-50. My gun time came in at 49:46 and my official chip time 49:08 and I'm super proud of this accomplishment. 

After enjoying the awards ceremony and some hot coffee, I ran back to Georgia and Denman to catch my bus to North Van, then from the bus stop home again, making my total mileage for the day a very satisfying 16km.

Next up - the New Balance Fall Classic half marathon on November 17th.

No comments:

Post a Comment