Saturday, February 22, 2014

Race Report: Pacific Road Runners "First Half" Half Marathon

This past Sunday, I completed my first half marathon of the season, with the race with the most fitting name - the "First Half." This is indeed the First Half locally in Vancouver, a small race, but one of very high demand in the running community. It's the only race I know of where you have to set your alarm to register in advance before it sells out. It certainly adds to the anticipation and excitement of the race, knowing you secured a coveted spot. And while my finish time is mediocre by my standards, I'm pleased with how things went, and I had a very enjoyable time at the race.

Leading up to this race, I had this paradoxical combination of fear of suffering during the race and feeling miserable mixed with a cool sense of confidence in my abilities. I've run several half marathons now (I believe this was my 15th), but my last two had been rather difficult with those dreaded marathon quad cramps attacking. They had no right to find me in a half marathon, let alone two, and fear of them coming on again was something I had to silence. Was this the new future of my half marathons? This was something I refused to believe. And with the injury I've dealt with recently and achiness I have to work through before running gets comfortable...I worried trying to push myself for 21.1km would be a bad idea. But then again, every day I feel stronger and closer to where I was before. I've been working with my personal trainer and she's helping me strengthen my problem areas, I've had some successful interval sessions, and I did very well at the Icebreaker 8km. I certainly had it in me to achieve a personal best. Considering my mixed feelings, I decided it best to keep my goals conservative - give it my best but goal number one was a strong, pain-free finish, and goal two was, simply, having fun.

I had some unexpected excitement before the race too, with Cam proposing to me Friday night on Valentine's Day! An engagement on my mind was definitely something beautifully distracting to focus on during the race to keep me smiling, but it also meant I had perhaps a little less R&R before the race than I would usually endeavour to take. I did my best to rest, and hoped that the cloud of happiness I was floating on would will me to the finish line.

As usual, it was a beautiful sunny day for this race, but some major headwinds were a real reality we had to face. I arrived downtown at an hour before the race, parked at work so I could use the washroom and do a little warm-up, then took the train to the Yaletown Roundhouse - the start and finish area to this course. It was nice finding some of my friends beforehand to catch up with and continue warming up with before lining up. I started out slow to let the crowd thin out and not get caught in their momentum, and kept my eye on my pace making sure I went no faster than 5:30/km.

At approx the 5km mark

I was very pleased to be able to keep that 5:30/km consistently, a pace that's quite easy for me, yet fast enough that if I were to maintain over the distance, would easily give me my best half marathon to date. For the first 16km of the race, everything felt very good and I had the confidence it would be smooth sailing to the finish. 

This run is such a great running community run - lots of familiar faces out there running, and friends that weren't running were on the course cheering (thank you Monica, Rose, Miles, and Alexa...) and giving me a boost along the way. It's so nice to be surrounded by this community! I also spotted Olympian Dylan Wykes on the course cheering. Sure he had friends running this race, but they would have been at the front of the pack, and I was humbled by seeing him cheering even those of us mere mortals passing by. All the volunteers along the course were friendly and helpful, aid stations were perfectly spaced, and everything about the race was awesome. Well done Pacific Road Runners, putting together such a great event!

After the 16km mark, I started to feel achiness in my hips and that tingling sciatic awfulness I've been dealing with. It wasn't unbearable, but keeping my pace up would have been too much, and I made the judgment call to pull back and jog it out for the last kms to avoid hurting myself or suffering at the finish line. I wasn't doing this race for a personal best knowing I've not been at 100%, so I decided just to finish strong, in whatever time it would take. I knew that I was super close to getting under 2 hours and I was sacrificing this, but I also knew this was the best call for me. I need to focus on getting stronger so I can be at 100% and do well in my upcoming races. If I take risks while I'm healing, I risk further setbacks. I did not want the ache to turn to real pain. I felt good about my decision and crossed the finish line with 2:05:21 as my chip time. No cramps, no bonking, no pain. When I came home, Cam reminded me that 2:05 is pretty remarkable for a bad race. I need to stop being so hard on myself.

Finishing strong!

After the race, I reunited with some of my friends at the finish line. Unfortunately, I didn't see everyone I wanted to but I stayed for the awards ceremony and enjoyed some food and company of fellow runners. This is one of my favourite parts about these races - that community spirit.

Getting into the Olympic spirit with Sigrid - 2 medals for Canada!
After the race festivities, I made my way home to my sweetheart and we picked out an engagement ring for me. What an amazing weekend it was, and one I won't soon forget.

What's next? The St. Patrick's Day 5km on March 15th.

Then my next half marathon at the BMO Sunshine Coast April Fools Run on April 6th - join me and register by March 15th before the next price increase.

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