Sunday, August 3, 2014

4 Races and 1 Blog

I mentioned in my previous post how difficult it's been to stay on top of blogging recently. The wedding is only a month away now, and it seems much of my free time where I'm not running has been spent in preparation for the big day. It's amazing how much of that takes place behind a computer screen - looking up information, contacting contractors, writing and responding to emails, and so on. Blogging has taken a back seat. Sorry :(

I have a wee bit of free time given it's a long weekend and I don't have to work. I'm excited to finally write. But I'm not going to attempt to recount the last 4 races I've done in enough detail to do 4 complete race reports. Instead, I'm endeavouring to summarize them all here in this one post. Here we go...

BlueShore Financial Longest Day Road Race (5km)  - Friday, June 13th, 2014
This was my 2nd year in a row running this race.  Last year I registered somewhat last minute but ended up having a great time. It's an evening race to celebrate summer with an incredible post-race BBQ/party that has become very well-known amongst the running community. It was also race #7 in the Lower Mainland Road Race Series and one I was very much looking forward to. My goal was to beat my previous 5km time of 25:17 (personal best), maybe even get under 25min, but it was somehow very hard. The route returned back to its usual direction, which was reverse from last year, the one time I did it. I went out way too hard on the first downhill and had trouble holding the pace, then came this one particular difficult uphill that I thought would be the death of me. Disappointingly, I came in at 25:57, just squeaking in under 26 min. I know I shouldn't be disappointed, but I know I am fit enough to do better and the short distance is where I have been excelling in recently. Regardless, it was really fun. I had a number of friends there with me to enjoy the post race festivities with. I'll definitely be back again next year as it's really a good time.

Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon (5km) - Sunday, June 22, 2014

There seems to be a shortage of worthwhile 5km races to run, but it's a distance I really wanted to try a few times this year (and hope to try again even should I find another opportunity). This race, of course, is known for the half marathon really, and the 5km is somewhat "less serious" in nature. That being said, it was chip timed and I decided to give it a go given the timing of the race. It would allow me to participate in the Scotia event again, one I love as the half I've done 3 times including my very first half in 2003. And knowing it was just over a week after the Longest Day, it would be another try at the goal 5km time with the memory of the previous race still in my racing legs. This race went so much better. I went out at the right pace and held it. There were a 2 roadblocks that surely added seconds to my time, which was disappointing, but something I can factor into my time and wonder if a PB effort could have happened here at this race - (1) a driver who took their car down a closed road and I had to wait my turn among runners to get around it and (2) a wheelchair athlete that lost control down a hill that I had leap off course to dodge (don't worry, he was OK). I finished much stronger than the Longest Day at 25:31, giving me 4th in my age category and 25th female overall out of 1211 who laced up. That's right, #25 out of over 1200. Ego boost? I think so! Sure it wasn't sub-25, but I did very well indeed.

Sure my high ranking isn't typical for a race and it has much to do that the more serious runners were doing the half marathon that day and this race was classified as a "fun run". But I came out of this race feeling very good about how far I've come and with a good dose of perspective. This event had many first time racers lining up. I smiled when the race announcers asked who was running their first and I saw the number of hands going up. I recalled when I made my comeback to running and ran a 5km in 2010 to start it off, finishing in about 36 minutes. I felt so good about my accomplishment. That really wasn't all that long ago. Regardless how seriously I take myself and my sport, I'm new to it relatively, and I'm very young in terms of the years of being active. I have a lot of experience yet to gain, and hard work I can do yet. There were some very respectable finish times at this 5km race, even if the less serious of the two races that day, so I felt this race was a better sampling of the active community than many of the other runs out there where the finest athletes line up with other serious runners. Being 25th out of 1211 women is not typical for me in a race, but maybe where I should be should if I remember that most of the community aren't runners and what I can do as a runner is far above average. I have every reason to be proud.

And naturally, this race was another opportunity to catch up with friends - one of the biggest reasons I keep coming back to race over and again.

VFAC Summerfast 10km - July 19th, 2014
This was my first 10km event of the year, and my 5th event as part of the Lower Mainland Road Race Series. My previous 10km best was if were to adjust how I did in the Cunningham Seawall Race in 2013 (9.5km) to add the extra 500m. I knew I wasn't fast enough to catch that time (51:08), but I still hoped to break 52. It was a very mild morning, overcast, with a threat of big rain to come - and did it ever, right after the race. I started this one strong but simply couldn't hold my pace over the distance and progressively got slower, coming in at 54:46 and giving me 11th in my category. I also know I did much better here than I did last year.

Talking to other runners, we seem to agree that the 10km race is one of the hardest. You're attempting to hold a faster pace over a much longer period of time, and there's at least one point where you feel a bit of hell as a result. The 5km you push yourself harder, but it's over such a short distance, you can easily see beyond it, knowing you're "almost there" the whole time. A half marathon, you go hard, but with breathing easier, meaning that if all goes right, you can remain relatively comfortable for most of it. The 10km is a hard place somewhere in between - the pace you expect of yourself is still pretty intense, and every time, somewhere between the 6-7km mark, I contemplate quitting, with lungs burning and the finish line still nowhere in sight. I was OK with the poor finish this time knowing it was my first time racing this distance in 2014. But I went home thinking I'd want one more go at this distance before taking a racing break and "active rest" period leading up to the wedding. After seeing that my 11th place finish in my category put me in position to guarantee ranking in the Lower Mainland Road Race Series, I thought it'd be nice to try to better my position and point total by registering for one of the last 2 races. Perhaps it'd be like doing the back-to-back 5km races where the 2nd one goes way better.

Squamish Days 10km - August 3rd, 2014
This race was this morning, a very hot day in Squamish, and what a fun time I had. This race, although the result was slower, was a much stronger-feeling effort than Summerfast. Running Summerfast did prep me mentally and prime my legs for the effort. While energy certainly waned later in the race, I felt like I could squeeze effort out. I think it was just hot and I was very tired going in. I came in at gun time 55:14 (55:06 on my watch) which was 8th in my category, helping my LMRRS ranking, but far off from where I wanted to be (by a good 3 minutes). I was surrounded by people I know getting PBs and getting age category awards, I had to hold back any negative thinking about how I did in this race. I am pleased with today as I've come to realize that I need to stop comparing myself to those who've been running for years and years and those who are faster yet than me. I can aspire to what they achieve but I have to remember that where I am currently at is much more capable than I ever imagined myself to be. What I achieved today is actually very good and with continued hard work, I will see improvements.

After the race I got invited to a BBQ with members of VFAC, coach John's "other" running club - the one with whom many of Vancouver's finest athletes run with (including the overall winners of this race today). I had some lovely and encouraging conversations with club members and coach John, and it reinforced my very positive thinking after a difficult race.

The race was also a lot of fun as the course took me to our old stomping grounds of Squamish. I love the drive up the Sea to Sky, and I loved passing Cam's old "house" twice in this out and back course. It was a little run down memory lane and although he wasn't there to cheer me on as he had to work, I very much felt him there with me.

What's next for me?

A month of "active rest". That means no racing goals, just working to maintain my fitness and have fun doing so!