Sunday, 30 September 2012

Harvest Half Marathon race report

It doesn't get any better than the Harvest Half Marathon for me. Of the races I'd planned out for this year, this is the one I most wanted to do well at. The weather looked like being ideal, 13 degrees to start, which feels a little colder than it really is at this time of year. It allowed me to line up in a singlet without gloves and not even shiver. The aim was simply to beat my half PB of 1.28:01, set here last year.
Photo: A Pi, the beast!
The atmosphere is always light, here I am trying "the beast", though I look more like a jumpy squirrel. Finally got my hands on an official Canada top too.

Rich was in the race again, the 2 of us looking to see what would happen this year. Our elite conference at the start line: "shall we make sure we win the race to the first crossroads?" "Yes, let's own the 30 metre podium."

Mission accomplished in consecutive years, blaizing a fun but pointless trail. Like last year, dialing it back soon after a few went past. My heart rate monitor went plop down to my waist at that point, so while pulling it back up I looked like I was doing the funky chicken. The belt for my bottles was also loose, so had to tighten that too, and straighten my number which was sticking right out, arrow shaped. Got all that done to see that the only change this year to the course was the road after passing through the 2 boulders had been completed.
After 2k began the hill(s) up to the Fish Creek Park entrance. That 3.5k seemed to go on longer than it actually did, though my printed wristband had me right on time.

The reward is the park, with its rolling and twising route that loses all that gained elevation for the next 12km. The very first part is a downhill charge on gravel, and when I slipped a little ended up having to run short and very quick steps so the legs could catch up with the rest of me. This is one of the few sections of the course that I don't run on during the rest of the year.

I got a few metres in front of Rich here, and started to reel in the next runner ahead, wearing orange. I was with him by the time Votier flats came up at 10 k, I recall my watch saying 41:43.
The signs and my watch didn't agree on distance, so I thought I'd pay less attention to it, finishing time in the published results is the main thing. On straighter parts I could see 7 other runners in front, good motivation. I went past the guy in orange, hearing his shoes "slapping" on the ground.
Halfway and my watch said 43:14. Was I really on course for a 1.26? Another question 1 or so k later before getting to a crest was "have I bitten off more than I can chew?"
It made me hesitate to pass the next guy, in a dark blue "UBC" top. Rich caught up with me at that point, and had at least one other person with him, so I thought I would be the pacer and overtook the BC guy, whose speed was going up and down a bit, despite a fine running style. Several of us passed a tall, fairly strongly built guy in red at about the same time, I had guessed that being less wiry would affect his pace late on. Rich passed me soon after, looking strong. He said later he had started to feel his legs coming back to him, though he wasn't completely sure why or how.
My printed wristband came off, though just before it did I memorised the target time for 18k, which would be after Sikome Hill: 1.15:04. I had been about 1:40 ahead at 15k. Rich was getting ahead, and I struggled to keep up. "Toes and tailbone" I told myself: a reminder to keep my toes down, and lift my tailbone up, for a more efficient posture.
A couple of hundred metres before Sikome Hill, I and many others ahead dropped our pace to gain a bit of energy.
I went slower than several of them going at a speed that felt as hard as running on flat ground just before. What might have helped me for this hill was the fact that it is run on the road, rather than the pathway just to the right which is at a steeper angle. Hill training for 2 months prior also.
While I had planned to accelarate over the crest of the hill, regaining my speed was rather more gradual than anticipated, though still quicker than last year. I passed another runner, and gradually joined Rich again. Passing 18k, my watch said 1.14:09. Keep pushing, and sub-1.27 might be on the cards.

Passing the "one mile to go" sign, Rich said, "got a 4 minute mile in you?" I had very little left I said, he said the same. The 20k sign sits at the point where the course leaves the road and joins the pathway to the finish. I surged here to avoid both of us going through this bottleneck side by side. There's also a 2 or so metre incline here. I let out a loud groan as I went up it, hearing Rich laugh behind me.
I thought I'd then catch the next 2 runners, and I slowly brought the gap down. Rounding the last corner and past a mound that reveals the finish line, I thought, "I'll sprint past this one guy". However, my right hamstring tightened a bit, and I felt it might pull me up.

I knew it wasn't worth it, and I relaxed into the finish.

Thanks to Kristi for this photo
Spotting A-Chang I did the "Mobot", made famous by Mo Farrah. I think I heard a few laughs, though that might have been the sound of me getting my breath back. "Was that the Mobot?" one of the timing guys asked.

My time was a hugely satisfying 1.26:48. The entire way I had run at what for me was a comfortable 10k pace, couldn't have gone a second quicker. I must've lost track of my race position too, as the results had me further up than I thought: 7th. Age group placing? 6th. Damn you, most competitive age group.
Major kudos to the legendary Rich. When I found him a little later, I got to tell him that he'd won his age group.
I had said that if I PB'd I would do the "Lightening Bolt". Marks for effort rather than style perhaps, though I had made a legally binding promise which I had to keep. Wouldn't want to jinx the next race, would I?

Monday, 17 September 2012

Last week's log

Sunday before last was the longest sunday run in the lead-up to the Harvest Half Marathon, 24k, in the highest overall weekly amount of running, 71k. The week just gone is the start of the taper, though still comes in at 64k.
Monday 9.5k
Tuesday weights, balancing, drills
Wednesday 6k hill repeats
Thursday weights, balancing, drills, then hot yoga in the evening
Friday 4x 6 minute tempo intervals
Saturday free weights, balancing, drills, 45 minute bike (in place of 9k run)
Sunday 20.9k morning, hot yoga in the afternoon
The hills are gasping sessions which are doubtless doing my VO2 max a fair bit of good.
Saturday's free weight routine is still a wobble fest, but again is probably working wonders as its so hard, yet a non-impact addition to my week. The hot yoga helps with concentration, though for me and my record-breaking volumes of sweat its greatest benefit might merely be the practice I get at sweating buckets and carrying on regardless.
Without pushing it I did sunday's run in 1.43:30. Add about a minute if I'd done another 200m to complete a half marathon distance. This with hills, traffic lights (twice) and crowds to get around in the park (don't know why they were all there). Legs are rapidly fixing themselves from "peak week" it seems. Is it the yoga as well? Hard for me to tell, though I certainly feel like a stable running platform.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Harvest Half Marathon preview

This will be my 4th Harvest Half Marathon in a row, a streak I'd like to keep going for decades if I can. I've run part of the course every sunday since before my first Harvest Half in 2009, and before even my first race that year. This will be my 8th half overall, and is my favourite race by far. Here's a preview of what to expect for this race.
By the numbers, there are 8 bridges, 3 underpasses, 2 hills of note, and 4 other short but noticeable upward inclines (a few downward ones too). The course runs west to east through Fish Creek Park, book-ended by road sections of 5.5 and 3.5km. If there is any wind at all, it should be in the runners' favour in the park section.
It starts just after sunrise, and I've noticed over the years a tendancy for many runners to overdress. Check the hourly forecast the day before to see how much it will warm up. It makes sense to "dress cold", you should be warm enough later on. I say this as someone who tends to warm up quickly and sweat a lot, but I've still noticed quite a few jackets tied around the waist over the years, so it's one for each individual to ponder.
This guide is generally written for those, like myself, with a time goal in mind.

The first k can change due to construction in the area, but I'll assume it's like last year. It's at about the 1km sign, on a straight stone road after a couple of 90 degree corners and a slight pinchpoint between 2 boulders, that is ideal to settle into race pace and take stock after the manic-ness of the start.
Just after km2, the course passes under MacLeod Trail and the first hill. It doesn't seem that long, though after the right turn it keeps going for a couple of hundred metres. Between that and the entrance to Fish Creek Park at about 5 1/2k, it's either flat or a little uphill. The 3 km prior to the park entrance is about not letting your pace drop too much, with the exception of the initial uphill.
Just after the park entrance, it's a charge downhill before joining the paved pathways. If by km6 you're at your time goal or close to it, it's most likely going to be a good day. The downhill plunges are places to lift the heels up a little more and gain some speed and time. Some of the inclines mentioned above are long enough to require a slight drop in pace, but can be mitigated a little by speeding up a touch just before and carrying some momentum into the slope.
Between park entrance and Sikome Hill at km17, in addition to handling the undulations as mentioned above, it's worth noting that the "flat" parts are actually mildly downhill. In terms of goal race time, you should and also can run quicker than the average pace required over the entire course.
Sikome Hill should be done at the same effort as the rest of the course. 40-60 seconds will be given up here, so you need to be ahead of schedule before you get to it. Start accelerating just as you get to the top, and before the right turn onto the main road (Sun Valley Blvd). It's easy to settle for a slower pace at the top and only gradually pick up speed. There's 3.5km left at this point, so it's time to push with whatever you have left, safe in the knowledge that the "pacing yourself" part of the race is behind you.

Back to me (!). My times for the Harvest Half are:
2009 - 1.38:07
2010 - 1.33:36
2011 - 1.28:01
Last year's time is also my overall half marathon PB, so this year's goal is to better that, whatever the time ends up at. I could push it a little harder in the middle section of the course compared to last year perhaps.

All in all, my advice for any readers is to savour the occasion, put on your best show and enjoy the endorphins of race day and the rush of the finish line :)