Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Harvest Half Marathon

Pastel Shades
My annual walk to the Tech Shop a week prior to the Harvest Half Marathon to pick up my race package: A pleasant showcase of the beauty of autumnal days in Calgary. 
Rich shades of yellow, red, brown and green. 
Crisp blue skies make these colours pop out all the more. 
Foxy trees in weather that is usually cool in the mornings, pleasantly warming up though the day. 

Hazy Shade Of Winter
Except race day. That was a winter tasting menu of high winds and sleet. 

With another half marathon planned for 15 days later, I decided to make it a long hard tempo. Knowing Calgary, October 18 could either be more of the same or I get heat stroke. 
Shorts might have seemed like a crazy decision, though I wasn't alone. I didn't want my legs to get heavy with water. 
A-Chang asked if I was ok with what I was wearing. Once we get started, no problem, I said. 

Down Roads Paved with Star Volunteers 
As we started, my foot took a big slip on the timing mat. 
I pushed quite hard at the beginning towards the hill at km 2 to get the circulation going and my core temp up. 
A nice golf course overlooking Fish Creek Park that no-one but deer seemed to use is being redeveloped. It brought mud onto the road and made 2 metal plates very slippery. A huge thank you to the volunteers who pointed out all the tricky spots. Poor weather makes it doubly hard, so much respect to such badassery. 
Most years, I fling myself down the first hill once in Fish Creek Park. This year I did a kind of rapid tip-toeing, like a drunken ballerina. 
The first bridge being wooden, was slippery as the snow didn't melt on it. Once more, a volunteer gave a warning beforehand. 

I had had a coughing fit for over a kilometre when I dropped one of my bottles. An extra reminder to make it a long hard tempo rather than a hard race. 
After the halfway point, the course opened up with less protection from the side winds. I tried to acknowledge most of the volunteers, I felt bad for them having to be static while being blown around and pelted with sleet. 

Hi 5s & Hills
Just before Sikome Hill, a dog walker hi-fived me..
..and I pointed out a car with a window open. Perhaps that Jetta's a TDI. 
Time on the hill to ham it up for the camera. 
The whoosh of the head wind at the top was no joke. 

Cruise Control 
As I passed police cars old and new, I told myself to "bring it home, gently." 
I'll have whatever the Lululemon cheer squad was having, at least once. Enthusiasm keeps you warm. 
After the race had settled down, I'd only been overtaken twice. I accelerated gently in the final k to maintain position. 
I mimed putting up an umbrella as I rounded the final turn.
A Chang was at a good vantage point to get a glamour shot. 
1:34:17, and 15th place.  
The most hostile weather of my 7 Harvest Halves, though not my slowest one. 
It turns out I was pacing myself to stay just ahead of the battle for winning lady, hugging it out afterward. 

Drying Sheets
I gave a summary on camera in the warm dry gym, but it was muffled by the waterproof case. Probably something about the weather. 
Wet and windy races tend to make for slow times, but good stories. I'm never stuck for something to say about running, but when a race plays the weather card, it's almost impossible to stop. 
Almost, except when there's coffee. While I prefer it dry and sunny, I'll admit that part of me rejoices at defying the weather. 
Here Comes the Sun? A day either side, it was more like this. A run outside one's comfort zone, however, is always a great thing. 

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Confidence and doubt

Harvesting Energy
With the Harvest Half Marathon on the horizon, including package pick-up a week early, I'm getting a mixture of signals.
It's always a little hard for me to read them and answer the same question: what shape am I in? 
Even harder to answer: When will my bum not hurt when I get off the exercise bike? Good cross-training even so.  
Warm conditions here and there for a few runs: I have to remind myself that it's why  this or that run was a little tougher. 
Then there are other days that turn cold and help towards a good workout. Yet, a few jitters creep in - what's that random ache?
Last Long One
I fuelled up well before the key long run, 3 weeks prior to race day. 
25k at 4:25 pace was scheduled, I added in 2 hills for extra bite. 
I kept exactly on pace, except on the gradient. All year, I've attempted to improve my posture. Elbows in, to stop cross-body arm swing; squat down an extra couple of centimetres to get greater power output for the effort put in. 

Hell Fire
Another, slightly bizarre hiccup came from a fire drill at work. 30 floors down and constant right turns seemed to tweak my inner-left thigh. How to avoid this in the future? Either close your office door and hide under your desk, or don't be first out the door and embrace the traffic jam on the stairs. 

Unpredictable Performances
When I set a 5k PB at the Stampede Road Race in July, it was the first time I had felt pretty confident at the startline of getting one. 
However, I have little idea how the Harvest Half is going to turn out. Last year, my legs felt lifeless from the very beginning. At 2013's race, I had nothing left after Sikome Hill at 17.5k. 
And yet in 2012, I wonder what went right when I beat my previous PB by over a minute, finishing with a powerful 10k-pace final kilometre. 7th place in 1:26:48. 

Famous Last Prediction 
I'll force myself to make a prediction: I should finish in 1:27-28. The hardest thing of all to predict is what I'll have left in the final 3.5km after that hill. If there's a surprise in store, I'd love to engage Ludicrous Speed and get a PB. Even better would be to get the AG placing I've long wanted, but it all depends on the right surprises at the right time. 
But, in amongst the swirl of questions and doubts, it's still a beautiful running world.