Monday, June 20, 2011

Vancouver Marathon

I signed up to run this race in May of 2010 when I first heard about it. I figured it would be fun to run an inaugural event and it wouldn't be too far to drive from my house. They were also offering a super early bird special of $45, so I thought that even if something came up and I couldn't run it I wouldn't have lost a lot of money.

Well, that was all way before I decided to sign up for the Beacon Rock 50k. And before I decided to sign up for a Memorial Day trail marathon. Adam and I did end up deciding to stay in town this past weekend - the weather forecast wasn't great and I had work I needed to do - so that opened up the possibility that I could run the event. I went and picked up my packet Saturday morning just to keep the option open as there wouldn't be any day of race packet pickup.

I worked all day on Saturday. I have been dealing with some stomach problems over the last few weeks and was feeling quite lousy all day Saturday. I did a short 4-mile run and felt like I was going to puke for the last 2. We had plans to go out with friends that night to a Peruvian restaurant. I didn't think Peruvian would be great fueling for a marathon but didn't want to cancel at the last minute. We got to eat some very interesting and tasty food -  a marlin cembiche was particularly tasty. However it wasn't quite the carb fest you usually have pre-marathon. I finished off the evening with a bowl of Rice Chex for some carbs just in case I decided to run in the morning.

My plan was to wake up at 4:45 am and see how I felt. If my stomach had settled I would give it a go and if not I would go back to sleep. The alarm went off and since I didn't feel terrible I got out of bed and started to get ready. Didn't take long to get showered, dressed, fed and out the door. I tend to get pretty stressed about parking for events so I wanted to get there early to make sure I didn't have any trouble. A friend was also going to bring me some S-Caps to help with cramping so I needed to meet up with her. I left the house at 5:30 and had slid into a parking place by 5:45. Walked the .2 miles to the Vancouver Hilton which was across the street from the park where the race was starting. Met up with my friend Sarah for the S-Caps and she and I wandered over to the starting area. The race didn't start until 7 so we had plenty of time. They did a great job with the organization. There were plenty of porta-potties (a great sign) and easy gear check.

Sarah and I pre-race.
The race started right on time at 7 a.m. My plan going in to the race was to run it as a training run. My legs were still tired from beacon and I hadn't run a long run on roads in over month. I lined up around the 4 hr pacer. I started off and decided to ignore my watch and run by how my breathing and heart rate felt for the first five miles. Right off the bat I could tell my legs weren't going to be happy. My calves hurt and my inner thigh was still very tender where it had cramped last week.

The course was a bit challenging in that we started off on the road and in less than a mile made a very abrupt 90 degree turn onto sidewalk. This required not only turning but stepping up onto the sidewalk. Naturally this was a constriction point and I spent the next mile trying to find a comfortable pace while working my way around people. We continued this on and off sidewalk pattern for the entire race. There were probably 15 or more 90 degree turns (these are notable as they tend to really slow you down). In addition many of the curbs were tiled with brick. So you would have 4 or 5 steps on brick. It was lightly raining so the brick was slick, and my Crocs don't handle slick well. So I had to slow and lightly walk across these sections.



We started off heading north west towards Vancouver Lake. I don't know Vancouver at all so everything about this course would be new to me. I also didn't look at the course pre-race. Since I was considering this as a training run I figured it didn't really matter - just take it as it comes. The run out to the lake was somewhat boring. For awhile we were on sidewalk and then we were running in the bike lane of the road. After 4 or 5 miles we turned off and ran around a park, and then came back the way we had run out. I was staying pretty close to a group of folks that were running a similar pace, but every time I stopped for a walk break they would get ahead of me and I would try to catch up. As we made the turn back in to town we turned directly into a headwind. I tried to catch the group as I wanted a wind break but I couldn't reel them in. I figured I would expend more energy trying to catch them than simply dealing with the head wind so I stopped trying to catch up. Just after this turnaround there is a short section where you come around a corner so you can see the people that are behind you. It was then that I realized I was ahead of the 3:40 pacer by a few minutes. I had no idea I was on that pace. We were around mile 8 and I checked my watch and noticed I was on an 8:08 pace.

Now that I knew I was running faster I figured I should try to maintain that pace. My goal shifted from training run, to holding the pace until my legs imploded. I ran with another woman between mile 10 and 11.5 and we talked about how neither of us had been training for this pace and we weren't sure what was going to happen. She dropped off the pace at 11.5 for a walk break. I figured I would see her again and I continued with my walk breaks but I didn't. I hit the half in 1:46. Got a bit of an infusion of energy here as we ran back through town. Then right around mile 15 we merged with the half-marathon route. The half-marathon had started at 8:30 so what we were running into was a lot of the people walking the half-marathon. I hit 15 at 2:01 so these half-marathoner were at mile 2 and appx 31 minutes into their race. What this meant was a lot of people dodging without a lot of road to do it in. We were still going between road and sidwalk. There were people walking 4 and 5 abreast and it was very challenging to maneuver your way around them.

We made our way through town and then ran through Ft. Vancouver which was quite pretty. My legs were tired but I figured this was an exercise in pushing through when your legs don't feel like trying to push hard. I knew I could slow down, but I really didn't want to. I was encouraged when I got to mile 16.2 as I knew we were down to the single digits. The next couple of miles I focused on running one mile and then walking for 30 seconds. There was a big hill at mile 19 that took slowed me down (only mile split in the 9's of the race). I realized I was getting crabby so I shoved down and Gu and some water which seemed to perk me up a little bit. I hit 22 in just over 3 hours and I knew if I could just hold even 9 minutes miles I could get a PR. So many of the tight turns came between 20 and 22. They had been forced to reroute the course at the last minute as a couple of miles of it were underwater. I think this is what created a lot of the turning.

I almost ran directly into the most beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog around mile 23 - he was huge! I had to stop to pat him on his ginormous head. Around mile 24 I had a guy pass by me. He said I had been a great pace setter and had been pulling him along for the entire race. He then went ahead of me. I tried to keep up but didn't have a whole lot of speed left. My left foot started to cramp pretty badly at this point. I didn't want to stop so I tried the best I could to spread out my toes and give it some flex. It continued to cramp all the way to the end.

Since mile 8 my watch had been consistently a tenth of a mile off of the mile markers. So I would hit the mile marker and a tenth of a mile later my watch would register that mile.We hit 25 and I tried to find a bit of speed to bring it in to the finish. Then we hit a soul-sucking mini-hill at 25.5. Soon enough I was passing 26 mile marker. My watch was consistent and showing 25.9. So I assumed it was .2 to the finish and started to kick. Something went a bit wonky with their signage at this point b/c according to my Garmin it was another .39 to the finish. I hit their 26 mile marker at 3:33 so I knew I could do .2 in under 2 minutes which would put me under 3:35. Since I crossed in 3:35:25 this stretch was definitely long. I think the .39 is probably pretty close to accurate as I kicked hard for the finish.

Bart Yasso announced my name as I crossed the line which was pretty cool. Someone handed me water and tied a space blanket on me and handed me a medal. I chilled down pretty quickly and started to shiver. I had wanted to hang out at the finish, find some people who probably already had finished and wait for others to finish but I was really cold and my stomach was starting to rebel again. I grabbed my bag from the bag check and headed home.

Overall I'm very happy with the time but the run wasn't a good one for me. It just never felt good. I couldn't get my hydration or nutrition right. I was either thirsty or sloshy, and either hungry or bloated. I never found the running groove that day and frankly I was bored during chunks of it. My iPod did really help pass the time.  My splits were pretty consistent and I was good about taking my walk breaks. I think if I pick a course with less turns, don't do a hard run the week before, and dial in my hydration/nutrition I could meet my goal of 3:30.

Results: 111/798 overall; 21/390 gender; 5/67 division   Overall pace: 8:13

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