Saturday, 10 May 2014

Race Report: BMO Vancouver Marathon 2014

Chip Time - 3:04:17
Overall - 110/4933
M 45-49 - 9/369
M - 97/2816
Shoes - Brooks Pure Connect 2

Even though I officially BQ'd (Boston Qualified) last year, this race is a breakthrough for me. My BQ was actually somewhat anticlimactic as Greg pointed out some time after BMO last year that I would be a year older in 2014 and thus meet the 45-49 3:25 qualifying time.

I had high hopes for this race, having had some great results in other distances this year, as well as it being my home course. A couple of weeks out, just as we were heading into taper mode, I managed to strain my hamstring. This made for one of my more grumpy tapers. It wasn't terrible but enough to be uncomfortable. I got to Treloar Physio right away for a few sessions and it settled down a bit. My 16km a week out was a still little achey and sore so I took the Wednesday 10k off. By Friday I did an 8k shake out run that was hot/muggy and my leg still wasn't feeling great.

I slept in late on Saturday morning but, not surprisingly had a terrible sleep on Saturday night. To top it off I started to feel a scratchiness in my throat on the Saturday before the race, which I wrote-off to taper-hypochondria.

The weather was super clear and getting warm in the week leading up but the forecast showed it cooling with rain for race day. As nice as the weather was for last year's race, it was the hottest on record and definitely slowed everyone down.

The rain started in earnest on Saturday night and I could hear it pouring throughout my restless sleep. Careful what you wish for.

Leah dropped me off at the starting line around 7:30am in the pouring rain. I had my garbage bag over me and sought out the covered spaces near the buildings. The rain seemed to slow to a drizzle about 15 minutes before the start so I shed my garbage bag and extra t-shirt… had a gel, and as we started moving to the front in our corals again the rain came pouring down.

Not long and then we were off. My feet were wet and I was a little chilled getting moving. I saw the 3:15 pace bunny just ahead as we were heading up Cambie and kept close. He was moving much quicker than a 3:15 pace but it was good to have a group around to start as I was warming up.

I eased into my pace (a little quick) and, surprisingly, after the week of taper doldrums and worry I was starting to feel pretty good. We turned on to 49th and I tried to be aware not to get caught up in the momentum. I knew I was going to get some speed heading down 49th and held myself back as best as possible. At around 7 or 8k I overheard a guy I was following ask if those around him were aiming for 3:05 as well. hmm? Maybe.

I took my first gel at 7k shortly before Camosun and felt great as I got to the hill. I knew I had a bit of padding time from the run down 49th so pulled back a bit and didn't try to overdo the hill. (I was a little disappointed the local radio station wasn't playing Highway to Hell on repeat this year). Another bit of a climb on Imperial and left onto 16th. I decided to take another gel at 12k, 5k past the first one, and kept up a schedule of a gel every 5k for the rest of the race. (I mixed up my gels this year to keep it interesting, 2 Vega, 3 PowerGel, 2 Hammer Gel plus an extra PowerGel they gave out on course).

From 12k to 16k I was keeping some good pacing, all under 4:20 (even snuck in a 4:11 which was probably the hill down to the turn on to Marine). It was great to catch a glimpse of Greg 2.0 on the out & back on Blanca and he was looking strong, pretty close to the 3:15 crew.

From 17k to 21k there was a fairly steady group of 4 or 5 of us pacing steady and alternating leads. I remember hitting some wind along the early part of this section and consciously drafting a bit. Down UBC hill and pick up some speed with a 4:07 but legs were feeling great. I was little worried the downhill sections might aggravate the hamstring but it was all good. Along Jericho I was pleased to cross the halfway at 1:31, well on pace if a little quicker than I expected. I had a rough goal time of 1:35 being a split for a 3:10 race, so either I was going to get in quicker if it went well or I had a bit of padding if it didn't. The crowd was large and the cheering loud along this section.

23k to 30k up the hill out of Jericho, left on to 4th down to Highbury, where there were more cheering sections. Along Pt Grey Rd, on to Cornwall, and then that sneaky left on to Arbutus for the little hill and Vanier Point section. I remember thinking at this point that I was still feeling good, not struggling, breathing easy. My hips and quads were starting to get a little tired but not bad.

30k to 37k Over the Burrard Bridge, I know this section so well from all the training runs across. I ran it well and even passed a few runners. Over the other side, nice boost down the bridge, and then along Pacific. A great cheering squad with the awesome Solana & Jay at 32k just before heading down on the seawall around the park for the final 10k, where I kept some nice steady pacing, again being so used to running this route. I noticed I was getting a bit of a blister on my right foot big toe, probably from the wet shoes at the start of the race.

32k heading on to seawall - Photo by Jay Klassen

I was feeling good so I made a point of counting the runners I passed. (This was also a great distraction). It's a long and winding road around the park but on this day I never felt like it was overwhelming. I was just watching the km markers countdown. Around the lighthouse where you hit a blast of cold wind and rain and had to hold on to my hat.

I knew I had paced well heading into the final 5k as I was still able to hold pace pretty well, with 38 & 39k being slightly slower but bringing it back to a 4:20/km and even 4:16 at the 40 & 41k marks.

Final stretch! - Photo by Leah
It felt fantastic to see the finish line and to my surprise still have quite a lot of crowd out in the rain to cheer us all on to the finish. It was also fun seeing Kristine, Melissa & Emma handing out medals and getting finish line hugs!

Kristine handing out medals - Photo from BMO Marathon Facebook
I was definitely sore wandering around the finish line in the damp weather, but I wanted to hang around as long as possible to see many of my running clinic members and pace bunnies cross the line. (I did miss one of the usual gang cross the line, as Jan smoked the course in a blazing 2:50) It was pretty cool seeing all the familiar faces and even chatting with lots of new folks. Melissa managed to track down a plastic bag for me to wrap around while I was waiting, but after about an  hour my lips were getting a little blue so decided to go track down Leah at our meeting point (that included a very large coffee!).

All in all, I couldn't be happier with this race. There was lots of great cheering en route, even in spite of the rain, amazing volunteers, and I was trained well and executed a good race. I now look forward to working towards my first 50 miler in July and then attempting to break 3 hours!

Me and long time friend and musical collaborator, Aaron,
after running his first marathon in under 4 hours! 

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