Sunday, 12 May 2013

Race Report: BMO Vancouver Marathon 2013

Short version: Despite it being a really warm day everything came together nicely. Training was consistent. No injuries. No virus’ on race week. Tapered, carb-loaded and rested well. Planned my race and raced my plan. Aiming for 3:20 but still managed new personal best of 3:24:37, taking nearly 4 minutes off my previous PB.

Chip: 3:24:37
Place Overall: 280 out of 3978
Men: 237 out of 2813
M 40-44: 30 out of 430

Shoes: Brooks Pure Flow 2
Gels: Vega Orange Zest / Raspberry

Read on if you want the full wordy experience.

When I ran Portland Marathon last fall, I finally managed the elusive sub-3:30 that I’d been striving for. The advice and experience I’d been accumulating was starting to click and it bolstered my confidence. After Portland I felt my training was getting stronger and more consistent, so with a 3:27:58 as my PB I set my sights on a 3:20 for Vancouver.
(Ultimately I’d like to race my BQ which is 3:15, but being that I’d only broken 3:30 once so far I figured it would be better to set a more modest target.)

I was excited for this race for another reason, too. This was my first group of marathon clinic runners, having signed up to lead the clinic out of the Broadway Running Room in January. I had a great group of dedicated runners who put their hearts into training and quite a few of them were running their first ever marathon. (No doubt this added pressure on me to perform well too, to see whether clinic leader took his own advice!)

This was one of those races where things really clicked. Of course, you couldn’t do anything about the weather that was about 10 degrees warmer than what we had trained in, apparently being the warmest Vancouver International Marathon on record. Beyond that, though, I got through training with no serious injuries (briefly had some tight calves that a couple sessions of physio cleared right up), carb-loaded intensely for a couple days leading up to the race, didn’t catch a virus, tapered and was well-rested for race day.

I was restless most of the week leading up to the race as usual, but still managed to sleep pretty well. Woke up Saturday morning feeling good and fueled up with my green smoothie and steel cut oats.

Leah dropped me at the starting line just as the first waves of half marathoners were heading out. I had worn an old race shirt over my race gear but found I had to ditch it right away as it was already feeling warm at 7:30 in the morning.

I soon met up with Mathew and Jan as we headed for our corral in the first wave. We eased up to the start line as they called the elites to the front (not us, by the way). By this point my race jitters were squarely focused on the race. Time to trust my training and race my plan.

At 8am we were off! I like that there's a bit of an incline as the race starts, heading out on Midlothian and then turning up 49th Ave., as it keeps my pace cooled off the start so I can ease into the race. I was aiming for a 3:20 finish so I had to keep up 4:45 km's. Despite best efforts, I knew I'd gain a few seconds going down 49th ave, but I'd also need a bit of that padding for the slog up Camosun Hill (about one kilometre of climbing).

Mathew and I raced most of this section together but I as I attempted to hold back my pace he soon disappeared ahead.

It was nice to have so much experience training on this course, knowing what to expect from Camosun Hill especially. A kid on the side of the road had his garden hose out and it felt great to get a spray as it was already warming up even before 9am. The local radio sponsor was, appropriately, playing Highway to Hell for this section (which, from what I understand was on repeat play. The neighbours must've loved that).

Still felt great heading up Imperial to 16th Ave. I didn't actually get rid of my gloves until this point, partly because I was stocking a couple gels in them, but once I downed my second gel it was time to lose 'em. We hit the short out & back at Blanca and I saw Jan & Mathew looking good coming back toward me. As I was heading back to 16th I noticed Barry and his 3:40 bunnies on the other side so figured I might be being a bit too casual on my pace and picked it up (turns out by my Garmin log there were a few of my slower km's that I probably could've picked up a touch). Getting back onto 16th where it flattened out and started to drop a bit I was feeling good and picked up the pace a touch.

I found Mathew again just before we hit the nice shaded area around the UBC campus heading towards the hill headed down to Jericho. We chatted a bit and I pulled ahead as the cool shade and slight downhill bolstered me. UBC hill felt surprisingly good (last year having had some hip and ITB issues). I chatted with a guy from Tacoma who was suitably impressed with our fine city and amazing course on such a beautiful day.

There was a great crowd around Jericho as we hit the halfway mark. It's a bit of a tough section that's quite flat and open to the sun, just before you climb again up to 4th Avenue. Around this time is where at every aid station half the water in my cup would go in my mouth and the other half over my head. Sometimes grabbing a couple cups if I hit the station early enough.

It was great seeing familiar faces along these stretches, sometimes multiple times (thanks Kris, Brian, Grace, David, Brad, et al!). Overall there were great crowds of support along the route.

Along 4th to Highbury to Point Grey Road heading towards Burrard Street Bridge, feeling tired but in the zone. Here’s where I had the first moments of fighting my brain that really wanted to walk up the bridge but I persisted. (I recall Barry's 3:40 bunnies passing me on this section last year as I struggled with "the bonk"). Always nice to get to the back side of the bridge and let gravity take over for a bit as we head on to Beach and Pacific.

Down to the Seawall and nearing 32km, where all the training and hard km’s really come into play. Last year the wheels completely came off the wagon at this point but it’s amazing the difference a year of training and experience will do. The north/west side of Stanley Park was shaded nicely and is a definite boost coming into the last 10km’s.

I struggled through the last km’s as always and it was getting really warm, feeling the feet starting to heat up. Around the marina and to the crowds as we exited the park and headed towards the finish line. It was nice to be able to see the finish line this year (even if it did still feel like it was a mirage miles away!), and the crowd support was amazing as I made it across the finish line.

Pain face

It’s always amazing to finally get across the line but it was also great to see a bunch of my marathon clinic participants finish strong and see that familiar look of pain and elation that comes from finishing your first marathon. Congrats everyone!  

Be sure to also check out Greg's race report.

Chip: 3:24:37
Place Overall: 280 out of 3978
Men: 237 out of 2813
M 40-44: 30 out of 430

Shoes: Brooks Pure Flow 2
Gels: Vega Orange Zest / Raspberry

Crazy from the heat

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