I have to say this was the most nervous I've ever been going into any race. My ITB was acting up a few weeks out from race day, which is exactly what had happened prior to Vancouver 2011 (serious ITB freeze up to the point of almost not being able to walk). While last year was my first marathon and I didn't treat the condition seriously, this year I got to physio right away for several sessions, modified my training and did more stretching at home. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, it never fully calmed down and was still lingering on race morning.
While I'd only ran two marathons up to this point, I already had some hard won lessons to incorporate into my race preparation. Dealing with injuries promptly was one, fuelling well was another, but most importantly was pacing. The last 10-12kms ofVictoria Marathon 2011 were the hardest kms I've ever logged.
I really wanted a 3:35 finish this time and was getting in the headspace in the week prior, but I knew if my knee wasn't 100% it was going to be a long shot. Other than injuries my training had been going well and my recent half marathon PB indicated it shouldn't be an unreasonable goal.
I got to the race about an hour early and watched as a couple of waves of half marathoners went out. Started to meet up and chat with several clinic folk, encouraged each other and tried to calm nerves. Barry was pace bunny for the 3:40 group so I tracked him down early. I knew he would be running 10 & 1's but I wanted to run, roughly, 20 & 1's so I figured if I could at least play leap frog with his group for a bit it would help me stay on track.
When the gun went off I eased on to the course and made a conscious effort to lay back and feel almost overly slow. I knew if I ran straight through it would be 5:05 kms and accounting for 20 & 1's would require a slightly quicker pace, but not by much. I'm not sure what my actual first km was as I missed the first marker but it felt slow so I figured it was probably still too fast. As a couple more kms went by I noticed I was logging closer to 4:45's and really tried to reign it in.
By about 5km the ITB already started to tighten up, but fortunately it remained more of a constant discomfort than a full blown pain. Most of the first 10km was, as expected, a blur. I felt relaxed, and even Camosun hill felt, dare I say it?, easy. First 10km, pace band matched almost perfectly. Check.
The next section heading towards UBC and the halfway point are somewhat hazy in my mind, owing to the fact, I think, that they were actually fairly comfortable kms, other than the knee pain that I was semi-successfully ignoring. I remember the slight hill going down from 16th merging on to SW Marine Drive being the first hint of any real knee pain. (On the one hand, it certainly helped to keep my pace in check, on the other, that's probably where I could've comfortably made up a few seconds without overdoing it). The UBC hill was the nemesis I was expecting, and true to ITB's wily ways it was uncomfortable, even painful at times. To top it off, a new pain, this time in my hip on the same side, kicked in. Whoo! Oh the fun we have.
I'd never done it before, but I decided the night before the race to bring along an Ibuprofen "just in case", and am I ever glad I did. I took one at the halfway mark and it really helped to calm things down to a dull roar. By this point I was, somewhat surprisingly, still tracking well for a 3:35 finish. I had been leap frogging the 3:35 pace bunny for much of the race. (Of note, by this time and earlier in VIM last year I was already hitting the wall and I had been experiencing no injuries at all).
I can only go by the fact that I don't remember much about the next section of the course, other than the awesome folks along the side cheering us on, that I was still moving reasonably well. (It was also great to see friendly faces all along the route, and sometimes multiple times, like Alan, Andrea, Jason, & Michael). I was walking for usually no more than 20-30 seconds at about every 2nd water station, drinking some, throwing some over my head. It wasn't until almost the Burrard bridge that I started to feel fatigue setting in. It was a pretty familiar route at this point, and even though I knew the bridge was coming up it was the last long and winding 10-12km around Stanley Park that were daunting me. (this may also be some psychological prep and toughness I need to work on, but I digress).
As I started to climb the bridge I knew I hadn't taken a walk break for a bit. I was feeling not terrible but figured it would be as good a time as any to walk. This is where Barry and his 3:40 group passed me. I knew I was starting to lag a bit in the last few km's but this was a kick in the pants to try and kick it up again. I tried to keep up with them for a couple kms but by this point I was hitting the wall and the extra 10 & 1 pacing was a bit too much to handle.
These were the expected hard miles, and certainly there were times where I was ready to just call it a day and jump in the water that looked so cool and refreshing. The west side of the park was so nice and shady that I took some time to walk out a full minute, and when I started up again I dropped my pace wayyy back. I actually felt great for several km's at this pace but then somewhere around Lumberman's Arch the 3:45 pace group went past me, so again, I tried to hold pace for a bit. I had to drop them as well, but just tried to keep up a regular running/walking pace.
I don't recall if I walked at all from the Rowing Club onward, but I know for a fact that I ran it straight through to the finish once I hit Denman. (Oddly, it was the thought of bananas at the finish line that really motivated me). The last stretch was tough but I was actually surprised I still had something left. The cheering crowds along the way really helped, so much positive energy. Even knowing the area well Burrard seemed a long ways yet to go. I remember rounding the corner and "somewhat" sprinting to the finish.
Conclusion: While I didn't get the finish time I wanted, I actually ran a better marathon in terms of overall pacing and planning. The ITB was certainly part of the problem in not getting my goal time, but I think I also need to get more kms in overall as well as work on the psychology of racing. When it gets tough I really need to be able to kick my own ass better (maybe that requires yoga and/or contortionist training, I'm not sure).
Either way, it was great day all round and I was also really excited to see so many ofGreg's clinic members complete their first ever marathons!