Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bluenose 2014 - Half Marathon

Ah is it that time of year again? Yup, this weekend was the Halifax Bluenose Marathon, a tradition in the area for the last 11 years. My wife and I picked up our race kit early on Friday and puttered away the weekend in anticipation of our races (we each ran the half marathon). Pepto Pink shirts this year, and unlike last time, I sized down to get one that actually fit!

So I have been training for this race since December. And I am very glad I started early. Training went very well early on, then occasionally a snag would hit but I would carry right on. In my last 6 week training block, however, things went a bit crazy. I pulled a muscle in my back and couldn't run much. Then recovered but had a persistent leg ache. Nothing that stopped me from running, but something annoying enough to hold me back a bit. And finally I had 2 other races scheduled int he weeks leading up, which really limited my last few long runs. Sigh.

Still, I knew my training went well. I knew I had a good shot at my goal of a sub 1:25 half on a very demanding course. Last year I race a 1:26 and change and I knew I was fitter. Still once you start getting at the faster end of things, the gain don't come easily. But like last year I put my faith in my training system which was developed with heavy input and help from Kinesic Sport Lab and Jeff Zahavich. We use a heart rate based training model, which of course I have blogged about numerous times before. It helps really focus my training and helps prevent injury while training (I of course can injury myself at many other times in my life, ha ha).

Deep down I would have loved to also make up some spots and place in the top 10 for this race, but all those hopes were dashed when the former marathon champ  dropped down to the half and a really fast Kenyan runner popped in as well. All of a sudden slew of really fast guys appeared for a great race. Well, there was always my goal.

The weather turned out to be great. We were a little unsure the day before with a variety of reports and everything from cold to warm to sun to clouds to rain. In the end, the sun was out for the majority of my race with a few cloudy patches to cool things down. Very nice.

I took my place near the front of the race, which is a nice place to start. And very quickly, we were off.

At this point I was still on pace with the Kenyan John. At this point.

I knew that I had to try and avoid the usual start of race crazy pace that I typically have. This was going to be a good strong and smart run on my part. I was basing my pace on the earlier Back to Basics 8 miler I did. In that race I managed a 3:55 pace, and while only 13 km, it was a solid starting point for this half marathon.

Well no sooner did we get around the second corner did I look down at my Garmin and see a pace somewhere near the 3:11 min/km mark. Oh my! By the time I was past Citadel High, I was slowing steadily down but still at a 3:29 pace. It took until I was past the Commons where I was finally slowed enough and now at a 3:53 min/km pace. That would do for now I though, as the leaders were blocks ahead of me and pulling away. Whew!

So it was now stick to the plan and race my race. My Garmin was set to pace and average pace. As I don't stare at it all the time, it is nice to know if my average pace is slipping. Luckily I seemed pretty good as I was passing the early kilometer markers. And pretty soon things started to spread out at the front of the field. A few people passed me, and I passed a few, but eventually I was pretty much alone.

So lonely

I was grabbing a Gatorade on the way by each water stop. For a half I don't really need any food or water, but I do like that little blast of sugar to keep my brain active, and to keep my mouth from drying out. I do wish the cups weren't so full as I probably take in maybe a small sip each time. Seems like a waste, but oh well.

Pace was still good and soon I was approaching the 10km mark. I glanced down, saw that I had about 100-200 meters to go and the time on my watch looked good. So I picked up the pace temporarily, and crossed at sub 39 minutes, 38:47. My first sub 39 minute 10km and right in the middle of the half. Not bad. 

But now the real race began. After the half way point the Bluenose Half Marathon is pretty much up hill. I knew I couldn't push too hard too early on or I would burn myself out. I was zipping through the park and hit the dreaded Serpentine hill. As I started up, I changed to a slightly slower cadence, and used some bigger muscles to power up it. I passed another runner at this point who was struggling. As I hit the top I too was passed. I looked down and saw my pace had slowed far more than I hoped and picked it back up. This new runner was fresher though and even though we ran together for a bit, he eventually too off.

A few more hills and I was approaching the 17km mark. I now was really feeling those lack of long runs over the last few weeks. The first 16 km were easy, now it was just remembering to use good form and not let any little doubts creep into my mind.

You don't realize just how much of a hill South Park is until you start to run up it. And every year I forget that it is in fact actually a decent continuous climb. Followed closely by another climb before a really steep descent towards the finish line. Regardless, everyone else has to run it.

On South Park the runner ahead of me had about a 30 second lead. I never once looked back to see what was going on, after all this was a race against the clock and there was still a decent bit of race to go.

As I turned to corner onto Cogswell, I felt pretty good. I just needed my quads to hold out a little longer. As I approached the halfway point down the hill, a car blew through the intersection almost hitting the nice police officer. As he turned to deal with that situation, another car came through. Oh my I thought. Luckily it all cleared up but I am glad I was 10 seconds faster this year.

It was nice that the downhill section here was separated from the 10K finishers this year. Last year I ran smack into a huge crowd of 10 K runners who were over joyed to be finishing, but not necessarily looking for fast runners barreling down upon them. I loved the luxury of the wide lane I had to myself.

I turned the corner and one more up hill to face as Barrington loomed. But I pushed hard and with 100 meters to go, I dared to glance at my watch and just saw 1:23 on the timer. I pushed and pushed harder and crossed the line in 1:23:52, far better than the 1:25 I had suspected I could run.

A hearty High Five to Myles is as good a finish line picture as I have

So all in all, a pretty good race. A Half Marathon PB by almost 3 minutes. Great weather. Didn't kill myself (though my calves hurt a bit today). Enjoyable finish. What could be better?

Well I lost a bit more time in Point Pleasant Park than I had hoped for. The lack of long runs, as I mentioned, really killed that endurance at the end. So that bodes well for future races were I actually get myself together better.

My heart rate was on par with last years race and I managed close to 7 second a kilometer faster this year, with a sub 4 minute average. My recovery is quite quick as well, which is a great thing. The pictures of my form that I have seen show that my core work is coming along well also. Could Ian run a sub 1:20? I'm not so sure but it is nice to think about.  First things first some Duathlons in June though.

Again a huge thanks to Jeff Zahavich and Kinesic Sport Lab for the help in getting a much more powerful engine in a smart and sustainable way (ie way fewer injuries), Anita Connors for all the physio help and getting me  balanced out, and Luke and the gang at Aerobics First  for taking the time to make sure I got the right pair of ultra fast shoes on my feet with a great fit. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Du # 2 - The Cyclesmith Duathlon 2014

Another week, another duathlon. A run, bike, run event of epic proportions. Okay, let's not go crazy.

Like last year, the Cyclesmith Duathlon was split into 2 separate races, the Olympic distance and the Sprint Distance. And again I opted for the Sprint distance. If I was focusing solely on racing duathlons I might opt for the Olympic distance, but with a Half marathon the next weekend, I decided the recovery time would be too great. So for me, the Sprint distance event with its 5km/20km/2.5km distances seemed perfect.

This year the race was held much earlier than last. And unfortunately the weather out at Lawrencetown Beach was not going to be friendly to us. Well the forecast said a brief early morning shower then gradually climbing temps. In fact what we got was heavy fog, chilly temps that dropped even more as the race start approached and finally rain within minutes of the start. Oh well.

I knew that this week I had to push the first run. I am not nearly as strong as Kevin Besner on the bike, so I would need a decent lead, unlike the week before.

So with some quickly added arm warmers and light gloves I took to the start line. A little friendly banter and we were off.

I started out a little on the fast side at well under a 3 min/km pace. As I knew that was crazy, I started to ease back a bit, but I also wanted to keep the pace as high as I could for as long as I could to keep ahead of my competitors.

I reached the turn around and headed back with a bit of a lead. IT was hurting a bit, but I pushed as best as I could and crossed the line at 17:41. The first run may have been a bit short, but I think I still pulled off a PB with a sub 18 min 5km. I was first at this point. Then to the bike.

Quickly on with the helmet, I rushed to the mount line and popped onto my bike and off I went. This is a hilly course, but I pushed through as fast as I could doing my best to stay ahead of Kevin. But while the run course was a little short, the bike was a little long at closer to 22km rather than 20. I had hoped to make it to the turn around point still in the lead but alas Kevin passed me just past the 8km point, and while I pushed to stay with him, he built a decent lead heading into the final run.

I hit T2 while Kevin was off and running. My combined time for T1/Bike/T2 was 37:59. Not bad, but not good enough it would seem.

Bike racked, helmet off, fancy running shoes on and off I ran. But teh bike course and first run had taken its toll. While my initial pace was decent at sub 4 min/km, I quickly start to slow down and while I was catching Kevin a bit, sadly I wasn't catching him fast enough. And with only 2.5km to work with, I was now relegated to second place. But don't rest yet Ian, there are other racers!

So I pushed through, and crossed the line at 1:05:31. Kevin beat me by just over 1 minute. I held second place with more than a 2 minute gap. My second run was 9:47. So I did manage to hold a sub 4 min paced run afterall.
Okay, so we apparently had to stage a photo finish as I ran too quickly for the camera.

Second place this year. I had hoped for the win, but the faster man took that prize. I am happy to see my run speed growing, but my cycling speed seems to not be growing as much. But these are the trade offs right. The ability to get faster comes through hard work and it is best to focus that hard work. Still, a good race, regardless of the weather.

Oh and the food at the end? Yum.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Let the Du's Begin! Benny Bulldog Duathlon 2014

I love me a good Duathlon. Some may see them as races for triathletes that can't or don't swim. But that saddens me. These are there own awesome form of multisport. Running, then switching to the bike, then switching back to the run again. Whew, makes me tired just typing it down. These events take a lot of grunt, grit, endurance and hatred of your legs. Anyway, the first Du of the season has just passed by, the 4th almost annual Benny Bulldog Sprint Duathlon, a fundraiser for a local girls running group called Girls Gone Gazelle.

This year do to road conditions, the bike portion was cut down from 28ish km to 24.5ish km. in length. The runs stayed the same at 4ish km in length of pretty flat crusher dust trail.

So I awoke to see a sort of decent sky. The forecast had been mentioning rain leading up to the event and I was not looking forward to that. It was still chilly and I had packed my bag the night before with about 40 versions of my duathlon outfit. I really had no idea what I was going to wear, but I would be there early enough to make any changes I had to.

I racked my bike, and chatted with many of the familiar faces. I opted for a shoes premounted to the bike kind of race. So those were in place. And I decided now was the time to try out the new New Balance 1400's in race conditions. So light, so fast, so yellow.

Not my actual shoe

I also had put in place my new Xtenex laces. With only one real run in them, it was interested to see how well they would hold up. (Hint: they held up fine).

A mere moments from race start and the sun started to break. I decided to keep my arm warmers on at this point, though I opted to remove my gloves. Luckily I was wearing a bike jersey, so I placed them in my back pockets, just in case the bike ride was going to be frigid. 

 The 49 of us hardy competitors lined up for some last minute instructions. Garmins and Polars were beeping as they locked into satellites. Then we were off.

I had been fighting a pulled muscle in my back over the last 2 weeks that had lead to not a whole lot of training runs. And the morning off, there was still a bit of a twinge. I had no real idea how well things would hold up. I also had no idea, 1: What my speed would be like, 2: What my endurance would be like. But I did know that there was a lot of fast people around me, both runners and cyclists. I knew that to be even considered in contention I would ave to push hard in the first run. So I did.

As one runner took off way in the distance, I quickly settled in second spot. My sense of pace was off so I had to rely on my Garmin to help me a bit. It was obliging. My pacing was a bit all over the map (well within 10 seconds here or there), but I held position.

I came into T1 still in second place with a run time of 15:17 for the 4km run. That felt nice. And it wasn't a maximum effort either, which is also good to know.  One of these Benny's I'll dip below 15 minutes on that first run.

Helmet on, arm warmers ripped off, bike in hand I ran to the mount line. Quickly up on the bike I went and off I rode.

The first place rider was way ahead and I couldn't even see him at this point. But I rode on, pushing the pace as best as I could.

Within a few minutes I was passed for second though as Kevin Besner rode by. Turns out he was on my tail in the first run (good for him, that was fast), and I would never pass him back (well I should have put spoiler alert there, sorry). After a few more kilometers, I was passed by another rider, Nick. He was flying on that bike.

So here I was in fourth, not at the turn around for the bike and I dared a look back. No one there. Whew. And I could finally see another rider up ahead. It was Graeme, the uber fast runner. I was reeling him in. With about 2 km before the turn around I passed him to take back third place. I made the turn and was headed back.

With about 5 km to go, I was caught by another rider. This time, though, I knew I would be able to stay with this guy. I watched as he was pushing really hard to stay ahead of me, his legs shaking a bit. Our pace was still fine and at the top end of my comfortably hard zone, so I stayed put. He pulled away slightly as we headed to T2.

 Not my actual bike

I flew off the bike, ran into tranisiton, and made a very quick change. Those Xtenex laces I mentioned made slipping back into my shoes a breeze. Then I was off.

Within the first 0.5 km I passed the third place guy and took off. I pushed as best as I could and right before the turn around saw first and second running back. That kind of lead was not going to be over come on my legs, as the lack of endurance from my lay off was starting to set in.

As I made the turn around I came across 4th and 5th place. Graeme was making some good headway with his uber speed and I realized I need to push as hard as I could. Finally with less than 1 km to go I looked back and Graeme was closing in. I found that tiny bit extra in the legs and ran across the finish line in third.

I'd lie about my time, but uh.....

Seven seconds ahead of 4th place at the end. Whew.

A good race overall. Not unhappy with my placing. Glad to know some speed is still in the legs, now to get some endurance back. And speaking of backs, mine is doing much better. Which is also very nice.

By the end I had the second fastest runs in both legs and the 4th fastest bike leg. Against this tough group, that is pretty nice.

Huge thanks to Luke and Andrew at Aerobics First for humouring me while we tried on 10 pairs of shoes to find the right ones. Those NB 1400's are very fast.

Huge thanks to Sheldon  at Sportwheels for helping me get my bike all tuned up and ready to race. 

Thursday is massage day to get any lingering kinks out of the system. 

Oh and the Friday before the race, I donated plasma. It really should have no affect on your fitness level for more than a few hours. So if you are on the fence and worried it might affect race performance, it really doesn't (while blood does which is different). 

Hopefully we raised some good funds for Girls Gone Gazelle.