Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bluenose Half Marathon 2017

So last year I focused on trying to improve my speed after having failed to better my Half Marathon time at the Bluenose. I tried and failed, running 1 minute slower than the previous year. So I entered the Bluenose 10km race and hoped that a focus on that distance for 2016 would propel my speed forward. What it did was get me hurt. I pushed too hard, harder than what my body was capable of sustaining, totally my fault and I should have known better. But then, that's why having a coach or mentor or running friend with a cool head can be such as asset. They tell us when too much is too much. I bounced back form injury last year to have some great results, but not the one I really wanted, a sub 37 min 10km. I did win my age group at Bluenose and finish in the top 10, and with no running for almost 3 weeks manage a 37:40ish 10km. So I wasn't totally unhappy.

Lessons learned and this year I opted to go back to the Half. That 1:23:53 of years ago was still holding on, and my age wasn't going down. So I knew that I had to find that speed sooner rather than try for it later. I spent this winter with a run heavy focus. Yes, cycling was still a key part of my training but I ramped up my weekly mileage to 50+ km each week, generally in the 60+ km category. For me that is big mileage, as all of my running is heavily focused. I need lots of rest between sessions.

Another key focus on my training was strength sessions. I have done these before and preach them to whoever listens. But now I was even more focused on getting them done. I also was proactive in my recovery, seeing my Chiropractor Alan from Seaside Chiropractic monthly. He was great at cleaning up overused muscles and adhesions as well as pointing out when new issues seemed to be on the rise.

My use of heart rate training has continued, though now my ability to "feel" the right zones has increased as I have so much more experience. And while I have tried to use the Dr Daniels VDOT system in the past, this year I focused heavily on it (even becoming a certified VDOT coach). Oh and hills, so many hills.

So that preamble leads to the race itself. Sorry about that, but this is a text heavy blog post.

So I was ready, I was well trained, I was rested, I was strong. I knew I could beat that PB this year, I knew I had it in me. My choice of race attire was even selected with maximum speed in mind. Heck, I even took off the heart rate monitor for race day to save previous ounces.  Then came the Saturday before the race.

I awoke, ready for what was going to be an easy day. Walk the dog, watch a show, lay out my clothes, and do nothing else. Instead I found I had picked up a stomach bug. It seemed pretty mild, so I assumed some rest and watching my diet for the day would be enough. But as the day went on, it got worse. I was not feeling up to par for sure. I won't get into all the aspects of it, but basically I wasn't able to eat or drink very much without being totally uncomfortable. So I nibbled a little and sipped some water, but that was it. By the time I went to bed, I was seriously considering pulling out of the race.

When I awoke I didn't feel much better. I had a little bit of oatmeal and a few sips of water, I doubt that stayed in the system very long. I took some medication and drove to race start (my wife was racing as well). I waited in my race attire, near race start for an hour, finally wandering over with a few minutes to spare before race start. Oh well, I thought, either I make it or I don't.

Then we were off.

Within the first few kilometers I picked and held a decent pace. My cardio was feeling fine. My muscles were already tight.  I ran through the first water stop. By 5 km I felt like I needed to stop for fresh legs already 

Though apparently I looked like this, which seemed okay.

So by this point the race seemed to have settled a bit. The lead runner, Johana, from Kenya was well off the front, and ahead of me was a decent sized pack of runners. I was alone in 8th, but still hoping to grab my main goal of a sub 1:23 time, so placing didn't matter much.

The first half of the Bluenose half Marathon is downhill. Normally I suggest watching yourself and not burning the the first half of any race, but in this case you really need to take advantage of the free speed. To this end, I had not only focused much of my training on climbing hills, but also running down them. I feel like I became much better at it and had so much more control, limiting the use of my quads. By the time I crossed the 10km mark I was running at a 3:44 min/km avg pace and had a time of 37:23. That was over a minute faster than my previous best half marathon time by this point. And my breathing was fine as well, though my legs and belly still felt less than happy and I had passed through all water stops without taking anything on. I had also fallen to 9th place.

After 10 km, it is time to climb. We started up Inglis, then hit Young Ave, which is always great as it is the party street. Loads of support and cheering. Then into Point Pleasant Park. I new I would lose time here as it is a lot of climbing and crusher dust trails are usually a little slower. But I had planned for this. I watched my pace as best as I could, picking it up when I could and then easing into the hills. Another runner passed me and I used this as a chance to draft for a bit, tucking in and pacing off of him. As we hit the exit of the Park, he took off, but I feel like that really helped a lot.

Now for the worst part of the race, in my mind. a couple of kilometers of twitsy turning, bit with steep hills. It is really hard to get a good feel in this section, but I survived, and hit Young Ave again with a good avg pace of 3:50 min/km.  As I crossed the 18 km sign I looked down and did the math. I needed to average only 4 min/km to achieve my goal over the next 3 kilometers. That was good. I could do that.

Of course I looked like this. Not the greatest. Clutched tightly in that fist was a gel that I just refused to use.

As we hit the final kilometer and a half, I caught one runner, the guy who had passed me way back before the 10km mark, he was slowing and I was finding that last little bit of whatever was left. Then I caught and passed another runner, who had been with the fast pack from the start. But again, this wasn't about placing, so I didn't care about race tactics and having them jump on for a tow. I just picked up and ran.

As I hit the downhill portion before the finish I picked up the effort, then the 400 meter uphill climb to the finish reminded me of all those hills sessions I did and hills I threw in at the end of a long run. I pushed through with avg pace for that final kilometer of 3:35. I crossed the line in 1:21:40 officially, best my previous record on this tough course by 2 min and 13 sec. As I slowed I knew I had nothing left. I staggered a bit, a volunteer helped me get some water and over to the curb, where I sat for a bit then found enough to get up and indoors.

The overall pace average was 3:52 min/km, my finishing place was 8th overall and my AG placing was 2nd.

The weather on the day was sunny, cloudless and windy. Big gusts that were face on for the final 5 km. But the temp was perfect. I got hot, but that was fine. I found every reserve of energy ,my body had built up in training and used it (so yeah, you can race a half marathon well without food or water). I practiced all of this in training anyway. My plan worked, and even sick I pulled out something special for me.  Now I also know there is more in there. A good rest and I will begin a new plan, with an attempt at a Fall half. 

Thanks to all my support, the BLT Runners, Aerobics First, Seaside Chiropractic, Kinesic Sports Lab, and Elizabeth. Also thanks Craig at the start line for saying, "oh your tough, you can do it." 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

MEC Race #2 - Citadel Highlander April 30, 2017

So I'm a little late getting to this blog post, but I was a little busy, so you'll have to excuse me.

This has been a Spring classic race in Halifax for at least 6 years (maybe 7?) and I have been at all of them with a decent bit of success.

Now while it is a fixture race, due to circumstances with using a Historic Fort for a run means that the route has frequently been adapted over the years. Some years a little long, some short. I won last year with a good run that ultimately kicked off a spat with my Achilles. So this year I entered much stronger.

I entered the 5km race and right away knew it would be tough with a couple of strong competitors lined up with me. The sun was strong and warm, but the wind was fierce making things overall quite cool. Still, I opted for shorts.

We all lined up (including the 10km race) and were soon off.

I tucked in behind Drew, as he was doing the 10km race, and while  he is usually a little faster then me, I knew he would be pushing more of a 10km pace, which I hoped would be a good start for the 5km until I saw what others were doing. This proved to be fun as he lead us to a first kilometer in 3:36. Oops. That included a pretty decent hill climb. I was able to hang on though.

I got to around the half way point in second place but then let another 10km racer through and finally had to succumb to the power of Chad as he pushed into 1st in the 5 km race. At this point it was stay with Chad and see what happens. I stayed right on him until we reentered the fort, which required going through tunnels and stairs, eventually jumping a pile of sand bags and running through a wet grass moat. By the end of this Chad had formed a slight gap.

We exited the fort for one final lap around the outside before a kick to the finish. This was about 500m of steep down then steep up. Chad kicked early and I knew that I was just holding on at this point.  He finished ahead and took the win, I followed pretty closely and finished second in a  time of 18:55 and a distance of 5km. Las year's time was much faster but I think it was a couple of hundred meter short. 

I was very happy with my performance. I pushed at the right times, likely went out a bit hard but had to follow the way the race unfolded and ultimately felt god after a quick recovery. A few sore muscles over the following days have been very minor, which I tink shows that my hill sessions hve been doing their job of building my strength.

Here is my heart rate graph. A sharp spike to start, then a gradual climb. I like that it shows I pushed just as hard on the downhills, which are long enough here to recover if you want. And a little kick at the end to beat the clock.

Speed sessions and hill sessions this year have done well to keep me strong, chiro and physio session have kept me healthy. All together this has been a successful training year so far.

Next up is the Bluenose half. So a couple of weeks of specific race training and we will see where we are at.