Archive for the ‘Races’ Category

1 Weekend, 2 Personal Bests…

Quick summary: Saturday morning, OPG 5km run, won it again somehow, drove to Ottawa right afterwards.  Sunday morning, Army 1/2 marathon, set new personal best for the half.  Awesome weather all around!

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Not so short version:

I signed up for my company 5km run at the last minute, thinking that it was ludicrous to run both the 5km and half marathon back-to-back on the same weekend.  I had signed up for the Army run months ago, and I’d be wasting my money because my time would undoubtedly be affected.  Or would it?  My well-experienced colleague says that it’s fine to do a high intensity run beforehand, just so long as it’s not an endurance run.

This turned out to be a very busy weekend indeed.

With our team speed training in my pocket, I felt confident about running a 5km distance, especially knowing that most of the competitive runners were doing the 10km distance.  When I got to the Sunnybrook Park start line on Saturday morning, I recognized many familiar faces from the combined Hydro companies.  Especially that of the girl who came in 2nd place behind me last year, and it was a very close second.  This year I had my work cut out for me, as she was indeed older now, and still about half my age.

We were off!  I strangely managed to lead the entire pack for a good distance, short of a kilometer.  I remember that I did the exact same thing the first time I ran this race, but I quickly faded within 30 seconds.  Thank goodness it was different this time.

The 5km people turn around at a 3km checkpoint whereas the 10km runners continue on.  Yes, I was the first one to turn around!  I saw the girl when I did the complete 180 turnaround and I was probably 15-20 seconds ahead.  I had trouble downing the water from the cups, and I probably lost a few seconds there.

From the checkpoint there was only 2km to go, yet I was feeling oddly aloof.  I bee lined towards the finish line feeling strong, and as I kept checking over my shoulder, I saw that she wasn’t really gaining on me.

1km to go.  Still, she was still a fair distance from me, so I started to slow down.  In the back of my mind, I knew that I still had my run tomorrow, so I didn’t want to overdo it.  As the finish line came into sight, I simply coasted across the finish line, but strangely enough, the clock timer was showing a stuck time of precisely 20:00 minutes!  Doh!

This OPG/Hydro One Fun Run is a very well funded race, especially because they ask for absolutely no participation fees.  We had chip timing for the first time ever this year, food and prizes for everyone, medals and trophies for the winners, and even draw prizes.  I guess their timer was just bugging out.  It started to work a little while after.

The girl came from behind me soon after and we exchanged pleasantries.  She stop watched her own time and said that she came in at 19:53, so I guess that I came in a little before that.  Wow!  Under 20 minutes.  I didn’t think that was possible for me.  My legs started to feel really tired at 3.5km.

As much as I wanted to stay for the awards ceremony, I had plans for dim sum with my parents and fiance, who came to support me for the race.  Then it was off to Ottawa almost immediately.

Hints for a better 5km:

  • More high-energy tempo runs between 3-5km will help with getting the legs used to it.

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Army run race time!

Awesome shirt!  The expo was reportedly very small, but we got a wicked long sleeve shirt from the SWAG.  The weather was simply amazing.  The 5km runners started at 8am while the 1/2 started at 9am.  I had two friends running the 5km.

I positioned myself in the Orange Corral (3rd highest), and the gun went off!  I was armed with two GU gels, and I recalled the article I read earlier – the key to a fast half is to start slowly.  There were lots of people for this run, and I was stuck in a good pack for a kilometer or two.  This assisted with the slow start.

Far too many negative thoughts come into my head as I run.  “Did I do enough LSD’s?”, “Why are there so many kilometers in a half marathon?”, “Will my legs fail again at 18km?”  Sucks.  Daily and Weekly practice runs help to build with the mental confidence that comes with long distance running perils.

I continued to pass people 5-6 km in, and it was time to take my first half gel.  I’m still having trouble drinking fluids at the water station.  My laboured breathing is an apparent hinderance.

I make it to 10km feeling good.  The mental halfway hump between 10-11km is a great one to overcome for  the half marathon.  Only 10.55 more km past the hump!

I managed to keep my legs moving all the way through up until now.  The memories of my legs failing out at 18km for my last half marathon careen through my brain.  Rats.  At 11km, I ready my gel pack for another hit, but then it flies out of my hands!  I refuse to stop to retrieve it, as it is already several metres behind me, and it really kills my rhythm.  I still have a fresh gel pack, so I rip into that one and keep push on.

15km!  I’m starting to feel it more mentally than physically, but I think that my legs are affected either way.  I’m start to slow a bit, but I keep visions of Peky & her friends in my head because they promised to be able to cross my path at two points near the finish line.  I could not disappoint them.  I finish the rest of my gels at 17km and hope that it’s enough.

18km!  I’m nearly there.  If my legs weren’t tiring my now, then my brain certainly was.  3km is no easy feat when you’re tired, but I managed to persevere because I just passed by my personal cheering squad!  I feel an immediate boost.

We turn around the bend along the Rideau Canal, a place that I have run countless times before.  Yet, this is it really counts.  I finally pass by the 20km mark, and there’s no stopping now.  I am utterly surprised that my legs have kept moving all the way up until this point.  Many of my fellow runners were quickly chipping away at the final km at an increased pace and I tried to stay in the game.  I knew that the finish line would be in plain view soon, and I gave it all that I had.

BEEP.  My foot crossed the electronic mat and I……..am……..done!  The clock overhead showed that I finished at a good time.  I pray that my chip time would be much better.

I grab the post race eats and quickly find my cheering squad.  My fellow 5km runners both set personal bests as well (it was their first 5km run!), and shortly after, they helped me to find my time posted on the wall to be 1:34:52.6.  Yowee!!!  Sub 1:35:00!  Boston pace!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  My legs hate me for running two races in one weekend, but my brain is firing off proverbial fireworks to celebrate.  Now can I hold this pace for an entire 42.2km distance?  Probably not.  At least…not yet.  😛

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Montreal Oasis 10km Run

Sacre Bleu!  Four 10km runners + one half-marathoner + Montreal Run Weekend = 5 personal bests!
 
The Labour day long weekend weather really threw us for a turn.  I got to Ottawa on Thursday night in the blistering heat and Friday was no better.  Peky & I went out for a last minute tune up run on Friday morning and the heat was really beating us down.  I could barely eek out a 6km tempo run, as I tried to simulate near my race pace.  Then on Saturday, the cold came.  Nice!
 
I had high hopes for Montreal to host a well-funded run.  It was platinum sponsored by Oasis, the fruit juice company.  When we got to the expo on Saturday, we were sorely disappointed by the number and quality of vendors.  Even the Running Room was absent!  Mon dieu!  The only saving grace was that the t-shirt co-ordinator was nice enough to let me exchange my medium t-shirt to a large size.  The tech shirts for the Montreal race are indeed nice.
 
10km start time: 8:45am
 
1/2 marathon start time: 10:15am
 
marathon start time: 8:15am
 
Interesting setup.  The course route has everyone merge along the same finish point in the Stadium de Olympique. 
 
Peky & I awoke bright and early and squeezed in a short warm-up jog towards the Charlevoix Metro station.  We arrived at the start line with good time, and I did my pre-race business at a nearby McDonald’s washroom.  Men in line: 2.  Women in line: 30.  😛
 
While waiting in line I quickly downed a GU roctane  about 15 minutes before the gun went off.  Peky did the same with a GU expresso love.  There were no corral dividers so I scurried near the front of the pack.  When 8:45am came around, it was time to allons-y!  The Sportstats chip counter recorded that my difference in gun and chip time was 1 min 17 seconds!  It really didn’t feel like that when I was revving myself up after the gun went off.  Either way, that bodes well for my chip time.  lol
 
My right shoe set off my chip recording time and I was off!  I purposely did not arm myself with my GPS watch as I find that checking my times either disheartens me or forces me to run at an ungodly pace.  I tired to rely on my own instincts. 
 
What the?!?!  There were old people using walking sticks ahead of me!  Parents pushing baby strollers!  Walkers even!!!  We need starting corrals!!!  Yargh!  When I finally reached a clearing in the masses of people, I tried to set out at a strong pace.  My breathing was already laboured but I felt as though I could hold it for a good long while.  I promised myself that if it started to feel too strenuous, then I would slow down my pace.
 
The first water station came at 3km, and I followed my previous advice by slowly down to a crawl to diligently down as much quality sports drink as I could.  I quickly sped up again and returned to my regular pace.  I don’t know how those elites do it, but they must have training sessions on how to drink fluids!
 
I passed 5km with a strong heart but so many thoughts were racing in my head.  More training.  More tempo training!  Why can’t I run faster??  I’d better beat my previous time!  The course route was not all that challenging, thank goodness.  We hit a handful of minor grade uphills, but it was compensated with some good downhills, where I let my legs flank the way. 
 
When I got to the 7km, I started to lose some steam with a long uphill ahead, but thank goodness I challenged myself by sticking to these two faster gents and literally drafted them the entire way.  I think that they were none too pleased having this heavy breathing asian stealing their wind away.  They were both giving each other looks as though I was not welcome to the tea party. 
 
When we finally reached the apex of the hill just before 8km, I felt a new surge of energy.  Hopefully it was the roctane!  I quickly passed the two gents and gave them a ‘sorry bout that’ hand wave, and they kindly returned the favour as to show good sportsmanship.  I started to pump my legs, hoping that they would carry me just 2000m more towards the finish line.  The Olympic Stadium was easily in sight. 
 
I downed my last water at the final water station and I gave it my best.  Our interval speed training immediately kicked in and I imagined myself chasing down the bright coloured red pylons, knocking back each interval.  Passing the 9km mark provided me with an immediate adrenalene rush as I pictured my GPS watch giving me the ‘final countdown’.  The final 800m was the best finish I ever had.  We rounded the corner into the majestic Olympic stadium and the crowds began to thicken.  There was a long massive downhill that led into the entrance of the stadium and I let my legs rip.  I’ll bet, though, that I was still not going anywhere near as fast as the elites, but I like to think that I did.  (Psh, as if.)
 
Once inside the stadium, the air was warm, and you could see the finish line in the distance once you finish the half lap around the outer rim of the stadium.  Burn baby burn!  I felt great.  Many in my running pack were following suit as we sped past the finish line in a great photo-like finish.  I looked up at the clock time and I was disappointed that I only finished below 44 minutes, as I was under the assumption that it only took me mere seconds to reach the start line.  Alas, the race as over!  I was happy.
 
The medals were very nice and so were the post-race snacks.  It was the 20th anniversary of the Montreal Marathon.  Another 20th anniversary!  Great coincidences.
 
I quickly booted over to the entrance of the Olympic Stadium to wait for Peky and Vi.  Surprisingly enough, it was Peky who came trotting in first!  I gave her my heartiest cheer and navigated my way back through the crowds to catch her after she crossed the finish line.  She was disheartened to report that she lost a chunk of time simply trying to get her shoe across the electronic finish line as there were so many people creating a bottleneck at the finish line.  Still, she finished with an incredible personal best, 6 minutes faster than her previous.  Leaving her former self nearly a full kilometre behind.
 
We both decided to wait for Vi at the finish line exit as we expected her to be coming up soon, and surely enough she did.  Her gun and chip time were 10 minutes apart!  Talk about relying on the chip time!  Her boyfriend’s time was an incredible 15 minutes apart.  The stereotypes about Montrealers may be true after all.  🙂
 
As we waited for Vi’s brother to come in on his first half marathon attempt, we were treated to the big full marathon finish and indeed it was!  The leading man from Columbia was overtaken at literally the last second by 0.3 seconds.  He literally collapsed near the end with dehydration.  The 10km finish seemed to be equally as riveting, as the stats show that the winner won by just 0.1 seconds!
 
In the end, five personal bests were set.  I walked away with a final chip time of 42:31 for my best 10km yet, Peky recorded her fastest time.  Vi and her boyfriend now have one notch under their belt, and the half marathoner…..well…..can barely walk today.  Good race weekend!

Grimsby Peachbud 10km Run

Grimsby Peachbud 10km Run

This was to be my first timed 10km run, and I didn’t know what to expect.  My plan of attack was very uncertain as my experience thus far has largely revolved around half-marathon distances and above, which is typically a slow pace.  Something that my legs and cardiovascular system have become accustomed to.

Grimsby is a long drive from my work in Pickering, but I requested to leave early to avoid the rush hour traffic of Toronto.  The start of the race is late in the day at 7:30pm; yet another new factor in the equation.  However, I was blessed once again, as the weather forecasters called for low humidity and a high of 20 for the day.

I arrived early at the town hall, right at the start line, which hosts the best parking spots.  So early in fact that I manage to squeeze in a good nap, as I am a bit worn out from the long drive.  I wake up from at 5pm to a hungry stomach, and with no other food in hand, I am scratching my head as to what I should do.  Should I eat now?  Should I wait till after to eat?  I have only 2.5 hours till the run begins.  They say that you should avoid eating roughage and fibre before exercise, as it may lead to digestion issues.  Ignoring those sweeping assumptions, I drive to a nearby Subway and fill my tummy with a healthy sandwich.  I think I should have enough time to be ready for the race.

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The other 5km run was to start at 7:00pm, so I had the opportunity to rev myself up by watching both the start and finish of that race.  As this was a smaller race with lax rules, I was tickled to see that the start of the line was littered with some elite runners mixed in with pint-sized children.  Just by judging the participants at the start line, I could tell who was going to win.  Surely enough, my stereotyping assumptions were correct.  The winner of the 5km came in just under 16:00.  With plenty of time to spare until the start of the 10km, I presumed that he might also be joining in on the 10km as well. 

It was nearing the start of the 10km run, and I kept using the washroom to make sure that I would be good to go.  I quickly downed a regular GU gel about 15 mins before the start, to allow it time to kick in.  I did a few warm up jogs here and there beforehand, and I was pumped.  I snaked to the front of the pack (just a 9 second difference between my chip time and clock time, I later learned), and we were off!

I felt confident that I could go at a good pace.  Different race distances are wrought with different mental hurdles to overcome.  The found that the 10km halfway mark was just as difficult to reach as the half marathon halfway. 

The 1km mark felt like it took longer than usual to reach.  Why?  I think it was because I was trying to push myself at a higher than used-to intensity, so my body was struggling more than normal.  My brain was telling me, “Are you sure that you can keep up this pace for 9 more kms??”.  I responded, “I hope so!!!”

2km came around and then the 3rd.  My legs were feeling sluggishly heavy up until this point.  Many of the elite runners do a fair bit of warm-up jogs, including sprints, right before the start of the actual race.  There must be something to that. 

 My legs started to loosen up after 3km, or perhaps it was the gel kicking in?  All I had to do was reach the halfway point, then my mind would be at ease.  I found that my breathing was consistently laboured throughout the whole race.  Again, due to the high intensity.  I started the belly-breathing technique, which I found helped, as I sucked in more oxygen, particularly for the uphills.  This course had a good number of hills, both up and down.

I think that I must also train myself to do better at water stations.  Breathing so heavily made it much more difficult to ingest fluids without interrupting the flow.  I found that my first two attempts were feeble and I managed only a small sip each time.  I must remind myself that it is silly to assume that I will lose copious amounts of running time if I slow down.  It is more important to hydrate oneself, than to save a few seconds by not slowing down. 

I make it to the halfway mark and the official clock shows 21:50.  This is a bit slower than I had hoped for, but now that I look back, I have not adequately trained for anything faster than this. 

We get to 6km, and you can easily see that there is a very long road ahead.  This fares better for us actually, I believe, as it is entirely flat for this stretch.  I slow to a walk for subsequent water stations.  I’m actually feeling much better now than before, as my legs are feeling lighter.  Perhaps the gel is really kicking in. 

8km!  I’m starting to push myself as fast as possible, and I’m feeling really good.  My running group is also sensing the end of the run, and I can feel the collective increase in speed.  I was passed by this older guy in particular, and for some reason, I wasn’t able to catch him.  His technique was a bit errant as his feet didn’t go very high off the ground, but the one thing I noticed was that his cadence was much faster than mine.  Shorter strides, faster cadence, is what they say.  I try to mimic his quick cadence momentarily, but was still unable to match his speed without gasing out.

9km!  I felt awesome.  I didn’t have my GPS watch on me, but I was estimating distances in my head.  9.1……9.2…..  the finish line was so close.  This was certainly a different feeling than the final km of the half or full marathon.  I actually had energy stores to burn!  I pass a handful of people at the end, and hear that glorious beep at the finish line.  The official clock shows my time to be just above 44:03.0 (chip time 43:54.3), and all things considered, I am happy with this time.  It certainly wasn’t for lack of trying, and now I’ll have a time to beat in Montreal.  

Things to remember for next time:

  • We need to do more speed training!  Slow running will train us to do well at slow running.
  • How you start your race will dictate how you finish. 
  • Find out how best to increase cadence.  Perhaps my fast twitch muscles need more help.
  • Hydrating at the water stations is more important than saving a couple of seconds.
  • I’m glad I wore my hat.  The sun was blinding us for a good part of the run at 8pm.
  • Stop getting M-sized t-shirts.  It’s safer to go with L; sizing is not always equal.
  • To run a sub 40:00.0 10km run is going to be harder than I thought.  Baby steps…