Hills, hills, hills.! I wonder if anyone has ever counted how many hills are on this course! The Fool's Half Marathon was the setting for this year's BC 1/2 Marathon Championship, on April 3rd, 2011. I had been looking forward to racing a half as I've been trying my best, but feeling slightly lost, on the recent 5 and 8 km races. The race didn't go exactly as I expected, but I'm not complaining - I was very happy to finish in 3rd place overall!
We arrived in Gibsons on a sunny Saturday and got to explore the cute little town, find lunch, and drive along through Roberts Creek, Davis Bay,Sechelt, and up to Secret Cove - such charming little areas all along the way. Picked up my race number at the ever well organized community centre package pick up area from friendly volunteers, and finally met up with our small contingent of VanRunning 1/2 marathoners for a delish dinner at the Gumboot Restaurant in Roberts Creek. Yum.
I would say, the downside of sleeping in your Westfalia would be that sometimes you park in an area where local youth decide to party all night (yes, all night) and drive their trucks (BIG trucks) back and forth (doing burnouts each time) right behind your van on a gravel road. Unfortunate for us, but that's just life. I think I may have slept a good, um, 3 hours? Not consecutive hours, mind you. I was also slightly scared these youth could crash right into our van. So, generally sub-optimal conditions but not being too stressed about the race, I just shrugged it off and got on with things Sunday morning.
So, a short drive into town, a Tim Hortons coffee to reunite with my east coast roots (I don't think I've had a coffee from Tim Hortons since 2004) and some quiet time (finally) in the Van reading magazines and eating bananas while Shawn got a little extra sleep. I encouraged him to just leave after the race start and go straight to Davis Bay to get some more sleep. It's hard enough being a supporter, let alone with no sleep and an early morning wake up. Such a trooper.
I was hanging around the race start when fellow racer Amy introduced herself to me - this was so nice! You run with people all the time but never really know them. So it was great to say hello to her, and as we've been coming into the finish line relatively close to each other (her first, me after) we knew we were aiming for similar times. This was a nice reminder when we saw a few women shoot out in front of us that we were pretty confident we could be faster than. It's sometimes hard on your own, and you second guess yourself, but when there's evidence right beside you, you feel a bit better about your race plan.
So gun was off and compression socks starting flying down Park road. A nice change from the last time I ran the course, the start is not uphill, but that makes for some very keen starts by some racers - it's a long race and Amy and I ran together for the first 7km of the course, and commented on how it was fun to sort of sit back and watch what goes on in the lead group for the first part of the race.
I however, dropped off and Amy owned the downhills once we got to about 7km - way to go! I wasn't quite feeling it and stuck to my rhythm for the Roberts Creek rollercoaster section of the course, about another ~6k or so. When we had started, there's always such a flurry of people at the front, and I was able to spot one girl who I didn't know, and a few other women I recognized, but once I was on the middle section I really wasn't too sure how many women were in front of me. So, running my own race, I just slowly (felt like glacially) made my way along the lower part of the course wishing I was feeling fresher, realizing that was an ever diminishing pipe dream, and just trying to be positive about what I had on the day.
Then the uphill section. I love this course because it's technical, it's challenging, and it makes you be thankful for the flats. There is very little flat section running in this course, except for a little bit at the beginning, and it's definitely flat for the last 1-2 km. After getting up the last big hill on Marlene road, I was ready to refocus and get into the last 5km. It's still not flat once you're at the top of the last big hill, but it's flat enough, and with it comes a thundering downhill (that has subsequently punched up my quads) and it's a fast flat or slightly downhill cruise to Davis Bay.
At the top of the hill, I had only 2 women in my sight and they were further away than I wanted them to be, so, cranking up the pace a bit, I was happy to find that I had a little saved in the tank (note to self - running your 'own' race & rhythm has its benefits) and I just put my head down and started working. With the first pass, I really didn't want the girl to come back and she was running quite well and was not super easy to pass - so as we aproached the big downhill section I just let LOOSE and did my best attempt at fast downhill running while avoiding something resembling the cheese rolling competition.
Watch the video - there's even a big uphill - so maybe this half marathon is good training for this competition:
Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling
(really, you have to watch this....)
So now I was approaching the bottom of the hill and there was only one woman left and a whole lot of no man's land - big gaps between runners and really no one in front of her for a long time. A spectator told the woman in front of me she was 4th, then told me I was 5th. I watched this woman running for a long time and really it looked like she was comfortably running along so I was a bit nervous to pass. But I did what I've been having the hardest time doing in racing so far, getting up the guts to pass people (because the ego side of me does not like to be passed back - but really, who does?).
I just told myself I could do it and went for it. I ran a hard km and then looked back (I hate looking back and almost never do) just before going over the bridge (approx 400m left) and there was no one on my shoulder - phew! That did not slow me down though as I still was running with enough fear to stay in top gear all the way to the line. There was nobody else around, no one in front and it was me alone all the way to the line - and because the path was so clear, I finally paid attention to the race announcer, especially when he said I was the 3rd place finisher! Wicked! I had done that last fight to the line, in my head, for 4th, and I was quite proud of that. So 3rd was icing on the cake! Results here.
In the end, all things turned out smiles! I did not PB, but knew that wouldn't happen from about 10km on, so no distress there. My VanRunning teammates all did though - so congrats to them - what a tricky course to do it on too! Great work on their part. In the end, the women's race was quite strung out, with the young (I can say it because I'm OLD now compared to her :) girl (Keddi-Anne) from the Interior taking first, in 1:18 something and Amy taking a solid second in 1:22 something. My friend Rachel ran her 1st half marathon on this course and did great! Perhaps one of the harder ones to pick but she'll love other (easier) courses when she does another one!
And it was nice to see a lot of familiar faces and some of the triathlete crew out there working hard as well - great job guys! It takes a little extra effort to get to this race, but I highly recommend doing it - it's got a great feel, a step away from the flashy-flashy big races and a great hometown feel, more like racing where I started running back home (on the island). Now only if BC ferries could have extended their BC Sport partnership to help with fares....a girl can dream.
Happy enough with my 1:24 something, I was more happy with my beautiful AG winners mug (I drink a lot of liquids) and a little bit of prize cash (thank you Fool's Half & thank you BC Athletics!). I ate my face off in yogurt (but only after I let everybody else get in there and get some :) so thanks also to the food sponsors who provided much needed warm drinks and great post race food.
After the race, when the stiffness kicks in, we dawdled around Roberts Creek and Gibsons before deciding that with less than ideal weather, it might be nice to sleep in our own bed (and not in a hell on wheels parking lot?), so we skipped back on the last ferry home. And yes, it was heavenly to sleep in a real bed, not that I don't love our little home on wheels, but when you're sore, extra space and more cushioning in bed is a great thing. I slept 12 straight hours and woke up feeling much, much more rested than the night before. If only BC Athletics ranked sleep times too....I have no doubts in my abilities there.
Back at home and now back to telling myself I am both a runner and triathlete. It took all the energy I could round up to get to the pool and do an easy swim. Doesn't help that the weather has taken a nose dive and it's chilled significantly. A few easier days on the schedule and a return to the land of marathon training in not too long.
The next race up is the Vancouver Sun Run - should be exciting! I am actually quite excited to run a 10km, my oldest most familiar distance (I have run more 10ks than any other distance) but I now get to do it with an actual pace goal and am quite confident that I will finally break the 40 min mark, something I had tried for the last 2-3 years before and never reached. That will be fun - and I really hope I'm not jinxing myself here. Unless I fall off one of the bridges or reach a book in the portapotty, I am confident I can do it. It will also be the BC 10km Championship - and it is going to be COMpetitive! Can't wait!
The A race looms now only being less than 4 weeks away. Talk about competitive. I picked a great year to race with speedy women. From what I've read, there will be a fair amount of American women running Eugene gunning to qualify for the Olympic Trials. I think that means sub 2:45 or 2:46, not entirely sure, but it means FAST. Definitely good luck to them, but I will be gunning to chase from a distance :)
Weather is not confidence building so it's time to bottle up, snack up, and load up a movie to watch on the bike trainer. I can't believe I never used one of these last year while training for Ironman, but I'm sure glad I do now. I would also really like to be biking outside, but I would also not like to crash my bike on a slick road either. My 22 degree house helps me pretend warm temps are coming.
So here's to the next 2 hours of watching Hilary Swank bash and get bashed in Million Dollar Baby. I'm hoping it will give me more incentive to do push ups (although today's daily total is 60, not bad).
April showers bring May flowers? I'm getting a little sick of "this month weather sucks but next will be better talk" but I have no other options than to remain positive. I had a dream I biked in shorts and a jersey last night....something to look forward to. I will just have to continue creating my own happiness, usually coming in the form of a cookie ;) No complaints about the sun on the Sunshine Coast though - who could complain about these views?
Happy training and for anyone interested in joining a running group, check out VanRunning - existing both in Vancouver and Vancouver to the North for details of new clinics coming up this spring/summer.