Typically I wouldn’t write a race report for a single sport race simply because they can seem relatively straight forward (one foot in front of the other, repeat 10 thousand times), but I know some of you are easing into longer distance runs so I thought I’d give you an idea of how it all plays out. Next post will be the second part in my series on coaches.
The days leading up to the race I was looking at the weather forecast hoping that it wouldn’t snow, figuring knowing more about being on the wrong side of the jet stream would reduce the likelihood of 20cm of snow. It snowed anyways but with a temperature only at -3C I still opted to run in my Zoot Ultra 2.0’s race flats, 2XU compression tights and shirt, my Tricommitment jersey, and a Lululemon toque. As a general rule for running I like to dress like its 10C warmer than it actually is, and you’ll be fine.
Woke up at 6:00am, had a bagel, a banana, and an Ensure. For the record, Ensure makes a great race morning drink since its loaded with calories, vitamins, protein, carbs, etc etc. But more importantly Ensure sits very well. Typically you don’t need a very large breakfast before a race, since your body only needs to replenish the glycogen stores that its depleted while you sleep. You generally want to finish your last meal (that sounds ominous) about 12-14 hours before the race start.
Drove to the race start, listened to music, said hello to the awesome Lululemon 4th Street team, and chilled for a bit. I made sure I got to the start line early though so I could seed myself in the front 100 or so racers. Last year I made the mistake of seeding myself towards the back and struggled to get through traffic.
It snowed the night before, a lot. So the race started, and on the first couple corners people started going down. After about a km I looked at my watch and found myself about 10-15 seconds per km off the pace I set for myself at this heart rate. The snow was absorbing a lot of energy as though I was running in sand as well as causing slipping that was putting me off pace. I knew from that point on that my benchmark of a good vs bad race wouldn’t so much be my actual time, as where I placed overall.
For the first 5k or so people were passing me so between that and my pace I really had to focus on racing my own race and listening to my body. But as we approached the halfway mark I heard someone yell I was in the top 100 so I figured if I didn’t lose position from that point on I’d be happy since its a race of about 1600 people (typically about 2000). At 10k I took a Hammer gel at the aid station and Shirl told me I was looking good.
After the half way mark I started making up position again and it seemed people were falling off, and my pace was starting to pick up. I had planned to run a negative split but with the snow I figured I’d just be trying to hang on at that point. Past halfway you go into a part of the Glenmore loop called Weaselhead which is in a valley with steep hills in and out. Going in was challenging because you didn’t want to bail, but coming out was even harder because you were running up a small ski hill. On top of that since I was now making up positions, I was also having to pass people off the race line of packed snow, which meant running in 5 inch deep fresh powder. At the top of the big hill out of the valley there were bagpipers, the Lululemon cheer squad with a sign with my name on it, and an aid station, all of which was very uplifting.
For a bit I actually thought I pushed too hard up that hill but I took my second gel (about 17km in now) which was the one with caffeine in it. I stuck out the next 2 or 3k, and then in the last km I was able to drop the hammer entirely thanks to another awesome triathlete who insisted I draft him into the headwind to catch a buddy. Oddly enough my HR monitor was maxing out with a reading of 220bpm, which I knew I wasn’t at. My HR monitor strap had slid down to my stomach, and I think it was picking up my readings, and the readings of the other guy. So that was garbage, I just had to dig deep and listen to my body for a 1k push.
Crossed the finish line to be greeted by my awesome girlfriend Shirl, the Tri It team, and my family (who had run the 5k).
I ended up 78th overall with a time of about 1:39:12 (I think). The top guys were about 3-5 minutes off pace from last year, and I think that would be a fair estimate of what the conditions did. All in all a great, albeit wet Police Half Marathon.
Its been a sore couple days with lots of tightness in my peroneal tendon which is the one that runs down the outside of your calve and through your ankle. Running in fresh snow can be a lot like trail running and I think I’m paying for for the race a little more than I normally would since it activated a lot more muscles than your typical half mary.
What I learned
A lot of this race was about adjusting on the fly. Typically I let my computer tell me what to do but with the adverse conditions and the HR monitor issues over the last few km I really had to listen to my body. I can’t stress enough the value of using the information your body provides you as your number one data input. A lot of people use music when they’re racing or training and that can be a great way to build focus, or it can be a huge distraction from the task at hand. For this race I specifically chose not to bring my ipod since there were just too many other things to think about that day. I’m glad I made that decision as it allowed me to focus on the challenging terrain, focus on listening to my body, and of course interact with other racers and have fun!