It’s been 6 years since I did a road race; the last one I did was the “First 1/2 half” in 2008 in preparation for ITU Worlds and actually a lot of the course for that was the same as the Sun Run.
A few weeks ago Christin won 2 free entries to the Sun Run from Impact Magazine and since I was going to be in Vancouver during that weekend we decided to run it. I was a bit concerned since I’ve been doing a lot of low-grade aerobic work on trails in preparation for the KneeKnacker, but I did a couple of stronger tempo-efforts in the weeks before to get a sense of where I was at, and I was surprised at how much speed I could muster. Mistake #1 was that I began to get a sense of a goal time. Which, I don’t think would be unreasonable if I had any racing under my belt, or if I’d done any specific training at all. At this point I decided that seeing “32.anything” would be great on race day.
Sunday morning came and I was actually really excited to RACE. I’ve been very happy with my training preparation this season so far, in fact I think it’s the best I’ve ever done – finally sticking to a training plan! So now that it’s time to transition into some racing it’s a nice change. I decided that I was going to make sure I was well caffeinated by starting the day with my normal Bodum of coffee, and an oatmeal concoction that’s pretty standard. It was a great morning for running, as I ran past the Molson Brewery on my way downtown the temperature read 5 degrees, it had rained the night before but now was just damp, so it was nice and cool.
My warm-up plan was to jog from Christin’s place in Kitsilano over to Elliot’s in the Downtown West End, I did this first stopping at Starbucks in Kits for a double espresso shot, then over to my car which I’d left the night before near the start line before another double espresso shot and a caffeine gel. I picked up Elliot and we went by this office to drop his clothes bag, then back to my car for a final change into race gear, and another caffeine gel. After that we did some strides, then began to meander over to the race start. By a fantastic stroke of luck in the 45,000 people doing the race we ran into Christin and Ben Keast who were beginning in the wave behind us, so that was great!
I have never done a race with nearly this many people before, so it was quite interesting. I must admit that where I was in the race there was no point where it was overwhelming. I thought that Elliot and I had stood close to the front, so when the gun went off I was surprised with how many people were ahead of us, but after a few hundred meters I was up to about 30th position so from then on it was not crowded at all.
The first km is a downhill, which I knew and was prepared to start ‘chill’ but now in retrospect what I SHOULD’VE done was run the first km with Elliot and then ‘started the race’ since his first km ended up being I think 3’08 this would’ve given me a nice 10 second buffer on my target time, and would’ve felt like warm-up. What I DID do was start steady, and felt like I was holding back, but apparently I still went though in a PB 1km by 4 seconds (2’47) , in my head I did the math and realized I now had a 30-second buffer between my goal time, so if I settled back and ran the next few km’s I may have been ok. Mistake #2 was thinking that maybe my goal time was too slow – I was going to crush this!
Well that didn’t happen. The next 2 km were ok, and I ran with 2 other guys, right behind the lead woman, then our little pack began to break up and it was just me and a VFAC guy pacing each other. By 4k I was beginning to realize that this was not going to be a fun finish. At this point I was convincing myself that once I made it to the Burrard bridge (5k) it was basically all downhill, and that I’d be fine. As we came up to the bridge I encouraged my running buddy that we’d catch the lead woman on the descent, and we did give that an honest effort… but we didn’t bring her all the way back. After 6km I was now just trying to survive.
Before the race I had commented to Elliot that this was the first race I’d done in YEARS that I was really confident about finishing. Everything from a ‘comeback race’ in 2011 that I was worried about since I’d taken almost 2 years off racing, to my first trail marathon in May 2013, then the Transrockies has been about respecting the distance, and pacing. 10k? on the road?! No worries, that’s easy. So when I was at 7km, and seriously getting concerned that I may not finish I came back to that thought; if I can do those races, surely I can figure out how to get these last 3km done!
KM 9 was a long one. 3’35. I’m actually pretty sure I could do that up Mont Royal. This km was 48 seconds slower than my first one. Eugh. I really felt it. Somehow I was still trying to do math in my head to figure out if I was going to run near my goal time, which wasn’t working because a) I was foggy and b) my GPS splits were about 200m off the official km markers, so although my GPS “10km” time was 33:16, my official finish time (and when I stopped the watch) was 33:40. Even still it helped to motivate me a little on the last km and have a little extra to finish. I finished in 40th place overall (39th male, 9th in my age-group).
After the race I was really frustrated with myself; I do feel that I did not have my best performance since I began too fast, and I do think sub-33 was a possibility on the day. However, I started putting it in perspective;
- I haven’t raced since September
- I haven’t done a road race since 2008
- I haven’t done any speed or tempo work this year
- I’m not training for anything like this race, in fact a race at least 10x as long in terms of time
- In swimming terms (as I still think about it) this is like a 500y freestyler being upset with their 50y freestyle time in the first meet of the season
So while I wasn’t totally satisfied with the outcome of the race, I’m taking a step back and keeping it in perspective. When I finished I was immediately ready to go find another 10k and do it again (better!), but now I’ve had some time for reflection I did post a PB in the 1k (2’47), 5k (16’05) and 10k (33’40 -official). Also I’m pretty sure I had a PR in caffeine intake. Beginning in May I have more tempo runs and races so I’m sure that I will have lots more opportunities to make mistakes, but I think that for at least the next few months I’ll be sticking to the trails; perhaps in the fall I’ll find another 10k and try to be a bit better at pacing!