My thirteen day threesome (of races)

Vancouver Sun Run – April 27

This was my third time in a row (and overall) running the Sun Run. The 2013 edition would be my last race before beginning my first ever marathon training program. A year ago I finally broke the 50 minute barrier in a 10k and I was hoping to shave another big chunk of time off of my 46:57 personal best.

People seem to have a love/hate relationship with the Sun Run. It’s certainly a very crowded race with almost 50,000 runners and walkers participating every year. I do get frustrated that many people do not choose the appropriate starting corral, especially in the first few kilometres as I weave in and out of traffic, but overall I think it’s a great event that unites the city by encouraging physical activity and a positive community spirit. What’s not to like about that?

It doesn’t hurt that it’s also a very convenient race for me; the start line is only about a 10 minute walk from my apartment. After an easy run on what had turned out to be a very cool morning, I managed to squeeze into my starting corral at Georgia and Burrard about 10 minutes before the race began, just enough time to soak in the atmosphere and chat with a friend I ran into.

10 minutes or so after the gun went off, I wormed my way across the start line and immediately began the task of targeting the path of least resistance. My goal was to maintain a sub 4:10 km pace, which would result in a sub 42 min run. With all the weaving in and out, I was surprised to see that I ran my first kilometre in under four minutes, but the descent down Georgia played a big part in that. As we turned onto Denman and the street narrowed, I struggled to maintain a rhythm in the heavy crowd but I managed to make it through the next two kilometres on pace. At this point I had some breathing room and was able to focus more on the run itself. At the halfway mark, my time of 20:40 indicated I was on track.

I find the stretch between the Burrard and Cambie bridges to be the toughest but I was able to keep my momentum and knock off some 4:05 kms. Before long I was headed up Cambie Bridge and toward the finish line. I knew I would be close to a sub 41 min time and so I tried to put a little something extra into the last kilometre. I crossed with a chip time of 41:03 and headed into BC Place for snacks.

The photo below was taken right before the finish and although it may look like I was close to winning the Sun Run, there were definitely four hundred and some odd people ahead of me. Thanks to Yasuyo for pointing out the pic and big ups to her, Original Greg and Kelsey for rockin big PBs.

Chip Time – 41:03
Overall – 470/43160
M – 410/19375
M30-34 – 84/2734


None of those pictured won, or came close to winning, the 2014 Sun Run (Photo courtesy of the Vancouver Sun)

Vancouver Marathon – May 4

I’m generally not a big quote person but there was one that stuck with me over the course of this marathon training cycle. While celebrating with folks from the Broadway Running Room group who had volunteered for or run the marathon, Sybille and I realized that we had both leaned on the same quote to get us through the 42.2 kms. I had noticed it for the first time in one of Steve‘s emails to clinic members.

I tell our runners to divide the race into thirds. Run the first part with your head, the middle part with your personality, and the last part with your heart.” – Mike Fanelli

I think that one sentence captures so much of what it means to run a marathon and why it can be such an emotional experience.

The week leading into the race wasn’t the smoothest. I overdid it in the first swimming session with my new triathlon club and didn’t rest as much as I should have but I tried to remind myself that my training outcomes would be a far more accurate predictor of my race.

The week before the race wasn’t the smoothest for my marathon partner in crime, Jay, and his family, either. On Friday they were forced to cut their first day of travel from Calgary short due to an avalanche near Golden. But, they are a super family and made it Vancouver before 2pm on Saturday in good spirits. Hosting a family of four in a one bedroom apartment (or ‘Greg City’ as Jay’s five year old named it) before a big race sounds like it could be a challenge, but super families make wonderful houseguests. It helps that we have experience doing this kind of thing; we’ve traveled to Kelowna, Victoria and Chicago together to run half/full marathons. After picking up our race package at the expo, we spent the evening eating, drinking, watching Frozen and playing name that 90’s grunge song – a lot more fun than stressing out over a silly marathon.

After a green super smoothie breakfast and a straightforward commute via the Canada Line for the 8:30 start, I felt well rested as we stood in the rain waiting for the starter’s signal. I gave a big high five (1 of 2) to Andrew before tossing my hoodie over the fence in the last minute or so prior to the gun going off.

Although I had never run the Vancouver Marathon, I had trained each section of the course multiple times during our clinic runs and on my own. It surprised me how much of an advantage that felt like, even if it was only psychological. The lack of fear of the unknown helped to calm my nerves a lot.

In constructing a race plan, there were some key spots along the route that I thought would be the most telling (or the most fun)…

Camosun hill (9km)
I knew that after a significant downhill section along 49th and still full of adrenaline, I would have the urge to take this hill too hard. A sub 5min km here would be dangerous and certainly catch up with me later in the race. When I reached the top of the hill, I was relieved that that wasn’t the case, and I felt recovered soon after.

Blanca out and back (13km)
Out and backs are always one of my favourite parts of any race. Nearing the turnaround point, I find it very motivating to see the faces of those I’m competing with and against, but the best part is when you spot a friend! I was able to catch a glimpse of Steve before he tore back up 16th and soon after the turn it was time for high five #2 (with serious air this time) for Andrew (which I believe I initiated and he later regretted – sorry, Andrew!) Just before I turned right onto 16th I gave a big wave to the 3:30 pace leaders, Dave and Barry (and must have just missed 3:35, i.e. W18-34 BQ, pace leader, Alan.) A third of the way through, I felt good and was on track.

Halfway point (21.1km)
My goal for the halfway mark was to run it in under 1:40 while still feeling fresh so I was very pleased to come through this point of the race at 1:37.03. It also marks the end of a long descent from UBC so it’s easy to feel pretty good here, especially before having to deal with the rolling hills through Kitsilano.

Final gel station (29km)
The third quarter of a marathon has typically been my strongest section but that wasn’t the case at all on this day. I remember taking a number of glances to my left at the vast expanse of downtown and Stanley Park still to be run; it was not the most awesome feeling. I managed to hold my pace through to the 29km water station where I was expecting to see Kelsey and Josh cheering. (Fun fact: When I ran over to give them a high five, apparently it looked like I was trying to speak but no sound actually came out of my mouth. According to them, this is a common thing. Does this happen to anyone else?) 10 or 20 metres after passing the station, I realized I had forgotten to grab my fourth and last gel. I had none left and it was the last gel station on the course. After a few seconds of panic, I decided to turn around and go back for one. I snatched a caffeine-free vanilla Powerade gel from a volunteer who was holding it for a couple of oncoming runners, turned back around and continued with the race. Hashtag marathon problems?

Entrance to Stanley Park (32km)
Recently I’ve had a few conversations with runners about technique, specifically stride rate. I’ve never concerned myself much with form or biomechanics but figured it’s probably something I should start taking more seriously if I want to continue improving, especially when I begin to plateau. I’m not exactly sure why I thought the 32km mark of a marathon would be a good time to experiment but the pain was making me feel a little desperate. I shortened and quickened my stride rate, and was quite shocked at how much better I felt. It could easily have been a sort of placebo effect but I didn’t care and I was amazed that I was still maintaining my splits.

Exiting Stanley Park for the final stretch downtown (40km)
After managing to pick off a number of runners along the seawall, this is the point when I realized a sub 3:20 time, which a few months ago felt like a long shot at best, would become a reality. That realization likely made the last couple of kilometres more enjoyable than they otherwise would have been but regardless, running down West Pender and soaking in the support from the crowd made for a huge high. It was all the more special seeing Mélissa, Kristine, Emma and Steve soon after crossing the finish line, especially with the news of Steve and Jan‘s big PBs.

As much as I wanted to stick around and look for others, I was starting to stiffen up in the rain and the less than ten minute walk back to Greg City was all too enticing. But there was no way I was missing the get together later on at St. Augustine’s to celebrate with the new and veteran Broadway runners who all had kickass races. There, I made sure to drink the first three beers with my head, the second three with my personality and the last three with my heart. 🙂

Chip Time – 3:18.51
Overall – 275/4933
M – 229/2816
M30-34 – 50/389

2014 Vancouver Marathon

On and around West Pender (literally) at the 2014 Vancouver Marathon (Photo courtesy of Jackie Polak)

Broadway Beer Mile 4 – May 9

Still woozy from LuAnne’s massage at Smile Thai Wellness, I rushed home and frantically searched for something to wear to the evening’s (year’s) big race. I was anxious, nervous, excited. But then I panicked. I noticed that I hadn’t washed my lucky shorts since the marathon. I needed something pink if I was going to have any chance in this race. As it stands, I’m still working on accumulating pink items for my running wardrobe and currently don’t have much to choose from.

That’s when it hit me like a tonne of bricks, or an oversized Hallmark character come to life. I dug out my Hoops costume from the back of my closet, immediately realizing it would be the key to victory. I threw it on and ran downstairs to meet Adrian, who had driven up from Seattle to represent ‘Merica in this great competition. He didn’t recognize me. I removed the headpiece. He still didn’t recognize me. When I recited my full name, a summary of our ten year friendship, and told him we needed to hop in a car2go to make it to the race on time, he told me I had him at car2go.

As for the rest of the evening’s events, I could summarize them here but why do that when I can simply link to a much more professional and better written synopsis?

Beer Mile

Colourful, fast, beer loving and just generally awesome – The Broadway Running Crew (Photo courtesy of Pargol Lakhan)

As for my future in the sport of beermiling, I am not prepared to choose between that and the marathon or triathlon at this time. But I can confirm that I will be paying close attention to the first ever Beer Mile World Championships, set for this fall in Austin, TX.

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C.S. Lewis