Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Vancouver USA marathon - Race Report

On Sunday, I ran the inaugural Vancouver USA Marathon. My goal going into this marathon was to break 4 hours. In 2010 at the Portland Marathon I had run a 4:07, so I thought breaking 4 was do-able. Running buddy M was running as well - her goal was around 4:15, but she mainly just wanted to feel comfortable and run easy.

So, we left at the crack of dawn (ok, not really, it was completely light out) at 5:30 am to meet some other running friends at the Hilton Hotel in Vancouver at 6. The weather was perfect - overcast and low 60's. The Hilton was right by the start line, so it was the perfect place. We found parking really easily, and walked over to the hotel. The first thing I noticed was how un-crowded everything was. It was great. We used the facilities (3 times?) and then walked over to bag check. Everything was really organized and easy.

They had pacers for this race, so I lined up with the 4:00 pace group. My "strategy" if you will, was to run 9 minute miles for the first 20 and then assess how I felt and push it if I felt ok at the end. I usually run faster at the end because I get into "let's just get this done" mode - but in a marathon you never know how it will go. Plus, this would be my first time pushing this pace for that long, so I wasn't sure how my body would respond.

Miles 1-6

The beginning of this race winds through downtown Vancouver for a few turns and then goes out onto the main part of the course that you stay on for the first half of the race. They had us up on the sidewalk for the first few miles, which I didn't really like. If the race gets any bigger they are going to have to shut down one lane of traffic for runners because it was tight on Sunday. But, it's nice and flat for the most part. The road goes out into the country and you see Vancouver lake, and then wind into Frenchman's bar which follows the Columbia for a bit. We (my friend Ed and I were running together)were tucked in with the 4:00 pacer, and she was doing a good job keeping consistent miles. But, it was crowded with all the runners around her, and I wanted to get out of the congestion.

Miles 7 - 12

Around Mile 10 we got in front of the group after an aid station, and I felt much more comfortable. This part of the race loops back around on the road we ran in on and then up and over an overpass into downtown Vancouver again. These miles felt really good and comfortable. I was so happy to be away from the pace group and feeling a little space.

For fueling during the race I carried 2 packages of Clif Shot Bloks with me. The aid stations had water and gatorade for fueling and they were also passing out Clif Gels during the race. I took water and/or Gatorade at every station. I starting chomping on Shot bloks around mile 6 and just took a few throughout the race. I didn't really have a set time to take them, just a few before I took on water usually. By the end I had 3 left, so two packages was perfect.

Miles 13-18

In the first half of the race I didn't walk through any of the aid stations. In the second half I walked through a few. You can see from the pacing where the aid stations were because those miles are a little slower. I also stopped for a quick port-a-potty stop at mile 15, but I knew I was still easily on pace. This part of the race had a few little rolling hills, which was a nice break really after the flat first half. The course wound around through Fort Vancouver which had a nice long down hill as well.

Miles 19-24

M and I were lucky that we trained with some friends who live in Vancouver and knew the route well, so we had run the last half of the race with them in training. Because of this I knew that at mile 20 there was a big ass hill. From about Mile 15 on I started concentrating on Mile 20 - "just get past the hill and you're golden" type of thinking. The hill was kind of tough - not too bad, and I ran the whole way up. A guy said "way to attack the hill" to me and I grunted back at him - sorry guy! and thanks for the encouragement! The hill is 3 tiered where it goes up then plateaus, goes up/plateaus, etc. Also during this part of the race we met the half marathon walkers/slower runners in full force. This was kind of brutal because some of them were walking 4 across and I had to go around them. I'm all for people getting out there and exercising, but c'mon don't take up the whole road when you know there are faster people on the route as well.

After the hill there is a big downhill where you go over a train track (I guess some people actually did get stopped by a train, which would SUCK!) and then goes into a nice path that follows the Columbia for a while. At mile 23 I walked through an aid station and told myself that I couldn't walk anymore until the end. I was starting to run on fumes here and just wanted to get the race over with.

Miles 25-26.2
.2 = 2:52

As I came up and over a little overpass on mile 25 back by Fort Vancouver who did I see? My husband and kids! I didn't expect to see them on the course at all, so this was such an awesome surprise! I was so happy/tired/delirious, I'm surprised I didn't burst into tears right there. Brian yelled to me that there was one more hill and then the finish. I was so tired, this hill was just brutal - but I knew if I kept going I could finish strong and easily meet my goal. As I was running up I looked to my right and my son was trying to catch me to run with me. I just couldn't stop though, I waved to him and he laughed and rolled back down the hill. I got to the top, ran through the aid station and wound my way back down to the finish.

Done! Finish time: 3:54:45! 13 minute PR!

So happy, so tired and very proud of myself for meeting my goal. During the taper all the doubts had been creeping in, so it was very gratifying to achieve what I set out to do. I waited in the finish for my friends who I expected to come in just behind me, but they didn't come in. Turns out that two of them had very unexpectedly bad races (my friend Ed had bad cramping from mile 18 on and walked the last 6 miles, my other friend had very bad stomach issues and DNF). Running buddy M came in at 4:26 and was very happy with her race - she has battled injuries all through training and she ran it just as she wanted to. The finish was a little bittersweet because of how badly my friend's races went. They trained so hard and the result definitely didn't reflect their ability/training/fitness. Just goes to show anything can happen on any given day.

M& I:

Happy family:

After the race M, Ed and I went and got Starbucks (our usual routine post long run) and then M and I headed home (Brian took the kids home to get lunch while I stretched earlier). All in all I thought this was a great race and well organized. I would be concerned if it got bigger with the sidewalk/space issues and also with the half marathoners meeting the full marathoners causing congestion. But, the aid stations were well stocked and well supported, the miles and turns were well marked and I really had a great time out there. I would run it again for sure.

Next marathon goal? Maybe Boston? hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm....