Monday, March 19, 2012

In the Long Run: Race Report

I run like this, but chunkier.
This is the latest installment in the ongoing documentation of mine & Triple T's long runs.

Today was race day for me at the Comox Valley Half Marathon.

I'll be honest - after not having run a race since October 2010, I was nervous as hell and slept like shit last night. I tossed, I turned, I woke up at 5:30 am and forced myself to go back to sleep for another 2 hours.

There were a couple of things that bothered me when I did get up:
  • The race wasn't scheduled to start until 11am. I'm a guy who does his best when he rolls out of bed at 5am and hits the road. The waiting and waiting until it was time to leave was maddening.
  • I checked the weather report and it called for temps up to 41 with a possibility for snow. Yes, you read that right - Snow. Now I know this is Canada, but there's 2 things I'm terrified of running in: snow and a moose stampede.
My Wife asking me seventeen times "Are you nervous?" on the way there didn't help much either.

Once we got to the race area, I was back on familiar territory - I've ran this race twice before, so seeing the same reception Area, the same registration people, and the same Start/Finish line made me feel a lot more comfortable about what I was about to do.

Pre-Race - I'm happy.

 Eventually, 11am rolled around and the race started. The Comox Valley Half Marathon is an out-and-back over roads that range from pristine pavement to that crumbly, crappy shit you imagine hasn't existed since the 30's. It's mostly hills going out, and then you get the advantage of the downhills on the way back. I'm not sure if it's an advantage or not, because you do have to run the hills first. I guess it's better to get them out of the way, because if it was all uphill at the end, I'd say fuck this shit and just go somewhere and eat donuts.

I started out and didn't even look at my watch - I just went with the flow and what felt comfortable. When I looked at my watch at the 2km mark, I found that my pace was 7'30" - I was running waaaay faster than I had planned for. It was at this time that I made a decision: I was going to keep my pace anywhere from 7'30" to 8'00" as long as I felt good. If the Hip and the Foot were fine, I'm going to keep pace.

I'll admit - ever since Triple T bought her flashy kicks, I'm always looking at other runners shoes. My strategy for the race was to look ahead to the brightest pair of shoes I could see and then catch them. As soon as I passed that pair of shoes, I looked for another to chase - it kept my mind from thinking about what my legs were doing, and it also gave me something to do so I wasn't checking my pace every 5 minutes.

The water stations were handing out Gatorade, water, and Gels. Even though I'm not a fan of gels, I did what I normally do and grabbed one for mental support - it's better to have it and not need it then to need it and not have it, right?

The first 5K was easy - as I passed that mark I figured "Only 3 more of these? This will be a breeze!" Even a the 10K mark I was still feeling really fresh - my pace was good, my Foot and Hip felt fine, and the sun was shining on the course - the fact that there wasn't going to be rain or snow made me settle down into a nice rhythm as we rounded the Halfway point.

 - And that's when I got the stitch in my side - that painful feeling right in your ribs that saps your energy and makes you come out of the Zone and actually feel your body again. I slowed down a half step and just focused on my breathing until it was gone - it only took about a kilometer and a half, but what the hell, right?

It was at this time that I saw a runner I knew up ahead - she's a customer who shops in the store, and we usually talk running and such when she's in. I felt a bit of elation at that moment, just because I knew that if I was in the same finishing group as her, I'd be doing fine - she used to finish just behind me in most of the races I'd ran before.

I caught up to her and we chatted (as best you chat at a 7'40" pace) - she felt she was doing well, and was hoping to come close to her PB. I guess it meant that my thoughts of barely making 2 hours weren't going to be a reality.

There was one last big hill before the gradual downhill of the last 6km, and I left her behind to tackle it. My approach to hills is to keep my pace, shorten my stride, and just push through - it's worked in the past, and it worked again today.

After the hill, she caught up to me again - I'll admit that the last big one had taken a bit out of me and my pace had dipped closer to, and probably over, the 8'00" I had hoped to stick to. I was starting to feel my energy drop. I still had the Gel from earlier in my hand (Vanilla - blech!) and said I was contemplating taking it. She said she had the same, and ripped hers open and squeezed it down her throat.

The disgusting explosion as she puked it all up caught me completely by surprise. To her credit, she did not slow down. After offering my condolences, I told her that in light of her experience, I wasn't going to use my gel, and just hold on to it for later. (Yeah right - that thing is still sitting on my coffee table, unopened, right now.)

I picked my pace back up and finished the next 5km pretty smoothly - I guess watching someone spew vanilla Gel all over the road makes you realize you aren't that tired after all. Everything was going great until I hit the 20km mark.

You'd think that having strained my right Hip Flexor in the past, and having had Plantar Fasciitis in my right Foot, the area of my body that would start to feel pain would be on the right. You'd be totally wrong, but it makes sense why you'd think that way. I did too, until my right Hamstring/Glute (that's leg and ass for you non-runners) started feeling realllllly tight. Cramping tight. Painfully tight.

I did what I do in every race situation at this point - I sucked it up and kept running. Fuck me, it's only 1km - if I started walking, I'd feel like a pussy. I looked for a pair of fast shoes to follow and just kept going.

There's a bridge you go over when you're heading out that's just under 1km from the start - as I crossed over that bridge going back, I knew I had it in the bag. I'm not going to say I sprinted, but I picked it up just a little bit more as I scanned the crowd for my Wife and Kids.
I don't run like a gimp - I'm trying to High-5 my 6 year old.

After I saw them, I turned on the jets for the last 75 meters or so. The race was also having a competition to see who could do the fastest 100m sprint at the end, but fuck that shit - I just ran a Half, I'm crazy, but not fucking retarded. I just saw that the numbers on the Finish Clock were still in the 1:30's and hauled my ass over the line.

It only took me a minute to catch my breath afterwards, and a minute after that to realize I hadn't shut off my Nike +. (Fuck! I always forget that!)

But I was done.

Final results:

1:38:41 Gun Time
1:38:30 Net Time
20th out of 30 in my age group.
131st out of 431 finishers.

And one happy (and sweaty) runner.

Triple T spoiled me this week - she said it could be all about my race - to see how she did on her Long Run, look here.



  1. Great race, and thanks for the recap.
    I love the idea of looking for the brightest shoes...I am all about distraction!

    I am glad your foot and hip didn't bother you, figures it would be something else though!

    And it looks sunny! So I am assuming no snow?

  2. No snow at all - it held off until today, thank God. (Welcome to Canada, everyone! Pick your weather! Flip a coin and wait 15 minutes!)

    Today is all about sore quads. I did some stretching and easy bike to keep them loose. I'm sure 8 hours of work will help. - *totally sarcastic*

    Looking back - I enjoyed practically every minute - and believe me, the Applebee's afterwards tasted damn fine.

    2 weeks until my 15k - after this, that one should be an easy romp!

  3. But the important thing you left out....



    I want you to know that Husband was gone most of yesterday. When he got home, he asked what had happened while he was out.

    Me: "Maggie finished her science report. Paolo watched that movie again and played hockey. I edited, edited, edited, cleaned the kitchen, emptied the cat box, updated the check book. Midlife Rambler ran a 1:38 +/-..."

    And the funny thing is, the mention of you racing in the mix of what the family did while he was out didn't really phase him!

  4. Three things that were great post-race:

    1)Greasy, sugary food.
    2)The half-hour nap on the way home after said greasy meal.
    3)The so-hot-it-almost-peels-skin shower I had when I got home.

    I think everyday should be like Sunday was.