It’s been quite awhile since I last competed in a half marathon race and written up a race report of such. It was about 1.5 year ago at the inaugural half at the Surrey International Music half marathon. That time I went at a moderate hard pace at about 4:09min/K, clocking at 1:27:22 and overall ranking at 13th. I remembered I followed the first female finisher throughout the entire race. She was definitely a great pacer for me! After becoming a father for almost 10 months, I find things are definitely different these days! I have acquainted to running in the early morning as early as 5ish and have been squeezing in a tempo or speed work during work lunch hours. The biggest changes were meeting up Coach D and becoming a Skechers sponsored athlete!
Let’s get to the 2014 Vancouver First Half now!
Weather forecast for race day was originally nasty, so nasty that I don’t think I had run in that sort of condition. They were saying up to 50mm of down pour and with up to 100k of gusting wind! Thank God! It turned out differently on the day. It was bright and warm (3-5oC) with about 25-30k of wind. I couldn’t complain at all but really to give thanks! As usual I like to get to race site about at least an hour earlier. Coach D prescribed me with some easy workouts so I did them for about half an hour or so. I felt so warm that I wanted to toss my arm warmers and gloves but good thing I didn’t as few stretches of the course were extremely windy. I went back into Round house community centre to check out if Coach D was around. Since Mizuno was one of the biggest sponsors and Coach D is their Canadian Ambassador, I figure I could probably find him somewhere in their booth. Aha! I saw Coach D from afar and he actually was dressed up for a run that morning. He asked how I was feeling. Honestly, I wasn’t feeling too bad but not at 100%. Things always act up few days before race day. I found my right thigh was flaring up a bit for the past few days since my last tempo run on Tuesday with Huff (my new running buddy and 2012 First half Top 10 finisher, clocking at 1:12). I had been icing the inflamed area for few days now and up to the very last night.
The atmosphere at the First Half was definitely different compared to other local races. The first thing I saw was a big Global TV van parked right at the community centre. Video cameras were set up everywhere to capture the start of the race. In fact, I was caught on TV on the 6pm news . The second thing I noticed was the amount of great runners out there! Aside from coach D who is still the current course record holder of ~64mins, there were Ellie Greenwood (Ultra marathon world champ), Rob Watson (2013 Boston, Ranked 11th and also the 2013 and this year’s First Half Winner), Kelly Wiebe (Vancouver Sun Run 2012 1st), and few familiar faces from the VFAC and Point Grey Track Club.
I got to the start line about 15mins prior to start. It was packed! I was standing right beside Matt Cecil, the guy who I happened to spend some time chatting after the race. He was top 20th that day, even though he was feeling under the weather. I later found out his forte was more in the ultra than the half. After the Canadian anthem was sang, everyone was in position for the gun to go. 3, 2, 1 and off we go!
Coach D told me to run a conservative first 10k. I tried my best not to push but to feel easy running at about 4:00-405k/min pace. Huff also told me to take control of the race and go easy. I listened and glad that I did. As I was heading into the tunnel beside the BC Stadium, I heard two guys in front of me were exchanging some words. This is probably the first time I have witnessed an argument broke out during a run. So lame! Basically, one guy was complaining that the other spat on him. Anyhow, a slight incline was coming up as we get back on to Pacific Blvd, so I sped up and past these two runners. Whew! It was quiet again. As I reached to Beach Ave., I saw Timothy Smith (UBC record holder for half marathon) as a spectator. I have yet to meet him but had certainly seen him many times at Run Inn at Kerrisdale and at other races. Anyhow, back to the race, as I hit Beach Ave I noticed my pace was averaging at 4min/k, which was exactly where I wanted. The biggest surprise came at about 8k when I heard someone yelled out “Vicar, great form! You are doing a good job!” It was Coach D running from opposite direction. Hey, it was such a great feeling. I mean how many people get coached from the CR holder and the best of all being cheered at on the course!
Two more Ks then it was game time! I got the permission to really start racing from Coach D from 10K onwards. Forget about the watch and start racing the people in front of me. I did! I picked up my pace to about 350-355min/km and was still feeling quite good. I have caught up so many people that I initially saw at the starting line. Few people started out aggressively at about sub 3:30min/K pace and suffered badly at the end. Running along the sea wall around Stanley Park was a breeze and I just focused on catching up with runners, I enjoyed that part really much. I knew my challenge was up ahead at about 15-18Km around Lagoon, where both Coach D and Huff warned me about. The mysterious trail around the lagoon would spell dark magic upon my running legs. Thank God, there were a pack of runners in front of me running at a decent pace of about 3:53min/K. I quickly drafted behind them and just did my best not to fall behind throughout that trail loop. As I came out of the woods and climbed a slight steep hill back onto Beach Ave., I found myself suffering a little bit on my left calf. It was a scary feeling that I was about to cramp up. I passed the 12mile mark and thought to myself, “I’m almost done, all it takes is only 1 mile”. I knew my next and probably last challenge would be climbing the steep hill under the Granville bridge before getting back onto Pacific Blvd. There was a female runner ahead of me running it. I needed someone to stick to. I picked up my pace again and aimed to pass her! That female runner was actually the female holder of the course! She was Tina Connelly! Wow! As I got back onto Pacific Blvd, I had probably spent too much effort passing Tina and climbing that hill, my left calf was acting up frequently to the point it was about to freeze up. I was running like Forrest Gump. What I learned from my past failure when I had a really bad cramp was really to sprint and run even fast and not to stop for a stretch, and so I did. I sprinted like a mad man for the last 300m or so before flying across the finish line! Coach D was right there to cheer me. He yelled out sub-85, 1:24:30. I did what I wanted to do! What a great feeling! I was happy with my performance that day!
I just want to take this opportunity to thank God for the awesome day, Skechers Canada Performance Division for their support and sponsorship, and Coach D for his invaluable coaching and advice!
I have two weeks for recovery before racing again at the Hot Chocolate Race 10.4km!