Race Day Morning
The night before race day I decided to watch a movie that would put me to sleep. The strategy worked and perhaps a little too well. I passed out at about 1030pm. I’d normally require only 4-5hours of sleep, so I woke up at 3am, 330am, and finally really got up at 430am which was about 45mins earlier than my alarm would go off. Anyhow, I was feeling great and a little nervous. I had a good night sleep. I did some reading while enjoying a heavy carb loaded breakfast that consisted of three whole-grain toasts with Nutella and peanut butter spread (Over 100g of carb), a cup of coffee with honey (29g of carb), two pieces of cookies (50 g of carb) and a banana (20g of carb). I was fulfilled! This was of course followed by my pre-race bathroom routine that would last about 30-45mins to ensure everything was emptied out. A quick peek out the window, man oh man, it was raining cats and dogs. I was kinda feeling sorry for the half marathoners who were already getting ready in their corrals for their race at 7am.
It was probably the most crowded morning on the sky train I had ever witnessed during such early hour. I’d say everyone boarding the train was full marathon runners. What a great scene! It was quite a “long” walk from the station to race site. It probably took me a little over 20mins to get there. The rain did not subside. People were ducking under trees, under entrances of buildings, and I chose to lay low in the baseball player box. It was muddy everywhere. I took extra caution with every step I made. I didn’t want to get my socks all soaked up before the race. I slowly changed into my racing gear, put on a disposable poncho, and was ready to get out for an easy 10min warm up.
Start – 5km
At about 15mins before the race, I slowly found my way into first corral behind the elite group. It was quite packed and crowded. I swallowed up my first gel. The rain at that time came down much harder than before. Most runners were shivering a bit. I kept my poncho on until the very last few minutes before tossing it. I was just jumping up and down to get my muscle to stay awake. We sang the national anthem and when it was 5mins before the race the volunteers lowered the rope. I slowly moved up close to the start line. I was probably in the third row now. Then there came the final count down…10, 9, 8…3,2,1. People dashed out right off the bat. I was immediately behind because so many had gone pass me. As discussed with Coach D, I kept my pace anywhere between 4min/k and 4:30min/k to stay conservative initially because I knew it would be a long grind. The first 5km were all a slight incline.
I was feeling quite comfortable running at 4:10-15min/K during this time. This stretch was a slight decline. As I passed one of the most busiest intersection (West 49th Ave and Granville St.), I heard the traffic ladies were saying something like “We can’t let the cars hold up like this for too long, we gotta stop these runners.” I was thinking “What the Heck” were they talking about? How ridiculous! I made my move and picked up the pace to get through the intersection. The traffic light probably turned red after I had passed. A group of four runners ran up to my side and were saying how ridiculous it was for those traffic ladies to be stopping runners in the middle of a marathon. I mean, come on, at that pace we were going I am sure everyone was aiming for Boston. It would have cost at least 30s or even up to a minute if any had stopped there. Anyhow, I knew my first 5KM would come up soon, so I took out my first gel and got ready for water station. I checked my split at 5km and it looked great at under 21:10. I was at a good pace!
This stretch was going to be one of the toughest part of the entire run. Camosun St is a nasty hill. It was probably over 1km of climb. I drafted behind a tall guy for most of the hill. I didn’t dare to look at my pace on my Garmin. I just felt this guy was going quick enough, so I figure I would stick with him. It was funny that at about 3/4 of the hill he turned back and kinda smiled at me saying, “Good draft, eh?”. I said, “Yeah, it’s great. Thanks.” I mean being a short guy like myself standing at 5’6 and the guy at over 6 is definitely a good draft! I’d only find out later on Garmin Connect that I did most of the hill at 4:25min/K. I am glad I didn’t check my watch at the time; otherwise, I’d have gotten antsy and started to push.
Man oh Man, my legs were tired after climbing that tough hill. The road didn’t get any easier. It was rolling hills inside Imperial Drive. Once out of the forest, the highway heading into UBC wasn’t easy either. It was a lengthy gradual incline. I saw so many runners (probably like two or three) that had to run into the forest to find relief. It was funny but not for long. I started finding myself in trouble as well. I was feeling my left calve was twitching a bit. It was the same feeling that I had in my last two marathons. Oh man, I was scared. It was only 15K in. All the tough trainings in the past few months and drastic change in diets, I mean how could this be happening to me?!? I changed my gait and stride a little bit and really hoped that the feeling would subside. Thank God, it did go away after 1-2KM.
Nothing too interesting happened at this stretch. At this point, the runners were quite spread out. The best part coming up at the end of 20K was the long steep hill down to Spanish banks. So many runners just sprinted down it. I took it easy and actually rested a bit by running at around a 4:15min/K pace. I just didn’t want to add on any more pounding on my legs. I mean I wasn’t even half way yet.
I took another gel at half way. I probably ran too easy while coming down the long hill. My pace had slowed down to about 4:20-4:25min/K. I thought I was going fast as the other runners around seemed to be running quite hard. I sped up a little until I see my pace was under 4:15min/K again. I didn’t like this stretch. I have trained here too many times. Today I didn’t get lucky as this part of the road is often windy. Today, however, I was running against the wind. On some good days, I would run effortlessly at a sub 6min/mile pace if the wind was with me. Nope, not today! I sucked it up and ran faster. Another nasty part along this stretch was to climb up that short but extremely sharp hill onto 4th ave. There was absolutely no runners in front of me. It was tough on the mind. I ran hard up the hill and knew it would be a breeze running down on 4th. I felt great once I reached the top of the hill and began cruising along 4th ave. The crowd on the corner of 4th and Alma was big and loud so that was definitely a great motivator for me to carry on.
I finally latched onto two runners. The first dude really amazed me by the way he dressed. There was no way that he looked like a marathoner. I mean he was wearing a long baggy Adidas sweat pants with the zippers wide opened along his ankles, he had a white t-shirt on just like the ones I used to wear in PE class in high school and he was holding a gigantic bottle probably one would use for a hiking trip. I guess I should never judge a runner by his/her appearance. He was going at a 4:08min/K pace at that time. The other guy looked much younger than the three of us. I later found out he is still in his late 20’s. We began running side by side and started some short conversations. There were something wrong with my ears probably some pressured built up so I didn’t quite hear what they were saying. I just kept giving a thumb up to them when it seemed all they needed were some acknowledgment. My left thigh started to act up again and I was about to pass through Kits beach. In my mind, I was telling myself…not now! There was a huge crowd along Kits Beach cheering for us. The crowd was absolutely fanatic. It would be extremely bad for me to stop and start cramping there. I sped up and kept my pace at 4:05min/K. The younger guy kept pace with me, while the other dude slowly disappeared.
The scary part here was the Burrard bridge. I was actually feeling good running with this young fellow. I even had the energy to make some funny faces to the photographers stationed at the top of the bridge. People say, including Coach D, that the half way point for a full marathon really is after the 32KM mark. I totally concur with that. The last little stretch was all flat around the seawall in Stanley Park. I have trained so many times here for my weekend long runs. It was absolutely a mind game. I was glad this young guy (later found out his name is Owen) was running with me. We were good teammates. We paced each other through most of the park. I ran hard at almost 10s faster than race pace.
I knew I couldn’t slow down because my left thigh would act up any minute. I could see the convention centre (where the finish line would be) was close in sight. I would only continue to push through the last 7km or so. I took in my last gel at 36KM mark and also saw the elite Kenyan female had to stop there and started to walk. In fact, I saw so many runners were walking at that point. I was one of them couple years ago but thank God not today! I think I also lost Owen somewhere. I later found out he finished about a minute slower than I did but he sure did BQ that day!
After I passed a big group of runners at about 39KM, I continued to excel through the very last stretch of the marathon. I saw a female runner in front of me. I think she was doing it for her dad as she wrote something like “For you Dad” on her lower back. My eyes just fixated on those words as I continue to follow her. The last bit was a little twisty. Once past the last turn, for some reason I felt I was almost there for the finish line and so I sprinted. I ran so fast and realized that I just past the 41km mark. I was like darn, crap…I still got another K to go. Once I got to the last marker, I was like all out. I ran the last two KM at sub 4pace and was just ready to yell at the finish line. I could see the timer from afar. It was like 2:56:XX and I was probably about less than a 1km away. I ran like crazy going that slight uphill. I think I probably roared a few times thinking I would spend the last little bit of juice in me. At that point, I was very confident to meet my goal that day. I finished nice and strong with my hands raised up high while crossing the finish line. It was 2:58:06. Thank God! PB! BQ! Boston here I come in 2015!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Coach Dylan Wykes for all the awesome training/coaching, Skechers Canada Performance Division for their sponsorship and the incredible GoRun Ride 3, thank God for protecting throughout training and on race day!
Please continue to read part 2 (What I did differently for this marathon) and part 3 (Skechers Go Run Ride 3).
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