Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Putting It All Together: Oakville Half Marathon Race Report

I had absolutely no expectations going in to this race. I knew what I had been capable of early in the year and I figured I was just starting to find my stride again so I was content to just go and try to race a smart race and work on my fueling strategy both pre-race, during the race and post-race.  I nailed the first two.  Post race probably could have been a bit better but I'm feeling good today so I suppose it wasn't that bad.

When I had told G that I was going to register for this race, he said ok, sign me up too.  Um.  What?  You see, the hubs "doesn't like to run" (a direct quote, odd for someone who does triathlon).  He "doesn't see the dollar value in running races" (another direct quote).  I kinda get him on the last one.  Road races have become increasingly expensive, almost as expensive as some triathlons we've done.  So you can imagine my surprise when he said he wanted to race.  His longest run heading into this race was 17km and that was about 3 weeks out from race day.  I won't even get in to his rather lax training schedule.  Actually I won't even call it a training schedule.  To use the word schedule implies that there was some sort of planning or forethought.  There wasn't really any of that.  He just keeps active.  He'd been coming out to my run group since late summer, then I got injured so he stopped going.  He went back when I went back but then missed a bunch of workouts due to work travel.  He'd ride his bike once, maybe twice a week and then he'd swim about 3 times a week.  He did about 5 weeks worth of long runs before this race.  He used to be really fast then had knee surgery 2 years ago.  Only really started running with some regularity this year.  Obviously that speed is not totally gone because he pulled off a 1:40:49 and that was with a bathroom break!

Yeah, I know genetic freak of nature.

Anyway, I was happy that we were going to be racing together for a change.  Usually he's my chauffeur, toter and picture taker so this was a nice change of pace for both of us.  Kinda takes me back to our roots, sniff sniff.

The race was in Oakville, about a half hour drive from our place on good day.  Considering the race started at 7:45 am we figured traffic on the way out wouldn't be an issue.  Finding parking was also not going to be a worry because the race was offering shuttles from the Bronte Go Station down to the start as there was no parking allowed on the race site.  Sweet.  The only issue was that the last shuttle bus was leaving at 6:30 am.  A full hour and 15 minutes before the race was scheduled to start.  Meh.  We got to the parking lot with about 10 minutes to spare.  There was already a long line for the bus so we left the warmth of the car to get in line.  I was totally bundled up so I actually didn't feel too bad.  The bus ended up having the heat cranked up full blast so I was nice and toasty by the time we were let out down the road from the start.

It was dark as we walked over to the park but I could see the sky starting to turn that deep shade of blue that happens just before the sun rises.  I figured by the time we got to Coronation Park, we'd be in for a treat.  The park is situated right on Lake Ontario.  It's a beautiful spot with a nice little beach.  As I suspected we were treated to a stunning sunrise.

Drama shot.
 The original forecast had called for clouds with some showers.  I'm assuming that the clouds the weatherman saw were the ones that were hovering out over the lake.  By the time the race started, even those clouds were gone.  The clear skies made for one nipply morning.  It was about 6 degrees.  I knew once the sun came up that it would warm up a bit but there was a decent breeze coming off the lake so I figured it wouldn't get much warmer than about 9 degrees or so.  I prefer racing in the cooler temps and 9 degrees is pretty much perfect. 
The race was fairly small, I think they said there were 2000 people in total between the 10km and the Half Marathon combined.   Bag check was organized and the surrounding area was populated with picnic tables so there were lots of places to sit and get yourself sorted.  We hit the porta potties as soon as we got to the race site which was good because about half an hour later the line up was all the way out on the road.  G said it seemed to move quickly so they obviously had enough for the size of the crowd. 
In keeping with the smaller, community race vibe, a couple of young, very peppy ladies got up on the bandshell stage and took the crowd through a 20 minute workout style warm up.  Minus the gratuitous butt waving and jogging on the spot.  It was kind of like a slo motion dance routine.  I did my own dynamic warm up and then went off to do my warm up run.  On my way back, I had to hit the bushes for a final pit stop.  Not an easy thing to do when you're in park by the lake.  Definitely lacking for coverage.  No matter, i've gotten pretty stealthly at this stuff.  Made it back to G for a pre-race selfie and then I quickly stripped down to my race ensemble.
What the hell am I looking at? 
 We wandered over to the start line and G ducked into the porta potty line once again.  I think the race day jitters had gotten the better of him.  I went out on to the road, took my pre-race Roctane and did a few pick ups.  I ran into a friend of mine, Teresa, who was also racing and I chatted with her for a bit.  I wasn't feeling the least bit nervous.  Not at all.  It was weird.  I guess I just figured my body was going to do whatever my body was going to do that day.  I just had to pay attention to my fueling strategy and be smart.  I found G again and we found a spot in the sun as he was freezing cold.  Kevin MacKinnon was announcing and he started to get everyone organized and up towards the start line so I gave G a kiss for good luck and made my way towards the front of the pack.  I situated myself about 1/4 of the way back in the field which was perfect.

The gun went off and I crossed the line, having to hit my Garmins start button several times before I actually managed to get it to start.  I eased into a 4:45 pace as I had to get around a few slower people in the first 600m or so.  I eventually climbed to a 4:00 min/km pace and realized that my breathing was ragged so I eased off a bit.  I was hovering around 4:15-4:25's.  That was where I seemed to be most comfortable.  I kept watching women pass me and I thought to myself "Holy crap this is a really fast field of ladies."  Cory Freedman passed me and I figured her and I were about the same speed so I tried to keep her in my sights.  I wasn't going to push too hard just yet.  Besides, I really didn't feel good.  It took me till about 6km in before I actually started to feel strong and somewhat comfortable.  My breathing had settled down and I found a good pace.  I made sure that I was taking half a GU every 15 minutes and drinking at every aid station or whenever I felt like it.  I think that strategy worked out perfectly.  At about 7km I caught Cory and another girl that had passed me earlier.  I pushed the pace a bit here because I didn't want them to catch me.

The first 6km of the race is fairly flat.  You run through downtown Oakville, which is quite pretty and then just before 7km you turn north into a residential area.  You wind your way through this area for a good 4 km before you come out and start heading west.  There are a few small rollers in through here.  There wasn't much in the way of crowd support either.  I saw a few folks on their driveways, coffees in hand, cheering people on.

Once we got out of the residential area, we were running into the wind.  I had been caught by a solidly built bald guy and we shadowed each other from about the 10km mark.  Once we started going west, we were running into the wind so I ducked behind him.  He was running steady at 4:20's which was perfect.  Occasionally, he'd put in a bit of surge to 4:15's but I stuck with him.  He saved my ass for sure.  Had I had to run into that wind on my own, I would have struggled a lot in the last 3km.  At about 15km, he started to pull away and I didn't go with him.  There were 3 other guys that were nearby, one in an Around the Bay shirt so I stayed behind him.  He was running about 4:25's.  I felt that was a bit too slow but I knew that if I went out in front of him that I'd probably slow down even more or I'd have to work that much harder to stay at that pace so I opted to stay behind him.
There were a few folks around cheering but again, not too many.  I didn't notice too much as I was concentrating on not tripping on the guys feet in front of me.  Yeah, that's how close I was to him.  He also saved my ass.

I knew that as soon as we turned off Rebecca Street I'd be out of the wind.  I was still feeling relatively good.  Relative being the operative word.  I suppose I was feeling as good as possible for being at almost the 18km mark of a half marathon.  I figured once I got out of the wind, I'd start to try to pick up the pace.  Sure enough as soon as we turned south, I felt like the chute had been put away and I started to pull away from my Around the Bay Windblocker.  It was a slight downhill so I took advantage of that and pushed hard.  I could see another girl, one that had blown by me early on, just ahead of me.  I was starting to close in.  We were crossing back into downtown Oakville again and there were a lot more people out and cheering.

We crossed Lakeshore and went westbound again for a bit towards the Harbour and then did a little loop that brought us back up to Marine Drive.  It was quite pretty in through here.  The wind was now at my back and I was going full throttle.  Averaging 4:10's roughly.  I was getting closer to my target.  My Garmin said we were almost at 20km but either it was off or the course markers were off.  I had noticed a discrepancy since the second kilometer and it just got worse as the race progressed.  We rounded a bend and I was withing striking distance.  We were closing in on the 20km marker when I caught her.  I ran behind her for a few steps and then came around to pass her.  I thought she might go with me but she didn't.   Whew!  That didn't mean I could ease up.  I continued to hammer for all I was worth.  I wanted to come in sub 1:34 and I was going to be cutting it close..  I saw the crowds getting bigger, I saw Kelly from Team RF Milton with a camera so I waved as she cheered me on.  I knew I was just around the corner from the entrance to the park.  I came flying around the corner and down the finishing chute, my calf just starting to cramp.  I looked up to see 1:33:44.  Whew, I just made it.  I looked at my Garmin and it read 21.44 and that was with me starting it late.  So I think the course was probably closer to 400m long.  I chatted with a few other runners after the race and they all said the same thing.  So, there is a chance I could have had a PB.  Ah well. Gotta remember that not every race is going to be a PB. 

I got my medal and food and ran into one of G's old co-workers, Chris, who had come down to cheer him on.  I chatted with him for a while then went to get my bag (which was super speedy) and make my way to the finish line to wait for G.  Turns out I didn't have to wait for long.  Not even a minute after I got there, I see G turn the corner.  I started jumping up and down and cheering.  I figured he had to be close to 1:40.  I found him shortly after he got his medal and he said he ran a 1:40:49.  And that was with a pee break!  WTF?  Amazing. This is 2 years post knee surgery too!  I was gobsmacked. 
We stood around chatting with Chris for a while and then made our way to the picnic tables in the sun. I was curious to see where I ended up so I fought my way through the small crowd that had gathered around the results.  I was surprised to see that I actually managed second place in my AG.  They had done the AG in 10 year increments instead of the usual 5 year increments so that meant that Cory was also in my AG.  Good thing I passed her early on.  Knowing my placing, we had to stick around for the awards which they were going to be doing momentarily.  They started with the overall winners and holy smokes, there were some speedy folks in there.  Cory had come over and we were chatting and she said she figured I placed in the overall Masters Division.  I didn't even think about that.  Some races have that, some don't.  Apparently this one did.  Sure enough they started announcing the Men's Masters and then the Women's Masters.  Because the woman who won the 40-49 AG was one of the top 3 women's finishers, I got bumped up to the Overall Masters Female winner!  Woohoo!  Definitely a nice surprise. 

All in all it ended up being a great day.  It was the first time I raced feeling really relaxed.  I also think I totally nailed my hydration and nutrition strategy.  The only downside to the day was that the course was long.  The route is really nice, everything was well organized and the km's were all well marked.  The race swag wasn't bad either.  We each got a free bag of grass seed (!?!) a full size energy bar, an Oasis juice box and a bag of Werthers chocolate covered caramels, which I promptly brought to work because I don't want them in the house.  There were also several coupons for restaurant discounts which is always nice.  The Zorrell dri-fit race t-shirt is a really nice fit and all it has is the race logo on it, no sponsors logos messing it up which I quite like.  The late entry fee wasn't even that bad either.  I think it was $75 including tax and the online processing fee.  I would definitely do this race again...hopefully next time they measure the course correctly!
Not a bad looking medal either.

Next up, the Scotia Half on October 14th. 

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