Sunday, August 21, 2011

Edmonton Marathon

August 21, 2011

A marathon wasn't previously on the menu for this summer especially just 3 weeks before the world mountain running champs. However, I did have the thought in the back of my mind that it would be nice to do the Boston marathon next year. As most runners know, you need to be able to run a qualifying time based on your age and gender to be eligible to register for Boston. Although I didn't expect that running a qualifying time would be a huge challenge for me, I still had to actually run that time. Due to huge demand last year, the race organizers at Boston have instituted rolling registration dates starting with those individuals who had a qualifying time 20 min or faster than the minimum qualifying time. The first registration is Sept 12 and then two days later, the next group with times 10 min to 20 min below qualifying time are allowed to register. The same process occurs for those 5 min under and those just meeting qualifying time until all the spots are filled up.

Therefore, to be able to register for Boston, I needed to qualify at a marathon before Sept 12. Since I had left it so late, this didn't leave too many options for me and Edmonton was pretty much it. It was to be a quick trip, leaving Saturday, racing Sunday and returning to Victoria that evening. The flight was quick, but between the airport shuttle and public transit, it really took a long time to get to the motel I booked near the start/finish. Since I am still a kid in some ways, I also took the time that evening to check out the water park at the West Edmonton Mall. There they have some pretty extreme water slides including one with a vertical loop. It was so fast, I didn't really know what was happening and then all the sudden I found myself spit out at the end. I hope I'll still be doing things like that when I'm 70.

The marathon started at 7:30 am, so it necessitated a fairly early wake up, but because I was so close to the start, it wasn't bad for me as I rolled out of bed at 6am after a decent sleep. I
had a small breakfast of yogurt, fruit, and a half muffin and walked over to the start line chatting with a couple other runner also doing the race. Since it wasn't a goal race for me, the nerves were not too worked up. All I needed to do was get a decent time (under 2:55) to make sure I could register in the first slot at Boston. And in a worse case situation where I didn't even make that time, most likely I would be able to register if I ran under 3:05. I knew that I might suffer a fair amount because I just hadn't been doing this kind of distance and especially not on the leg shattering road, but I was very confident that I could get the job done.

On the start line chatting with with a few of the other top seeds, I found out there was one Kenyan, Jacob Mengich, who was the absolute favourite with boasting a PB of 2:13:31 - unless he cracked and pulled out, no one would touch him. A couple of the other runners mentioned wanting to run times in the 2:30's. If I was really racing and trained properly, that is where I would like to be. In any case, I planned on running 4 min km and least for the first 20k. This would put me in the under 2:50 range, but also should be a pace that was pretty comfortable for me. After that point, I could also ease back a bit if it felt like I was really going to suffer.

Unlike most races I have done recently, the start of the race was quite measured - everyone knew they were in for the long haul. I soon found myself on my own behind both the lead pack and a chase group - it was looking to be a lonely day out there. Around 8k in, however, I noticed that the first woman was just a few metres back. I decided to drop back and chat for a bit to see what time she was planning to run. It turned out that it was Ellie Greenwood, someone I knew about, but had not met. Ellie is becoming a bit of a legend in the ultra scene over the last couple of years racking up a huge list of wins and course records (Western States 2011, 100k championships, Chuckanut 50k among many others). These are some pretty impressive credentials. She said she was going for a sub 2:50 finish and since this coincided with what I was planning to run it make sense to run together. If I could help her pull off a few more seconds with a pacing assist and still get the goal I wanted for the race it seemed like a win win. Also, running with someone makes a marathon go just a little easier.

The next 15k or so went by pretty quickly with a steady pace average of just under 4min. Halfway passed in 1:23:37, a little ahead of schedule, but not bad. Things were still feeling pretty fresh and we chugged along. In the next few kilometers we reeled in 4 or so guys who went out a bit hard. If you can just run an even split in the marathon, inevitably some people will come back to you. Our pace continued to be on track, but it was starting to get hot (it would eventually get 30 degrees out later in the day). I started grabbing two cups at a time at the aid stations, but it was still a on minimal side in terms of hydration. Because I wasn't running all out, it wasn't a big factor, but it could have been. Since I was also concentrating so hard on getting the Gatorade and water, I managed to miss the gels that were being handed out. Since I had consumed the two items (a gel and shot blocks) by the halfway mark, there was still a long way to go with only a few calories coming in. Luckily, I was OK due to the "comfortable" pace I was running, but it is something to note for sure for the next real marathon.

Our conversation slowly would down as the race continued and was replaced by a few words here and there. At a certain point, the job just needs to get done and there is no extra energy left for chatting. About 35k in, I could officially say that I was ready to be done - I wasn't in extreme discomfort and could still hold the pace with out huge effort, but the legs were starting to hurt and the kilometers seems to be coming at about half the speed that they were at the beginning of the race. It was obvious that Ellie was starting to hurt and was having to really dig in to maintain the pace, but other than slowing slightly on a gradual hill, was able to keep the pace.

Ever so slowly the final kilometers ticked passed, 5, 4, 3, 2, and finally we were on the final kilometer. Ellie must of felt the finish was close at hand so pick it up strongly pushing right to a finish with a 4:18 for the final 1.2 km and breaking the tape just ahead of me for the win and a PB. While I certainly had more in the tank, I was still more than relieved to be finished. The legs hurt quite a bit and I spent the rest of the day doing a bit of post marathon shuffle, but fortunately recovered quickly after that.

Considering my lack of specific training, I was satisfied with the race and result. This was only my 2nd marathon (Victoria 2006) and this time I was able to do 5 min faster with less specific training and much less effort and suffering. Now it is time to put in the proper training and pull together a marathon that is more comparable to my overall fitness level. This may be Boston, but I have yet to formulate my 2012 plan.



4:01, 8:01 (missed marker), 4:09, 3:36 (marker was off), 3:35 (marker was off), 4:01, 4:06, 4:02, 3:57 (39:28 10k), 3:57, 4:06, 4:01, 4:03, 3:53, 3:53, 3:58, 3:53, 3:56, 3:59, 3:57 (1:23:37 half), 4:00, 4:03, 3:54, 3:54, 3:57, 3:58, 3:55, 3:50, 4:04 (1:58:46 30k), 4:00, 4:01, 3:53, 3:59, 4:06 (2:18:44 35k), 4:00, 4:12, 3:55, 3:58, 3:59, 4:10, 4:18 (1.2km)

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