Monday, March 28, 2011

Around the Bay 30K "Race" Report

I can't rightfully call this a Race Report because I really wasn't able to race this particular event. Instead, my goal was to make it as good a training run as possible, keep my left calf as healthy as possible, and have fun in the process while running with a friend.

The weather on Sunday morning could not have been much better, although we had some worries as we got out of the car and felt the chilly -10C (14F) with a bit of wind on blowing through our running gear. The best part about the organization of this race is that it ends inside Copp's Coliseum, a big hockey arena. That means all the runners can get ready indoors and use the facilities therein rather than have to manage frozen porta-potties. By the time we got changed and headed outside to line up for the start with the other 11,000 or so runners the temperature had gone up to something that felt rather comfortable. It was still well below freezing, but the Sun was out and the wind had really died down.

Our goal was to run even splits throughout the 30 kilometres taking into account the fact that the last 10-12k were made up of rolling hills, including one major climb at about 26-27k. The friend I was running with had not run a race in over two years due to some pretty bad injuries and illnesses and so we made a conservative estimate that we'd like to finish just under 3hrs.

I told him that I would follow whatever pace he set, but that if that pace proved too aggressive for him I would simply try to keep going and hold it right to the end. Within the first two kilometres it was apparent that he was setting a pace quite a bit faster than the 6:00/km it would take to finish in 3hrs. The splits for the first ten kilometres were:

1.   5:38
2.   5:23
3.   5:08
4.   5:27
5.   5:22
6.   5:22
7.   5:23
8.   5:20
9.   5:25
10. 5:15
total: 54:11 (5:25/km)

I was walking through all the water breaks and eating Gu Chomps starting at 18 minutes. The water cups for the first five or six water stops (up until about 20k) were full of ice. It was that cold outside, but the weather for running could not have been better for this time of year. When not heading into the wind I would unzip my jacket and long sleeve, and eventually I took off my gloves as well.

At the 11k mark there was another water stop and things were going well. The massive crowd of runners was starting to thin out and we didn't have to zigzag nearly as much as in the first ten kilometres. However, things went awry for my friend at this point. As he ran through the water stops during the race he always got a bit ahead of me as I walked in order to drink rather than spill the stuff all over myself. At this particular point I noticed him stumble and immediately realized he'd rolled his ankle. I caught up to him and asked if things were going to be OK. He said he didn't know but that he would try to run through it. By 12k I started to pull away from him and I would not see him again until after the race. He did manage to finish well under 3hrs, but definitely had to fight through some discomfort to get there.

As for me I felt my left calf twinge at the 6km mark and got very concerned that I would have to pull out of this race. I managed to adjust my form enough to let the pain settle down and was able to keep running slow and steady. The hills that I knew were coming in the last third of the race were on my mind, however, and I was very worried about how my calf would hold up.

The middle ten kilometre splits for me were:

11.  5:20
12.  5:23
13.  5:15
14.  5:15
15.  5:30
16.  5:12
17.  5:12
18.  5:20
19.  5:19
20.  5:37
total: 53:43 (5:22/km)

The first 20k went rather smoothly and I didn't feel all that tired. My calf was a constant concern, but I was managing to maintain form and a nice fast cadence with short strides. As we hit a bridge somewhere in the latter stages of the middle 10k I definitely felt something in the calf on the uphill portion. This was not good, but I managed to "glide" my way all the way to the top. The downhill portion was likely more of a problem for not only the calf, but also the quads. As I ran down the other side of the bridge, which wasn't very steep at all, I tried not to think about how I would manage the steep downhill sections coming up.

Well, that was soon to be answered and I'm happy to report that things went better than expected. Rolling hills from just before the 20k mark until about 27 or 28k were a real test. I focused exclusively on maintaining form and pace and continued to walk through the water stops and eat Gu Chomps every ten to fifteen minutes. I only missed the 23k water stop because, for some reason, I really didn't feel like drinking anything at that point.

The toughest stretch of the course started at about 25k. This part started with a long downhill that was quite steep and, while trying to stay relaxed on this portion, all I could think about was the fact that I would have to climb the same type of hill on the other side of the river we would have to cross at the bottom. Sure enough, that climb nearly did me in. Starting at 26k or so the hill goes up up up up. Then the road bends to the right and teases you into thinking that it will flatten out. No such luck! It just keeps going. I was really huffing and puffing, but I would not let myself walk. Many people did walk this hill, and they were well justified in doing so, but I was worried about how the calf would react to starting up again if I did choose to walk. I also wanted to maintain as even a pace as possible for the entire run and walking would have ruined that goal.

The road then takes a left hand turn and again gives you the impression that it will flatten out finally. No such luck. The climb continues. Finally, at almost 27.5km I reached the top of the hill and turned onto York Blvd. In the distance now I could see Copp's Coliseum and my final destination. However, although I was now running on a flat or even slightly downhill section, I was not recovering! One more water stop, were I walked and sucked down one cold cup of water, and then I forced myself to run again. No gas left. I kept on chanting in my head "I can do it. I can do it." to the rhythm of my steps. The last two kilometres were very tough, but eventually I got to the Arena, ran down the steep ramp that was covered in rock salt and very slippery, and then down the chute and under the Finish banner. I was done! And I managed to maintain fairly even pace, my calf did not give out, and I had a great training run that really tested my will to keep going at the end as my body was completely drained of energy stores.

The final ten kilometre splits were:

21. 5:21
22. 5:45 (the first set of challenging hills really hits in this section)
23. 5:24
24. 5:26
25. 5:32
26. 5:12 (this includes that long downhill section, accounting for the faster split)
27. 5:32 (the start of the last major climb)
28: 5:45 (the end of the climb and trying to recover on the flats plus the final water station)
29. 5:22
30. 5:14
total: 54:42 (5:28/km)

Gun Time: 2:46:20.5
Chip Time: 2:42:36.0
Chip Time Pace: 5:24/km (8:43/mile)

I haven't bothered to try and figure out how I placed since they had me registered as a 35-39 year old woman. I will have to get in touch with whomever and get that straightened out... (In fact I just received a reply from the SportStats people that they will correct this at the next update. They're the best!)

All in all this was a big success. I managed a 30k training run, which included hills in the last ten kilometres, at the slow end of my long run training pace range (4:50 - 5:27/km) all the while saving my calf from completely tearing itself to shreds. Although I ran through the 30k split at last year's marathon in 2:30:30 I will call this my 30K PR because that's just the way I roll.

Now I can leave the month of March behind as it was a rather big disappointment due to injury and illness. Here's hoping April is a big improvement!

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Blogger Nelly said...

Great report! Sounds like it was a nice training run overall. Glad your calf held up, the run sounded like a great test of it.

Huge bummer about your friends ankle, how was the rest of his day?

That last hill at the 27K mark sounded brutal! Glad you made it up it.

And isn't Hamilton where they wanted to relocate the Phoenix Coyotes to? They need to get teams out of the US and into Canada where they care about hockey. We just don't care enough about hockey in the Southern US (Coyotes, Floria Panthers, Nashville Predators, Atlanta Thrashers, etc).

And you may already follow these people, but a couple of my blogger friends also ran the 30K:

I love reading race reports of races that I did from other people's perspectives, haha

March 28, 2011 at 8:21 PM  
Blogger Vava said...

Nelly: Small world! Chris McPeake is my friend's running group leader! I'll check out the other blog; thanks for the tip.

And yes, the guy from RIM wanted to move the Coyotes to Hamilton. Gary Bettman messed that up for personal reasons it seems and Phoenix has been in trouble ever since as the NHL keeps losing money there big time. Up here such places are referred to as "false hockey markets".

March 29, 2011 at 8:04 AM  
Blogger Nelly said...

awesome that you know Chris, haha He is an amazing runner with how much mileage he does!

I like that "false hockey markets"! I think Bettman is a horrible commissioner, and not sure why he is trying to keep teams out of Canada, where they legitimately care about hockey and will fill arenas. I'm near San Jose - and that is one market that does care about hockey, the arena is usually sold out every night, the fans here are hardcore and into it.

March 29, 2011 at 7:53 PM  
Blogger Vava said...

It also helps that the Sharks are a good team, have been for a while, and even when they were an expansion team they were always good for a first round upset in the playoffs against a Detroit or some other powerhouse. Atlanta, on the other hand, has made the playoffs all of once, has yet to win a single playoff game I think, and is in a city that barely cares about their teams even if they ARE winning.

I think the conspiracy theory that David Stern orchestrated the move of Bettman from the NBA to the NHL back when the NHL was ahead of the NBA in popularity has a lot of merit... Stern knew Bettman would destroy the league and it looks like he was right.

March 29, 2011 at 8:19 PM  

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