The 11th: Me against myself

(Alternatively, “The Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon 2007 recap.”)

And I won!!

Oops, let’s start at the beginning….

* Having slept around 11:30, it was moderately easy to wake at 4:45AM, head out, and arrive at UBC by 6:30. Got the routine down pat, you know, water bottles ready, what to eat, timing chip already on my right shoe. I don’t, however, sleep in the shirt I will race in.
* We had to wait for everything. Wait in a winding queue to store our gear. Wait and anxiously watch the clock while in the porta-potty queue.
* There’s a feeling of isolation going to a race alone where there are thousands of others. Many of the people stood in small groups. Granted, I saw J.Lo. on the trolley, Run Club girls in the queue, and Henry before the race.
* To make conversation while in the porta-potty queue, the man behind me pondered with his female friend about the demographics of the half-marathoners present. For example, how many people who were racing were related to each other? What kind of professions do we have – would there be an observable trend? He also suggested that we would be predominantly alpha types. Just relaying what he said….
* I thought that having two Start arches was cool, how we ultimately merged into one group hopefully without a distance penalty to either group!
* I made a drastic change that was to not run with music. It was the first half-marathon in two years where it was just me, my wandering mind, and the road for two hours. There was no guarantee that I would see CM at the start to run together. (She kicked butt with her first sub-2-hour half!)
* One of these days, I’m going to overcome my self-consciousness and don a garbage bag at the start line. In yesterday’s case it would be for the sake of staying warm without having to carry an article of clothing. No matter what, I was going to get the full dousing the day had in store.
* The first part of the race course consisted of a long southbound stretch on Marine Drive that doubled back on the other side of the divided parkway. It was cool to see the three front runners running in a tight pack, elbow to elbow with an escort car driving ahead of them. Before doubling back, it was nice to see the people who would finish 1:30-1:50 and then when I made it around the turn, it was likewise nice to see the people who would finish 2:15-2:30.
* I stripped off my jacket after ten minutes and tied it around my waist. The zipper slapping against my leg was a distraction for a while.
* I didn’t have a pace band either. Whittling down to the essentials, perhaps, except for having a GPS-linked timing device. I was checking the time at every kilometer marker. Fluctuated between 5:25 to 5:46 minutes to complete a kilometer.
* Knocked off the first km in 4:52?! Darned adrenaline rush at the start. Or sneaky people on campus had pushed the marker around overnight. Completed the first four KM in 5:30 on average.
* My training group did the route two weeks ago, arranged by CM, but I still did not have memory of the terrain (until I’ve been over it about ten times)
* Was pleased with the downhill stretch that preceded the downhill stretch. It was a great mental booster knowing that for several kilometers it required less effort to maintain that 5:30 pace.
* Oh, but did my (right) knee hurt a little after the downhill stretch!
* Completed 10K in 57:04. =) I have an official 10K race next weekend – the close timing of these two races was an accident on my part!
* There wasn’t a “Half-way” sign but I guess I passed that point at 60 minutes. That’s quite usual for me.
* A torrential downpour began and was heaviest around 8:00-8:15. =S
* I thought about the Run Club that was setting out at 8:30 and how it’s tough to voluntarily get up early on a Sunday and run in a downpour.
* Northwest Marine Drive feeding to 4th Avenue was full of potholes! I sort of fell into a hole. Didn’t sprain anything, thank God.
* I did, however, land squarely into a deep puddle – it was unavoidable – around Jericho. With both shoes puddle-filled, the next 2K were so discouraging.
* On-the-fly visualization trick: Knowing that it’s a flat race with a large net drop in elevation (250 feet), I convinced myself that even flat portions had a slight decline. Otherwise, I would constantly have reminded myself how tremendously difficult each and every step felt!
* Having to run over the Burrard Street Bridge – though we’ve done it tens of times by now – at the 18th kilometer was hard!!
* There was an official race photographer on the bridge to capture our my straggling form with the bridge as a backdrop. My teeth were chattering uncontrollably and I forced a smile and a wave. I had just seen the brewery marquee that scrolled weather information: it was a mere 9oC!
* The two hour mark arrived at the end of my 11th 10-minute running interval and I was only at English Bay. =(
* I though I still had five minutes to go so I took the last walking break that started at the 2-hour mark.
* Chui, who was finished and totally rocked the race, was already headed home sweetly encouraged me to keep running because I was close to the end. That encouragement prompted me to cut short my walking break by 8 seconds. =P
* The end was indeed close by – closer than I anticipated!
* So I slid in at 2:02:36.2!!
* I am happy: all I wanted was to have a course PB (best time on the course) and to test my mental strength without music and companionship and with the constant desire to quit early because “nobody’s watching.” I accomplished all of that.
* I was so wet by the end of the race. As wet as taking a shower and wetting my hair. Good thing I didn’t wear the pretty white race-issued t-shirt — the event had some similarities to a wet t-shirt contest. =P
* I clenched my teeth so hard from being cold, I heard something inside chip. =S
* In my opinion, it was a great race to fire up marathon training.
* Unlike the Vancouver Marathon that has B.C. Place as a headquarters, this event set up tents at the start and finish. On a crummy, rainy day, it was trying on your patience that there wasn’t real shelter. We were most displeased that our stored belongings were lain out on a grass lawn that had flooded.

I have mixed feelings about my race results. =( I can easily get hung up on the numbers like missing an all-time half-marathon personal best by 24 seconds. I had it in me to squeeze that difference out… easily. In terms of that elusive two hour-half’er goal, it was like my fingers really brushed the goal but didn’t grasp it. I hear of people making enormous improvements on their time when I’ve been within an 12-minute window for the ten (official) half-marathons I’ve randomly and leisurely participated in. Since the window is so small, since I’m only two minutes off that elusive goal, I feel that it’s not a big difference. That is, it’s not that much faster I need to go. Really.

I also have mixed feelings about my last two races and “equivalencies” that keep running in my head. About six weeks ago, I ran a tougher course four minutes slower. I had a horrible motivation breakdown but the weather conditions did not work against you. Yesterday, the biggest positive was not mentally crumbling. Can/did I improve in six weeks? What’s the big deal if I can finish within 1:59:59 only at the easiest half-marathon course in Canada? With that final thought, I’m happy with my palindromic 2:02. =D

All the stats —–
Chip time 2:02:35 / Gun time 2:03:21 — 5:49/km pace
1,814 overall (field of 3,350)
759/1,884 female finishers
136/313 women 25-29 finishers

On this day..


  1. Constance says:

    Wynne, I’m not going to go into how i found your blog (if you want to know, I’ll explain in person), but your entries are so interesting, light and refreshing to read. Especially your race entries cuz they’re the ones I can relate to and I smile reading your detailed observations.

    Anyways.. to comment:
    – wow you woke up at 4:45am? I woke up at almost 6am, however, I was rushing to the start line after taking too long to figure out how the gear check worked.
    – I’m always alone at the beginning of a race! It’s kinda how I like it.. time to get in touch with yourself and focus
    -… then again, I rarely run with people and I only use my iPod on easy runs.
    – I will likely never ever don a garbage bag in my racing lifetime. Definitely not fashion-forward.
    – the hard tip of my shoelace (darn those have a name don’t they?) was hitting against my other calf throughout the whole race. So I know what your zipper must’ve felt like.
    – after a while, the puddles didn’t faze me… my shoes couldn’t have been anymore WET.
    – didn’t love the downhill. Do you fly down those hills? So many people do it and I only laugh when I pass them later on…
    – LOL i thought I cut short your walking break by a lot more but I guess not..
    – was definitely not pleased that our backpacks were not only ON wet flooded grass, but also getting rained on as well.
    – I always love staying after races to enjoy the food and stretch but this time was the first time I left right away purely based on how miserable I was (VERY!!!). I HAD to get out of my wet tshirt so I changed it under a tree, hoping no one would see, but my arms were so frozen I couldn’t get my dry shirt on as fast as I liked… Ooh, not only that, but the safety pins were wet and rusted all over my white tech shirt =( I’ll have to see what bleach can do.
    – also, due to my rush to jump into my hot shower at home, I didn’t stretch, therefore, very sore legs today.
    – don’t remind me that this is the easiest half marathon course =P

    I hope you don’t get too obsessed with the numbers as each race is different and things like 24 seconds shouldn’t matter. Mind you, I know exactly how you feel, but you know, don’t obsess!

    Talk to you soon!

  2. wyn says:

    Hi Constance!
    I had kind of guessed how you found my blog, but I guess you can entertain me in person next long run. =)

    – Yeah, I woke up at 4:45 to be ready to leave the house at 5:45, thinking perhaps I’d had the time to see CM – and maybe run that sub-2 with her! – but spent all of the time in line-ups instead.
    – I’ve been strictly advised to find someone to run with for my marathon. It has to do with my motivation sources – i.e., not all that strong coming from within myself… but working on that as training progresses, naturally.
    – I don’t fly down hills. It is momentarily discouraging when people are rushing past, I know, but I find it an opportunity to keep (or slightly improve) my pace with momentum on my side.
    – My bag had cover in gear-check but there was about an inch of water on that lawn where it was. =S If you brought dry clothes in, say, a canvas tote, you wouldn’t have dry clothes any longer. My phone acted wonky for a bit in the afternoon and I’ve forgotten to check my mp3 player that I brought in case I would use it.
    – Hehe, my hands were SO COLD during the race that within a minute of walking break, I was not able to get water, gatorade, and retrieve some Sharkies to chew on!

    Not too hung up on the numbers after all and all. What’s most important is a GOOD run, swag, sharing the experience with friends afterwards, and a shiny medal! =)

    See ya!

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