First 8K Race; Or “Where I get to go all green!”

After three years of seeing me run like one possessed, NPY started running for fitness and we did a 5K “fun run” together in October. Not satisfied with not knowing exactly how long it took us, I suggested we do another race… or a longer race. I originally wanted to do the 10K Sun Run with 40,000+ other runners and walkers; a lot of our friends would usually participate in some way, and it’s really fun for that aspect, but I’m not in town that weekend and I found the Harry Rosen Spring Run-Off 8K race instead.

Hunting online for a training schedule specific to an 8K race was a bit of a challenge. Add to that the requirement that we don’t run more than three times a week and I had to improvise a little with the schedule I did find with the knowledge I’ve gained over the years and thousands of miles of training. To make the most of only three training runs a week, I tapped what little I know of “Run Less, Run Faster”, maximizing each of the three runs per week. I’ve posted our ultimate running schedule online: to wit, the more colours, the better because it means we did different kinds of workouts. And NPY plays hockey, I did not play hockey on those nights.

It was a small race, capped at 1,600 participants so it can take place on the Stanley Park Seawall, so we decided to drive and park in one of the park’s lots. The queue to pay the parking machine was ridiculous as a bunch of runners arrived at the same time with 30 minutes before race start. I stood in line to pay and looked around. While designing our training schedule, I had looked up where we would rank if we finished at the time we targeted (52 minutes) and I was disheartened to feel as if we were in a sort of elite race, but not really. I felt middle of the road in terms of body shape and attire, wearing the tech shirt and tights; I could imagine how NPY felt, he who is built more like a hockey player than a gazelle. I tried to keep a level head as the parking machine queue was interminable, hoping that we would still have time to pick up our timing chip, and check my gear, or else I would be running with a small pack on my back! We actually had 10 minutes to spare… good start to what I wanted to be a perfect run for NPY!

Although I carry the iPhone running RunKeeper app to keep track of our pace and when to end our intervals, NPY lead the way in the first kilometer, weaving through the crowds to put us in a spot where we could breath (although we could not breath, running faster than I was happy to that soon). We finished the first km in under 6 minutes. The first two kilometers were on the “trails” around Lost Lagoon and I was discouraged by the lack of scenery. Soon enough, by 3KM, we were on the open Seawall, going clockwise towards the race end point.

Just in like our training sessions, we did intervals even though it was only an 8K race. We did one long 12-minute interval in the beginning while our energy level was high and 8 minute intervals thereafter; that is, we walked for one minute after each interval. This was a significant departure from training where we did not get beyond 7-minute intervals. NPY and I do share that in common that the thought of running continuously is not palatable. We also like/tend to use up our energy when we have it! We also like city running over trails; but I do like the Seawall much more than he does.

From the 32-minute (or so) finish at the untimed 5K we did in October, I had extrapolated a 52-minute 8K time using the online running calculators. Thus we needed to run on average 6:28-minute kilometers. Our first 5K were conducted on average at 6:03 each.

It was somewhat difficult to convey to NPY how running three times a week, rarely training at race pace, and slowing yourself down every Sunday for the long run could actually help you run the full distance at race pace. I wasn’t entirely sure it would work for an 8K and was relying a lot on “faith in our training”, our inherent fitness, and race-day adrenaline to make up the rest. He’s the “logical” sort who would like to do the 8K several times in training and have linear increase in speed over the weeks.

As we were rounding about Third Beach, a first aid volunteer told us that just ahead, one of the racers in red was an 82-year-old woman. I saw a woman in read and her hair was not all white and I wanted to see her face but we never overtook her! I did agree when a nearby runner muttered, “That’s inspiration!”

We completed 5K at 31:10 (gun time)–slow for me, better for NPY than in our October fun run. A cyclist dismounted at the 5K mark and was just reading off the time since 10:00:00 a.m. as our 5K split time. Good guy.

I don’t usually play the “Overtake Game” but we were running so slowly by my standard and the Seawall views get boring after a while, it occupied me for the middle stretch. Since we had our walking breaks, we kept falling behind but then passing a larger woman in blue with a Camelpak for her water, a tall Asian man going for a costume prize with a paint spattered-looking t-shirt and checker shorts, a woman wearing a Canada cycling jersey, and another fit-looking woman wearing a blue tech shirt.

We slowed down for the 6th and 7th kilometers, unfortunately, to an average of 6:09 per KM. NPY started to fall behind and we hit 7K, where I had to wait several seconds for him to catch up, at between 43 and 44 minutes. Thus we had to do one more 6:00-kilometer to finish the race in under 50 minutes, two minutes faster than the finish time we originally set out. It was within our grasp!

As the last kilometer became just hundreds of meters until the finish line, we picked up the pace, overtaking for the last time the four people we were chasing all race long. At our steady and faster pace, Costume Asian Guy still overtook me so I sprinted the last 50 meters to cross the line before him… and left NPY in my dust!

My results —
Gun time: 50:08.2 / Chip time: 49:24.6
Overall: 491/823
Field results: 203/431 amongst women / 23/50 amongst F3034

NPY’s results —
Gun time: 50:10.7 / Chip time: 49:26.7
Overall: 493/823
Field results: 288/386 amongst men / 43/47 amongst M3034

Throughout our training, because of his uncertainty about the structure of the sessions, NPY was skeptical that we would finish in 52 minutes, our original goal calculated from our 32:00 5K assuming no improvement. We can do the math backwards and forwards (it’s lots of fun), for example, how fast can he do a 10K assuming no improvement, how fast can he do a 5K now? All that matters is that we did even better than a reasonable goal we had set for ourselves.

However, NPY is more than a little discouraged by his standings in the field, particularly being 43/47 of men in the same age range, a far cry from my 23/50 of women the same age. I believe it speaks a lot more of who enrolls in races (more average women, more fast men), the 8K distance is considered a short and fast run, and the event itself. For example, at the 2009 Vancouver Marathon’s 8K, NPY would be faster-sounding 49/70 of Men 30-39.

So, I’m proud of NPY who steadfastly remains not a runner that he is knocking down longer distances as time goes on. (FYI: He agrees to do a 10K eventually but no further!) I’m proud that he rose up to the challenge and routine of an 8-week training program and I’m proud that when race day rolls around, his competitive spirit comes out and pushes him to continue even after he’s given his all.