This is a gorgeous course that traverses through parks, through the UBC campus, along the waterfront, along the Sea Wall, and features views of mountains, cheering fans, etc etc. At first glance it seems perfect, but it is actually a fairly tough course, which I did not realize.
My training consisted of following Pfitzinger's 18/85 marathon plan, toned down a smidgen because I wanted to peak around 80 miles and I didn't want to do a 24 miler. He generally has one type of speed workout per week, which had me missing my old routine that included Tuesday Night Workouts with the Harriers. At the moment I am working in Calgary, but travelling back to Victoria every second weekend. So due to this travelling I scheduled my long runs for Mondays after work, which meant I spent a bunch of time on the treadmill during the winter - though I did tough it out every now and then in -30C weather. Anyway, I had three separate weeks at 81 miles, longest long run was 22 miles, and longest marathon-paced run was 20 miles with 10 at race pace.
I woke up at 5:15 (15 minutes before my alarm) and felt refreshed despite not having the best sleep. I ate a bagel with avocado, drank some coffee, showered, and headed out to grab a shuttle from North Vancouver where I was staying to the start line. I arrived at the start, gear checked, and did a brief warmup that included about 30s at M pace. I apologize in advance for the use of miles and minutes/mile, but I’m sure as a runner you can convert easily!
Like I mentioned previously, this course is tough and it hits you right away. It starts with a slight uphill, which is nothing at the start of a race, but then goes into a long downhill. So many people were not restrained and were bombing down the hill. I asked a bunch of them what they were going for and all said just under 3 hours. I was going slightly faster than my goal pace of 2:55, and for them to pass me meant they'd be hurting hard later. Splits: 6:35, 6:35, 6:31, 6:27, 6:30.
Now I know those splits seem fast, but I was really holding back to not go faster because coming up immediately after was a jerk of a hill. It lasted from about 8.5k to 10k, with 9-10k being the worst. Here's my Strava log of the race, and at times it says the hill was a 10% grade. At this point I formed a small pack with two people for a few miles, which was nice. One of them had his own cheering squad in the middle of the hill. At the top of the hill it plateaued for a good while, so I was able to get my breathing back under control. Pretty uneventful for the rest of these miles. Splits: 6:46, 6:41, 6:38, 6:37, 6:34.
At this point the course decides that, “Hey, you’ve survived one large downhill and one large uphill, what’s another large downhill?” One of the guys I was running with had a surprising amount of energy, as he would dance at every entertainment station. The entertainers sure seemed to enjoy his enthusiasm. Perhaps he used a little too much energy, as some point after the halfway mark I pulled ahead and ran solo for the rest of the race. This part of the course is where it also gets very scenic, as the remainder is pretty much all along the water. Splits: 6:36, 6:32, 6:28, 6:31, 6:47.
The biggest event of this section was going over the Burrard St Bridge and onto the Sea Wall. I don't know how people do the New York Marathon which has approximately one million bridges - they are tough. At this point the solo running also started to get to me. It was BRUTAL. The only good thing was there were clearly a lot of people who went out too hard, as I was able to pick people off and provide myself with motivation. As soon as I entered the sea wall I was hit with a headwind. The wind combined with the fact that every turn you make you think you are nearing the end of the sea wall, and I was slipping. This got hard. Splits: 6:31, 6:38, 6:39, 6:45, 6:40.
Oh my god. Why do people run these?! People enjoy marathons?! HOW? Constant turns, constant wind, so much pain. Mile 22 I hit a mini wall on the sea wall. I honestly don't know how I kept going. Every part of my body was telling me to stop. I passed other people walking, why couldn't I? Each time my mind was made up to stop I was reminded of something else: "How bad do you want this?", "Boston", or "Even if you jog it in from here you'll still break 3". But seriously, OUCH. Splits: 6:48, 6:49, 6:54, 7:27 (I stopped to pee), 7:13.
I know I should be talking about the finish, but seriously that sea wall section sucked. No spectators were on it, and it was so windy. I passed a few people, but then I just couldn't muster any more. I think the people in front of me were in the same boat, because we managed to keep the same distance apart. After the sea wall we come out and start heading into downtown towards the finish...UPHILL. Who puts the finish line at the end of an uphill? Masochists, that's who. I was struggling and was just going to jog it in, but then noticed I was pretty close to a friend’s time of 2:57:09. I ended up crossing with an official time of 2:57:14. Close enough. Splits: 7:32, 2:06.
Why do people run these?! Ok but seriously, I am really happy with my time. Every ounce of me wanted to stop but I didn't for some reason. This was my first marathon, so I knew something was going to go wrong - honestly I thought it would be stomach issues from nutrition. I actually didn't expect to hit a wall. I've thought about the "Did I go out too fast?" and if I did it again, I think I'd do about the same. If I started slower I think I'd have hit the wall at the same place and slowed down to the same pace, but without the time in the bank. I think the wall was more due to the terrain of the course than being under-trained.
Pretty excited to be off to Boston in 2016 with my friend. We decided we're going for an ambitious time, so hopefully my hill training in this tough course will help me out there.
Photo: Michael checking his watch in the finish stretch