Sunday, 23 October 2011

Robert Hamilton Memorial Road Race report

Retro time. I was persuaded (by myself) into one last race before the snow and ice hits. The Robert Hamilton Memorial Road Race has been going for around 30 years, mostly as a 10 miler, though there's also now a 5 miler.
Just 3 weeks after the Harvest Half, I felt I couldn't do the 10 miles justice. I had done an 8k race last year, and knew I could beat the 34.19 time I set. Under 33 minutes was the aim, so I set my garmin at 3:55-4:05/km pace.
We lined up on the grass, I think my camera is getting a couple of inquisitive looks in this picture. (The unusual pose of the lady in grey is partly a stretch and partly to talk to someone behind me)
 As starts go, it seemed as frantic as any other, though being a Calgary Road Runners event with knowledgeable participants, all runners were able to make it orderly and bump free.  
 While the course is marked in miles, my garmin and I still run in kilometres. I only rolled my sleeves up at about the 1 mile sign, so didn't see I'd done the first k in 3:39.
 The guy in the white shirt was a constant presence just in front for the entire race. I believe this is the first time I've had such a pacemaker from flag to finish. The race winner, above in black, has already done the turnaround. I had decided after the turnaround to sing a couple of lines to my headcam and match it up with a song upon editing the short movie. I did, but just barely.
There were some great spindly shadows going back north to the finish line.
The other unusual sight greeting me was my watch saying I'd just done the first 5k in 19:29. My PB in a 5k race is 19:48. There's a dip on pace on the 5 k mark in my pace chart below - I remember thinking about it enough that I slowed down, prompting my garmin to tell me to move it.  
The next k was nevertheless the slowest of the race. I could feel my stride getting a little shorter.
That didn't last for too long, though looking at the graph and table, the "finishing kick" amounts to only just under goal race pace. That's proof that I essentially ran the quickest race that I could have.
I held on for 10 place overall out of 52. 31:02 is much faster than I had been expecting. A sub-40 10k now looks doable.
This race had the best medals I've ever seen, freshly baked gingerbread men. I finished 3rd in my male age group. There was only 4 of us I've now learned. 1st and 2nd men in their 30s had gone home already, so I hammed it up a bit. I ate a leg, and thought I was going to get booed, then I hopped away..
There's nothing like surprising yourself.
So, to the headcam vid. I will need to work on steadying the shot over winter, it's nothing that ebay can't fix. That said, I hope you enjoy the genius cover version of "You Are My Sunshine" by the Chinese band Reflector. (try the link, if below doesn't work)

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Harvest Half Marathon 2011 report - a perfect day (& another headcam video)

It was fairly close to being the perfect day (the headcam video is at the bottom of this post, by the way). Logistically, this is the closest race to my home, and the course covers much of my regular Sunday route. It was certainly the perfectly run Facebook campaign by Barefoot Neil Z. He took this one of myself and A-Chang at the "Facebook muster point".
5 weeks before I had aimed to beat my half-marathon PB of 1:28:56 at Quebec City, but was thwarted by a headwind and then had to stop to stretch my hamstring, ending up just inside 1:33 (Click here for the heamcam vid). The plan had been to PB there by a big margin, then try to get any sub-1:30 at the Harvest Half.
Overall though I was feeling quite good at the start line. My PB from May was at a pace of 4:13/km, so I set my garmin at 4:07-4:13 pace. The assumption was that I would have around 30 seconds to spare before Sikome Hill at 17 km, be about 20 seconds behind at the top, then just squeeze inside a PB at the finish line.
I had run once a week since QC, the long Sunday run, and done other speed work on the exercise bike, with my right leg gradually improving week on week. Still, I took a tylenol before the race just in case.
I had also copied my nutrition plan from May which had worked well. Active warm-up rather than stretching too.
The headcam had worked so well in QC and I was very determined to capture this course's landscape and autumn colours.
Neil really was everywhere that day, chatting to odd ducks such as myself.
Lining up too were Rich and Scott. Scott was expected to disappear into the distance fairly quickly.
It was quite a narrow funnel at the start, so the 3 of us got ourselves to the front.
Big brother's watching...
At the start I could see I was in pole position, a foot in front of everyone else. This would be my chance to do something I'd long joked about - leading a fairly large race (709 finishers), at least for the first 100 or so metres.  
I could see too that A-Chang along with Rich and Scott's better halves and others with cameras were well placed to capture such an hysterical historical moment. A 20 second countdown, then "go!" rather than a starting horn (I liked that) and it was more my reflexes rather than speed that had me nicely placed for pictures. 
This is Neil's shot...
As I passed the 3 ladies I said "I'm winning, yay!"
"Know which way to go?" the race winner and leader for entire rest of the race asked as he overtook (guy in blue). "Yes, I'll just follow you!" was my reply. I then turned round to Rich and said "I told you I'd lead the first block!"
Seeing my printed wristband, the leading lady asked what time I was going for.
This was all within the first km, after which the race order seemed reasonably set. For half-marathons, I seem to do well when I set off initially at 5k race pace then settle down to race pace.
One thing I missed on the headcam was a police car rolling toward an intersection on its own, its owner then frantically opening the door to find the brake pedal.  
After this the hill after passing under MacLeod Trail, which keeps on climbing after the worst seems over. I did feel a touch out of breath at points as we kept on climbing through the Evergreen neighbourhood.
This being my third Harvest Half, I knew it would be mostly downhill for the next 12 km after entering Fish Creek Park.
There's a great roller coaster part at the start of the park, winds downhill, a tight hairpin, a looser hairpin then a bridge across the creek.
I'd lost Rich somewhere on that downhill part, and at another hairpin after exiting the pine trees he waved, I felt he was saying to keep going. From that hairpin past the second drink station above and onward another 7km I made good time. I had felt another couple of runners close behind, but making good time they dropped back. I had known what place I was in, but easily forgot that number as I was mostly thinking about time rather than position. I was overtaken by a guy just after the halfway mark, he seemed to be on a well-planned negative-split strategy. I perhaps could have followed him, but I was satisfied with feeling comfortable going mostly faster than my garmin's "pace high" warning.
I saw a deer which would have been great on camera, but didn't have it rolling. I managed to capture myself well in full-flight though. 
This is me in almost the same place, taken by Alan Lam at 15km. At this point I am just over a minute ahead of schedule. I had by now caught up with the second placed lady, who was quite a good pacemaker for this stage of the race.  
By the time Sikome Hill came into view, I knew the PB was there for the taking. The overall climb is about 600 or 700 metres and based on last year's garmin readout would cost 45 seconds. In my view it's not really about the hill, but how quickly you can pick up your pace at the top. Having the garmin here is a big help for me, as instinct tells you to build your pace back up slowly. Initially allowing myself to speed up "naturally", I started pushing after about 20 seconds of being on flat ground, waiting for the "pace in range" sound. The "pace low" sound also kicked in repeatedly for the next couple of minutes as I passed the second placed lady, who was listening to loud music. My legs felt a touch heavy, but I told myself not to settle into what would feel more comfortable.
The last kilometre is on winding pathways, and I had by then been flying along seeing how low I could get the PB to be by this point. I recall turning around and one guy yelling "I'm going to pass you!" He didn't. 
The knowledge that I was going to set a PB by quite some margin had me grinning like a Cheshire cat at the last few marshals. It might have helped too that the cloudy skies meant I hadn't worn my sunglasses, so I smiled broadly and looked directly at the final marshals who said something like "great smile!" as I went past.
Looking at the garmin readout, I could have run the last 95 metres or so (a half is 21.096km I believe) in just 16 seconds.  
The clock says 1:28:13 here, though the official result was given at 1:28:01, and is also borne out by my garmin readout.
This got me 11th place out of 709. 
I did an arm-whirling movement I had also long joked about doing upon crossing the finish line.
Pacing chart and splits below. Sikome Hill is clear to see.
This performance of mine is one I'm extremely pleased with. This is my 3rd Harvest Half, and I did it 10 minutes quicker than my first. It is a case study too, in my view at least, of how a relaxed frame of mind can lead to a good showing on race day.
 The winning time was in the 1:22s.
 Rich got a sub-1:30.
Scott did an excellent 1:24:08 for 4th overall. He is a sub-3 hour Boston finisher, and beat his own PB by about 2 minutes. I could though stake a claim to having enjoyed myself the most.

Now to the headcam video!

The link, just in case: