2011 Scotiabank Half race report

Coming across Burrard
Yeah, I know I said I wouldn’t track my racing and training any more for a while, but I’ve changed my mind – a bit.  I’m not going to do a monthly training journal, but I will still do race reports.  In place of the aforementioned training journal, I’ll highlight recent training in a way that I hope will demonstrate some patterns that lead to the better and worse race performances.

My recent training was nothing to write home about, but given that I’d registered for the Scotiabank Half several times and some circumstance or other had prevented me from doing it on three previous occasions, I felt it was imperative to get it off my bucket list.  Plus, a net downhill race is a decent way to compensate for poor training.  I’m glad I did finally do it because the weather was just about perfect – reasonably mild at the start line, clear blue skies and wonderful sunshine all through the race.

In the beginning

I didn’t pace this race as well as I did the BMO Vancouver Half in May, but I don’t think it was a major issue due to my knee-induced training decline over the past couple months.  Since the first three miles or so slopes gently downhill it’s very easy to go out too fast and I definitely did.  There’s an out and back leg on SW Marine Drive, the halfway point of which is about three miles into the race.  At the 5k marker I remember glancing at my Garmin and sporting a pace of about 6:35 min/mile.  I knew I wouldn’t hold that very long and as I came back north on Marine after the turn I lost about 10 seconds per mile overall between roughly the 5k and 7k points.  As things leveled off on NW Marine, and I got to the infamous UBC hill (going down thankfully) I was doing a 6:45 mile.

Mid-race decline

It may have been somewhat foolish thinking on my part given my training, but my hope was that I’d gain back most of what I previously lost heading down UBC hill and be doing a sub 6:40 mile as I headed east along NW Marine, Highbury and onto Point Grey Road.  While I did manage to get back down to about a 6:40 pace – at the 10k mark at the bottom of UBC my time was 41:25 – there was no way I was going to hold this through the remaining 11k of the race.  Plus, after UBC hill the remaining part of the course is flat to rolling with a couple challenging little inclines.  In particular, I know I lost some time coming up from Jericho on NW Marine to W 4th and then held fairly steady until I hit Point Grey.  The corner of Highbury and Point Grey is roughly the 9 mile mark and my pace was up to a 6:52 mile by this point.

Closing with(out) a bang

Point Grey Road turns into Cornwall and takes you over the Burrard Bridge toward the finish line at Stanley Park.  By the time I was into the tenth mile of the race I was noticing some hip issues – my left hip, of course, as all my issues tend to occur on my left side – creeping into my run.  The fear I had for my knee causing problems never really materialized, but my hip was feeling pretty weak in the last 1/3 of the race.  I wasn’t really experiencing pain, just having no real power to push off with my left foot.  I’d say that’s the only major problem I experienced.  Until the hip fatigue appeared I was thinking that I could probably hold the pace I had and finish with a sub 6:55 mile for the race.  Given that this was my surprise pace at the BMO Vancouver Half, in spite of my recent training, I had begun the race hoping the net downhill course would allow me to come in a touch faster.  It was not to be.

Between nine and 12 miles I lost roughly six seconds per mile for the race, adding about a minute and a half to my overall time in this short stretch.  Doing the actual math for this segment is kind of depressing because it means I blew the opportunity to come in faster than the BMO over less than 1/4 of the race.  By the time I was over the Burrard Bridge and cruising the last 1.1 mile of the race along Pacific and Beach toward the finish line in Stanley Park, I was doing a 6:59 pace and that’s what I finished with.  At least I didn’t lose any additional time in the final mile.  Oddly enough, with a final time of 1:32:12, I came in 8th in my age group, exactly the same place as I did in the BMO Half, with a 1:31:09. Given how weak my hip became, I don’t think going out too fast really hurt me in this race, unless it was partly to blame for the hip in the first place. My feeling is that the hip would probably have been an issue regardless of pacing and I would have been even slower without the fast start. At 10k I was on pace for a sub 1:28 half.

How a lack of training likely contributed

As I indicated in my May training journal, I simply didn’t dedicate enough time to training because of numerous reasons excuses.  I started June much better but ran into a snag two weeks ago.  On the Saturday I did the 5 Peaks SFU 10k Enduro and then did a trainer ride on the Sunday.  That afternoon and early evening I did some fairly strenuous landscaping in my garden.  Lots of bending, kneeling, digging and pounding stuff into the ground, but nothing over the top.  For whatever reason my left knee didn’t like the gardening one little bit and starting hurting toward the end of the day.  The knee was quite painful for several days and caused a full week off of running or cycling – in fact I had a noticeable limp for over a day.  Presently it’s not where it was prior, but is slowly improving bit by bit.

I have lamented the fact, several times, that the trail running I wanted to do this year has simply not materialized.  I haven’t made my way out to nearly enough Club Fat Ass trail runs and I haven’t even begun the somewhat regular Grouse Grinds (and runs above) I planned on doing.  Since I’ve been coping and experimenting with my knee diagnosis all season, I’ve been adamant that I include a fair bit of cycling and I generally target roughly a 2:1 ratio of cycling miles to running miles per month, but that’s no excuse.  There just might be a correlation between little to no hills, gnarly trails or north shore mountain runs and my poor showings at the two 5 Peaks BC events so far.

My consistency has been up and down, with a couple breaks of a week or so over the past couple months.  The vast majority of the runs I did do were largely somewhere between long and tempo pace runs, but no distance-specific speed or hills and no periodization or phasing of any kind.  I honestly believe you cannot expect to shave time and get stronger without that approach.  While the running hasn’t been what I want, I do believe that the cycling has been a saving grace of sorts.  The fact that I’m still getting on the trainer regularly and doing interval drills to improve my endurance, speed and power has probably allowed my running to not decline further than it has. I’m not anywhere near PB territory, but the fact that I’m close to getting back under 1:30 on the half is something to hold onto and work with.

Training numbers since May 1st

Activity Count Dist Time Avg Spd Avg HR RPM Cals
Summary 46 385.19 42:26 12.4 135 89 28,447
Cycling 19 262:17 16:03 16.3 121 89 13,226
Running 17 153.02 14:58 8.2 148 15,251
Resistance 10 11:25

When I look at the chart above, it’s actually closer to what I’d like to be doing in one month, as opposed to just under two months.  Ideally, I’d like an ongoing weekly base of about 25-30 miles of running, 50 miles of cycling and three hours of lower body/core resistance, primarily for strengthening the knee.  My training is by no means beyond repair, but I really have to be more diligent from this point forward, and regardless of my best efforts I’ll need a little more cooperation from the knee – or at least less whining about garden labour and the like.  Providing I get that cooperation, I’m looking at a Mount Seymour 5 Peaks training run on July 10th, another north shore 32k on July 24th and getting weekly Grouse Grinds happening for a good solid regular hill session.

Up next

I’ve got roughly a month until the next 5 Peaks run, then another two over the following couple months, with the Whistler Granfondo 120k bike ride in September.  At this point, I’m not registered in any more half marathons or other events.  I’ve been toying with a fall marathon as a birthday present, and if I don’t go in that direction for early October, then another half in the fall is a real likelihood.  I’d love to think about another marathon, consider a return to triathlons or possibly even look at a 50k ultra.  Until my knee stabilizes, however, doing so has a big risk of simply setting myself up for disappointment.  Without significant improvement, that may have to happen through surgical intervention, so all bets are off.