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James Wanless

this is where I write

2014 Sun Run report and thoughts

I had one of my two go-to race breakfasts, opting for the double serving of oatmeal with brown sugar. The forecast had been for rain and a high of 10 celsius all week, so my weather expectations were low. But, I prepped by wearing a compression liner and a t-shirt and ended up not being too warm, though I could have managed with just the tee. The rain never materialized but the temperature forecast was correct and it was only about 8 celsius at 9am.

I got downtown around 8:10 and parked near Main and Terminal, taking an easy warmup run of about 3.8k to my yellow corral at Burrard and Georgia. This was the long route, as I figured I’d hit JJ Beans in Olympic Village for a final washroom break and, thus, ended up running to the start over the Cambie bridge.

The start line was its usual gong show, taking a good 10 minutes to edge to mid-crowd from the fence. The elites were off a little after 9 and the race started for the rest of us at 9:09 (Garmin time).

The deets


The first 2.5 kilometres down Georgia, jutting onto Denman and kissing Stanley Park before doing a sharp turn back along Beach toward the Burrard Bridge, was the usual sea of humanity. Particularly as you’re doing the Denman to Beach leg, the road here simply isn’t large enough for the volume of people. It’s really just survival mode, as you dodge and weave, trying desperately to find some open pavement. That really doesn’t happen until Beach, though. Oddly enough, the first 3km were my best.

As I hit Beach I realized my legs were feeling a bit of Saturday’s easy road ride. They weren’t a huge factor, but they just didn’t have a lot of spring. That certainly didn’t help me in the middle of the race. Looping up Hornby onto Burrard Bridge and slightly uphill on the first part of the bridge deck, the 5k point comes. I’d begun to slow down heading toward Burrard and as I crossed it and made my way to west 4th/6th Avenue via 1st and Fir, I really lagged from the 4-7km point. I’d averaged a 4:02 through 3k, but for the next 4k I’d average 4:20/km.

While I never got back to a 4:02 pace, over the final 3km, I picked things up a bit, averaging 4:13, which was ultimately what Garmin/Strava said I did for the whole run. Coming down west 4th, I must have gotten a little life in the legs as my final split of 4:08 showed no fatigue coming up the ramp onto the Cambie Bridge, unlike the previous climb to Burrard.

In the end, I was 41/1546 for my M45-49 AG in an official time of 42:32. I guess top 3% in my AG is OK, considering my past few years.

Evaluating where I am

I have no further running race commitments at this point, though I’m giving some thought to the Iron Knee 25k trail run in May. I’ve got a lot of cycling coming up in preparation for the Victoria 270k Granfondo, so I’d probably find both the riding and running would suffer if I was trying to prepare for running events, too. While I wish I hadn’t pulled out of the First Half in February, I’ve at least got a gauge at 5, 10 and 15k this year. I’m getting fit again for sure and have seen some improvements over the sporadic racing of the past four seasons.

What’s clear is that, while I’m doing speedwork and hills and getting faster, I haven’t yet translated that to finding my racing ‘gear’ again. At present there’s really no difference between a good tempo run and a race for me, pace-wise. I can’t quite hold the faster tempos. I’d also like to gauge my performance on a smaller 10k right now, as I’ve generally found the Sun Run to be 1-2 minutes slower for me, than a smaller race. I’m nowhere near my PB days of 38-ish 10k times, but I’m pretty sure a good, smaller race for me could be in the 40-41 minute range right now.

Why I won’t be back

This was probably my fifth(?) time doing the Sun Run, but only the fourth that I have information about, and it’s unquestionably my last time. I’m pretty sure I did it in 1998 or 1999, but I know I did the 2000, 2008 and 2010 events. I said the same thing when I captained a second corporate team for BCIT in 2010, but decided to do it on a whim this year, mostly for a 10k event gauge. I now recall with more clarity being dismayed in 2010 and why I vowed never again then.

Don’t get me wrong. I think a massive community event that gives many people a reason to train and be active is a very good thing. The success of the Sun Run over its 30 year history is truly remarkable. That’s in large part why I led a SportMedBC InTraining clinic in 2012 (but didn’t do it because of severe foot nerve issues). I like the rationale behind it.

However, with the growth of the event to 50,000+ participants, has come some significant racing pains. When you cram that many people onto Georgia Street, you know it’s going to take a while to get everyone going. If you get far enough back in the corrals, particularly in the white or purple sections, you’ve likely got a wait of an hour plus just to cross the start line. While those runners have estimated they’ll be well over an hour to complete, it’s a shame it may take them as long to get to the start as it does to do the run.

While some of that is unavoidable with an event of this size, the total lack of corral entry control coupled with rampant over-zealous finishing time estimation adds significantly to the problem. I’m not sure race organizers would be willing to become stringent about verifying qualifying times, but a lot more effort could be put into ensuring people start in the correct corral.

For me, though, regardless of the main cause or any possible solution, it is simply too big and too crowded and takes far too long to thin out enough to really race.

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