Saturday, February 7, 2015

Race Report: Abbotsford Hypothermic Half

So, a couple of weeks ago, I took another shot at a sub-2 hr half marathon. And you don't have to read the whole post to know that I didn't make it (if you're reading this within a few months of my posting it anyway)... you just have to glance over to my PBs listed on the right to see that this was a swing and a miss. This run was my 13th half marathon and my 5th attempt to get under 2 hours. Oh, I've taken as long as 3:01:52 to complete a half (Feb 2010, Historic Half) but as I continued to shed the weight, my times started dropping as well. Then in 2013, I ran the First Half in what was a crazy fast time for me (2:07) and started thinking maybe... maybe... I could get under 2 hrs one day.

1st attempt: Victoria Half, Oct 2013, 2:04:31 (brief thoughts on that here)
2nd attempt: Boundary Bay Half, Nov 2013, 2:04:05
3rd attempt: First Half, Feb 2014, 2:05:20
4th attempt: MEC Race 4, June 2014, 2:00:33 (I know!!)

Which brings us to attempt #5, and lucky half-mary #13. I don't want to brag, but pre-race self-doubt and negative thinking are a couple of my super powers. So it was a pretty curious thing for me, the night before, to be feeling pretty darn confident. I was stockpiling evidence to boost my confidence:
  • I ran the MEC Race course long (21.3 km), and Strava marked my time at the 21.1 km mark as 1:59:36 Post-race, that was adding insult to injury but now... now, it was evidence that I had it in me to go under 2 hrs for this distance.
  • I took my most recent race, (New Year's Day Generation Run 5K, 25:11) and entered it into the Running Room's race equivalency calculators. The Reigel prediction was 1:55:52. Performance Factor 1:57:21.
  • At 132, I was toeing the start line lighter than I had been at any previous race.
I've got this. Race morning, I was nervous. I kept reminding myself of the points above - and maintaining that mantra: I've got this. Except I didn't.

We got there early... volunteers hadn't even organized themselves yet. I made a nervous trip to the washroom, did my warm up run, made another trip to the washroom, sucked back a gel, and got ready to start... but we were delayed. Race morning was warm and dry - and turned into a beautiful day - but the rains in the days beforehand had left the course flooded in places, prompting a sudden change in route due to an impassable section. After a slight delay, and a little confusion among organizers about which way they were routing us, we were off... beginning by funneling us over a narrow foot bridge. Go first? Don't mind if I do!

Now, leading up to the race, this event had not seemed that well organized. The course map didn't even make it on to the website until a few days beforehand. And when it did make an appearance, it was a little tough to decipher. I knew it was a couple of loops... and that we ran through 3 parks. Well, the route was lovely: very scenic, with very little neighbourhood or road running, and it had a variety of terrain... some flats, a couple of decent climbs... paved trail, gravel trail.. and one dicey section where you came down a short steep hill straight into a slippery mucky section, followed by a flooded section of trail that required tip-toeing around on the grass and through the muck back to the trail. Twice. "There's your 25 seconds..." a fellow competitor remarked to me after the race.

And while pre-race, there seemed to be a lack of organization, the race itself was excellent. The course marking was good and the volunteers controlling traffic were fantastic. I started out on pace, following the pacing plan I'd discussed a couple of days prior with my coach, but then somewhere in the race, I did the math, decided I'd lost it... and then I did.

When we debriefed post-race, with benefit of heart-rate and pace data, it looked like I eased up on the effort level between kms 9 and 15. Failure to execute. Inability to suffer. Whatever it was. I let that sub-2 slip through my fingers. I had decided I was going to end up running somewhere between 2:02 and 2:04 and when I crossed the finish line at 2:00:24, I was so disappointed in myself, that I teared up a bit and took a moment. 9 second PB and 25 seconds too slow to meet my goal. Too close.

Despite my disappointment, I have to say, this was a lovely race... I enjoyed the course and we were treated to amazing weather. Look at my fellow racers in the background... in tank tops and short sleeves. Hypothermic indeed! It was sunny and 13-15 degrees.

The race organization though... if I could take a moment... (of course I can, it's my blog). No course map until the last minute (and never an elevation profile), no indication whether/where there would be aid stations. I'd called the store after picking up my race package, noticing there was no timing chip, and was told that although it was timed, there were no chips. I was also told there would be age-group awards in 5-year groupings, and that the awards would be at the race, after the race, not at the brunch location. With this in mind, even though I wasn't making my time goal, I had pushed in the later part of the race to pick off women ahead of me. Because of the way the course looped, I knew there were at least 7 women ahead of me... but perhaps not many more. After the race, we were told the awards would be at the brunch so we headed over there... waited for more than hour (and a good 30 minutes past when the awards were supposed to be)... "oh we don't know, we're still waiting for everyone to finish" was the response... So we left.

Although the race website says results will be posted following the event, none have been. I sent an e-mail inquiring the week after the race and was told that they would be posted. But we are now two weeks post-race and there's still nothing there. I'm a little surprised at the disorganization and messaging given this is a Running Room event in multiple cities.

But... now that I've got that off my chest, I have to say, this was a nice little race. Your race entry gets you some gloves and a neck warmer/toque thingie which makes a nice change for those of us with drawers full of race shirts, and also gets you a buffet brunch of pancakes, eggs, sausages, bacon... yeah, so not particularly vegan friendly but the Hub ate his fill while I drank black coffee. The course was lovely, the volunteers were fantastic. If you're getting tired of running the same race courses around the Lower Mainland, give this one a try... I'd definitely give it a repeat.

As for my next attempt at sub-2... gah! I don't know, but I'm looking for a pacer who won't let me slow down!

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