Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Race Report: Sea Cavalcade Mile

My mom and I had to wake up at the un-Godly hour of 6am on a Saturday to take the ferry to Gibsons for this race. I was slightly worried it wouldn't be worth the hassle, but I had a feeling it would be fun.

I have only ever done one other one mile event and it was more of a fun run than a race. It was the Chip's Not Dead Yet Mile, and it was an uphill climb with themed waves, such as clowns, brides, underwear, superheroes...I don't even know what my time was. I was dressed up as a bride.

We arrived in the little town of Gibsons and had a look around before heading to the start area. As the start time drew nearer, it was apparent this was going to be a very small race. There were only about 10 or 15 adults gathering around the start line and about as many little kids. I guess a mile is a reasonable distance if you're eight.

A few seconds before the gun, a group of fighter jets flew overhead in configuration just for us. Actually, there was a big parade planned right behind the race, so it was probably for the crowds that were gathered waiting for the main event.

Soon we were off and within a few strides a 12 or 14 year old girl tumbled and rolled in front of me. I had to swerve to avoid her. She hopped right back up and seemed ok, so with a few concerned glances backward, everyone kept going.

Really early on I felt a tiredness in my upper arms, which I didn't expect. There was a bit of a hill the first 400m, which was also bothersome. I glanced at my Garmin and my pace was about 6:56/mile, so I slowed down a tiny bit. I didn't want to run out of gas!

Every 400m there was a big, yellow sign (400m, 800m, etc) which was handy. I checked my pace a few times, and then when the course changed to decidedly downhill I sped up and tried to catch another female runner who was about 10 yards in front of me.

The last 100m or so I really gave 'er and smoked the woman I was tailing. As I crossed the line I glanced at the clock and it said 7:05, but my official time was 7:12. That was good enough to win my age group (2nd was also last place).

The crowd support was excellent for such a tiny race in a tiny town. I'd recommend this race and would love to see a larger turnout in the future!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Race Report: Run for Central Park

The days preceeding this trip I deliberately avoided looking at the weather forecast for New York. I had a feeling it might be H-O-T and didn't want to get psyched out. There's not a lot a person can do to acclimatize a week before an event, so there wasn't any point in freaking out about it.

SO many port-a-potties, so little time

I awoke at 6am in my frigidly air-conditioned room at the Times Square Hilton and got myself together for the race. I quickly chugged two big glasses of water and headed downstairs to the breakfast buffet.

There was a really nice spread laid out of sausages, bacon, three varieties of scrambled eggs, fruit, juices, etc....but common sense and experience told me to stick to a toasted bagel with a little bit of egg on the side.  I also had my customary one cup of coffee, even though my tiredness quotient called for at least three.

Once I felt adequately fueled I headed outside into the warmness and hailed a taxi. There was almost no traffic, so within a few minutes I jumped out of the cab and made my way into the park.

By now there were lots of other chumps like me (over 5,000 as it turns out) shlepping their way along the winding paths of Central Park. Some wore their newly acquired race T-shirts. Many carried backpacks and water bottles. As usual, the runnners represented many different ages, sizes, colours, and persuasions.

As I got closer to the starting area, which was near the Bandshell, the crowds became thicker and I started to overhear snippets of familiar banter. Talk of PR's, hydration, run-walk strategy, and IT band syndrome faded in and out in the background as I weaved through the crowds taking pictures along the way.

About 45 minutes after I arrived, it was time to find my corral (based on my supposed 8:08/mile expected pace, HAHA). I tried to stand in the shade for as long as possible, but I finally had to bite the bullet and go stand under the sun's relentless gaze. Within a couple of minutes I noticed beads of sweat forming on the bald heads of middle aged men around me.

The anthem was sung way off in the distance at the start line, a gun was fired, and we were off. I started my Garmin and decided not to look at it again until the end of the race. After all, there was a heat advisory in effect and the temperature at 9am was already 28C (82F) I was not intent on breaking any records. I just wanted to run as much as I could and make it to the finish without puking or passing out.

The first couple of miles I was buoyed by the energy around me and still relatively cool, and ran at about 9:00/mile pace without killing myself too much.  After a while I started to get really warm and decided to take lots of walk breaks during the third mile. Throughout the race at every water stop I would drink a cup of water and pour another cup on my head. The cooling effect was great and it lasted for about a half a mile each time.

After taking a pretty relaxed 12:00 to run/walk mile three, I decided to pick up the pace for mile four. I started to tire with about 300m to go, but the crowds were much heavier by then and I didn't want to humiliate myself by slowing or stopping in front of all those people, so I dug in. There was an uphill climb, lots and lots of cheering, and then a corner. After the corner things flattened out and I sprinted to the finish.

My final time was 39:42, which is probably a PR because I have only run one other 4 mile race and it was before I was really a runner and I am sure it was slower.

The Run for Central Park supports the Central Park Conservancy. All awards for the race are eco-friendly, and flowers are planted throughout the park for all race winners, which is a really nice touch.  The race is super well organized, the crowd support is fantastic, and the location is varied and scenic. The hot weather was compensated for a bit by the shade of the park's big trees and the frequent water stops and spray stations. I highly recommmend this event and would be happy to do it again. 
Here are the bullet points included in the memo, entitled Tips for Running a Race in Warm Conditions, handed out by the New York Road Runners at the package pickup:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Rave Run: Stanley Park Seawall

Stanley Park is one of the best things about living in Vancouver.  It's approximately 1000 acres (compared to New York's Central Park at 800) - and takes up about half of the downtown peninsula.

I'm lucky enough to live in Vancouver's TINY downtown core, which means Stanley Park is running distance from my house. Its also running distance from lots of hotels, so if you're here from out of town you should totally check it out.

Below is my 8 mile running route.  The little diagonal line going from the forested area across the little inlet is the Lions Gate Bridge.  You'll see a photograph of it below.  

Route Map (8 miles / 13km)

The seawall around Stanley Park can get rather crowded on warm, sunny weekends.  Weeknights are much more quiet.  It's important to note, that bikes are supposed to stay on one (clearly marked) side of the path while pedestrians are supposed to stay on their side.  If everyone sticks to the rules we'll all get along just fine.  Sadly, many a tourist seem to be caught unawares of our local customs, which can lead to unfortunate mishaps.

Fellow Runners on the Seawall at Coal Harbour

There are lots of monuments and viewpoints along the way, a few of which are pictured, below:

Statue of Harry Jerome, who competed for Canada in 
three Olympic Games, and set seven world records
including the 100m in 10.2, 10.1, and finally 10
seconds in 1960

The Nine O'Clock Gun, which is a 12-pound 
muzzle-loaded Naval cannon, has been 
declaring the time of day for over 100 years

Here's the "Girl in Wetsuit" statue (1972), which 
you can get a better look at here. It was 
commissioned by the city as a modern take on 
the "Little Mermaid" in Copenhagen

Replica fibreglass figurehead from the SS Empress 
of Japan, which sailed between Vancouver and Asia 
from 1891-1922.  The original wooden figurehead 
can be found at the Vancouver Maritime Museum.

The Lions Gate Bridge looming in the distance, 
with the North Shore beyond

The far side (north side) of Stanley Park, between the 
Lions Gate Bridge & English Bay

The beach at English Bay, which is visible as the 
seawall exits Stanley Park.

 This is a great route for the natural scenery, cultural sites, and great people watching.  Its not uncommon to spot Herons and Harbour Seals along the way too, which is an added bonus.  There are a few drinking fountains along the way, though not as many as you might expect - so its a good idea to bring water.