Another Sunday morning, and another day at the office, which entailed running the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon this time around.
I arrived at UBC Thunderbird Stadium close to 7 AM and immediately ran into Drew Nicholson, who had been having achilles problems just recently but was feeling better today. Drew said that in spite of the elite field of Olympians and Kenyans he was hoping to finish in the top 10 overall. He then went to find a buddy and we wished each other luck.
Before I knew it it was getting on to race time, and I went down and lined up not too far from the starting line, but just before we were going to head out it seemed to fill up quite densely with runners in front of us, so it was a crowded start.
They launched us off at 7:30, and it took about 20 seconds or so just to cross the starting mat, and then we were running in a dense clump of people. One fellow jumped up onto the sidewalk to run around the plodding masses, and I followed him. It didn't take us long to get around the sluggos and soon we were back on the street, now running with a large group going at a good pace. We ran through the UBC area for a couple of kilometers and then headed out on the highway. We were now on a long straightaway, with first an uphill and then a downhill part. Up ahead was a turnaround, and we saw the first pack of about 6 elite runners go by us coming back on the other side of the highway. Then there was one other guy by himself, and next I saw Drew coming up, so I yelled "Go Drew!" really loud to give him encouragement. Others ran by and I noticed Jo Astoria heading back, and yelled "Go Jo!", and he gave me a wave.
Soon I hit the turnaround myself, and then we headed up the road in the opposite direction. By this time a horn and drum band had set up on the boulevard and was playing a lively tune for us that lifted our spirits as we legged it up the incline. I felt a hand on my shoulder and it was Greg from my club. I told him I'd been looking for him going by me on the other side when I was going up, but he said he'd been delayed going to the bathroom and started the race a minute late. I stayed behind him for a little bit but soon he pulled away. We crested the hill and now were on a decline, whizzing past the 5K point. A fellow wearing a VFAC singlet named Jim (I knew his name from spectators calling it out) was running in front of me with another guy, and they were talking, but soon this ceased and they took to concentrating on their running.
The straightaway ended and we turned right, running a couple of kilometers on the highway before hanging a left, and heading down a road that I was familiar with as it's part of some of my training runs. We were on the decline of the Spanish Banks Hill, which goes on for about one and a half kilometers, and I passed the two buddies in front of me, and then some more people as I glided down the hill. Before I knew it we were at the 9K marker, now cruising on level ground going past Lacarno Beach. People lined the roads in some spots yelling encouragement, waving signs, and even playing music for us from their cars parked in the lot.
His buddy had passed me, but Jim came up and ran beside me, and for most of the rest of the race we took turns passing each other. Close to the 13K mark we came to a somewhat brutal hill that I know from another of my training runs that goes on for about 3 or 4 hundred yards, and everyone slowed down here. Mercifully we made it to the top, and turned left onto 4th Avenue, and one of the 2 fellows with me said "Thank God for downhills!", which we were now on. We zipped by the 14K marker and then made another left, and now we had throngs of cheering supporters lining the streets.
After a few blocks we came out onto Point Grey Road at Jericho Beach, and we were now heading down to where I live. Just past the 15K point someone came up beside me and said "Hi Gordon!" It was Mark Pinckard, and I was surprised to see him as he's usually way ahead of me, I see him briefly at the beginning of a race and then at the end. I told him I'd run a 5K race the day before, and he told me he'd cycled 120 kilometers as part of his Ironman training, and I said "You got me beat!" We both agreed that this wasn't a "key" race for either of us, and for Mark more of a training run, and we were just seeing how well we'd do without worrying too much about the result. Mark took off ahead and I called after him that I'd see him at the finish line.
We went by where I live and I knew it was one kilometer to the Burrard Street Bridge. I managed to pick up the pace and when we hit the bridge and started the 600 meter ascent to the crest, I noticed Jim about 100 meters ahead of me. I actually do laps of the bridge in training, but not after I've already raced 18K, so it was a tough struggle up it. I reminded myself that I had run up this incline hundreds of times before, so I just had to suck it up and keep going. To my surprise, I actually sped up some, so much so that by the crest I was right behind Jim, and then on the 300 meter downhill I passed him, and stayed ahead of him the rest of the race.
When we got off the bridge we turned left onto Pacific Boulevard, with 2 kilometers to go. There were many people lining the streets cheering us now, and we hit Beach Avenue and the 20K mark. My legs were starting to feel a bit like lead now, and the sun was beating down on us, but I knew the end was near. I even managed to speed up a bit as there were so many people yelling encouragement now, and before I knew it I saw the 21K marker, 100 meters to go! A young woman who'd passed me early in the race and I'd kept in sight for a lot of it, suddenly stopped with about 20 meters to go and started walking, apparently having "bonked". People were yelling at her to keep going, and by the time I came up beside her she had started to jog, so I told her to keep running, she was almost there!
I looked at the clock and was shocked, as it said 1:34:35, and my personal best from the Fool's Run was 1:36:19. I had always been aiming for a 1:35:00 finish but had never come close, albeit I'd only run 4 previous half marathons. Now I was going to crush that, in a race where I wasn't expecting to run that well because of my 5K race the previous day! I ended up crossing in 1:34:44, and the young woman, Caitlin Sincalair, finished in 1:35 even, but she did it! I got my finisher's medal and congratulations from a volunteer, and then went into the park where Mason Raymond from the Canucks was up on stage talking to the crowd, and he finished and they got to business getting the 5 Kers ready for their impending race.
I'm going on too long so I'll try and just summarize the rest. For food they had Power Bar samples, and seemingly unlimited mini bagels and cookies, of which I had too many as usual, and to drink plain Gatorade, various juices, water, and Gatorade recovery drink. I ran into Cindy, who hadn't run the race but came out in support, and Greg, and he thought he may have medaled. They went off to their car as Greg wanted to change, and the results were up, so I looked and saw my time, and noticed that Drew had finished 9th overall, and Greg was 3rd in his age group. Soon Drew walked up and I told him how he did, and he asked how I did, and we congratulated each other. I met Arnold and talked to him for awhile, and then Greg and Cindy walked up and I told him he'd indeed medaled.
All pictures courtesy of Cindy.
They had the awards and impending Olympian Reid Coolsaet was 1st overall, with fellow Olympic marathoner Eric Gillis finishing 3rd. Kip Kangogo was 2nd, and I didn't realize until they called his name and he went up that he was standing right beside me. That's what's great about running, where we all get to run in the same races as the elites, and mingle with them afterward. Greg went and got his big honking medal, it's a beaut, and then it was time to call it a day.
Results are up http://www.sportstats.ca/displayResults.xhtml?racecode=102332 and I was 219th overall out of 3838, 14th of 182 in my age group, in 1:34:44. Greg was 139th overall with a time of 1:30:16, Drew was 9th overall in 1:13:30, Mark was 10th in our age group, and 156th overall in 1:31:27, and Tina Louise Harris finished in 142nd place with a smoking 1:30:23. Richard Armstrong, who I've never beat in a race before, has now been defeated, finishing 225th overall and 17th in our age group, with a time of 1:34:56. Foolish mortal! Better luck next time Richard! Ha! Ha!
My next race is on Sunday, July 1st, the Canada Day Rock 10K in White Rock, at 8 AM.