After fifteen weeks of training with my running chicks from the UBC Running Study, I felt a bit more prepared for my second half marathon – the TWU Fort Langley Historic Half Marathon (FLHHM). My first half marathon (the Vancouver Historic Half Marathon) was a really lovely run – 2 loops around the seawall at Stanley Park. I was very happy with my time of 2:02:33.0. I feel that is a pretty respectable time, given I hadn’t done any real formal training except for running 3 times a week. Now that I had been running 4 times a week with a pretty rigorous training program provided by the UBC Running Study and I had some pretty amazing ladies keeping me accountable, I really felt like I could get a sub-two hour time. And then a couple of weeks before the race, I looked at the race course and the elevation change throughout the course. What was I getting myself into?!!? It looked like one big hill. Given there were a few plateaus, but it was a steady climb with a total elevation change of about 70 m starting at the 4 km mark to the 9 km mark. Okay, I had signed myself up for it and I was going to run it. I now look back and I don’t curse all of that hill and interval training I did in the last 15 weeks.
The morning of the race, Scott and the two kidlets dropped me off at Fort Langley National Historic Site (the start and finish line of the FLHHM) at 7:30am. There was no way my kids (a 2 ½-year-old and a 4-year-old) were going to see me off at the start line and wait patiently for me to complete a half marathon that early in the morning. They were coming back closer to my estimated finish time. And it was a good thing they didn’t stay. It was a beautiful and slightly overcast morning but a very chilly 1 degree Celsius. As I entered into the fort, I saw a big group of people huddled in the centre of the fort. I made my way over there and saw a huge fire pit and a big fire roaring away. These people were SMART! I inched my way over so I take part in this mass of heat generating from the bonfire and warm bodies.
About 15 minutes before the start of the half marathon, I kind of expected some kind of group stretching session. I waited about 10 minutes and no one was conducting anything that looked like it. So, I found a spot to start my warm up stretches we were taught in my training program. Within about 5 minutes, someone announced over the PA system that the half marathoners were to start lining up in the start line corral. There was supposedly an 8:00am start time for the elite and fast rec runners and then an 8:05am start time for the rest of us schlubs. So, I kept trying to inch my way closer to the back of the line because given this was my 2nd half marathon, I really still felt like a newbie and EVERYONE else looked like seasoned half marathoners, who would be running much faster than me. As the horn blasted to let the first wave of half marathoners through the start line, everyone kept moving forward and there was no second wave of half marathoners. Everyone kept moving through the start line. So, I ended up being one of the runners in the first and only wave of half marathoners.
For the first 4 km of this race course, I was weaving through the “urban” residential streets that surrounds the Fort Langley Historic Site and made my way to Glover Road. I know from conscientiously studying the elevation of the race course that this part of the course was supposed to be “easy” (aka relatively flat) and for the most part it was. It was when I turned the corner and started to see the undulating hills that go higher and higher on Rawlison Crescent, I knew I had to concentrate on keeping a steady pace over these “little” obstacles. The first set of smaller hills were not too bad and my pace slowed a little but nothing that I was too worried about because I was able to pick it back up after I crested those hills. As I progressed through the race course, the scenery became very pretty. It was really beautiful running through the rural streets of Fort Langley, even if the path was undulating. Around the 27 min mark, I hit a hill that really wanted me to falter. I descended that hill and almost sighed in relief but as I turned onto 240th, I saw the steep climb before me and sucked it in once more for another climb and another climb and another climb. The plateaus between the hills on 240th were too close and not long enough. As I rounded onto Telegraph Trail, I kept seeing more and more climbs. I knew my pace was slowing down but I was still moving and not walking.
Finally around the one-hour mark, I saw the descent I was waiting for. I hit Armstrong Road and it was all downhill for just over 2km. Heaven!!! I was picking up speed but I kept checking my watch to make sure I hadn’t exceeded my lactate threshold pace. I still needed to save some energy for the last leg of my race. After I turned the corner onto 88th Ave, it was really nice to have a flat path to run on. This lasted for another 1 km. I turned on 240th St and there were some smaller hills here, not too crazy but I could feel my energy depleting. At about the 45-minute mark, I sucked back about half of a pureed fruit pack and I had been taking small sips of my sports energy drink I had been shlugging this whole time in my hydration pack on my back. Many of my running chicks I had trained with were using Shock Bloks. I saw these crazy little chewy concoctions and thought I could never chew on this and run at the same time. One of the run leaders, Princess of Pavement, had mentioned in week 1 or 2 about different types of nutrition runners use during long runs to keep their energy up. I tried using little squeezable packs of pureed fruit in week 3 of my training and it was easy to use. I stuck with it for the rest of my long training runs from then on.
As I turned back onto Rawlison Crescent, I saw that hill that nearly did me in during the first half of this course, from the other side. As I started running towards the ascent of the hill, I heard a road marshal yell something about “You’re doing a great job!” and then I heard the words I had been dying to hear during this entire race “This is the last big hill! You can do it!” Seriously?!!? I hope he wasn’t joking when he said that. I almost did a fist pump but I stopped myself before I accidentally elbowed another runner. I started the climb of this LAST HILL and then it hit me. I felt a little twinge in my left quad. Damn it! I had never sustained any injuries during any of my training runs. Yes, I felt stiff and had some sore muscles for about 24 hours after a really long run but no injuries. As soon as I felt that twinge, I slowed down to a brisk walk as I was mid hill. Once I got to the crest of the hill, I started running again and back up to my half marathon pace. It felt good to run and not walk.
The rest of the course flew by until I got to the urban residential area. I knew I was within 2km of the end. I tried to pick up the pace a bit but I was getting tired. It was when I had the Fort Langley walls in site that I got that surge of adrenaline and I was able to really pick up my pace again. I knew I could finish this race strong. I saw Scott and the kidlets near the finish line cheering me on. It gave me that extra little boost. I crossed the finish line with a time of 2:02:10 and felt an amazing feeling of relief and satisfaction wash over me. My kids and Scott were right by my side after I received my finisher medal. A pretty snazzy one if I do say so myself. The kids thought so too. That’s the first thing they said to me after I crossed the finish line. Checking out my new bling.
Now, I’m looking forward to training with my running chicks again and to my next half marathon at the end of June – the Scotia Bank Vancouver Half Marathon.