Breakthrough (plus another 5 things I learned running the Victoria Marathon)

Isn’t it great when things just fall in to place? When, dare I say it, you do something that actually impresses ‘you’? Well running fans – I guess I had one of those days in the sun a couple of weeks ago, running the 2011 Victoria Marathon.

I began to develop a sneaking suspicion that things might go better than expected a couple of weeks before the race. I had put behind me, if not entirely out of sight, the memories of the bad training runs I endured in the run up to the race itself (as covered in my last post here), and all of sudden, (and really, a little like magic actually), things had begun to click into place. My running action was smooth, my pace was tidy, I was full of beans. It felt like I had “found my strong”.

So, lining up at the start line, next to my great friends Yoko and her husband and first time marathoner Adam, I have to say, I felt as good as I ever have at the start of any race.

Victoria marathon 2011 Start
Ready for the off.

I have learned through experience that the pace during the first couple of miles of any distance event can be deceptive. It always feels like races start with a huge surge of excitement and adrenaline, and it is something you need to manage – you have to run your race, not let the race run you. So, two or three miles in, I was a little self-conscious of the fact that I was clocking 8 or sub 8 min miles, against my plan of running even 8:35’s. Still – I was feeling good, and thought let’s keep going and see what happens.

Much as I would love to bore you with a forensically detailed mile by mile description of the rest of the race, I will simply say this – I just.kept.going. Even at the 20-22 mile slot that has been the graveyard of my ambitions in marathons past, I was able to dig deep and push through.

The time? My official time posted as 3:30:55. Steady 8 min/miles all the way and a 23 minute improvement on my Vancouver marathon time for this year. Most exciting and frustrating in equal measure, is that this time would have been enough to qualify me for Boston had the closing deadline for Boston 2012 not been two weeks prior. Now I’ll have to go back to the drawing board to find a way of shaving at least another 6 mins off that time in order to satisfy the new, stricter Boston qualifier times that are set for 2013.

Victoria Marathon 2011 Finish
Adam, Rob, Yoko - elated but very tired at the end of the run

So, in order that someone, somewhere, might take profit from my sudden and unexpected burst of speed, here are another five things I learned from running the Victoria Marathon:

1. You cannot argue with a good taper – I took the taper seriously this time, and definitely felt it gave me an energy boost going in to the run. Plus, I was eager to run, chomping at the bit!

 2. Nutrition – I ate well leading up to the race – bananas and lots of good carbs, especially the day before, and a healthy breakfast (oatmeal, bagel, banana and a coffee to well, clean the pipes so to speak) helped put enough fuel in my tank. During the race, I carried Science in Sport Go Gels and Burner Gels (one every 4 or 5 miles), plus Shot bloks in between times.

 3. Hydration – I carried enough electrolyte (Nuun tablet) infused water (4 x 8oz) and made the occasional grab of some liquid at the water stations. Most importantly, I remembered to drink regularly.

4. Mind over matter – Probably for the first time ever, I truly believed in myself, and even when I hit a bit of a wobble around the 22 mile mark, I just talked myself through it – “legs, don’t fail me now!”.

5. Running is a team sport – I will keep harping on about this until I keel over. This time, a massive shout out to my good friends Chris and Nicola Ashworth, who traveled up from Seattle and who kept popping up at many places en route and whose support was unbelievable and really, really helpful. I should also say, to anyone who reads this, and has ever stood at the side of a race, or volunteered at a race, ‘thank you too’. You may not realize this, but your words of encouragement to us strangers running by, are just brilliant. Unless, it is mile 15, and you shout “nearly there”. Don’t do that, because it isn’t.

This week’s music selection is what I was listening to as I crossed the finish line:

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