Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 12; 14th Edition 
143.4 miles run and 7600 meters swam in races in 2018 races
Race: Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon
Place: Victoria, BC
Miles from home: 2270
Weather: Mid-50 degrees; rain; humid

Just two weeks after my first marathon of the year in Ely, Minnesota, I was hoping for a huge improvement in Victoria, BC. While some were worried about the rain (which was steady but almost never really much of a hindrance) I knew that clouds meant there would be no sun to draw out energy and the 50 degree temperature would be right up my alley.

As is usually the case when I am racing, I was also working. It is not the ideal way to try to get ready for endurance races, the whole sitting and standing and talking for two eight-hour days at an expo, while trying to find time to eat some sort of food, while also hoping people who just solicited you for advice for ten minutes might actually buy a book as well, but it is the way I have been doing it for quite some time. Here in Victoria it was no different but as always it brought tons of wonderful people into my worldview.

I was sharing a booth with the absolutely wonderful Russell Books store located in Victoria itself. Spending time with Andrea and her two-year old who is inflicted with a rare disorder called Pitt-Hopkins Syndrome I got to see a hard-working mother and a little boy working just as hard to have a normal life. I was also surrounded by no less than 50 different books by running authors. How any runner could walk by without getting at least one book is beyond me. I myself was lucky enough to meet many internet friends for the first time, make many new ones, and maybe, a nemesis or two. (I have no reason to believe the last part but I think it would be really cool to have a nemesis, don't you?)

I wrapped up my work weekend by being the featured speaker for around 250 people gathered for a delicious "Carob Gala" dinner. Speaking to normal mortals, and Olympians and everyone in between, was a pure treat.

Top to bottom everything about the way in which the event was run up until race day was top shelf.
Kudos to the organizers for pulling all of this off. Now it was time for me to go to bed and get ready to race.

Race Morning:

My "A" goal was to run a 3:05 marathon. I didn't think this was too far a reach for me considering my effort on a very hilly course in Ely two weeks prior. I had an excellent night of sleep, the race temperature was 48 as I shuffled to the start and promised to get no more than 50 by the time I hoped to finish. I left some of my gear right at the finish in the VIP section I was fortunate enough to be involved with and was ready to get the day under way.

First 5k:

When the horn signaled , I realized that all the half marathoners and marathoners would be running together. After running 23 miles with no one in my last race this was a welcome addition to my racing life. Over 1,000 finishers in just the marathon meant I would be running in my the biggest race in nearly four years.

After a first kilometer marker which threw me for a loop thinking it was a mile, I realized I was in Canada and would likely not be seeing many mile markers. (After a Mile One marker, they were then placed every five miles.) This meant I was going to have to do some math. I decided I would just go by what ever five kilometers told me and that would have to suffice. If I wanted to run a 3:05, I somehow figured out that was a 22:00 5k for each 5k (Actually, 21:55 I learned later which would make a difference in the long-run if it had come down to it.)

According to all the elevation charts I had seen, this race had a hill at mile two, another one at mile eight and then a series of hills between 20-22. Other than that it was smooth sailing on flat ground. Heck if you even look at my own data it more or less plays that out exactly with a few little bumps here and there. This data lies. That said, even with the first significant hill at mile two in my rear view mirror, I had a 21:47 first 5k. Sounds good to me!

To 10k:

The race is able to pick up some miles in the Beacon Hill Park area without really going anywhere. 
A few out-and-backs, a few hills I wasn't expecting, (I had run in the park the day I arrived just to see a few sites) and a few times where you got to run where you had been on another previous loop, had runners finally out on the road with the Strait of Juan de Fuca on your right.

Normally quite a view, it was mostly obscured by the rain and clouds today. I was thinking this was the Pacific earlier in the week but then remembered geography. I also furthered recalled an old Saturday Night Live skit where they pronounced Joey Buttafuoco's name like he was royalty in a Masterpiece Threate skit called the House of Buttafuoco. Give the similarity between the name of the strait and Joey's surname, you can imagine what was stuck in my head for most of the race. Thanks, Lizard Brain. 

I hit the 10k mark at 44:00 or just about exactly where I wanted. Given there had been some hills in this portion I hadn't expected, maintaining the pace I wanted was extra pleasing. 

To 15k:

This next section took us along the water with some fine views of the houses on the left which were phenomenal, and the strait on the right. We were also going to get a nice long straightway of running which has always suited me better than lots of twits and turns. I knew the last big hill for quite some time took us away from the Strait and into the neighboring community of Oak Bay. However, before we got there, we up and over a few other hills. I was beginning to wonder if perhaps I had underestimated this course.

Since just a few miles in, the pack of runners had settled into more or less those whom I would see for the remainder of the day. Some random runner would pass me here and there and I would chew up and spit out the back a runner as well but you got to know people's gaits, shirt colors and other eccentricities. One runner behind me ran with the heaviest footsteps of anyone I had ever heard. I looked at his bib and upon seeing he was running the half could not have been happier. I didn't want that sound near me any more than necessary. It is amazing how the smallest things will bother you to the nth degree in a marathon. In fact, here it spurred me to pick up the pace a little bit and put some distance between us.

Approaching 15 kilometers, I was a little disappointed with my 22:33 split for this 5k but given the big hill I had climbed, knew it wasn't too far off my goal. I knew the flat sections were coming up and I should be able to make up some time there to put me back on track.

To 20k:

I was excited about this next section as now the half-marathoners would be leaving us and I would see my competition for the day other than the clock. I was surprised how many people were still in front of me when we split.  Last year, the pace I was running would put me in the top 50. Right now, I could see 20 people in front of me and I was nowhere near the leaders. Well. Look at the big shoes on Brad! (This is a Samuel L. Jackson reference from Pul Fiction that I came up while running which doesn't really make any sense but had me chuckling when I thought of it. So there.)

We approached the water again, leaving the comfy confines of tree-lined homes, and I was beginning to feel pretty good. Until this point, while I was hitting my goals, it had been a struggle and I wondered if it was going to be one of those races where I never feel great but I also never really tire. However this spurt brought me in front of a number of runners and up ahead along the beautiful waterfront I could see we had in store for us...more hills. OK, what's going on here?

Jogging through the Victoria Golf Club showed me I never need to hear about the silliness of running in the rain when men were out here in the same slop holding lightning rods in their hands. In addition, a 22:21 5k told me that I was indeed getting faster. I almost always have a good second half when I slowly get better with each passing mile so I expected I might perhaps just indeed get that 3:05 after all.

To 25k:

My kilometers-to-miles brain got messed up and the half-marathon sign appeared a full kilometer before I expected it. That made me quite happy. Soon thereafter the leaders of the marathon were coming back at us on the other side and that meant the turnaround would be soon enough. I began counting to see how many where in front of me. Five then 10 then 30 then 50. Good lord. How many were up there?

We did the turnaround in the middle of the street which is just something I have always hated. It doesn't seem like much and I know why it is done but coming to an almost dead stop is no fun. But now I too was heading back and with no jaunt through Beacon Hill Park on the return trip home, this meant a much faster course!

There were a few more runners than I expected a little bit closer than I thought they might be as I made my turn. I lost count exactly but I think I was 86th overall. Oodles of people came out to run today! I was quite perplexed, however, when I ran past the next marker in 22:49. It wasn't too far off what I had been doing but it had felt much faster. In addition, I had passed more than a few people. I guess I was just slowing less than they were. That was great for overall placing but not great for my time.

To 30k:

I have an elaborate way to deal with running a marathon and all the miles that I won't bore you with here. However, the final portions involve getting to mile 18 before heading home for the last 6 miles after 20. I was eagerly looking forward to that 30k mark but what seemed to jump up out of nowhere were the small rises underneath us. I now know that for whatever reason, this race course is not "hard" per se but it was nowhere near as easy as I was thinking it would be.

I could feel my energy ebbing a bit so I went to all the tricks I have learned over time. Arm placement. Head placement. Making sure to run not a single inch farther than you have to by cutting every single tangent as close as possible. But when I got to 30k, my time showed me a 23:09 for this 5k. Again, not the end of the world but with 7.6 miles to go, I was beginning to run on borrowed time.

To 35k:

I remembered when we were running out this way where the 32k and 37k markers were on the other side of the road. I began to mentally picture them up ahead even though I couldn't see through the hills in front of me or the twists and turns. I was attempting to mentally lasso myself around them and pull them forward. I passed 32k in 2:24. I knew that meant if I ran a 46 last 10k I would not get the 3:05 I had hoped for (I had known this at the halfway point which I went through in 1:34) but could still get a 3:10. That wasn't too shabby.

But then the hill kept coming. I completely missed hitting my watch at 35k. I had been picturing the 37k mark telling me I just had 3.1 one to go.

To the Finish:

This last portion is the one which  is most baffling to me. We were clearly running uphill. But all elevation data shows we are at sea level. That's simply impossible. What was definitely possible, however, was how much I was slowing. More than a few runners had passed me but I had caught a handful of others who had been in front of me all race. My legs were beginning to tighten. My hamstring argued with me as I tried to up the pace to get this race over with. I could see it was more likely I would run a 3:12. I wasn't happy with this. However, the harder I pressed the more I seemed to slow. The finish was excruciatingly close but I didn't seem to be drawing any nearer.

A couple of small but steep hills and a series of last minute twists were especially cruel right here. No fewer than 10 people passed me in half a mile. Suddenly, I realized it was going to be even close for me to get my Boston Qualifying time - something which seemed like a shoo-in just three miles previous. I dug deep into the pain cave and kept moving forward. 

There up ahead was a 400 meter to go sign. Then 300 and 200 and 100. This addition of signs was an absolutely awesome touch by the race. On the right, finally, the Victoria Provincial Capitol Building was visible. And so, mercifully was the finish line.

I almost stumbled across in a 3:14:47, which procured me a BQ for the fourteenth straight year. I still somehow cracked the top 100 with a 94th finish. The master's men came out in droves today as I finished 17th in my age group. In fact, to place in the top 50 this year, you had to almost go sub-3. (48 did just that.)

Obviously not the race I was hoping for but, given the circumstances, one I think I can be proud of. With a flight leaving just three hours after I finished, I could not stay and enjoy Victoria as much as I wanted to. Luckily, I got my picture with the Terry Fox statue, like I had five years earlier on my only other visit to this fantastic city. I very much hope to be back to run the race again, visit my friends at the book store and see so much more of this beautiful island city.

Without a doubt this race should be on your list of ones to run. If I can still recommend it when I didn't have the race I was hoping for, I think that tells you how well it is run, what a beautiful course it is, how wonderful the spectators are, and all else that goes into putting together a well-oiled

Plus, if he isn't gone by this time next year, you can at least escape from Trump for a few days.

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