Time for another running story - with tales of lycra and nasty smells abound.
For the second time my running group headed North from Seattle to the frozen wastes of Canada and a the city with one of the worst traffic systems I have ever seen. I swear that they randomly change which streets are one way and which are not every time I visit and with no turn lanes and badly synchronized traffic lights you need to ensure you are on the correct side of the street if you intend to get anywhere.
For those long time readers you may remember that Vancouver was the site of my 1st marathon 2 years ago. Yesterday I was running the shorter half marathon. Its only been 3 weeks since my 50k and although I am recovered well day to day pushing my legs too hard in a race increases injury risk and, as I found, finds all the aches and pains that are not really recovered.
Last time in Vancouver it rained heavily but we awoke Sunday morning to a clear sunny day. As usual an early start so we walked down to the start around 6am and checked our bags and went to the start line. Vancouver is a nice race and generally well organized but they have no pace markers at the start line so everyone including the walkers decides its OK to stand near the front. It took me 6 minutes to cross the start and I was passing walkers for 2 miles. Come on marathon organizers PLEASE put up big signs asking the walkers to start from the back.
Considering the potential of tired legs I was not sure if I should go for it on this race but after the 1st mile I was doing pretty well so I figured I'd just keep going. The sun was out and directly on us so it was warming up. But the really odd thing was that I could still see my breath and the air seemed chilly. Lots of twists and turns so sunglasses on and off and on and off again. My pace started well and seemed pretty even for the 1st half of the race 9:38, 9:05, 9:08, 8:59, 9:07, 9:04 and hitting the half way point at exactly 1 hour. I was quite surprised that it had gone so well. If I could keep up this pace there was a pretty good chance of running sub 2:00. I'd not got to the only hill yet but things seemed to be going well. But it seems that my body had some other ideas. Right after the half way point my legs seemed to remember the 50k.... it would seem that an hour was all they were prepared to give me for free and they started feeling heavy and I started to slow. Miles 7 and 8 were 9:30 and 9:58 (though mile 8 I think had a water AND gu stop in there so its not quite as bad as it looks).
Right after mile 8 begins the slow climb up and over the Lion's Gate bridge. Exactly at the time my legs need something more optimistic. Oh well - its not that big or long so I shorten my strides and use my considerable marathon experience to get me up there... you know what this means right? Yes its time for more "ZMans's rules of Lycra"....
From Seattle 2007 we already have one and the hill in Vancouver has contributed 3 new ones...
Underwear: There are 3 kinds of underwear allowed under lycra shorts - granny/big pants
, thong/g-string, nothing! If you must wear regular underwear that cuts your buttocks in half remember that whilst its tough to see the problem in jeans or a skirt the lycra shorts will accentuate your now very visible 4 butt cheeks and anonymous marathon runners will mock you. This shall be known as a muffin-butt.
Color: Grey/Silver looks the best if you can pull it off. Black is best if you shouldn't be wearing lycra but insist on it
Gender: If you have the ass of the average 55 year old guy then you need to switch from lycra, lose some weight or wear a longer shirt. Dude you got me moving up the hill faster than any of the cute lady bottoms today just so I could be past you!!!
Length: Shorty short lycra pants are a little 'cheeky' but can be quite hill inspiring on the right people. Sadly it appears that not many of those people run at my speed in races. Folks not everyone can be Daisy Duke. Here's the test: Wear your shorts one day and show 3-4 of your close male friends. Watch their reactions.... it should be pretty obvious if you should inflict that on several thousand people.
So back to the hill. I'm huffing and puffing my way up and seeing my sub 2:00 race disappear and coming to terms with it when I hear someone call my name. Its S from my running group who is having an awesome run. She seems as shocked to see me as I am to see her. After a pretty breathless conversation about being close to 2:00 pace (a HUGE PR for her) I let her know that my legs are very heavy and I am going to be no use to help pace her in to the finish and tell her to get on and go for it and off she goes. My legs are very jealous. Approaching the top I see she has taken a short walk break and I am catching up. I'm glad of someone to chase to take my mind off things so as we go down the hill my extra weight gives me a bit of an advantage and I catch her around mile 9.5 after putting in a 10:11 mile - my slowest of the race.
The down hill has been very kind to me and I'm feeling pretty good again. We are slightly off 2:00 pace but I start to convince myself that between the two of us we can do it. So I keep up the pace and S comes with me and we hit mile 10 in 8:32. Everything is looking good and we need to run a 27 minute 5k to break 2:00 which means its going to be close. Then the flat runs out and the very slightly up hill whips my legs into submission once again. I can tell I'm slowing so I tell S to run her race and go break 2 hours while I start to play those mind games that happen at the end of a race.
I keep her in sight for a short time and then I blink and she is lost in the crowd. Mile 11 is 8:51 and mile 12 I slow back to 9:30 when I take a slightly extended water stop. At mile 12 I decide that if I REALLY push it I can still do a respectable time so I ignore the heavy legs and knock out an 8:08 and scream down to the finish. It feels really good passing lots of people and for a minute I wonder if I will catch S but I never see her till after the end. My final time 2:01:06 which I think is my 3rd fastest half if you don't include my crazy split in Seattle. (S by the way was just slightly over 2:00 - an awesome time and 10+ minute PR for her).
We head off to meet the crew. D finished his 1st 8k and got 2nd place in his age group! Out come the cow bells to cheer in the rest of the gang. 1st half marathon finishes for A, C and M - 2nd half and a PR for J even though she's not been feeling great all week. I think a PR for M (a different M - there are too many people I run with called M) too. Finally Coach N running the full and finally finishing Vancouver which for various reasons has eluded her. She ran the 50k with me 3 weeks ago so no surprise she found this one quite hard. I'm glad she recommended I only ran the half!
After the race some beers and great fish & chips at an English pub and a chocolate waffle for dessert afterwards. Mmmmmmm
Oh and I missed blogging about the smells. I passed a couple of guys who just stank.. now I'm not one who thinks you should shower BEFORE a half marathon but jeez people there's no need to hold off for a week. This is a crowded sport near the start. J also found a couple of stinkers on her run.
And finally my favourite guy was a guy who had 'Happy Star Wars day - May the 4th be with you' on his T-Shirt. (For those who didn't click the link its goes to 'Wookie-pedia')