Saturday, June 16, 2018

2018 - JUNE 16 - NIAGARA ULTRA - 1/2 MARATHON RACE REPORT

NIAGARA ULTRA RACE REPORT - HALF MARATHON - JUNE 16, 2018

Welcome back for another ultra (OK, not an ultra this time) race report. How long has it been since I raced in a 1/2 marathon? I think about 14 years! This is my first race of 2018. There are several reasons for that but I'm glad I got out the door for this one.

I was very late confirming entry but made a request with Henri, the Race Director, and he was kind enough to make a spot for me. I thought it might be interesting to do a shorter distance here after having done the 50km three times and the 100km distance once.

Interestingly, I lost more sleep with this one than the 200 mile at Sulphur Springs last year. I think the reason for that is that I'm so used to races that last, well, many hours, or even days... so thinking about a race that required getting my heart rate up quickly and maintaining that discomfort for the duration was a new sensation.

As many of you know from previous postings, I live very close to the race start and the forecast was 26 degrees for the high, but our 1/2 marathon start at 8am it was about 21 with some cloud cover in places but lovely sunlight and a beautiful day.

Kinsmen Scout Hall, Niagara On The Lake - Race Start/Finish. Photo by Michael Cheliak

I drove down the night before and picked up my bib, lucky 533. Home to what else but a pasta dinner and then in typical race fashion, start preparing at 10pm. Duct tape to the back of the shoes to patch some worn out spots on the heel I didn't want to rub. Shoes of choice are cross country but very lightweight Innov's. It always makes me feel 'faster' when I pop on a pair of lightweight shoes.

Breakfast comprised of a banana and slice of toast 1.5 hours before the start and I made my way down and got a glimpse of the marathon start which began at 7:30am. Not as many in that race as I'd have imagined. The 50km and 100km runners were already out and it was just our race and the 10km one to begin.


Not having raced a 1/2 in so long, I Googled some advice and took onboard the concept of running in your warm-up for about 10 minutes and then getting to the start with about 10 minutes to spare. I think this was very helpful and I wasn't gasping or feeling tight when the race began and I could start with a healthy pace. A far cry for ultras where the pace start is usually quite sedate and hell, you have 50km or more to ease into things.

I sometimes do a 10 mile loop from my house on local roads for a workout and about a month prior I'd done it in 1:16 and felt pretty good about my almost 8mph pace. It was cooler out, but then a week ago did the same loop on a hotter day and it spanked me so my confidence went. I really didn't know what to expect and had hopes but was really worried about my usual 'rocket up the ass' scenario with a huge bonk after 5 miles.

Google came to the rescue again and the advice was negative splits and take the first 3 miles about 20-30 seconds slower and then make it up. I had to decide what kind of time to try for and decided sub 1:45 and if I cracked 1:40 it would be icing. You have to remember, I'm not a speed merchant these days and my training is all geared for the long haul. Being out on the trails for multiple hours. Saying that, I have done a 4:07 at this course for the 50km but that was years ago. And my best 1/2 was 1:27 in the UK, but again, back in the days when I was road marathon training.

After a 10 minute warm-up everything felt good. I'd applied sunscreen and was wearing a belt pack with water. With 8 minutes to the start I inserted myself at the front with some familiar faces. I knew Dave Rutherford was going to smoke this race and he didn't disappoint although speaking after he said he had a major blowup.

M/C wearing jester hat, Canadian Army Personnel and Medical Support. Photo by Michael Cheliak

Di (Dirty Di) as Co-Race Director, giving instructions, Photo by Michael Cheliak
The lady with the microphone (was doing a fine job of keeping us amused and suggested we high five those around us which many of us did. Then it was show time and although I started my watch, I'm sitting here now and damned if I can find any data. Maybe I forgot to stop it :( Anyway, this year they have mats at the 5km (and 10km?) locations so when the race results are posted online I'll be able to post that here. I have my watch set on miles rather than km and was looking to maintain sub 8 minute miles, getting down to 7:30 for the faster ones.

We headed through the arch. Lots of beeping as the timing mats collected their timing chip data, over the grassy section for about 100 feet and joined the paved path which we would continue to follow past the Fort with a sharp right along the Niagara Parkway, and then turn back to the start after 10.5km. I heard that the start of the 100km race went awry almost immediately with a course deviation, but they got themselves sorted out pretty quickly.

1/2 Marathon Race Start. Eventual winner on left in green. Lady in middle beat me by 7 seconds. Dave Rutherford on right. Photo by Michael Cheliak
Entry for the 1/2 marathon was in excess of 300 and after settling in, after the first mile I had about 16 ahead of me.

That sharp right onto the Parkway is at the 1 mile mark and my Garmin beeped, indicating agreement. I looked at the display, registered 7:30 and cursed myself a bit but you can't help feeling perky at the start of a race, right? I was with one other runner and he was my 'carrot'. The 'stick' was the thought of 300 odd souls behind me who I always felt were breathing down my neck. Our pace was similar and although a bit fast for me, I wanted to keep him with me as long as I could. The next few miles registered 7:23 and 7:32 and I knew I needed to slow down the ones after that a bit. Getting to the 5km mark was nice as Lisa and Tina were there (my crew and pacers for the 200 mile Sulphur Springs race last year) and cheered me on.

 
Looking fresh at 3km mark. Photo by Michael Cheliak


Shadowing Stephen Connor (545) who outpaced me from about 8km and took 13th place in 1:39.
 
 
Looking tired: 3km left. Photo by Michael Cheliak
I remember a lady in her car driving past on a number of occasions shaking a cow bell and yelling encouragement. As we got further along we began passing some of the slower runners of other races but encouraged them. My compatriot patted some on the back as he went by and voiced encouragement and I hope it lifted their spirits. Not so long after that I was buoyed up by the encouragement of others when we turned around. I have no idea what my time was at the turnaround but I was feeling like the wheels were digging in and my form was degrading. Only 6.5 miles left. You can do it!

The other runner was slipping ahead and while still in my sights I knew I wouldn't catch him. I wish I had more interesting commentary about the passing and being passed but truthfully I passed no one and only two passed me so I guess I choose the correct position in the starting gate. During the outward part there was a group of about 8 runners ahead of me and my 'carrot' close by and then ahead of them a big gap to the real speedsters.

I was glad for my water bottles as my one attempt to grab water on the go at the 15km aid station was a disaster. After grabbing the cup from a volunteer on the go, I had about 1/5 left after splashing it everywhere, and ended up throwing the remainder in my eye accidentally when I forgot where my mouth was. Duhhhh.

It was really interesting to turn around and come back and see all the other runners and see where everybody was, what state they were in and give and receive encouragement. Lots of runners wearing ear buds, getting through it with the aid of tunes. I prefer hearing the outside sounds and monitoring my effort level. The paved path was shared with the public and there were some cyclists and other runners not in the race, out enjoying the day.

The trees on the river-side provided a good amount of shade and I was thankful for them. With 5km to go I was hurting. My breathing was pretty ragged. While I hoped to find a reserve and put in one or two sub 7:30 min miles it just didn't happen. I felt like a slug and was sure wave after wave were going to run me down. I did stop twice to walk on the return, but only for about 15 seconds and I kept telling myself you are better slowing down than walking and convinced my body to carry on now the end was something tangible.

I didn't turn around to take a 'sneaky peak' as we took a left off the Parkway and headed into the last mile. I just wanted to keep it together and not walk - not easy. The sun was beating down in this open stretch past the Fort and there were many racers walking who were likely on their way to the finish of their 10km efforts. It is even more tempting to walk when you see others doing it.

We crossed the final road and had the final short stretch and I could hear the clapping from the finish line. I rounded the last bend and made a last gasp sprint (probably didn't look like much) along the grass and the little cones and crossed the timing mat in 1:40:46.

Not the most graceful finish but got it done. Photo by Michael Cheliak
 After that I walked away from the crowds and sat on a tree stump until I'd collected my guts and breath and quaffed some water. I headed inside, grabbed a beautiful glass of beer and toted it outside and made my way to the shade along the finishing chute and clapped and cheered runners finishing their races. That's one of my favourite things to do after a race (besides the beer). It's inspiring seeing everybody and every once in a while seeing a battle to the finish line is cool. I chatted to other racers and we discussed where they were from, how it went, etc. One lady had come from Ireland (Eimear O Leary) and had finished and was waiting for her husband. She came in 8th place in the 1/2 marathon in 1:35. Great time. 

I ran into David Vaarty who was one of my fellow runners in the 200 mile last year. He's had a full race schedule this year and is gearing up to do the Sinister Seven, a tough Canadian race. I chatted to Dave Rutherford and the female 50km winner, Neela D'Souza. She got an awesome time of 4:02! Brilliant.

I headed over to the board to see how I'd placed. In the last 3km one guy told me as I ran by that I was in the top 20 and he is a good counter. I placed 18th of 258 finishers so I can't complain about that result. I didn't bonk and it's a respectable finish and it was a beautiful day.

That is a 4:47/km or about 7:45/mile. My 5km split was 23:07 and 10km in 49:20.

Splits Time Cumulative Time Moving Time Distance Elev Gain Elev Loss Avg Pace Avg Moving Pace Best Pace Avg Run Cadence Max Run Cadence Avg Stride Length Calories
1 7:30.6 7:30.6 7:29 1.00 -- 10 7:31 7:29 4:21 181 189 1.18 133
2 7:22.6 14:53 7:22 1.00 13 -- 7:23 7:22 5:47 183 191 1.19 131
3 7:36.1 22:29 7:35 1.00 -- 31 7:36 7:35 6:12 179 190 1.18 132
4 7:23.3 29:53 7:18 1.00 39 -- 7:23 7:18 7:03 179 190 1.22 130
5 7:35.5 37:28 7:35 1.00 14 47 7:36 7:35 7:06 178 187 1.19 132
6 7:39.6 45:08 7:37 1.00 27 -- 7:40 7:37 7:19 177 186 1.19 131
7 7:36.8 52:45 7:34 1.00 6 -- 7:37 7:34 7:10 176 183 1.20 131
8 7:50.9 1:00:35 7:46 1.00 -- 36 7:51 7:46 6:20 175 183 1.17 133
9 8:00.6 1:08:36 7:59 1.00 47 18 8:01 7:59 6:55 173 193 1.16 132
10 7:52.1 1:16:28 7:49 1.00 -- 28 7:52 7:49 7:23 175 179 1.17 133
11 7:43.4 1:24:11 7:38 1.00 12 -- 7:43 7:38 6:04 175 181 1.19 131
12 8:05.1 1:32:16 8:04 1.00 20 27 8:05 8:04 7:11 173 183 1.15 130
13 7:48.6 1:40:05 7:46 1.00 -- 7 7:49 7:46 7:20 175 181 1.18 131
14 0:44.0 1:40:49 0:43 0.11 -- -- 6:42 6:33 6:57 181 189 1.33 13
Summary1:40:491:40:491:40:4913.11

I wrangled some pizza slices and another beer and after cleaning off some of the sweat and lotion and hanging out a little more, navigated the maze of cars and drove home along the route and waved to those runners in the longer races. Good on them as it was getting toasty out there. Congratulations to all.

After a shower and a snooze I feel pretty refreshed and my body is not destroyed like it would be after an ultra so that's a plus.

Next race?  I signed up for the Peachbud 10km in Grimsby which is Tuesday evening at 7:30, on the 26th June. Again, I've not run a 10km in 15 years. Based on my 1/2 today I'd think a 45-46 minute result but be possible but we'll see.

Thanks for hanging out with me and reading my 'ultra' report on a shorter race.

Happy running.

Alex, aka The Running Dude

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