Monday, October 9, 2006

Royal Victoria Marathon 2006

Well, I certainly gave it all I had! And by all accounts this was a good great race.

[Some pictures from the event are on Flickr]

After I posted such an outstanding result in the Vancouver Marathon this year (3:39 with a goal of 3:45), I was so full of piss and vinegar that I immediately set my goal for Victoria at 3:30 -- with the longer term goal to do a 3:25 and a 3:20 Boston qualifier in 2007 in Vancouver and Victoria respectively.

I adjusted that idea to a more realistic 3:33 at first and then 3:35 later. Actually Lara Penno set me right and did the adjusting for me :-)

There were some 15-or-so runners in the half and full marathons from Lara's run group. Some of us came over on the same Ferry, did the race pack pick-up, bus tour of the course, a quick run, and dinner together on Saturday. Everybody was so energized and totally prepared and ready. It was fun to be around that group and great way to get ready.

Carmen and Lara were both not running due to injury and cold, but did a fantastic job of supporting the runners. Thank you both very much!!

The full marathoners met early at the bag check to see our friends in the half marathon (who started an hour earlier) zoom by before we did a quick warm-up ourselves and made our way to the race start.

There was a constant drizzle and the temperature was pretty nippy. In short: perfect running weather in my opinion!

When the gun went off I made sure to start really slow and use the pack of people to hold me back. At an early intersection (I think it was at Superior on Government) we actually had to stop dead for an ambulance crossing. No big deal - I was some 15 sec behind my pace at the 1k mark. I just kept the pace nice and even. By the 3k mark I was very slightly ahead and by the 5k mark I was exactly 30 sec ahead of my pace.

Now it was time to settle into the slightly quicker main pace of 5:00/km and I felt really good. The pace felt natural and not hard or pushed at all - something I was terribly worried about. The only thing at all was that I started feeling a little pull in my right hamstring quite early.

I did not train with Gatorade (I use GU2O) but that is what they have that the RVM. I was a bit concerned how I might react to that, but it turned out to be not a problem at all.

I realized that it was still drizzling, but it certainly did not bother me. I kept trucking on and found myself a "pacer". This is something I always do: find someone that is about my pace or a tiny little tad quicker, and looks nice and strong -- then I make it my point to attach myself to her (yes, it seems to be always a woman... I don't really know why) pace, and keep her in sight or overtake her. Pacer #1 was a tall woman with a very smooth and even stride. Since she carried her own fuel bottle, I kept drifting back at every aid station but eventually closed the gap again. I managed to keep her in sight until just before 30k when I noticed that she was gone for good. And I am sure I did not overtake her. If she kept on going as she did, she probably finished very close to 3:30 - congratulations, whoever you are. And thanks for pacing me.

I saw Serge and Lisa and Matt running the Half at the point where the two groups cross. I saw Gord somewhere too - or rather he saw me. Not sure where that was... I don't think I saw Tracy - but she would have probably been past already as fast as she was. Tracy finished her first half marathon in 1:42! Rockin!!

At the half-way mark I was exactly 17 seconds behind my pace - but this was also just after an uphill. By 25k I was bang-on pace again. Needless to mention that at this time I have completely abandoned any secret hopes of somehow eking out a 3:30... I told myself that if I can keep this pace up all the way, I'll do just fine and I will be quite happy coming in on goal at 3:35.

After the turn-around I saw Tim not very far behind me and looking as strong as always. Then I think I saw Dwayne and Roberta and of course Lisa who rocked out on her iPod and looked as fresh as she did at the start and had the energy to yell out "you go and get that 3:35!!". Awesome Lisa - thanks!

More hills coming up and some of them I totally remembered from last year - and what I remembered most about them was they don't last forever! Mentally I was so there. The hills did not bother one bit at this point and I kept repeating "same effort - not same speed - open up a little on the downhill".

At the 31k mark I started wavering a bit... I was worried about hitting the infamous wall at 20m/32k and I was also a good minute and a half behind pace. Urgh! But then I used my secret weapons: my happy-place-word and smile-power (I actually drew smiley faces on the back of my hands and wrote "AWESOME!" on my left hand. I thought how awesome it is that I can be here with my running buddies and participate in a marathon on such a beautiful course -- and I SMILED! I smiled for myself, but I also smiled for the fantastic spectators and volunteers being out on such a nasty day and giving the runners so much encouragement and support (a huge thanks to all of you!!) .

From here on I had two more pacers: one lady in a light red shirt I noticed first when she asked me what kilometer marker we just past by - 27k. We kept passing each other quite a bit over the next few kilometers, but she fell behind eventually. Then, at around 30k, was a lady in a dark red shirt I tried to stick too, but she was too fast in the end and I lost her with some 7k to go.

Anyway, with smile-power I picked it up a bit at the 31k mark and tried to make up enough time to hit the 33k mark as close to my goal as possible. From 32k on my goal pace dropped to 5:15/k so I should be able to gain some time. By 33k I was still at least a minute behind. Now I used the fact that we had less than 10k to go to just tick down kilometer after kilometer (only 9 to go, only 8 to go, ...) and tried to push as hard as I could. Here I decided to not waste any energy with looking at my paceband any longer and trying to figure out where I am -- just push it...

At no point in this race did I feel nauseated and wanted to stop eating or drinking. This was a really welcome change from all previous marathons. I think the cool weather helped a lot with this. Oh... it has stopped drizzling - I wonder when that happened?

Now my legs started to get really tired and the right hamstring felt stiff and crampy. The left leg -- obviously not wanting to be left out of this fun -- decided to make my quads hurt and stiff. Oh Great...

Ok, the last really nasty hill coming up with about 5.5k to go. I still felt I was going to quite strong, but I also did notice that I was not keeping the same pace anymore.

Next thing I noticed was that Lara is running next to me...
How are you doing Klaus?
Good, I feel good.
You know you own this hill! The last hill and you are almost there.
I know - I can do it.
Lift the knees and go!
OK. Thanks Lara.

I am not sure if this is exactly how the conversation went, but that is what I remember. And also that I really did need those words of encouragement as this hill was brutal.

After the hill I saw Carmen, Serge, Lisa, and some of the others from the Half taking pitures and yelling words of encouragement.

4k to go - aid station - I have to walk through it. I know it is not far anymore and mentally I feel totally strong. But it got tougher and tougher to move the legs. I know now that I am quite slow even though I feel I am pushing hard.

Last aid station with 2k to go - this time I am not walking but am just taking/drinking/splashing a bit of water. The volunteers are great. Reading the names of the bib "Only 2k to go Klaus - you can totally do it - you are almost there!"

I am trying so hard to move my legs faster -- it is just not happening...

The last short hill before the end and I hear "way to power up this hill - you guys look great" from the side. They could not have meant me - but I took it for me anyway. Finally we are in the last "seven turns".

We ran this yesterday in our quick 20 min run and I counted the turns. I remember from last year that I got totally frustrated thinking that after the next turn is the finish line in sight -- and then there was one more turn, and one more turn, and one more turn,...

I am counting down the turns 7, 6, 5... Man these blocks did not seem this long yesterday! 4, 3, 2, and finally one more right turn!! OK last stretch! I am getting ready to try and pick up the pace. I think I did -- though I doubt I was much faster. Now I see the clock: 3:38... I really dig down deep and try to stride it in with as much speed as possible. I hear the announcer "Klaus Schoenwandt from Vancouver with a personal best of 3:39 - and he'll make 3:38 today here... "

I am pushing so hard now and FINALLY cross the finish line in 3:38:03 (3:38:43 gun time).

As always immediately after crossing the finish line at a marathon, I got all giddy and somewhat emotional. Some dude from the RVM stood there shake the runners hands. Now to the chip removal area. My chip was on nice and tight and it took the girl some time to get it off. We are talking seconds, not minutes here, but I wanted to tell her to hurry up as I had my eyes set on the food tent already... I had visions of those bagels already at the half-way mark. The chip is off and on the way to the food I got my medal and took a space blanket to keep warm. Finally food! I grab two yogurt drinks (those are great!), two orange quarters, two pieces of poppy seed bagel, and a chocolate chip cookie. I am set!

While chowing down I make my way back to the finish line to see Tim and the others coming in. Just as I am at the finish line I see Tim coming in. He does not look so fresh right now, but he too posted a new PR. Way to go Tim!

So why am I not so super happy now?
Well yes, I took a minute off my previous personal best, but I missed the 3:35 by quite a bit and that nags me - a lot. But I know how I can correct that and am sure that on May 6, 2007 in Vancouver I will make the 3:35 or better.

IMHO the person who did best in this marathon and should be the most proud, is the person that did not even run! Lara Penno, our coach. Everyone in her group did as well or better than they hoped for if it was their first race, and everyone else posted a personal best.

Here are some of the totallysuperwickedawesomegreat results:
Catherine Wiggins - 4:24:52
Dwayne Mason - 3:55:28
Leigh Johnstone - 3:55:02
Lisa Billett - 4:12:14
Megan Johnston - 3:15:20 [4th in age group - her 1st marathon ever!]
Klaus Schoenwandt - 3:38:03
Roberta Batchelor - 3:55:30
Tim Collins - 3:48:40
Travis Hawton - 3:56:41

Lisa Rodger - 1:53:56
Serge Corbeil - 1:52:46
Tracy Morrison - 1:42:26
Deborah and Matt did awesome as well -- but I don't know their full names.

Thanks Lara!! We all could not have done it without you.

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