15 May 2018

Race Report: Half Marathon at the BMO Vancouver

On Sunday, May 6th, 2018, I completed my second half marathon - the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon. And I finished in 1:48:10, which works out to 5:07/km. Overall, it was an amazing experience. I set a new PB (personal best) and had a blast in the process. It was an amazing, sunny day and the event was well organized. By far, the biggest running event I have ever attended (a record setting 17,000 participants).

My previous PB at the half marathon was 1:51:57, which I set at the Vancouver First Half on February 11th, 2018 (my race report HERE) - an average pace of 5:18/km. So I improved on my PB by nearly 4 minutes. Definitely a solid improvement in a relatively short amount of time.

I had originally set a target of 1:45:00 in my head, which is a 5:00/km pace, so my time was a bit slower than I had hoped for, but still very satisfied with the result.

I posted an update on my training five weeks ahead of the BMO (click HERE to read that post). And I was able to maintain that training plan right up to race day. Overall, I think my training plan was solid but it could use a couple small changes. The one thing I may change for future races is simply putting more energy into my speed work runs. I think I should be able to push the pace on my shorter runs (i.e. 7 km and shorter) closer to 4:00/km (currently averaging around to 4:30-4:45/km). That will help me establish a quicker pace. The other thing I might change is a couple more 20 km runs a few weeks ahead of race day. I have been building up to one 20+ km run two weeks ahead. But maybe I need to bump all my training up a couple weeks to fit a couple 20 km runs in at three and four weeks ahead as well.

On race day (May 6th), everything went right according to plan. With the exception that I completed miscalculated the race start time. For some reason, I thought the half marathon started at 7:30. I caught the 6:00 Canada Line train from Bridgeport Station, arrived at King Edward station around 6:30, and walked to the race start. Had time to check my bag into the bag check, then a quick run through the washroom. Then at 6:50 was informed that the race started in 10 minutes - totally thought I had another 40 minutes to warm up and stretch yet.

We made our way to the start line corrals, had a solid 10 minutes to stretch and warm up (because I was in starting corral 2 and, therefore, had an extra 5 minutes before my group started), and then the race was off.

At the outset, the course was very crowded. Maybe I started too far back in my group, but for the first 1.5-2 km, I struggled to find space on the road and was constantly weaving around folks to find enough space to hit my target pace. I think for next time, I'll push forward a bit in the corrals to try to get closer to the eager runners. But after about 2 km, once we were down the Cambie hill and heading over the Cambie Bridge, the course opened up and I started to really settle in.

Through Chinatown and Yaletown, I kept a steady pace, keeping my average slightly under 5:00/km. But around the 10 km mark, I started to drop down to around 5:10/km. Partly from simple distance but also from the hills.

Heading into Stanley Park, around kilometre 13, I dropped my pace again. Now, through Stanley Park, it was a continuous alternating uphill and downhill. I was a bit surprised by how dramatic that felt. I had run most of this route before, but always on shorter runs (i.e. never after 15+ km into a run). From the 13 km marker to the 19 km marker, I bounced from 5:08/km down to 5:26/km. Some of these hills, particularly through 14.5 km area, just destroyed my legs. If I had stopped, I wouldn't have got going again. So I had to push through. The other factor is I run a lot on the seawall, which is all flat near the sea level. This course follows the road, which is much hillier. Definitely need to incorporate some more hills into my training.

For the last 1.5 kilometres of the race, it was a smooth incline up to the finish line. As much as I wanted to sprint and finish with some gusto, it was all I could do to maintain my pace.

At the finish line, runners are greeted with medals  and snacks. I got my finisher medal with pride. But then I was a bit anxious to go meet my wife and kids so I feel I rushed through the hydration and snack booths through the finish corral and missed some opportunity there. Once I got out of the finish corral and down Thurlow, I met my family and spent some time visiting the street festival along Hastings.

Overall, I had a blast. Similar to my last experience, I thoroughly enjoyed the race atmosphere and the sense of accomplishment from completing such an event.

Now to plan out the rest of the summer and fall of 2018. I will definitely be aiming for a couple other races and at least one more half marathon in 2018.

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