Sunday was my second and final race test before the P.E.I. Marathon as I signed up for the half marathon at the 31st edition of the Fredericton Fall Classic. The goal was to not hold back in order to gather current fitness information, so a more accurate goal for the P.E.I. Marathon could be established. It was the same course I ran back in May, 2012 with a good time, so I was excited.
My wife also entered, running her first-ever 10 km race. Great stuff.
Prior to the festivities, we left the girls with our good friends in Rothesay and headed to Fredericton Saturday evening, where we met some friends for dinner, enjoyed the evening and had an early night.
Trouble was, as it always is, it was a little tough to get to sleep the night before a race because of anticipation, etc.
We woke up at 5:55 a.m., headed to Tims for a light breakfast and then to the start area.
The half was slated to get going at 8 a.m. and when we arrived, there was a lot of activity. After a warm-up, I headed to the line and saw a few familiar faces. In addition, there seemed to be a large collection of extremely fit runners and judging by the finish times (10 per cent of the field beat 1:30 and 20 per cent were better than 1:40 see note below), there were plenty of fast, fast athletes in the field.
This was my first race with the Nike + app and I was interested in how it would work. As it turned out, its GPS capabilities were not 100 per cent accurate, off by about 8 seconds per km I figure – and that meant it registered the half marathon at about 21.61 km.
Here are the splits it recorded, which I estimate as 8 seconds faster than actual.
First third – 4:39; 4:51; 4:45; 4:47; 4:55; 4:53; 4:47.
I went out with the rabbits and it was a little too fast as evidenced by the early clocking. The fastest I had gone in tempo runs was 10 km at 5:00, so this was a test, big time. Things settled in after about 4 km but I was sliding back, getting passed by more than a few souls, particularly around the 6 km mark. I felt slightly winded but was in control and told myself to hold back, knowing it would be a challenge to stretch this pace the whole way. That was in part to the 88 per cent humidity reading and 19C temperature reading at the start. As I have noted before, humidity is a killer and I did not want to slide later in the race.
Middle third – 4:53; 4:44; 5:02; 4:57; 4:51; 4:53: 4:54.
This was all trail running, with some windy sections but, with the exception of enthusiastic volunteers at water stations, it was very quiet. We crossed a bridge as we approached halfway, and generally, I was starting to feel more comfortable, albeit hesitant to move ahead and catch some of those who had passed me earlier. But by the halfway point, I started to slow down (5:02) and then, as more and more runners were coming back toward me after the turnaround point, I opted to pick it up slightly and pass a few people.
The trail is tight at the 11 km mark for the turnaround (it is further out because, on the return leg, we did not have run the initial 800 yards or so that we did in the first lap). There was a water station, a porta-potty and several people stopped for drink or relief.
That opened space and gave me a sight line for about 10 people I was closing on. That became an in-race goal – to track them down.
4:51; 4:54; 4:47; 4:57; 4:44; 4:53; 4:52 (I do not have a reading for the final 600 metres).
The beauty of this race is the flat course, which really saves you some energy in the final stages. So over the course of kms 14-18, I managed to pass about 10 people, including one man who I went back and forth with a couple of times. It felt good to have something in reserve, while still hitting the goal of running about 5:00 per km.
With 4.5 km left, we started to meet those in the 10k race, which started 45 minutes after the half got underway. My wife and I predicted we would see one another at this segment and we were right – with about 3 km left. I tried to encourage her when we met, saying there was just a bit left. Seeing a familiar face boosted both of our spirits for the final stretch. In contrast to other races, where the athletes can be stretched out at the finish, the congestion of the 10km runners proved motivating as well.
Early on, I realized I’d have to go further than the Nike app indicated and when I approached the finish, I saw 1:45 on the clock and was content, figuring I had a bit left but satisfied I could stretch that 5:00 per km pace the entire distance. That is especially so in light of very little taper and an 18 km effort three days previously. After, I walked back and met Kathy, encouraging her as she completed her first 10 km race. She met her goal time and is setting up for her first half in PEI as well!!!!!
A) It is good to be completely prepared when you leave the house and that includes taking along everything you are going to wear. For me, I thought I was ready but in the rush to leave Saturday evening for Fredericton, I forgot running socks. We enjoyed a great evening and dinner in the Capital City Saturday, where I wore dress socks. They doubled as race socks on Sunday. No problems, other than the obvious fashion faux-pas.
B) I thought there were a lot of speedy runners in Fredericton and judging by other results, that theory was correct. In this weekend’s event, 10.7 per cent of the field beat 1:30 and 21.9 per cent of the runners were better than 1:40. At the Saint John Marathon By the Sea, six of 358 (1.7 per cent) half marathoners beat 1:30 and 28 of 358 (7.8 per cent) were faster than 1:40 while in the Fredericton earlier this year, 21 of 564 half marathoners (3.7 per cent) were better than 1:30 and 54 of 564 (9.6 per cent) were faster than 1:40.
In Moncton last year, 10 of 691 half marathoners (1.4 per cent) beat 1:30 and 49 of 691 (7.1 per cent) were faster than 1:40. So overall, the Fall Classic was fast – very fast.
This is the final week before taper, which means two medium long runs, one with some speed elements. In addition, the weekend features the last and longest run before P.E.I. – a 32 km effort. I’ll see how the weather is before I decide whether to run a portion of this at marathon pace or just opt for the long slow pace.
Next week, the plan calls for a 25 per cent reduction in training, although there are still some decent runs there. The following week is a 50 per cent dip in distances and the week after that sees 4-5 minor runs to keep active and deal with pre-marathon jitters.