Fredericton and beyond

fred half start

There were about 200 racers in the half marathon segment of the 31st Fredericton Fall Classic last weekend.

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.

Final third

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.

kevin kathy

We celebrated a couple of nice runs after completing the Fredericton Fall Classic!

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!!!!!

Of note:

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 week

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.

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Getting ready to take on the Pfitz

sunset5

The sunny beaches of P.E.I. look fantastic in the summer. My wife snapped this great shot a few years ago during one of our many visits to da Island. Symbolically, I wonder how they will appear in October, in the cool fall atmosphere, moments before the P.E.I. marathon kicks off.

A question for another day!

This week’s update comes on the eve of a small accomplishment. With just two weekend runs remaining, the first mini goal of the training program is almost complete – four weeks of progressing to the baseline of the Pfitzner 18/55 training plan for the P.E.I. Marathon.

There are a number of stages in the complete plan, with the next six weeks dedicated to endurance building. Long runs in this stage peak at 26 k and there is even a mid-week ‘medium long run’ that hits 16k at one point. Longer efforts are in store in the subsequent stages but this stage essentially builds your stamina on top of the blocks achieved in the preliminary round.

This week’s runs have included a tempo effort, with 4k at 5:00/per km pace as part of a 10k run, then a 6k recovery at 6:39/per km and a 12k general aerobic run Thursday at 6:21/per km.

On the weekend, I have an 18k long run planned for Father’s Day! No sleep in but I should be able to hit more than 50k for the week in five outings.

There is big news in the house this week, though. My lovely and talented wife is also going to run in P.E.I., as she is taking on the challenge of running the half marathon in and around Charlottetown. She is making great progress and is combining her efforts in the gym with running. It has already made a big difference as earlier this year, she knocked almost seven minutes off her 5k time from 1999!

This is what she wrote in her column this week: “Running a half marathon has always been on my bucket list, and I’ve got a ‘significant’ birthday coming up this year. It’s the perfect time to do something scary and challenging.

Awesome, I say.

Seems no shortage of marathon topics to read and watch as many have just started or are about to start their summer training for October marathons. On YouTube, one interesting topic was a screening this week of Spirit of the Marathon II in the U.S., a documentary on a number of runners at last year’s Rome Marathon. It looks fantastic and the trailer can be seen here.

However, there are also trailers for the opening version – Spirit of the Marathon, along with the entire first documentary, based on training for the Chicago Marathon in 2005.

This weekend, of course, many Dads will get crazy ties, gift certificates for the golf course and lots of special attention. I really can’t wait to see what the girls have in store. It is also a time of reflection though, one in memory of my father Jack. I wrote a piece after he died and I find myself reading it once in a while. From time to time, I find this story is a great reminder of days gone by.  I have a photo of him and I at the end of the 2000 Confederation Bridge run. He showed up to see what all the fuss was about and was there when I finished the 14k trek. I’ll try to track that down.

Have a great weekend.