Monday, May 19, 2008

A Run in the Park

First off, congratulations to my older brother, Jim, who ran the Green Bay Cellcom Marathon on Sunday. Great time of 3:54 despite going into it with a nagging hamstring injury! This race was a test run for a fall marathon and a crack at a BQ. There is no doubt in my mind that he will do it. Especially after a summer of triathlon training which will improve his fitness and is a lot kinder to the body.
Last week I was right on target with my training, sticking with the plan for 8 hours. The body felt great and I had some good swims and a couple of decent rides. The running has been fine as well, still have the nagging Achilles, but I am able to run.
So being the sucker for punishment that I am, I signed myself up for the Red Deer Marathon on the weekend. What the heck! I was thinking that it is a great excuse to get a long run in and you never know what race day will bring.
Obviously with my training for Ironman, I have the endurance for the race, my concern was whether or not I could force a little speed out of the legs.
I headed down to Red Deer Saturday afternoon. It is about a 4 hour drive from Hinton and I had to be there before 8:00 PM to pick up my race package. Because I registered late I didn't get a shirt (bummer) and missed out on the tickets for the pasta dinner (super bummer!). Dick Beardsley was the guest speaker and I would have loved to have heard him as I understand he has quite a story to tell. He was one of the running heroes of my day, along with Bill Rogers and Frank Shorter.
Pre-race meal was a salad and some sushi from the deli counter at Safeway washed down with lots of water. I was in bed early and slept like a baby. Now this never happens before any race, but for some reason I was as relaxed as I have ever been.
In the morning I got up and had a half a bagel and some gatorade. Still no sign of the pre-race jitters so I am thinking that today will be a perfect day to just run and enjoy. The course for Red Deer makes extensive use of the trail system around the city and has no real hills to speak of. There are a few little undulations but no sustained uphill efforts. The weather is perfect with temperatures around 12 Celsius at race time, and a little breeze. Forecast for the day calls for a high of about 23 Celsius and a chance of light showers. So far it looks like the rain is going to hold off.
Once I get down to the race start it is the usual hub of activity. For some reason I feel like more of an observer than a participant. I get in the line for the porta-potties, more out of habit than necessity and get to hear all the training stories.
The race was fully sold out and I am impressed with the huge crowd. For the marathon there was around 300 and the half had more than double that. This race has been happening for 10 years now and is becoming a favourite for a lot of people in Alberta. Red Deer is located about an hour and a bit from both Edmonton and Calgary so it attracts a lot of people from those places. Because of the nice gentle course it is also a good first marathon or half marathon for people to try.
The race is an 8:00 AM start and before long we are headed to the start line. This is not a chip race so I line up as close to the front as possible. My goal is to find a comfortable pace, settle in and enjoy. When the gun goes off I find myself with plenty of room to run. The first mile is through the city streets, but then we are onto some narrow, paved trails. I hit mile one in 6:40 even, which is a sustainable pace, at least for awhile! Prior to the race I debated about whether or not to wear my Newton's, which have about 20 miles on them, or the New Balance. In the end the Newton's won out and not only do I look flashy, but I am really liking the feel of these shoes.
The course continues through the trails and I have settled in really well. Last night and this morning I massaged the heck out of my Achilles and soleus with the trigger point and they feel really good. I also loaded up with some Advil extra strength and I have two more for later on should I need it. At mile 5 I am at 33:20. A quick body check and all systems are still functioning as intended, legs are good, form is nice and relaxed and my stride is fluid. No pressure so just hold it for as long as you can. The next 5 miles go through some gravel trails and I find I am slowing up a little, nothing major, but I am having trouble staying at the pace I would like. At one point the signs are a little confusing and one group heads off one way and I go another, which in the end turns out to be the right way. Through mile 10 in 1:06 and change. Still in a good rhythm and no signs of anything that should cause me any grief. I have a vanilla power gel at this time and wash it down with some water. Damn those things are good! It's like Betty Crocker Vanilla Frosting. I'm thinking now that I wish the packages were bigger. I could have my other one now, but I think that would defeat the purpose. It's like when you put two packages of the frosting on the toaster strudel, happy now, sad later!
At this point I am running by myself. I can see one runner just ahead of me and I am gaining ground on him. Just before the halfway point I catch him and we chat for a little while. He is struggling and is thinking of calling it a day at the half marathon point. I manage to talk him past the turn off for the half finish but then I drop him as he is fading. At the 21 km mark I am at 1:27 and I am starting to wonder if this might be my day. Still no signs of any muscle fatigue or other pain, so I just keep focused and run. Now I am totally by myself. I can't see anyone ahead of me and there is no one behind me that I can hear. Despite the fact I am feeling good, I decide to pop the two Advil as a precaution. It certainly can't hurt!
At mile 15 or so, my Garmin loses the satellite and becomes a game of twenty questions. Are you inside now? Have you went a long distance from your home satellites? Is today May 18,2008? Great, I have really found this thing useful today and now it is going to crap out on me. So for the next half hour I am running blind as my GPS tries to sort itself out and find a satellite. That being the case I just try and get a good feel for my pacing and continue to run on. The course is beautiful and goes past a lot of duck ponds and marshy areas. Lots of bridges as well and it seems like we cross back and forth over the Red Deer river a number of times. Finally at about 30 kms the Garmin comes back to life and I am just at about 2 hours. It seems to take awhile but it gets itself sorted out and by 2 hours and 10 minutes I am at 20 miles. A sub-three is really starting to look possible. I still feel great with no cramping or other problems. My focus is great and I have only had one brief stretch where I tried to convince myself to walk. As I crest the hill at about 33 kms there is an older gentlemen there who tells me I am running in 7th right now and off the pace by about 7 minutes. I am somewhat surprised and it buoys me and I become more determined to get in under the 3 hour mark. With less than 10 kms to go, I need to really work if I am going to get in under the wire. At 35 kms I pick up another runner. He tries to stay on my shoulder, but I find that rather annoying so I pick up the pace. The next two miles were sub 6 minute as I finally left this guy behind. Now we are at mile 24 and I know that unless I fall and break bones I have this one in the bag, it is just a matter of churning out two more. I hit the 41 km mark in a little over 2:54 and I can hear the finish line announcer. However I have the one decent hill on the course right ahead of me and then it is downhill and a right turn to the finish. There are a lot of cheering people on the hill and I cruise up it like nothing. Now it is all downhill! I am passing lots of halfers and they are all moving over as I hear someone shout, "marathoner!"
Right hand turn and there is the finish line, 2:58:50 good enough for sixth overall and third in my age.
This makes my ninth sub three and 3 decades of posting at least one! Time was starting to run out and after last year's close encounter in Victoria (3:05) I was beginning to wonder if it was in the cards. After today's race I am wondering if there are still a few more left?
Have a great day!


Keith power said...

Great run Garry, Jim also had a great run, he should run banged up more often. Angelina had a good 10 miler today in thunder Bay 76 mins, I watched too lazy to put forth the effort. Anyway once again GREAT RUN I'm sure your going to have a good season!

J. Garry Power said...

Angelina did awesome. Did Adrienne run? I knew Jim was going to run well, and I think he can do even better yet. I have never felt like this after a race before. I do not have one ache in my legs! I'm a little cut up under my arms and my toes look like hamburger but I feel great otherwise.

Grellan said...

Great run Garry. You make it sound so effortless - well done. Some day perhaps a sub-3 will be mine. Until then I can dream.

Becky H said...

Great race!! As an FYI, you can download Dick Beardsley's presentation at, scroll down to 'Dick Beardsley- Staying the Course'. I'd highly recommend listening, good poscast for a treadmill or trainer day.

Andrew said...


Love2Run said...

Awesome run Garry! You do make it sound too easy. Sub 6 miles at end? That's way too much in the tank ;-)