Thursday, May 1, 2014

Waterloo Half Marathon - April 27, 2014 Race Report

It's been a while since I've raced a stand alone half marathon.   My previous half was the Hamilton Road to Hope back in November 2011 where I ran just under 1:22 and qualified for the New York City Marathon (but ultimately couldn't go to because of Hurricane Sandy in the fall of 2012).   The Hamilton Half is a pretty fast course, so I wasn't going into this one expecting to PB, especially since I just ran an 8K PB the night before in Elmira.

The race starts and finishes at Bechtal Park in Waterloo and the weather race morning was clear but a bit cool and breezy.   Pretty good conditions, but not perfect.

Some H&P Runners pre race
The full marathon kicked off at 8am and the half started at 8:30 am, so after getting warmed up and hitting the washroom for a final time inside the soccer house at Bechtal, I made my way over to the start line where I chatted a bit with Greg Dyce, another H&P runner doing the race.   I did pop one gel immediately prior to the start with a plan to take another at about the 10K point with some water, and then supplement with water/Gatorade at the aid stations as required.   Nothing too complicated.

Right at 8:30, the race kicked off with some bag pipers playing and sending us off.   Leaving the park, I was just behind Greg and in about 7th or 8th place overall.

Heading south on Bridge, we hit a steep downhill section just before the roundabout and grand river bridge.   Sometimes running fast downhill hurts as much as going uphill.   You just do it a lot faster!

Eventually we turned onto Bloomingdale Rd. and this is where we started a gradual uphill climb and into the wind for about 4kms.   I started this section running by myself, but eventually a guy came up from behind and passed me.  
This guy's name was Thomas Hope, and as it turns out, we would spend a lot of time together during this race.   I had never heard or seen him before, but he turned out to be a pretty solid runner and he as a BIG DUDE.   From here on in, I will refer to him as Gigantor, since he was about 6 and a half feet tall (at least) and likely over 200 lbs.   Just a big solid guy!!

He likely passed me at about the 2.5K mark, and I just tucked in behind him for a while as he did a great job of blocking the wind for me.

For the next several K, I just followed him, and we eventually started picking off some of the runners up ahead of us, including Greg.  

As we left Bloomingdale, I took the lead again from Gigantor, and we were running in 3rd and 4th place overall in the race.   Gigantor always just kept off my shoulder and within 10 or 20 feet from me the entire race.   Here is a shot of us as we coming up on the 10K point.

Trying hard to drop the big guy!

Shortly after passing the 10K mark, there was an aid station and that's where I took my second gel.   

As we passed 11K, we started a pretty steady and long climb up into the town of Conestogo.   This is where we finally caught up to the guy running in 2nd place.   On the climb up to Conestogo, we both passed him so we were now running in 2nd and 3rd overall.

Once at the top of the hill, we were in the middle of the town and we had a short flat run to Northfield, before heading south and with the wind.   This section was a bit rolling, but overall, a net downhill.   The pace picked up a bit again, as we ticked off a few K's in the low 3:50's.  

I did get a bit of motivation from fellow H&P athlete Dave Rutherford as he drove by on this section, but Gigantor also got some motivation as his family drove by and were screaming and cheering for him!

There was a slight uphill again as we got onto University Ave and then faced a bit more headwind while running slightly NE for a little while.   A short bit down Northfield, we had to do a small out and back section that I was totally not expecting.   I looked over the course maps prior to the race, and I thought we ran straight back University to Bechtal Park, but there was about a 1K out and back on Country Squire Lane and Rd. that we had to do and that was a bit deflating.   Gigantor wasn't even aware of it, so we were both surprised.

It was in this section that we saw Ed Cyr, the race leader, so we got an idea how far ahead he was.   At this point, he was out of reach unless something terribly went wrong for him.   I'd say he was a good 500-600 meters ahead.

Once back onto University, we cruised a bit of a flat section before the downhill/uphill at Lexington.   I picked up the pace a bit on the downhill, and tried to just focus on some quick turnover back up the hill past Lexington.   I was sort of hoping that I would be able to snap the elastic band between Gigantor and I, but no luck, he stuck to me like glue.

Just past the 19K point in the race, coach Sean Delanghe was out ripping around again on his mountain bike, so he decided to ride with us for a bit, offering up words of encouragement (mostly to me I think, but because he is such a nice guy, he would keep everything plural).

I had in my head that with 20K to go, I would try to find that extra gear and hopefully lose Gigantor once and for all.   Unfortunately, he had the exact same idea, and as soon as we hit 20K, he made his move past me and was really picking up the pace!   I thought crap, I guess he has something in the tank after all!

It was at this point that Sean spent a bit more time back with me and was REALLY pushing me and making sure I kept up and didn't get dropped.   Looking back at the garmin data, we were running into the 3:30 per kilometer pace at times, and at the end of a half marathon, that is really pushing it.

I managed to keep within 10 feet of Gigantor, but he just wasn't slowing down.   As we turned the corner onto Bridge from University, Sean was really pushing me to make my move.   Unfortunately, I really was pretty maxed out at this point and just couldn't make the re-pass.

We entered the Bechtal Park again and I tried my damndest to pass him back, but to no avail.    With only about 100 meters left in the race, I sort of mentally gave up, as he was slowing pulling away and I was going full throttle!   In the end, after running in 2nd place for half the race with Gigantor right on my heels, I lost the sprint finish and had to settle for 3rd.

It really was a great finish nonetheless, as I can't say I have had too many sprint finishes in races like that before.   Here is a finish line shot, so you can see how close we really were.

As I said, I finished 3rd overall and was first place in my AG and the first master runner in a time of 1:23:50, 2 minutes off the race winner Ed Cyr (who is in his 20's!).   This was just 1:50 off my half marathon PB time, but on a much tougher course, and without running a hard 8K race the night before!

2014 Waterloo Half Marathon Results

Training Peaks Race Data

Garmin Race Data

After grabbing some food and chatting with other racers and friends for a bit, I headed inside to warm up and collect my cool emergency road side assistance prize from St. John's Ambulance for winning my AG.

So with 4 races under my belt in 2014, and 4 overall podium finishes, I am pretty happy with how well my running is going at this point.   We just need things to warm up and dry out so I can start getting in some solid and consistent bike training.   Tri season is right around the corner, and I am very much excited to get it off to a good start as well!

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