#RunVan Update – To BQ or Not to BQ

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2013 Vancouver Marathon

Photo by Greg Welwood

I’m currently training for the 2013 BMO Vancouver Marathon and am one of six official bloggers. Each week I’m providing updates on my training and experience leading up to May 5. You can read my previous posts here 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

Last Sunday I was fortunate to get to the start line of the BMO Vancouver Marathon feeling healthy and ready to try and get a BQ (Boston Qualifier), by running a time of sub-3:05. My previous best marathon time was 3:16 at the 2012 Vancouver Marathon.

My Dad was in town so I stayed at his hotel downtown with my son, and managed about 4 hours of interrupted, restless sleep. Having a 5 year old constantly kicking you in the face doesn’t help you sleep when you’re already feeling restless. But I learned long ago that sleep the night before a big race is irrelevant, and I consider any hours of sleep a bonus, so I was up and ready at 6:00am. I met my friend Hozumi at the Canada Line station and we made our way to the start line at Queen Elizabeth park.

I did some light jogging, some stretching, and got my water bottle and Gu’s sorted before meeting with Jeff of Pacer Films. Jeff was going to be filming myself and Sean Martin, who was running his first marathon for Team in Training, for the documentary ‘Running Vancouver’. I actually bumped into Sean before the race too, so it was great to quickly meet him after following his progress in the documentary.

Hoz and I made our way to the start line. Hoz had been my ‘speedwork coach’ with the Peak Centre over the last two months, running the weekly Wednesday night clinic at a track in Burnaby. Having run 5 hours of North Shore trails the day before, Mr. Humble said he was going to try and keep up with me during the marathon, and he was just running casually without any time goals.

It was a hot day right from the beginning and I knew that it would be a factor (it ended up being the hottest race in the 42 year history of the Vancouver Marathon). But there’s no point in worrying about things you can’t control so I was just enjoying what a gorgeous day it was.

I was really excited to see if I’d be able to hit my goal. My plan was to go out hard, and keep the pedal to the metal until I hit the final 10km, at which point I would be forced to either hold on for dear life and deal with the pain, or implode in spectacular fashion. 3:05:01 wasn’t going to get me into Boston, so I figured I would go all or nothing.

We started slowly, however, in the thick crowd. It took about 1 to 2km of dodging runners to get to a point where the pack spread out and we could settle into a steady pace. Right at the beginning I saw Solana Klassen, who had the unbelievable goal of trying to post a marathon PB/ BQ, just a mere 3 weeks after she had just …. posted a marathon PB . An awesome goal and I give her big kudos for giving it a shot. We exchanged a quick few words and a high five (her website and recap is here).

The first 10km were relatively uneventful. I knew I needed an overall pace of 4:23/km on the day to hit my goal, and looking at my Garmin I was mostly running in the 4:10/km range. I felt like I was running at a ‘comfortably uncomfortable’ pace and felt good so I didn’t slow down. From the start, I was secretly hoping to hit a 1:30 split, and see if I could post a sub-3 hour marathon. At the quarter-mark of the race, it was looking possible, and I was feeling good.

At the 10km mark we hit Camosun Hill, the biggest portion of elevation gain for the day, where Jeff and his steady-cam were waiting.

After the hill, I managed to keep things steady, and my pace was still looking strong around 4:05 – 4:15. I was enjoying the run, the live music, the spectators and the company and encouragement provided by Hoz.

Speaking of Hoz, dude is crazy. Not only did he run 5 hours the day before, but during the race he became my personal pacer without me ever asking. He would grab extra cups of water from aid stations for me to pour on myself, he was constantly encouraging me and every runner we passed, and he was running his own marathon effortlessly. One time he stopped at an aid station to refill his water bottle, and another time he stopped to use a port-o-pottie. Both times I figured I had dropped him for the day and wouldn’t see him until the finish line. Both times he quickly came up jogging behind me barely breaking a sweat. His fitness is unreal. I owe a big thank you to Hozumi for his help on Sunday, because my time would have been a lot slower without his support, especially in the final 5km.

At the half-way marker I was still feeling pretty good, but the legs were starting to get that ‘heavyish’ feeling and the heat was starting to sap me. I saw Jeff and his camera again, and his girlfriend Jane was kind enough to exchange my empty bottle of coconut water for a new one. My pace was around 1:31 to the half-way point, which is actually just barely shy of my half-marathon PB, so that was very encouraging. It felt good to be a few minutes ahead of goal-pace, but in all my previously 3 marathons I had bonked in the second half, and posted big positive splits. In other words, I was still a bit worried that I might blow up and miss 3:05. Regardless, I kept my pace as fast I could hold onto for the downhill stretch to the Burrard Bridge and into downtown.

During that stretch, Greg Welwood, another buddy from Peak, was out cycling, being supportive and taking photos. It was great to see another familiar face.

Over the bridge and into downtown, Linda Wong spotted me and snapped a great photo too.

Vancouver Marathon

Then it got painful. As I rounded out of English Bay and along the Stanley Park seawall, it quickly got to that point where I wished I could stop running, everything stopped being fun, and I just wanted it to be over with. I just kept thinking that in 20 minutes it would all be over, and if I could just hold a 4:20 pace or so I would hit my time. I thought about drinking beers in Boston next April, and that maybe I could sneak into qualifying. I thought about at the countless hours and 2000km of training and that the only thing left was 5km. Hoz saw I was hurting bad at this point, and he and Greg (still cycling around the course) were constantly pushing me to dig deep and hold a decent pace. In the final 2km, my heart rate felt like it was going through the roof, and I was generally feeling dizzy/ cloudy and dying to see that damn finish line. In the final 400m I was in head-down-get-across-the-line mode and in too much pain to even look to see if I could spot my son and family at the finish line waiting for me.

I finished in 3:02:43 and was elated to hit my target. Elated might be an understatement.

I’m also happy to move away from this race and shift my focus towards the roots, rocks (reggae?), trails and trees of the mountains for the rest of the year, including 2 ultra marathons in the fall. No more time goals, just getting outside enjoying the trails with some good friends.

As for Boston, since the bombing, interest in the running the event seems to be at an all-time high as the running community the world-over wants to show its support, which means my time probably won’t be good enough to get me in. But even if I don’t get in I’m thrilled I hit my BQ, and I know I can run a 3 hour marathon now. Its been a long road from running a 4:15 marathon in 2010. Also, it seems I basically have no option but to try and run a sub-3 hour marathon now next year. Whether that’s in Boston or Vancouver, time will tell.

I had a lot of help to run this race, and I’d like to thank:

– the BMO Vancouver Marathon Society and volunteers for organizing another great race, and including me as a community blogger.
– Jeff Pelletier for including me in his documentary (and making me look faster than I really am). It was a lot of fun being involved and I have some great footage to show the grandkids one day.
– Hozumi Nakai for pacing me and being a huge help on race day.
– The Peak Centre for providing me a V02 assessment, and helping me get my fitness to a much higher level.
– Friends and family for ongoing encouragement, and babysitting so I could get weekend training runs in.
– Everyone following on Twitter and my friends in the local running community for all the support and encouragement.

Vancouver Marathon Finish Line

Photo by Jeff Pelletier / Pacer Films.

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Comments (7)

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  1. linda. says:

    Congratulations on such an amazing race – you owned it! Now rest up, and we’ll see you in the trails. :)

  2. Brilliant, Karl! Just brilliant. Congratulations!!

  3. Candice Ridyard says:

    Congrats Karl! That’s a great accomplishment!

  4. Leana says:

    Karl, congratulations on your race! It was great to watch you on the Running Vancouver videos and I’m thrilled you were able to get your BQ. Well done!!!

  5. SO proud of you Karl! I knew you had it in you, and I’m glad one of us could get that damn BQ! Great job!!

    And now it’s time to get back on the trail, thank god! No more worrying about every single km split.

    See you this weekend at 5Peaks!


  6. Krystal says:

    Amazing job!!! I was in Stanley Park while the race was happening, and thought I might seen you run by… but I probably got there way too late. I can’t wait to read more of your running adventures, especially as I start my own this year. :)