Monday, April 25, 2011

Vancouver Sun Run

It is time again to recount the craziness of this year's Vancouver Sun Run.  Being one of the largest 10k races in the world, it surely attracts the masses and an elite field which would humble even some of the fastest runners in Canada.  Actually, there were a couple of Canada's fastest runners present.  It's been an exciting scene for Canadian runners this year myself included.  I have had such a busy spring season with a more than usual amount of racing.  I was feeling a little worn down after doing four races in four weeks. Setting PB's at all of them certainly keeps me hungry for more.

 As I got to the bus stop I noticed almost everyone on the streets were runners.  They were all clad in there sparkly white runners and fancy running clothes.  I was worried that the bus at my stop wouldn't come as frequently as the main bus from the next stop up. Also, the people at my regular stop said the last bus was full!  I continued to the bigger stop at Arbutus and once again saw a group of runners.  It was really neat to see how many people lined the roads in anticipation of this event.  The bus steadily got fuller and fuller until we were packed in like sardine's in a can.  We transferred at Cambie to take the Canada Line to Waterfront, a route I had not explored yet.  The skytrain was even more busy and it felt like I was in a Tokyo trainstation.  As we poured out of the station and into the streets, you could feel the excitement all around as people prepared themselves for an arduous journey.  Weather a first timer or an elite, I'm sure everyone could feel the excitement.  I ran through the masses and away from the chaotic mess that most people have to endure to run this race.  Found myself running the opposite way that most people were going and I knew I would soon be amongst familiar faces.  I approached the fenced off area and could see the gazelles and stallions doing their pre race warm up routines.  I flashed my blue bib and was allowed into the elite area.  I ran towards the gear check van and prepared for my warm up.  Needless to say everyone was there and looking sporty and fast in all their updated team jerseys and new racing flats and compression socks.  I did a few strides and dynamic movements, but most of my warm up was spent slapping high fives and saying hello to everyone and wishing them all success.  Even though there are a lot of people directly competing against me, I really hope that we all do well today.  The last two years I have done this race I was freaking out with anxiety and throwing up at this point.  This year I wanted to take a more relaxed approach and have a good time with it. Since last years disaster at this race, I have spent a lot of time controlling my thoughts as I approach one of these serious races.  It's all about having a relaxed mind and a positive attitude.  The last few races I put no pressure on myself and came out with amazing results.  I want to do the same here.  I know that there are a lot of people who do not run that will be watching and I always want to impress them by hitting my mark.

The organisers were now bringing the starting tape closer to the line urging all the runners to file into their place at the start line.  A final few words of encouragement to the runners around me and it was time for the count down.  I could see the line of photographers and the boom cranes as well as the helicopter hovering above.  If I stuck my hand out it would be directly above the start line.  Even though I was tightly packed about three deep I still had to wait a few seconds before actually moving from my space after the gun went off.  I could feel the wave of runners surge for the front as we leapt out and down West Georgia.  It's always a bit of a gong show at the start of this race and the past two years have seen me caught right up in it.  This year, I knew more about the racers around me and about a half a kilometre into the race I realised I was exactly where I wanted to be.  Right in the chase group behind Graeme Wilson and very close to Dylan Gant.  I also planned on keeping Craig Odermatt in sight as I knew he would pump out a great time.  I'm pretty sure Dylan will be going for BC team selection this year and I really wanted to beat him again.  We flew down the hill at a sub three minute pace and I tried to stay relaxed and keep my form in check.  As we rounded the bend onto Denman, I noticed Jason Loutit pull out of the race. "How odd" I thought," that such a great runner can be so inconsistent." I focused ahead and knew I would soon get the mile review from Coach Hill.  I was right behind Dylan now and I'm not sure where Graeme is.  I can see Drew ahead and can now hear Coach.  "Stay relaxed!" and "Lower your arms!" were my words of encouragement as well as my mile time of about 5:00.  He was not scolding me so I knew I was playing by the rules thus far.  It was now into the first uphill as we entered Stanley Park and really where the men are separated from the boys.  I had started to lose grip on the rope between Gant and I and was feeling comfortable with my pacing.  I knew I could keep the rope between him and I tight as we chased down Nicholson.  Dillan must have had his eyes on the chase group ahead because he was pushing very hard and snapped the line between us.  By the time we were on Beach going through English Bay I was all by myself.  I guess that makes me somewhat of a man and somewhat of a boy.  Next year I will run with the men.  I watched the group ahead of me and focused on keeping the gap the same.  I knew they were too far to close the gap, and I desperately wanted to be there with them.  There was no one behind or close enough in front of me to work with so I was on my own once again to battle this tough course.  I was feeling pretty good going into the steep hill just before 5k and kept my composure all the way up.  Coach yelled out 16:00 flat as I crossed the half way mark and I knew I had some time to make up on the downside of Burrard bridge.  I knew I would be suffering slightly after cresting the hill, but had trained a lot on this hill and knew it wouldn't be long before my legs came back strong.  As I neared the bottom of the bridge I could hear several footsteps closing in on me.  I was wondering if it were Drew as he was the last person I saw behind me before the bridge.  There were multiple footsteps getting ever closer as I peered back to see a chase group with heat seekers locked right on me.  I was somewhat relieved to be swallowed up by this group of runners as I was tired of working alone and really do enjoy a good draft when I can get one.  I needed a break anyhow to allow me to recover.  We wrestled for position through the seventh kilometre and finally settled into a tight pack of about six or seven runners.  I recognized Tim Smith from some earlier races this year and knew he was in good shape because of his recent track work.  He looked calm and collected as usual and was just what I needed to keep me on pace and mentally focused.  I knew that if I could stick with him and this group I would certainly have my 10k record in hand.  I was suffering pretty bad before 8k and was now feeling settled and ready for the final thousand meters to the finish.  We passed the 9k mark and rounded the bend toward the climb of the Cambie street bridge.  We were still tightly knit as Tim made his move on the steep part of the hill.  No one responded and I thought I had what it took to hold him so I chased after him and kept on his heels.  We now had a slight lead on the rest of our group and I knew we could ride this in together.  As we peaked the bridge the finish was almost within sight.  Unfortunately I did not have the strength to overcome the fatigue of that hill climb and faded pretty hard.  The chase group once again gobbled me up and I felt a disgusting feeling of defeat as they spat me out on their way by.  I had just lost at least five or six positions overall and knew that my original goal of beating the 32:00 mark was also gone. I heard my coach yelling from the sidelines and found one more gear for the last 200 metres.  Absolutely spent and wobbly legged as I crossed the line, I was still able to pull off a 28 second PB making it five for five with a time of 32:35 and an overall placing of 35th.  I really hate this race so far, but I learn so much each year from it.  These lessons learned are always very hard.  It seems as in life, my running lessons come without ease as well.  "Why do I do this to myself?" and  "Thank god that's over!" are just some of the thought s going through my head at this moment.  I stop to congratulate Tim on an outstanding race and follow up with a few pictures.  I was elated to see I had crossed the line ahead of fellow team mate Jay MacDonald.  It was the first time I had ever beat him  I know he has had a long difficult road to recovery from a terrible Plantar faciitis injury and he could potentially whoop me in the next one, but I'll take it when I can get it so it softened the blow a bit for me.  I guess I am a little impatient when it comes to taking time of my records.  I am a little upset that I am nearing 30 and my times are not lower.  I feel like I could be so much faster if I stuck to my guns in high school rather than drinking and partying.  I had planned on doing the BMO 8k if I had a good race here at the Sun Run so that I can improve on my speed and cheer on my team mates who are running the marathon.  I was not perfectly happy with my result and know that I am capable of going faster very soon.  I will now vamp up my training and head to Victoria for the TC 10k for another shot at getting closer to 32:00.  Not sure after that performance if I can break 32 until later this season, but one thing is for sure, I will give it my best shot.  I had a lovely warm down run with Nathan Killam around to Athlete's Village and back.  We talked about how the race went and how lucky we have been with the weather at all the events we have raced this spring.  I retrieved my belongings from the elite bag check area which was nice as all the top performers from today's race were lounging around in the warm sunshine reflecting on what had just happened.  I went over to congratulate all the Kenyan runners who were enjoying a conversation in their first language.  It must be hard for some of them to fit in with people that aspire to be as fast as them with a language barrier.  I always try to make them feel welcome and shake their hands.  I have become fond of one Kenyan runner from Lethbridge AB., Willy Kimosop.  I met him last year at The Harry's Spring Run Off.  He is always very friendly and always smiling.  I know he's had trouble with injury lately and his living arrangements in Lethbridge are less than favourable for him as it's mega cold there.  It would be great to see him with VFAC after he completes his schooling.  We've recently had another Kenyan join the speedy Blue Train this year.  He ran a 31:30, milliseconds behind Gant. I look forward to chasing him down at practice and gaining from his speed.  I also hope that I can run with Jay more now that he's back and improve fast enough for him to have someone to battle with during practice.

All in all a great day at the races followed up by a group lunch at the New Oxford House in Yaletown.  Delicious food and great beer. Mmmmm beer. Now if only I can get away from these beer cravings while the sun is out.  I should be able to lose some more weight as I increase my mileage. I am running about 9 pounds heavy right now.  I tell people that and they almost get upset with me.  I know one may look better with a bit of meat on their bones, but it is true that to be an elite, you really must (as a male) keep your body fat percentage between 5 and 8%.  I don't know what I'm at now, But I am looking forward to getting back to my lean mean self again. Round two of the 2011 season is now beginning.  I felt revved up until the last race, but wasn't overly motivated for this one.  I feel as though I paid for that during this race.  I give myself a 90-92% grade on my performance in this race.  I hope to vamp that up to 100% this weekend at the TC 10k.  I have written my application for elite status and am hoping for the best.  I can really use the help getting there and if they give me a room too, It will be much easier for me to perform well.  Happy training until then and all the best to anyone running the BMO Vancouver Marathon. Especially my team mates and training partner Drew Nicholson.  I know he's been stomping his training and I want him to succeed this time at the marathon.  It will really help him to relax during races if he pulls this one off.  Go get em!! Chase those numbers!  

Graeme Wilson and Tim Smith
Things I hate: Resisting temptations
Things I love: Taking time to reward myself between events.  Beach days!!
Drew Nicholson

Nathan Killam and Yannick Le Carre


  1. David, wonderful recount of your Sun Run experience. Thank you for sharing! I wish you a perfectly executed TC10km, which I am certain you will run 31:47.
    See you there.

  2. PS Seeing you at training, you are most definitely looking to be at a perfect race weight. Losing 8-10 lbs may only create the potential for injury, fatigue and illness. You are running exceptionally well. Not to worry

  3. Hey Thanks a lot! Just got the comment. Sorry I won't see you there but I wish you all the best!