The short report: I achieved my goal. A PR by nearly 2 minutes - my previous PR was 6 years ago. And I qualified for the New York Marathon. And I did it (unintentionally) with positive splits. Why do it the easy way?
The full report: I pulled it off! It was an emotional end to a hard fought victory.
I drove Friday from my home in Garson the 7 hours (non-stop) to Ste-Jerome, Quebec. I picked up my race package first, and then to the airbnb I had booked for 3 nights. An eat in pasta meal and then to bed.
Saturday was a slow, three mile run in the rain. Then I drove to the finish line later that morning to make sure I knew the way. The Half Marathon was being run at that time, so as to stretch out the field a la Covid-19. The rest of Saturday was relaxation, with another eat in pasta meal that night.
Sunday I was up at 4:45 to eat a light breakfast and by 6:30 I was driving to the Finish Line to catch the bus to the Start Line - a 30 minute ride through the Laurentian Mountains. It's all stunningly gorgeous, with the moutains covered in Fall colours. I've been skiing here before, and so have seen it all in the winter. This is special. The Start Line was in Val-David. They had 12 waves starting (a la Covid-19), spaced 5 minute apart. The first wave was off at 8am. I was in wave 3, and so started at 8:10.
The course is run on an old rail line that has been converted into a bike trail. The first 4 miles or so is pavement, and then packed fine gravel for most of the rest. It is a 722 foot gradual drop, with the biggest drop being between miles 4.3 - 8.7. There are gradual climbs as well, with the longest being over 2 miles between miles 15 and 17.4 and then another one between miles 20.5 and 21.75. The scenery is stunning, with incredible colours, lakes and rivers that run directly along the route.
I decided to go for my New York Qualifying pace of 3:23 (7:44/mile). I knew I would have to rein it in for the downhill miles and really watch my pace. There were no pacers for the event, due to Covid-19 regulations. All that being said, no matter how much I reined it in, I consistently ran the early miles faster than intended. Here are the splits as recorded by my GPS. Take them with a grain of salt. I think the thick tree canopy overhead, the steep rock cuts in places, and the three tunnels under roads really threw the numbers off:
(1) 7:40 (2) 7:36 (3) 7:45 (4) 7:39 (5) 7:37 (6) 7:13 (7) 7:13 (8) 8:12 (9) 6:33 (10) 7:40 (11) 7:43 (12) 7:13 (13) 8:04 (14) 7:46 (15) 7:53 (16) 7:48 (17) 8:06 (18) 7:51 (19) 7:43 (20) 7:50 (21) 7:56 (22) 8:03 (23) 7:39 (24) 7:54 (25) 8:04 (26) 8:09
My official time was 3:22:10 (7:43 pace), meaning I cleared my New York Marathon qualification time of 3:23. My official splits were:
10km 45:17 - (7:26 pace - way too fast for the first 10K)
1/2 Marathon 1:39:18 - (7:40 pace for this 11K segment - much better pace)
30km 2:21:56 - (7:41 pace for this 9K segment - again much better pace)
The final 12.2 km was run at a 7:55 pace. My legs were paying the price for the speed of the first 6 miles.
The fast start concerned me, as I knew I'd pay for it later in the race. However, my pace did feel even, and I question the 3 miles at 7:13, mile 8 at 8:12, and most especially mile 9 at 6:33. Those numbers did, however, play in my head as I struggled to maintain an even pace. At the end of mile 9, my GPS was showing an average pace of 7:33. I knew that would not end well.
The long uphill was a struggle between miles 15 and 17.4, even though it was very gradual. My splits slowed considerably after that and my legs were quickly loosing their strength. I was concerned I would be hit with dead legs too soon in the race. It was here that I knew I had to parlay the early speed into achieving my goal, and so was doing the math in my head --- if I can just keep my pace below 8:00/mile for the final 6, I can do this! Maybe. Positive splits are never a good way to go.
I suppose the final miles were no different than any other marathon run hard. The legs wanted to go off in their own direction, and it took a ton of concentration to keep moving forward. When I crossed the finish line, I nearly collapsed. I had to grab something to stay upright. And I was quite emotional, knowing what I had accomplished.
A huge plus for me was overcoming the GI issues that had hit me hard last year in Fort Lauderdale. I didn't have to even think about stopping, and I was easily able to consume the nutrition as planned: one chew every mile and one gel every 6 miles.
This is a fun, well organized event. The volunteers were fabulous, the route incredible, and the results speak for themselves.