Every time I run a road marathon I realise how much I enjoy them and swear that I will fit more into my race schedule but usually that doesn't end up happening with too many ultras getting in the way. So as I lined up for Edmonton marathon yesterday it was my first road marathon since the same race a whole year prior, and as ever I was training for an ultra so hadn't trained specifically at all for the marathon. I had no idea where I was at in terms of pace and was mostly using this as a training run for World 100km in 3 weeks time and as a gauge to see where I am at.
This meant I was very unsure of what pace to go out at, I wanted a solid run but I didn't want to blow up mid-way by going out too fast, and I didn't want to kill myself as I want to carry on decent mileage training this week before starting to taper off a little before World 100km (Sept 10th, Winschoten, Netherlands). It was just the evening before that I decided to target a 2h50 to 2h55 finishing time, or 4:02 to 4:09 min/ km pace. Edmonton is a flat course with a few sneaky little rolling hills in the final 10km so typically produces fast times. My PB was at Edmonton in 2010 at 2:49:54 (with a nice little sprint finish to get under 2h50!)
Immediately I went out ahead of pace, on about 3:55 min/ km pace. But it felt easy. I was unsure what to do - maybe I had more leg speed in me that I had thought? Maybe I would pay for this at the 30km+ mark? I kept thinking of Coach John Hill from Vancouver Falcons and I suspected he would have been telling me to back off a little. But I decided to roll with it and if a few kms were a little fast then better to learn now than at Worlds. About 10 men pulled ahead of me, I was lead woman and I was left running solo with a couple of men in sight in the distance. I was glad to have my garmin to help me monitor my pace and stop myself from going out even faster.
I am not sure where it was, maybe as early as the 10km mark or so and I found myself running with one other guy, who I found out to be Shane Ruljancich (member of the Canadian Mountain Running Team). Shane and I got chatting, established that we were looking for similar finishing times and settled in to a good pace, side by side. For a few kms I didn't check my pace at all as we chatted easily along and the kms felt easy. I then got back to checking pace and noticed that quite a few kms were hitting sub 4:00 min/ km and it crossed my mind that maybe I was going a little too fast, but equally I was prepared to risk this rather than pull back, lose time and also lose my new running buddy.
It was a hot and sunny day (it got up to 30 degrees) and very early on I was wishing I had a handheld water bottle. The aid stations were every 3km or so but once half a small dixie cup got spilt I was left with just a tiny mouthful of water or gatorade to quench my thirst. This was made worse as I was taking on my Clif Shot Bloks and my mouth only got drier. At a couple of stations I managed to grab 2 cups and later on I even used a sponge to get water, but for pretty much the whole race I knew I was not getting enough fluid on to really do my best.
We ran through the 1/2 marathon mark at 1:23:38. I was happy with this; it was ahead of my 2h50 to 2h55 target but not crazy fast and I was still feeling pretty comortable. Shane and I were still running side by side and we soon began to gain on and then pass a few guys which was a confidence boost that we had paced ourselves better than some, and I was also glad to see Shane gaining a few positions in the mens field.
By 30km I was definitely beginning to work a little and I was wondering if I was going to pay the price for my faster-than-planned pace. We had now hit our 2nd out and back section where although the course appears very flat on the profile it actually has a few gentle rolls that you begin to feel at this stage in the game. Shane and I were still clocking our splits which began to vary a little depending on the slight hills, but still stayed within the 4:00 min/ km range. Our conversation was now short comments rather than a flowing conversation as we began to work harder, or I did at least; Shane appeared to still be on cruise control.
The kms stretched out, each one seeming longer than the last, as I counted them down one by one. I took on my last gel with a small amount of water but I was definitely beginning to feel the effects of not being able to get enough gatorade and fluids for the heat of the day. Although I was working it was more the fact that I just felt I needed calories and liquids that was making the run hard. Even as I hit the final km I didn't have my usual finish line push, but I hadn't lost pace either and was delighted to roll over the finish line, 1st place woman with a new PB of 2:47:14. More than being delighted with a PB I was just happy to get a few bottles of water and a banana on board within minutes of crossing the line.
All in all, I didn't go out to get a PB so I'm super happy with getting one but oddly not stoked about it as this wasn't an 'A' race so it wasn't something I was specifically dedicating my training towards as a goal. I am more happy that I felt steady throughout the race, a have the confidence that I have got some road speed in my legs for the Worlds, and I feel only a little tired today which is indicative that I didn't push crazy hard to get a good time and that 42km is really a good little 'jaunt' and I should be more than prepared for World 100km. I'm also pretty excited that I clocked the 17th fastest female British marathon time so far for 2011 :)
Tonight will be a trail run, no pushing the pace, just stretching the legs out on some soft spongy trails to minimise the impact, and then hopefully a few more solid road and treadmill runs in the next 6 days before I start to taper a little....
Big thanks to Brian Torrence (elite director) and all the fab volunteers who make Edmonton a super event, and one I'll be sure to go back to in future years.