Legs for Literacy Half Marathon
Moncton New Brunswick
Oct 21, 2018
Why this one?
I want to do a race in all of the Canadian Provinces and Territories and this one happened to fit my schedule. The plan is the “11” Canadian provinces (I’m counting Newfoundland and Labrador as 2), plus the 3 territories. Upon completion of this race, I’ll have done 6 of the 14 regions. Also I chose the half-marathon to keep my options open for future races this fall.
After a few weeks rest from the Whitehorse run, I was back at it with a 7 week training program. The thought of running a personal best time was a bit daunting, but I committed myself to a sub1:50 goal time.
It was a very short training schedule, and it was mainly to get accustomed to the concept of running faster. I had no concerns on cardio fitness or endurance – that would be a slam dunk. But it was the mental aspect of churning out 21 kilometers in a row at a consistent pace that concerned me.
The training went well, but there was one day that stood out. It was two weeks before race day. Everything started off normal, but I was running with Steve, at a good steady pace. Maybe steady+. We were along the Ottawa River path and we saw a lady running ahead of us. She had the perfect pace and form, and I said to Steve “she’d be the perfect pacer for my half marathon”. But she was going a good clip and we watched her pull away. But then we caught up to her at the traffic light, and as the three of us took off, and the chatting started, I realized we were now going significantly faster than before. Cool, I thought, until she started asking me questions 🙂 It wasn’t exactly conversational pace for me, so Steve talked me up “this guy has run in Iceland!” We ran with Marian a few more kilometers before she turned back, and then it was back to me and Steve. Anyway long story short, Steve let me set the pace, and we ended up running 21k in 1:52. It was then that I knew that I could hit my goal.
Friday of Race Weekend
I decided to drive the 1200 km (750 miles) to Moncton, because why not? The flight schedule would’ve meant a 3 nights stay, and I would have needed to rent a car. This way I could spend 3 nights, in 3 different New Brunswick towns, and see a bit of Canada.
I stopped the first night in Fredericton, and the next morning I had a lovely easy run around town.
Afterwards, I headed out to the Big Stop for a big breakfast, before driving to Moncton.
It was hosted at the hotel I was staying at, so it was very convenient. It was a pretty big hotel, with 24 hour room service (or so they said). The whole city seemed a lot bigger than its population of 70,000 suggested.
I then drove out to Shediac to see the giant lobster.
It was so blustery that I didn’t go to the beach and instead had an early dinner at Pizza Delight.
Start Your Engine!
I got up quite early because I wanted to keep my usual wake up routine. In addition to an early start (8am), I was also dealing with a timezone change. All this to say, I didn’t feel like I had a great sleep.
I’ve got a fancy new tracking device, and it declared me extremely rested. It measures things such as resting heart rate, heart rate variability, temperature, and breathing to come up with a readiness index.
With no dog to walk, I decided to go for a pre-dawn walk about town.
At 7:30 I left the hotel and walked down to the Avenir Centre. It’s a beautiful new downtown hockey arena (capacity of over 8000) (Jerry Seinfeld had performed a show two weeks prior to the race). Along the way I chatted with a 10k participant from Halifax who was giving me a few tips on the half.
After a quick stop for the loo, I just walked around awhile before getting into the corral. There were over 700 participants, which is a pretty decent size. I could see the 1:50 pace bunny, but was probably 20 feet behind her.
It was a beautiful crisp fall morning. It was about 3 Celsius (37F) and no wind. I wore a light long sleeved shirt, shorts, and some light compression socks. I also had a cheap pair of gardening gloves to keep my hands warm. As I was walking towards the corral, I actually witnessed the sun popping up over the eastern horizon.
And we’re off!
It took me about 30 seconds to cross the start line, and pretty soon I was running a half marathon!
I didn’t do any real pre-race warm up, and I could definitely feel it. I was just behind the 1:55 bunny, and decided to just hang out for the first km before getting up to race pace.
As we got to the 1km point, the pacer ditched his sign! In fact they’d all ditched their signs at 1km. “ok, relax” I said. I knew what my pacer looked like, so it was time to make my move. After a few minutes I caught up to the 1:50 pack, and ran several kms in a row at a steady pace.
At that point I remembered my coach’s advice which was to hold back on the first bit. I decided the “first bit” would be the first half, and so I was determined to not pass the pace bunny until at least the half way point.
Being Nice is what we do
Around 9km, a runner ahead of me had unknowingly dropped her sunglasses. Spectators were trying to get her attention. As I could see her, and the glasses, I just instinctively picked them up, and ran over to her. It was no big deal really, anybody would have done the same.
Don’t Look Back
I decided to use my CamelBak because I didn’t want to risk slowing down (I packed one litre of slightly watered down Gatorade, and I didn’t bring any energy gels). It was around the 11k point that I got a little ahead of the pacer. No worries I thought, I’m past half way, but it’ll be alright if she catches me. At this point, crossing the line with her would mean a sub 1:50 for me, as I started back a bit.
New strategy: I’m just running a 10k
After several minutes, it became apparent that she wasn’t going to pass me. I had no idea if she was a few feet behind, or several meters, so I decided to try and keep my new pace. There were a couple of people with a similar speed, so I was able to run with them for awhile. One of the guys running with me was doing the full marathon and we chatted for a bit. Side note, I’m always slightly concerned in these dual races. The signage is usually good, and volunteers point you down the right path, but if anybody can get lost and end up doing the wrong course, it’d be me 🙂
Back over the Chocolate River
There was an out and back section along the river, and as I crossed the bridge for the second time, I looked down and I could see that the water was like pure swirly mud. To be honest it didn’t scream “Chocolate!” but when I googled “Moncton river” I learned that the Petitcodiac river goes by the nickname “Chocolate River”.
The kilometers were quickly passing by and soon I could see the Bell Aliant Tower. It’s basically Atlantic Canada’s version of the CN Tower, and stands in at an impressive 127 meters high (approx 30 storeys). With 3 km’s to go, the guy who I was following sped up significantly, and I sped up a bit, but he soon outpaced me. My fastest 3km’s were the final ones, with an average pace of 5:01/km. I felt good but I do remember thinking that I was at my maximum sustainable speed.
And across the line, in 1 hour, 47 minutes, and 58 seconds!
And a new Personal Best! I had run the Reykjavik Midnight Sun Run in 1:50:19, and the goal for this race was 1:49:59. So I was super pleased to beat my goal by 2 minutes. Plus I loved how they called out my name at the finish “And here comes Michael Hogan, all the way from Ottawa”.
The food was great, including Pizza Delight pizza, chocolate milk, chips, you name it. I sat down in the sun, and hung out with another runner. He was actually an age category winner : a 69 year old who ran it about 5 minutes faster than me. He told me that he hasn’t slowed down in 30+ years of running, so I guess there’s hope for me 🙂
I started to cool down, so I walked back to the hotel, had a shower, packed up, and headed out of town. My destination for the night would be Edmundston, which is about 400km northwest of Moncton.
I’m a pacer convert! That was really the big takeaway from the training runs, and in particular the race. They had so many pace bunnies, and they did such a good job. Aid stations were well stocked, the course was great, and there was plenty of post race food. The only thing I found odd was that there was no emcee for the race start. You think there’d be some sort of start countdown. I’d definitely recommend this race for anybody wanting a fast course, and to visit somewhere new.