Running Upstream with Salmon

Salmon are an important resource in British Columbia; for the last thirty five years there has been a 14 km (9 mile) Coho Run that starts at Kitsilano Beach then follows the edge of Stanley Park, heads north over the Lion’s Gate Bridge and finishes at Ambleside Park where the annual Coho Festival is.

This year it coincided with the Grouse Grind Mountain Run which I have participated in several times. Since, my long-term goal is a 3:30 – 3:55 marathon I decided to enter the Coho Run for a new challenge. It was also an opportunity to gauge my training.

Finally a running event that starts at a reasonable time – 9:00 am on a Sunday! The sun was shinning when I arrived at the start area over looking the North Vancouver mountains with forty-five minutes to go to the washroom, warm-up and drop my bag at the bag drop.

Coho Salmon Head

Coho Salmon – Shutter Stock

10 Km Time Trial

To keep my running tempo at or near threshold (172 bpm) pace my heart rate monitor was set beep at anything below 167 bpm. The race strategy was to push for the first ten kilometers  The first little bit looped West around a narrow paved trail and past the pool.  It was difficult to pass.

We traveled along the seawall to the south end of the Burrard Street bridge which was my nemesis a few months ago. This wasn’t so this time around. Quick legs paced me over in 07:49 min/mi. After the bridge the course took a sharp left back down to the trail along Sunset Beach, to around the Stanley Park seawall.

It culminated in Merileese’s Trail, a mile long hill up to the Lion’s Gate Bridge which slowed me down to 10:15 min/mile. A bit of mental fortitude drove my legs forward to the start of the bridge and the end of the first 10 Km in 50:49 min.

4 Km to Home

Left rib cage fatigue prevented a full breath and slowed the pace over the Lion’s Gate Bridge. With each passing participant I valiantly made thirty-second sprints to challenge my slowing pace.

Recent research is showing that the brain regulates our ability to push our physical boundaries. Our attitude and self-talk can either be hindering or beneficial. Mantras like:

Steady Legs. Run Your Own Race. One Foot In Front of the Other.

kept my efforts high and me moving forward with a smile on my face.  There was one other person tailing me on my right side to the finish, not to be out done the jets were fired in the last 100 meters; he finished three seconds behind.

View the Training Peaks COHO Run Race Log.

Post Race Pancakes and Prizes With Friends

By finishing within a predicted time of 1:05 to 1:15 hr and 26th in my age group this run result was one that I am happy with. It also wasn’t an A race which means I wasn’t fresh nor did I taper for it.

The is the only event I know of that has a pancake breakfast at the end of it! Perfect for refueling post-run.  During the last few years of climbing the Grouse Grind I have made several friends who have also expanded their endurance activities to longer runs.  A few of them also participated. We all met up at the end to catch-up and have breakfast.

During the awards ceremony the organizers handed out draw prizes, not by bib number but by enthusiasm. The announcer had to see your bib number to for you to receive a prize.  The goodies included gift certificates to the Scandinavian Spa in Whistler (highly recommended) and a dual water bottle carrier for those loooonnnnggg runs.

When he asked who “REALLY REALLY Likes the long runs?” I jumped up and down with great abandon while waving my bib that was still attached to my shirt. I knew that my single bottle carrier was getting ratty and wouldn’t carry me much past 13 miles. Relieved to be selected I ran up to the stage to retrieve my prize. Earlier one of my friends received one of the gift spa gift certificates, while a second spa gift certificate was given at the end via a kissing contest for those who had their partners in attendance.

Running the for Long Run

At 80 years old, the inspirational Senior’s level runner Betty Jean McHugh, who has set numerous records for age group, is the author of My Road to Rome and is a North Shore resident finished in a blistering 1:41:43.  Can I be that fast in 40 years? Will I still be running at 80?

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How to Complete a Distance Running Race with Confidence and Speed

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While competing in biathlon and cross country skiing I found a distinct advantage of being able to preview the course a few days before and event. This built confidence and enabled us to develop a strategy for each section of it.  Luckily the trail running route for Seek the Peak is in my backyard (well close to it) so I can run it as often as I like. It has nearly been two years since I ran the trails from Ambleside Park to Grouse Mountain in West Vancouver so the details are a little hazy.

Getting the  Pace and Distance Training Device to Work

After two  years of letting my Garmin Forerunner 305 sit idle in a drawer because I thought it wouldn’t synchronize with my computer anymore I decided to try again. When the original error occurred even technical support personnel suggested I send it in and might be repaired or even better buy a new one. I was elated that after a few software downloads and installations it synchronized!

Being able to now use a training device with GPS (navigation), heart rate and pace makes the data geek in me grin cheek to cheek! More data to pour over.

Finding Stage 1 of Seek the Peak

Although it was a little chilly and looked like it was going to rain it was time to get running. Sunday’s goal was to navigate through the first two stages of Seek the Peak and test the pace. Stage one begins at Field F in Ambleside Park  then travels around Park Royal mall, along the Capilano River to finish under Highway 1. Easy to find.   After setting Field F as the first navigation point my feet started with a slow run.

The bridge was reached an a quick 18 minutes while l still felt fresh. This was the end of stage one and the start of stage two.At each landmark or change of direction I set running navigation points for future reference.

Getting Slightly Lost A Few Times

Stage 2 is not quite as straight forward. The first section is fairly fast with a gradual uphill. There is a sharp right turn  where the trail goes downhill past the Capilano Suspension Bridge, but close by you can also go straight or up to the left uphill. This bit is a lot of fun and the feet can move fast. Be quick and light footed around the roots.

Keep following the Capilano Pacific Trail through a series of ups and downs and bridges that are slippery when wet. The right on the Shinglebolt trail was a little confusing. While trail directions are clear the names of the trails were not always obvious.

There is signage for an observation deck with a short trail that merges with the main one. Stay left and the observation place will be on the right. Eventually Shinglebolt transitions to Coho Loop. The trail gets a bit gnarly. Look out for a metal bridge crossing directly over a big blue pipe. Cross over it to wind up towards a series of stairs, yes stairs. My confidence started to falter after the stairs. I couldn’t really remember where to go next.

Instead of keeping left along Pacific Palisades I went right instead which brought me into a big parking lot. Crossing the parking lot I  met up with the trail I should have been on. This then continued to climb up to an opening into Cleveland Park.

Grinding Out the Last Mile on Nancy Greene Way

The last mile made me nearly stop in 2010. It is a lot less exciting than the previous sections or even the next – Grouse Grind! Sing “the ants go marching one by one…” to stay motivated and keep plodding along. I kept looking down at my watch trying to keep the pace under 10:00 min/mile instead it averaged 13:27 min/mile at 172 bpm.

Finishing Stages 1 and 2

Maintaining a  consistent pace is more challenging when you don’t know where you are going. The lack of confidence slows you down. The data has some blank spots where the timer was stopped while I entered navigation points.  It looks like it took around 1:08 hour for 5.28 miles. Next time I run this path I will be able move more quickly and more easily monitor my energy output.

Legs felt fresh, energized and even and a spring in their step for the first 30-45 minutes. A good sign since the previous longest run was for the just over an hour on flat treadmill! However, the last 20 minutes my thighs started to burn and they lacked power to push off up Nancy Greene.  Time to do longer tempo intervals and more hills.

Click to see the full training session.

Run with Confidence and Speed

Running route before a running race increases confidence and pace on race day. It will be easier to find your way with hundreds if not thousands of people as well as course markers on event day. You will run faster and know how much to push your speed to finish with nothing left in the tank.