A beautiful day for a beautiful run… that sums up this event for 2011. With this year’s course change adding some ups and downs to deal with, this is a great and challenging route. What it lacks in people on the course, it makes up for in scenery. From the start in downtown St. Catharines we headed through a few residential areas on our way out to the vineyards and farmland west of the city. Just before the Niagara Escarpment (thankfully) the turnaround brought us back into the city along mostly the same roads. The toughest part of the course was definitely the last km that climbed back into the downtown area from the Twelve Mile Creek valley. On course there was an adequate number of water stations staffed with enthusiastic volunteers, and the road crossings were also well covered with police and volunteers – thanks to all of you.
I went into the race with a goal of a decent time, but also an improvement in my pacing. I was planning to try focusing on holding back during the first half so that I could (hopefully) push a little harder coming back to the finish. This is the opposite of what I usually end up doing and I’ve paid the price for it in my past few races. Almost immediately this plan fell apart – I blame it on the downhill in the first km! I decided that a better approach would be to try to maintain a decent pace but focus on my heart rate, trying to keep it around 160-163. This really seemed to work for me, and I felt much better than I have in my past few races. I maintained this steady HR for about 75% of the race, and then allowed it rise as I came into the last few km’s, and especially over the last uphill stretch. I finished at 1:26:06, which is just under a minute slower than my PB (Grimsby Half in Feb. 2011). I was happy with this as my training mileage has been nowhere near as high as it was a year ago.
While weather played a big part in making this a great day, I would definitely recommend this as a great race for anyone looking to do a smaller, scenic, and challenging half marathon. The finish line is within walking distance of the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival which is another reason to do this race!