Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Royal Victoria Marathon 8K

October 12, 2008

The Royal Victoria Marathon is the largest running event in Victoria and between the 3 races (marathon, half marathon, and 8k road race) it attracts over 10,000 participants. It is always exciting when it comes around each year and since it is such a large event I always know quite a few runners competing in each of the 3 distances. It is great to be able to cheer them on and later compare races and achievements (and sometimes disappointments). I've twice competed in the half at this event and the full two years ago. This year I decided to try the 8k as something a little different. As it turned out this was probably a good thing as I have been battling a strained hip from the MOMAR and while it is nothing serious, running a half probably would not have helped it heal.

Due to the hip and a mild cold I picked up a few days before the race, I had some doubts about my ability to run a good race. My basic goal was to run a PB at the 8K distance (which would have been anything under 27:16), but I really wanted to run under 27min and maybe even under 26:30 if I had a exceptional day.

The race starts at the rather early time of 7:30, which meant that Sonja (who was also running the 8K) and I had to get up in the dark at 6am. I personally would prefer it if races didn't start so early, but fortunately an early start doesn't seem to affect my performance. Once we arrived at race central with what we thought was sufficient time we found huge lines at the porta-potties across from the gear check. There were other facilities near the start lines for the various races, but it didn't seem logical to run over to them then have to run back to check our gear (and based on the length of the lines other races were also thinking the same thing). We spent 15min in the line, then rushed to pull off our extra layers and headed over to the start line. It was cool, but not frigid, not windy, overcast but dry - in essence perfect racing weather. There was no time for a warm up, and I hardly had time to make my way to the front of the pack before we were off.

All races always start fast and this is true even more for short races so it was not a surprise to me that a decent sized group bombed off the start line. I went out at what I felt was a good pace. The first kilometer was 8 seconds faster than my goal pace of 3:21 which is not that fast considering all the adrenaline that is pumping around at the start of any race. I throttled back a bit and hit the next 3km all exactly at 3:24 pace - I felt good and I was running at a sustainable pace even if it was a couple of seconds off my goal pace. After the first km, I estimate that I was in about 20th place as a there was a handful of really fast runners who blew off the front (Ryan McKenzie, Scott Simpson, Simon Whitfield, Kristopher Swanson plus a few more) and then a chase pack of perhaps 10 or so runners who were not that far ahead of me. I passed a couple of these runners after they fell off the back of that pack before the half way point. Gradually that chase pack began to splinter and I manged to pick off several more between 4-6km as some guys struggled to stay on pace and at least one totally hit the wall or was forced to pull up due to injury. I managed to pick my pace up a bit for the fifth and sixth km with the assistance of a gradual downhill. My slowest km was my 7th, but I think it was less because I was not able to keep the pace (although things were getting tougher), but more because I pulled back a little bit so that I could hammer out a fast final km. I hit the final km marker with 2 young guys a few seconds ahead of me and a couple more not far behind. I managed to pass one of the guys and then we came to a marshaled intersection, the guy still in front of me turned right and I not remembering the route exactly assumed he was correct and started to follow. Finally noticing that we were going the wrong way, the marshal shouted "This Way!" while pointing the route straight ahead. Thankfully, it only cost me a second or two, but the guy in front wasn't as lucky and had to turn around losing at least two positions. I could hear the sound of feet from behind me and knew that at least one or two guys were trying hard to catch up. There was no one in sight in front of me though so I just concentrated hard on keeping my legs moving. As long as I could make it to the final stretch without someone catching me, I thought I could probably put on a surge that would keep me ahead. I waited until I hit the first mat about 150m from the finish which sends the racer info from our timing chips to the announcer booth and then gunned it hitting the line in 26:45. It was a good time for me, well under my 27min goal and not far from my best case scenario. I was also pleased with my race strategy which saw me go from around 20th near the start of the race to 10th overall (and 3rd in my age group) at the end while also not getting passed after the initial position juggling.

Running the 8k also has some other advantages because it is over so soon you can watch the half marathon and marathon finishers come in as well. I will admit that watching some of the marathoners stagger to the finish line is somehow compelling although I do feel guilty about taking a measure of pleasure in others' pain. I did notice that many of the top 10 women looked a lot better at the finish than the men going at the same pace. Perhaps the woman race smarter and can pace themselves better?

There were many great performances on the day with Sonja, Garth, and Chris Callendar running 8k PBs; Nick Best laying down a fantastic 1:14:05 PB half; Simon Pearson and Craig Payne battling neck and neck in to finish solid half's, Gary Duncan getting ever so close to a under 3 hour marathon (and setting a PB); Cammie Bentham running under 3:30 in her first marathon in over 10 years; and many more excellent performances. It was also great to see fellow blogger Brad Cunningham come over from the mainland to run the 8km. His time of 27:26 was amazing considering he only recently got back to running after breaking a bone in his foot in the summer. Final results for all three races can be found here.

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