Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bear Mountain 10K

November 15, 2008

I was not planning on doing this race, but thought that since Asics is a sponsor it would probably be a good idea to run it. The race takes place on the paved cart paths around Bear Mountain Golf Course. Based on the course description and what I heard from others, I knew this was a hilly course; exactly how hilly I found out soon enough.

Sonja and I arrived to some drizzle, but otherwise good temperate race conditions. This race brings out a somewhat different group of runners than many of the other events I compete in. I still knew a number of people there, but not as many as some other local races. Based on previous results, I expected a strong men's field and when I spotted Kelly Guest, Eric Findlay, Nick Walker, and Sean Chester I knew there was going to be some serious competition. Some modest prize money does boost the level of entrants.

I choose to wear a long sleeve shirt, cap, and gloves all of which I would come to not need at all since the weather got progressively warmer as the race went on. Luckily, I don't feel that the overdressing hampered my performance. After a brief warm up, I was more or less ready to go. The first kilometer of the course didn't include any big climbs although it certainly was not flat. Around the 2km mark the first of three whimsically named hills started. This was was called "Papa Bear" and consisted of about 1.5 km of steady climbing. It was not insane, but definitely still a challenge. I was feeling pretty good at that point and since hills are one of my strengths, I thought this was a good chance to make gain time on some of the field. I was in 4th place for most of the climb even briefly moving into 3rd behind Ryan Day and Jason Terauchi-Loutitt. As it turns out I may have gone out a little hard, but at the time it seemed to be a sustainable pace.

After a bit of a break with some downhill I soon found out that while there are only three named hills, there are many many others that are not named. There is little that I would consider to be flat in this course and even the downhills were often not that comfortable with many being steep and/or having tricky corners to navigate. I continued to feel fairly good until about the halfway mark when things started to get tough. Races always get hard in the second half, but I was feeling a little worse that I had hoped at this point in the race. I concentrated on trying to keep a even effort and hoped to hold on to a decent pace for the remainder of the race. Unfortunately, tracking your pace on such a race was difficult because of the terrain. My pace varied from 3:20 to 4:15 per km so it was difficult to know if I was slowing down or not. Sean Chester passed me around 5km and while I held on not far behind for a while he gradually slipped away. A few km later Kelly Guest passed me and I didn't have enough to respond in any meaningful way. Getting passed is always difficult psychologically and I much prefer to be the one doing the passing, but the reality is that it happens to everyone at one time or another.

I struggled up "Mama Bear" Hill, but I could honestly barley distinguish this from the other numerous hills. I knew by about 6 km that this certainly wasn't going to be a great race, but I hoped that I could prevent it from being a disaster. Eric Findlay caught up to me with less than 2km to go and I did manage to match his pace for a while before he pulled ahead. The final "Baby Bear" hill wasn't really that bad, but coming only a half km from the finish line, it felt tough. Nick Walker passed me up the hill and I just didn't have enough to respond, but at least the hill didn't totally stop me in my tracks, but I wish I had had something left. I crossed the finish in 36:57, less than 1 minute behind Sean, Kelly, Eric, and Nick and more than 3 min off my personal best 10k time. I'm pretty sure that if I felt better and run a little smarter, I could have been more competitive in that group. On the plus side, I did manage to inadvertently run my race number. My bib was "8" and I placed 8th overall.

Ryan Day ended up winning in a solid 34:38 (for this course), with out of towner Rob Mandje taking second and Jason Terauchi-Loutitt
picking up third. Fellow PIH member Kevin Searle raced very well, coming in 9th behind me and handily winning the Masters title. Gary Duncan dominated his age category coming in a 40:43 and Sonja had a great race picking up 5th overall in the woman's race (and winning a bit of money for the effort). Final results can be found here.
You can see a shot of my struggles here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thetis 20K Relay

November 11, 2008

The Thetis 20k relay is the first of a series of 3 races hosted by the Prairie Inn Harriers (PIH) that take place at Thetis Lake Regional Park. The Gunner Shaw 10k is on Nov 29th and the Stewart Mountain 10 Mile takes place on Dec 13th. The relay is a fun event that attracts a large number of racers every year and a deep talent pool (this year it sold out at 600 racers and probably a dozen or so runners capable of sub 35min 10k times). The race is very low key and there are no race numbers and teams time themselves, but that certainly does not dampen the enjoyment.

Due to a mis-communication, it turned out that I was not on the original team that I thought I was going to be on. Therefore, I arrived early to see if I could join with another team who might be looking for a member. I ended up joining a team with Bruce Martell, Jason Terauchi-Loutitt and captain Hicham Elamiri. It was a solid team and Jason in particlar is a speed demon who turned in a 1:09:00 Comox Valley Half Marathon earlier this year. Michael Lord was originally also on the team, but was also running for another team so he graciously allowed me to join Hicham's team. The weather was cool and there was a small amount of drizzle, just enough to get everything nice and muddy. Why I chose to wear a white shirt, I'm not sure since it sure didn't stay that way.

Unfortunately while joining my new team I failed to find out what leg I was going to be running. When I finally found them again with only about 3 min to go before race start, I found out that I would be running the first lap! Despite the fact that I had not done a warm up and was still wearing pants and jacket I said, "OK, why not," and managed to pull off my outer layers and lined up on the start line. Soon enough we were off at a brisk clip. Within the first few hundred meters I found myself in 6th place. The pace was hard, but within what I believed I could sustain for the approx 5km course around upper Thetis Lake. By about the halfway mark I had passed one runner and managed to catch a group of 3 runners who were chasing the leader, Kris Swanson who had gone out very fast and was out of site. I was feeling pretty good that I had closed the gap on these racers and had even pulled into 4th place when we came to the bridge at the northwest end of Upper Thetis Lake. I must have been concentrating too hard on other racers because before I had any idea what had gone wrong, I was skidding on my side down the bridge at full speed. I slid right to the end and hopped to my feet. It might have looked cool had I intended to initiate such a slide. Luckily I felt that I had escaped any major injuries and didn't lose much time or my place. Unfortunately, any crashes during a race still end up having a detrimental effect on the remainder of the race. Typically you get a bit of a shot of adrenaline from going down, but this only lasts a short time and then dissipates and soon everything feels much harder than before. Also I find that when working so hard during a race any interruption (like a fall) kills your rhythm and hurts performance. Needless to say the last 2km of the race really hurt. Luckily I managed to hang on at a decent pace and actually passed the 3rd place guy. However, Stefan Jakobsen in 2nd place pulled away and I just didn't have enough in me to keep up. I pulled into the transition zone in 3rd place at 17:12 (4 sec faster than my time last year) and handed off to Bruce. Hicham went third and Jason ran anchor. The other 3 ran clean races and we posted a total time of 1:10:28, good enough for 4th place overall (and 4th place in our category). The winner was a team of two Kris Swanson and Scott Simpson who each ran two laps in about 16min each and posted a blistering total time of 1:04:10. Second place went to Frontrunners Westshore and third to the National Triathlon Centre team. Final results are here.

It was great to see so many other runners out for this event. I really enjoy the positive camaraderie in the running community here. Everyone likes to run fast and win, but there is little arrogance to be found. I hope that PIH continues to host this relay and that other local relays will take place as they are a fun alternative to a traditional race.

Enjoying a nice dip in Thetis Lake after the race - photo credit: Adam Lawrence


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