Monday, December 1, 2008

Gunner Shaw 10K, Victoria

November 29, 2008

First of all I would like to thank Bob Reid, treasurer of the Prairie Inn Harriers, for his dedication to setting up and promoting this event. Coordinating a race is a lot more work than many many think and Bob is fully dedicated to constantly putting on a great event and his efforts should get the recognition they deserve. Thanks also to all the volunteers who helped before, during, and after the race.

This was the fourth consecutive year that I ran this race. I have never felt that I have run a really good race on this course although none have been disasters either. I have not been able to pinpoint why I have not been able to have a good race, but this year I had hoped to end the string of mediocre performances. However, some sub-microscopic infectious agents had another idea. That is to say that 3 days before the race, I got a cold. Everyone hates getting sick, but I find it even worse since I became an athlete because doing strenuous exercise becomes nearly impossible and training schedules and racing performance suffers. At least I was over the worst part of the cold before it was time to race, but I suspected that it wasn't going to be a peak performance for me.

Much like the Bear Mountain and Thetis relays from a few weeks ago, the Gunner Shaw tends to bring out a strong field of athletes and many of the same faces as those races. As usual, line-ups and the porta-potties were horrendous so I spent about 20min in line and missed my chance to warm up. Luckily, I've never really found it makes a difference in my performance so wasn't too concerned that it would play a factor. Soon enough the 400+ races lined up on road and off we went. The rush off the front was even more brisk than usual and I nearly got knocked over by some eager racers. I can understand people's excitement, but this was a 10k race, not a 200m sprint. Luckily, the majority of this race (and pretty much all of the first 4km) was wide and had plenty of room to pass.

Due to the lingering effects of my cold I thought it was likely that I would not be able to perform at 100% so I decided to try to go out a little easier than usual. At the half way mark, if I was feeling strong I could always push to the finish and still end up doing well. And in the more likely scenario that I wasn't feeling super strong my more conservative pacing would hopefully allow me to hold on and survive the race without losing positions. With this plan in mind I soon found myself in 9th place with Shawn Nelson, Brad Cunningham, Eric Findlay, and Kelly Guest all within sight ahead of me in a little pack. I had the urge to pick the pace up and close the gap with them since I felt that my pace wasn't all that fast. I resisted the urge, however, as I knew that might be a foolish move. My legs were feeling pretty good, but I was lacking energy. I just didn't have my normal ability to push really hard and felt a bit sluggish. There was a turn around a couple of km in and it was great to hear all the support from fellow Harriers and racers as they passed in the other direction. I'm not a huge fan of the out and back, but seeing the other racers who are little ways back is a nice side effect. Around the 4km mark, managed to catch up to and pass Shawn.

Soon enough the one steep (but short) climb of the race came and then after it, the infamous puddle. Apparently, in the 1980's, this 'puddle' was chest deep which would have been quite the adventure! Unfortunately, over the years it has been gradually filled in and this year it was only ankle deep (although still quite long). Not too far after the puddle another runner caught up to me. I heard him coming and thought that it was probably Shawn putting on a surge, but it ended up being another guy I do not know. I let him pass, but kept on his tail as it didn't look like he was about to go that fast. He had a bit of an unusual racing style and he push really hard on up the hills, but then was relatively slow on the downhills and he was actually hindering my downhill speed a bit since I couldn't pass on this single track section. After the race, this guy told me that he doesn't run! That's probably not quite true, but for someone who doesn't run much his performance was impressive although it probably does explain his tentativeness on the downhills. I kept right on him and passed him back after a km or two. There was a small section of single track that had traffic still coming up to to the loop that I had just completed and it was bit crazy dodging the oncoming traffic. Hopefully I didn't freak out too many runners bombing straight down some rock bluffs!

Hitting the puddle! Photo credit: Adam Lawrence

The last couple of km of the race were back on the wide trails and I felt good enough to keep my pace. After a bit I heard the pounding of feet behind me and wondering who would be putting on such a push at this point. All of the sudden Kelly Guest went blasting by me. I was a bit surprised since the last I had seen of him, he was solidly ahead of me. "What happened to you?" I exclaimed. "Took a wrong turn" was the quick reply. I would have liked to be able to match his pace, but even though I wasn't feeling terrible, I just didn't have the energy to keep up with him. I also noticed that Shawn had also picked up the pace a bit and wasn't far behind. I kicked it up a bit and decided that I would try my hardest to maintain my placing. I sprinted the final 50 meters even though I was not close enough to the next runner (Brad) to catch him I still prefer to go hard at the end if I can. I finished in 39:28 for 8th place. Not too bad considering my condition and I was happy with my race strategy. Scott Simpson won in a convincing 35:31 and Lucy Smith took home the woman's title just getting passed at the line by Todd Nowack who ran a smart race. Results are here.

Sprinting to the finish! Photo credit: Tony Austin

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