Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cobble Hill 10K

January 25, 2009

Cobble is the 2nd of the Island Race Series. This is the second year at this particular location, previously, the race was held in Mill Bay on what I believe was a slightly more difficult course. I was hoping race conditions would be a bit better than last year when there was frost on a portion of the course.

This was my first 10k of the year and I was hoping to produce a good race that would help motivate me to work hard to achieve my 33min 10 goal. Unfortunately, I have been unlucky in my battle with viruses this winter and came down with a bit of a bug the day before the race. I basically lazed around all Saturday feeling crappy and thinking that would not race on Sunday. I see little point in racing while sick because in addition to feeling worse than normal during the race, my performance is almost sure to be less than stellar. Luckily for me, I had a good sleep Saturday and woke up feeling decent. I wasn't quite 100%, but felt good enough to put on a decent effort.

Cobble Hill attracts a much less competitive field than Pioneer, but there still ended up being 15 runners dipping under 35min which is not bad at all. The National Triathlon Centre seems to use this race for training as 10 of their members also came out to race (4 of them placing in the top 10). There was going to be plenty of competition for me.

There was a huge line up at the day of race registrations I was was happy that I was already signed up. I think there was something like 150 day of registrations. Are there that many people who just can't make of their mind ahead of time?

I did a warm up with Sonja which felt pretty mediocre. My legs felt heavy and I just was not really into the racing mentally at that point. Still, I have felt bad before a race before and still ended up having a good race so I have learned from experience to not worry about it too much. The weather was cool, but freezing and although there had been a dusting of snow the night before it was fully melted on the road surface.

The start and finish line was moved up a hundred meters or so up the road from where it was last year. I suspect that this was to help alleviate the congestion that occurred last year because the side road was fairly narrow. The change should have made little difference to the course since the extra distance was made up in the out and back section of the course.

The race started promptly at 11am and as seems usual these days I got jostled a bit from racers eager to push to the front despite the fact that I was in the front row. Perhaps I should be more aggressive although I see little point in wasting my energy off the line since the first km is always fast anyway. One guy who looked to be in his 50's positively sprinted off the line and shared the lead with Todd Howard for the first hundred meters or so. His strategy was a bit baffling to me as within a couple hundred meters, he had fallen back behind me. His moment of glory perhaps?

Once I began the race, I realized that I felt reasonable and that that it was at least not going to be a disaster. From Cobble Hill Rd, the course heads south on a side road for a quick out and back of under 2km. The first two km passed rather quickly in 3:16 and 3:15, but this was primarily because there was more downhill than uphill. During the climb back up to Cobble Hill Rd I lost some of that time again dropping to below my goal pace of 3:24 (34min finish time) and posting a 3:29. I soon found myself running in a pack with three others: Mark Nelson, Hugh Trenchard, and Nicholas Bocherens. This was a good thing because over the next several km we traded places in the lead helping us pull each other along.

The course has a slight grade uphill until 5km or so and recorded my slowest time on the 5th km despite the fact that I was pulling the group along at this point and pushing fairly hard. My 5km split was 17:04 just shy of the 34 min goal. Unfortunately, after the halfway point I started to struggle a bit and km 6-9 where each off my pace goal by a few seconds. It doesn't help that there a small rolling hills on this part of the course. The race brochure says this is a flat course, but that is misleading and I would describe it as undulating as there are definitely a number of small hills. Around 7km our little pack started to splinter and I was left falling off the back, never the place you want to be. Mark was having a great race and was pulling significantly ahead. I struggled to stay in touch as it can be mentally very difficult to bridge any significant gap on the later stages or the race. At 9km I forced myself to kick it into a higher gear and aided by some slight downhill I managed to make up some time and pass Nicholas and then Hugh with a few hundred meters to go. Unfortunately, Mark was too far ahead to run down in the time that I had, but I was happy to at least have a better final km than at Pioneer. I finished in 34:20, a little off the 34min I was gunning for and less than what I know I am capable of. However, considering I almost didn't run at all, it wasn't bad and I did manage to take 8 seconds off of my time from last year. My final list of splits were 3:16, 3:15, 3:29, 3:26, 3:38, 3:31. 3:26, 3:30, 3:31, and 3:17. I've now made my C Standard Goal, but feel that I am farther from my A and B goals than I would like. I've decided to add another hour or two of quality running to my weekly schedule in the hopes that it will produce results.

Todd Howard won in 31:53, while the woman's title was picked up by Cheryl Murphy in 35:37, quite impressive considering she is also a master. Sonja set a new PB, running in under 45min and fellow Harriers Brent Chan and Chris Callendar also ran their best times at this distance. Another Harrier, Gary Duncan, conducted an interesting analysis comparing times for the top 150 male and female performances from this year compared to last (57 ran both races) and came to the conclusion that the average time this year was 9 seconds slower than last year. This is a bit surprising since conditions where definitely worse last year, but maybe most people are just not training enough!

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