Saturday, January 17, 2009

Pioneer 8K

January 11, 2009

The Pioneer 8K road race (hosted by the Prairie Inn Harriers) is the first competitive race of the year locally (and considering the time of the year, probably the first in Canada). This year was a special one as well as it was the 30th anniversary with the first race starting in 1980. I don't think I would have given the race much thought back then considering I was only 3, but it is great to see such longevity in a race. Hopefully it will be around in another 30 years so I can run it when I am in my 60's.

This race is typically one of the most competitive Island Race Series races with only the Bazan Bay 5K having a deeper field. This year, however, the competition would reach a to a new level since to help celebrate the anniversary, high level athletes from all over Vancouver Island, the mainland, and beyond had been invited to compete for $7,000 in prize money. Running is not one of the better paid sports unless you are of truly international caliber so 7 grand represents a pretty significant purse for a local race.

Given the high level of completion, I expected that no matter how my race went, my placing would be low compared to last year (where I was 12th) so I completely focused on setting my own goals for the race. I find that this race is always a fairly tough one, considering how early it is in the year and factoring in that I am just coming off holidays where I might have ate a little more than normal and not trained as consistently. This year, there was and additional element called winter in the weeks leading up to the race. Usually, we don't really get a winter here, but this time Victoria got blasted with cold weather and many snow falls. Running outside was very difficult for several weeks which made training a bit more challenging. I had also not been feeling quite as good as I would have liked on my training runs in the month leading up to the race so needless to say I wasn't feeling that I was going to be able run a personal best, but hoped that I could still better my 2008 time of 27:16 and hopefully dip under 27min.

For the first time at this race, timing chips where supplied. The design was new disposable type which unlike standard timing chips don't need to be returned to the race organizers. While I do see the probable cost and administrative savings to the timing organizers it does seem a bit wasteful to only use the chips once (facilities were supplied to recycle the chips, but I'll bet many of them ended up in the landfill). Once very nice feature of the using the timing chips was that a midpoint mat was set up to capture our 4k splits.

Fish eye view of the start line. Photo credit: Adam Lawrence

Conditions on race day were excellent with overcast skies and cool temperatures. I did a brief 10min warm up with Sonja before heading to the start line. Pretty much the entire first km of the course is downhills so I fully expected to have a fast time for the first km despite the fact that I went out pretty conservatively. Just as I had thought the first km passed in 3:08 well ahead of my 3:23 goal pace, but as long as I didn't continue at such an unsustainable pace I would be fine. As the course flattened out between 1-2km I slowed to closer to my goal pace and started to get into the rhythm of the race. I ended up running in a bit of a gap with the closest of the about 25 runners ahead of me 20 meters in front of me. We headed through a portion of Brentwood Bay and up the steepest hill of the course. At around 3km I could hear someone close behind and when he pulled close, it turned out to be Hugh Trenchard. Hugh is an accomplished cyclist and runner. While I was able to nip him at many races last year, he would certainly not make it easy. We hit the 4km mat at 13:16, about 15s ahead of my 27min goal time. It was not a time to get excited, however, as I knew the final half of the course was somewhat more difficult than the first half and the final km is actually the same section as the first km only in reverse. Running a negative split on this race is not easy.

Hitting the 4km mat with Hugh: Photo Credit: Lara Wear

I was feeling decent at the halfway point, so with Hugh pushing me along continued to maintain a good pace. There is a bit of downhill to 5km marker then a slight uphill grade through to 6km. At about this point, I saw the leaders coming back after they had turned around at 6.5km. Jon Brown and Richard Mosley were close to 3min ahead of me at that point and were moving fast. It is impressive to see such high caliber athletes when they are really trying. I was able to keep up a decent pace through to the turnaround point, but I definitely started to feel the pain after that. Hugh and I did catch up with Ian Druce, who appeared to be struggling someone, just before the 7km marker. However, he managed to find some reserves and started to pull away again with Hugh giving chase. Generally, I am a good climber and can overtake most runners of my speed on the hills and I had hoped that I could dig deep to over take Hugh and Ian on the gradual incline of the last km. Unfortunately, I just didn't have enough left to put on much of a surge and Hugh end up beating me by 6sec. I managed a farily weak sprint to the finish, hitting the mat in 26:57 for 25th overall, good enough to beat my 2008 time by 19sec, but 12sec off my PB of 26:45 set at the RVM 8K in October last year. I'm pretty sure that RVM is a slightly easier course, however, so was not disappointed with my result. In past years I have gradually improved during the Island Race Series so I hope this year is no exception. I've got a bit of work to do if I am going to realize my 33min 10k goal for this year. For those interested, my splits were 3:08, 3:18, 3:28, 3:21, 3:21, 3:24, 3:29, and 3:29. Final results are here.

Feeling the pain near the finish line. Photo Credit: Tony Austin

It was nice to see a large group of Harriers out racing (nearly 100) many of whom had great performances. Nick Best's increased training is paying off as he beat me by a minute (last year I nipped him at the line). Sonja had a great race setting a PB by taking 43sec off her RVM time. Richard Mosley out sprinted Jon Brown at the finish to win in 23:35. It was great to see that every single person in this race had some real competition!

Thanks to those that follow my blog, I'll try had to always produce a race report no later than 1 week after a race (and hopefully sooner in most cases).


Jeremy Hopwood said...

Follow your blog a bit and also raced Pioneer. Good Race Report and glad to hear it is a relatively tough race course

Hugh said...

Great write-up Shane. Thanks for doing a lot of the hard work in pace-setting and catching Ian while I sat on your coat-tails.


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