Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hatley Castle 8K

February 22. 2009

The Hately Castle 8K takes place at Royal Roads University located in Colwood. For those who have never been to the university it is worth the trip both for the good assortment of trails as well as the castle and gardens. This race is the oddball of the Island Race Series as it is the only race which has trails and gravel roads (half the course is off pavement). This fact, combined with some decent elevation gain (for a this type of race) creates a course that is more difficult than a standard 8K. Setting a PB here is not an easy task. Since hills tend to be one of my strengths, I have typically done well compared to other racers in previous years even if my times have unspectacular. I kind of like this course as it offers something a little different.

My training has been going well up to this race and I had been putting about 6 hours of quality running in on my non racing weeks and about half that on alternate weeks. This is low for many people, but a little more than I have averaged in the past. I had also been sleeping well so felt that I was capable of putting in a good effort. My goal was to get under 28min which would be a modest improvement over last year.

This course has a downhill start and consequently the field moves out very quickly. Even though I have seen it numerous times, I am still surprised how often I see a bunch of guys go out at a pace way harder than they can sustain. In this case, I was about 10th at 200m and by 1.5km I had moved into 4th. Psychologically I think it would be tough to race like that and lose so many positions right away. I don't believe that it leads to the best race performance either. I can't say that I have run all my races properly either, but I am getting a lot better at it. It seems that woman tend to be much more conservative in their racing which probably ends of being less painful for them.

Just like at Cedar, Scott Simpson, Eric Findlay, and Sean Chester were all in attendance at this race and they soon sorted themselves out in that order. From previous experience I knew that the first km was very fast followed by a slower km up a grade to a turnaround. The first three quarters of the third
km gives everyone a bit of a respite before heading into the steepest climb of any Island Series Race. The first km passed in the expected brisk 3:12. As mentioned previously, I had reeled in the 4th place position held by Chris Barth 1.5km. Hugh Trenchard was on my shoulder so I knew that I was running at an appropriate pace. Chris joined our little group and I led the way out to the turnaround and back to the base of the big climb. I've heard lots of complaining about this hill and how tough it is, but I really don't find it that bad. In fact, because it is proceeded by some downhill grade, it was only my 4th slowest split on the race. The best trick is to just get onto your toes and lean into it - its almost over before you know it.

Nearing the top of the 'big' hill with Hugh and Chris. Photo credit: Garth Campbell

After the hill there is a km of fairly flat paved road. Here I was hoping to get a split around my goal pace of 3:30. I took the split and looked a my time: 3:38! "What the hell was that?" I was feeling good and it had seemed like I was moving well so I couldn't figure out what had gone wrong. Fortunately, at this point I was only 4 sec off my goal time due to the fast first km. I figured that as long as I could stay near 3:30 for the next couple of km I could make up some lost time on the downhill section after 6km. The course turned to a gravel road and headed out to another turnaround, came back towards oncoming racers and then quickly turned onto a wide trail in the forest.

Despite continuing to feel strong I was dismayed to see the next two km pass in 3:34 and 3:40 respectively. "Sh*t!" Nearly 20 sec behind my goal at this point, it felt like my goal was slipping away and I would be lucky to tie my time from last year. Had I actually written my splits down from last year however, I probably would not have worried quite so much. If I race here again next year I will have it documented exactly! Km 6-7 is nearly all downhill and includes a significantly steep downhill pitch. This section can be hammered hard and is not too punishing on the body because it is gravel. The km flew by in 3:08 gaining me back what I had lost over the last few km. The last km is not easy with a mild, but challengingly placed hill a few hundred meters from the finish. Luckily, the very last section is downhill and everyone can put on a nice sprint to the line.

I finished in 27:56 and fortunately I had managed to put some time between myself and Hugh and Chris over that last half of the course held on to my 4th place position. This was 21 sec better than my 2008 time and I finished feeling pretty strong. Unsurprisingly, Scott smoked the course in 25:19 and Cheryl Murphy picked up another win in the woman's division. Results are here. My complete splits were 3:12, 3:38, 3:35, 3:38, 3:34, 3:40, 3:08, and 3:33. The Bazan Bay 5K is on March 8 and I'm hoping to break the 16min barrier on a nearly pancake flat course there. Happy running!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cedar 12k

February 12, 2009

Cedar is a small community located just south of Nanaimo. It has hosted this Island Race Series race since 1982 (the course used to be 15k up to 1999). While the course is one that includes a couple of significant hills reasonable times are still possible here and I've never run a bad race here.

To save fuel and make the trip more interesting, Sonja and I car-pooled up with fellow Harriers Brent Chan, Gary Duncan and Claire Morgan. It is always fun to ride with a bunch of runners who never get tired of constant running talk. How many normal people could stand hours of talk about PB's, negative splits, and 3:45km pacing without their eye's rolling back in their head? We made good time in light Sunday morning traffic and arrived with plenty of time to do all the pre-race preparation.

My legs had been feeling pretty tired on the week leading up to this race (probably a result of a relatively high mileage the previous week), but since I had taken the time to recover I was hoping that fatigue would not play a role in this race. My goal was to beat my time of 41:49 from 2008 which would mean running a under 3:29 pace.

I spotted a few fast runners as we lined up for the start. Scott Simpson, Eric Findley, Sean Chester, and Stefan Jakobsen were all likely to run fast races. The course is basically a out and back one with the exception of the first kilometer which follows a U shape and is not repeated on the return. Upon the race start, Scott, Sean, and Eric went out fast as expected along with Mark Cryderman and Neil Holm. Right away I found myself running in a good sized pack of about 10 racers. I find it good to run with one or two other racers who can help push/pull you along, but I really do not like running in a pack, particularly not when I am in the middle of it. I feel boxed in and often get my heels stepped on. In retrospect I think I should have tried to push a little harder to get out of the pack sooner than I did because not only did I not really like it, but I think it also limited my speed for the first 1.5km or so. The pace felt positively pedestrian at first even though it wasn't slow (3:24 for the first km) and had I been on my own I would have probably gone out 5-10 seconds faster. I'll never know if that faster pace would have hurt me later in the race or not.

Running with the pack at the 1km marker. Photo Credit: Erin Burrett

In any case, by the second km the pack had started to break up a bit and I found myself out front of it running with Mark Nelson and Stefan. I figured that this was a good place to be as Mark is having a great season so far and edged me out at Cobble while I have yet to beat Stefan who is an accomplished triathlete. Kilometers 2-5 went by in relative comfort and speed which was aided by a couple of downhill downhill sections. The sixth kilometer had slight uphill grade which slowed my split to 3:35, but did not worry me much as I was still right in with Mark and Stefan so I knew that my relative effort had not changed. I saw the 5 runners in front of us as we neared the turn around at 6.5km. Scott probably had 1.5 minutes on us at this point and would add a couple more before then end of the race.

I continued to feel strong and managed to keep on or under my goal pace until hitting the hills. The steepest hill is at 9km and definitely makes you work to get to the the top while trying not to totally leave yourself breathless. I like to push hard on hills, but this can sometime backfire if I end up having nothing upon reaching the top and then can't recover. Luckily this was not the case this time. Stefan and I pulled a little away from Mark on the hill and I kept the pressure up. I knew that while there was no guarantee that I would beat either of them I was going to make them work for it. The final hill at 10.5km actually looks worse than it is following by a slight down slope which allows you to get the legs moving pretty good. Stefan was just behind me when we hit the 11km marker and I decided to see if I could pick the pace up for the final km. I would have to say that the last few hundred meters of this course is probably the hardest because it moves onto a grass field which saps energy at a time when it is in very short supply. It also includes a tiny hill that would normally not be noteworthy, but with 150m to go everyone feels it. Even though I put a decent surge on for the entire final km, I thought that Stefan and/or Mark might try to put on a charge to try and overtake me, but luckily they did not. I hit the line at 41:31, good for 6th place and a 18 sec improvement on my 2008 time. This race felt better than any I have had for a while and was certainly better than Pioneer or Cobble so I actually thought my time would have been faster than it was. I would have preferred to see a 30-45 sec improvement over last year as that would have positioned me well to get close to 33min at the Sun Run or Times Colonist. Overall though, I am happy to run a smart race and feel good doing it. Results are here. My final splits were: 3:24, 3:25, 3:24, 3:28, 3:21, 3:35, 3:28, 3:25, 7:07 (missed the 9km marker), 3:32, 3:22. Sonja had a very good day, shaving more than 4 minutes off her 2007 time and fellow Harrier Mike Janes also ran a excellent race and took over 4 minutes off his 2008 time. Now if only I could see such improvements!


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