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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