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!


Dominic (aka Dr. B) said...

Doing this race on Sunday...thanks for the heads up! Looking forwards to it...I will pace myself!

Neil Gaudet said...

Doing my first Hatley 8k tomorrow (I should get to bed) but looking forward to it. Glad I read this.


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