Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Comox Valley Half Marathon

March 22, 2009

I had a little apprehension about this race in the couple of weeks out. I had been feeling a little sluggish since Bazan and had a couple of mediocre training runs. I was hoping a couple of days of rest before the race would rejuvenate my legs and lead to a decent race.

Sonja was also running this race so we decided to head up to Courtney on Sat to make a weekend of it and avoid the early start that would be required otherwise. This turned out to be a good idea as it was nice to be able to get up at 9am and only have a couple of minute commute to the start of the race. As this was Sonja's first time doing this race, we decided to drive the course the night before. I must say that it almost seemed longer driving it than running it although the hills were certainly less challenging on four wheels. I had run this race once back in 2006; not too long after I took up running in a more serious manner. It was my second half marathon ever and while ran a decent race for the condition I was in at the time, I remember it being enormously painful In addition, it completely wreaked my legs for close to a week. I hoped this time around would not be a repeat.

I did not perform a warm up as this distance does not seem to warrant it and conditions were not overly cold. My goal was to get under 1:16 (3:36 pace) for this race which would be about a 1 min improvement over my PB from RVM 2007. This was somewhat slower that what I should theoretically be able to run, but for this distance I figured it would be prudent to shoot for a slightly conservative time rather than regret my pace at the 10km mark.

When the race began the faster guys (Jonathan Withey, Mark Cryderman, Stefan Jakobsen, and Bryan Portman) quickly began to build a lead and I fell into a chase pack with at least a half a dozen other runners. We set brisk pace for the first 4km with times around the 3:30 mark. I knew that this was a little faster than my goal pace, but it felt comfortable and I knew that there were significant (if gradual) hills starting around the 6km mark that would eat into the pace. Gaining a few seconds here might be essential in keeping the overall time down. A few km in Hugh Trenchard broke away from our little pack and push forward to run with Bryan. Hugh is very strong at this distance so I knew that going after him might be folly.

As predicted, the pace began to slow as hillier portion of the course began and our little group started to string out and I was left running at the front along side Hicham Elamiri. Prior to the race Hicham mentioned that he was gunning for a 1:16 time so I felt I was in good company. From km 6-9 my times dropped closer to around 3:40 and bottomed out on the 8th km at 3:46. It wasn't steep, but it was long and it wore away at the legs. I was feeling pretty strong though and pushed it hard up the inclines. Partway up Hicham apparently had had enough and fell back a bit leaving me to try and chase down Bryan who had now fallen behind Hugh. I finally crested the high point in the course and we all had a brief downhill reprieve followed by about a km of flat before the turnaround (this was a fully out and back course).

I managed to catch up to Bryan before the turnaround and we ran together for a couple of km. I did enjoy the out and back time time more than usual as I got to see so many other racers as I headed back. We worked to get back up to the high point and then headed down. On the downhill Bryan poured on the speed and I just couldn't keep up. This is still the weakest part of my running. I just don't seem to have quite the stride length and/or leg turnover on downhill roads and easy trails as most other runners around my level. I was still moving pretty well, but I just couldn't coax anymore speed out of my body. Despite my lack of good downhill speed I still posted a 3:20 on the steepest downhill section. Partway down the hill Chris Barth caught up to me and we ran together for a good number of kms. Our pacing stayed consistent until the 16th km marker where it slowed slightly to around 3:40 although this is part due to a slight uphill grade.

I worked hard at keeping a steady pace despite the fact that things were starting to hurt somewhat. Chris fell back a bit around the 18km mark as he was apparently having some calf pain and I was on my own again with Bryan around 30 sec ahead. I stayed steady around 3:40 for the next two km and at the 20km marker, still feeling relatively strong, I put a surge on trying to reel in Bryan. I made up some significant time on him, but I probably should have started with 2km to go as I just didn't have enough time to catch up and he ended up beating me by 14sec. I finished in 1:15:21, good for 6th place overall and a new PB by over a min and a half. I was also happy that I felt strong throughout the race and finished strong. I am also quite pleased that I was able to have a solid performance at this distance on a relatively low mileage program. There is ongoing controversy over quantity vs. quality in training and as with most things the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. However, it is definitely possible to get respectable performances even on longer races with approx 50km weeks. Would I perform better on 100km weeks? Perhaps. I haven't tried so I don't know if it would lead to faster times or instead to injury or burnout.

Jonathan won the race in a very solid time of 1:11:48 and Sara Gross picked up the female win in 1:22:04. Some other notable performance were made by Nancy Baxendale who picked up the Masters title and came second female overall, Mike Janes who shaved over 6min off his 2008 time, Jeff Hunt who came in under 1:26 in his first race back from injury, and by Sonja (Yli-Kahila) who set a PB of over 5min. Results are here.

My final splits were 3:28, 3:33, 3:30, 3:31, 3:35, 3:37, 3:39, 3:46, 3:43, 3:35, 3:38, 3:36, 3:31, 3:20, 3:31, 3:31, 3:39, 3:41, 3:42, 3:37, 3:39 (1.1km).

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Bazan Bay 5K

March8, 2009

Three seconds...that was how close I came to getting my goal of under 16min on this race! I kicked myself a little for not trying just that little bit harder to get those few seconds. Had I looked at my watch or seen the clock at the finish I might have been able to do it, but it's always easier to say after the race that you thought you could do better.

"If only I had pushed harder...surged sooner...blah...blah" How easy it is to forgot how much pain you were really in at the time.

Anyway, I digress. The Bazan Bay 5K is race number five in the
Island Race Series. It boasts the flattest course of the series and therefore it is possible to run some great times here. So far this is the only race where I have scored over 800 points (a points system used to compare races of different distances out of 1000 total). It also attracts a strong field with a number of National Triathlon Centre (NTC) members coming out to assess their fitness.

Unlike all the other Island Series races which start at 11am, Bazan starts at 9am and this was unfortunately compounded by the fact the we shifted to Daylight Savings on Sat night. Despite the fact that I slept well, it wasn't for long enough and struggled to fully wake up upon arriving at the race around 8am. Luckily, a coffee seemed to help and by the start time I was feeling better. A good sized pack including Scott Simpson and the 2000 and 2008 Olympic medalist in the triathlon, Simon Witfield, went out predictably hard. I found myself in a chase pack with another 10 runners or so. The first km (which I think is a few meters short) flew by in 3:05 - a good start. Now the plan was to stay as close to my 3:12 pace goal as I could.

I moved ahead in the chase pack and was soon running with Mark Cryderman. I was 3 sec back of the 3:12 pace at the 2km marker. Km 2-3 includes the turn around in this out and back course and I lost some time here since I had to slow down for the runner in front of me. Turn-arounds are a challenge as they take you out of your rhythm and force to you accelerate back to your race pace. I was still feeling fairly strong at this point and thought I had a reasonable chance to attain my goal if I could keep the legs moving.

I started to feel the strain around 3.5km and this is where the race can break you if you went out too hard. Mark and I reeled in Sean Chester, who had intentionally gone out hard and looked to be suffering. I split 4km in 12:53 which a few seconds back of where I wanted to be. I dug deep in the last km and as always, it hurt. Mark had more left for final straight away than I did and beat me to the line by 5sec. I put in a final surge, but I was somewhat disappointed that I was not able to to mount a complete sprint. My official finishing time was 16:02, good for 10th overall and 3rd in my age group. While just shy of my goal, I am still satisfied with my result since it is a PB for me (8sec faster than last year) and is a points all time personal best for me (by a narrow margin). My splits were 3:05, 3:16, 3:18, 3:14, 3:10.

Scott and Simon battled it out for the overall win and I hear their sprint to the finish was pretty impressive with the lead being swapped a couple of times. Scott ended up winning by a margin of less than a second in a course record time of 14:37. It is interesting to note that this is "only" 1:25 faster than my time. For a for a non runner, this may seem like a small difference, but in reality the amount of training and effort needed attain that kind of speed (if you even have the physiology to get there) is huge. The woman's titles was taken by NTC member Lauren Groves in a time of 17:02. Ultra runner
Myke Labelle had a very good race coming in in 16:19. Final Results.

After the race, I headed directly over to UVic for an orienteering race held by the
Victoria Orienteering Club. I felt it was time to get some navigation practice for the upcoming May MOMAR in Squamish which I will be racing solo. The event of the day was a urban sprint race with 16 controls that must be done in order. I made an error that cost me a minute or so on the second control, but had a fairly clean race otherwise and my speed served me well getting me though the course in 24:37, good for 1st overall (the top orienteering talent was absent). Orienteering is a very challenging sport and I need a lot more practice in route planning and code reading, but fortunately, navigation on the MOMAR's tends to be easier than most orienteering courses.

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