Friday, April 24, 2009

Vancouver Sun Run

April 19, 2009

I was on the fence about doing this race simply because it looked like it would be a bit of a pain to spend the better part of the weekend over in Vancouver just for a 10k race. However, when I got the opportunity to travel over with the Victoria Select Team I decided to take it. I would like to thank Maurice Wilson from BC Athletics and Bob Reid from the Prairie Inn Harriers for the organizing and supporting myself and the other athletes from Victoria. We were well taken care of and I really appreciated the opportunity to participate in this race. In line with my race goals this year, my ultimate goal was get under 33 min, but I would be satisfied with a good race were I posted a time in the low to mid 33's.

Eight of us, including Kristopher Swanson, Nick Best, Sean Chester, Kevin Searle, Cheryl Murphy, Paul O'Callaghan, and Ian Hallam headed over together on Saturday afternoon. With the exception of Nick, I had never really had the opportunity to talk much with any of these runners so it was great to meet some new accomplished athletes. I was one of the slower runners in the van so it was good to put my performances in perspective. I have had some minor success as a runner, but there are still many people who would be embarrassed to run as slow as my best times. It is really helps to put things into perspective. We checked into the Hyatt Regency which is very conveniently located right beside the race start. I shared a room with Kevin and Craig Odermatt who would arrive later in the evening. After a lazy evening and dinner with the group at Milestones, I turned in hoping to get a solid sleep. Unfortunately, it was somewhat restless and didn't sleep as soundly as I would have liked.

The start line (my hair is in here somewhere)

The race start was 9am so I was down in front of the growing crowd of runners and walkers around 8:30. I did a quick warm up with Kevin and Sean and I felt a bit sluggish. I hoped this wouldn't be a bad sign. Because the race was so huge (around 50,000 registered) I was very glad to have a seated number and got to line up right near the front. When the run started, things were only congested for the first couple hundred meters which wasn't bad at all. As Nick posted in his blog it was amusing to watch a young guy blast off the line in front of all the elites. He lasted all of 200m before quickly falling back, but I guess he got his 20 seconds of fame. The first km of the course loses over 25m of elevation and is extremely fast. I covered the distance in 3:02 and the leaders were already 20+ sec ahead. Km 2 and 3 also passed quickly and under my goal pace of around 3:21. I felt reasonable, but did think that I was having to work a little harder than I would have liked at this point in the race. I have found that things should feel pretty comfortable for the first few km in a 10k race or else things may not turn out well.

My time dropped down to 3:33 on my 5th km as we climbed up to Burrard Bridge although as usual I fared well compared to the people around me on the climb. Things started to become uncomfortable after the 6km marker and this was not good news. 6km is too early in a 10k race to start loosing form. Unbenost to me at the time, Kevin was running a fantastic race and he caught up to me around 7km. I managed to stay with him for a while, but it was definitely a struggle to keep my pace. Luckily, I felt worse than what my times were indicating and I was still under a 3:30 pace. Kevin pulled away a little with about a km to go and while I attempted to reel him in on the little climb on Cambie Bridge I just didn't have enough left to do it. The finish is thankfully downhill and I finished with a decent 3:19 final km. I didn't have the gas for a sprint finish though and suffered in at 33:42 good for 50th overall and a surprising 4th in my age group. This was a 2sec PB for me compared to my 2008 Times Colonist. While I should perhaps not complain about a PB, I know that I can do better I would have liked to feel stronger. On the plus side, the fact that I didn't feel good, but was still able to squeak out a minor PB should be indicative of a somewhat better fitness level. I'll be able to test this at the Times Colonist this weekend. Results are here. There were an massive 42,563 finishers. Kevin set a PB of 45sec or so finishing 3sec ahead of me. The top finisher in our van was Kristopher finishing in an impressive under 30:53 which was good for 11th.

My splits were: 3:02, 3:15, 3:17, 3:28, 3:33 (16:35 5km split), 3:23, 3:28, 3:27, 3:29, 3:19 (16:39 5km split).

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sabino Canyon Sunset Run

April 4, 2009

I took a week vacation to visit my brother who lives in Tucson, Arizona part time and decided to add this little race in for something different. While it is a road race, it is a bit different in a couple of ways: it is an evening race (starting at 6pm), and it has an unusual distance of 7.4 Miles (11.9km).

Unfortunately, I came down with yet another cold a few days prior to this race. Thankfully, it was rather mild, but still sucked some energy out of my body. I spent the entire day before the race traveling and ended up arriving in Tucson very late due to aircraft delays. I didn't really know what to expect of my body because of the long trip, the end of the cold effects, the evening start time, and a totally different climate. By looking at previous results, I was able to get a rough idea of the level of competition that would likely be there although not knowing the course made prediction more difficult. It looked very likely that I would place in the top 10 barring a complete race meltdown and placing in the top couple of spots might be within reach.

Compared to racing on Vancouver Island where I always know at least a few people who are competing, arriving at a totally new venue where I knew no one except my brother (who doesn't run) was different. It reminded me of when I first started racing and knew very few people at the local races. Being a desert down there, I was a little worried that it would be too hot, especially considering how cold and miserable this year has been here. Luckily, however, it was actually quite cool and standing around with shorts and tank top was a little chilly due to some breeze.

The course was an out and back one on a road used for tourism vehicles and walkers only. The course turns around when the road ends which is why it distance it so unusual. The course description says it is uphill on the way up so I was expecting some mild grades up, but it turned out to be steeper than had thought (with about 250m in elevation gain total).

Within the first mile, I knew that this wasn't going to be a stellar race for me. The legs felt heavy and while I didn't feel horrible overall, nor did it feel easy as it should at the beginning of a race. The dry air was also unusual for me and left me with a parched mouth almost right away. As already mentioned, the course was primarily uphill with a couple of flats and dips here and there. I was in about 6th place for the first couple of miles and was battling it out with a guy on the climbs. Even though I was not feeling great, I was still able to climb reasonably well and would pass this guy on the uphills only to have him catch me and pass me back on the flats and dip. Unfortunately, around the 2.5 mile mark he pulled further ahead and I really started to suffer and was unable to respond. The final mile or so up the the turnaround at 3.7 miles was steep and I was really feeling the strain. Miles 2 and 3 were my slowest with splits of 6:40 and 6:38 respectively. During this portion of the climb, all I hoped to do was hang on and avoid being passed by any more runners.

One of the runners if front of me looked to be suffering even more than me, however, and I gradually gained on him up to the turn-around. At that point he and stopped at the aid station and slowed to a walk and looked like he was suffering from cramps. I passed him at that point and I'm unsure it he finished or not. Luckily, once we headed back down, I started to feel better and it looked like I would be able finish the last half fairly strong. I heard footsteps behind me for quite a while on the decent and with about one mile to go, the guy finally caught up to me. He gave me some encouragement saying something along the lines of "Come on stay with me!" Feeling that I did have something left in me, I took his advise and picked up my pace a bit moving ahead of him and then pushing hard on the small uphill before the final decent. I tried to pull far enough ahead that I hoped he couldn't close the gap. I ran hard to the line, finishing in 5th place in 43:22. It was not a great time for this distance, but was much hillier than the most comparable race I can think here which would be the Cedar 12K. I beat the 4th place guy (who quite coincidentally is a co-worker of my brother's girlfriend) by a small margin. Results are here. The first place finisher won in around 40:45. There were approx 400 finishers. A nice feature of the race was the pre-awards entertainment. They had a cowboy doing rope and gun tricks for a half hour while results were being tabulated. Having entertainment is a good idea that other races should consider emulating. My final splits were:
5:33, 6:01, 6:40, 6:38, 5:05, 5:28. 5:55, 2:02 (0.4 Miles).

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