Monday, May 25, 2009

Squamish MOMAR

Just got back from doing the MOMAR over in Squamish on Saturday. Thanks to course designer Jen Segger, it turned out to be the hardest and longest course in the 10 year series history. I raced solo for the first time on a course with tons of mountain biking and massive elevation change. Despite the fact that I am not as strong at mountain biking as I am at running, I managed to pull out a decent 3rd place finish. I'll have a full race report up in a while, but it may not be until the 2nd week of June due to an upcoming vacation.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mt. Tzouhalem 11 km Gutbuster

May 17, 2009

For the first time (at least since I have been racing them), the gutbuster series commenced with the Mt. Tzouhalem race. Prior to the Mt. Washington ascent race being added in 2008, this race had the toughest climb of the series. Nearly all the climbing is packed into a single painful grind where 500m is gained in 3km or so. I doubt that anyone will ever complain that there isn't enough climbing for them in this race. In 2006, I placed 3rd at this race which really a great performance for me at the time. Since then, my times have gotten a little faster, but I have not placed any higher.

This year I had hoped to run under 1 hour (last year I ran 1:00:56) if I was able to have a good race. Where this would put me in terms of placement was difficult to say since you never know who will show up for these races. Unfortunately, prior to the race I suffered from a few poor nights of sleep and when I woke up on race day, I pretty much knew that I wasn't going to be at 100%.

Sonja and I rode up with Shannon Coutts and Claire Morgan. The day was awesome with temps over 20 degrees and clear skies although this was warmer than ideal for racing. Feeling that I might burn up on the climb, I opted to go shirtless for the first time ever in a race. It was a wise choice as I ended up not noticing the heat to any great extent.

The competition would be stiff in this race as Jason Loutitt, Kelly Guest, and Sean Chester all toed to the line. Jason is a very accomplished trail runner who has been on the Canadian Mountain Running Team and Kelly is a national level triathlete. I have competed against Sean in many local races - he has beat me twice on this course.

The course starts with a brief 1km warm up on a level surface before is starts to steepen on double track. As I expected, it didn't take long for Jason and Kelly to surge ahead. I kept my own pace and decided it would be foolish to try and chase. I can climb well, but I don't have the same level of core fitness as they do. Near the beginning of the climb, Travis Hird briefly passed me, but seemed to be working hard. I didn't know who is was and didn't try to respond as I figured that he didn't know that this was just the start. Sure enough within a minute of passing me, he fell back and ended up placing 11th. I settled into 3rd place and hoped to hold on to it.

This climb always hurts so of course this year was no exception. I was feeling OK, but did feel a like I wasn't able to push as hard as I would like to. In previous years, I remember working so hard that my temples throbbed with blood as I pushed myself to the edge of my ability. This year I just didn't seem to have the energy most likely due the poor sleep. Luckily, I could have felt worse and was still able to run all but the two steepest sections. Jason was actually still in sight at the halfway mark, but quickly disappeared after that.

I finally hit the high point just after the 28min mark. After a bit of downhill road, we were treated to some fantastic single track. Technical single track is what I enjoy the very most and there are a couple of km of that on this course. While the climb felt like a bit of a struggle, I felt as though I was moving well though these sections. I was already a couple of minutes behind the leaders, but there was also no one in sight behind me.

There is a small climb just before the final decent. In 2006 this section nearly stopped me to my tracks as my legs were completely fried at that point. Luckily, my body is better able to take it now. After that, the course heads back down the mountain and races are treated to a punishing decent on double track. While I can't run down paved grades that well, I feel I can hold my own on this steep stuff. Attention must be taken as to make sure that you don't do a header, but otherwise it can be fun to bomb down the hill. Hopefully I didn't take out any of the short course runners who were returning along the same route as I ran by.

I kept the speed up and still thought at this time that I might be able to better my 2008 time despite my mediocre climb. Unfortunately, I underestimated how long the return is. I struggled up the final little hill before the finishing stretch and rolled into the finish in 1:01:21. I held my place at 3rd which I was happy with, but it was a disappointing 25sec off of last years time. I hope it is a consequence of the lack of sleep rather than lack of conditioning. I'll find out soon enough at my upcoming races.

Jason smoked the course in 55:50 with Kelly not too far behind in 56:44. Sarah Peters won the female division, Shannon Coutts won her age category, and Sonja enjoyed a 2 min improvement over last year. Andrew Pape-Salmon also raced well coming in 7th overall. Results can be found here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sun Run vs. Times Colonist

I finally got the time to run a comparison between the top competitors in the Sun Run 10k and Times Colonist 10k. Based on my races this year, it seems that the TC was a slightly more difficult course, but I wondered if a little analysis would show the same.

I took the top 100 finishers from the Sun Run and compared them the TC finishers to see who had run both races. Twenty-one had run both races. I then compared their finishing times to see how their times compared between the races.

Findings: 81% (17 out of the 21) of the sample ran faster at Sun Run than at TC with an average difference of 19 seconds. In addition, every finisher in the top 30 at the Sun Run ran slower at the TC.

Limitations: I did not run a proper statistical analysis which would allow us to see if the findings were statistically significant. The sample size is small and therefore the results are less reliable than would be ideal. Also, depending on which finishers you choose to select (e.g. picking the top 200 instead of the top 100 or selecting the top 100 men and 100 woman) the findings would differ. There is also the possible factor of decreased performance during the TC since the Sun Run was only one week prior.

It was still an interesting result and provides some vindication for those of us who ran slower at the TC.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Times Colonist 10K

April 26, 2009

I have been remiss on working on this race report. I just haven't been able to find the time to sit down and do it so a somewhat summarized version will have to suffice.

As stated in my Sun Run post where I had a mediocre run, I was really hoping to run a better race and and get a better time at the TC. Based on my race season so far, it seemed as though I was running a little faster than last year so I thought knocking 30+ seconds off my time was not unreasonable if I ran a solid race.

A few minutes before the race stared we were all treated to a great rendition of the national anthem by fellow Harrier Sandi Heal (unfortunately, I didn't really hear it well as I was still warming up).

To get close to my 33min goal I would need to run somewhere in the 3:20/km pace range. I opened the race up with the first 4km being in that range and I was feeling fairly strong. There was a little bit of movement in terms of placing during the first few km with a couple falling back and one guy pushing ahead of me. While these first splits were good I knew that it was going to be hard to maintain them after the turn around since there was a substantial climb up to Clover Point and another up to Mile Zero. Sure enough, even though I continued to move well and maintain or gain on the other runners, my splits slipped to around 3:30 for 3 km. Those 3 km accounted for the 30 sec I was looking for.

Soon after the turn around I caught up to Neil Holm who typically runs faster than me (he ran a 33:05 at Sun Run) so I was encouraged by that. However, he was probably having a tough day. After Mile Zero we get a small reprieve on a downhill grade to the breakwater and I picked up a bit of time. I definitely felt better at the 7km mark than I had at Sun Run at this point although I was not feeling really powerful as can happen on those rare races. I continued to run side by side with Neil while we made our way through James Bay and pushed towards the finish. I have run this route many times with the TC and all RVM distances following the same roads, but I still tend to underestimate the length of the section between Ogden Point and Erie St where the course starts to jog. I seem to think that it is not a consequential distance enough though it is close a km long.

Mid Race with Neil

At this point I still thought I had a chance to at least set a new PB although I knew that getting really close to 33min was not going to happen. I posted a 3:26 for the 9th km which wasn't too spectacular. With about 1km to go Neil tried to break away from me several times, but I was able to respond each time. With a few hundred meters to go I put a surge on and pulled ahead and nearly reeled in the next place guy, Darcy Bell, who finished mere second ahead. I finished in 33:45, 3 sec slower than the Sun Run and 1 sec slower than last year.

I was disappointed in my time even though the race felt decent. this is the first year since I have trained consistently that I did not post a better time than the previous year. I have come a long way on my low mileage and unstructured training program, but I think I may be nearing a plateau on my current training program. On the plus side I placed 3rd in my age division for my first ever medal at the TC (this was surprise considering I was 28th overall). It seems that the Sun Run is actually a faster course given that I ran nearly identical times even though I felt much worse at Sun Run. Also, based on a non-scientific analysis (I plan to take a closer look soon) it appears that the vast majority of the top finishers also ran slower (generally 15-30 sec).

The race was won by Willy Kimosop in a blistering 29:29 (he also won Sun Run) and the top woman, Kathy Butler, clocked a 34:01. Sonja continued her PB breaking season by running a 43:36 and Harrier Julie Van Veelen also ran a solid PB of 41:10.

My splits were: 3:17, 3:20, 3:15, 3:16, 3:28, 3:34, 3:32, 3:23, 3:26, 3:15

While I had hoped for better, it is now time to look forward to the trail and adventure racing season. This was my 9th road race of the year so ready for the different challenges of the trails. I'm concentrating a hills for the next few months as I think that it still were I can pick up the most time.

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