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).
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