Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Merville 15k

April 4, 2010

Merville is an interesting distance as there are not too many other 15k races out there. Everyone thinks about distance races in terms of 5k, 10k, Half Marathon, Marathon, etc. Without a race calculator it is difficult to know what a 50min 15k really means so no one ever asks about your 15k time. Never the less, Merville is a pretty fast course and I opted to do it rather than Sooke River 10k which would be too many 10k's in a short time (I'm doing the Times Colonist and the Sun Run).

We took the Harriers club van up to Merville (just north of Courtney). Besides myself, the van carried Sonja, Willy Langat, Nixon Kiprotich, Gary Duncan, Fawn Whiting, and Julie Van Veelen. The weather was decent on the way up, but as we approached the race area, a light rain began to fall. As the 11am race time approached, the rain intensified and with 20min to go, it was pounding down. It looked as though it was going to be a pretty soggy one, but fortunately it let up just before the race started and only fell lightly for the duration. Still, my shoes were completely soaked just getting to the start line 1km away and by the end of the race, everything was drenched.

Willy and Nixon sped off as soon as the race began which I expected as they were the fastest in the field and were gunning for a 48-49min finish time. For a short time, Chris Barth also moved out ahead, but soon dropped back. Nick Walker, Shawn Nelson, Mark Nelson, Hugh Trenchard and myself moved together for the first couple of km. It seemed like we were doing about a 3:20 effort, but our splits were close to 3:30 and this was a bit concerning to me since I was hoping for something in the 3:24-3:29 pace range. Although it isn't that obvious, the first 2km are a slight uphill grade so the times were correspondingly slower. Soon enough though, we got some slight downhills and flats that erased any earlier slowness and we posted some faster splits. I was feeling good at this point and the pace seemed quick, but comfortable. I was pretty sure that I was going to have a better race than I had at Comox.

Nick started to pull ahead well before the 5km maker and Mark fell back somewhat leaving Hugh, Shawn and myself and to run together until 5km. At this point Hugh started to drop off the pace although his overall performance is very commendable considering that he ran over 200km last week. I'm not sure that I will ever run that much in a week. Prior to my new training program, 200km was my monthly mileage!

Shawn tucked in behind me as we continued and I pushed a quick pace, never letting off. Since I was feeling strong, I was hoping that I would be able to put the pressure on him, and a couple times he did back off slightly, but he always battled back. We started a long gradual climb around 9km and I really dug in to keep as close to goal pace as possible. The plan worked pretty well and we only slowed to 3:40 on a kilometer that was entirely uphill. I was hoping that wasn't pushing too hard as it seemed as though I might have been running this race more like a 12k than a 15k. I did know that the last 5km was primarily downhill, however, so figured that I could still mov decently though there even if I was suffering.

Around 10km Mark caught up to us showing that he must have been having a tremendous race. I guess Shawn decided to put the pressure on his brother as he took off right after Mark caught up. I took chase and Marked dropped back a bit. I was still feeling quite strong and Shawn and I moved together for the next couple of km. Once we started the decent back to the finish area, Shawn decided to put the hammer down and encouraged me to go with him. Even though I still felt good, I just didn't seem to have the speed in my legs to keep up. This is still likely my weakest link in road running - gradual downhills. Although I still move OK, I just don't seem to go quite as fast those around me. Something I need to work on. Soon after Mark passed me and while I ran with him for a bit, I still had a tough time trying to match him.

We rounded the final corner before the finish line and Mark had 10-15 second on me. It was about 700m to the finish and I decided it was now or never and put a massive surge on. I rapidly gained on Mark who heard me coming and responded with a sprint of his own. For a moment, I thought that I was going to be able to catch him, but with about 200m to go I hit the wall and just couldn't continue the sprint. I loped into the finish and stopped a the beginning of the chute. Unbeknown-est to me, the actual finish line was actually 3 meters further along and I burned up 4 seconds getting there. It was not a big deal, but kind of annoying anyway.

My official time was 51:20, quite close to my optimum goal of around 51 min. Despite losing two positions late in the race and only coming in 6th overall, I was very pleased with my race and especially in how I felt. It was one of the better races I have ever had and the best one I have so far this year. I also placed 1st in my age category and set a 12k PB along the way. Willy won overall by a narrow margin over his training partner in 48:57. Tina Connelly convincingly won the woman's division with a 55:24 clocking which was good for 14th overall. Results.

Congrats go to all the Harriers crew who I came up with. The colours were all gold and silver with age category wins by Willy, Nixon, Sonja, and myself, and second place performances by Fawn, Gary, and Julie.

My splits:
3:30, 3:29, 3:23, 3:16, 3:21 (16:59 5k), 3:23, 3:25, 3:30, 3:32, 3:40 (34:29 10k), 3:29, 3:29, 3:22, 3:25, 3:06

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