Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bear Mountain 10k

November 20, 2010

This race's billing as "Canada's Hardest 10k" has been an effective promotion. The race has been gradually gaining in popularity to the point that it now sells out it's 500 spots weeks before race day. There is no doubt that it is a tough course; one which I underestimated my first time running it in 2008. That day, I went out too hard and suffered for the last half of the course losing a lot of positions. This year, I wanted to run a smarter race and hopefully also better my time of 36:57.

In the days leading up to the race the weather forecast was calling for snow and winds for the night before and morning of the race. And on race race day, we were treated to their correct predictions. On Bear Mountain, there were significant accumulations and it was still snowing and the wind gusting. Sonja (who was also racing) and I were informed by the race organizers Nick Walker and Mark Nelson, that due to the snow, the course would be cut to about 6k. So much for seeing if I could better my time, but that could wait for another year.

Anticipating snow, I had brought a variety of footwear including my trail shoes affixed with screws. I figured they would be effective in providing traction, but I was also concerned about them beating my feet and legs up on the paved paths since they were old and worn out and never meant for too much road anyway. After checking out some of the trails and noting that they didn't seem too slippery, I decided to opt for my light trainers instead. They ended up working reasonably well and I never bailed on the course, but I did lose time having to be cautious on the descents and probably should have gone for the trail shoes.

It was a bit unpleasant standing around in the cold wind at the start, but I knew I would be warm enough once we got started. The first km was had some uphill on the road followed by some downhill on the paved trail that we would use for most of the rest of the race. I found myself at the back of the lead group of 7. Race favorite David Jackson was out in front with Shawn Nelson, Sean Chester, Carlos Lesser, Jason Loutitt, Roberto Mandje, and myself not far behind. Soon enough we were on the "Papa Bear" climb which due to the course adjustment, was the only significant hill of the day. I was feeling a bit lethargic and not entirely dialed into the race right off the start so I hoped that the hill would kick start my body as it sometimes does. As we hit the steep pitches, I really felt as though my additional focus and hills in the last few months is starting to pay off. I was able power up them pretty effectively and quickly made ground up on Roberto, Jason, and Carlos. I passed Roberto early in the climb, Jason mid way up and Carlos near the top. Now the pressure would be on to keep my position on the decent.

We were treated to a face full of wind that nearly ground me to a halt and snow drifts just before descending, but luckily it was short lived. The winding downhills were not too icy, but I slipped around a bit here and there. I tried my best to maintain a good solid pace and took advantage of the downhills as much as possible since it still non technical descents remain one of my weaknesses. Nelson and Chester were now running together and had about 30 seconds on me so they were never too far away, but were also not getting any closer. As we neared the bottom of the descent, Jason was pushing hard and caught and passed me. I know that he is an aggressive downhill runner so wasn't all the surprised, but I was determined to keep close to him. I stayed on this tail and he only had a couple of strides on me by the time we popped back onto the road for a final few hundred metres to the finish. With about 300 metres to go, I decided to give it a go and pushed ahead, he responded, and I pushed a little harder and managed to stay just ahead. It wasn't until I had 50 metres to go did I figure I would be able to keep the position.

I finished in 4th place in 22:33, 21 seconds behind Shawn, and 26 seconds behind Sean. Jason came in just 4 seconds behind me. I was happy with my placing since it was my first time beating accomplished runners such as Jason and Roberto. How I felt during the race itself has to be categorized as average or just slightly above. David comfortably won the race although he inadvertently cut the course since the marking was unclear. He had a large lead and would almost certainly have taken it anyways. Care Wakely won the woman's division in 24:45, narrowly beating out Laura Schwertfeger. Sonja was just outside of the top five with her 29:01 clocking. Thanks to Mark and Nick for pulling this one off despite the best efforts of Mother Nature.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thetis 20K Relay

November 11, 2010

This is my 6th time out for this fun low key event. This year sold out all 600 spots yet again and saw a record 152 teams and solos finish. This is a Prairie Inn Harrier hosted event which attracts a large contingent of members so it is always a great opportunity to socialize and cheer others on.

Last year I raced solo with a respectable 6th place overall finish. This year my fellow Aspire athletes put together a strong team consisting of Sean Chester, Shawn Nelson, Nick Walker, and myself. I could be considered to be the weakest link on the team since all 3 of other have personal bests faster than mine for most distances. Because of this, I had put some pressure on myself to pull out a decent race. There was some discussion about weather or not we would have a chance of bettering the course record of 59:30 set back in 2004, but I dismissed it as unlikely because the course has been altered slightly as is now longer than it used to be.

We still would face some good competition however, in the form of a strong UVic team and a team from the Westwood Lake Running Club. Shawn went first facing a fast field and ran exceptionally well cruising in at 15:31 in 1st place. Now it would be up to the rest of us to keep it that way. Sean went 2nd, running well to attain a 16:17 time and extending out lead to over a minute. Nick, only recently back from a trip to Hawaii, came in at 16:40 and passed off to me. I didn't know exactly what the gap to the next team was, but knew that I had to run hard to make sure I didn't get caught.

I took off at a pretty brisk pace and felt the strain pretty much right away. There really is no time where things are "comfortable" when running a 5k - it is painful from the start to the finish. To perform at you best, you need to be right near the lactate threshold for the duration. I was able to move well although I was feeling a bit of fatigue in my legs. I weaved in and out of other racers on the 2rd and 3rd laps as I made my way around Upper Thetis Lake. Soon I was on the final section on Lower Thetis which includes a couple of little hills which I powered up as best I could. At this point, there was no one in close pursuit so I figured we were probably safe, but continued to hammer away. I had decent legs for a surge at the finish, pulling in at 16:29 which turned out to be enough for the win with a cumulative time of 1:04:57. It wasn't my best ever performance, but I felt that I held it together pretty well and was able to finish strong.

Near the finish. Photo Credit: Sonja Yli-Kahila

UVic's Jackson 4 came in 2nd just 1:23 behind so it is good that I didn't doddle out there. Westwood RC came in 17 sec back of UVic so 2nd place was hotly contested. Other Harrier teams did very well picking up wins in solo (Keith Mills), Master men, Senior Mixed and Veteran Men categories. It was awesome to see so many people out enjoying the day (it started to rain near only after most people had finished) and supporting this Harrier race which is a great fundraiser for the club. I will be back to Thetis very soon for the Gunner Shaw on Nov 27th.


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