February 20, 2011
People who want to get a good 8k time tend to skip this race as it is very hilly and half on trail rather than road. There are not a lot of PB's set here, but if you don't worry about times it can be a fun course. I hadn't run this course last year so my main goal was to better my 2009 time of 27:56. Since the course is so difficult something in the low 27 min range seemed reasonable since this was about 1 min slower than my Pioneer 8k time.
The day was beautiful and sunny if a bit on the cold side. The sun rarely shines in Victoria in the winter so complaining about the cold wasn't an option. I rarely have temperature issues when racing these short distances anyway as my body produces plenty of heat when I'm cranking it out.
Prior to my warm up, I heard from other racers that the finishing section of the course had been changed to be the same as that of the Royal Roads Gutbuster course. Instead of the final couple hundred metres of downhill on pavement, it now turns onto the grass for a bit and then has a short uphill finish. Presumably, they shorted the second out and back section on the course to accommodate this change, but it was still bound to be slower due to the presence of grass, mud and more corners. Why they changed it remains a mystery since there seemed to be no obvious reason. This course certainty does not need to be any more difficult than it already is.
I did a respectable 15 min warm up (by my standards) with Larry Nylen and prepared myself for the race. Since I knew this was not going to be a PB course, I didn't work myself up too much about it. I would simply do my best and see what happens. In terms of competition, many my training partners where including Sean Chester, Shawn Nelson, and Nick Walker. On the woman's side Care Wakely was the clear favorite, but Claire Morgan would likely also run well.
Sean took off hard from the start and I did not even attempt to match him and as a consequence soon found myself running on my own with Shawn and Nick not too far back. The first kilometer marker came too soon and was clearly off by the bit as I passed it in 3:02. The first km is fast, but should not have been that quick and the since the second split came in at 3:41 things didn't seem quite right. I didn't take more notice of the times, however, and set up sights on keeping Sean in sight. On the climbs from 1-3km, I actually managed to pulled him back slightly and was probably only 10-15 seconds behind him at the top of the large hill just before the 3k marker. I hadn't expected to be that close to him at this point so was fairly pleased.
I was feeling pretty good and was able push well during the race. The course is tough though and while it felt like I was putting out a 3:15 effort, I was running closer to 3:30 pace. The hills, turn-arounds, corners, and surface really eat into the pace. At the second turn-around I saw that I had a pretty good gap on Shawn and Nick and unless something unusual happened, I would be able to hold onto second place.
Shawn gradually pulled away from me on the final few kilometers, using his long legs and strong downhill running ability to gain ground. The final grind up the aptly named "Little Bugger" hill always hurts, but I ran it fairly well. There was some mud on the new path to the finish so I had to tread carefully - a fall with 200 metres to go would be embarrassing. I finished in a time of 27:27 just 29s behind Sean. Considering he beat me by 1:09 at Pioneer 8k and 1:06 at Cobble Hill 10k I was pretty pleased with my comparative time. This was my best placing in a Island Race Series so that was also a nice bonus. Shawn was just under a minute back and Nick not far behind him. Care comfortably won with a margin of over 1:30 over fellow training partner Claire. Larry ended up running a solid race and Andrew Pape-Salmon and Kevin Searle also finished well winning their respective age categories. Bazan Bay5k is next and unlike this race, it always results in fast times.
My splits. 3:02, 3:41, 3:34, 3:17 (4k split: 13:33), 3:30, 3:34, 3:15, 3:34