Heading into this race, I didn't have huge expectations. While I was racing very well in the fall and early winter, Pioneer was a bit disappointing. In addition, my training has been decent in overall volume, but a bit inconsistent, particularly over the Christmas holidays.
Therefore, I didn't really know how the race would unfold and didn't plan on an exceptional performance. Going in, I simply planned to try and get a similar time to last year (40:24). A short 10 min warm-up and final pit stop and we all toed the line. Right off the line, the two race favorites, Simon Witfield and James Lander, quickly gaped the field. I managed to place myself in the chase pack which included Sean Chester, Andrew McCartney, Nick Walker, Mark Cryderman, and Ben Brzexynski.
Within a short time, I found that I was feeling quite strong and the pace was comfortable despite a fairly quick start (3:12 pace for the first 2 km). While probably a bit faster than I should have been going, I felt in control so decided to simply go for it. I thought that I may end up fading a bit, but didn't think I would crack. I hung onto Sean and Andrew as the pack began to splinter after about 2k.
I continued to move well and hung with Sean and Andrew for another km or so before they gradually pulled away. I didn't attempt to match them, realizing that would be risking it a bit too much. My splits continued to be quick aided by a couple of nice downhill sections and I averaged a 3:13 pace for the first 5k.
I was still feeling strong, but couldn't maintain the same pace as we crested a small rise towards the turnaround on this out and back course. I regained a bit of speed for the next 2 km and was a bit shocked looking at my watch and realizing that I had actually just set 8k PB of 26:14 (5s faster than Pioneer last year). Although with 2 significant hills in the last 4k, I knew that my pace would slow.
I started to feel my quick start and bit and faded slightly for a couple of km, posting my slowest km (3:32) from 9-10km. I still felt in control though and when things flattened out again I was able to pick the pace back up a bit. I knew that Nick Walker wasn't far behind at this point, having closed the gap so I was going to do all I could to nail down 5th spot. The last few hundred metres of this course is a tough grass field which saps what little energy that might be left. And like Pioneer, this time there was a mat 100m out to measure every ones finishing kick.
The final 100 m with Nick in the background. Photo Credit Erin Burrett
Unlike Pioneer, where I had nothing in the tank for the sprint, this time I managed a solid sprint of 14.97s for the last 100m. It was good thing that I had something left or Nick would have kicked right past me since he was 0.5s faster for the final 100m. In the end, I managed to just crack 40min for the first time with a 39:58 clocking, good for a 26s PB. This was significantly better than expected and it felt great to feel that I was back on track. Nick finished 2s back in 6th, while Simon edged out James for the overall win in a impressive 37:36. Sean ran a great race for 3rd in 39:01. On the woman side, Care Nelson added another win to her impressive streak, although this time she had to work to edge out Catrin Jones by just 2s. Clarie Morgan rounded out the top three. It was great to see a couple athletes that I coach also run well with great performances from Larry Nylen and Heather Afford both running strong PBs.
Splits: 3:15, 3:09, 3:19, 3:10, 3:11, 3:26 (19:30 6k split), 3:21, 3:19, 3:26, 3:32, 3:26, 3:20
On another note, a big thank you to my running club PIH who just hosted annal awards last night. It is amazing to have such a great club in Victoria with so many dedicated people to keep the running community strong. Many deserving awards to handed out and was very honoured to received more than expected.