I had no idea what to expect this race day. The past two weeks have been intense for me, with a weekly mileage of 80k+ for both weeks. This for me is about as high as I have been before. With the training for ultra distance, it has been a bit of a crapshoot to perform well on the short-distance road events at the same time.
On Thursday, I headed out early for my weekly long run, with the plan to cover 40k. I headed to E/B, attempting to do 4 loops. This was supposed to be my peak distance run leading up to the Orcas Island 50k, which is now only 2 weeks away. The first 3 loops went well, but at 33k I felt my knee tweak so I stopped immediately. It was in fact nothing, but I felt being cautious in this circumstance was wise. I did jog 2k of it back, so I covered 35k.
The next day, I felt exhausted after yet another crappy night of sleep. I took Friday and Saturday completely off, in hopes that I could land a PB at the Cobble Hill 10k.
I arrived to the race in good time, and was satisfied with my warm-up. I put myself in the second row and was lined up behind the Westshore Frontrunner Boys, and beside training partner, Gary Duncan (the guy left in the photo). The race started, and I picked my place in the pack. The pack eventually dispersed somewhat over the first kilometre, and I was at 3:30 on my first split. So far, so good.
I had heard very little about this course. I had heard from some of the talk last year that the course was fairly flat (and fast), with some rolling hills. I also heard in the warm-up from someone that there is a little bit of a hill at the 2k marker. At this point in the race, there was a downhill that took us to the 2k marker. I tried to not go crazy down the hill, as it appeared that there was a 180 degree turn-around right at the bottom. I pivoted around the turn-around and posted another fast kilometer. Now I began the uphill, and I tried to take it in stride. I could have gone crazy here, really making a move, but there was no point in that so early in the race. I just held my own pace and eventually got back up to the top of the hill and cruised again along the flat. At the 3k mark, I was right on 11:00.
The course then appeared flat for the next 2k. During this time, I didn't feel especially enthusiastic, and a few runners past me. I began to feel a bit sluggish and felt my body trying to reside in a half-marathon training pace, rather than a 10k speed event. I kept trying to keep myself engaged mentally and kept trying to remind myself that I was racing here. Eventually, I meandered my way to the 5k marker, and I was very disappointed to get there in 18:50.
I knew now that I was going to have to work hard to get under 39:00 for the run. It was a bit weird though. I still was ahead of a few fast guys for sure, but it seemed that we were all going slow. Was the course marked long today or were a bunch of people, like me, having an off-day? It didn't make sense. Although my time didn't seem very good, I knew my effort was decent enough. And at the 6k loop back, the leaders were not really that far infront of me.
I completed the loop around and searched for a 6k marker, but didn't see one. At around 6.5k, I was pleased to see the course do a slight downhill, and I was hoping I could take advantage of it. I still felt strong, and I did my best to speed up, and recover at the same time. At this point, I was passed by Simon Pearson (the guy right in the photo), and he turned to me and urged me to stay with him. I think it was friendly trash-talk, but I really couldn't hear what he was saying. All I know is that I made it my goal to stay with him as best I could.
And I did. While he was infront, I wasn't planning on letting him go. I took advantage of the downhill distance and kept Simon around 10m infront of me, letting him drive my motivation and adrenaline up. At the 8k marker, I was right on 30:00 and it looked like I could have a good finishing time, provided I could stay strong and provided there were no surprises in the course. The last 1.5k was a slow downhill/flat, but surely this good fortune could not last. I actually tricked myself into thinking that I may have an outside shot of doing 2 final 3:30 kilometres for a 37:00 finish. Ya, right.
The course then took a left turn and went into a forested section. We were still on pavement, but the road went rolling down then up, then down again. I felt like I was still hammering along, and before I knew it, I was at the 9k marker. I didn't even think to check my watch. Simon was still only about 10 seconds infront, and I now had thoughts of closing that gap. I felt like a had a last push in me, but I didn't want to make a charge too soon. I knew there must be racers fairly close behind me, even though I couldn't hear anything. The last kilometre was not downhill anymore, and in fact, it had parts of being slightly uphill. This fact took away my desire to charge after Simon, and besides, it appeared as though he was now speeding up to the finish.
As I rounded the last bend, I could see the finish line in the distance and I added a little extra drive to my arms and a little extra knee lift to accelerate me to the finish. I crossed the finish line in 37:18.
This time would be a PB for me. It was a solid race for me, and for one of the first times ever, I actually ran faster in the 2nd half of a race (negative split). 1st half- 18:50, 2nd half - 18:28. I would finish 6th in my age category, and take 32nd place overall in a field of just under 600 runners. This would be a PB of 1:38 (my previous best was a TC 10k run in 2007 of 38:56).
I was definitely pleased with how the race unfolded. I think that there were parts where I could have gone slightly faster, but realistically, I don't think I could have gone a whole lot faster on this course on this day. With nailing a time of 37:18, it makes me think that if (a) I ran in the Vancouver Sun Run and (b) ran in racing flats and (c) didn't do ultra training at the same time that I actually am capable of running 36:xx. Pretty crazy thought.
Now, I look ahead. I am in the taper phase of my ultra training. Orcas is just less than 2 weeks away, and I hope that I have done enough long-distance training to survive the distance. I will go into that event with no expectation of time, or placement. I am just wanting to enjoy the race, stay strong throughout, and survive the distance. Should be fun.