Saturday, August 15, 2009

Race Report - Black Press 5000m

The last time I actually signed up for a race on the track was in Grade 11. I was a hurdler and a 400m runner, which explains my love of trail running (jumping over things) and track workouts (at least 400m workouts). So it was with a bit of trepidation that I made my way over to Oak Bay High for the Black Press 5000m. As people who graciously read this blog with some semblance of frequency, you will be aware that my race season has not met the heights of my workouts. While running the best times I have ever run in workouts, my races (in particular my half marathons) have been downright disastrous. So it was with hope that I looked for something shorter, something that mirrored more my workouts rather than longer endurance based races.

The Black Press 5000m was an event that arose of the desire of the Victoria running community to have a high level 5000m track event. The evening had three heat: Heat 1 - 18:00+, Heat 2 - 16:30-18:00, Heat 3 - sub 16:30. I was pleased to see that it was a sub 16:00 heat three because that would have caused me some trepidation. What if I didn't end up sub 16? What if I was last? Ultimately, neither of those thoughts would have stopped me from going in Heat 3, but they would have given me pause to think about it. So sub 16:30 was perfect because I knew I fit comfortably in that heat.

The evening began with a great 12 minute jog from house to track. I have to say that I do love our house and how central it is to pretty much everything in Victoria. The jog was dead flat and I arrived to find Marilyn sitting with her coach, Jon Brown, and her hubby, Joey, who would have a great run in Heat 1. It was great to catch up with her and chat about living in Victoria and running. I then went over to the entry table where I saw parents of two former students, one participating in the event and the other organizing it. When Sonja and I moved over to the island, we were excited about reconnecting with a community, and Victoria has yet to disappoint in that regard. Registered and with number and chips in hand, I went over to the bleacher, to realize that my belief that I would be racing at 6:30pm was wrong. It was 6:15 and there were very few people on hand. It was then I learned that Heat 3 would go at 7:30pm. This meant that I had over an hour to wait, and the sun was falling as the wind was picking up. This was going to be a cold hour for me. All me prep had been for a 6:30 start, so I sat on my butt on the grass in the sun and chatted with Richard and watched Karen race to a sub-20 minute 5k. This would be the first of many great races this evening.

Heat 2 was great to watch as both Marilyn and Lucy Smith ran strong behind the pacing of Jon Brown, both breaking 17 minutes and looking great doing it. I went for my workout during the middle part of this race. It was great get warmed up by running but it saddened me a little to leave all the friends that had come out to watch the event. As mentioned on the Prairie Inn Harriers chatline, there were just as many people watching the race that could have gone sub-16 as there were running it. Again, community was overflowing as people took time from there evening to come watch and encourage other people running in circles.

My warm up passed uneventfully and as I sat to spike up, Shawn Nelson and Nick Walker and I chatted about goals for the race. Turns out that Shawn and I were hoping for similar times, so we talked about working together. Nick, who is getting back to fitness but is still a fantastic runner when not completely fit, decided to have a go and see what would happen. Moving toward the start line for final strides, I felt good that I would have someone to key off of in Shawn.

The race started and quickly we fell into place. I wanted to start conservatively, and Coach John had suggested 75-76 for my first 400m; I hit 78. I was pleased with this as it reaffirmed that I hadn't gone out too fast. The pace felt good and quick, but still comfortable. Shawn, at this point, decided he was going to slowly and left me behind. I was left with a friend of his, Craig, who I was able to pace off for the next few laps. Running 12.5 laps can start to make your mind go numb, so I resolved to myself not to count laps, and I was surprisingly successful at it. I just focussed on Craig and turnover and pace and the time just seemed to pass. This was workout out well until two things happened in quick succession. First, Craig dropped at 2.2k as this was all he was going to be running. Damn. Pacer gone. About 300m later, at 2.5k, my time was called out and it 8:00 flat. This was also no good because it meant that I would have to negative split the second half of the race if I was to achieve my goal of sub-16. And I would have to do it alone, running into the wind on the homestretch.

I decided that it was time to go for it. 2.5k was a distance we had run often with VFAC and I had run it well in the past. I just thought of running a mile and 7/8ths and running with the boys and I picked up the pace. People started to come back to me. I eventually caught the person ahead of me and started to see Nick coming back to me as well. This definitely gave me motivation and I moved up to him. Once I caught Nick, I eased for a moment before moving on.

With three laps to go (I think, although it might have been two laps) I was lapped by the leaders, who were, well, a lap ahead. I didn't mind this as I came to the track to run my race and my time. But, by this time, I was counting laps and knowing that I had one more lap than the card said made me a little sad. My hip flexors were starting to tighten and I began to feel ploddish in my running. I started to look at the times and try to do the math. I had run the second half well enough to put myself in a position to break 16, but my math wasn't that strong at that point. I knew I had to run well to get it, but that I was back on pace. The problem was that the lactic acid was now in my forearms and it was everything I could do to hold form. The last 400m approached and I saw that I had about 90 seconds to get under 16 minutes. I knew I was going to do it, but I wanted to get as far under as I could. This meant lifting my heavy legs and arms with a synchronicity that was near impossible to hold. I watched as Shawn ran further and further away from me and Nick sped by me with a blazing fast final 400 (65 seconds!). I held on with a final 73 and finished in a now official 15:49.

It was amazing to have so many friends and Sonja there cheering me on. I heard them often but they seemed farther away as the laps piled on. I am happy to have run a race commiserate with my training and I think this definitely puts me in the 8k camp for the RVM. I want to thank all the volunteers at the race and special thanks to Chris Kelsall for all the arrangements and sponsors of the event. I hope that this takes on a life of its own, with different races at different distances over the course of the summer. It was definitely a welcome re-introduction to the Victoria running scene.
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