My run clinic ended this week. That could only mean one thing, and that thing was the Victoria Times Colonist 10k. The clinic was timed to have us culminate with the 10k, so I found myself getting up early on Sunday and heading into Victoria for the race.
I can’t imagine a race having a nicer start line. It’s shared with many local events including the Victoria Marathon. The Inner Harbour with its fancy sailboats and yachts on one side, the stately Fairmont Empress Hotel on the other, and the Legislative Buildings flanking the rear. Sometimes it’s easy to not appreciate the familiar sites, the ones you see on a regular basis, so I tried to look at things through the eyes of a tourist and really take in the beauty. I said goodbye to Jason, who headed off to start at the front, just behind the elites, while I went back a block or two to my start corral.
Victoria's Inner Harbour. (not my photo - I "found" it online)
My goal was under 1:10, so I figured I should start in the 60-69 minute area. Catherine later told me over breakfast that I was way off, and that runners ALWAYS start much farther ahead than they actually should. That would explain my first couple of kilometers, but more on that later. Anyway, once I found what I thought was a decent piece of road to stand and wait for the start on, I looked around for others from my clinic. I couldn’t see anyone, but I guess with 14,000 runners in the race, finding 5 or 6 familiar faces would be tough.
The start gun went off, and I could see the runners up the road take off (bye Jason!), but my area wasn’t moving. When we started moving, it was a painfully slow shuffle for about 10 minutes until the start line and things opened up a tiny bit. I didn’t really care how long it took to cross the start line, as the race was chip timed, plus I was starting my watch when I passed under the start banner and I figured that the time on my wrist was what I would go by.
I had a plan for my race, and Jason had lent me his Garmin watch so I could pace myself. I had a plan for what I wanted to run the first km in (conservatively, to not to go out too hard), a plan for what I wanted to run the flat sections in, the downhills, and the uphills. I started the Garmin when I hit the timing mats, and was off. I glanced at the watch, and it hadn’t picked up any satellites. No big deal, I thought, as it may take a minute or so but I didn’t need to know my pace that very second. Well, the satellites never loaded, obviously I had done something wrong when I turned it on. But rather than freak out that I couldn’t execute my plan, I figured I’d run according to what I thought my pace should feel like and I’d be fine.
The first kilometer was a total gong show. Now, I totally respect anyone who does anything active, including walking a running race. But hey, if you’re planning on walking the entire 10k (and I assume that if you’re walking in the first km, you’re walking the whole thing), don’t you think maybe you should start BEHIND the runners? I’m just sayin’. For my first five minutes, I was continually weaving around groups of walkers. But at least I was not at risk of starting out too fast. Next time, should I take Catherine’s advice and start in a faster corral? Or then will I become someone a 45-minuter will be weaving around, thinking, dude why aren’t you back there with the other 60-minute+’ers?
I had done this race 13 years ago, but this year was a new course. The old one, an out-and-back down Dallas Road, along the waterfront, was just getting too congested with the number of athletes. This year was a loop, and I don’t know how this is physically possible when you start and finish in the same place, but the loop was about 75% uphill. Not all steep, but uphill none the less. The times reflected it too, as the men’s winning time was over a minute slower than last year, and almost a couple minutes off the course record. I like out-and-backs in racing (not in training), as I enjoy seeing people I know going by, heading for the finish. It’s always especially fun to see how fast the leaders are going!
But instead, a 75% uphill loop, winding through downtown Victoria, then the lovely residential neighbourhood of Fairfield, then oceanfront to the finish back at the Inner Harbour. I felt good, was running comfortably (but not TOO comfortably) for the first half, and enjoying myself and the sun. At 30 minutes, I got a bit of a weird look when I pulled my Roctane Gu from my bra (hey, I had no pockets!). I turned the corner at the halfway point to face the most significant uphill of the day, but just keep turning my legs over and kept my rhythm. I’m sure my bitchin’ playlist on my ipod helped!
Running along Dallas Road provides what is probably the most spectacular view in the country, and it was a perfect day. Almost windless, so the ocean was a flat, shimmery calm. Robin’s egg blue sky, with a stunning view of the snow-capped Olympic mountains across the strait in Washington. I tried to take in the view and enjoy the majesty, but I soon got distracted by the task at hand and keeping my footsteps constant, and trying not to crash into people who stopped to walk up the hill in front of me. I wanted to negative split, except I didn’t see where exactly the 5k marker was and the watch wasn’t giving me my pace. But I gently tried to up my pace as the race went on.
The second half snaked all along the waterfront, and with about 3 kilometers to go, Jason was standing on the side of the road waiting for me. He ran with me for a bit (after finishing 34:48 and 4th in his age group, 40-44. Not bad for someone in the middle of Ironman training, who swam 1.5 hours and rode 5.5 hours the day before… not bad at all…), and I tried to chat but also pick up the pace for the finish. I couldn’t do both, so I told Jason I couldn’t talk anymore and was going to turn my ipod back on. He peeled off around the 8k mark to get to the finish.
The 8-9 kilometer stretch is hard, with a couple of short but steep uphills. I knew they were coming, and they didn’t feel as bad as I’d remembered from other races I’d done in the area. I took that as a good sign and pushed harder. I turned up the volume on my ipod so I couldn’t hear myself gasping for breath. The road flattened out again, and I counted 7 corners as we twisted around to the last 500m stretch to the finish. I saw Jason again with about 200m to go, but I was breathing so hard I couldn’t even say hi. I pushed myself even harder to get to the finish chute, and waved at a friend who was doing the announcing as I crossed the line.
My official time was 1:07.40. Hooray! A couple of minutes faster than 13 years ago, and on a harder course. I finished 288th out of 641 in my age group. I don’t think I’ve ever been in the top half of my age group in a running race. I don’t actually consider myself an actual runner unless I can go under one hour in a 10k, so there’s my future goal.