James Cunningham Seawall 9.5K Race
And I loved this race yesterday. I have never raced this one before, but it follows the same course as some other races and many runs I have done, around the seawall of Stanley Park. For historical reasons they keep the distance at 9.5K, and many runners seem to not like the idea that it's not an actual 10K race. Maybe that would have turned me off if I thought I was in PB shape, but I knew I wasn't, so I went out to just do my best and have a good time.
My goal was to hold about a 4:45-4:50/km pace which I thought was reasonable but challenging enough based on my recent training and fitness. The first kilometre was a bit slow in the crowd and it ended on a bit of an uphill, so I wasn't surprised to see 5:05 on my watch. But I felt great and hit my stride, and from then on was hitting the splits all between 4:45 and 4:50. It wasn't easy, though; even before 5K it was already feeling tough, so I just took it one kilometre at a time. I knew that once I passed around 6 or 7K, my body would continue if my mind didn't give up. Having a few helpful racers as pacers along the way as well a good knowledge of the course made the mental battle a bit easier. The best thing about a 9.5K race is that it's over earlier than a 10K race. I was actually able to pick up my pace just a it on the last half-kilometre, which gained me about 10 seconds. I crossed the finish line just over 46 minutes, which turned out to be a 45:58 chip time. That was good enough for 4th in my age group in a pretty speedy crowd (to get top 3 I would have needed a time of 42-something).
I am happy with this time; the pace equates to about a 48:20 10K, which is faster than I was able to do in June without the downhill help of that course. I have done very little speed work other than tempo pace throughout marathon training and since then, so I know I have a lot of room for improvement. I am looking forward to this Saturday when I race stage 6 of the Haney to Harrison relay. My best pace on this hilly 13K stretch has been about 5:15/km; I'm hoping I can get that down closer to 5:00/km this year.
The best thing about short races is that there is no wall when you know how to pace them properly. I guess that's the same for marathons, but I have done so few of them and haven't quite figured out the pacing yet. I haven't given up on the marathon yet, but I want continue to work on my speed before I tackle another one. I am already looking forward to the spring.