Monday, March 28, 2011

Race report: Birch Bay 15K, March 26 2011

On Saturday I ran the Birch Bay Road Race in Birch Bay, WA (near Blaine, just across the border from here). This small race is only in its fifth year, and includes 5K, 15K, and 30K distances. I ran the 15K race with the hope of slightly bettering my time of 1:15:19 from my first attempt at this distance back in January. I was hoping for a time around or just under 75 minutes, or an average of 5:00/km. That pace seemed doable based on my recent running.

I started without a warmup and just tried to get into my pace really quickly. This was easy to do with a nice downhill start in the first kilometre, which reminded me of the Sun Run. The course was absolutely beautiful, along the water in Birch Bay for the first 6K. I had been averaging under 5:00/km and hit the 6K mark at 29:24. After that we started a steady climb away from the water for about 3K to the turnaround point for the 15K. The climb made it tough to hold on to the pace, I slowed down just a little bit but knowing I had build up a bit of a cushion. At this point I was pretty happy that I was doing 15K, as the 30K runners kept climbing steadily to their turnaround point (apparently this 30K race is even hillier in the second half than Around the Bay). Before I reached our turnaround point, I started seeing the 15K leaders coming back at me. I started counting the number of women that were ahead of me, and counted what I thought was about 20 women.

I was expecting this downhill part to feel really good after the steady 3K climb upwards, but instead it felt almost as tough. I then realized that the uphill was not as bad as it could have been since we had a tailwind -- of course I did not notice the tailwind as much as the headwind. So I just kept pushing on trying to maintain my pace. I hit the 10K mark at 49:29. I took a short break for water around 12K and then tried to pick it up a bit more down the rest of the hill. Kilometre 14 and the beginning of 15 were flat but the wind was still strong as we came along the water; I was running pretty much alone with two women just ahead of me. I tried to keep them in my sights and hold on to their pace, which worked really well to finish that tough part of the race.

I had been warned about the steep climb from the beach just before the finish, but man, this was brutal!! About 150 metres straight up, it seemed, and my legs were burning. But then around the bend it flattened out and I could see the finish area, and then the chute. I pushed on when I saw 1:14:xx on the clock and passed through at around 1:14:30 (official time was 1:14:28).

My time was good enough for 3rd out of 31 in the F40-44 age group. One of the women that I was chasing in kilometres 13 and 14 was in my age group, so I was also just behind number two by about 17 seconds. I will have to work a little harder for it next year. However, the next age group category is even more competitive--my time would have only been good enough for 7th in that next age group. I turn 45 in May, so I really better get working. :) I will definitely be back for this beautiful spring race.

Official results:

1:14:28 for 15K (4:58/km, 8:00/mile)
35/232 overall finishers
17/167 women
3/31 F40-44


4:51 (downhill start)
5:05 (beginning of hill)
4:59 (downhill, but headwind!!)
4:57 (uphill but then a good finishing kick)

I am very happy with this result. Lately my running has taken a back seat to the other issues in my life and I have not been able to stick to a regular workout schedule. I had to miss the First Half half-marathon in February and have had to rearrange some other plans, so I decided to do this race only a week ago. I am happy that I have been able to maintain and even improve my speed with consistent although unstructured running. And although I did not feel like I was holding back on the course, I did feel like I could have gone a couple more kilometres at that pace and did not feel totally spent at the end. Maybe this is because of my inexperience at pacing this in-between distance, or simply having the discipline to keep the 5:00/km pace, or maybe because of my lack of speed-work lately. It does not really matter, though, because the next real goal is to hold that pace for another 6k in the half-marathon.

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