My 2016 race season began April 9, with The Hill Climb put on by MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op). With three race distances offered at the event, participants could either run a 5, 10, or 15 km. All distances were designed as an out and back route. I chose to compete in the 15 km race as I’m in the midst of training for the Powder Face 42 on July 2, and I figured this race would be a good training run to test my speed.
All distances start below the base of Nose Hill at a local school and take runners up and across Nose Hill and then back. The 5 km race did not take runners all the way to the top of Nose Hill although they still did have a substantial climb. The 10 and 15 km races both ran to the top of Nose Hill and from then on the course was relatively flat until their respective turn around points. The course consisted of roads, sidewalks, and mostly paved bike paths. Total elevations gain according to my watch on the 15 km course was 179 m, so nothing major but pretty decent for an out and back course in the city. Also given that most MEC races seem to be ran along the super flat pathways of the Bow River, the Hill Climb is rightfully named.
I’m not very experienced with road racing having only one road race under my belt (2015 Calgary Marathon) and I rarely test my speed on training runs. Therefore I really wasn’t sure what a good goal time would be for this race. Because I didn’t know what a good goal would be I wasn’t worried about a achieving a set time during this race. I figured if I could average 7:45 min/mile for the first half of the course, then I could try and hammer down the back half of the course using the downhill to my advantage to run a 7:15 min/mile pace, thereby giving me an average of 7:30 min/mile for the total race. I didn’t have much to base this off of, I just simply thought I could do it.
However upon arriving at the venue, I nearly threw my goal out the window and thought I need to simply run the race hard and see how it goes. Why did I do this? Wind! I could not believe how incredibly windy it was. You really had to be there to know what I’m talking about. Trees were blowing wildly, tarps at the venue weren’t being put up because they might blow away, flags were straight, it was simply insane. This was all happening down by the school in the shelter of the surrounding houses. I could only imagine the force of the wind on top of Nose Hill where there is nothing to slow it down. And of course the wind was blowing from the N.W., therefore lining up perfectly for a massive headwind for all the races for the first half of the course.
Seriously though I hate the wind no matter if I’m running or not, wind just ruins a good day. So needless to say I was not looking forward to this race. Even though I wasn’t too amped on the race anymore I was still going to go out there and give it my all.
I began the race conservatively, knowing that the head wind too come would be brutal. As we ran up and out of the community the wind hit you like a brick wall. The wind was incredibly strong and relentless. Running dead straight into a wind like this is mentally one of the hardest things I’ve done (and I’ve done a Spartan Ultra Beast). With the wind never ceasing, every step is challenge. Dust gets blown in your eye, wind blows air in and out of your mouth which can make it hard to breath, and it is so darn loud that thinking was even difficult. It took a lot of mental toughness to keep pushing through the wind, as I had thoughts of quitting and just turning around and heading back. The wind was just pissing me off! I hated it!
It wasn’t until about 5.5 km in that we finally got a break from the wind as the course ran us along the edge of a few trees. Upon coming out of these trees though the wind was more at our back which was nice, but the turnaround point was quickly approaching and then it’d be back to running into the wind. At least now I knew I’d only have to battle into the wind until I made it to the trees again, because once I past the trees on my way back the wind would be behind me the whole way!
When I reached the turnaround point I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had averaged a 7:45 min/mile pace on the first half of race. That is with running up the hill and head on into the gale force winds. With that in mind I knew I was going to crush my original goal of a 7:30 min/mile pace because for the majority of the second half of the race, the wind will be at my back and I’d be running downhill. Therefore I attacked the second half of the course. I got in the zone and let my legs spin underneath me as the wind pushed me along. The last two miles of the race I ran in 5:51 min and 5:46 min respectively, like crazy fast (for me)! This was all well and good because I was flying! But so were all the other racers. I was trying my hardest to real in and pass two other competitors but despite my best efforts I fell short of the little challenge I set for myself. The one guy simply left me in his dust on the last mile. As for the other guy I was able to run him down but he was able to inch across that finish line less than 1 second ahead of me. We both had finishing times of 1:05:04 but he placed higher than me in the final results. I was so close!
With that I am very pleased with my performance this race, as I was able to get a new PB for 15 km in some adverse conditions. I placed 15th overall out of 214 and I’m very happy and a little surprised by that. Although the wind was a significant factor during the race, I’m not sure how much better (if at all) I’d do on this course with no wind. The wind definitely slowed me down on the first half but had a very huge part in speeding me up along the second half of the race. I’m not experienced enough to know how much of a factor that plays…it’s hard one way, but then really “easy” the other.
All in all it was fun event…besides the first half of the race, that sucked. In case you didn’t know the entry fee for MEC races is ~$20 so its pennies when it comes to any of those big races, and you get everything you need: water on the course, km markings, chip timing, and some snacks after the race. The only thing you miss out on is a medal, unless you come top 3. So given the price I’d have to highly recommend the MEC race series and will have to keep my eyes on more to come.
Chip time – 1:05:04
Overall Place – 15/214
Gender Place – 14/118
Age Group – 4/26
Top 3 Males
Evan Bayer – 0:55:39
Jacob Puzey – 0:56:33
Luke Ratzlaff – 0:56:57
Top 3 Females
Faye Stenning – 1:00:56
Ashley Turgeon – 1:05:30
Arden Young – 1:05:34