Victoria Road Runner's Yarra Bend 12km

Time to be my fitness to test. Have I improved? Is there any speed in the legs yet? Am I stuck still back in ultra marathon paces? Is there hope for my marathon goals? In an attempt to answer these questions I picked a 12km race down in Yarra Bend. It is suggested that is a cross country or off road course, but that now has different meaning than it used to. It has been many years, since I last did this event, and as it turns out, hills now also have a different meaning.

The race is organised by the Victorian Road Runners, who put on the type of events I like. Straight forward, small fields, accurate courses and a feel good nature that encourages some great racing. They don't go for the big fanfare, show bags, or any of the extras. Just old school running. I love it. The race had either a 6 or 12km options. I chose the longer, meaning I had two laps to complete of a course that was a mixture of concrete and bitumen bike paths, gravel, stone & dirt paths with a few hills thrown in. Definitely not a course to set a PB on, especially when some rain gets added, but if you have some get running strength in the legs you may be rewarded.

Some start-stop rain spattered my long warm up, but cleared for the race briefing. Cones to the left, and smart people become dumb when they put on running shoes was the gist. Set... go...

Both the 6 and 12km started together. Since we each only just small race number our fronts distinguishing which event we were in, I had no idea who was in which. Going out comfortably quick over the first 200m put me in 8th out of the lot. Out front was a runner in a light blue singlet who was pushing it out a bit. Deciding to pick it up for next kilometre moved me up to 5th and put a gap to those behind me. From here I concentrated on keeping the form up without destroying myself. This kept me out in a sort of no-man's land. Just a bit off the first four, a challenge on the climbs but increasing the lead on the remainder. I was sure at least two of those in front were in the 6km, but to be honest I really didn't know. So I tried to make sure I kept them all in view through the first lap.

A few ups and twists, a couple of twists and the first lap was done in 23:28. Unfortunately over the last kilometre the lead position changed and I lost site of the new first place. I was close enough to see the other three finish as 6km runners. That had me as second for the 12km. Into the next lap I checked with one of the volunteers on the side if I was in the number two slot and they told me I was leading as all the others were in the 6km. What I great surprise. That was why he was able to pull so far ahead. Awesome.

Then I thought about it some more. Looked back and scanned the finish area. There was definitely only three racers finished. Despite what I had been told, I knew I wasn't in the lead. Time to keep pushing. For the rest of the race everything pretty much stayed the same. It got a little bit harder to maintain the pace, and I had a couple of moments I had to watch that I didn't slack off on the climbs. Overall it felt good, I ran strong, but nothing ballistic. The only real difference between the two laps was that I didn't have the fast early kilometre on the second. The difference was 27 seconds between the 1st and final 6km for a finishing time of 47:22. That is confirmed as second place, about 2 minutes off the front slot.

So what answers did it give me? If I plug the time into McMillan calculator it spits out a predicted marathon of 3:02.  Not PB territory, but I mark this race as very good indicator that I am improving in the right way. Firstly the course is a little bit on the slow side (but not by much). More importantly it is how I felt quite comfortable running at this speed. The intensity was up, I was better on the hills than recently, and nothing was forced about it. Something I haven't felt in quite a while. Also I didn't fade, I felt like I knew what my pace was the whole time, which with hindsight turned out to be correct. It looks like the pieces are being turned around the right way. Now I just have to fit them together.


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