VIRA Island Race Series-Running the Hatley Castle 8k

The Hatley Castle 8k is the next race which is part of the VIRA Island Race Series. It will take place on February 18, 2018 at 11:00 am.

For those of you who have never been to Royal Roads, it’s a very beautiful location for running. The Hatley Castle is also National Historic Site and is a tourist attraction here in the Greater Victoria Area.

I’ve run the Hatley Castle 8k a few times. The first time I raced it, I was definitely not prepared for the hills nor the trail and gravel parts of the course.

This is a technical, challenging and fun course. A small part of the race is run on a crushed gravel surface. Many people enjoy the ups and downs of this race.

I definitely will not be trying to do this super fast, but I will test my hill running skills.

How to run the Hatley Castle 8k:

First, don’t start too fast in the first km. I made that mistake once and almost had to WALK up the hill closer to the middle of the race. I talk about starting too fast every time only because I keep seeing people doing it over and over again.

It’s always easier to speed up later than it is to maintain a pace that is too fast from the start. I feel that if I keep saying it to myself then maybe I will stop busting out of the gate. So far, in the past 2 races, I ran a negative split because I didn’t start too fast.

As you get closer towards the middle part of the race, there will be hills. The climbs will be challenging and rewarding. Generally, the best way to overcome the hill is to embrace them.

When you are running up the hills, use your glutes, your quads and your hamstrings. You will need to push from the hip and use your entire leg to get up that hill. As you go up the hills, imagine yourself reaching the top and the feelings of accomplishment that you will get as you conquer the climb.

While you are ascending, try to keep a shorter and steady stride without overstriding. Keep your breathing even and deep, while at the same time keep your upper body from tensing up.

On the way down, you can relax and keep focusing on your form. Try not to land too hard on your feet. Use the downhills to your advantage. You can lengthen your stride on the way down.

Final tips:

Please also note that a very small part of the race is on a trail surface. Therefore, pay attention to the pine cones which might be on the trail. I often slow down on trails because I don’t want to trip on a pine cone or anything like that.

As you can see from the map below, the course is a bit turny, which will require you to slow down for parts of it.

If my memory serves me right, the last part of the race is done on crushed gravel. Naturally, gravel is slower than track or road. Therefore, don’t be too upset if you don’t end up being able to sprint to the finish as fast as you would on the road.

Above: The finish line. This is what the gravel looks like. It will have a small impact on your speed.

Don’t beat yourself up if your time at Hatley Castle 8k is a little slower than the Harriers Pioneer 8k. The scenery and the race atmosphere will make up for any hills that you may encounter.

Hope to see you there!!



VIRA Island Race Series- Cedar 12k 2018 Race Report

This year’s Cedar 12k 2018 took an unexpected turn for all participants (no pun intended). With that being said, the course preview that I wrote a week before the race was no longer 100% valid, although people still said that I made some good points.

Why was my preview no longer valid?

Unfortunately, due to a vehicle accident and road closure, the organizers had to quickly change the course. Kudos to The Bastion Run Club for acting quickly and changing the course. The volunteers and the organizers did a great job to ensure that our running experience is not tainted by the accident.

The good news for some people was that the big hill I told everyone about in my preview was not part of this new course. Many runners were rejoicing as they learned that the big hill at the 9km mark was no longer there.

I had mixed feelings about the hill. On one hand, I wanted to see if my hill training would pay off. On the other hand, I was not feeling my best that day so I was happy to see that the hill was gone. ๐Ÿ˜€

Since didn’t know the new course, I decided to take it 1km at a time.

Above: Chatting with some Ceevacs members about running…what’s new? Wearing: JP Activewear.

How it all went:

Overall, I believe that I had a good run given that I wasn’t feeling my best that day. The course consisted of small, rolling hills and beautiful views.

The beginning:

At the start, I took off a little bit faster than I anticipated, running the first km in 4:23. However, I consciously slowed down to 4:55 for the next km to really think about what I was doing. Since I didn’t know the new route, I thought it was better to go out conservatively and then make up for it later if I can. Therefore, I’m glad that I didn’t push too hard at the start. Those first 2km set the tone for the remainder of the race.

Once I reached the 3km mark, I felt confident that I could pick it up a little bit and ran the next km in 4:20. The 4th km also went well and I did it in 4:29, which I was happy with. There was a small incline during the 4th km.

The middle:

I stayed very consistent between kms 5-8. My splits were 4:26, 4:28, 4:29 and 4:25 respectively. I also want to take a moment to thank the cyclist in the reddish shirt who passed me just after the turnaround point. The cyclist kept a great pace. I was trying keep pace with the cyclist for a bit and it really worked for me.

By the time I completed the 8th km, I was feeling totally relaxed. The weather was beautiful and it was a great day to be running. There were some people cheering for the runners, which was great.

The end:

Between km 9-11, I also kept a consistent pace. I was very happy with how it was going. I stopped looking at my watch and paced myself entirely on how I felt. Luckily, it worked in my favor, as my splits were 4:26, 4:29 and 4:26. Since I knew that the new course was slightly shorter, I decided to pick it up for the last km. Once again, the last km was my fastest and would have been significantly under 4:20 if it was a full km.

However, the new course is about 200m short, give or take a few m depending on whether or not you ran the tangents.

To Sum it up:

Although I didn’t run a personal best, I feel like I had a solid run and put in a good effort. It was fantastic to see all my running friends again and the social aspect of these races is definitely a good reason for me to keep showing up.

Once again, I ran a negative split. The funny thing is that it only took me nearly a decade of racing to learn not to bust out of the gate from the start.

My time was 52:48. My average pace was 4:24 min per km and 7:05 per mile. I was extremely happy to learn that I won my age group. Not only that, but I also placed 7th overall out of 141 women. I’m always happy with a Top 10 finish, even though I’m generally competing against myself.

Every race is a test for me to see where I’m at and what I need to work on. The place I get is irrelevant, but I always celebrate the small victories. ๐Ÿ™‚

Every time that I get to race, I’m grateful for the circumstances that have led me to be able to race again. #notdoneyet

Above: This medal will look awesome on my wall, I’m wearing JP Activewear. ๐Ÿ™‚ Shortly after arriving home, I was stuffing my face with pizza, nachos and chips while watching the Superbowl. The Eagles and Patriots played a good game and it was entertaining to watch.

What’s next?

The next race is the Hatley Castle 8k at Royal Roads.

Stay tuned for a course preview coming soon!

VIRA Island Race Series: Running the Cedar 12k

The next race in the Vancouver Island Race Series is the Cedar 12k. This is a beautiful out-and-back course which features rolling hills and stunning countryside views.

Runners of all levels are welcome and there is an early start option for those who are walking. Whether it takes you less than 40 minutes to run 12k or it takes you over two hours, you can be assured that you will have a fun experience.

Personally, I’ve run this race quite a number of times and there is a reason why I keep coming back. I first ran it in 2013 and have done it every year except for last year. In 2016, I even broke 50 min in the 12k, which was (and still is) a big deal for me and a major milestone in my running.

I don’t think I will be doing that this year, but if all goes well I will be under 52 minutes. I’d be pleasantly surprised if I beat 52 minutes by anything more than a couple of seconds. However, as I’ve said before, I’m just thankful to be racing.

Also, from what I remember, the post-race food was very good!!

I’ve mentioned that it has a few rolling hills. However, as you can see from the map below, there are not that many turns. Without too many turns, you have a much better chance of running a good race even if you don’t run the tangents the entire way. However, you should still try to as much as possible.

So how do we run this race in order to have the best possible finish?

First, don’t start too fast. I followed my own advice for the Cobble Hill 10k and that really served me well.

It’s super tempting to bust right out of the gate because if you don’t know the course, it looks relatively easy on the map. The good news is that if you run it right-it is easy and fast. You can run a personal best.

In fact, when I did the Island Race Series in early 2016, I ran the 12k at a similar pace per km as the 10k. Therefore, you shouldn’t be too much slower per km at Cedar 12k than you were at Cobble Hill 10k if you save all your energy for the last 4k. Otherwise, those last 4k will feel like 40k (I’ve experienced that feeling too).

On the way to the turnaround point, I feel like there are more downhills. Therefore, save your energy for the way back as you will be coming back the same way. I always try to relax and coast on the way down (not always possible though).

Approaching the turnaround point will make you naturally have to slow down. However, after that, if you didn’t run the first few kms too fast, you should have a solid 2k or so.

Then, you will reach what I call “the big one”. I don’t fully remember if that hill is at km 8 or 9 but I remember there being one on the way back (the same one that you went down on the way to the turnaround point).

My biggest piece of advice here is to pay attention to any downhills on your way to the turnaround point because you will be going up them on the way back!

Above: As we can see, this is a grassy finish. Therefore, watch your footing a bit and be careful when you sprint towards the finish. Wearing: Public Myth.

After the 10.5k mark, the hills are not a problem. However, the last few hundred meters towards the finish is on the grass. Therefore, I try to be careful there and not sprint too hard towards the finish.

I hope you found this helpful!

Best of luck next Sunday and I hope to see you there! ๐Ÿ™‚

VIRA Island Race Series- Cobble Hill 10k Race Report

To be honest, prior to starting the Cobble Hill 10k, I was feeling nervous. The reason I was nervous was because I wasn’t sure how my first 10k in a while would go. I expected to finish anywhere between 41 and 51 minutes, but I had no other real expectations of myself beyond that.

There were only three things I expected from myself: have fun, follow my own racing advice and find the food.

I told one of my friends that I hope to run at least 1km of this race in under 4 minutes.

He laughed and jokingly said: “Hopefully not the first one.” I replied, “we will see.”

That’s when I decided to really think about what I wrote in my course preview from the week before the race.ย 

In my race preview, I specifically discussed thatย  the course is fast if you run it properly and stay focused. This is a very tactical course and many people have run personal bests in Cobble Hill.

Luckily, this time, the weatherman was a lot nicer to us during the race.

Before the race:

I drove up to Cobble Hill with my friend. Honestly, the rain and wind leading up to the race almost inspired me to bow out. However, I decided to race because it’s something I enjoy doing. It rained the entire way. Driving up the Malahat when it’s raining can be both dangerous and challenging.

When we got there, the rain seemed to have calmed down and the sun started to come out.

Once we got to the start line, I was grateful that the weatherman was smiling at us. That’s when I knew it was going to be a good day. I was hoping that the weather would stay beautiful for at least the next 45 minutes or so.

I chatted with some people at the start line, turned on my Garmin and the gun went off. Then, something inside my brain drastically changed for the better….

Above: Smiling because of the outcome and the possibilities. This photo was taken with my cell phoneย  after I got back from the race in my “home office” where I work on fun extra-curricular projects.

During the race:

The first km dictated how the whole race would go. Therefore, I ran it wisely. I watched many people bust out of the gate like they are being chased by a hungry tiger. Meanwhile, I slowed down and let a lot of people pass me and for the first time in nearly a decade of racing, I decided to run my own race.

The beginning:

It took every ounce of willpower I had for me to run my first km in 4:26 instead of 3:45. I knew that if I ran the first km in 3:45, I would regret it later.

Then, the next 2kms were 4:22 and 4:21 respectively. The first 3km consisted of small rolling hills. I watched my turns closely as well.

For kms 4 and 5, I slowed down and ran a 4:36, then a 4:32. At that point, I was glad to be halfway to the finish.

The middle:

Surprisingly, I felt rejuvenated after the 5k mark.

A new kind of positive energy ran through my brain and body.

I ran the 6th km in 4:24.

After that, kms 7 and 8 were 4:15 and 4:10 respectively. I was speeding up despite being that far into the race.

The end:

As I was approaching the 9th km, I stopped looking at my watch. Then, it beeped and vibrated to let me know that I ran a 4:16 for my 9th km. I was happy with that.

In fact, I was so happy, that I started to catch up to my friend who passed me right before the 5k mark, who I thought was way farther ahead of me.

There was another guy in front of me who was running a good pace so I tried to catch up to him. I didn’t pass him, but what happened at the finish surprised me.

Right as I crossed the timing mat at the finish line, my watch beeped that it was exactly 10k and that my 10th km took me 3:58.

Above: Photo by Lois DeEll. I’m wearing JP Activewear.


A sub 4-min km was my last km.

Never in nearly a decade of racing have I ever had the fastest pace for my last km. In the midst of running my fastest last km, for the first time ever, there was no struggle as I approached the finish. I was feeling the positive vibes from running a negative split.

To sum it up:

This Cobble Hill 10k race could not have gone better. No, I didn’t run a personal best, but I beat last year’s time by 43 seconds, placed 3rd in my age group and 14th out of 185 females overall.

My final time was 43:12, which is still over 2 min slower than my best. However, overall, I feel like my running is going in the right direction so far.

I stuck to my original game plan and didn’t let any external factors interfere with it. Tactically, this is definitely the smartest race I recall ever running in nearly a decade of racing. I held back a lot in the first 2k and that served me well.

I’m grateful for this experience and I hope that I will continue to get better so that I could get back to where I was.

I was also extremely happy that a couple of people walked up to me after the race and told me that as a result of reading my course preview, they ran negative splits too.

What’s next?

Next up is the Cedar 12k on February 4th.

It’s a great race. Course preview coming soon. I hope to see you there!


Running the Cobble Hill 10k -VIRA Island Race Series

If you feel like you missed out on a fun run because you didn’t run the Harriers Pioneer 8k, then you should come to the Cobble Hill 10k.ย  The Cobble Hill 10k takes place on Jan 21 and it’s definitely going to be a fun time.

Cobble Hill is situated in the beautiful Cowichan Valley, roughly 50 minutes North of Victoria.

Regardless of your pace or fitness level, you are welcome to come out and enjoy the run. Walkers are also encouraged to attend and early start is allowed!

If you’ve never done a 10k before and would like to try a relatively fast course, then Cobble Hill is definitely a good choice.

Just like all the other VIRA-Island Race Series, the course is very beginner-friendly. I love that about these races. Up until Friday, Jan 19th at 6pm, you can still register online. After that, you can still register on race day. However, you will need to get there early, as registration is limited on race day.

As we can see from the map below, there are a few turns. Starting near George Bonner Elementary School, the course is scenic and is run on country roads around Cobble Hill. It has produced some fast times for many runners in the past.

With the exception of a few small hills, the course is relatively flat. In fact, I’ve run my second best 10k time ever on this course.

What to watch out for:

The first 2km make it very tempting to start too fast, as I often do. I recall there being a small incline just before the 3k mark where I often regretted running the first km too fast.

Then, after the 4th km, it was a fairly smooth sailing for me. There was another very small incline in the later part of the race. However, it was a very short uphill.

Since there are some turns in the race, you should strive to run the tangents. Here is a great article in Competitor Magazine about running the tangents.

Essentially, running the tangents means following the line that’s closest to each corner. Therefore, you will end up running the shortest possible distance. If you don’t run the shortest possible distance, then you will end up running longer than 10k.

The last km of the Cobble Hill 10k is super fun and fast. I’ve always had a great last km.

Above: coming in towards the finish at the Cobble Hill 10k.

My goals for the race:

I don’t have a lot of expectations for myself because this will be my first 10k race back. However, I’m hoping to run under 45 minutes and hopefully place in the Top 5 for my age category.

Regardless of what my place or time will be, I will give it my best effort for that day. My ultimate goal is to do my best given all the circumstances leading up to the event.

When it comes to running a 10k, sometimes, my best is 56 min and other times, my best was 40:56. Therefore, we will see! There is a 99% chance that I will finish anywhere between 41 min and 51 min and that will all depend on how I will feel on race day.

Post race:

The time after finishing a race is a great time to reflect how it went and connect with other runners. Let’s also not forget the food. I know it’s going to be good. ๐Ÿ™‚

Stay tuned for a race recap, course review and pictures! ๐Ÿ™‚


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