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27 March 2011

Slainte Downhill 5k Race Review

It was a bit of a last minute decision to be a part of the Slainte Downhill (although the August 27 event is still on the list). I knew @danluton was running and thought it would be a fun one. As a Hamiltonian I’m trying to do more runs that are in the area, learning […]

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It was a bit of a last minute decision to be a part of the Slainte Downhill (although the August 27 event is still on the list). I knew @danluton was running and thought it would be a fun one. As a Hamiltonian I’m trying to do more runs that are in the area, learning about how they’re organized, who’s running them, and being a part of the community.

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Just want to skip the story and
get to the good stuff?

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I’d heard a lot about the Slainte – the beer after, the warm food, the comeraderie, the claims to be the “fastest 5k in Canada.” I decided to register a couple weeks in advance of the race, not expecting any sellouts, and went to pick up my race kit with Dan the day before the race. Slainte is a nice pub, and the packs were upstairs. Whether it’s the location or the people, or likely a combination of the two, even the kit pick-up had a friendly sense of community. People were easy-going and it didn’t take long to get our stuff.

Thankfully the race isn’t too early in the morning (there’s enough of those already), so it wasn’t difficult to get there on time. Dan gave me a ride down and we found parking to be quite easy (we parked basically across the street). It was a cool morning, but thankfully dry, and we headed to the line up outside the pub. There was a bit of confusion at the door for many who didn’t know if it was the bus line or the “get my race kit” line: and some, it seemed were regulars who were just hoping to get in for some lunch. With no real signage, lineup, or direction, it was a bit of a frenzy as those of us who were waiting patiently in the cold were pushed aside by folks who were waiting in the warmth of the pub as the bus pulled up. I briefly noticed, while pushing through to get on the bus, that there were no gates set up, no tents, and no finish line. It surprised me a little that it wasn’t more organized. As we pulled away from the pub, cold onlookers cursing us for having gotten on, I noticed that there were lots of seats still available. A wave of nostalgia hit me as I remembered Jr. High and how bus seating worked then. I couldn’t help but cry out, “There are still seats! It’s like Titanic all over again!” The crowd was chatty on the bus, and that feeling of community and comeraderie emerged again.

[blockquote align=”right”]Whether it’s the location or the people, or likely a combination of the two, even the kit pick-up had a friendly sense of community.[/blockquote]
Confusion continued once off the bus. Without any signage or direction from volunteers, we found ourselves searching for the timing chip hand-out location, only to find some people sitting at the far end of the gym, where hundreds of people were milling around, giving them out. It was quite efficient once there, but it would have helped to have a sign or someone pointing you in the right direction. It was great to be able to be in the school – with warmth and washrooms available. Shortly before the race was to begin Dan and I went out for a short jog and stretch.

We wanted to head to the starting line, but as we looked around, and then asked around, no-one was really sure where the starting line was. With only a few minutes to go people had started gathering on the road and someone let us know that the start line was a lone orange traffic cone at the side of the street. It was obvious that there weren’t going to be accurate results for each person since there was no starting mat, and it seemed as though the start was happening at the pub and being relayed up to the starting point.

As we let loose on the course it was apparent that there were many who didn’t really run races, or perhaps run much at all. As is frequent with newcomers, lots of people went out the gate really fast, only to slow down shortly thereafter realizing that 5k was longer than a sprint to the first corner.

The course was nice, taking us along the escarpment through town for a couple of kilometers. Once again, there could have been some confusion as there weren’t clear markers at every corner. There were a few times that I was glad I wasn’t in front because I would have missed the turn – I just followed everyone else.

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Photo Gallery

[lightbox url=”http://runbydesign.com/images/Slainte_Shirt_L.jpg” group=”1″ title=”Slainte 5k Downhill Shirt”][image img=”http://runbydesign.com/images/Slainte_Shirt.jpg”][/lightbox] Click the pic to see the album!
Click on the descriptions below or the photo to the left to launch the photo gallery.
[lightbox url=”http://runbydesign.com/images/Slainte_Bus.jpg” group=”1″ title=”Bus Ride”]Bus Ride[/lightbox]
[lightbox url=”http://runbydesign.com/images/Danny_Boy.jpg” group=”1″ title=”Danny Boy”]Danny Boy[/lightbox]
[lightbox url=”http://runbydesign.com/images/In_The_Gym.jpg” group=”1″ title=”In The Gym”]In The Gym[/lightbox]
[lightbox url=”http://runbydesign.com/images/Beat_By_A_Girl.jpg” group=”1″ title=”Beat By A Girl”]Beat By A Girl[/lightbox]
[lightbox url=”http://runbydesign.com/images/Big_Finish.jpg” group=”1″ title=”Big Finish”]Big Finish[/lightbox]
[lightbox url=”http://runbydesign.com/images/Feat_Completed.jpg” group=”1″ title=”New PR’s”]New PR’s[/lightbox]
[lightbox url=”http://runbydesign.com/images/Bow_Tie.jpg” group=”1″ title=”Bow Tie”]Bow Tie[/lightbox]
[lightbox url=”http://runbydesign.com/images/Slainte_Finish.jpg” group=”1″ title=”Finish/Chili Line”]Finish/Chili Line[/lightbox]
[lightbox url=”http://runbydesign.com/images/Serving_Chili.jpg” group=”1″ title=”Serving Up The Chili”]Serving Up The Chili[/lightbox]
[lightbox url=”http://runbydesign.com/images/Eating_Chili.jpg” group=”1″ title=”Eating Our Chili”]Eating Our Chili[/lightbox]
[lightbox url=”http://runbydesign.com/images/Slainte_Medal.jpg” group=”1″ title=”Slainte Medal – Third Place M30-34″]Slainte Medal – Third Place M30-34[/lightbox]

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Pushing to the Jolly Cut for the downhill portion I wasn’t sure how I was going to approach the steady decline. It had been quite a while since I’d done any real cross-country running and I was trying to remember any tips my coaches had given me about going downhill years back. I remembered that I should “fall gracefully” down the hill, allowing gravity to do it’s work. To try to lengthen my stride to take advantage of the gained momentum. To gently lean into the hill and relax and let it pull me down. And lastly, to change my footstrike to slightly behind my hip to avoid some of the impact. I knew I had some heavy impact coming, and was glad for the extra bit of posting in my Brooks ST Racer 4’s, and the quad burn was coming. I tried my best to maintain smart posture and take advantage of the hill, but my fears of a spill made me slow things down a bit, putting the brakes on and in the meantime making those quads burn a bit more and the impact that much harder. Obviously I need to work on my downhill running.

I had been consistently passing people, not tonnes, since I think I placed myself well from the start, but there was one guy that I was trying to run down in particular. I got within 20 meters of him near the end of the hills, just before dipping below the bridge before popping up on the other side and turning the corner, and suddenly he was off like a shot. It was in that moment that I noticed another guy cruising on by me, a master’s runner by the looks of it, and though I tried to summon the strength to push faster, I couldn’t find it. I did push just enough at the end to edge out another in my age class to claim third for our group, but didn’t notice my time. I figured I was close to a PR, but couldn’t be sure.

My wife was waiting for me at the finish with our dog, and we didn’t have long before my buddy Dan crossed the line. Having just run a 5k with a PR a couple weeks before, he wasn’t aiming for another PR, but he nailed it and came third for his age group as well (way to go, Dan!).

[blockquote align=”left”]With a bit more thought and preparation this could be a fantastic event.[/blockquote]
Dan and I pushed through the crowd to get our complimentary chili and decided to skip out on the beer and opted for water instead. The chili was quite good, with just a little kick. The pub was packed to the gills, and with no “official” place to hang out we decided to just sit at the side of the road with our chili. Awards ceremony and music was later in the day, and we were starting to catch a chill in our sweaty running gear. Thankfully my wife was there to save the day and grabbed my sweats for me. As we watched people come in we noticed a little guy running with his dad: we’d seen them before. This kid was just six years old and CRUSHED the course. I’m pretty sure he’s got the North American record for his age for the 5k. His whole family was waiting for them at the end and it was neat to see his dad so proud of him.

All-in-all the race was a fun experience. The downhill was challenging in a new way for me. I was tentative about it, and likely wouldn’t make a habit of doing downhill races, only because I have some back issues and the constant pressure would get to me over time, but it was nice to go fast. With a bit more practice I think I could take full advantage of the downhill.

Organization was lackluster at best. It seemed fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, to be quite honest. My wife said that even just a few minutes before the race started they hadn’t finished setting up the finish line. The coral at the end of the race should have been much extended, since there were runners coming in and a crowd of people getting their timing chips off and those just milling about were crowding the space. It would have been nice to have an outdoor tent so there was somewhere to go as well, with it being so crowded inside. With a bit more thought and preparation this could be a fantastic event. The course is fun, it has a great sense of community, and the people were top-notch. Whether or not I’ll give it another shake at the August event is still to-be-determined, but I’d like to see them take it a bit more seriously and think through the event a bit more from a runners perspective.

The Short Story

A strong sense of community and a fun, fast, scenic downhill course don’t make up for the overall lack of organization in this pub-sponsored run that has some ground to make up before being considered a runner’s race. But free beer and chili don’t hurt.

[info_box_1 title=”Race Stats”]
Distance: 5k
Cost: $37
Weather: Overcast, Cool
Swag: T-shirt (I also received a medal for placing third in my age category)
Terrain: Roads through the city, long downhill portion
Time: 18:48.2
Pace: 3:46/km
Shoes: Brooks ST Racer 4
Fuel: Cereal, toast, banana, Gatorade
Overall Place: 16/557
Gender Place: 16/241
Age Group Place: 3/39
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