10K race start. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

© Copyright – 2017 – Victoria Sports News

No one paid much attention to 71-year-old Rob Grant milling about in gray sweat pants and an otherwise perfectly good pair of running shoes that he removed the fronts of, toes sticking out, totally free. He is from the old guard; trial of the miles. He couldn’t care less. He has seen more miles in his lifetime than most of the 504 other runners dare to imagine that assembled on this crisp morning for the MEC Race Series, Race One.

Grant finished the 10K race in 47:22 for 54th position overall. Before the race, Grant was asking about the apparent and mysterious 75-year-old in the field, “any idea who that is?” he asked. Grant still likes to win. The age-group is a tough one at 60-99 – or as Bob Reid of the Prairie Inn Harriers would say – “60 to death.”

As it turns out, Grant didn’t have to worry about the 75-year-old, it was sixty-nine-year-old Brian Connon, who hasn’t been seen running much in these past three years, but was otherwise a fixture in the Victoria racing scene. Connon won the age-group by finishing in 44:51 and 33rd position.

The 2017 Mountain Equipment Coop Race Series started in earnest today with Race One at Lochside School, which is located at the corner of Royal Oak Drive and Lochside Trail. There was a 10K that left at 9:00 am, while the 5K started five minutes later.

5K Start. Photo Credit: Christopher Kelsall

Both races head southerly, with the 5K returning to the start northward – an out-and-back – while the 10K includes a circuitous lap and a turnaround like the 5K. Both races finish in a northward direction and end under a giant, inflated MEC-branded arch.

The MEC Race Series channels the more serious running community with accurately measured courses done by certified measurer Gary Duncan and his particular process for getting it right (Jones counter, calibrated and inflated bike tyres, just so). Race Day Timing also uses electronic chip timing (chips are built into the bibs) and the results are live online. MEC also keeps the series not-so-serious. Missing is the more professionalized race announcer who calls out finishers names and knows running lore by memory better than the runners themselves. The post-race awards are fast, maybe taking five minutes. Registration fees are inexpensive.

Each runner makes it to the start line of a race with their own story in-tow. At MEC Race One, there were 505 stories between the two races.

Jerry Hughes runs 100-160K per week preparing for ultra-marathons that he will tackle this spring including the Harrier’s Elk-Beaver Ultras that take place in May. He has been known to run the length of Vancouver Island.

Hughes often raises money for the Help Fill a Dream Foundation and lives with Gardner’s Syndrome, which presents itself with various types of tumors, both benign and malignant. He doesn’t let it get in the way.

“Last year I did the 50K, this year I am getting ready for the 100K,” shared Hughes, shortly after finishing the 10K in a near personal best time of 37:58.

Matthew Winkler comes from the opposite end of the spectrum; he is an 800-metre runner who ran for the University of Victoria Vikes; a trackie. Winkler loves to race all distances up to the half-marathon. He owns a fast 800m personal best of 1:50.93. Today he was racing the 5K, a more aerobic animal.

Brian Connon. Photo Credit: Christopher Kelsall

“It was good, I ran 17:09. Not bad for a cold day,” he said. His best is 16:31. He has also run a 16:35, both in the more serious Bazan Bay 5K as part of the Vancouver Island Race Series. Winkler is a low-mileage runner averaging about 50K per week.

Duncan, the course measurer will race an 800m event at the Christie-Phoenix Insurance Victoria Track Series, and he will race anything up to the marathon. He doesn’t train at the mileage volumes of Hughes, nor does he have the speed or youth of Winkler (27), but Duncan does like to race at every opportunity. He toes the line between 30 and 50 times per year, an unmatched frequency on the island and perhaps BC. Today he was doing the 10K. Duncan finished in 39:30. Pretty good for a 55-59 age-group runner, of course he would know the shortest possible tangents to run.

For Hughes, knowing the course is accurate means he legitimately ran a good race after completing 140K this week and nearly setting a new personal best.

Hughes averages 450K per month. This weekend he ran for two-hours and 11 minutes on Friday and 30K Saturday with 1400m elevation loss and gain. “I ran 23K today before and after the MEC race.”

Simon Pearson ran the 5K. He is a cyclist and former runner, who has run the 5K distance in 17:02. Unlike Duncan, he races about twice per year and for no reason whatsoever, but with the same gusto he put into his 3:03:44 marathon and 36:48 10K personal bests; albeit 20 pounds heavier.

“I went around these two ladies running together and just as I did that, one asked the other, “how are you doing?” which meant she was going to come up on me,” said Pearson. “I didn’t want to be one of those guys, so I let her have the win.” Either way he is still one of those guys.

Pearson’s 23:02 5K is just a gentle reminder that the hay is not in the barn, in fact the hay seed is still in the hopper and the tractor engine hasn’t started. “Yeah I want to get back into running more again, gradually.”

Pearson racing a 5K with little to no training is like jumping into the hopper containing the seed and chucking it everywhere like a crazed marmoset, short a banana; he was no less enthusiastic with his 23:02 as he was with his 17:02.

Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

Andrew McCartney is a triathlete who works for MEC. As per usual he won the 10K race. He finished in the time of 35:07. No one else showed up to race him. The second place finisher was Rob Livingstone who finished in 37:08, while Chad Johnston crossed the line in 37:40. Johnston was also the first master.

McCartney was found shortly after finishing the race, serving cookies and beverages in the gym. “My cool down will be vitamin I (Ibuprofen),” he chuckled.

Julia Tschanz is a former Vike, who finds herself busy running a business these days; she doesn’t have time for serious training but can still run well. Tschanz finished first in the time of 38:45, while Care Nelson, a new mom and the wife of race timer Mark Nelson finished four seconds back for second, the two finished in 7th and 8th overall, respectively. The third place finisher was Lisanne Naeth who crossed the line in 43:33, which represents a new personal best.

The Nelsons could be seen literally and metaphorically between the timing truck and finish chute, with babe between them. It was her first race since Whistler, 2015.

In the 5K Chris Callendar, known also as Chris Topher has little time to spare with two young one’s at home. Today he gets to race. His best is 16:54. Today he would finish one-minute and one second behind Winkler. Callendar is known for his finishing sprint. With the third place finisher, Lyndon Clasie who competes in the 16-19 age-group, back 40 seconds, Callendar’s trademark sprint wasn’t required.

The first female was Patricia Roney, who finished in 19:12. Elisabet Lapointe was second in 19:34, while Alex Bovill finished third in the time of 20:21.

Lance Watson of LifeSport coaches some of the best ironman athletes in the world including the incredible Brent McMahon. Watson had a race on his hands today as he duked it out with fellow master Chris Fraser. They both run in the 45-49 age-group. Fraser won in the time of 19:24, seven seconds in front of Watson. Randy Humble, in the 50-54 age-group, was the third master. He finished in the time of 19:35.

The first masters female was 55-59 age-group champ Dawn Wilson who finished in the time of 24:42. Emma Rutledge was second and is credited with a 26:17 result, while the third place master was Ursa Hawthorne in 26:20.

Once the awards were presented and cookies and bananas were scarfed, Grant wandered out into the parking lot. While many clamoured into their cars he, with a huff and grunt, jogged on.

There were 220 finishers in the 10K, while there were 285 in the 5K.

MEC Victoria Race Two is another 5K and 10K event. It will be a trail race in the mecca of coastal, suburban running, Thetis Lake, happening Sunday, March 26th.

Full results are available at www.racedaytiming.ca.


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