Friday, May 28, 2010

The Iron Benchmark

No, I'm not thinking about the gum stains on the underside of a bus bench or the heart-shaped carving with T.C.+ L.P. in it, on the log at the beach. I mean benchmarks that we keep for ourselves for future comparison, development, and growth. These are the indicators we use to let us know where we're at, like the marks your mom used to make on the kitchen wall to keep track of your height. In running we keep track of our achievements, sometimes mentally or in a log, to determine if we're as "strong" as we were five years ago, or last year or last month. It's human nature to want to see ones self advancing.

The mistake we sometimes make however, is choosing a moving benchmark. For the runner, it's another runner, one's nemesis. It might be out of fun and comedic rivalry, like it is with the Lazy Trail Runner and I, but few people don't compare themselves. Keeping perspective on all this is the key though. There will always be someone faster, higher, richer, skinnier, or stronger. This is not to say we shouldn't shoot for what we perceive to be the top, it's just about maintaining realistic expectations and not losing sight of the true reasons we're out there.

I have two major benchmarks in my running life: Knee Knacker, which I unfortunately didn't get into this year, and the Iron Knee, a 22km run from Grouse Mountain to Deep Cove. These two annual events stay on the same route year after year and therefore provide me with a comparable tell-tale for the rest of my season. Iron Knee in particular, with it's variety of technical ups and downs, flat turn over stretches and one really large climb, gives me a heap of feedback about the upcoming season and fitness standing. The biggest challenge for me is that it's a local event and I recognize many of the other racers which in turn gets me comparing myself and creating expectations. I like to think I'm out there for me, and I remind myself as I start the race, but when I spot fellow racers , certain ones more than others, I immediately assess my position and often decide to push harder.

When I look back at the Iron benchmark I see...
2007 - 1:56
2008 - 1:52
2009 - 1:51
and this tells me my next natural goal should be to run below 1:50. I have worked at my speed again this year, as well as my hills and I really think, if I don't get wrapped up in other racers, I can do thisl. A smart race for me will be an easy start and an obvious pace change at my predetermined mile marker. Last year, the last three kilometers of this race were incredible for me and that's great, but it tells me I might have picked up my pace earlier on. Now I know.

Not only do benchmarks help us check up on our goals, they help to improve and always aim higher. Wish me luck this weekend. There are a lot of unspoken rivalry's out there that are incredibly well trained this year. Nervous, but excited.


  1. kill it tomorrow buddy. I feel a sub 1:50 is imminent!!!!


  2. 1:49:18! Killed it! Well done mate - you gotta be happy with that!