Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stewart Mountain 10 Miler

December 13, 2008

Stewart Mountain is the smallest of the 3 Thetis races (Thetis relay and Gunner Victoria are the other races), but it still boasts close to over 180 finishers. It is my favorite of the three races largely because it includes a significant climb and a decent amount of single track both of which favour my running style. Probably in no small part because of these factors, I have had pretty good races on my previous 3 tries. This was my final race of the year and I hoped to end the year on with a solid race. I definitely feel that I have been under performing in my races since the RVM 8k so this was my chance to redeem myself.

Conditions were hovering just a few degrees above freezing and there had been some snow at high elevations the night before. Racing in the winter can make it a bit tricky to figure out how to dress properly. There are a few choices to make: shorts or tights; singlet, tank top, short sleeve, or long sleeve; gloves or no gloves, toque or no toque. My experience has been to nearly always wear less than you think you need as at least for me personally I am more likely to feel too hot than too cold even in winter conditions. It was cold though, so I choose a medium weight long sleeve and gloves to go along with shorts. It turned out to be a smart call.

Now if you are still reading after that exciting clothing detour, I will get to the race. This year had a more competitive field than in 2007 with many of the same runners as I have talked about in recent races. The elite men's field included Jason Terauchi-Loutitt, Eric Findlay, and Sean Chester; all of whom are usually faster than me. Sean went out hard off the start line and I wondered if that was the last I would see of him. Within the first km or so, however, his pace decreased and Jason and Eric caught up to him with me trailing in 4th place. Soon, Jason was out of sight and that was the last I would see of him. I was was perhaps 10 seconds behind Sean when we turned away from Upper Thetis onto a single track trail (the map is found here for your reference). A couple of hundred meters in, I saw Sean slip around a corner and go down. Fortunately, he was uninjured and was back on his feet in no time. You can bet that I was careful around that corner!

Sean must have been feeling off since I was able to keep right on his tail which is unusual since he has definitely been a stronger runner than me recently. Seeing that he was so close, my strategy was going to be hang on his tail until the climb at the halfway point. Form my experience, I have generally been the stronger climber so I hoped to put some time into him there and then hold on for the return trip. To Sean's disadvantage, it turns out I would not have to follow this strategy. After wading through a knee deep swampy area (which completely numbed the legs and feet) followed by a creek, we hit an intersection where the course went left. At this point, I was just out of visual range, but expected to see him once I turned the corner. Upon doing so, however, I found the trail in front me empty. I was taken back a bit because I thought for a second that he had somehow put some serious time on me, but I soon realized that this was not possible and he must of taken a wrong turn. This was a bit of a break for me and I didn't see him again. I've taken a few wrong turns in past races and it is a frustrating experience that not only loses you time, but also hampers your motivation to push hard for the remainder of the race.

After that, I found myself alone, but fortunately I was feeling pretty good and was able to cruise along at a good pace. The course moved off the single track and onto a double track which soon had a mild climb up to the the loop section of the course. The course was basically flat until we arrived at the start of the climb. For those who have done this race or ran in this area, you know that while it is not that long (about 180m elevation gain) this climb is a tough one. The first part is a a double track and has a very steep pitch that brought me to a slow jog. I hate to hike if I can help as it seems like a bit if a defeat so I will try my darnedest to run everything even if it might not be an advantage. There is a bit of a break in the middle of the climb, but the last bit of single track up the the summit is punishing. The race director to played a bit of a joke on newbies to this race by placing a "Stewart Mountain, 3 Miles Ahead" sign just a few hundred meters from the summit. Just as I started final ascent, I got my final glace of Eric who was just summiting.

Nearing the Summit of Stewart Mountain Photo credit: Garth Campbell

At that point I thought that I had a chance to catch Eric if I could have a strong second half and he let up a bit. With this in mind, I pushed as hard as I safely could on the decent and tried to make good time. Unfortunately, after a few km, he was nowhere in sight and it was becoming unlikely that I would reel him in. Still, for the first time in several races, I felt like I had energy to push during the last quarter of the race which felt great. The remainder of the race was uneventful and I sprinted into the finish line for 3rd place in 1:06:53. This was 1:13 faster than my 2007 time although they may not be exactly comparable since the final route to the summit was different (and probably a little shorter time wise). However, we did not have to run the swamp last year so that would have taken a little longer. In any case, I was pleased with my race overall. Jason ended up smoking the course in 1:02:21 while Eric must have had a great race taking second in 1:04:07. Kirk McNally and Kevin Searle ran well to finish out the top 5. On the woman's side, Nicole Akeroyd took top spot in 1:18:30. Many other Harriers also performed well with 11 of the top 20 spots going to club members. While Sonja didn't have as good of race as she would have liked, she did take 5 minutes off her 2007 time. Results are here.

My next race is the Pioneer 8k on Jan 11 so I get a bit of a break from racing. Happy holidays to everyone! I'll be back blogging in the new year.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gunner Shaw 10K, Vancouver

December 6, 2008

The Stewart Mountain race is tomorrow so I decided that I better get this race report completed before then. I do most of my races on Vancouver Island for practical reasons, but there are a ton of great races over in the Vancouver area which are great to do for a change of pace. Getting to this particular race was actually quite easy as Bob Reid kindly organized two vehicles to head over specifically for this race.

For those who don't know, both this race and the race I participated in last weekend in Victoria are named in honour of Bruce 'Gunner' Shaw who died in car accident in1984. I of course never knew the man, but he was quite a running legend in Victoria back in the 70's and 80's. It sounds like he was great competitor and a pleasure to know.

We met up with the other Harriers at 6am and headed north to catch the ferry to Vancouver. A number of people that I often see on Tue night training where there along with some new faces. The contingent consisted of a large range of ages and running abilities. That is the great thing about running, we may all come from different generations and backgrounds, but we all share the same passion.

Some of my fellow Harriers

The race is held at Jericho Beach in West Vancouver. I'd never actually been there so it was a nice to see a new local. We arrived over 1.5 hours early so we had plenty of time to prepare. It was a wet day, but temperatures were good for racing. A few of the Harriers who had come over on previous years showed us some of the course during a 15 min warm up. I have not raced too many true Cross Country races as this one is billed as. They generally don't appeal to me since they usually consist of non-technical grass and trail surfaces and two or more laps of the same course. If I'm not going to be running on the road, I prefer some hills and single track as this better suits my strengths and is more interesting. However, Gunner Vancouver is a definitely more of a 'real' cross country race. The course is still a two lap race with little elevation change (only two very small hills), but it did contain a large number of surfaces including grass, sand, mud, water, dirt, and gravel.

Most of the Harriers where wearing red club singlets so we definitely looks like a team while standing at the start line. As usual I assessed my competition although this was a more difficult task since I don't know most of the runners from the mainland. Nick Best had come over with us and I knew that we would likely run very well, especially now since he has been training with Jon Brown, a two time Olympian in the marathon (and a 4th place finisher in both). Also in attendance was Brad Cunningham who had just edged me out last week that the Victoria Gunner. There were also a couple of other racers who looked liked they could be fast runners, but appearance can often be deceiving. My race strategy was to try to run close to Brad and I know that he generally paces himself well and has run this course before. I was hoping to have a solid race as I felt the that any lingering effects from my cold should be gone and my training recently has generally been pretty consistent. I have even set a few best times in the last couple of months on some routes that I train on so I knew that my fitness level was at least good as earlier in the year.

The first km of the race was on grass, then course turned onto the beach where we had to run a few hundred meters on lose sand. This was very tough as so much energy is wasted with each step that it is worse than running up a pretty steep incline. After that, we were back on the grass, then some mud and a little hill, some trail, down a slope, some gravel trail, then shallow water, and some more trail. Near the end of the first lap, I was in the front pack with Nick, Brad, and two other guys name of Patrick Goeres and Kevin O'Connor and I thought things were going pretty well. Soon though Patrick and Nick began to pull away a bit and that left Brad, Kevin and I to battle it out. I was feeling fairly good until the beach which hurt at least twice as much the second time around. I fell back a few strides, but did make it back up once we hit the grass again. I was right behind both of them when we hit the downhill slope, it was pretty slick and I slipped a bit near the top, but managed to recover. I thought I was home free, but on the last stride of the hill, my foot sank into a boggy area and before I knew it I was down. It was a very minor fall, but as I mentioned in my relay report, it was an interruption which threw my rhythm off a little. It also allow Brad and Kevin to get a few strides I me which in the end I was unable to get back. I normally try to finish the last km of a race at a least the same pace as my average, but on this day I just didn't have it. I lost about 40 sec on the second lap compared to the first and while not a total disaster, this just wasn't a great race for me. I finished in 5th place in 36:12. Part of the reason for my lack of energy might have been my lack of sleep the night before (less than 5 hours) and earlier in the week, but that is only speculation.

Patrick ended out edging Nick by a few seconds for the win just over a minute ahead of me. Of note is that the in the competition between the Harriers and Lions Gate Road Runners we picked up the open woman's and master's trophies thanks to some strong performances from our members. Unfortunately, We were narrowly edged out of the open men's title. Results are here. Even though I didn't perform as well as I would have liked, it was still a fun day and it was nice to try a new race in a new venue. I would definitely recommend it and they even had pizza after the race!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Gunner Shaw 10K, Victoria

November 29, 2008

First of all I would like to thank Bob Reid, treasurer of the Prairie Inn Harriers, for his dedication to setting up and promoting this event. Coordinating a race is a lot more work than many many think and Bob is fully dedicated to constantly putting on a great event and his efforts should get the recognition they deserve. Thanks also to all the volunteers who helped before, during, and after the race.

This was the fourth consecutive year that I ran this race. I have never felt that I have run a really good race on this course although none have been disasters either. I have not been able to pinpoint why I have not been able to have a good race, but this year I had hoped to end the string of mediocre performances. However, some sub-microscopic infectious agents had another idea. That is to say that 3 days before the race, I got a cold. Everyone hates getting sick, but I find it even worse since I became an athlete because doing strenuous exercise becomes nearly impossible and training schedules and racing performance suffers. At least I was over the worst part of the cold before it was time to race, but I suspected that it wasn't going to be a peak performance for me.

Much like the Bear Mountain and Thetis relays from a few weeks ago, the Gunner Shaw tends to bring out a strong field of athletes and many of the same faces as those races. As usual, line-ups and the porta-potties were horrendous so I spent about 20min in line and missed my chance to warm up. Luckily, I've never really found it makes a difference in my performance so wasn't too concerned that it would play a factor. Soon enough the 400+ races lined up on road and off we went. The rush off the front was even more brisk than usual and I nearly got knocked over by some eager racers. I can understand people's excitement, but this was a 10k race, not a 200m sprint. Luckily, the majority of this race (and pretty much all of the first 4km) was wide and had plenty of room to pass.

Due to the lingering effects of my cold I thought it was likely that I would not be able to perform at 100% so I decided to try to go out a little easier than usual. At the half way mark, if I was feeling strong I could always push to the finish and still end up doing well. And in the more likely scenario that I wasn't feeling super strong my more conservative pacing would hopefully allow me to hold on and survive the race without losing positions. With this plan in mind I soon found myself in 9th place with Shawn Nelson, Brad Cunningham, Eric Findlay, and Kelly Guest all within sight ahead of me in a little pack. I had the urge to pick the pace up and close the gap with them since I felt that my pace wasn't all that fast. I resisted the urge, however, as I knew that might be a foolish move. My legs were feeling pretty good, but I was lacking energy. I just didn't have my normal ability to push really hard and felt a bit sluggish. There was a turn around a couple of km in and it was great to hear all the support from fellow Harriers and racers as they passed in the other direction. I'm not a huge fan of the out and back, but seeing the other racers who are little ways back is a nice side effect. Around the 4km mark, managed to catch up to and pass Shawn.

Soon enough the one steep (but short) climb of the race came and then after it, the infamous puddle. Apparently, in the 1980's, this 'puddle' was chest deep which would have been quite the adventure! Unfortunately, over the years it has been gradually filled in and this year it was only ankle deep (although still quite long). Not too far after the puddle another runner caught up to me. I heard him coming and thought that it was probably Shawn putting on a surge, but it ended up being another guy I do not know. I let him pass, but kept on his tail as it didn't look like he was about to go that fast. He had a bit of an unusual racing style and he push really hard on up the hills, but then was relatively slow on the downhills and he was actually hindering my downhill speed a bit since I couldn't pass on this single track section. After the race, this guy told me that he doesn't run! That's probably not quite true, but for someone who doesn't run much his performance was impressive although it probably does explain his tentativeness on the downhills. I kept right on him and passed him back after a km or two. There was a small section of single track that had traffic still coming up to to the loop that I had just completed and it was bit crazy dodging the oncoming traffic. Hopefully I didn't freak out too many runners bombing straight down some rock bluffs!

Hitting the puddle! Photo credit: Adam Lawrence

The last couple of km of the race were back on the wide trails and I felt good enough to keep my pace. After a bit I heard the pounding of feet behind me and wondering who would be putting on such a push at this point. All of the sudden Kelly Guest went blasting by me. I was a bit surprised since the last I had seen of him, he was solidly ahead of me. "What happened to you?" I exclaimed. "Took a wrong turn" was the quick reply. I would have liked to be able to match his pace, but even though I wasn't feeling terrible, I just didn't have the energy to keep up with him. I also noticed that Shawn had also picked up the pace a bit and wasn't far behind. I kicked it up a bit and decided that I would try my hardest to maintain my placing. I sprinted the final 50 meters even though I was not close enough to the next runner (Brad) to catch him I still prefer to go hard at the end if I can. I finished in 39:28 for 8th place. Not too bad considering my condition and I was happy with my race strategy. Scott Simpson won in a convincing 35:31 and Lucy Smith took home the woman's title just getting passed at the line by Todd Nowack who ran a smart race. Results are here.

Sprinting to the finish! Photo credit: Tony Austin

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bear Mountain 10K

November 15, 2008

I was not planning on doing this race, but thought that since Asics is a sponsor it would probably be a good idea to run it. The race takes place on the paved cart paths around Bear Mountain Golf Course. Based on the course description and what I heard from others, I knew this was a hilly course; exactly how hilly I found out soon enough.

Sonja and I arrived to some drizzle, but otherwise good temperate race conditions. This race brings out a somewhat different group of runners than many of the other events I compete in. I still knew a number of people there, but not as many as some other local races. Based on previous results, I expected a strong men's field and when I spotted Kelly Guest, Eric Findlay, Nick Walker, and Sean Chester I knew there was going to be some serious competition. Some modest prize money does boost the level of entrants.

I choose to wear a long sleeve shirt, cap, and gloves all of which I would come to not need at all since the weather got progressively warmer as the race went on. Luckily, I don't feel that the overdressing hampered my performance. After a brief warm up, I was more or less ready to go. The first kilometer of the course didn't include any big climbs although it certainly was not flat. Around the 2km mark the first of three whimsically named hills started. This was was called "Papa Bear" and consisted of about 1.5 km of steady climbing. It was not insane, but definitely still a challenge. I was feeling pretty good at that point and since hills are one of my strengths, I thought this was a good chance to make gain time on some of the field. I was in 4th place for most of the climb even briefly moving into 3rd behind Ryan Day and Jason Terauchi-Loutitt. As it turns out I may have gone out a little hard, but at the time it seemed to be a sustainable pace.

After a bit of a break with some downhill I soon found out that while there are only three named hills, there are many many others that are not named. There is little that I would consider to be flat in this course and even the downhills were often not that comfortable with many being steep and/or having tricky corners to navigate. I continued to feel fairly good until about the halfway mark when things started to get tough. Races always get hard in the second half, but I was feeling a little worse that I had hoped at this point in the race. I concentrated on trying to keep a even effort and hoped to hold on to a decent pace for the remainder of the race. Unfortunately, tracking your pace on such a race was difficult because of the terrain. My pace varied from 3:20 to 4:15 per km so it was difficult to know if I was slowing down or not. Sean Chester passed me around 5km and while I held on not far behind for a while he gradually slipped away. A few km later Kelly Guest passed me and I didn't have enough to respond in any meaningful way. Getting passed is always difficult psychologically and I much prefer to be the one doing the passing, but the reality is that it happens to everyone at one time or another.

I struggled up "Mama Bear" Hill, but I could honestly barley distinguish this from the other numerous hills. I knew by about 6 km that this certainly wasn't going to be a great race, but I hoped that I could prevent it from being a disaster. Eric Findlay caught up to me with less than 2km to go and I did manage to match his pace for a while before he pulled ahead. The final "Baby Bear" hill wasn't really that bad, but coming only a half km from the finish line, it felt tough. Nick Walker passed me up the hill and I just didn't have enough to respond, but at least the hill didn't totally stop me in my tracks, but I wish I had had something left. I crossed the finish in 36:57, less than 1 minute behind Sean, Kelly, Eric, and Nick and more than 3 min off my personal best 10k time. I'm pretty sure that if I felt better and run a little smarter, I could have been more competitive in that group. On the plus side, I did manage to inadvertently run my race number. My bib was "8" and I placed 8th overall.

Ryan Day ended up winning in a solid 34:38 (for this course), with out of towner Rob Mandje taking second and Jason Terauchi-Loutitt
picking up third. Fellow PIH member Kevin Searle raced very well, coming in 9th behind me and handily winning the Masters title. Gary Duncan dominated his age category coming in a 40:43 and Sonja had a great race picking up 5th overall in the woman's race (and winning a bit of money for the effort). Final results can be found here.
You can see a shot of my struggles here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thetis 20K Relay

November 11, 2008

The Thetis 20k relay is the first of a series of 3 races hosted by the Prairie Inn Harriers (PIH) that take place at Thetis Lake Regional Park. The Gunner Shaw 10k is on Nov 29th and the Stewart Mountain 10 Mile takes place on Dec 13th. The relay is a fun event that attracts a large number of racers every year and a deep talent pool (this year it sold out at 600 racers and probably a dozen or so runners capable of sub 35min 10k times). The race is very low key and there are no race numbers and teams time themselves, but that certainly does not dampen the enjoyment.

Due to a mis-communication, it turned out that I was not on the original team that I thought I was going to be on. Therefore, I arrived early to see if I could join with another team who might be looking for a member. I ended up joining a team with Bruce Martell, Jason Terauchi-Loutitt and captain Hicham Elamiri. It was a solid team and Jason in particlar is a speed demon who turned in a 1:09:00 Comox Valley Half Marathon earlier this year. Michael Lord was originally also on the team, but was also running for another team so he graciously allowed me to join Hicham's team. The weather was cool and there was a small amount of drizzle, just enough to get everything nice and muddy. Why I chose to wear a white shirt, I'm not sure since it sure didn't stay that way.

Unfortunately while joining my new team I failed to find out what leg I was going to be running. When I finally found them again with only about 3 min to go before race start, I found out that I would be running the first lap! Despite the fact that I had not done a warm up and was still wearing pants and jacket I said, "OK, why not," and managed to pull off my outer layers and lined up on the start line. Soon enough we were off at a brisk clip. Within the first few hundred meters I found myself in 6th place. The pace was hard, but within what I believed I could sustain for the approx 5km course around upper Thetis Lake. By about the halfway mark I had passed one runner and managed to catch a group of 3 runners who were chasing the leader, Kris Swanson who had gone out very fast and was out of site. I was feeling pretty good that I had closed the gap on these racers and had even pulled into 4th place when we came to the bridge at the northwest end of Upper Thetis Lake. I must have been concentrating too hard on other racers because before I had any idea what had gone wrong, I was skidding on my side down the bridge at full speed. I slid right to the end and hopped to my feet. It might have looked cool had I intended to initiate such a slide. Luckily I felt that I had escaped any major injuries and didn't lose much time or my place. Unfortunately, any crashes during a race still end up having a detrimental effect on the remainder of the race. Typically you get a bit of a shot of adrenaline from going down, but this only lasts a short time and then dissipates and soon everything feels much harder than before. Also I find that when working so hard during a race any interruption (like a fall) kills your rhythm and hurts performance. Needless to say the last 2km of the race really hurt. Luckily I managed to hang on at a decent pace and actually passed the 3rd place guy. However, Stefan Jakobsen in 2nd place pulled away and I just didn't have enough in me to keep up. I pulled into the transition zone in 3rd place at 17:12 (4 sec faster than my time last year) and handed off to Bruce. Hicham went third and Jason ran anchor. The other 3 ran clean races and we posted a total time of 1:10:28, good enough for 4th place overall (and 4th place in our category). The winner was a team of two Kris Swanson and Scott Simpson who each ran two laps in about 16min each and posted a blistering total time of 1:04:10. Second place went to Frontrunners Westshore and third to the National Triathlon Centre team. Final results are here.

It was great to see so many other runners out for this event. I really enjoy the positive camaraderie in the running community here. Everyone likes to run fast and win, but there is little arrogance to be found. I hope that PIH continues to host this relay and that other local relays will take place as they are a fun alternative to a traditional race.

Enjoying a nice dip in Thetis Lake after the race - photo credit: Adam Lawrence

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Royal Victoria Marathon 8K

October 12, 2008

The Royal Victoria Marathon is the largest running event in Victoria and between the 3 races (marathon, half marathon, and 8k road race) it attracts over 10,000 participants. It is always exciting when it comes around each year and since it is such a large event I always know quite a few runners competing in each of the 3 distances. It is great to be able to cheer them on and later compare races and achievements (and sometimes disappointments). I've twice competed in the half at this event and the full two years ago. This year I decided to try the 8k as something a little different. As it turned out this was probably a good thing as I have been battling a strained hip from the MOMAR and while it is nothing serious, running a half probably would not have helped it heal.

Due to the hip and a mild cold I picked up a few days before the race, I had some doubts about my ability to run a good race. My basic goal was to run a PB at the 8K distance (which would have been anything under 27:16), but I really wanted to run under 27min and maybe even under 26:30 if I had a exceptional day.

The race starts at the rather early time of 7:30, which meant that Sonja (who was also running the 8K) and I had to get up in the dark at 6am. I personally would prefer it if races didn't start so early, but fortunately an early start doesn't seem to affect my performance. Once we arrived at race central with what we thought was sufficient time we found huge lines at the porta-potties across from the gear check. There were other facilities near the start lines for the various races, but it didn't seem logical to run over to them then have to run back to check our gear (and based on the length of the lines other races were also thinking the same thing). We spent 15min in the line, then rushed to pull off our extra layers and headed over to the start line. It was cool, but not frigid, not windy, overcast but dry - in essence perfect racing weather. There was no time for a warm up, and I hardly had time to make my way to the front of the pack before we were off.

All races always start fast and this is true even more for short races so it was not a surprise to me that a decent sized group bombed off the start line. I went out at what I felt was a good pace. The first kilometer was 8 seconds faster than my goal pace of 3:21 which is not that fast considering all the adrenaline that is pumping around at the start of any race. I throttled back a bit and hit the next 3km all exactly at 3:24 pace - I felt good and I was running at a sustainable pace even if it was a couple of seconds off my goal pace. After the first km, I estimate that I was in about 20th place as a there was a handful of really fast runners who blew off the front (Ryan McKenzie, Scott Simpson, Simon Whitfield, Kristopher Swanson plus a few more) and then a chase pack of perhaps 10 or so runners who were not that far ahead of me. I passed a couple of these runners after they fell off the back of that pack before the half way point. Gradually that chase pack began to splinter and I manged to pick off several more between 4-6km as some guys struggled to stay on pace and at least one totally hit the wall or was forced to pull up due to injury. I managed to pick my pace up a bit for the fifth and sixth km with the assistance of a gradual downhill. My slowest km was my 7th, but I think it was less because I was not able to keep the pace (although things were getting tougher), but more because I pulled back a little bit so that I could hammer out a fast final km. I hit the final km marker with 2 young guys a few seconds ahead of me and a couple more not far behind. I managed to pass one of the guys and then we came to a marshaled intersection, the guy still in front of me turned right and I not remembering the route exactly assumed he was correct and started to follow. Finally noticing that we were going the wrong way, the marshal shouted "This Way!" while pointing the route straight ahead. Thankfully, it only cost me a second or two, but the guy in front wasn't as lucky and had to turn around losing at least two positions. I could hear the sound of feet from behind me and knew that at least one or two guys were trying hard to catch up. There was no one in sight in front of me though so I just concentrated hard on keeping my legs moving. As long as I could make it to the final stretch without someone catching me, I thought I could probably put on a surge that would keep me ahead. I waited until I hit the first mat about 150m from the finish which sends the racer info from our timing chips to the announcer booth and then gunned it hitting the line in 26:45. It was a good time for me, well under my 27min goal and not far from my best case scenario. I was also pleased with my race strategy which saw me go from around 20th near the start of the race to 10th overall (and 3rd in my age group) at the end while also not getting passed after the initial position juggling.

Running the 8k also has some other advantages because it is over so soon you can watch the half marathon and marathon finishers come in as well. I will admit that watching some of the marathoners stagger to the finish line is somehow compelling although I do feel guilty about taking a measure of pleasure in others' pain. I did notice that many of the top 10 women looked a lot better at the finish than the men going at the same pace. Perhaps the woman race smarter and can pace themselves better?

There were many great performances on the day with Sonja, Garth, and Chris Callendar running 8k PBs; Nick Best laying down a fantastic 1:14:05 PB half; Simon Pearson and Craig Payne battling neck and neck in to finish solid half's, Gary Duncan getting ever so close to a under 3 hour marathon (and setting a PB); Cammie Bentham running under 3:30 in her first marathon in over 10 years; and many more excellent performances. It was also great to see fellow blogger Brad Cunningham come over from the mainland to run the 8km. His time of 27:26 was amazing considering he only recently got back to running after breaking a bone in his foot in the summer. Final results for all three races can be found here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Cumberland MOMAR Race Report

September 27, 2008

I partly credit the Mind Over Mountain adventure race series for getting me into endurance sports. I had dabbled in running a bit in high school track, but was never too serious. It was my desire to participate in an adventure race that promoted me to get into better shape and started me down this road which I now love so much. While pure running may be my strength and what I love the most, these sprint adventure races add some great variety to my race season and I always look forward to them.

Once I looked at the huge registered racer list and saw the level of competitors that would be out for this race I knew we would have to race well to have a chance of being on the podium. Here is how it played out.

Stage 1: Kayak

The race started in the water with a mass start. Over 150 boats lined up in behind the imaginary line, eager to get going. These starts are always a little chaotic, with boats hitting each other and paddles hitting things other than water. Luckily, after a few minutes things calm down as the boats spread out. As soon as the race started, the wind picked up which made the first leg more difficult. Although we didn't see any boats go over, we later heard that quite a number of racers took an unexpected swim along the way. The kayak stage is always my least favorite part of the MOMARs and after about 10 minutes, all I was thinking was "Are we almost there?" I suppose it doesn't help that neither Garth nor I kayak outside of these races so it always feels like an unpleasant grind. One reason I dislike this stage so much is that the kayak's speed hardly seems to change, even when we try to dig deep. Despite our dislike for this stage, we tried hard to keep our speed consistent and actually managed to pick up our pace a little bit for the last 10 minutes passing a couple of boats. The map said the stage was 9km, but I really think it was a little longer as it took us 1:05 to complete the course. We ended up being the 15th team to the first transition, which really isn't that bad considering our complete lack of specific training.

Stage 2: Orienteering

Thankfully finally out of the kayak, we punched the first checkpoint and picked up the next map. It was an orienteering stage in the area very close to the start line. I took a moment to get my bearings then we moved out. I was planning to get a checkpoint a small distance up a trail, then backtrack and pick up another trail just up the road. After a very short run, I had us head up what I thought was the appropriate trail, but the trail soon didn't seem to match with the map and I realized that we were actually on the second trail, damn! A mistake on the first real checkpoint didn't bode well for this race. The problem was that the map was a larger scale than I had expected which made me miss the first trail. It is important not to dwell on any mistake in these races though and just refocus and move on. We picked up the next few checkpoints with little issues and then moved on to the west part of the course where there were a couple of checkpoints that were only reachable by a single trail. Normally this would have been fine, but over 200 racers were rushing all over the course by this point and the trails turned into a human traffic jam. There was just no quick way to go anywhere; it was really quite frustrating. The crowds also mostly defeated the purpose of this orienteering stage as the checkpoints became pretty obvious when a train of people were heading for it. It kind of reminded me of ants going for a chunk of cheese! Eventually we made it out of the crowd and headed for the last checkpoint on the beach. Unfortunately, I again misjudged where we were on the map forcing us to backtrack for a short distance. I mentally kicked myself for making such rookie mistakes, but at least we were done. Definitely not a clean stage, but at least not a disaster.

Stage 3: Mountain Bike #1

As usual we had a very quick transition to our bikes. Garth and I both use flat pedals rather than clipless. We lose some efficiency on the flats and climbs, but gain time by not having to change shoes. Our strategy has elicited some flack from other racers who think that we are losing time, but on a race of this length I still think we may end up ahead. The stage started with a few km on paved road and a flat rail grade. We passed one co-ed team of two and caught up to Jeremy Grasby. He was just waiting for a team to draft on the flat sections because he was riding a single speed! He actually ended up pulling ahead, but I thought we would catch him on the climb when he was forced to hike the steep hills. Little did I know what level of rider he was and he not only beat us up the climbs and the subsequent downhills, he also repaired a flat and still managed to beat us! Pretty impressive. The first single track climb was frustrating for me as the roots and rocks bounced my bike all over the place, I just couldn't get any momentum going. Garth fared better and had to wait for me a couple of times. Fortunately, soon enough we made it to a logging road. This is where the climb began in earnest and several sections necessitated shifting into the granny gear. We passed John Barron and Tom Jarecki of Team Night Hawk Playing Hookey and Roger MacLeod on our way up, but had to work to do it. Finally we hit the top and started the decent on the Bear Buns trail. This trail turned out to be very rough and punishing on the body. My hands ached from constant application of the breaks and it was unrelenting. Garth and I were able to ride pretty much all of the trail, but it was at the upper limit of our abilities. The next trail, Teacup, was much smoother and was pretty fun. On the final section of single track before the next transition, I heard a crash behind me and Garth swearing. This is never a good sign so I called back asking him if he was OK. The reply was "I just went over the handle bars and landed on my head, but go go go!" Fortunately no permanent damage was done.

Stage 4: Navigation Trek

We soon hit checkpoint #7 where we dropped our bikes and got the 3rd map of the race. We were encouraged to see that there were fewer than 10 bikes there. This most likely meant that if we could have a clean trek we would likely place decently. As soon as I looked at the map, I realized that the trek encompassed a fairly wide area and we would have to climb back up to the same elevation we were just at on the bike. That was actually good for us as we are both pretty good climbers and runners. I picked a route and we were off picking up the checkpoints along the way. The navigation was actually pretty straight forward as all the checkpoint were on or near trails. The climb was significant, but not insane and soon we were headed back down. On the final trail back to the transition, I noticed that Garth was starting to hurt. He was suffering from a minor bonk most likely caused by not taking in enough energy. He took in some more calories which helped him recover after a short time. The stage took us 1:15 which turned out the be 3rd fastest overall.

Stage 5: Mountain Bike #2

We hit the transition back to the bike at the same time as Jeremy. Although his official trek time was slightly faster than ours I think we made up some time on our quick transitions. The last bike stage was short only lasting 15 min or so. Partway along the course, I asked Garth what position he thought were in. "Top 10, maybe" was the answer. I was more optimistic, thinking maybe we were in the top 5. No sooner had I said that than we hit the next manned checkpoint and the volunteer there told us that were were in 4th place. Wow, way better than we had thought! News like that always helps to give a little boost late in the race.

Stage 6: Urban Navigation

In under 16 min we hit the final transition in Cumberland, dropped our bikes and picked up the last map. Three more quick checkpoints to get and then to the finish line. As we ran up to get two checkpoints on the main street, we saw John Markez coming up from the other checkpoints. "Damn", I thought, he already has that one, we will not be able to catch him. We found the two quickly and with John just behind us headed over to get the last one. I was surprised to find that he followed us when we turned off the main street rather than continue to the finish line. Apparently he had been unable to find the checkpoint on his first visit so had to go back. The checkpoint was hidden in some brush and I didn't see it right away and ran past it. Garth spotted it soon though and we punched in before John. A quick hop up to the next street and we were at the finish line placing 3rd overall (2nd team of two men) and only a minute and a half behind Jeremy. We were quite happy with the result considering the competitive field and it capped off our best ever MOMAR season never placing worse than 4th. As mentioned in my last post Gary Robbins and Todd Nowack crushed the field posting the fastest time in 4 of the 6 stages. A very strong DART-nuun team of 4 (Norm Hann Ryan VanGorder, Jen Segger, Tom Roozandaal) placed 5th and Roger MacLeod placed 6th. Final results are posted here. It was great to see a lot of other fellow Prairie Inn Harriers runners and triathletes come out and tackle this course. Sonja and her race partner Joelle McCartie may not have had their best race, but did pick up all the checkpoints and finished well inside the cutoff time. Thanks to Bryan for setting up a great new course and putting on another well run event. If you want Bryan, you can add in some more running:-) Now we have the winter to figure out how to gain 30 min so we can give Gary and Todd some competition!

Garth and I before the race

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cumberland MOMAR

I just got back from up island today after racing in the final Mind Over Mountain Adventure Race (MOMAR) of the season in Cumberland. The race boasted a 45km redesigned course with a total of 6 stages of kayaking, mountain biking, and trekking. A large and competitive field came out to test their stamina and skills in weather that was perfect for racing. Gary Robbins and Todd Nowack of team Helly Hansen / MOMAR were the favorites going into this race with 5 overall wins out of 6 tries when racing together. They didn't disappoint, dominating the field and winning by nearly 30 min over the 2nd place team. Garth Campbell and I of team PIT (Pain is Temporary) made some navigational errors, but overall had a solid race, coming in 3rd place overall. Check back soon as I'll have a full race report up in a couple of days.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Land End Half Marathon

September 14, 2008

Racing this half was one of those last minute decisions. I had actually thought that this race was the weekend before as that was when it was last year and since I was just returning from vacation, I expected to give it a miss. When I finally did decide race it, I couldn’t decide on whether to do the half or the accompanying 10k. Unlike the hilly half course, the 10k is relatively flat which allowed me to break 35 min last year when I ran it. I hadn’t completed a road half since last fall however so that did add some incentive to give it a try. Another ego driven reason to attempt the half was that I wasn’t sure I was currently capable of beating my 10k time even on the flat course. By doing the half I could justify a slower than personal best by blaming the challenging terrain. If I did the 10k, I would have no excuse. Ultimately, I didn’t actually decide until the morning of the race that I would go for the half.

My girlfriend, Sonja, and I got up at 7am and got on the road. We picked up to fellow Prairie Inn Harriers' members, Julie and Charlene and headed out to North Saanich. Sonja would run the 10k, while Julie and Charlene were also doing the half. Once there, I quickly signed up for the race and got into my race gear. The weather was sunny and was expected to get fairly warm, although I hoped not too hot. I always enjoy going to these races, as there was always a good number of fellow racers to socialize with. It is a guarantee that at least a few other Harriers members will be there in addition to other individuals that I have come to know from the racing circuit. I was told that several very fast runners where going to compete in the 10k (David Jackson, Scott Simpson), but I didn’t know what the half field was like until the race started. At the start line, I saw fellow Harrier, Nick Best, whom I knew would run a fast race. I also heard a runner I hadn’t seen before (Ian Druce), say that I he wanted to run a 1:12. At that point, I knew who would win the race.

The start came soon enough, and as I had predicted, the frontrunners took off at a fast pace. I had decided to try to not go out too fast as the first few kms are slightly downhill. Despite this, the first km went by in 3:14 well ahead of my goal pace of 3:39 (to equal my PB of just under 1:17). At this point, I decided to throttle down a bit and settled comfortably into 5th place behind Ian, Nick, Phil Nicholls, and Cheryl Murphy. I was determined to run my own race at least for the first half. The first few kms went by quickly all under my goal pace, but I was not too worried since they were downhill. The hills start around 4.5km and there my times started to slow, but I kept myself under control and purposely did not push too hard as to not wear myself out for later. The runners in front of me were slowly pulling away, but I was not worried at this point. The steepest climb occurs at km 9 where I recorded my slowest km of 3:57. After that, things leveled out for a while. At about 13km, I assessed my fatigue level. I was working hard, but within myself and still felt pretty strong. Phil and Cheryl had at least a 30s gap on me at this point and I decided that this was the time for me to see if I could close that gap. I picked up my pace and saw a km pass in 3:26. After about 2km I had closed the gap and managed pull in behind them. I tucked in and gave myself a little breather for a few minutes before I took the lead and tried to pull a little ahead. I think my appearance was a bit of a surprise to them, since I heard Phil say, “Where did he come from?” as I took the lead. Passing people always gives a little adrenaline boost so I used that to help me gain a small lead. However, with about 5k to go on a downhill section (which has never been my strength on a road race) they picked up the pace and caught me again. We proceeded to swap the lead for another km or so until the slight uphill grade where I was able to pull a little ahead. With 4km to go, I still thought I might be able to catch Nick, who was in second place. He had gone out hard and I thought that he was probably hurting at that point. I increased my turnover, but ultimately was not able to speed up all that much. Also, I couldn’t see how far he was ahead as runners from the 10k and early start half were obscuring my view. After a km, I realized that I would have to settle for third and concentrated on keeping a decent pace and not getting caught. The last few kms are always tough, but I struggled through at a reasonable pace, crossing the finish in 1:17:16, 18s behind my PB from the RVM Half last fall. I would have liked to do a little better and set a PB on this more difficult course, but I’m rarely totally satisfied with my races – I always want to do better. Final results can be found here: 10k, half. On to my next race, the Cumberland Mind Over Mountain Adventure Race on Sept 27th.

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