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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