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

Free Blog Counter
Poker Blog