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.

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