Thursday, December 10, 2009

Gunner Shaw 10K, Vancouver

December 5, 2009

A big thanks to Bob Reid, who again organized a large group of Harriers to head over to the race at Jericho Beach. I'm going to keep this report somewhat short so you can read some background on the race from my report last year if you are interested.

The conditions this year were quite different than last year which was very wet. This time it was cold and the ground was frozen. The puddle was removed from the course because it was frozen and was too risky to run on. It was quite sunny, however, so by the time the race started it was quite comfortable and many (including myself) just ran in a singlet. I had hoped to utilize my newly acquired spikes on this course as there are a couple of slippery areas. However, my heel was still too tender to give them a try so I went back to my trusty Brooks Cascadias.

The Harriers had brought over pretty deep field including Sean Chester, Nick Best, and two visiting Kenyans: Nixon Kiprotich and Willy Langat so I knew that it would be a fast race. I also expected that there would be a couple of Vancouver guys that would place well. I wasn't concerned about placement though as my goal was to simply better my time from last year. I figured this wasn't unreasonable at all considering last years race was mediocre for me.

The Prairie Inn Harriers Team (mostly in red). Photo Credit: Linda Wong

I positioned myself near the front of the field of around 200 racers in a place where I thought I would go out in the top 10. However, when the race started the runners (some of who were doing a single 5km loop) took off like a shot and I found myself well back from the leaders in perhaps 25 place or so. Not only was I too far back, I was also was boxed in for the first few hundred meters and found myself fighting for position. This was a bit frustrating since I knew that I was faster than most of these guys and should have been further up. I lost a bit of time doing this, but fortunately it wasn't too long before I was able to pass most of these quick starters. Within the first 2 km I had moved into 6th place and was feeling pretty good. I saw another runner ahead who ended up being a guy named Jordan Maywood and I was able to bridge the gap to him. I thought that since I was able to catch him fairly easily, I would be able to drop him before too long. I've got to give Jordan a lot of credit though as I attacked on at least 6 occasions, but he refused to budge.

Last year there were some really muddy sections that were tricky to navigate without spikes and while this year it was better I still had to be careful in a couple of areas. We went through the first lap in 16:55 and I was still feeling solid despite working hard. The course has a section on sand and this year the sand portion had been lengthened by a couple of hundred meters. Last year the sand really killed me on the second lap, but things felt better this year around. The 4 leaders (Nixon, Nick, Sean, and Willy) were quite far ahead by this point. I ran strong during the second lap, but it was as usual taxing. Near the end of the loop there is a small section of trail with some puddles and mud. Jordan was just ahead of me moving into that section and with his spikes he was able to power through it quickly. He also put on a good surge which I was just not able to counter well enough. He hit the line 9 seconds ahead of my 6th place 34:21. I ended up being 1:42 faster than last year which I was pretty happy with although with a slightly different course and different conditions it is tough to tell just how much better the performance really was. Nixon won in 32:06, just seconds off of a course record and Nick continued his impressive season just 13 second behind. The top woman was Rachel Ruus, coming in 17th overall. Final results.

Many other Harriers had great performances with the majority of them placing in their age categories and it was great to have some many avid runners to share the experience with. It's always a fun trip so I expect to be back in the future. I'm not racing again until Jan 10 at the Pioneer 8k. It will be the first real test to see how my new training regimen is working so it will be interesting.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Training Update

It's now been five weeks since I started training with Paul O'Callaghan so I thought I'd give a brief update. So far I have only done 3 of the 10 Milers I mentioned in my previous post. The Thetis Relay replaced the one of them and last week it it coincided with a rest day so the rest day won out. This will happen from time to time since the rest day changes each week with the 7 day on 1 day off schedule. The last time I did the Broadmead 10 Miler, the weather did not cooperate for the 2nd time and the driving wind and rain was pretty unpleasant. It was tough to keep myself warm enough. Run wise, It was decent however, as I took 3 minutes off my first time there despite wasting some time figuring out the route (it will take a couple more tries before I have it all memorized).

On Sat, we usually have a interval session on grass and these sessions can be pretty tough. Yesterday we did 12x30 sec uphill with about a minute rest jogging back down. While 30 sec doesn't sound like much, if you go full out, it becomes pretty tough. By the end of the last few repeats, I started to feel a little nauseous and that rarely happens to me. For the first time, I also wore spikes which really made a huge difference in traction; particularly since the grass was wet and muddy. Unfortunately, the right shoe wore my heel raw so I have to figure out what is causing that. After the repeats, we were supposed to hammer out a 1 Mile interval. The first couple of hundred metres were fine, but I could really feel the effect of the hill repeats and it became a struggle to keep the legs moving particularly up the little hills.

Overall, I've been pretty happy with the program although the increased mileage has caused my shin splints to flare up a bit. They are still in control, however, and only a minor annoyance. Of a little more concern are some issues I am having with my right heel which has been causing me some discomfort at the beginning of my runs and sometime during the run. It is not bad enough to affect my training, but I want to make sure that it doesn't become a big problem. I've been seeing a physiotherapist and have seen some improvement. Hopefully, it will be history in a couple of weeks.

This week the training enters a new buildup phase with 3 quality sessions per week rather than just the two. There will be a track workout on Tue, the 10 Miler will move to Thurs, and Sat will continuous to be a grass interval workout. The track workouts should be interesting as I haven't done a lot on the track before. As long as I can keep the injuries at bay, I think this phase will start to pay off starting in the new year.

Yesterday, I also checked out the Gunner Shaw race at Thetis. I've raced this one for the last 4 years, so for the fist time, I decided to volunteer and was given a Marshaling post at the north end of Lower Thetis Lake. It was actually pretty interesting to see the race from a different perspective than I normally do and it was good to give a little back to the running community. All of the races are totally dependent on volunteers so its good to pitch in sometimes. Congratulations to Jason Loutitt who took the win and a big kudos to my training partner, Shawn Nelson, who ran to fantastic 2nd place finish in a strong field. His improvement year over year, is quite outstanding. I guess the new training is really paying off.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thetis 20K Relay

November 11, 2009

I think I mentioned this in my post about the relay last year, but I am still (pleasantly) surprised at how popular this event is. There are no race numbers, you time yourself, and there is minimal prizing or post race food so it is great that it sold out for the second year running with over 600 registered. I think one of the main reasons it is so popular is that there are not many other local relay running events. This race allows you to get four people together to run around both Thetis Lakes, and your teammates can cheer you on while you are doing your leg. The distance its modest (under 5km per lap), the terrain relatively forgiving, and taking place on Remembrance Day, has no other races to compete with. All in all quite the fun little event which the Prairie Inn Harriers have put on for 13 years now.

With so many people in the event, parking is an issue unless you arrive pretty early. Sonja and I did not, and ended up having to hoof it a little ways. Not a big deal, but it didn't leave a ton of time before the race started. Conditions were great for this time of year, dry and mild, so a shorts and a short sleeve were all that was required. The first year I did the relay back in 2005, it was only a couple of degrees out and the rain absolutely pounded down. I remembered being completely soaked within minutes and freezing later while waiting for my teammates. It is still stands as the worst conditions that I have raced in.

I've done this event 4 times with various teams, so this year I decided to try it as a solo. This would also fit in well with my training program as I had a scheduled 10 Miler anyway so I traded that tempo for this race. The trick with a solo effort (besides the possibility of getting bored with 4 laps of the same trails) was not to go out too hard initially. Most of the runners would only be doing a single lap so trying to keep up with people I normally would run with would be quite unwise. There were 7 other solo racers, with Jeff Hunt being the fastest. Jeff is a experienced ultra runner and I thought that pacing him for the first lap would be a good way to make sure I didn't go out too hard (I didn't actually end up doing this, but it was a good idea anyway).

"Ready Set..." Photo Credit: Sandi Heal

Once the race began I quickly got into a comfortable rhythm. I rarely wear my heart rate monitor in a race, but I decided to use it this time. It turned out to be a good tool to have, particularly on the first lap. Even though it felt comfortable, the heart rate started to creep up steadily so I tried hard to keep it in the low 150's (under 90% of my max). I ran with Jeff for the first couple of km, but then he had to pull off to tie a errant lace (I'll give you tips to avoid this next time Jeff:-)). I passed a few single lappers who had gone out too hard and felt strong going over the 3 small hills near the end of the loop. I finished the first lap in 17:25 feeling good. It was great to see so many people cheering on myself and others at the transition zone. It really does give a little energy boost when people shout your name as you pass them so thanks to everyone who cheered us on!

My goal for the day was to try to keep the laps steady (or even slightly speed up with each successive lap). With this in mind I kept what I thought was the same pace as the first lap, but unfortunately held back a bit too much finishing that one in 17:59. Seeing this I pushed harder on the 3rd lap, determined to get my time down to around 17:30. I started passing runners on their 2nd lap and from here on in, I ended up saying "On your left!" quite a lot. Pretty much everyone was great at letting me by although a few still got confused about what left meant. Clocking in a 17:36 got me close to the first lap speed and I was feeling quite good so with a single lap left, I ignored the heart rate monitor and pushed the pace. The final 3 hills hurt and forced my pace down, but I hammered out the flats and downhills quite well. With a hundred meters to go, I didn't feel totally spent, so I sprinted in for a 17:27 lap and a 1:10:27 total time. This was good for a win in the solo division and 6th place overall. While I probably left a little bit in the tank since I didn't feel as drained as usual, I was still generally pleased with my performance and how smart I ran the race. The Senior Men National Triathlon Team took first place in a blistering 1:01:34 (15:23 average laps). Final Results. It was great to see some many Harriers out and I hope this little event continues on for many years to come.

Checking my splits with race director Bob Reid. Photo Credit: Sandi Heal

I'm going to continue to concentrate on my training for the remainder of the year although I will be heading over to Vancouver in early December to run the Gunner Shaw XC race there.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

New Training Program

Since I haven't posted anything is a little while, I figured I was due to get something up here. As I noted in my previous post, I decided to hire a coach this fall and start a more regimented training program. I decided to go with Paul O'Callaghan who is a former Irish international runner with some stunning racing history and personal bests. He qualified for the 1988 Olympic Games and has competed in a total of 6 World XC Championships. It made since to me that someone with such a stellar running career would know something about what works and what doesn't.

I'm now on my second week of the new training program. The basic program calls for 7 days on, 1 day off. The idea of having a rotating day off is to avoid your body from getting used to have the same day off each week and therefore starting to anticipate getting that break. At first I was a bit worried that having to run so many days in a row since would leave me constantly fatigued and unable to get quality workouts in as I was used to running only 4-5 days a week. However, once I saw the schedule, I realized that it wasn't going to be too bad. While it calls for a lot of days in a row, only 2 of the days are hard workouts, the rest are generally pretty easy, with some days with only calling for an easy 20 minute run.

The main hard workout is the now somewhat infamous "O'Cal 10 Miler." which usually consists of a hard hilly tempo one in the Broadmead area. The first time I did this route, the skies opened up and dumped on us the entire time so we got completely soaked - quite the nice initiation! I was eased into the course though as Paul had Jairus Streight show me how to navigate the route and we ran at a fairly relaxed pace. Last week we did the 10 Miler on the last 16k of the RVM Half Marathon route. At this time, I ran with Eric Findlay, Sean Chester, and Shawn Nelson, all of whom are currently faster runners. We went out pretty hard and after about 15 minute I wondered if I was going to be able to survive the hectic pace. I stayed close to all 3 of them until around 8km when I relaxed just a bit. Once I got into my groove, I was actually able to feel pretty strong for the remainder of the run. I finished around 58min which is pretty solid for a training run for me. Having others to chase during is definitely going to help me in the upcoming months.

This Wednesday there will be no tempo run for me. Instead I'm going to be running the Thetis 20K Relay solo for the first time. Getting my pacing right so I don't die on the last lap is critical.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Royal Victoria Marathon 8K

October 11, 2009

Here is a quick race report just to get something up here before I head to Salt Spring Island for the weekend. This year marked the 30th anniversary of the event and there were a record number of participants doing either the 8k, half marathon, or full marathon.

As I mentioned in some previous posts, due to some vacation time over the summer, my training, though remaining generally decent was not as consistent or intense as it usually is. This coupled with the fact that I hadn't run a road race since the Times Colonist in April left me wondering what sort of performance I could expect. A PB seemed unlikely, although if things went really well it was possible. My best 8K came last year at the RVM where I ran a solid race in 26:45. I figured anything in the 27-28 minute range would be decent, anything better a bonus.

The race started at 7:15 so about 20 minutes before, I did a short warm-up which felt reasonable although not amazing. I made my way through the crowd of runners to the front of the starting line just a few minutes before the gun. After the countdown, the usual rush of overexcited runners blasted off. By the first turn (about 400m), the race favorite, Scott Simpson, was already way ahead of the main pack and was moving at an incredible rate. I heard that he may have been trying to beat the course record of 23:23 set way back in 1989. Unfortunately for Scott, he may have gone out too hard as I later heard that he pulled out at the 4km mark.

The first 2km didn't feel that comfortable for me. My breathing was more laboured that it should have been this early in the race and it felt like I was working a little too hard. Fortunately, this soon passed and I started to feel fairly good once we neared Ogden Point. I somehow missed the first km marker, but hit the second at 6:35 for an average of around 3:17 - probably a little fast, but not unexpected for the start of this race. On the long gradual climb up to Mile Zero, I was feeling strong and made up some significant ground on some of the runners in front of me and passed several. I didn't know most of the runners around me, but Shelby Drope wasn't far ahead and Mark Nelson was just a little ways further. I figured that if I could reel in one or both of them I would be doing well.

I completed the 3rd km in 3:23 which good considering it is primarily uphill. I lost a couple of seconds on the next km, probably partly due to the turnaround. I briefly caught up to and passed Shelby before the 5km mark, but on the downhill (where I still struggle to maintain as fast as pace as others of my caliber) he caught back up and ever so slowly pulled ahead over the next few kilometers. A guy running in toe sock shoes (basically just a thin cover over the feet) caught up to me around the 6km mark and we worked together for a little while. The pace was holding steady at around 3:24 for the final km which was good since it meant that I hadn't burnt myself out too early.

I seasoned veteran, Kevin McGinnis, from Washington State ran with me for the last 2 km or so and his encouragement did help me get a little bit more out of my body. He said, "go for it, I can tell you have a lot more in you," and it was definitely true that I didn't seem to suffering as much as normal at this point in the race. Thanks to him, I picked up my pace more than I might have otherwise and powered towards the finish. I started to reel in Shelby for a while, but he sprinted with a few hundred meters to go and I just didn't have enough time to catch him. A hundred meters out, I looked at the clock and saw that it was nearing 27:00, but wasn't quite there yet. I sprinted at full speed trying to get in under that magical minute marker. Based on my chip time I did it, getting a 26:59 (although my official gun time was 27:00 even). My time was good for 11th place overall (3rd in my age group) which was very similar to last year (where I was 10th and 3rd respectively).

Although I was 15 seconds slower than my PB, I was satisfied with my race. For some reason I just wasn't as psyched as I usual for this race and a few times out on the course I didn't push myself as much as I could have. Still, this race shows me that I am basically the same fitness level as last year (and as fit as I have ever been). This is good news to me as I plan to take my training to a new level this winter and next spring with a coach and proper program and now know that I will be entering into that training in good shape.

I knew a good number of people running the half and the full marathon so it was great to stay and watch them finish their races. Most of the people I know ran well with many PB's - congrats to all! Final results are here.

My spits were: 6:35 (2km) , 3:23, 3:24, 3:26, 3:24, 6:48 (2km).

On another note, check out Sonja Yli-Kahila's new running blog where she writes about her racing and training experience from the non elite perspective. You can read about her RVM half marathon race there.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Are you the Ultimate Althlete?

I received an e-mail from the promoters of a new event to be held in Oregon next June. Billed as"The Ultimate Sport Competition", the concept is to find the best athlete in a wide variety of mainstream, emerging, Olympic and extreme sports. Some of the sports include riding, swimming, skiing, surfing, climbing, and skating. It sounds pretty cool and would be something I would love to try although I don't think I have quite the range of disciplines to make it happen. I'm sure you don't need to be great at all the sports, but you probably need some level of competence in all of them. I'm not going to look too good eating coral on the surf board I'm afraid. Top prize is a very healthy $100,000 US though - that would be pretty sweet. Check it out here.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Cumberland MOMAR

September 26, 2009

The second of two MOMAR races this year, this one turned out to be very popular. With about 360 racers entered into both the Enduro and Sport courses, it was a record field. Unlike the first race this year in Squamish where I entered as a solo, this time I again partnered with Garth Campbell. Together we have finished 10 MOMAR's and have had a lot of fun. We have also managed to find our way onto the podium a reasonable number of times. In addition to be able to share the experience with someone else, there is a distinct advantage to racing in pairs due to the presence of a kayaking stage. Double kayaks are faster than a single and unless you are a strong kayaker (or own a surf ski) the kayak stage will prove to be a challenge. Since neither Garth nor I have been in a boat since last years Cumberland MOMAR, we really needed all the advantages we could get.

Garth and I headed up to Cumberland the night before with Alison Sum (who was racing solo for the first time) to check in. We also met up with Roger MacLeod who was staying with us at a condo on Mount Washington. I hadn't really gotten myself too excited about the race, but seeing all the other participants and getting a general description of the course in the race package always gets the blood pumping again. Besides being a large field, this was also a deep one. Race director, Bryan Tasaka, always releases a racer list prior to the event. Not only is it nice to see who we know, but its also useful to scout out the competition; and this one was going to be tough. With the exception of Todd Nowack, who is still in Norway, nearly all the top finishers of the last couple of years were on the roster. I counted no fewer than 10 solos or teams who could conceivably take the overall win. The great thing about these races is that uncertainty. Unlike a road running race, where the overall favorite almost always wins, MOMAR's are much harder to predict. Squamish winner, Bart Jarmula was in attendance, as was 2nd place finisher Gary Robbins. Other talent included local Jeremy Grasby who is a very talented mountain biker and adventure racer John Markez. In the teams of two men, our main competition would likely come from Norm Thibault & Graeme Cockshedge and Jay Latiff & Jeff Riemer all of whom are very strong cyclists. With all the talent on hand we figured a top 5 finish would be very respectable.

Up at mount Washington, we did our final gear, hydration, and fuel preparation and then turned in. I had a bit of trouble getting to sleep, but luckily slept well (although not enough) until our early wake up before 6am. After dropping our bikes off in Cumberland, we headed to Comox Lake to get our rented kayak ready and wait for the map release at 8am. Conditions were cool, but sunny and most thankfully not windy - quite perfect for racing actually. Every one of the 3 other times we have raced at this venue, the wind was whipping up white caps on the lake and making an unpleasant kayaking stage even less enjoyable.

Once we got our hands on the map, we could quickly get a good idea of what the course would look like. It started with the predictable 9km kayak stage (the same as last year). This was followed by a unmarked 10km trek with a big climb where we had to find 6 checkpoints on our way to the bike drop location in Cumberland. A suggested route was marked on the maps, but we could take whatever route between checkpoints we felt was appropriate. We would then get on our bikes for a 20km cycle on a marked route which would include gravel roads and single track. We would make our way back to the bike drop location again, hop off our bikes, and do a small run in town picking up 3 checkpoints. Then we would get back on our bikes and have to pick up a single checkpoint on an unmarked route on our way back to Comox Lake. The final stage was small orienteering course. I was happy about having the orienteering last as that means the teams would be well spread out and there would not be the major traffic jams we had last year. I was also glad to see the bike course was shorter than in Squamish. I had only been on my mountain bike maybe 4 times since that race so felt I might be a bit rusty. Garth had been out a lot earlier in the year and had improved so I hoped I would be able to keep pace.

Before we know it we were out on the water and paddling. If you read my post from last year, you know that kayaking is my least favorite of the disciplines in this race so I didn't expect much difference this time around. However, it actually wasn't so bad this year. We did a little better job at drafting some of the other boats, kept pretty well in sync with each other, and put forth a solid even effort. This in conjunction with calm water, allowed us to take over 6 minutes off of our 2008 time - not bad for not training at all. We came out of the water in 58:56, good for 13th place. Altough I didn't notice it until after the race was over (thank you adrinaline) I did manage to rub a by back raw on one side with the kayak seat.

Not in sync here! Me working hard and Garth posing for the camera:-) Photo Credit: Tony Austin

Garth had some problems with his pack not being adjusted properly as we begin to run and had some choice words to say about it. Luckily, it was minor and only took a few seconds to remedy. Both our legs took a bit to get going after being stuffed in a kayak for an hour, but once the blood got moving it wasn't too bad. The course was mostly flat until checkpoint #2. After this, though, it headed sharply uphill. We had the choice to take the recommended trail that headed steeply up hill or a road which looked to be a little less steep. Since we are both strong hikers, we chose the trail. The map was a little confusing at the next intersection, but we ended up taking the correct route along with a good sized group of other racers who were around us at that point. We managed to push ahead of most of the group except Gary Robbins, who predictably was moving fast. He didn't get far though, as at the next intersection he was running around looking for checkpoint #3 thinking we were already at the top (we were not even close). Gary is an amazing athlete, but navigation is not he strong point. He even admits that he can't navigate himself out of a paper bag so even though he soon disappeared in front of us again, I thought there was a good chance that we would see him again.

It was a long grind up to the top (around 500 meters of climbing in total) and then things got a bit confusing again. As is frequently the case, the map didn't seem to correspond to what we were seeing. We lost a couple of minutes trying to figure it out, and the group that we had left behind caught up. Soon though, we all figured it out and started to run down the hill toward where the checkpoint had to be. We got there, punched in and pounded our way down the gravel road. We passed Hayden Earle heading up on what apparently ended up being a better route choice, but you just never can tell unless you know the area. As running is our main strength we managed to get ahead of most of the group we around at checkpoint #3; only Gary got away. Checkpoint #4 also did match with the map particularly well, but fortunately we found it right away. We chose to take the recommended trail to checkpoint #5 which was easy to find, but almost certainly ended up being slower than an optional road route. After a steep decent, we saw some teams thrashing around in the woods near a creek. Apparently, they were looking at a checkpoint that was there. However, it must have been for the sport course because it wasn't one of the ones we needed to get. After this, the rest of the navigation to the bike transition was straight forward.

Heading for the first transition. Photo Credit: Tony Austin

Norm Thibault and Graeme Cockshedge were just behind us as we came into transition, but they must have changed shoes quickly and so beat out out by a few seconds. While we didn't need to change shoes, we had tried a new strategy of leaving one of our fluid bladders at the bike so we didn't have to haul it for 10km on the trek. While it took a few moments to put away, I think it paid off as not having that extra liter on the back make a difference. The first leg of the bike was a gradual climb up gravel roads. It wasn't too tough and we were moving relatively well. After checkpoint #8 we moved onto single track. It first it wasn't bad, but soon it became a bit rough and difficult to get any flow on. Jay and Jeff passed us as they are very strong on the bike. A bit later Kristenn Magnusson and Justin Mark also got ahead. A trail named "Off Broadway" turned out to be the most technical of the day. I managed to ride it all, but with white knuckles the whole way. Surprisingly though, for the most part, I felt quite good on the single track and not rusty at all. It seems as though you don't need to practice much to keep from losing skills.

After the descending, it was time to go back up. A steep climb on gravel roads was following by pleasant little hike a bike section. Unfortunately, Garth was feeling a little nauseous on the climb which held our pace back a little, but as usual, he toughed it out. Kristenn and Justin were just in front of us for the whole climb, but try as we might we couldn't reel them it. She is one fit woman! Then it was time for "Bucket of Blood," the infamous trail that has often been used in these MOMAR's. This year, it was somewhat changed as logging had taken place and I think it was a bit less challenging because of that. We make one small deviation from the marked route at one point, but it didn't cost us much.

Back in town we dropped our bikes and were handed the urban navigation map. There were three checkpoints which were all on the main street. It was pretty straight forward except for one checkpoint which was hidden in a tree which we fortunately were able to find pretty fast. It was definitely to our advantage to have running shoes on at this point though as most racers wearing clipless didn't bother to change them for such a short stage and were clomping around. Then we were back on our bikes to find one checkpoint in the woods before heading back to the beach. The map was again a bit off on its classifications (at one intersection, the main road was shown as a trail), but we managed to take the correct route and found checkpoint #20. Then onto the paved road for a couple km quad burner. We didn't know exactly where we were in the field, but we figured we must be in the top 10. It was time to see if we could improve that with a solid orienteering stage.

It took me a minute to orientate myself to the map. We were lucky in that it was the same map as last year so that helped me to get into the scale (which is larger than typical). At our way to the second control we caught up to Kristenn and Justin again and we proceeded to help each other out for 5 or so controls. We all did well, finding the controls quickly and then moving in the right direction to the next. At one point, I did take a minute to get my bearings again, but soon got back on track. With two controls to go, Garth and I moved ahead a bit while Kristenn and Justin ended up getting a little off track and we managed to get the last two smoothly.

We headed for the finish really having no idea where we had placed. We ended up 6th in 4:40:11, only 3 minutes behind Gary who had led for much of the race, but struggled on the orienteering. Jeremy won overall, crushing all the competition on his single speed steed - quite amazing to see what he can do with that one gear! Local knowledge of the trails helped him a lot though I'm sure as his trek time was ridiculously fast. It may have been the closest finish in MOMAR history as the top 4 teams came in within 2.5 minutes of each other and the top 8 teams all came in within 17 minutes. Norm and Graeme had a strong race coming in 2nd overall. The solo woman's title passed to Genevieve after being dominated by Sarah Seads for a couple of years. Roger raced to a solid 9th finish and Adam Lawrence and Brent Chan came in well under 6 hours. Alison raced well in her first solo and will surly be back again.

Somewhat fresh after the race: Photo Credit: Aimee Asselin

Overall, we had a very solid race with minimal mistakes and we even managed to set the best time on the orienteering stage (a first for us). Other than additional training there we couldn't have done much better. At 12 minutes behind the winner, time wise it was the closest we have even been to the podium. There had been rumors that this may have been the last ever MOMAR, but thankfully those rumors were laid to rest. Next year, there will be the same two venues, with what I'm sure will be brand new courses. I can't wait! Final Enduro Results.

Monday, September 28, 2009

5 Peaks Butzen Lake Half Marathon

September 19, 2009

Now that I am two races behind in my blogging, I thought I'd better get something up here. The 5 Peaks race series is a well known Canadian trail race series with races in 4 provinces. I'd heard good things about the Butzen Lake race and I've been itching to try some new trail races this year so I decided to give it a go. The the race offers 3 courses (an 11km Sport, a 15.5km Enduro, and a Half marathon that is a combination of both the Sport and Enduro).

It rained a decent amount the night before the race and as morning came it was still drizzling lightly. It looked like it might be a soggy day on the trails. Fortunately, by the time the half marathon started, the rain had stopped and it gradually improved over the next couple of hours. By the time I finished, it was clear and sunny.

Perhaps the distance scares people away, but the half marathon had a small field with only 35 finishers (the Enduro had 150 and the sport 237). Based on previous years results, however, the small field didn't always lead to slow times. Last year, the winning time was an incredible 1:55:09. I knew that I would not be posting such a time, but based on times posted by other runners that I know, a finish in the 2:15-2:20 range was reasonable.

It is sometimes nice to go to races where I am less likely to know many of the racers. Although its great fun to socialize at local races, there also tends to be a bit more pressure to perform well. I generally know how I compare to many of the local runners and don't want to be behind someone who I normally would beat - definitely an ego thing. At destination races, I feel less pressure and just go in with the attitude that I will run my own race and do the best I can.

I moved off the start line at a comfortable pace, this wasn't a 5km race so I knew that I would have plenty of opportunity to use up my energy later in the race. A Burnaby resident, Paul Shewchuk and I quickly distanced ourselves from the rest of the field. We continued to run together for the first couple of km. He told me that the upcoming climb was a tough one as he had run in in training previously. I had expected as much as the profile shows a big climb from km 2-4.5. Paul was keeping up with me, but definitely seems to be working harder than I was. He was also a powerfully built guy with a large upper body. This extra muscle certainly would be useful for other tasks, but packing all that bulk up and over a mountain takes a lot effort. As soon as the big climb started, my first impressions were confirmed, and he soon started to fall back and I was left to run the rest of the race on my own.

The climb on the Diez Vistas trail was quite tough although there was a small reprise about half way up. I really wanted to run all of it, but the last 0.5 km or so just became too steep for me to tackle and I was forced to power hike for a few minutes. Eventually, the summit came though and breathed a sigh of relief as I knew that there were no more large climbs in the race. I was soon treated to some of my favorite type of trails. It was all technical single track that requires all of your attention to pick a good line, but still allows you to move at a good clip. The only downside on this day was that the roots and rocks were wet which made some of the steeper descents a little risky. On a dry day, this trail would have been even better to run on. I estimate that I may be lost a couple of minutes by having to be more cautious on the descents.

About 30 minutes into the race, I decided to drink some of my Gatorade (I had brought 300ml each of water and Gatorade in my fuel belt) and just about had to spit it out. It had fermented (probably due to electrolyte tablets that I had put into it a while ago) and I had failed to check it before filling my bottles. It is amazing what new lessons you learn even after years of racing! I manage to choke down perhaps a 100ml of the Gatorade throughout the race, but since it seemed to not be agreeing with my stomach I dumped out the rest. Luckily, it would not prove to be a big factor for me.

After the fun decent, the course moved onto a wide fairly flat trail that made its way around the east side of Buntzen Lake. I was feeling pretty good and continued to pace myself well. I still had the whole sport course to do so didn't overdo it. I completed the Enduro course in a respectable 1:26:03 and make my way onto the sport course. After a little while, I started to pass sport course participants who had started 1 hour later. I think I confused some of them who didn't know about the half marathon race and couldn't figure out where I had come from.

The course description for the Sport course indicates that it has a total elevation gain of 630m, but this is definitely a gross over estimation (as is the 978m figure given for the Enduro). There are a few hills on the Sport course, but nothing with more than 50m of gain and I estimate probably no more than a two hundred meters total. Having said that, however, the 50m hill still felt tough as the legs were starting to fatigue at that point. As I passed the trail that the Enduro racers used, the number of racers on the trail increased. I was tiring as I made my way around the north end of Butzen Lake, but having already done this section before, I knew exactly what to expect and paced myself accordingly. Contrary to what I normally experience when repeating the same sections, it actually seemed to go faster than the first time around.

I had a bit a water still left in my bottle so with 1km to go I decided to go ahead and finish it up. While trying to extract every drop from the bottle, I got careless and caught my toe on something. Before I knew it I was on the ground and my bottle went flying! The damage to my body wasn't significant, but it was kind of embarrassing especially since I had navigated all the technical terrain with no issues. I pickup myself up quickly and made my way to the finish crossing the line in 2:18:01. Paul came in 2nd place over 18 minutes behind. My time was within the window I had thought reasonable, although I had hoped to be a little closer to 2:15. Overall though, I was content with the way the race went, especially considering my training has been a little inconsistent over the summer. Sonja also ran to a solid 4th place finish in woman's division. Final results are here. I would recommend the Enduro course to those who like to run single track as it really has some fun stuff. The Sport course is less interesting and is comparable to running around Thetis Lake (just longer).

Monday, August 31, 2009

Juan de Fuca Epic

August 22, 2009

First of all I'd like to thank Jeff Hunt for organizing this event. While some people may have still run the trail in their own little groups, it was a lot more fun to be involved in a bigger event. A total of 21 runners (16 would do the full distance) came out to test their mettle against the 47km character building Juan de Fuca Trail.

We met at Thetis Lake parking lot at the unreasonable time of 6am. The plan was to car pool and then head to China beach where most runners would start. Adam Lawrence joined Sonja and myself and we arrived shortly after 7am. After some logistical planning, it was decided that all the runners doing the full distance wanted to go from China Beach to Botanical Beach. This meant that we needed to make sure there was at least one car on the other end so we wouldn't end up stranded. Fortunately, Shawn Nelson's parents were kind enough to offer to drive Sonja's car to Botanical Beach where we would use it as a shuttle after the run.

Once that was taken care of, I barley had time to strap my hydra pack on before the group was off. Jeff and Shawn bolted so fast, it took me a couple of km to catch up. This was the 'easy' part of the trail being predominately down hill from China Beach to Mystic Beach and was only somewhat technical. However, this was a long run and the pace did seem pretty brisk, but I didn't want to fall back so soon so I kept up.

The three of us ran together for a couple of km before Jeff fell back slightly and Sean Chester moved into 3rd place. Sean is a very strong runner, but tends to specialize in track rather than trails, I wasn't sure how he would far on such a long technical trail. He also didn't look all that prepared, as he was sporting running flats, was carrying a 1.5 liter pop bottle, and didn't seem to have any nutrition (he did in fact have some stowed in his shirt). That being said, I really didn't know how I would fare either. I was just one week back from 14 days in Norway where I didn't do any running. In an attempt to get back to my normal trailing, I had punished my legs a bit in the days before this run so they were not feeling as fresh as they could be. Also, I don't routinely do runs longer than about 2 hours, so 6 hours was going to be a interesting challenge. Last year, Garth Campbell and I had run from Sombrio Beach to China Beach (29km) in around 3.5 hours at a fairly cofortable pace. Based on this time, I thought it was quite reasonable that I could cover the entire distance in 5.5-6 hours.

For the next 10km or so while Shawn and I ran together, Sean continued to catch up and then disappear again. Eventually he decided (quite prudently I might add) to fall back a bit and run with Jeff. I commented to Shawn that we did seem to be moving quite fast and in my mind I was pretty sure it was too fast for me given the distance and difficultly of this trail. However, I ignored the that logical part of the brain and pushed on ahead swapping the lead with Shawn from time to time. When we hit the halfway point, we were just over a 5 hour pace. If we could hold onto that, it would be an amazing time. I was feeling pretty decent although the climbs set up quads burning within the first hour. And climb we did, the section between Bear Beach and Sombrio Beach is very tough consisting almost entirely of steep climbs out of creek valleys and steep (often technical) descents into the next one. While no single climb is huge, they all add up and become quite relentless. This mixed with roots, rocks, stairs, and mud are what make this trail so very difficult.

As we were descending to Sombrio, I felt my left leg cramp up slightly. It was not major, but with about 20km to go this was not a good sign. Even though I was drinking Gatorade with some extra electrolytes tabs mixed in, I needed to make sure that I got some more electrolytes into me soon or things could turn ugly. I'm not particularly prone to cramping, but am certainly not immune either and know how debilitating they can be. Fortunately, I had brought some extra electrolytes tablets with me so as soon as we hit the beach I consumed one. Shawn's parents met him on the beach and acted as his refueling station and we kind enough to give me some sports drink as well.

Much of Sombrio Beach consists of smallish to medium rocks which are not really much fun to run on especially as you begin to tire. We also found ourselves running too close to the ocean where the rocks had more slime on them. Just as I was thinking it might be better to move up to a drier area, down I went. The fall itself wasn't bad, but the rocks there were covered with barnacles which cut by left hand and right wrist up. It was nothing too serious, but did bleed nicely.

At this point I was definitely starting to feel the effects of going out so hard on tired legs, but I still thought that I should be able to hang in there at a reasonable pace. We were soon back on the trail, but after a relatively short time, I ended up with a rock in my left shoe that needed to be removed. As soon and I bent down to untie the lace, my whole left leg cramped up. It was the worst cramp I have ever had, but luckily I was able to shake it loose and continue on fairly quickly. I took another electrolyte tablet right away and hoped they would kick in soon.

While I was dealing with the cramp, Shawn had pulled out of sight. I started to try and pick up the pace in the hope of bringing him back into sight, but I soon realized that I was spent. The legs were tired and the energy was low (the cramping and fall probably hadn't helped either). With about 15km to go, I realized I was now going to be in disaster avoidance mode. I could no longer sustain a fast pace at all and was forced to hike pretty much all uphill sections. Even many technical sections that I would normally be able to run with no problems became difficult to navigate in my weakened state. The run had ceased to be fun at this point, but despite the fact that my body didn't want to run at all anymore, I forced myself to slowly run the easier sections. My km splits were down to around 10min when they should have been more like 6 or 7min.

As Botanical Beach started to get closer, there are more and more boardwalks on the trail. This would sound like it would make the running easier, but they are still tricky as they are permanently wet and slick. Running on them is hazardous and at one point I went down hard on my ass. This caused my whole body to seize up for a moment, but luckily receded quickly. Given the pitiful pace I was able to sustain, I was expecting that Sean or Jeff may well catch up. With about 4km to go, Sean did just that, blasting by me like I was barley moving (well I guess I was barely moving). He said that we navigated the last 10km in under 1 hour (it took me close to 90min). I finally managed to make it to the last 1km section up the access road to the parking area and surprised myself a bit by actually being able to run it even though it was all uphill. I finally hit the finish at just under 5:51.

While the last couple of hours were not the way I wanted it to go, I wasn't that unhappy with the time itself as it was within the window I had expected. Next time, however, I should do a better job of pacing myself. Shawn had also slowed and suffered a bit on the last section, but still managed to get an awesome time of 5:28, bettering his time from last year by about 45 min. Sean put 8 minutes into me in 4km finishing in 5:43. Next time, I'd like to finish more like that. Carolyn Goluza set a very solid woman's time of 6:50. These times my not seem too fast for a distance only 5km more than a marathon, but if you have run or hiked this trail you know why it takes so long. All times are available on the JDF Epic site.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


August 2-16, 2009

Since it has been nearly two weeks since my return, I decided I should get something onto my blog about this trip. Todd, Kim, Sonja and I spent the better part of the two weeks car touring around, car camping and hiking. We landed in Trondheim (where Todd and Kim are living for a year) and went west and south making it as far down as Bergen. In lieu of a full write up of our travels, here are a few of my impressions about Norway (in no particular order).

- Much of the scenery is spectacular, often rivaling what we have here in Canada

- The vertical nature of the mountain in some areas is awe inspiring. You can find places where it goes from a flat valley bottom straight up over 1km (and I do mean strait up!)

- While it is not a tourist destination for North Americans, it is very popular of Europeans and Asians

- It is very expensive. Most things are twice as much as here in Canada, some are more. How would you like to spend about $30 on 1 liter of motor oil or close to $1,000 on a winter jacket? (I'm not making it up).

- Amazing waterfalls and streams are everywhere. There were so many great ones that after a while, a waterfall that would be the destination for the day here, wouldn't even warrant a photo - Norwegians are generally polite, but somewhat reserved

- When buying food there, selection and more importantly quantity is limited. What 4 liters of milk? Forget it, 1.5 liters is the biggest they sell. How about a kg of peanut butter? Nope, better get used to 350g jars.

- There was surprisingly little wild life. The most exciting thing I saw was a fox, but it was actually in town. While hiking in the mountains, we mostly saw livestock (cows and sheep) and not anything wild

- Norwegians are avid hikers and cross country skiers and have set up an amazing network of trails and hiking/skiing hostels (where you can sleep, buy food, take showers, etc - all for a fee of course).

- Likely a result of their outdoor enthusiasm, they also seem to be fitter than the average Canadian

- The selection of interesting cars (particularly small wagons and hatchbacks) it much more extensive than it is here. There are also diesel options for many models. Diesel Toyota Yaris, check, Diesel Ford cars and vans, check.

Here are a few photos. You can find many more here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mount Doug 11 km Gutbuster

July 26, 2009

This was my last Gutbuster of the season as I will miss the Mount Washington race because Sonja and I will be in Norway for two weeks doing some traveling with Todd and Kim. We have actually been having a summer here so I knew this race was going to be a pretty hot one. The course summits Mount Doug 2 times and Little Mount Doug once. While most of the course forested, there are significant exposed portions, many of them on the climbs where overheating is the most likely.

I had taken my normal one day off before the race and had taken it a bit easier during the week. I race way too often to do proper tapers, but I do like to go into races with relatively fresh legs (particularly one with significant climbing involved). Since I was pretty well rested I expected to have a decent race unless the heat got to me too much. I've suffered in the heat in past years, but more recently it seems I have been able to take it better.

While the field was fairly small for this race, there was still fairly deep talent pool. Jason Loutitt was in attendance again and ended up taking off even sooner than at Royal Roads. He was out of sight even before the main start of the first climb. Kelly Guest was also running, but he had just finished a hard 1.5 hour cycle to the start line so was not going as fast as he normally would. The first climb up Whittaker and Irvine Trails is challenging and was hot near the top. I felt reasonable on the climb and managed to make the summit in 3rd place just behind Kelly.

We descended from the lookout on a trail composed mainly of bedrock. It is quite technical, but I feel pretty comfortable flying down it when it is dry. A fall here could really hurt though so you have to be extra vigilant. I managed to pass Kelly and was just ahead of Shelby Drope by the bottom of the decent. The next slightly uphill segment to the base of Little Mount Doug is also technical with a lot of rocks and roots. I have run it many times before with no issues, but this time I caught my toe on something and found myself careening off the trail right into a large patch of blackberry bushes. I uttered some sort of profanity and I extracted myself and got back onto the trail just ahead of Shelby. Luckily, It was a minor incident that only cost me a couple of seconds and left me with a few minor scratches.

After a short, but intense climb to the top of Little Mount Doug we were treated to quite gnarly decent complete with a good dose of loose rock and dirt. After this, I was expecting the course to descend all the way Mercer Trail as it did last year, but the course had been changed and that section short cut. Unfortunately, with my head down and my mind expecting to follow the same route, I completely missed the turnoff. I am generally competent with navigation during trail races, but I have screwed up a few times in the past. It is never fun to work that hard and then blow it all by not paying attention, but it a reality of trail races sometimes. I knew I had made a mistake before too long as I didn't see any course flagging, but since I didn't know exactly how far back the cutoff was and I knew I would get back onto the course before too long, I continued on. Unfortunately for them, Shelby and Kelly followed me. I apologized as it sucks to be led astray even if they also missed the turnoff.

The blunder cost us six positions which was of course discouraging. I decided not to give up though and challenged myself to see how many positions I could earn back. One the first part of the final climb I reeled in Ben Kingstone and Mark Nelson and managed to get some more time on Shelby. Kelly, however, had moved ahead and gained a bit of time on me. I also caught up to Lowell Rockliffe, but he managed to hang in strong during the final climb. It hurt a lot, but we ended up pulling almost even with Nick Walker and Kelly. The final decent is yet again technical with loose dirt and I again moved well managing to get ahead of all three. The final couple of kilometers is fairly flat, however, so I wasn't sure I was going to be able to hold out against the speed of Kelly and Nick. I was feeling really good though and I cranked the strides out. Nick nearly caught me near the finish though, but I managed to stay ahead by 2 seconds.

I finished forth in 46:28. Based on the times of Shawn Nelson (who ran very well) and Michael Liedtke I would have most likely ended up in 2nd place had it not been for my navigational blunder. Kind of annoying, but at least my fitness felt strong. In the typical pattern, Jason blew the field apart, winning in under 42 minutes. My time was actually over 2 minutes faster than last year even with my mistake, but because the course was a bit shorter it was difficult to judge if I was actually moving faster or not. Final results are here. My next race will probably not be until 5 Peaks Butzen Lake on September 19, so I will actually have nearly two months break - this may well be my longest break since 2006.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Half Monty and Hurricane Ridge

July 18-19, 2009

This is a quick report from last weekend. On Saturday, I took place in the 5th running of the Full/Half Monty Trail Race. This is a very low key Club Fat Ass event. The event takes place at Gowlland-Tod Provincial Park starting at the McKenzie Bight entrance and the course follows the main trail south through the park, going over Jocelyn and Homes Peaks. The course turns around at Cabeb Pike and traces the same course back to McKenzie Bight. Total distance is close to 25km round trip and includes a good amount of climbing and lots of moderate difficultly technical terrain all on single track. For those who like trail running, this is a really great place to run. The Half Monty does one out and back, the Full does it twice to make 50km.

I had run this exact course a couple of times in the past and this time I just wanted to run it as a race to see what time I could get. So far the event has not attracted any elite level runners so the course records of around 2:30 was readily attainable. The conditions were hot and I suffered a bit on the way up to Jocelyn Peak although I was still moving pretty well. I managed to recover somewhat on my day down to Cabeb Pike and I cooled my self down with water, which the race organizer, Carlos Castillo, was kind enough to leave at the turn around. I felt good on the way back, but on the final climb back up to Jocelyn, it was tough to keep the legs moving. I was able to run all of the course though which I was happy about. Despite some fatigue in the last few km, I moved well to the finish, posting a time of 1:56:57 which I quite please with as it was over 2min faster than my previous best time. It was too bad there were not a few more runners out as that would have made the event a bit more exiting, but I think everyone enjoyed the challenging terrain and great views. Carlos has a short write up here.

On Sunday, Sonja and I got up at 5am to join over 30 other Prairie Inn Harriers on a running trip over to Hurricane Ridge on the Washington Olympic Peninsula. The main run too place between Deer Park and Observation Point (about 12km) . Some people (including myself) also added another hour+ on some other trails. The vista were spectacular as is evidenced by these photos.

You can see the rest of my photos here. I spent most of my time running with Jeff Hunt who kept moving well really well for the entire day. Jeff has a great write up on his blog so please have a look there if you are interested in more details about our trip. I didn't know how the legs would hold out after the 2 hours of punishment I gave them the day before, but they felt pretty decent. Fatigue did catch up to me after about 1.5 hours though and the final climb that Jeff and I did was pretty tough. After a quick stop at Hurricane Ridge itself, we returned to Port Angeles for a late lunch/early dinner before heading back to Victoria. Thanks to Bob Reid for organizing the event - it would not have happened without him! All in all it was a great running weekend for me, with nearly 50km of challenging trail running completed.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Royal Roads 13km Gutbuster

July 12, 2009

Royal Roads is probably the easiest of the 5 Gutbuster races as it does not have as many sustained climbs as the other courses and less technical terrain. However, this is not to say that it is easy as it still includes a ton of small climbs (some of them very steep). This year, Royal Roads Running club redesigned the course making it longer and adding even more hills. The official distance was 13.8km and although I never really trust measurements given for trail races, it was about 2km longer than last year.

My last race was the Kusam Klimb which felt like quite some time ago (although it really was only 3 weeks ago). My training has been steady, but not intense in the last few months. I didn't expect anything amazing from this race, but hoped to still put in a respectable performance. How I would place would be mostly dependent on who else showed up. The Gutbuster races usually seem to attract a good number of talented runners and I expected nothing less for this race. I spotted Jason Loutitt on the way to the start line so knew who was likely to take the race.

The legs felt pretty good during the warm up I did with Sonja so that was an encouraging sign. For the first time in quite a while, I decided to wear my heart rate strap for the race. I didn't expect to really use it to pace myself, just more for interest sake to see what kind of heart rate I can sustain for an hour.

Once the race was underway Jason stayed with the lead pack all of about 300 meters before accelerating away. I could have tried to match him, but not without killing myself after a km or two. The course included a large number of small, but steep climbs, the first being only a few hundred meters in. Shortly after the climb, Jason quickly disappeared and wasn't seen again.

I was working hard, but feeling in control. During the first couple of kilometers I took a look at my heart rate and was surprised to see it edge over 170 on one of the climbs. Since my maximum heart rate is about 175, anything over 170 is getting into a range that I can not sustain for very long. Despite the fact that I felt in control, I did need to be careful not to push too hard so soon. I took it down just a notch, hoping I could maintain that effort for the remainder of the race.

I was in second place behind Jason for the first few kilometers. However, Shelby Drope and Shawn Nelson were not far behind and slowly pulled ahead of me. Knowing there was still a lot of racing left, I choose not to pace them and instead kept myself moving at a manageable effort that I thought I could hold for the remainder of the race. They would either have enough endurance to push to the end ahead of me or I would reel them in the second half of the course. I was a bit surprised at both their speeds. Shawn is a talented runner, but I have generally been a bit faster. I've seen Shelby at a few Island Race Series races and he tended to go out pretty fast and then fade somewhat. His fitness seems to be improving fast though and he held strong in 3rd place just in front of me until the half way point (Shawn was in 2nd).

The short course veers off to the finish line at the half way point. I had assumed that Shelby was doing the long course, but when I didn't seem him after the courses diverged I realized that he was only doing the short (which he solidly won). Nick Walker was close on my tail at this point as I expected he would be. He tends to start fairly conservatively and then speed up considerably on the later parts of races. I was holding steady, but he was speeding up. We ended up running a few kilometers of single track together before hitting some wider trails where he was able to use his greater speed to pull ahead.

Unfortunately for Shawn, he was having some sort of side ache problem and Nick and I passed him a after the halfway point and it looks like he had to pull out. It was too bad for him as it looked like he was having a great race. While I couldn't match Nick's speed once the trails opened up, I was still feeling pretty decent and continued to move ahead at a good rate. Most of the additional distance in the course this year was made up in a large loop up past a gravel pit and out toward the the edge of the University grounds. While not particularly difficult, this section drug on longer than expected. Then on the return we had to climb up the side of the gravel pit. Its not a big climb by any means, but was steep and composed of loose gravel which made running up it quite a challenge.

After some more downhill we moved onto the last major climb. Nick had perhaps a 45 second lead on me at this point. I didn't expect to catch him, but still kept the pressure up to make sure that I maintained my position. Most of the final 2km were on gravel road with some little diversions onto single track. The final run to the finish is on an uphill grade just to make sure everyone had enough climbing on the day! It is a good thing that I kept my pace up as Michael Liedtke was moving fast. The final results say he was only 4 seconds back, but the timing must have been off by a bit. I estimate that he was actually 10-15 seconds back. Not that time really matters much in a trail race anyway.

I crossed the line in 1:00:38 in 3rd place, about a minute behind Nick and a full 6 minutes behind Jason who must of flown on his broom to post such a smoking fast time. Harrier, Andrew Pape-Salmon ran strongly to a well deserved 7th place. Care Wakely won the woman division in 1:10:50, just 5 sec ahead of 2nd place. Overall, I was happy with my race and felt like I held together well for the entire distance. My time was about 9 min slower than last year, but I feel this is sole result of the increased length. My average heart rate ended up being 163 (93%) and it peaked out at 173 (99%). Final results are here. for the Mount Doug I hope to see a good crowd out on July 26thGutbuster - probably my favorite race in the series.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hornby Island #2

Here are a few more videos (I had to split them to get them to load).

Picking up the pace on Mr. Toads Wild Ride Trail #1


On "No Horses" #1


Gary Behind the camera on "The Way" #1


That should be enough running video to bore everyone!

Here are a few photos as well.

Helliwell Provincial Park


Evening Light

Mt Geoffrey

Monday, July 6, 2009

Hornby Island

July 4-5, 2009

If you only read my blog you may get the sense that I do nothing but race. For the first time, here is a non race related post. Sonja and I went to Hornby Island last weekend. Horby has some pretty interesting topography and vegetation variations. More than 30% of the island is protected and these areas boast some great running and mountain biking trails. We would do a bit of both. Fellow Harrier, Gary Duncan was good enough to host us and show us the best trails while we were there. Thanks Gary!

For the first time, I also played around with taking some video while running. If you have ever tried to do this while on a trail (especially somewhat technical ones) you will know that it is challenging. Trying to hold the camera still while keeping the runner in front in the frame and also paying attention to your footing adds a bit of difficulty. They are not going to win any video contest, but hopefully will be somewhat interesting. It is proving difficult to upload some of the larger videos so I'll post some now and more later (with some photos as well).

Sonja, Gary and I (taking the video) running in Helliwell Provincial Park

Running on the High Salal to Halliwell trail just outside Helliwell Provincial Park

More fun on the High Salal with Gary holding the camera

Sonja coming down Mr Toad's Wild Ride trail near Mt. Geoffrey

Sonja on "The Way"

Monday, June 22, 2009

Kusam Klimb

June 20, 2009

With a catch phrase of "Are you Tough Enough?" Kusam Klimb markets itself as an epic endurance event. With 1500 meters of elevation gain in 5.5km and some very challenging terrain, it lives up to its billing. It has even been listed by elite trail runner Dale Reicheneder (scroll down about half way) as the toughest race he has ever done. While I don't consider it to be quite as insane as Dale describes, if you have never done it yourself, mere descriptions don't convey the length and grade of the ascent. You can also read a longer article by Sarah Seads here.

This was my third trip to Kusam (located near Sayward on the North East coast of Vancouver Island) in as many years and I have been fortunate enough to come cross the finish line first both times. In 2008, I had one of the best races of my career, where everything went right and I ended up setting a new course record of 2:23:04. Since I had such an amazing race last year, I knew bettering my time this year would not be easy. In addition, I found out that Adam Campbell was registered for the race and Jason Terauchi-Loutitt might make a last minute appearance. Even though I had prior knowledge of the course, I knew that would probably have to run the race of my life to have a chance of winning with those two on the starting line.

I traveled up the night before with Sonja, Garth Campbell, and Joanne Rosen and stayed in a cabin close to the race start. Unfortunately, I had been feeling a little unwell that day and suspected that some sort of sickness was on the way. I just hoped that it would hold off long enough to allow me to race in reasonable condition. My sleep that night was terrible, which never helps. I tossed and turned all night and contemplated not starting the race at all if I woke up feeling totally exhausted and sick. I don't like to under perform I didn't want to start a race where I thought I couldn't muster a decent performance. Especially one that I won twice before.

Six o'clock finally came I while I didn't feel great, I felt good enough to give it a go. I just hoped that once the climb began, I wouldn't fall apart! The race starts with a nice 2.2km on the paved road so in my mind, no warm up was required. I'd save all my energy for later in the race. I hadn't spotted Adam, Jason, or any other top talent that I recognized. As we began to gather for the start, I still didn't see them I began to think that I may have gotten lucky. I like a good challenge and had a I been feeling 100% I would have liked to see how I could have done against better runners on this unique course. However, I also like winning so I'll have to admit that wasn't too disappointed when they didn't make an appearance. Unlike last year, when there was a good sized pack to run with on the first road section, this year I found myself on my own within just a few hundred meters of the start line. A couple of guys with good sized backpacks swaying side to side did make an initial dash for it, but soon fell back.

Fortunately, I continued to feel better than expected and moved ahead of the group in a relaxed, but sustained pace. By the time I hit the single track, I couldn't see any one else. In my mind, the start of the climb was the final test to see if I could be able to hold it together for the rest of the race. If things felt fine in the first 5-10 minutes, I figured I could pull it off. I wouldn't be breaking my time from last year, but I could hopefully still take the win and make it a 3-peat. Thankfully, the legs felt pretty good although my calves did start to tighten up quickly. Fortunately, after about 15 min they loosened up and I was able to climb in relative comfort (not that Kusam and comfort really go together).

I reached the first checkpoint (3.7 km @ 390m elevation) at 23:52. After this checkpoint, the already steep climb starts to go vertical. While this is a running race, during the climb, there is very little running involved. It is a one long power hike punctuated by a few places where a jog is possible (if your legs allow it). Up and up and up it goes, with some rocky sections where you need to pull yourself up with ropes and some nice views if you take the time! It is often better just to put your head down and climb. Looking up can leave you feeling defeated when all you see if more is the same insanity.

In the past two years since I have done the race, the course starts to hit snow near the top, but this year due to warm weather, pretty much all the snow was gone. This generally made for easier climbing as you didn't have to worry about slipping around on the snow. There is a small decent into a alpine lake followed by a final climb to the the col (pass), the highest point in the course (1482m). It took me 1:00:15 to make the 4km from checkpoint #1 to the pass. It is hard to imagine doing 15 min kilometers and thinking the are hard, but that is the reality of Kusam. This was actually about 1 min faster than last year which was quite surprising to me.

My legs had held together pretty well, but they were still pretty toast by the top. I was ready for the downhill, but without the snow I was used to I didn't know what to expect. Previously, I'd just run down hill slamming my heels into the snow and forgoing the rope lines that had been placed to aid racers in their descents. This year, it ended up being a bit harder for me as running down such a steep (and I do mean steep) hill without snow would likely have led me to hospital. This time, I opted to use the lines as a safety and ran straight down hill (gloves are a must). I think this method was a bit slower, but I still made reasonable time. Once the steepest decent was over, we were treated with some great downhill technical single track that I had never seen before. This is a cool thing about Kusam, each year the race can be different depending on snow pack and rainfall. The single track didn't last long, but it was good fun.

I reached the safety checkpoint at the end of the single track 12:06 after the summit and headed onto a steady decent onto an old road trail in a clear cut. This trail is relatively uneventful save for several good sized creek crossings where keeping the feet dry is not an option. After a couple of km, I passed checkpoint #3 and the course soon moved onto a 5km section of gradual downhill gravel road. While I would still prefer to run on trails, this road is actually not bad, as the gradual downhill makes running fast on tired legs seem fairly effortless. After passing checkpoint #4 in 28:48, there was 3km of slightly downhill overgrown logging road which is pretty easy except for where the road has been cut to allow streams to cross (and there a more than a few of these dippsy doodles). It took me 12:11 to traverse the logging road and a short bit on single track before being treated to another creek crossing with one rude little climb to reach the final checkpoint. During the decent I was feeling reasonable and up to reaching the final checkpoint I thought that I may have had a chance to better my 2008 time. However, with 2.5km to go and under 6 min to do it, it wasn't going to happen (it took 9:41). Still, I continued to push right to the finish coming across in 2:26:51, winning the day and posting the 2nd best time on the course.

Second place would go to 2006 Kusam winner, Rob Fontaine coming in at 2:36:23. Joanne ran an amazing race, wining the woman's division in 2:53:25 and setting a new course record along the way. Not bad for someone who only decided to come 2 days out! The true "Toughest" award certainly has to go to Garth though, who was solidly in 3rd place with only 3km to go when he tripped and fell hard onto his right arm, dislocating his shoulder. Despite being in great pain, he managed and hobble to the finish line, only loosing one position. Sonja also raced well, taking about 12 min off of last years time. Most people would consider doing Kusam once a year enough, but how about twice in a row? For Randy Duncan it was just a bit of training for the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Ultra. He pocketed the first go in a respectable 3:22:08 and headed out for another grueling lap (passing some of those still doing the first one I might add). Final results are unfortunately no longer available.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

North Face Endurance Challenge Half Marathon - Bellingham, WA

June 6, 2009

I hadn't heard of this race until a few months ago when my uncle, who lives in Seattle, forwarded me the info. The course description sounded pretty awesome advertising some great technical single track and moderate to hard climbing. The timing also worked well being on the way back from a family vacation in northern Idaho.

For a trail event, this was a pretty big one with about 600 participants in four events (10k, Half Marathon, 50k, and 50 Mile). The 50 Mile event was the marquee event with over $2,000 in prize money for the top 3 men and woman. In addition, the overall male and female winner receive a free entry into the Endurance Challenge Championship in San Francisco where a prize of $10,000 is up for grabs. Sadly, no cash prizes were available for any of the other distances although there was still some pretty decent swag awarded.

This was probably the best organized running race that I have ever attend. Each distance had its own participant guide with course descriptions, maps, profiles, directions to the start, pace charts, participant info, etc. The staging area itself was well set up with a number of sponsor booths, registration and bag drop, food tent, and information. Registration although steep at about $80 Canadian, also included North Face technical shirt and socks, and reusable drawstring bag which. Dean Karnazes, ultra running legend, was also in attendance giving out the awards. Overall, I was pretty impressed with the whole setup.

Leading out the pack. Photo Credit: Sam Ruljancich

In terms of competition, I really didn't know what to expect for this race as I had no idea what the trail running scene was south of the border. Given the fairly high caliber look of the event, I did expect at least a few faster runners to be out. As we gathered near the start line in the minutes before the race I found it strange that no one wanted to actually line up under the arch. This was a race wasn't it? I have never seem a more bashful group of runners in my life!

Eventually, seconds before the start they finally moved forward and we were off. It was a pretty slow start, no one burned out front and I soon found myself in the lead. One guy did speed up and run beside me for a bit during the first 2 Mile loop that brought us out on some single track and then back around the start area again, but he fell back on some of the early climbs. Interestingly, I caught up to and passed a guy who said he was just out for a run. It turns out he ended up running the whole course and had be been registered, would have come in third.

The little loop was fun and I was hoping for more single track. Soon though, we were running on gravel roads. OK, I thought, I can handle this, more trails will be coming soon. I thought I had a good lead on the second place guy, Jacob Stout, but just before a steep ascent up a power line right-of-way, I realized he was just behind me. I was a little worried at this point because it looked like he was pushing hard. If he kept it up, I wasn't sure I could match his pace. It didn't help that as I started the climb, I began to hurt. My stomach was a bit upset and I just wasn't at 100%. Luckily, climbing probably wasn't Jacob's forte as I still gained on him even in my weakened state.

The climb was followed by a road decent. I was feeling better and moving well, but Jacob continued to power ahead and eventually caught up to me. We ran together for perhaps 2 Miles and it was good to have someone to help push me. When soon moved onto some single track for another climb and I fortunately felt better than the last climb and was able to make a up fair amount of ground. By the time I reached the top (and the highest point in the course) and popped back onto a gravel road, he was out of sight. Despite having a comfortable lead, I kept the pressure on myself up. I didn't want him to get the chance to see me again as that could give him a second wind.

I passed and aid #2 station and began a 4 Mile out and back section (unfortunately again on an old road). At this point, I started to see many of the participants from the 50k who also did this section and then after the turn around I saw who was behind me for the first time. I had perhaps a minute on Jacob at this point and 3rd place was another 2 or so more minutes back. It was now my race to lose. The reminder of the race was mostly down hill with another Mile of road followed by some nice technical trail leading into the finish. This brief bit of trail was what I had hoped the whole course would be composed of.
I crossed the line in 1:32:32, a decent time for an off road half marathon assuming the distance was fairly accurate.

The top 3 finishers (myself, Jacob Stout, and Graham Thomas) with Dean Karnazes.
Photo Credit: Sam Ruljancich

The top woman came in 21st overall in 1:52:15 and Sonja ran to a strong 5th place finish in the woman's division. Results are here. As a bonus, the announcer even pronounced my last name correctly! I was happy with the win, but was disappointed with the course which was not near as interesting as advertised. I'm thinking that the 50 Mile racers probably got the prime course. Perhaps I will have to try it in a future year.

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