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.

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