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.

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