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).

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