Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Stewart Mountain 10 Miler

December 11, 2010

Stewart mountain has always been my favorite of the 3 PIH Thetis events. The large climb right in the middle is tough, but it always seems to somehow energize me for the last half of the race. The course is a part loop and part out and back route and is composed of mostly double track with some single track thrown in. Stewart is generally the least well attend and the least competitive of the 3 races, but usually still attracts a few fast runners. In 2008, Jason Loutitt blasted through the course in just over 1:02, quite an impressive feat.

The snow from two weeks ago had long ago melted, but it had been replaced by a good drenching of rain just a day or two before the race. Things would be wet and muddy, but otherwise conditions were pretty decent with cool temps and only a mild drizzle (it would dump buckets later in the day).

While the race only boasts about 150 finishers, there were still a lot of Harriers in attendance which is always great to see. I had expected that Shawn Nelson would race as it would likely be another relatively easy win for him. He opted to do a workout in the morning instead, however, and must have decided that adding another 16k of hard running might be too much even for him. The main surprise happened before the race even started, when Bruce Deacon signed up at the last moment. Bruce is a bit of a local legend and an amazing runner. He was Canada's best marathoner for many years and went to the Olympics twice. To put his accomplishments into perspective compared to most local runners, his PB at 10,000 metres is 28:46, his marathon 2:13:18. If he was only in half decent shape, he would destroy the field. However, due to injury, Bruce had not raced in over 2 years, so it was unknown how he would do.

Generally, this race starts out much slower than Gunner, but this year was a bit different. Richard Knowlton took off right from the line and established an early lead. Richard is a solid runner, but unless he had suddenly gotten a lot faster, he was going beyond himself and I fully expected that he would be pulled back into the pack (and he was within 5 minutes). I didn't worry myself too much about this sort of positioning - this was a long enough race that jockeying at this point was not important - better to get a good relaxed rhythm going. I started out in perhaps 8th place, but fairly soon moved up to 3rd behind Bruce and Trever Ruck (the guy I just edged out at Gunner). I squeezed by Bruce on some single track and then proceeded to trade first place with Trevor a few times. He didn't want to concede the lead and tended to pull away from me a bit on the descents. Rather than continuing to battle so early in the race, I opted to settle in a bit. There was still plenty of racing to go and a nice tough climb to come. We made our way though a large swamp and creek both of which left me with numb legs for a bit, but luckily they were back to normal in a few minutes.

I kept Trevor within striking distance although by the time we reach the start of the big climb, he may have had 30 or 40 metres on me. I knew this was the time to assert myself and see what I could do - if I could establish a decent gap on the climb and get out of sight, I figured I had good odds at holding the competition off. I opened it up and soon passed Trevor on the first part of the climb. I continued to dig in, determined to run the entire ascent as I have done in past years. It turns up to a vicious grade in spots, so running at any speed is a challenge. There is a brief break before the final push to the summit. I was feeling pretty good on the climb and while I was working hard, it didn't feel quite and excruciating as it sometimes does. Perhaps I was not pushing myself quite as hard since I was leading at this point although I'd rather think it was because my hill climbing has improved.Unfortunately , it is probably the former.

By the time I reached the summit, I had perhaps gained 1 min on Trevor, now it was time to try and keep it. As I have mentioned many times on this blog, non-technical descending is not my strength, but I was determined to give it my all. I felt quite good and pushed hard on the flats and downhills. I didn't hear or see any signs of Trevor until crossing McKenzie Creek where I looked back and saw that he had closed the gap to within 30s or so. Not yet within striking distance though, so I wasn't yet worried. By the time we reached the 3 hills on Lower Thetis Lake, I still maintained close to 30s, but that didn't stop Trevor from keeping me moving. As I summitted each hill, he was at the bottom. There was no letting up, but I managed to come into the finish line just under 1:04:56, 27s ahead of Trevor.

It was a very good race for me (perhaps a A- or an A), my first win at Stewart and nearly 2 min faster than my last clocking in 2008. I have to thank Shawn Nelson for not showing up and allowing me to take the win and Trever for pushing me the whole time to give me a solid time. Adam O'Meara closed out the top 3 and Bruce cruised in for 5th. Sarah Baker won the woman's division, beating out race favourite Melanie McQuaid. Sonja ran to a 6th place finish in against a tough group of woman who all came in within 45s of one another.

There was a victim in the race: my right big toe nail. I have frequently hammered my toes on downhills, but I took it to another level this race. It is over a week later, and the toe is still sore. I think the combination of wet shoes and my hard pace on the downhills took their toll - that nail is gone for sure.

For a ultra-marathoner, this is nothing, but is a nice shade of blue after only 16km

Thanks again to the Harriers for hosting another great event and to the volunteers who make it go so well. The Island Race series is just around the corner now. Who needs an off season?

Gerry Etcheverry also produced another nice video of this race.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Perseverance Running is Born!

Over the last couple of years, I've been thinking about starting to do some running coaching. The idea of helping other runners improve and achieve their goals was appealing. I figured it was something that I would pick up in a couple of years, but this summer I was approached by a runner who asked me if I could coach her. I saw it as a fantastic opportunity to see how I would perform as a coach and how I would enjoy it and accepted the offer. Over that last few months I have found it quite enjoyable to work with this runner and I look forward to seeing her progress.

I would like to attract a few more runners so that I can get a nice little training group together. To further these ends, I have launched a new website outlining what I offer: Perseverance Running. I've added a link over on the right side as well.

There are a number of very good running coaching in Victoria some with impressive credintials. However, I believe I offer a few things that many others do not:
  • A specialization in trail and mountain running
  • Programs customized for each athlete
  • Competitive rates
  • Delivery of a workout plan via a dedicated website that allows athletes to track their workouts and analyze their progress with reporting tools
  • Tips and techniques specific to trail running and running on technical terrain
For a full listing of what I have to offer check out the Coaching section of Perseverance Running.

Happy Running!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gunner Shaw 10k (Victoria)

November 27, 2010

I've been busy on another project (which I will be announcing here soon) so I've unfortunately fallen behind in posting this, but here it is.

This popular classic fall race always boasts at least a few features designed to get the racers wet. This year would be a bit different though since in the week leading up to the race, Victoria was pounded with some severe winter weather (by west coast standards). Temperatures approached -10 degrees Celsius accompanied by two moderate snowfalls. By race day, the cold spell was over, but the puddles that the race usually goes though were still frozen and so for safety reasons they had to be bypassed. In addition, there was still snow on much of the course and while not deep it was fairly slippery.

In preparation for the conditions, I had brought a couple of options for footwear. After doing my warm-up on part of the course with Shawn Nelson and realizing that things were definitely slippery, I opted to go with my regular trail runners outfitted with YakTrax that I had borrowed. It's impossible to say exactly how much time they gained for me, but they certainly seemed to help quite a lot. They were not perfect though, as most of the snow was slushy and I still slipped around a bit, but on the downhills especially the footing felt quite secure.

Gunner is usually a very competitive race and usually boasts a strong field of road runners. This year, perhaps because of the conditions, the field wasn't quite at stacked, but my usual competition in the form of Shawn Nelson, Sean Chester, and Nick Walker were there. It was great to see Brad Cunningham (who has also recently joined by training group) out running his first race in some time. While I hoped that my footwear choice would give me a bit of an edge there would still be plenty of competition.

I settled into a comfortable rhythm once the race was underway. Shawn really put the hammer down right away and put a significant gap on everyone else, but I was running with a half dozen other guys in the chase group. Over the next km or so I pushed though and found myself running with Sean in the 2/3 position. Unfortunately, by this time Shawn was almost out of sight and that would be the last I would see of him until after the finish. Despite only wearing racing flat and sliding around, his fitness carried him though to the win.

I ran with Sean for the next km or so until we hit the first steep climb of the course. It isn't long, but it does have quite a grade. At this point, I was able to make up a bit of ground as Sean's shoes slowed his progress
(he was also wearing racing flats). I still heard someone behind me as I continued on and assumed it was Sean, but I didn't look back and didn't find out until a little later that it was another racer named Trevor Ruck would had moved into 3rd just behind me. I have a suspicion that Trever had not done a race of this type before because 20 min into the race, he asked one of the volunteers how much further it was (they didn't know, but I told him were were just passed halfway). For me, it was a bit of a tell and didn't seem to be the best race strategy, as you wouldn't be likely to ask that question unless you were hurting.

To his credit though, he tenaciously hung on despite the fact that he was obviously working quite hard. I'm sure he also benefited from the fact that we wore cross country spikes which seemed to give him pretty good traction. Once we popped back out onto the main Thetis trail, Trevor decided it was time to make his move and passed me. I was feeling reasonable and didn't let him get far ahead though. There were still a few hills left on the last km of the course and I hoped to be able to reel him in at that point. On the first little hill, I gained ground, on the second I was able to pull close to even. On the 3rd and final hill, I knew it was likely my last chance to make a convincing move. With the encouragement of the spectators on the top of the hill, I powered up there and passed convincingly. I didn't look back once I hit the top and did my best to move with speed on the last few hundred meters. I finished in 34:57, just 9 seconds ahead of Trevor and good for 2nd place overall. I talked to Trevor afterwords and he told me that he thought we were racing for the win. He hadn't seen Shawn out it front since he vanished out in front so quickly. This likely explains while he held on so long - nothing like the motivation of a possible win to spur you on!

The final hill. Photo Credit: Todd Nowack

It was by far my best ever Gunner Shaw race (by next best showing was 7th back in 2008). It terms of how I felt, I would probably rate it as a B+. I felt that I could push well, but didn't have the extra gear you get when you have one of those exceptional days. Shawn won with over a minute on me and Brad cruised into a strong 4th place finish. Melanie McQuaid won the woman's division with a 39:08 clocking while Sonja raced to a well deserved 5th place finish. Thanks to PIH and all the volunteers who make it another successful race!


Gerry Etcheverry also produced a couple of neat video clips:

And one from Carlos Castillo:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bear Mountain 10k

November 20, 2010

This race's billing as "Canada's Hardest 10k" has been an effective promotion. The race has been gradually gaining in popularity to the point that it now sells out it's 500 spots weeks before race day. There is no doubt that it is a tough course; one which I underestimated my first time running it in 2008. That day, I went out too hard and suffered for the last half of the course losing a lot of positions. This year, I wanted to run a smarter race and hopefully also better my time of 36:57.

In the days leading up to the race the weather forecast was calling for snow and winds for the night before and morning of the race. And on race race day, we were treated to their correct predictions. On Bear Mountain, there were significant accumulations and it was still snowing and the wind gusting. Sonja (who was also racing) and I were informed by the race organizers Nick Walker and Mark Nelson, that due to the snow, the course would be cut to about 6k. So much for seeing if I could better my time, but that could wait for another year.

Anticipating snow, I had brought a variety of footwear including my trail shoes affixed with screws. I figured they would be effective in providing traction, but I was also concerned about them beating my feet and legs up on the paved paths since they were old and worn out and never meant for too much road anyway. After checking out some of the trails and noting that they didn't seem too slippery, I decided to opt for my light trainers instead. They ended up working reasonably well and I never bailed on the course, but I did lose time having to be cautious on the descents and probably should have gone for the trail shoes.

It was a bit unpleasant standing around in the cold wind at the start, but I knew I would be warm enough once we got started. The first km was had some uphill on the road followed by some downhill on the paved trail that we would use for most of the rest of the race. I found myself at the back of the lead group of 7. Race favorite David Jackson was out in front with Shawn Nelson, Sean Chester, Carlos Lesser, Jason Loutitt, Roberto Mandje, and myself not far behind. Soon enough we were on the "Papa Bear" climb which due to the course adjustment, was the only significant hill of the day. I was feeling a bit lethargic and not entirely dialed into the race right off the start so I hoped that the hill would kick start my body as it sometimes does. As we hit the steep pitches, I really felt as though my additional focus and hills in the last few months is starting to pay off. I was able power up them pretty effectively and quickly made ground up on Roberto, Jason, and Carlos. I passed Roberto early in the climb, Jason mid way up and Carlos near the top. Now the pressure would be on to keep my position on the decent.

We were treated to a face full of wind that nearly ground me to a halt and snow drifts just before descending, but luckily it was short lived. The winding downhills were not too icy, but I slipped around a bit here and there. I tried my best to maintain a good solid pace and took advantage of the downhills as much as possible since it still non technical descents remain one of my weaknesses. Nelson and Chester were now running together and had about 30 seconds on me so they were never too far away, but were also not getting any closer. As we neared the bottom of the descent, Jason was pushing hard and caught and passed me. I know that he is an aggressive downhill runner so wasn't all the surprised, but I was determined to keep close to him. I stayed on this tail and he only had a couple of strides on me by the time we popped back onto the road for a final few hundred metres to the finish. With about 300 metres to go, I decided to give it a go and pushed ahead, he responded, and I pushed a little harder and managed to stay just ahead. It wasn't until I had 50 metres to go did I figure I would be able to keep the position.

I finished in 4th place in 22:33, 21 seconds behind Shawn, and 26 seconds behind Sean. Jason came in just 4 seconds behind me. I was happy with my placing since it was my first time beating accomplished runners such as Jason and Roberto. How I felt during the race itself has to be categorized as average or just slightly above. David comfortably won the race although he inadvertently cut the course since the marking was unclear. He had a large lead and would almost certainly have taken it anyways. Care Wakely won the woman's division in 24:45, narrowly beating out Laura Schwertfeger. Sonja was just outside of the top five with her 29:01 clocking. Thanks to Mark and Nick for pulling this one off despite the best efforts of Mother Nature.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thetis 20K Relay

November 11, 2010

This is my 6th time out for this fun low key event. This year sold out all 600 spots yet again and saw a record 152 teams and solos finish. This is a Prairie Inn Harrier hosted event which attracts a large contingent of members so it is always a great opportunity to socialize and cheer others on.

Last year I raced solo with a respectable 6th place overall finish. This year my fellow Aspire athletes put together a strong team consisting of Sean Chester, Shawn Nelson, Nick Walker, and myself. I could be considered to be the weakest link on the team since all 3 of other have personal bests faster than mine for most distances. Because of this, I had put some pressure on myself to pull out a decent race. There was some discussion about weather or not we would have a chance of bettering the course record of 59:30 set back in 2004, but I dismissed it as unlikely because the course has been altered slightly as is now longer than it used to be.

We still would face some good competition however, in the form of a strong UVic team and a team from the Westwood Lake Running Club. Shawn went first facing a fast field and ran exceptionally well cruising in at 15:31 in 1st place. Now it would be up to the rest of us to keep it that way. Sean went 2nd, running well to attain a 16:17 time and extending out lead to over a minute. Nick, only recently back from a trip to Hawaii, came in at 16:40 and passed off to me. I didn't know exactly what the gap to the next team was, but knew that I had to run hard to make sure I didn't get caught.

I took off at a pretty brisk pace and felt the strain pretty much right away. There really is no time where things are "comfortable" when running a 5k - it is painful from the start to the finish. To perform at you best, you need to be right near the lactate threshold for the duration. I was able to move well although I was feeling a bit of fatigue in my legs. I weaved in and out of other racers on the 2rd and 3rd laps as I made my way around Upper Thetis Lake. Soon I was on the final section on Lower Thetis which includes a couple of little hills which I powered up as best I could. At this point, there was no one in close pursuit so I figured we were probably safe, but continued to hammer away. I had decent legs for a surge at the finish, pulling in at 16:29 which turned out to be enough for the win with a cumulative time of 1:04:57. It wasn't my best ever performance, but I felt that I held it together pretty well and was able to finish strong.

Near the finish. Photo Credit: Sonja Yli-Kahila

UVic's Jackson 4 came in 2nd just 1:23 behind so it is good that I didn't doddle out there. Westwood RC came in 17 sec back of UVic so 2nd place was hotly contested. Other Harrier teams did very well picking up wins in solo (Keith Mills), Master men, Senior Mixed and Veteran Men categories. It was awesome to see so many people out enjoying the day (it started to rain near only after most people had finished) and supporting this Harrier race which is a great fundraiser for the club. I will be back to Thetis very soon for the Gunner Shaw on Nov 27th.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hallows Eve Half Marathon

October 24, 2010

This race (and accompanying 10k) are part of the Run the North Shore race series which host over a dozen trail and road events throughout the year. This is the second race I have done as part of this series (I ran the Iron Knee 25k back in 2007). I really enjoyed the Iron Knee and have wanted to run it again in subsequent years, but have been thwarted by scheduling issues. This year, I really wanted to try a new race on the mainland so a few weeks out Sonja and I decided to sign up for this one. I knew little about it except that it took place in Lynn Valley and therefore was bound to have at least some good single track.

The race started at Lynnmour Jaycee House right next to Capilano College. The venue was fine except for the lack of washroom facilities. One stall and two urinals for 150 guys just doesn't cut it. Lack of toilets is a common complaint for runners, but too many races still have insufficient facilities. Yes, we realize that there will often be lines since everyone wants to go at the same time, but having to wait in line 20 or more minutes really isn't acceptable. Fortunately, I got in early and didn't have to wait too long.

Being that I am competitive, I had researched previous winning times and course records for this race. Last year, James Richardson had dominated the field winning in 1:38:18, over 8 min ahead of 2nd place. Simon Driver holds the course record of 1:33:06. Looking at those times and knowing James' approximate fitness level since I have competed against him in previous years, I figured that any time under 1:40 would be a reasonable goal for me. Where this time would place me, I really had little idea since I didn't know who would show up.

As we lined up for the start, I saw Jen Segger who told that she was trying to get some speed back into her legs after several multi-day expedition adventure races recently. Funny how everything is relative, since not too many people outside of the ultra and adventure racing crowd would say a half marathon is short. I also saw Gary Robbins, who wasn't racing, but was there as part North Shore Athletics. He was sporting a crazy Norwegian Ski racing uniform from the 1980's. Many other volunteers and racers were also wearing an array of Halloween costumes that made for some interesting viewing. One day, I'll have to come up with a costume that is good, but still allows me to race at full speed.

Once we were underway, I was surprised to see a teenager in a Steed Cycle jersey, quite literally sprinting ahead. I know that I frequently comment on the crazy guys (usually young) who go out way to hard, but this guy was taking it to new levels. For a second, I thought I must have been in the wrong race as this guy was acting like we were in a 800m race rather than a half marathon! There was no way he was going to maintain that pace and sure enough within a few hundred metres, I caught up to him and passed him as he was clearly already cooked and gasping for air. Soon after though, I heard someone else close behind. As we entered some single track, one of the volunteered shouted, "Looking good, Simon!" Quickly putting thing together, I asked Simon he was indeed the Simon Driver I was thinking about. Indeed he was, I knew then that winning this race would not be easy. I asked him if he was going to try to beat his own course record, but he joked that his goal was only to keep up to me. Runners are generally humble though, so there was no way to know exactly how fit he was.

I tucked in behind Simon as we continued on some flat, windy and muddy single track for km or so before descending down to the river. The decent included quite a few stairs, and I noted this knowing that we would be climbing back up these on the way back. Simon descended well, but I had no problems matching his pace. Once we got down to the river though and started a gradual climb upstream, he really put the pressure on. I stayed right with him for awhile, but I felt that the pace was a little beyond my ability to keep for the full duration of the race. I let him go figuring that I would see what kind of a climber he was when we hit the steep stuff. Either he would be gone or I would be able to close the gap and have a chance to get ahead. He had perhaps a 100m on me before hitting a steeper climb and I honestly I figured that this would be the last I would see of him.

Once we got to the main climb which included many flights of stairs I was surprised to be able to start pulling back the gap. Part of the reason I was able to do well on the stairs was because I was usually taking two steps at a time while he was only taking one. While it is not always possible to do them this way since sometimes you are just too tired, I have found it a more efficient method. While it is harder on the cardo system, it requires fewer legs contractions. After a few more flights of stairs, I was able to finish closing the gap and moved ahead. The climbing wasn't finished though as we still had a long gradual climb on a dirt road to the highest point on the course at 400m above sea level (7.5km in).

When I hit the decent, I had perhaps 200m on Simon, but as I winded my way down the technical switchback trail, he started to close the gap. I am a solid technical down hill runner, so he really had to have been hammering to catch up. By the the time I reached the bottom, he was nipping at my heels. We crossed a bridge over the river and then started up the other side of the river on a double track. I was still feeling fine, but this sort of terrain has also be mentally tougher for me as it is somewhat monotonous. Simon was good enough to tell me what was coming up on the course so that was appreciated. We would soon come up to another moderate climb followed by some rolling terrain and a decent back to the single track we came up on.

This second main climb also had some flights of stairs and luckily my legs still felt good so I was able to move up well and gained a bit of time on Simon. On the subsequent rolling and downhill, however, he did his thing and pulled back up to me. It was a fun decent though with quite a lot of technical sections with roots and rocks. Partway back down the trail intersected the 10k race course and we were soon passing a lot of runners. There was a lot of "On Your Left!" and "Thank You!" being shouted for the remainder of the course. Everyone was very accommodating with the exception of the couple of runners who sported headphones. I frequently listen to music when I am out training on the trails, but in a race you need to be able to hear what is going on around you so I don't think they should be allowed (at least not on shorter events such as this where there are lots of runners on the trail).

Simon stayed right with me on the gradual decent next to the river so it was still unsure who would grab the win. There was one 100m climb left before the final 2km of flat and downhill to the finish. I figured my best chance was to push as hard as possible up the hill. If I could gain 30s or so on him, I had a good chance of being able to hold that off the top. I gave it my all and the legs held out. The hardest part of the climb was trying to ask the 10k runnesr to let me by. My shouts became wheezes as I just didn't have any extra breath to spare.

As I crested the hill, I didn't look back and continued to push hard. The body still felt good and I was able to move well. With 1km to go, I did glace back and couldn't spot Simon. This boded well as it was unlikely that he would be able to catch me on the final 1km downhill. I stopped the clock at 1:36:05 well ahead of my prediction. Simon came in about a minutes later and 3rd place wend to Doug Giles a full 10min back. Tamsin Anstey won the woman's division with a 1:48:39 clocking good for 6th overall. Simon's wife Katrina was second and Jen came in 3rd. Sonja was the 8th woman in (out of 76) in a solid performance. Results. Video.

This was a quite a satisfying win for me as it was one with real competition. It was great to be able to run toe to toe with Simon for most of the race as this does not happen very often on these sorts of trail races. He is a great competitor and accomplished trail runner with many wins and course records to his credit (incidentally he convincingly won the Iron Knee in 2007 when I in attendance). It was morale boost to be able to run with someone of this caliber (even if he was not quite as fast as when he set the course record). Thanks to Simon for being there since there is no doubt that he pushed me harder than I would have gone otherwise. Also thanks to the race organizer who put on a great race (the lack of sufficient toilet facilities non-withstanding) . The course was well marked and marshaled and had a lot of varied and interesting terrain. While I didn't use them, there were also 3 aid stations which is more than sufficient for this length of race.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Goodlife Fitness Victoria 8k

Oct 10, 2010

The Victoria Marathon/Half Marathon and 8k (and kids race) constitute the largest running event of the year in Victoria (the Times Colonist 10k also comes close). As a runner it is really a treat to participate since I not only get to run one of the races, but also touch base with and cheer on tons of other people. This year saw yet another record field with 14,080 participants signed up for the four races as the popularity of this event continues to grow. It is great to see so many people challenging themselves. I see this as only a positive thing in terms of healthy living. People had better be getting some exercise if they are going to be eating food like the Double Down. I'm sure a vegetable has never been in contact with that monstrosity.

But I degrees. In terms of my race goals for the 8k, they were pretty modest. Since my Lands End 10k was such a disaster and my 5000m track in August below expectations, I didn't know what I would be able to pull off with this one. I was feeling that I was getting back into my groove over the last few weeks, but didn't think I was quite where I was earlier in the year. With that in mind, I figured that anything under 27 min would be decent. My PB at this distance is 26:35 set this January at the Pioneer 8k - I did not expect to better that.

I headed down in the dark with Garth (who was also doing the 8k) for the 7:15am race start. We were running a bit late, but still had a bit of time to warm up before the gun went. I felt a bit flat on the warm-up, but I know this isn't a good indicator to race performance so I didn't give it much thought. Once the race started, I soon realized that the depth of competitors was a little less than normal. I was in about 9th place within 500m and invariably there are always a couple of eager guys who fall back after destroying themselves 1k into the race. This year was no exception as I passed two of them before hitting the 1k marker and found myself in 7th place. The leaders were race favorites Dylan Gant, Kevin Frisen, Peter Corrigan. Shawn Nelson was not far behind and then came was his brother Mark Nelson and Blair Johnston. Within a km I noticed that Mark was falling off pace and I soon passed him. Unfortunately, it was not his day and after struggling for a couple of more kilometers, he pulled the plug.

It was early in the race, but by 2-3k I was pleased with how I was feeling since I was comfortable and controlled. I kept the pace up as much as possible as the course gradually rose to Mile 0. Part way up the climb I managed to pass Blair and I made sure I did it with some authority to dissuade him from latching on to me. The hill did eat into my pace with the my slowest splits being 3:25 for the 3rd km and the 5km (on the way back to Mile 0), but this was expected. I continued to feel strong and was able to keep the pace strong. I know that once we crested Mile 0 again, it is pretty much flat or downhill the whole way back (with one tiny hill with 1.5k to go).

Blair had not gotten far behind though and passed me back around the 6k mark. I contemplated staying with him, but decided to keep my own rhythm and let him put a few meters on me. With one kilometer to go, I felt I had a little bit left and pushed the gas pedal a bit, closing the gap and pulling ahead. I honestly felt that I had him at that point since usually people want to stay with you this close to the finish and if they don't it usually means they can't. He was far from done though and with 700m to do I could hear him coming, I pushed harder. With 500m to go, he was still coming, so I opened it up just a bit more. With 100m to go, he was just a step behind me and the race turned into a full out sprint for us. By the end, he was able to get a toe in front of me and was able to nudge into 5th spot (we had identical finishing times). It would have been nice to win, but I'm happy to be able to have given it my all. Blair was also only 19, so I think being able to almost match his youthful speed wasn't too bad.

Giving it our all at the finish. Photo Credit: Goodlife Fitness Marathon

I finished with a chip time of 26:31 (gun time was 26:33) which was good for 6th place, an age category win and most surprising of all, a 4s PB. I have to thank Blair for the PB, as I'm sure I would not have killed myself like that if there had been no one to try and beat. Peter ended up winning in 24:30, with Shawn coming in 4th in 25:43. Top woman was Kirsten Sweetland in 27:38.

I knew a number of others racing the half and full marathon. I watch some of the top finishers in the half come through and then cleaned up and got a bit of food into me and before heading out on my bike to check out the marathon participants. Sonja was running her debut marathon and I intended to park my bike with around 10k to go and run the last section of the course with her. Unfortunately, I underestimated her speed a little and just missed her. Finally realizing this, I hopped back on the bike and biked madly to catch back up finally finding her with just a couple km to go. Unsurprisingly, she was hurting at this point, but was still running faster than many of those around her. She finished it off and was only around 3 min off her ideal goal of 3:20, pretty good for a first marathon and a windy day. The wind wrecked havoc on the marathon, with times slower than normal and brutal positive splits the order of the day. Of those finishing in under 4 hours, only 6.8% ran a negative split while the average time for the second half was over 10 min longer than the first. I'm glad I wasn't trying to vie for a particular time that day.

Final Results

My splits: 3:11, 3:19, 3:25, 3:22 (13:16 4k), 3:25, 3:20, 6:34 (final 2k)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cumberland MOMAR

September 25, 2010

This was the one and only adventure race I will do this year, having skipped the Squamish MOMAR in favour of volunteering. Since I have been almost exclusively been concentrating on running this year with a lot less biking than I used to do (particularly mountain biking) I wasn't sure how things would go on this race. I did manage to get a couple of 3 hour combo run and mountain bike sessions in just to make sure my body remembered what it was like, but it was really a bare minimum of training. My race partner Garth, had been doing a more biking than me, so I hoped that I wouldn't dragging my ass on biking sections too badly.

As race day drew near, the weather forecast was particularly grim. Not only was it calling for steady rain, but also for high winds. Winds can be a huge problem on Comox Lake which can have decent waves even on a relatively calm day. The only apparent saving grace was that the temperature was predicted to be fairly warm with highs of 18-19 degrees. On our drive up the Friday before the race, things were not looking up with rain pounding down and gusty winds. If things stayed that for the race, it would be a soggy one and the already unpleasant kayak would be that much worse with the wind.

Fortunately, we really lucked out and conditions were quite good when we arrived at race central Saturday morning: overcast and mild temperature with only a small amount of wind. We parked our bikes at the transition zone along with our hydra packs, found our rental kayak, picked up our first map, and were soon ready to go. The map showing the kayaking, and mountain biking stages was nearly a formality as nearly all of the this portion of the course was flagged. Only the last checkpoint before the orienteering stage required self navigation and we luckily knew approximately were it was based on last years race.

Stage 1: Kayak

If you have read any of my Cumberland MOMAR race reports before, you know that kayaking is not my favorite thing. Garth finds it equally unpleasant so it is a good thing that we get it over with right away and move onto more enjoyable stages. The winds were calm to start with and we moved fairly well as we made are way west down the lake to the turn around. Once we got around a point, there was a significant headwind, but nothing that caused us too much grief. We were in about 12 place which is on par with our normal performance. Once we turned around and started to head back, we were able to surf some waves which was pretty fun. Surprisingly, we managed to pass and put a couple of boat lengths on race favorite Todd Nowack. Todd is a pretty decent kayaker and despite the large disadvantage of being in a single rather than a double, I expected him to be further ahead.

Unfortunately, while we soon found our way back to the starting area, we were not done yet. We still had 3 legs to go: across the lake and then further east, before turning back to the start area. As we neared the far side of the lake, it started to become unclear where we were to turn. Apparently there were pilings with pink flagging, but we couldn't spot it and others were seeming to have the same problem. There was some confusion on the water with some paddlers starting to move east without going around anything. Not wanting to be passed by a pile of boats, we followed suit. Shortly after making the turn, the wind stared to blow like crazy from the east. Paddling suddenly got very difficult and it was really challenging to keep the cadence up. I also think we were both starting to fatigue at this point. Todd and at least 2 other boats managed to pass us while we wallowed in the water. We finally make our way to the final turn around piling and were headed toward the finish of the stage. The wind was now less punishing and we were able to hold steady for the remainder of the stage. We ended up taking 1:12:28 for the stage, nearly 15 min longer than last year. This was partly due to conditions, but mostly due to the fact that with the marking confusion we actually traveled over a km further than last year.

Stage 2: Mountain Bike # 1

We punched Checkpoint (CP) #1 and then hustled to our bikes. As usual my legs felt like I had strapped 10kg to each one - I expected this though as it is the result of being wedged in the kayak for over an hour. The first part of the bike is just on paved road heading toward the village of Cumberland. This is a good opportunity to get the legs moving again before the real climbing began. We passed a team on the road whom I believe held on to the top placing for a team of 4. We traversed some double track on the for a while before starting our climb up a trailed named "Buggered Pig." We passed a team of two at this point, but soon after were passed by a solo (I think it was Ryan Stuart) although he didn't get all that far ahead. This section of trail is a little challenging when wet as there are a lot of slick roots to pull you around. Still, we fared pretty well getting it done in 23:41 and posting the 3rd fastest time through this section of biking.

Stage 3: Navigation Trek

Time to get off our bikes and onto the running stage. We were supplied another map which had 7 checkpoints we had to collect in whatever order we choose. As navigator, I had to quickly assess the map and figure out an appropriate route. It is always temping to get going right away as other people seem to start running almost as soon as they have the map in their hands. Garth was urging me to get going, but I have found through experience that it is worth the minute or so spent figuring out a decent route rather than running without really knowing where we are going which can cost much more time. At a very minimum, I have to be able to orientate myself to the map or I will have no idea where we are going. I choose to grab the checkpoints to counter-clockwise order starting with a small backtrack to get onto a trail named "Hai Gai" which paralleled a creek. This turned out not to be the best option as the trail is a bit slow to run and there was a better option which had no backtracking, easier running and only a little simple bushwacking. At least I knew the way though and soon we picked up CP #3.

After a power hike up the steep trail I make a error thinking that I was at a different intersection that I was. I soon figured it out though and it should not have been a big deal since there should have been two comparable routes to the next checkpoint, but we were unable to find the trail as it was marked on the map so had to bushwack a bit to get us back on track. It only cost a couple of minutes, but was still a bit frustrating. Just before arriving at CP #4 a racer came running back toward us asking if we had seen a passport (used to record the punches for each checkpoint). Without the passport, your race is pretty much over as you have no way to prove you went anywhere so hopefully he was able to find it. After that checkpoint, the rest of the checkpoints came pretty easily. We started to see a trickle of racers coming the opposite direction although I heard later that most choose the same way as we did. In retrospect, I think a clockwise direction would have been slightly faster as it included more runnable uphill than the direction we took. We made our way back to the transition point in 1:11:54 and we told we were in 2nd place. "Really? - it was a bit of a nice surprise for sure" The only bad news was that we were already 15 min behind Todd!

Stage 4: Mountain Bike # 2

The start of this long biking stage was a grind up the steep road we had just ran down. We saw some other racers coming in, but no one was closer than a few minutes. This would give us a bit of a buffer and we hoped to be be able to hold everyone off for the stage. Then it was onto to some single track before getting to CP #11. Then more single track to CP #12 where friends Adam and Kate were volunteering. By then Todd had gained a few more minutes on us. Unless he made a large navigational error (which was highly unlikely) we were not going to reel him in. No matter though, if we could hold onto a 2nd place finish we would be doing well. The route popped us out onto a logging road which climbed up to the high point on the course. Based on what things looked like on the map, I was thinking it would take perhaps 10 min, but it probably went on 10 min longer than expected. It wasn't too steep, but was all up hill and took some effort. We moved well though and I we both were feeling as good or better than could be expected at this point in the race.

We eventually made it to CP #13 and Garth proceeded to have a bit of a panic attack as he frantically tried to find the passport in his deep pockets. Thankfully, he finally managed to dig it out and the crisis was averted. Then we tacked a new trail named "Thirsty Beaver." It was evident that a lot of work has gone into this trail with tons of boardwalks and logs. Since it was wet, we really had to be careful not to bail, but overall it wasn't as slippery as it could have been. It wasn't particularly flowy with lots of corners, humps and mud to navigate. It was actually a fair amount of work to ride as I don't think my butt touch my seat for the whole ride. I took a minor bail off a boardwalk, but we rode cleanly for the most part. After the Beaver we grabbed CP # 14 then then had a bit of road to do before being through back onto another new trail named "Blue Collar". This trail was faster and flowed well and was really a blast. We crossed through the checkpoint with Adam and Kate again (this time punching CP #15) and headed down the second part of "Blue Collar."

Then onto the road again before hitting the final stretch of single track on the "Crafty Butcher." We had seen no one since leaving the trekking stage, but finally Jeremy Grasby (winner of last year's Cumberland race) caught up to us as we punched CP #16. Jeremy has amazing mountain biking skills particularly when you consider he rides a single speed - how he is able to crank up such steep terrain is quite amazing. We managed to hold him off until getting into town , but I took us a block too far and lost a few seconds while Jeremy went directly to the transition area to the planned urban navigation. I was thinking that our choice to run flat pedals would soon pay off as Jeremy would either have change into running shoes or clomp around in his biking shoes. Either way would lose him a bit of time as long as I could find the checkpoints quickly. As soon as we got to the transition, however, we found that the urban section had been dropped due to racers taking longer than expected so back onto our bikes we went. It took us 1:18:40 for this section of the bike, only 5 other teams did it quicker. Considering I don't think I made it onto my mountain bike more than 10 times this year, I was pretty pleased. I actually seem to feel better, more confident, and more skillful in a race environment than I do when just out riding.

Stage 5: Mountain Bike #3

There was only one more checkpoint to pickup which we were to self navigate too. As previously mentioned we had a bit of a leg up on racers who hadn't done the course last year as the CP was in a similar location. Jeremy had the same route choice as we did and we hit the CP at the same time. We then followed him back to the main road where he made up a bit of time on use by taking a sightly quicker turnoff. The pavement is where the single speed becomes a liability, however, as we popped our chains onto the big ring and powered our way back to him, pulling about even just as we got to the final transition. We finished this bike in 15:45, tied exactly with Jeremy for the fastest time.

Stage 6: Orienteering and Finish

Due to time issues, they had knocked the farthest off CP from the orienteering which I wasn't too upset about since my legs were kind of fried by this time. A clockwise direction seems to make the most sense for this course so we were soon off. I fumbled just a little getting the first CP, but the next came easily. I overshot the 3rd, however, and we had to bushwack back to pick it up loosing precious minutes. Jeremy had done better on this one and I though that he may have had us at that point, but the damage was done and the only thing to do was move on. A couple of the CP were off the trail a bit which took just a bit of scrambling around to find, but were not too bad. To get one on the beach we had to jump down part of the cliff, but it was a good move and then we rushed to find the last one, clearing it pretty quickly before sprinting for the line. It wasn't a clean stage taking us 31:19 (compared to the fastest time of 25:30), but it was good enough to keep us in 2nd place which ties use for our best ever finish and is the highest we have placed at the Cumberland venue which tends to be a competitive one. Our finishing time was 4:53:47 - a mere 32 minutes behind Todd! Jeremy came in about 5 min behind us followed by Ryan Stuart, Norm Thibault, and Roger MacLeod. Marshall House and Brady Fleguel held onto 3rd place in the team of two men after putting in a amazing paddle in their 2 person surf ski (they were nearly 10 min ahead of us). Despite a few navigational errors, it was a good race for us and I was quite pleased at how my body held up even with my poor preparation.

Congrats to all who raced, including Brent Chan and Sarah Newman who pulled of a respectable 6:41:48 and Sonja and Louise Proulx who despite having a major rudder issue and navigation woes still manged to finish under the cutoff. Thanks to Bryan Tasaka who put on yet another great race. There are rumours that a new venue to replace Squamish is coming for 2011 so that should be exciting.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lands End 10k

September 12, 2010

Basically I could sum up this race with with a simple "It sucked." I didn't have big expectations for this race as it was just a day after returning from a 2 week trip in Hawaii (which was fantastic by the way) so I knew that it wouldn't be a PB day. Still, I thought I could get a respectable performance in, something around the 34 min range seemed reasonable given that my fitness should still be around 33 min. It was not to be.

Conditions were wet, but luckily not too cold. Things started out OK with an opening km of 3:11 which didn't feel too hard. Jim Finlayson, Mark Cryderman, and Craig Odermatt all took off pretty much from the line leaving me running on my own for the entirety of the race. Apparently the course has been about 150m short for years (which might explain why this was the first race where I broke 35 min). This year they decided to extend it to the full 10k, but didn't adjust the km markers to match. This meant that kilometers 1-4 was short while 4-5 was very long (it's an out and back course so the reverse applies). I knew this going in, but still used the markers and a general guide thinking that each of them would only be a couple of seconds off at the most.

The next 3 km would go by at about 3:20 pace which seemed pretty reasonable. Then I hit the "long" kilometre to the turn around and was a shocked by the 3:50 split. Yes, it was somewhat uphill, but that only account for a bit of the 30 second difference. In total lost 50 seconds on this "kilometre" the way out and back - it seemed like much more than 150m extra, but it may have just been my slow running. Things slowly started to unravel on the way back with all my splits over 3:30. It is slightly uphill, but I was struggling. Effort wise, I felt like I was running 3:20's, but reality told me otherwise. I kept Craig in sight, but he was gradually pulling away from me as I suffered to the finish. The one redeeming thing was that there was no one close enough to catch me as Micheal Lord was still about 2 min back.

Looking better than I felt (near the 4km mark). Photo credit: Andrew Pape-Salmon

I mustered a weak kick into the line finishing the miserable day off with a 34:54. This is the slowest I have run since 2007 and very disappointing. I didn't expect a couple weeks off my training schedule to help my performance, but didn't expect such a disaster. Hopefully, a few weeks of solid training will get me back into form and I can have a decent 8k at the Victoria Marathon. Having two bad races back to back is mentally a challenge though as it calls into question what is going wrong. Is it only a lack of proper training or is it something else? It doesn't help that I have been battling a case of plantar fasciitis for the last month or so. I'm getting it treated and taking appropriate action so far it has not greatly impacted my training. However, it is a nuisance and is painful when I push it too far. I've never had a problem with PF before so I'm hopeful that it will not become chronic.

Congrats to Jim who won in 31:54 (although slow by his standards) and Mesissa Ross who came 6th overall in 37:24. James Lander crushed the half in 1:08:13 setting a new course record and my coach Paul O'Callaghan ran to a strong 2nd place in 1:15:52. Sonja continued her marathon prep with a respectable 1:34:14 on a day where she would run 30km total.

10k Results. Half Marathon Results.

Splits: 3:11, 3:19, 3:22, 3:21, 3:50, (17:04 5k) 3:38, 3:32, 3:33, 3:40, 3:27

Monday, August 23, 2010

Q Track Series 5000m

August 21, 2010

This was the last of the track series races for the season. My training has been pretty steady over the last few months and after a respectable 3000m in July, I had hoped to perform well. The goal was to run a sub 15:30 on a perfect day and I would have been satisfied with anything under 15:47 (my current PB).

After cheering on two open races in the 5000m (congrats to Richard Bellizz and Lucy Smith for taking the wins) it was our turn. There was a lot of talent on the line and I knew it would be a fast one. There would undoubtedly guys running under 15min so I had to make sure that I ran my own race against the clock rather that getting caught up in a pace that was too fast. To reach my 15:30 goal, I would have to run 74.5s laps (3:06 kms). I knew this would be tough, especially since the wind was pretty gusty.

Once the race started, the field quickly sorted itself out. Trevor O'Brian was doing the pacing up front, with Jim Finlayson, James Lader, and Ryan McKenzie behind. Next came Shawn Nelson, Sean Chester, Nick Walker, Craig Odermatt, myself, Walter Cantwell, Simon Dejong, and Kevin Searle. The first lap wasn't too fast (75 sec), but then the group in front of me started to pull away and I was left out in the wind. I decided it might be prudent to pull myself back to Craig so I could take advantage of his draft and pacing so I pull myself back up. Unfortunately, when I looked at my watch for the next lap and saw 70 sec I knew that pace was just too fast for me and if I tried to maintain it I would pay for it in a big way later in the race. I eased off and slipped back in into the 75 sec range for the next 5 laps or so. Because of the fast second lap, the first km went by in 3:03, a little ahead of my target.

I tried to settle in to a nice rhythm in the for the middle of the race, but it was more of a strain than it should have been. I was now quite a ways back from Craig and far enough ahead of those behind that I couldn't hear them. With about 4 or 5 laps to go I saw that Nick must have been having a bad day as well since he started to falter and fell behind Craig. If I would have been on form on the day, I should have been able to gain ground on him, but around the same time I really started to suffer. Someone shouted that there was a train wreak happening up front and that I should gun it. Too bad that I was in the same wreak, only I was the caboose! My splits dropped to 77 sec, then to 79 and finally to 80 sec. I lost pretty much all of my time in the last 5 laps, the opposite of the way I wanted to finish. I did manage an OK last 200m closing it in 37 sec, but it was of little help to my overall time which came in at 15:54.

My time was just 7 sec slower than my Bazan Bay 5k time and my second best 5k time ever so and all told not that bad considering how I felt. It was disappointing though as I know I should have been able to perform at a higher level. James ended up out kicking Jim for the win in 14:45 nearly lapping me in the process. Shawn also ran well finishing in 15:07 for 3rd place.

While it was not my day, best just to move on and get ready for the next race. Right now, I have to decide what to concentrate on in the upcoming months. Should I stay focused on the shorter distances on the road, go longer, or go back to the trails.


A big thanks to Chris Kelsell on a successful track series - I hope he brings in back next year.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Q Track Series 3000m

July 17, 2010

This was to be just the 2nd track race I have participated in since taking up running back in 2004 (I raced a bit on the track in high school, but was never very serious about it). A couple of years ago, I raced in a 5000m in windy conditions and had a mediocre performance struggling to maintain form in the last couple of laps. I had never raced 3000m before so I didn't know exactly how it would go. I resolved to try my best to run a smart race and split my laps evenly so as to avoid falling apart on the last lap or two. My 'A' goal was get under 9min, but I knew that pretty much everything would have to go right for me for that to happen.

I was placed in the elite race with quite a few other very solid runners. Simon DeJong, Nixon Kiprotich, Willy Langat, Keith Mills, Shawn Nelson, and Nick Walker were all in attendance. I fully expected to be closer to the back of the pack than to the front when we got to the finish line. Before we began, I got to watch a kids 800m, an open Mile, an Elite Mile, and a open 3000m while I did my warm up on the infield. While track may be more tedious than a road race for the racers themselves, they are certainly more entertaining for spectators and it was great to be able to cheer on everyone.

It was soon our turn and the 7 of us lined up and were off. I expected the pace to be a little faster than it was as I was only slightly behind the leaders after the 1st lap (which I completed in 1:13). Shawn, Nick, Willy, and Nixon were in front of me with Keith and Simon were just behind. After the first lap Keith pulled in front of me and knowing that we are similar speeds, I resolved to sit behind for a little while and let him do the pace making. However, after the second 400m passed at a slightly slower 1:14 (which put me behind my 1:12 goal), I knew that I had to speed up or I would definitely not get close to my goal time. I pulled past Keith and picked up the pace just a bit. I went though 1km in about 3:03, a little slower than I was planning, but not bad either.

The first lap (I'm hidden behind Willy in forth place). Photo Credit: Sonja Yli-Kahila

I was feeling relatively comfortable at this point and felt I would be able to put in a solid effort throughout the race. The next 3 laps passed in 1:12, 1:14, and 1:13 respectively so I was maintaining the pace pretty well. Midway through the race, I was surprised to find Nixon coming back to me. Earlier in the year he posted some good times on some of the Island Race Series races, including a 49:02 at Merville 15k which was over 2 min ahead of me. I understand that he has been injured for a while, however, and not able to train or race at his peak which is really too bad.

Midway though the race. Photo Credit: Sonja Yli-Kahila

With 1km to go, it started to get tougher to maintain the pace as the lactic built up in the legs and the cardio system started to reach its limits. With a concentrated effort, however, I was able to sustain my pace and hit the final two full laps at 1:13, and 1:14. With about a lap to go, I found myself running right in the middle of the group with Shawn, Nick, and Willy running about 80m ahead of me and no one right on my heels. Unfortunately, the leaders were too far ahead to try and catch, but I decided that I felt good enough for a finishing kick anyhow and started to go with 200m left. I pushed hard, right up to my limit, but also trying to keep some semblance of decent form. I closed the final 200m in 34 sec which I was fairly happy with.

official finishing time was 9:06.7 good for 4th place out of the 7. Willy managed to out kick Shawn who had led for most of the race for the win in 8:48.8. While I was a few seconds off of my goal, overall I was pretty happy with my inaugural 3000m outing as I raced smart. In retrospect, I may have been able to shave a couple seconds off if I had kicked a little earlier since I seemed to have a bit of reserve in the tank, but it would not have made a huge difference. I definitely think that with just a little more training in the bank and a good day I could get under 9 min. Thanks to Chris Kelsall for putting this track series together, its great to have some different options for racing this year.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mount Doug Gutbuster Long Course

July 11, 2010

First of all I'd like to hand out a belated congrats to Gary Robbins, who placed an impressive 6th overall in the Western States 100 a couple of weeks back. Western states is the oldest and probably the most prestigious 100 Mile ultra in the world so placing this high puts Gary among some of the best ultra runners in the world. Some 50k and 50 Mile ultras are definitely in my future, but I've yet to convince myself that I want to do a 100 Miler. It just seems really really far - do I really want to run 4 back to back trail marathons? I will never say never though and the challenge does appeal to me.

The Mount Doug Gutbuster was just the 2nd and final Gutbuster that I was able to do this year with the other 3 coming on weekends where I was away or had other races. I didn't worry too much about this race, just resolving just to do what I could. My training has been progressing steadily so I'm feeling pretty confident about my fitness level. I knew Shawn Nelson was yet again racing so an overall victory would be a bit of a long shot even if there we no other top notch guys out, but I hoped to be a little closer to him than I was at Westwood.

Just before the race was about to begin we were informed that there would be a short delay as someone had been sabotaging the course markings. Nick Walker had to run out ahead to re-flag it so he needed a head start. This is not the first time this race has been sabotaged and it is really a shame that some individuals want to hinder other people's enjoyment of this public park. If they have a legitimate concern about the race they should deal with it though proper channels rather than resorting to vandalism. Nick did a good job of resetting the course though and I found it well marked. However, there were a number of racers who took wrong turns although it is unclear if this was due to a lack of flagging or not.

The day was quite hot so I made sure that I was well hydrated before the race began and stripped down to shorts and cap only. There are several exposed sections on the course and it can cook you pretty good when you are fully exerting yourself. Within about 5 min, Shawn and I pulled ourselves a little ahead from the rest of the field. We pushed up the first extended Irvine climb at a steady race pace. Overall, I felt pretty good although my legs felt a touch heavy. I was starting to feel it near the top of the climb and I let Shawn lead for the last 100 meters or so. I dumped a cup of water at the aid station at the top and headed down after Shawn. This decent is quite technical with a lot of loose rock and gravel, but I've done it many times before and knew exactly what to expect. I may no longer be able to match Shawn's overall speed, but I can still descend on the technical terrain a little faster and I was nipping at his heels the whole way down.

Soon enough we were climbing again up to Little Mount Doug. I didn't feel quite as good as I would have liked on this climb and fell a few seconds back. The southern route off this peak is the most technical portion of the whole course and a fall here could be very damaging to your body. I took a few risks that paid off and closed the gap to Shawn again. Unfortunately, as soon as the trail turned upward again, I could no longer match his speed and he bolted ahead and within a couple of minutes he was out of sight.

While the climbs hurt more than I would have liked, I felt pretty strong overall so despite there being no one in sight ahead or behind, I pushed pretty hard. I struggled up the final climb (which only went halfway up to the summit compared to a full climb last year) and was happy to know that there were no more significant uphill segments for the rest of the course. I passed a number of short course racers as I pushed toward the finish. I felt good on the final stretch and crossed the line in 40:44 solidly in 2nd place. I was about 1:30 behind Shawn and 1:15 ahead of the next runner, Nick Sunderland. I was satisfied with my performance although I could have had a bit more power in the legs for the climbs. Once I decide to focus on trails again, I will definitely work on my hill climbing more consistently.

Andrew Pape-Salmon ran an amazing race, placing 4th overall just over 2 min behind me and Care Wakely raced to an amazing 7th overall. In a month Care and Mark Nelson will be racing in the Trans Rockies Run stage race. I expect that they will do well.

Final Results.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

VI Spine Relay: North Coast Trail

June 6, 2010

Despite the "Relay" name, this was an event rather than a race. The VI Spine Relay was set up to help promote the concept of building a trail the entire length of Vancouver Island from Victoria to Cape Scott. This is a similar idea to the Trans-Canada trail and is a quite a large undertaking since it involves getting support from regional districts, municipalities, and land owners up and down the island. It is a fantastic idea though and I wanted to do my little bit to support the VI Spine Trail. Additionally, it was a personal opportunity to experience a part of the island that I have never visited and nearly brand new trail (it was opened only 2 years ago in 2008).

Not wanting to miss out on something new, Sonja decided to join in the adventure. The plan was to drive up to the Cape Scott Provincial Park parking lot on Sat (June 5). The trip took about 7 hours aided by the fact that the roads on the northern half of the island are very good and nearly empty. The last hour and a bit were on a gravel surface, however, making things a bit slower. From the parking area we hiked for 4 hours, covering the 15km into Nissen Bight with small packs holding just enough camping gear for one night. At Nissen Bight we met up with the 10 or so other hikers that had also completed this first section of the relay. The next morning, four of us (Sonja and I were joined by the relay organizer Andrew Pape-Salmon and Jenny Taylor) would tackle the 43km North Coast Trail, the remainder of the hikers would return to the parking area with our camping gear. A big thanks goes out to these hikers were had to carry 2 extra tents, 4 sleeping bags, 4 themarests, several day packs and other gear in additional to their own gear.

The start of the trail to Nissen Bight

We departed just after 7am in sunny conditions, estimating a 10 hour run time. We had a time estimate from some Club Fat Ass members who had recently run the trail and Jeff Hunt, who along with Bob Wall, were the first people to run the trail on the day it opened back in 2008. Jeff and Bob ran the trail in the opposite direction as we were going and traversed the full 43km NCT and the 15km Nissen Bight connector in 11 hours. It didn't sound like a particularly blazing time, but as were were to soon find out, this trail was not one that would be run easily.

Ready to go on the NTC! left to right: Jenny Taylor, myself, Sonja Yli-Kahila, Andrew Pape-Salmon

The first kilometer was on beautiful beach, but was officially not part of the NCT. As soon as we filled our water bladders and bottles up we were on the way. We almost immediately got a taste of what we would see for many many hours. The trail was very rough with many roots, little hillocks and twists, and was extremely muddy. It was tough to run for anyone, and it turned out that due to some injuries, Jenny was not able to run very much and was forced to power hike most the the trail. To her credit, she never stopped moving at a consistent rate for the whole day although it did effect our estimated finishing time. It was not a race, however, so the time didn't matter so much except for the fact that a water taxi was meeting us at Shushartie Bay around 6pm. They would wait, but we didn't want to be too far off schedule just in case.

Running on the beach (this was a nice section)

Do the the extreme roughness of the trail, it was slow going. It took us more than a hour and a half to traverse the first 5 km until the trail popped out on the beach near the Laura Creek Campsite. Naively thinking that was some of the worst the trail would offer, I thought we would be able to pick up some time on the beach and future trail sections. The relief of getting off the mucky trail soon faded though as we were treated to huge stretches of beach (the longest being over 10km) that was anything but easy. With just a few blissful exceptions which had packed sand, most of the rest of the beach was loose gravel and cobbles some on a steep angle. Not too bad to walk on, but very draining to run. Every step takes probably twice the normal energy as the stones under your feet sink and slide around.

Cable car crossing at Stranby River

The kilometers slowly ticked by on the beach and soon enough I was hoping to get back off the trail. There were a few trail sections, but for the most part these were not any easier to navigate than the first section. We got to pause for a bit while we crossed a creek via cable car. This was a fun change, but pulling yourself across is an arm burner. We passed the half way point at around 6 hours. This was behind our expected time, but we hoped that the trail would improve and we could make up some time. Despite how technical the first half was, the second half was more challenging yet. We were on the beach then off the beach so many times that they all blend together in my memory. I'm still not sure which was more difficult, but I was always wishing for whichever type we would currently not doing (I think I just had a short memory).

Down we go!

The weather was good for the morning and early afternoon, but the sky opened up soon after that and it rained steadily for an hour or more. It could have made things miserable, but fortunately it was pretty warm so it wasn't a big issue and it eventually cleared up. I was feeling good during the day as the pace was quite relaxed for me. I did spend some extra energy trying to see how much mud I could avoid. I manged to avoid getting my shoes fully submerged for over 10 hours, but had to do a heck of a lot of jumping, side stepping, and even clambering up and over trees.

For most of the day we stayed in the general vicinity of each other, but we often leapfrogged each other, with Jenny moving ahead while the rest took photos or took a break. We would then run for a bit and overtake her before stopping to let her catch up. Andrew had the most to carry with a full day pack loaded with a first aid kit, GPS beacon, and other safety gear, but he snowed no sign of difficulty.

Probably the most crazy portion of the trail was a section where the trail went on and off the beach in a rugged area. Some parts were so steep ropes were required to aid in the decent. One section in particular had a 15 meter climb nearly straight up. Once on top, you stood on a less than 1 meter wide flat space looking down on an equally steep decent and just across the way another such climb and decent was visible. It was kind of fun with a hydrapack, but this would have been work with a full backpack!

More beautiful runnable trail!

Sonja had been doing well, but after about 8 or 9 hours, she wasn't taking in enough energy. She started to fall behind and I didn't realize what the problem was until a bit later when she finally caught up, but was only moving at half the speed she should have been. Even though we were all getting sick of eating energy bars, I had her eat some more and soon enough she was moving well again. It was a good lesson about making sure you are well fueled - anyone can bonk if they are not careful.

After a second cable car, we were finally on the last trail section of the trail. The map stated a distance of 8km. Not too bad, I figured, even though we were mostly just hiking we were holding a decent pace. Despite this, the trail dragged on and on and really seemed endless. We crossed 5 or 6 swamps that had boardwalks that were thankfully runnable, but the rest was just and muddy and rough as the worst we had seen. Plus, there was also some climbing thrown in. Even though I honestly think that it was closer to 12km, I badly misjudged the time remaining, saying there was only 3km left and then hiking for another 2 hours!

Typical trail section

Sonja started to feel the effects of being out there for more than 10 hours and may have been getting low on energy again. To help us keep moving faster, I took her pack and wore it on the front of my body. It wasn't too bad although it did put a bit of strain on my back after a few hours. The trail stretched on and on but we eventually descended into Shushartie Bay where thankfully the water taxi was still waiting. Andrew had run ahead and arrived 30min before the rest of us. The last section ended up taking a greuling 3.5 hours and the whole trail a full 14+ hours. It was a long day although I felt fairly decent due to the low intensity, my feet hurt from being on them for so long. I'm just not used to being upright for so long.

The NCT had some beautiful beaches and it was great to experience. I think it is more of a hiking trail though as its technical nature doesn't lead itself well to being a nicely runnable. While the Juan de Fuca trail boasts much more elevation gain and loss than the NCT, it is much more runnable and in my mind much easier because of that. In the future, I would like to try the West Coast Trail to complete the Vancouver Island coast trails to see how it compares to the other two.

Andrew's photos can be viewed here.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Westwood Lake Gutbuster Half

May 30, 2010

I enjoy these sorts of trail races and it was a nice change of pace from all the road races I have been doing this year. I wasn't sure how my legs would feel on this one as did a workout the day before consisting of 6x1km (1min rest) and 4x45sec (1min rest). While I held back a bit knowing that I would be racing in less than 24 hours, it was still not super easy. It would be a good test to see how I fared in a race on somewhat fatigued legs. Even if I suffered on the course, the fact that it wasn't a goal race meant I didn't have a lot on the line.

The course was new this year although it was fairly similar to the the way it was in past years (except 2009 which had quite a different course). I estimate that there was at least 30% new trail that I had never run on before. The main differences were more gentle climbs, more single track, and less road. I quite enjoyed the course as it had a good about of somewhat technical terrain which was 100% runnable.

I knew that I would not walk away with an easy win on this course. The field was strong with Michael Liedtke, Shelby Drope, Nick Walker, Shaun Stephens-Whale, and Shawn Nelson all in attendance. I race against and train with Nick and Shawn so know what they are capable of. I knew for sure that Shawn would be tough to beat unless I was on and he was off. He is a solid climber, good on the technical terrain and downhills, and very strong on the flats. Shaun would also be stiff competition as he climbs like gravity doesn't exist.

The start was pretty fast with Shaun moving at a brisk pace that seemed a little fast to me although the first km or so is flat so it didn't feel too tough. We made our way around Westwood Lake and started the climb. Shaun was still in the lead and Shelby close behind. I didn't want to overtax myself so early in the race so I tucked into behind Shawn who in turn trailed just behind Michael. The trail was a fairly new one and was somewhat technical with a lot of little humps which necessitated paying close attention to your footing. The climb was much more gradual than in years past and I found it quite runnable and enjoyable.

Michael was going just a little slower than I would have on my own and I was very temped to move ahead especially since Shaun and Shelby had moved out of sight, but I continued to hold myself back a bit knowing that there would be plenty of time to expend any extra energy I might have. Finally though, Swawn decided to make a move and I took the opportunity to go with him. We gradually gained on Shelby on the decent from the highest point on the course and by the time we popped out onto the hydro right of way, the 3 of us were all pretty even.

I managed to power past Shelby at the puddle which was good and wet this year, but Shawn was probably 10 seconds ahead at this point. The course descended down and through the creek as it has in previous years. When I got back to the main double track, I was shocked to find that Shawn had gained a massive amount on me and was at least 30 seconds ahead now. This was a bit demoralizing as it seemed as though I was still moving at a respectable pace. I later learned that that the two leaders (and many others) had inadvertently taken the bridge rather than the actual course though the creek. In the end, it didn't really matter that much since I finished well behind the leaders, but at the time it seemed as though I had somehow come to a standstill.

We soon started our 2nd main ascent into the area known as The Abyss. This is a longish gradual climb that makes you work to maintain good speed, but it not too cruel. I moved along pretty well and managed to gain enough time on Shelby until he was no longer in sight behind me. This area was then followed by a good amount of narrow single track interspersed with a couple road sections and clear cuts. I really quite enjoyed the extra single track and didn't miss the large gravel road sections from previous years. We gradually made our way towards Colliery Dam and the course soon intersected with the short course and I soon found myself passing a large number of the short course mid pack runners. After the dam, we had a bit of a grunt of a climb on the paved roads and paths back up and under the highway before moving back onto trails.

At this point there were only few kilometers left in the course. I was feeling the fatigue in my legs now, although my engine still had good power. There was a one more small climb after which there was was about 1km left. I ran steady, but with no one in sight in front or behind me, there was little incentive to kill myself. I did, howver, surged to the finish line and passed a short course racer who thought I was in his race and tried to match me. "I'm in the long course" I shouted as I passed him as only seemed fair to let him know that he was not losing a position. I finished in 1:45:25 in 3rd place about a minute ahead of Nick and Shelby who came in 4th and 5th respectively. Shawn and Shaun obviously hammered the course though, finishing about 6 and 5 minutes ahead of me. I hadn't expected to beat Shawn, but I had hoped to be closer. He is obviously very fit these days and I expect to see him post some impressive times in upcoming races. Overall, I was satisfied with my performance which I would describe as average.

Since the course was enjoyed by myself and everyone else I talked to, I hope they keep it similar in future years. Most people I talked to had solid races including Andrew Pape-Salmon who placed 8th overall, Garth Campbell who performed well in his first trail race of the year, and Sonja who picked up 2nd in her age category. Thanks to Mark Nelson and Nick Walker at Frontrunners Westshore for hosting another successful event! Long Course Results. Short Course Results.

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