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The snow from two weeks ago had long ago melted, but it had been replaced by a good drenching of rain just a day or two before the race.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:


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