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The snow from two weeks ago had long ago melted, but it had been replaced by a good drenching of rain just a day or two before the race.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


Keith Mills said...

this is a great post, a nice read, and i liked your mindset, especially early on in the race. much to be learned from this type of patience, and trusting ones fitness relative to the rest of a certain field.

keep up the good work shaner.

your a beast.


Shaner said...

Thanks Keith,
I may not get faster as I age, but maybe I can race smarter.

Hope to see you out at races soon running on all cylinders.

Sonja Yli-Kahila said...

What a positive experience and post -- way to keep your nerves in check. Still something for me to work on... :-)


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