Sunday, December 18, 2011

Stewart Mountian 10 Miler

December 10, 2011

Stewart Mountain is one of my favorite fall races. The climb, which comes near the half way point, is steep and excruciating , but once you get over that, there is a lot of sweet quick trail on the way back. Last year, I fought a tough battle with Trever Ruck to eek out a small victory. And when you are the defending champion, there is a strong desire to not do worse - so I had put a bit of pressure on myself.

The weather was cool, but dry and trail conditions were excellent with minimal mud and water, no snow and only a bit of frost. It was a good day for a fast race. I warmed up with Shawn Nelson and Eric Findley, both of whom are better runners than myself, but nether are concentrating on training at the moment. They mentioned that Stephan Kilshaw was registered to race. I don't know Stephan personally, but knew that he is a triathlete who competes well at the 70.3 distance and is a very solid runner. I didn't know how he was on the trails or hills, but knew that he would likey be quick.

Once we got started, I soon got to find out just how quick. The start was fairly sensible and apparently a bit too slow for Stephan, so within the first couple hundred meters, he floored it and gaped the field and I soon found myself in 2nd place. This is a reasonably long race, so I wanted to pace myself well and decided to not fight to stay with him. I did pick things up a bit so I could keep him in sight though - once you totally lose contact, it is a bit harder to push yourself to come back. He built a bit of a lead over the first few kilometers up to around 30 seconds.

Then we came to a puddle we had to run though. During the Gunner race two weeks ago, the water was only ankle deep, but this time it was up to the knees and damn cold. Up ahead, I noticed that Stephan was walking though the water rather than running as expected. I was a bit surprised at this since it wasn't too deep for running, but once I got into the water myself, I realized why. There was a few milimeter skim of ice that was super sharp. Trying to run through ripped up the knees pretty badly. Stephan got the brunt of it, having to break the ice, but I ended up with a few sharp pieces carving some notches in my knees.

I did manage to make up a bit of ground, but Stephen still held onto a decent lead which he actually opened a bit more on the way to the main climb of the day around 7km in. I usually do well on the climb, but like everyone else find it quite painful, particularly since I always try to run everything. I thought I might catch up on the steep sections, but he climbed well and I made up little ground. Unfortunately, my guts where not being kind to me either as I had the urge to head for the bushes (should have make another pit stop before the race started I think), but luckily it was manageable and ended up subsiding a bit later. On the last cruel single track section before the summit, I was able to make up a bit of distance since he was forced to a hike will I continued to "run."

With the climb mercifully over, I got to open it up on the downhill. Within a minute I had closed the gap to Stephen who apparently didn't like the technical stuff quite as much as I did. I tucked in behind for a bit waiting for a good opportunity to pass which came quite soon. I bombed by, testing to see what he would do. He responded quickly, coming back right away. I continued to push the pace, but did not try any additional moves for several km until a short but steep hill presented itself. I gunned it, quickly gaining a few seconds. I settled back into my race pace once over the top, but soon enough he fought he way back to me. There was no doubt he was working hard to stay with me as I could hear it in his breathing, but he was tenacious and refused to be dropped. I gained a bit of ground on him a couple more times, but each time he rallied back to my heels. It was obvious that this one would be a close victory no matter what way it shook out.

I was cranking it out and digging pretty deep to maintain the pace, but still felt quite strong and was hoping that I had just a little left in reserve. The final 3 hills were coming up on Lower Thetis Trail, and I felt this was likely my last opportunity to avoid a sprint to the finish. My sprint is not bad, but I'd prefer not to leave it to that unknown outcome if I can. Therefore, much like I did for the Gunner race, I hammered it on the first hill, hoping to gain enough time to avoid yet another comeback. This time, it finally worked, and I managed to gain 12 seconds on the final hills, crossing the line in 1:02:22, a full 2:34 faster than last year. It was tough, but I felt it was a very good race for me. There was little doubt, however, that I would never have run that hard if I wouldn't had such stiff competition for the win. Thanks to Stephen for such a hard fought battle - you are a worthy opponent! I'm quite excited about my time, which is just 1 sec slower than the course record set by Jason Loutitt back in 2008 (when I barley ran under 1:07).

Congratulations go out to many others who had great races. I was quite happy to see many of those I coach under Perseverance Running run very well. Andrew Pape-Salmon ran to a strong Master win and 6th overall, and Garth Campbell, Larry Nylen, and Sonja also all ran their best times on this course. Congrats go to Claire Morgan as well in picking up yet another win this year taking and placing in the top 20 overall.

I wanted to post my Garmin data here, but unfortunately, something went wrong with the file.

Results.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thetis Lake Relay, Gunner Shaw, and Bear Mountain

In an attempt catch back up on this blog, I'm combining my last 3 races into one report.

Thetis Lake Relay, November 11, 2011

I joined Paul O'Callaghan's Aspire Running group for this fun little event. Each person in a 4 person team runs an approx 5k lap around Upper and Lower Thetis Lake. Our team consisted of Paul, Claire Morgan, Brad Cunningham and myself. We were racing in the senior men's category despite having a woman on the team (we would need 2 for a mixed team). I was running anchor so did a warm up lap while Brad led out for a strong first leg in a bit over 17 minutes. Clair and then Paul followed, also running solid legs before it was my turn.

Despite knowing better, the race environment caused me to head out a bit hard and I had to ease back a bit after a few hundred meters to avoid cracking. While I was moving OK, both legs and lungs felt a little flat and I struggled to find my groove. When Paul handed off to me, our team was in 6th overall place so besides getting a decent time, my goal was to try and gain a position or at least not lose one. There was no one in sight (except other teams on their 3rd lap) until the last few hundred meters when I spotted Stephen Kilshaw just ahead. Stephen was running all 4 laps solo so I felt a little bad about sprinting him at the line, but it was a race after all. I finished in 16:50 which was OK, but I definitely wasn't on form. We ended up placing 5th overall. Another Aspire team of Sean Chester and Ben Brzezynski took the overall win.

Results.

Gunner Shaw Cross Country, November 19, 2011

When I picked up my number 1 bib for this race I knew the expectations would be high for me to perform well at this race. Then when I saw both Shawn Nelson and Shaun Stephens-Whale I knew it would be a competitive day. Shawn took off the line very hard and Shaun and I stayed with him. After a km or so though, I really felt like the pace was too brisk for me. I knew that I needed to back off a bit or end up cracking or fading badly later in the race. It didn't take much of a slow down to make the difference and put me back into a more comfortable racing zone. Soon after I eased off, another runner came blasting past me. It wasn't anyone I recognized, but from the way he was running, I could instantly tell that he was a not an amateur. Later I found out he was Jasper Blake, former Canadian Ironman Champion - no novice indeed!

The 3 of them pulled slightly in front, but never got more than 10 or 15 seconds ahead of me. At the first significant climb of the race, I managed to claw my way back to the group and we were all together after the first puddle. Soon though, Jasper plowed on ahead while Shawn, now feeling his fast start started to fall back. Shaun chased Jasper while I fell in behind. After a few more minutes I passed him, trying to limit the time Jasper was putting into us. I was feeling strong and smooth and was hoping to make it a real race for 1st place.

Jasper had a small fall in the 2nd puddle which helped me close a bit of the lead down. We then were onto the single track section of the course. This is my favorite surface and I rapidly closed the gap and when I saw an opportunity to pass I grabbed it. Course designer, Bob Reid, had added a fun new single track section this year which was great. I managed to gain a bit of time on this section and tried to push hard to take advantage of terrain that was favorable to me. I don't know how much I gained, but I could no longer hear Jasper close behind. Once we were back on the main Thetis trails, I knew I simply had to focus on keeping the legs moving well and not getting complacent.

As I was nearing the final few hills of the course, however, I heard him catching me fast. Fortunately, I had left a little in the tank and as soon as he came abreast of me at the start of the first small hill, I gunned it. I knew that he must have had to work hard to catch me so my strategy was to push the pace before he had the chance to sit on my shoulder and recover. It seemed to work as he didn't respond as I also hit the final two hills hard and gunned for the finish. I stopped the clock at 34:57, 16 seconds ahead of Jasper for my first ever Gunner Shaw win. It was a good battle and a satisfying win and I was happy to see that I had run the same time as last year despite the course having the extra single track. Shaun came in 3rd and Shawn held on for 4th. Melanie McQuaid won the woman's division over 2nd place Claire Morgan.

Results.

Bear Mountain 10k, November 26, 2011

This was my 3rd attempt at this course. In 2008, I went out too hard and faded badly to finish in a weak 8th place. Last year, the course was shortened to 6.5km due to snow and while I ran fairly well to a 4th place finish, I wanted to be able run a good race on the full course. This time, I was handed a number 2 bib so immediately wondered who had number 1. I soon found out on the start line when I saw Jason Loutitt, an impressive runner who recently placed 2nd at the world trail running championships (a 70k ultra race in Ireland). Jasper Blake and Shawn Nelson were also in attendance so it would be another interesting race.

Thankfully, the pace at the start of this race was a little more comfortable than Gunner. Jason pushed out ahead and I did not try to match him, thinking that I would either have a chance to catch him on the climbs or he would be gone. Either way, going too hard and blowing up wouldn't help me.

The main climb started at about 1.5km and I pushed fairly hard chipping away at Jason's lead. I was able to catch and pass him about 2/3 of the way up. I knew that Jason is a beast on the downhills so figured my only chance was gain some time on the climbs. I had a small lead at the 3km marker, but despite my best efforts to move quickly down hill, Jason was able to pass me back after another km or so. I resolved to do my best and hope that Jason (who sometimes goes out slightly hard and fades a bit) would come back to me.


This course is relentless, nearly all of it taking place on the paved trails of the Bear Mountain Golf course. The course is never flat and had numerous corners, getting any sort of rhythm is not really possible. I wasn't feeling quite as good as I had at Gunner, but I was still feeling solid and was able keep the pressure up. At the 5k mark I was 9 sec back and I was able to keep Jason in sight for the entire race, closing the gap on climbs and losing it again on downhills. Jasper was also a factor, just 9 sec back of me at 5k. I never looked back, but knew that I couldn't let myself relax for a second or he would be flying past me.

The last few hills are tough with the final one coming just a couple hundred metres from the finish, but I moved through reasonably well. Unfortunately, Jason never faded (or at least no more than I did) and he ended up finishing 29 sec ahead of me. I posted a 35:52 time, over 3 minutes slower than my best 10k time - this course is that hard! Jasper rounded out the top 3 about 30 sec back - Shawn took 4th. Care Nelson set a new woman's course record in 39:29 and Clare Morgan took another 2nd place finish well ahead of 3rd place Melanie McQuaid. For me it wasn't a win, but overall I was quite happy with a 2nd place and was even able to pick up a little prize money in the process. Thanks to Mark Nelson and Nick Walker at Frontrunner Westshore for another well run event. I'm really happy to see that they have the timing down really well now, with results posted before I even get home.

Splits: 3:19, 4:03, 4:15, 2:56, 3:32 (18:05 5k split), 3:20, 3:59, 3:33, 3:26, 3:29

Results.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Shawnigan Kinsol Half Marathon

October 30, 2011

I've been considering doing this race for a number of years, but never managed to get there. This year, particularly since I had not raced an event at the Victoria Marathon weekend, I was finally able to make it happen.

Weather predictions leading up to the race called for rain and they seemed to hold true as Sonja and I were treated a steady rain on the drive up. While it wasn't too cold, it seemed inevitable that we would get soaked very quickly. Happily, by the time the race started, the rain at pretty much ceased and conditions were nearly ideal for racing.

The hall used as race headquarters was a building on the Shawnigan Lake School grounds. I'd never been there before, but this private school is quite nice with impressive buildings. I didn't know exactly what the my main competition was to be in this race, but I spotted Shawn Nelson shortly after arriving so knew a win would require some work.

After a minimal warm-up we were on our way. Myself, Shawn, Hugh Trenchard, and Thomas Marrs soon separated ourselves from the rest of the group. The first part of the course had a couple of downhills which I dutifully noted as we would be coming back up them near the end of the race. We moved along at a decent pace for the first few kilometers and while I had no problems matching the pace, I didn't feel as comfortable as it should have at this point in the race. If things didn't get better it would be a long day for me. I noticed right away, based on his breathing, that Thomas Marrs was working quite hard to stay with us and I could tell immediately that there was no way he would be able to maintain that pace for the balance of the race. It may be fun to run with the leaders, but if it compromises your overall race, it probably isn't a good idea. He is young though and will learn to pace himself better I am sure.

Around 4km Thomas fell back a bit while Hugh continued with Shawn and myself for another kilometer or so until the course moved onto the Trans-Canada Trail and headed north. It was around this time that I actually started to feel better and was able to get into a comfortable rhythm where I was working hard, but staying controlled. We ran for about 6km on the trail with a slight uphill grade. While the gravel surface and gradual climb certainly slowed me a bit, I didn't find it bad at all and may have been preferable to the rolling roads in the area. While I set the pace, Shawn held a tenacious grip onto my heels and would not be shaken. I considered trying to put a surge in to drop him, but with half the race still to go decided to just continue to dictate the pace and wait for a later opportunity (assuming I wasn't just hanging on myself by that point).

Around the halfway point, we detoured onto the road and were treated to a significant, but thankfully short climb and decent. Soon though we were back on the trail and making our way towards the Trestle. The Kinsol Trestle was recently rebuilt and opened to the public so it was a treat to be able to run access it (the first time for me). Unfortunately, there wasn't time to take a good look since the race was on. We continued past the trestle for 1.5km before turning back and heading for home. The trail north of the trestle was not as well groomed as the other sections we had run, but it wasn't a big factor.

On the Shawnigan-Kinsol Trestle with Shawn. Photo Credit: Don Carson


It was nice to see many other racers as we passed them heading out to the turn around and I lent encouragement to many and received some in return. Hugh was still running in 3rd, but was a couple minutes back from us so it was definitely a two man race for the win. I was quite pleased that I was still feeling quite smooth and knew I could put in a surge if required.

Soon after passing back over the trestle, we moved back onto the road 3km. Shortly after moving onto the road on a downhill section I noticed that I have pulled slightly ahead of Shawn. I was still feeling strong and saw this as my chance to build up a gap. I pushed ahead strongly on a flat section building spread of at least 20 seconds. I felt that as long as I could hold it together on the final hills, I would be fine. The hills were challenging, but I moved as smoothly as possible, finally rounding the corner to the finish and making a decent sprint. My finishing time of 1:15:20 was faster than the 1:16-1:17 time I was predicting for myself so I was quite pleased, particularly since it wasn't a fast course.

Shawn came in 40s later for a solid 2nd place, with Hugh rounding on the top 3. Care Nelson pulled away from Claire Morgan on the 2nd half to win the woman's race while Sonja ran very well to a small PB and 3rd overall. I ended up enjoying the course more than expected and while it wasn't a fast flat course, it wasn't brutal by any means.

Splits: 3:31, 3:26, 7:06 (missed marker), 3:29 (17:31 5k slpit), 3:33, 3:34, 3:36, 3:33, 3:36 (35:22 10k split), 3:47, 3:26, 3:33, 3:41, 3:36 (53:25 15k split), 3:34, 3:43, 3:30, 3:26, 3:49 (1:11:28 20k split), 3:51 (final 1.1k)

Results

Sunday, October 2, 2011

MOMAR on the Island - Enduro

September 24, 2011

Learning to navigate like a newbie.

I teamed up with Garth Campbell again to race this, our 12th MOMAR together (I have also done 2 solo MOMARs). We have been fortunate to be able to be on the podium for teams of two men quite a few times in the last few years. This race would sadly be different, but more on that later.

We lucked out on the weather for race day since it was pounding rain all night before and surprisingly the wind was also light on Comox Lake. It was the calmest conditions we have ever raced in. This was really great, because it allowed us to complete the kayak section in a record time for us of just over an hour. It wasn't fun and my weakly trained shoulders and arms started to fatigue out during the last 15 minute, but we got the job done.

We punched the first checkpoint around 13th position and rolled right into the run. Most MOMARs transition to the bike off the kayak, but I prefer going straight into the trek since it is usually our strongest discipline. It took a few minutes to get the legs moving properly after being cramped in the kayak, but eventually we were rolling along and passed a couple of teams on the road before turning onto trail and started climbing. Unfortunately, Garth's stomach was acting up and he wasn't able to push quite as hard as he would have liked. Still, he hung in there and we were still able to gain on teams ahead of us as we climbed. I picked up the 2nd checkpoint with little issue and then we moved onto a long gradual climb.

We passed a few more teams and then I was a bit surprised to catch up to Hayden Earle and Roger MacLeod (a team expected to place well overall). They had put 6 minutes into us on the kayak paddling their double outrigger so I hadn't expected to see them so soon. The route turned up sharply and a power hike was in order to get us up. Soon after we caught up to Todd Nowack (now 9 time MOMAR champion) who was briefly checking out another route. We soon established that we were on the correct path and we continued on together. After a bit more climbing we picked up checkpoint 3 and heard from the volunteers that we were not far behind two leading teams (Marshall House & Ryan Pogue and Norm Thibault & Stefan Jakobson). This stoked all 3 of us up as grabbing the lead was now within grasp.

The single track turned onto logging road and it was at this point that we spotted both teams just ahead. We gradually ate away at their lead and were feeling pretty good. As it turns out, I should have been paying more attention to the map and less about the competition. On the map, it showed a left turn onto a another road so when we hit the next intersection that seemed to match the map, we all turned left. Soon though, the road ended in a clear cut and didn't seem to continue. We were all baffled since everything else seemed to match and their was no dead end road shown on the map nor had we seen any other intersection.

Soon we found ourselves in the bush wondering what to do. Todd disappeared while the rest of us were bungling around. I decided to head off in the direction that the road should have gone, hoping to intersect the trail that we needed to take. The going was slow off trail and there were a few swampy areas to traverse. It was frustrating going so slow and not being confident that we were going the right way. Given the limited information on the map, things did seem to match up, but as the time drug on and we did not hit a trail it became obvious that we were not where I thought we were. We finally made the decision to head south and hope to hit a road or trail so we could get back on track. By now more than 30 minutes had passed and we knew our chances of a high finish was over.

We did find a road and then it was time to try and figure out where we were, after a few wrong choices we finally decided to head north, joined by Marshall House & Ryan Pogue and another guy who had also gone way off course. Norm Thibault & Stefan Jakobson headed south with another team of 4 we had also picked up. For once our choice turned out to be correct and after a couple of km, I was able to find where we were on the map and got us back to where we had make the mistake. It turned out that we had all ran passed the correct turn which wasn't a logging road as we had expected, but rather a quad track. The spur we had taken wasn't on the map at all. While the map was part of the problem, we should have paid more attention. An even more disastrous problem was that we barged into the woods without really knowing where we were going. When the road ended, we should have gone back and figured out where we went wrong - even if we had gone back and confirmed that we were on the correct route, it would have been better to risk losing 10 or 15 minutes rather than the 1 hour 15 minutes we ended up blowing. It was a classic beginner mistake that I should not have made - I'm still kicking myself.

After losing that time, we found ourselves way back in the field and it was kind of tough to motivate ourselves to push too hard being so far behind the leaders. Still, we trudged on and started gaining positions back. Once we were back on track, checkpoint 4 was easy to find and we then had a fun single track to bomb down. One and a quarter hours behind schedule, we finally pulled into checkpoint 5 where Todd's girlfriend Kim was volunteering and Sonja waiting to snap a few photos. We gradually got our mojo for the race back as we picked up the rest of the trekking stage checkpoints with only one minor bobble. We picked up a huge number of positions throughout the remainder of the trek and battled our way back to the front half of the pack which was some solace at least.

We finally pulled into town and grabbed our bikes for the single long cycling stage - to my knowledge, having only 1 bike stage was a first for a MOMAR. The mandatory climb started almost immediately and while it started out gradually, it angled up quite a bit towards the top. We both were in our granny gears, but managed to grind it out for the duration, picking up a few more positions as we went. We finally reached the top of the climb in decent shape, except for my throbbing back from being hunched and straining for so long. Now the payoff for all that climbing - tons of sweet single track! It was a lot of fun and pretty much all within my abilities - a couple of sections were rough and punishing. It was all flagged, so navigating was easy as long as we paid attention. I feel we made pretty good time, rode to the extent of our skill level and only got passed by one solo, Ron Hewitson who flew by us near the bottom of the single track. We ended up posting a pretty decent time (top 5) on the bike stage given how much we ride (I have only ridden 3 times on my mountain since the last MOMAR in May).

The final stage was orienteering, in the same area as it has been for the last few years. Our legs were toast and while I navigated fairly well, I didn't hit some of the controls quite as quick as I would have liked, leaving us with a fairly good, but not exceptional final stage. We finally made it to the finish in 6:05:59 (our longest MOMAR ever), having fought our way back to 16th place - actually a bit better than I expected (and better placing and a bit better than some of our early races). Despite making a mistake at the same place as we did, Todd got back on track much quicker and battled back for the win. Hayden and Roger pulling in for a strong 2nd.

Next year, we plan to be back to redeem ourselves.

Results.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

World Mountain Running Championshps

September 11, 2011
Tirana, Albania

As usual, I`ve been falling behind on this blog entry. Therefore, I will have to focus this write-up on the race itself and not too much of the trip as a whole. Overall though, it was a great trip and for those who were wondering, Albania is an interesting county. I will definitely consider returning if I am in that part of the world again. It is very affordable, pretty easy to get around, has friendly people, and at least in the area where we were, was well set up for tourists.

Sonja and I flew from Seattle via Atlanta and Milan in a 20+ hour flight arriving in the afternoon on Sept 8. I never sleep well on the plane, so could hardly stay up for dinner. Over the next two days, I got to meet the rest of the Canadian team (there were a total of 6 men and 4 woman), got a few easy runs in, visited the race course, and checked out the capital, Tirana, for a few hours. The night before the race, there was an opening ceremony for the 30 or so counties in attendance complete with a few speeches and cultural show. It was great to get away from normal life for a few days.

Team Canada: Back to Front, Left to Right: James Gosselin, Mark Vollmer, myself, Kristopher Swanson, Paul Chafe, Adrian Lambert, Kathryn Waslen, Laura Estey, Melissa Ross, and Sonja Yli-Kahila

When race day rolled around, the weather forecast called for high temperatures (33 degrees). This worried me somewhat coming from temperate Victoria. This year, particularly, I don`t think I ever ran in anything warmer than 25 degrees. To make things even worse, much of the course was exposed on dirt roads and the seniors men's race started at 12pm. I had the feeling that it might be a rough day.


Previewing the course - one of the tricky downhill sections

We arrived a couple hours before the men's race started and just as the junior women were finishing their race. I was envious of them only having to do a single lap of the course since we had to do 3. Soon, the junior men were off and it was a furious start with several guys going down and nearly getting trampled. At 11am, the senior woman`s race started, with 4 our Canadian teammates competing (Laura Estey, Melissa Ross, Kathryn Waslen, and Sonja Yli-Kahila). That race was won by American Kasie Enman in 40:39, with Melissa top Canadian in 34th place, Sonja was the 2nd Canadian in 48th place.

Finally, it was our turn, after a bit of chaos on the start line as all the teams were checked in, the field took off. I knew it was going to be extremely competitive since it was the deepest field I have ever competed in. My strategy, especially since it was hot, was to go out steady on the first lap and then try to make up positions on the 2nd and 3rd laps. I held to my strategy, and was about 75% of the way back in the field after the first km or so. I was feeling average to start with and I hoped to be able to build into the race and finish strong. Things got bunched up as we moved from the road to single track, but I didn`t let it worry me too much - there would be plenty of time to make up positions if I had the wheels later on.

The climb now started in earnest and while I ran all of the first part, as it steepened towards the top (topping out at a 40% grade) I decided to power hike. Normally, I prefer to run as much as possible, but this time around I decided to try a new strategy especially given the heat. It seemed to work pretty well, as I was able to power hike past a couple of guys who were try to run. I was hot, but I was not feeling it too bad at this point, and fortunately, water bottles were being passed out about every km along the course - I drank a bit each time, but mostly used it to cool my head and body which definitely helped.

I reached the summit of the hill and started the decent. The first part of the downhill was the best part of the course for me, being relatively technical and each lap I made up time on this section. Unfortunately, it was too short and didn`t last more than a minute or so. After that, it was back onto dirt road, and it was soon after that I started to really feel the heat from the intense sun. It was quickly draining my energy and I soon started to realize that this race was going to be about trying to keep my pace and position rather than trying to increase it. Between roads, there were a couple of steep loose little sections that added a bit of flavour to the course, but most of the downhill section was exposed dirt road. Part way down, I passed James Gosselin, who was one of the favorite Canadians in attendance. He looked OK, but I figured he must of had to pull out for some reason (turned out it was his back).

It took me just over 20 minute for the first lap and I started up again, hoping that getting back into the shade (much of the climb was in thankfully not exposed) would revive me. It helped somewhat, but the sun had already done some damage and I just couldn`t push as hard as normal. I think I may have passed one of two guys on the climb despite the fact that I was not moving fast, but also got passed by one guy. I also picked up another position on the decent, but once back on the road, it felt as though the sun had doubled in intensity. Facing one more lap was quite daunting at this point since I was really suffering from the heat. My pace had slowed by close to 2 minutes on the 2nd lap. Luckily, as slow as I was going, I wasn`t getting passed and had actually made up a few positions.

The course profile - Seniors mens race

I really didn`t want to go up again, but never considered pulling out. I`ve yet to DNF in a race and I wan`t about to start at a world championships! I puttered my way up the climb - hiking much more than I would have liked. The one solace was the those around me didn`t seem to be moving any faster. The downhill was still fun and I managed to pick up two more positions. I suffered all the way to the end, but managed to keep steady against the field, producing a mediocre surge to the finish to in 68th place in 1:05:08. I`m don`t think I`ve ever been so happy to finish a race!

I was the last Canadian in, but turned out not to be in the worst condition. Fellow Victorian, Kris Swanson, went out hard and was in solid position (around 25th) for the first two laps, but then got hit by the heat on the last lap and suffered from heat exhaustion, fading badly (still finishing ahead of me though). Later that day, he had to be hospitalized, but fortunately recovered well. Adrain Lambert was the top Canadian in 37th place, with Paul Chafe and Mark Vollmer coming in 45th and 46th respectively. Team Canada placed 11th out of 17 teams. The race was won by Max King from the USA in 52:06, passing some quick starting Ugandan`s.

This ranks ranks down there as one of my worst races, but I feel it was almost exclusively due to the heat and not because of my lack of training or conditioning. I feel luckily to be able to participate and represent Canada. A huge thanks goes to Prairie Inn Harriers for their financial support in getting to Albania and to Adrian and his family for making it possible to have a Canadian team at all.

Results

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Edmonton Marathon

August 21, 2011

A marathon wasn't previously on the menu for this summer especially just 3 weeks before the world mountain running champs. However, I did have the thought in the back of my mind that it would be nice to do the Boston marathon next year. As most runners know, you need to be able to run a qualifying time based on your age and gender to be eligible to register for Boston. Although I didn't expect that running a qualifying time would be a huge challenge for me, I still had to actually run that time. Due to huge demand last year, the race organizers at Boston have instituted rolling registration dates starting with those individuals who had a qualifying time 20 min or faster than the minimum qualifying time. The first registration is Sept 12 and then two days later, the next group with times 10 min to 20 min below qualifying time are allowed to register. The same process occurs for those 5 min under and those just meeting qualifying time until all the spots are filled up.

Therefore, to be able to register for Boston, I needed to qualify at a marathon before Sept 12. Since I had left it so late, this didn't leave too many options for me and Edmonton was pretty much it. It was to be a quick trip, leaving Saturday, racing Sunday and returning to Victoria that evening. The flight was quick, but between the airport shuttle and public transit, it really took a long time to get to the motel I booked near the start/finish. Since I am still a kid in some ways, I also took the time that evening to check out the water park at the West Edmonton Mall. There they have some pretty extreme water slides including one with a vertical loop. It was so fast, I didn't really know what was happening and then all the sudden I found myself spit out at the end. I hope I'll still be doing things like that when I'm 70.

The marathon started at 7:30 am, so it necessitated a fairly early wake up, but because I was so close to the start, it wasn't bad for me as I rolled out of bed at 6am after a decent sleep. I
had a small breakfast of yogurt, fruit, and a half muffin and walked over to the start line chatting with a couple other runner also doing the race. Since it wasn't a goal race for me, the nerves were not too worked up. All I needed to do was get a decent time (under 2:55) to make sure I could register in the first slot at Boston. And in a worse case situation where I didn't even make that time, most likely I would be able to register if I ran under 3:05. I knew that I might suffer a fair amount because I just hadn't been doing this kind of distance and especially not on the leg shattering road, but I was very confident that I could get the job done.

On the start line chatting with with a few of the other top seeds, I found out there was one Kenyan, Jacob Mengich, who was the absolute favourite with boasting a PB of 2:13:31 - unless he cracked and pulled out, no one would touch him. A couple of the other runners mentioned wanting to run times in the 2:30's. If I was really racing and trained properly, that is where I would like to be. In any case, I planned on running 4 min km and least for the first 20k. This would put me in the under 2:50 range, but also should be a pace that was pretty comfortable for me. After that point, I could also ease back a bit if it felt like I was really going to suffer.

Unlike most races I have done recently, the start of the race was quite measured - everyone knew they were in for the long haul. I soon found myself on my own behind both the lead pack and a chase group - it was looking to be a lonely day out there. Around 8k in, however, I noticed that the first woman was just a few metres back. I decided to drop back and chat for a bit to see what time she was planning to run. It turned out that it was Ellie Greenwood, someone I knew about, but had not met. Ellie is becoming a bit of a legend in the ultra scene over the last couple of years racking up a huge list of wins and course records (Western States 2011, 100k championships, Chuckanut 50k among many others). These are some pretty impressive credentials. She said she was going for a sub 2:50 finish and since this coincided with what I was planning to run it make sense to run together. If I could help her pull off a few more seconds with a pacing assist and still get the goal I wanted for the race it seemed like a win win. Also, running with someone makes a marathon go just a little easier.

The next 15k or so went by pretty quickly with a steady pace average of just under 4min. Halfway passed in 1:23:37, a little ahead of schedule, but not bad. Things were still feeling pretty fresh and we chugged along. In the next few kilometers we reeled in 4 or so guys who went out a bit hard. If you can just run an even split in the marathon, inevitably some people will come back to you. Our pace continued to be on track, but it was starting to get hot (it would eventually get 30 degrees out later in the day). I started grabbing two cups at a time at the aid stations, but it was still a on minimal side in terms of hydration. Because I wasn't running all out, it wasn't a big factor, but it could have been. Since I was also concentrating so hard on getting the Gatorade and water, I managed to miss the gels that were being handed out. Since I had consumed the two items (a gel and shot blocks) by the halfway mark, there was still a long way to go with only a few calories coming in. Luckily, I was OK due to the "comfortable" pace I was running, but it is something to note for sure for the next real marathon.

Our conversation slowly would down as the race continued and was replaced by a few words here and there. At a certain point, the job just needs to get done and there is no extra energy left for chatting. About 35k in, I could officially say that I was ready to be done - I wasn't in extreme discomfort and could still hold the pace with out huge effort, but the legs were starting to hurt and the kilometers seems to be coming at about half the speed that they were at the beginning of the race. It was obvious that Ellie was starting to hurt and was having to really dig in to maintain the pace, but other than slowing slightly on a gradual hill, was able to keep the pace.

Ever so slowly the final kilometers ticked passed, 5, 4, 3, 2, and finally we were on the final kilometer. Ellie must of felt the finish was close at hand so pick it up strongly pushing right to a finish with a 4:18 for the final 1.2 km and breaking the tape just ahead of me for the win and a PB. While I certainly had more in the tank, I was still more than relieved to be finished. The legs hurt quite a bit and I spent the rest of the day doing a bit of post marathon shuffle, but fortunately recovered quickly after that.

Considering my lack of specific training, I was satisfied with the race and result. This was only my 2nd marathon (Victoria 2006) and this time I was able to do 5 min faster with less specific training and much less effort and suffering. Now it is time to put in the proper training and pull together a marathon that is more comparable to my overall fitness level. This may be Boston, but I have yet to formulate my 2012 plan.

Results

Splits:

4:01, 8:01 (missed marker), 4:09, 3:36 (marker was off), 3:35 (marker was off), 4:01, 4:06, 4:02, 3:57 (39:28 10k), 3:57, 4:06, 4:01, 4:03, 3:53, 3:53, 3:58, 3:53, 3:56, 3:59, 3:57 (1:23:37 half), 4:00, 4:03, 3:54, 3:54, 3:57, 3:58, 3:55, 3:50, 4:04 (1:58:46 30k), 4:00, 4:01, 3:53, 3:59, 4:06 (2:18:44 35k), 4:00, 4:12, 3:55, 3:58, 3:59, 4:10, 4:18 (1.2km)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mt. Finlayson Madness

July 16, 2011

I heard about this charity event though facebook and it peaked my interest. Not only does the money raised go to some good causes, but it also served an enticing challenge for me. I've always wondered how many summits I could do in a row - the most I'd ever done before was 4 (two from from the front and two from the back). This was the perfect opportunity to test my mettle. The event challenged participants to see how many summits they could do in 12 hours (8am-8pm).

To prep, I packed a whole large duffel with food and drink: bagels, sandwiches, jujubes, hard boiled eggs, potato chips, steamed potatoes, bars, gels, carrots, water, Gatorade, etc. I basically didn't know what I would feel like to so I came prepared. I also brought another bag with extra changes of clothes and shoes.

Unfortunately, when I got up in the morning to head out to the mountain, it was raining and looked like it had been all night. Descending on Mt. Finlayson is not fun when it is wet as it is quite technical. I came very close to heading back to bed for a few hours to see if it would dry up, but I decided to go for it anyway. If it was totally miserable, I could always just do a few summits and then head home, but if I didn't go for the 8am start I wouldn't have the chance to go for the full 12 hours.

I arrived with a little spare time and signed up and got my number. It was still raining. Two other runners I knew were also there: Hayden Earle and Rob Goetze so we started out together just after 8am. Since the plan was to go for 12 hours, I knew that being conservative was extremely important. If it didn't feel ridiculously easy to start with then I was going too fast. The first climb took about 26 min and the first descent about 19 min for a total of 45 min. I was soaked within a half an hour and going down the wet rocks wasn't too fun, but the shoes I used fortunately had pretty good traction. Throughout the day, I didn't take exact splits for my climbs since I spent some time eating, drinking, changing socks, etc. and the top and the bottom and didn't record those transition times. I continued climbing with Hayden and Rob for the couple of more summits, completed in a similar time. During the 3rd and 4th climbs, however, first Rob and then Hayden started to slow on the climbs and I grabbed my mp3 player and headed out solo. I continued at that steady pace, making the return trip in 45-50min including the transitions - not fast, but consistent and something I felt I could sustain for the duration.

A few climbs in. Hayden Earle, myself, and Rob Goetze

I had to stop for a few minutes after about half a dozen summits to change socks and apply some moleskin on my left heel which was suffering some rubbing due to a shoe that wasn't tight enough. One thing I had forgotten was moleskin, but a friendly volunteer had some that she gratefully let be have. I was also getting a bit of groin chafing from being so ended up changing my shorts to a dry pair. It helped a bit, but still continued to annoy me.

Garth Campbell joined me for reps 8 & 9 and it was nice to have company for a bit during the long day. Over 40 people did at least 1 hike throughout the day and there were a couple of other full day participants other than myself. Other the the chafing, things were feeling quite good and I wasn't really suffering much so I knew that my pace had been conservative enough for me to survive the day. After 10 summits though, the downhills started to be uncomfortable. The quad muscles used for braking (required a lot on this mountain) were starting to fatigue out and running downhill started to be hurt.

I did some time calculations and figured that I could definitely do 14 summits as long as I didn't totally crack. So with that in mind, I pushed on, knowing exactly what I had to do. I'd been drinking and eating and felt very solid for energy. My times continued to stay fairly consistent although I did slow a minute or two on the descents. On my 12th decent, I went down with Hayden who was finishing his 10th and final summit. He suffered during some of the middle reps, but finished strong and ended up doing more summits than most sane people. At that point, I kind of wished I was finished as well. Even though I knew I could do more, I was getting to the point that I didn't really want to. I saw Chris Calendar a few times near the end as he was volunteering for a couple of hours at the summit.

It was a relief to finally be on my last summit. Surprisingly enough, my climbing legs still felt pretty good, and I was able to push the last climb, actually clocking my fastest time of under 21 minutes from the parking lot to the top. Still feeling so strong after so much climbing meant that I probably could have pushed the climbs a little harder and still maintained to the end. I know for sure that if I really wanted to I could actually do 15 more more summits on a dry day, pushing a bit harder on the climbs, and being more efficient on my transitions. Weather I even want to try again is another question...four days out and my legs are still quite sore.

Thanks to Andrew and Lisa for organizing this event. Hopefully next year the weather will cooperate.

Results

A few stats:
11:19 total time on the mountain
14 summits
Horizontal Distance: 56km
Elevation Gain: 5,600m
Elevation Loss: 5,600m

Canmore Challenge (Qualifying for Canadian Mountain Running Team)

July 9, 2011

This was the goal race of the year for me and I had been working hard on my hill climbing since November. Things had been going well for the most part although the month or so prior to the race felt a little weak in terms of training due to vacations and some low energy weeks. I just hoped that I had banked enough fitness to get the job done on race day.

I drove to Canmore, Alberta, two nights prior with Andrew Pape-Salmon who was also racing. We spent the first night in Banff where Sonja and Andrew's wife, Sara, met us after flying to Calgary. On Friday, we travelled to Canmore and previewed the course. The men's event was 5 loops of a moderately hilly course (plus a short one time handle to the start/finish). I was pleasantly surprised with the course, expecting mostly double track cross country ski trails. Instead, most of the course was mildly technical single track. There was a nice steep kicker hill at the high point of the loop, but most of the rest of the climbing was fairly moderate and the decent was also gradual - nothing too brutal at all. The altitude was a factor though, while not high(1500m+), breathing was slightly more laboured than normal when running.

It was the competition that would really be the challenge. I knew only two of the runners personally. Kris Swanson is a very talented runner who placed 30th last year at the Mountain Running World's, the best ever Canadian placing. I've trained with Kris a couple of times where he has consistently humbled me. Shaun Stephens-Whale is a strong young runner who often runs trail events in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island. I have raced against him several times in and have only ever seen his back. I also researched several of the other runners, and found that there was plenty of depth to be found with a number of runners with 10k PB's in the 31-33min range. Placing in the top 5 was not a given at all and prior to the race I was having serious doubt about my ability to get the job done (5th place or better was required to guarantee a spot on the team - a 6th male is picked, but is at the discretion of the Canadian Mountain Running Committee).

Luckily, conditions were perfect for racing with cool temps and no sun. I opted to race with my road flats knowing that the course wasn't too technical and only had one little muddy spot. I almost chose to use my trail flats, which are a similar weight, but don't provide as much cushioning for the downhills as the road flats. Predictably, the race started at brisk pace with James Gosselin leading out hard, trailed by Kris and Michael Simpson. I somewhat surprisingly found myself in 4th place...now just to keep it. The first loop and second loop were both fairly fast and I managed to keep my 4th place and was staying close to Michael. On the 3rd lap, however, the climbs started to get tough. While the legs were fatiguing somewhat, it was mostly the my bodies inability to get in enough oxygen that was the limiting factor. My breathing was quite laboured - likely this issue was a consequence of the altitude. The course design with gradual downhills meant that there was no place to really recover - you had to push all the way. I also found that I'm not a big fan of the 5 loop format and it is just mentally grueling - give me the same difficulty in a single loop any day (or fewer loops anyway).

Duking it out with Adrian Lambert. Photo Credit: Sara Pape Salmon.

Part way up the 3rd climb, Mark Vollmer passed me and soon after so did Adrian Lambert. On the same climb, however, all 3 of us managed to pull ahead of Michael who was struggling to maintain his initial quick pace on the climbs. I don't normally get beaten on climbs, but these were all strong mountain runners so strong climbing is to be expected. I was able to claw back time against Adrain on the way down and we were back and fourth like that for the remainder of the race (him beating me on the way up, and me catching and sometimes passing on the way down). On the final way down, I did the same and thought I would be able nip him before hitting the line, but on the few hundred of meters of double track to the finish, Adrain poured it on and I couldn't gain any time. I was too spent for a full kick to the line either, but knowing I was in 5th place allowed me to luxury to not tying to totally kill myself. I finished with a 59:38 clocking on the 14.5 km course (with 600m of elevation gain). James and Kris completely dominated the field finishing about 3min faster than the next group. Positions 3-6 were all less than a minute apart. Andrew finished a solid 10th overall and was the first master. Sonja and Sara also raced in the woman's 9.2k event (3 loops). They both ran well with Sonja placing 3rd woman in her age group and Sara coming in 5th. Congratulations to the 3 woman who also qualified for the team: Danelle Kabush, Micah Medinski, and Magi Scallion.

Andrew's triumphant finish! Photo Credit: Sara Pape Salmon.

Need....air! Photo Credit: Sara Pape Salmon.

It wasn't my best race ever, but it was enough to get the job done and I raced about as smart as I could have given how I felt so am quite satisfied with the result. I'm excited to be able to represent Canada at the World Mountain Running Championships in Tirana, Albanina in September. It will by far be be the highest level event I have ever had the fortune to participate in. A big thanks to Praire-Inn Harriers for some financial aid to get to this event.

Five of the Six men going to worlds: myself, Adrian Lambert, Mark Vollmer, Kris Swanson, and James Gosselin. Photo Credit: Andrew Pape-Salmon


Sonja, myself, Andrew, and Sara after the race

Results.

Scorched Sole 25k

June 26, 2011

I decided to pop into this race for the 'sole' reason that I was going to be in Kelowna on vacation during this time and therefore thought it was a good opportunity to try something new. Scorched Sole is primarily an ultra event offering both a 50k and 50 Mile option with the 25k and add-on. I was seriously contemplating entering the 50k as my first foray into an ultra distance (also it seemed a good value since the entry fee was the same for all 3 distances). However, coming just 2 weeks before my goal race of the year (qualifying for the Canadian Mountain Running Team), doing the 50k may not have given me sufficient recovery time.

The weather on race day was fairly warm (mid twenties), but not brutally hot. Some of my extended family members came to watch me and Sonja (also doing the 25k) start and finish the race which was great. Unfortunately, they also got to witness me make the first possible navigational error of the course! Literally 5 metres in, the race course veered left onto single track. Apparently, this had been announced, but I had missed it and didn't notice the flagging and ran right past it. I heard some shouting behind me, but didn't initially know that it was directed at me, but soon I looked back and noticed my error. I went from first to last place with the newbie mistake which was a bit embarrassing. However, it was a fairly long race so didn't think it would be a big factor in the end. It did take me about 10 minutes to work my way back to the front as passing in some areas was tough and I didn't want to over stain myself this early.

I pulled myself up to the leader, Marty Bulcock and we ran together for a little while while the course traveled on the paved road for a little while. We then moved back onto trail for the start of the climb and I soon found myself in the lead. The climbing was moderate and mostly comfortable with a few small breaks here and there. After a few kilometers, I popped out on a logging road. I knew this was coming having studied the map prior to the race and resolved to grind out the rest of the climb (there was over 1100m of elevation gain in total). It was initially quite tough to keep running as the grade was steep and the road fully exposed to the midday sun (the race started at 11am). Fortunately, the grade soon softened a bit and after a while, some clouds rolled in making it more bearable.

Based on my previous results from 25k races, I had anticipated to hit the turn-around in this out and back course at the 60-70 min mark (I found out after the race that we actually covered at least 27k which explains some of this misjudgement). As I cranked away and first the 1 hour mark passed and then 1:10, the climbing started to take its toll - I managed to run everything, but barely. Finally, after about 1:20 of climbing, the turn around point with aid station (also shared with the 50k and 50 Mile courses) came to view. With great relief and happily grabbed flat coke, a couple of chips, refilled my water bottle and headed back down.

I passed Marty after about 5 minutes so knew I had a solid lead. Third place was held by a woman and less than a minute behind I was happy to see that Sonja was forth overall! The downhill was a nice relief from the climbing, but punishing itself since it was so sustained. I pushed fairly hard, but didn't destroy myself as much as I would have if I was in a tough battle for position. The toughest part was the paved section once back on the road since it contained a few small climbs which the battered legs didn't appreciate. I crossed in 2:13:48, slower than expected (mostly due the increased distance and slightly tougher climb than expected). I was happy to be done and had a nice time hanging out at the beach getting massage and taking a dip in the water which waiting for others to finish. Marty finished about 15 min back. Sonja came close to winning the woman's' division passing Liza Pye on the decent, but didn't have enough left to hold her off on the final road section. Fourth overall is a great result though!

I was happy to complete the race, but likely wouldn't do the 25k again on this course as the long road climb wasn't much fun. It was a low key event, but well organized. The announcer had even done research on entrants and know some of everyone's racing bios which was pretty cool. In retrospect, I was happy not to have done the 50k as it turned out to be a tough one with the winner coming in in just under 7 hours (the 50 Mile winner took over 11 hours!).

Results.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Q Track Series - Mile

June 18, 2010

Since the Kusam Klimb was unfortunately cancelled due to snow this year, I decided to jump into a track race instead. Besides the Mile distance, there was also a 400m and a 5000m. I considered trying the 5000m, but I'd actually been having a low energy week and with fatigued legs and didn't think I would be able to perform to to my potential on longer distances. I've never raced the Mile Distance so figured even if I didn't feel great, I could still set a PB! Four laps plus a bit could be survived even if I wasn't feeling my best.

I was aiming for a sub 4:40 clocking which meant I'd have to run under 70s laps so I started out at this pace. The legs didn't feel fantastic, but overall the pace felt manageable. I pulled slightly ahead of the next competitors, my training partners, Simon Dejong and Jairus Streight and then concentrated on staying consistent. The second and third lap passed as a similar time and I felt as though I was well in control. Things started to feel tough on the last 400m, but being so close to the finish, I was able to dig in and finish strong in 4:38.5 with a slight negative split. Simon kicked hard on the last 400 pulling back some time on me finishing about 10s back and Jairus another 5s back.

All in all, I was happy with the race considering I didn't go in feeling 100%. On an 'A' day, I'm certain that I would be able to pull a few more seconds off. Thanks to Chris Kelsall for his continued dedication to putting on these track events.

Results.

Friday, June 10, 2011

MOMAR on the Mainland - Enduro

May 28, 2011

For the first time ever, MOMAR moved to Burnaby this year. It was an exciting change after several (very good mind you) years at Squamish, a new venue is always welcome. I had mountain biked on a few of the trails on the mountain in the past, but didn't know the full extent of the trails available. I also heard that also for the first time, two true orienteering maps would be used, which was pretty cool.

Originally, I had planned to race with my normal racing partner, Garth Campbell, but it turned out that he had other obligations that day and couldn't make it. That left me to attempt a solo effort which I had only done once before (Squamish 2009). The difference this time was that there was a kayak stage which I knew would be un-enjoyable for me. Of course, the main problem is that I only ever kayak during these races and lack both proper technique and sufficient upper body strength and endurance to be competitive. In any case, I hoped to be just survive the kayak and then race fast and smart for the remaining stages to pull myself up through the field.

Weather forecasts prior to the race threatened rain, but race day turned out to be overcast and cool, but dry - perfect for racing. I arrived with Sonja (who was volunteering) a little over an hour before race time. This gave me just enough time to drop my mountain bike at transition, fit my rental kayak, look at the map which was handed out, make sure I had everything in my pack, etc. It is always amazing how fast an hour goes by in that environment.

Soon we were all on the water for the mass start. The wind was almost nil so waves would not be an issue which as a plus for sure. Once we got started, it didn't take me long to fall far back from the leading boats. Bart Jarmula was in a surf ski and he took off like a rocket. I also found myself behind most of the double kayaks, some singles, and even a couple of canoes! It was going to be a long paddle...

My cardio system was not particularly taxed, but I knew that my shoulders and arms would not take it if I pushed too hard. In addition, I had decided before even getting on the water that there was little reason to kill myself on the kayak. If I went all out, I could perhaps shave a few minutes off my kayak time, but it would take a lot out of me. Better to stay steady and use that extra energy where I could make it count more on the bike and running sections coming up.

I didn't know exactly how long the paddle would be, but usually they are around 10 km, which Garth and I normally finish in about an hour. I figured I'd be 10 min off that mark so kind of had that in my mind going in. The stage was an out and back in Burrard Inlet, so I knew that once Bart came back the other way, I would have an idea of where the turnaround was. Unfortunately, I didn't see him until 30 min in which meant that it was still a ways before I would get to the turn-around. Eventually it came 40 min in, and I started the long trip back. Because I was staying in control, I wasn't suffering that badly, but just really wanted to be be done (plus the muscles were getting tired).

Finally, the beach came after about 1:20 on the water and I rushed off to grab my bike for the second stage. What a relief to be on two wheels! This stage brought us west on some trails and roads, crossed the highway (where I had to wait briefly for the light), though a few residential streets, and then onto the Trans-Canada Trail (TCT) for the accent up to Simon Fraser University at the top of Burnaby Mountain. I lost myself a couple of minutes by making a navigational error on the streets. I kicked myself a bit since it was mostly because I wasn't paying enough attention, but the damage was done so I moved on. The climb on the TCT was tough, but I managed to ride it and pass quite a few teams in the process (since I was about 3/4 the way back after the paddle I had a lot of time to make up). My legs were feeling reasonable although not amazing, but as long as I could keep going at a steady pace, I'd be OK.

At the top, we had a quick gear check (whistle and space blanket). My check went quickly as I had both items visible in the mesh pouch of my pack so I didn't even have to remove it to show the volunteer. This is an easy way to pick up a minute or two as I noticed a good number of racers rummaging around it their packs for the items. I passed Jen Segger who was racing with a team of 4. As always, she is super positive and encouraged me to go catch the leaders. Sonja was directly some traffic near the Orienteering stage start so I said hi as I biked passed. For the first time ever at a MOMAR, the O course was using electronic timing (you carry a electronic key that you insert into a reader at each control). This was nice, as it allows you to see how you did at between each control after the race and it is a bit quicker to use than a traditional punch.

I elected to pick the checkpoints in clockwise order although either direction would likley have been about the same speed. Navigation was pretty straight forward as there were a lot of features to position yourself with since it was largely urban. I did one bushwhack with another solo racer that probably didn't pay off since the vegetation was somewhat thick and included nasty blackberries. Overall though, I was able to find most of the checkpoints with a minimal amount of wasted time. Some of the checkpoints on the campus itself were a bit tricky as there are many floors which is not easy to see on a 2D map. Overall, though I finished fairly strong with a time of 32:21, good for the 2nd fastest O stage, only 13s behind Todd Nowack.

Then I was onto the bike, pulling out just behind Hayden Earle and Scott Sheldrake. They are both quite competent mountain bikers and I was not able to make any time up on them on downhill sections. The downhill and cross country was fun although I was a bit rusty since I have done a minimal amount of mountain biking since the last MOMAR. I found it to rough in many sections, but not very steep for the most part and I was able to ride nearly all of it comfortably. A the bottom of the hill, Hayden and Scott arrived just ahead of me at checkpoint 9 where I was finally able to pass them as they were refueling at the water station there.

After that, came the 2nd climb of the day up to the top of the mountain. It started out fairly gradually on a power line trail, but then got much steeper once it moved onto another section of the TCT. Finally, it went vertical on the aptly named "Cardiac Hill." I was just able to ride it in granny gear, but it was a struggle. Fortunately, it didn't last too long, and I was on the top again and flying down the side of the road. Then I was onto more downhill single track before heading into the transition area for the trekking stage.

I knew that this stage was one that would favour me. The navigation was straight forward, but the route included a significant climb and what looked to be a technical decent so it played to two of my strengths. My legs were definitely not fresh, but despite this, I was able to hold a solid pace on the climb along side the main road. It got a bit steeper as the route moved onto a service road and steeper still when it went onto a trail. It had been a while since I had seen anyone on the course, but I soon spotted Roger MacLeod up ahead. He was power hiking and looking a little spent. He told me that Norm Thibault was not far ahead just a little bit in front of the first team of 2 who I could just see nearing the top of the climb. I thanked him and pushed on ahead, determined to make up as much time on this stage as possible.

As soon as the climb was over, I picked up my pace and started to hammer the downhill. Before too long, I spotted the team of two (Mike Conway and Dave Viitakangas) who were moving well on the technical downhill. I was able to reel them in, however, and soon passed the guy in back (I'm not sure which was which). The guy in front was the stronger technical runner though and was really pushing hard to stay ahead. I could tell he was reluctant to let me by, but after a minute or two, I politely asked to get by and he let me go. Soon after that, I caught up to Norm, and said hi as I passed and after a couple more minutes I was back on the bike for the last stage. I had managed to do the navigation stage in 18:12, gaining over 5 min on the next place team.

It was then back onto the bike for the final bike stage. It traversed part of the same climb as the 2nd bike climb, but thankfully not "Cardiac Hill" again. I make a minor navigation error which allowed Norm to catch back up. Then a made classic newbie error and ended up following him instead of taking the what I suspected was the correct route. The trail we took ended up getting more and more indistinct and soon we were bush whacking our way through a gully. We were close to the road by this time though and I figured it was faster to struggle though a bit more rather than back track. Luckily, I don't think we lost too much time and were soon back on the proper trail.

I trailed just behind Norm while we picked up a couple more check points with no issues. We found out from Marshall's that the last two check points has be cut due to time constraints. Therefore when we arrived at the bike park, it was time to drop our bikes (after riding a few jumps) and head out to the last O stage. Norm and I found the first control together and then I moved on ahead to grab the next. On my way there, I was surprised to see Bart moving slowly in the same direction - he looked to be hurting for sure. I expected him to still be far ahead - it was a navigation stage though so it was difficult to know exactly where he was headed. I got the next control and was just about to head toward what I though was the most logical control when I noticed that Bart was heading in a direction where there seemed to be no controls. This of course made me question myself and warranted another look a the map. Sure enough, upon closer inspection, there was one control way off to one end...actually off the map itself on the margin! How evil! Bart had apparently missed it and was coming back to get it - I would likely have missed it as well.

My legs were feeling fatigued, but I was able to muster up a decent run toward this far control. On the way back I was surprised to see Todd heading back from the checkpoint. Due to a back injury Todd has pretty much not been mountain biking or running since November, and just days before the MOMAR was deliberating on whether or not even to do it. Like me though, he can't turn down competition easily and knows how to push himself even when barley trained.

Nearing the finish. Photo Credit: Mark Teasdale

I picked up the far control and headed off to pick up the 4 remaining ones as quickly as I could. While I didn't know for sure, I suspected that both Todd and Bart would still beat me, but I wanted to make sure I stayed ahead of Norm and any other contenders. I had a pretty decent kick to the finish to cross in 4:33:55 - good for third place. I was less than 1 min behind Bart and 9 min behind Todd who amazingly still managed to take the win with nearly zero training! Norm came in a few minutes later, and Mike and Dave finished 5th overall to claim the team of two men title. Sarah Seads continued to dominate the solo women with over an hour lead over the next woman.

Overall, I was fairly pleased with my race. I made a few navigational errors, noting huge, but together they probably cost me a few minutes. My fitness was good although I didn't feel amazing I felt consistent throughout and could have kept going at a similar pace for a while longer. I do, however, suspect that I could have pushed myself harder on a few sections, as I didn't feel totally spent after crossing the finish line - guess I didn't want it bad enough! Thanks go out to Bryan Tasaka for yet another well run event. Thanks too to course designer, Gary Robbins, who put a fun one together and too all the volunteers. See you all in September for the MOMAR on the island!

Results.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mount Tzouhalem Gutbuster - Enduro

May 7, 2011

Here is a quick and long overdo report. Mount Tzouhalem (near Duncan) is the first of 4 Gutbuster races this year and due to other conflicting races and vacations the only one I can compete in this year. I've always found Tzouhalem to be a tough race due to the challenging climb (all the climbing is pretty much done in one steep accent), but I've always raced well here. Since I am really concentrating on hills and as it was to be my only Gutbuster of the year, even more than usual, I wanted to race well.

I was racing in a new pair of X-Talon 212 Inov8 shoes that I had recently purchased. They are basically a trail racing flat with massive rubber lugs for traction. To keep weight down, there is no rock plate, however, so I was a little worried that they would really beat my feet up on the steep downhill. This turned out to be somewhat of a legitimate worry, but my feet did survived with only minor damage.

My main competition this time around were some regular faces, Shawn Nelson and Sean Chester. To take the win, I knew I had to climb well and build a gap on the ascent as it was likely that both of them would be able to put time into me on the remainder of the course. Thus, I carried through with my plan and started out at a solid pace. Within a km or so the course starts to climb, and first gradually, but soon enough it ramps up. I knew I had a good chance to do well that day when both Sean and Shawn fell back soon after the climb began and within a few more minutes they were out of sight. Now it was time for me to focus and push hard through the pain.

About half way up the climb, the course turns onto single track (from double track) and goes very vertical for a hundred metres or so. I have never before been able to run this section as it is just brutal, especially after coming off of a sustained climbing section. This year though, with the legs feeling decent and the lead in hand, I decided to go for it and see if it could be done. It wasn't a fast run and indeed probably only marginally faster than hiking, but I was able master it this time around. While this accomplishment was encouraging, the climbing was not near over and with one more really steep section just before the cross, I had and to gut it out for another 10-15 min of elevation gain. Luckily, the high point came a little before I expected it to so it was a relief to get some downhill on a logging road.

Soon though, the course veers back onto a some fun single track. It is mostly fairly flat or downhill, but has a couple little climbs here and there to remind you that your legs are toast. Sonja was not racing, but was running the course and it was around this point that I caught up to her. The course had been altered a bit, with some additional single track added near the far end of the course. The wasn't a long section, but probably added a couple minutes.

From this point on the course is primarily downhill with several more kms of nice single track. I was feeling good was pretty optimistic that no one would catch me, but kept the pressure on myself because if someone catches up enough to see the person in front, it gives them extra incentive to push even harder.

Before the final major decent, there is a modest climb that can feel tough on the shattered legs. This time around, I was able to hold steady on it, but was relieved to have it over. Then the punishing downhill begins. It is steep and not too technical so extreme speed is possible if your body can take it. I'm not sure that I was quite as fast as some previous years on this section, primarily because my lightweight shoes did not protect me enough from the rocky terrain and I was able to feel a bit too much through the bottom of my shoes. Soon though I was down again and I noticed that a small section of the course had been removed which was just fine with me. Then just a bit of flat terrain, one more little grunt of a hill and a flat few hundred metres to the finish remained. My shoes performed exceptionally well on a little section of mud that racers had to navigate (overall I was quite happy with them despite battering my feet up a bit).

I accelerated into the finish stopping the clock at just under the hour mark for 59:52, my best time ever at this venue (although with course changes it is hard to figure out exactly). I was pleased with my performance and race execution (and for my first Gutbuster win since 2007) and it shows that I am setting myself up well for mountain running later in the summer. Shawn finished only 40 seconds back so my keeping the pressure up turned out to be a good idea. Sean crashed on course and decided to cruise in after that finishing well back. This left Andrew Pape-Salmon to pick up a podium finish in well run race. Care Wakely continued her dominance of the woman's field with Claire Morgan coming 2nd. I was pleased to see that Antonia Harvey, whom a coach, came in 5th place and only 20 second back from Claire in a cluster of woman vying for podium spots. I expect to see her race well later in the season.

Results.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Times Colonist 10k

May 1, 2011

To have any hope of keeping this blog up to date, I'd better start writing more and racing less! I'm not sure that is going to happen since it is tough for me to turn down the chance to participate and compete.

The Times Colonist (TC) is the largest single race in Victoria and is even tougher than most races to not do because it is so well known even by non-runners. It is a good race due to a fairly fast course and a deep field. There are always plenty of talented racers to run with. This year saw a course change from the last few years from a modified out and back with a turn-around to a pure loop course. Initially, I thought it would be a bit tougher because of the addition of a climb up Johnson St and a few other little blips that did not exist before. However, upon seeing the elevation profiles of both courses, they are actually pretty similar so overall I figured the new course wouldn't make a big difference.

Image courtesy of Chris Callendar

The start area is a bit nicer this year than in recent years as it is in front of the Empress where the road is much wider. I expect for people farther back it the pack benefited even more from this extra road space.

The 8 am start time came soon enough and off we ran north on Government St. I started to find my pace and the pack quickly spread out. As we turned onto Johnson St off of store St I saw the first km marker. It seemed to come too soon and a quick check at the watch confirmed an impossible 2:32. I don't know how such a large placement mistake happened when even a quick look at the map confirms that the marker should have been another block further along the route. Regardless, I knew it didn't really matter for the overall race.

Johnson St is a long gradual climb up, although coming this close to the start of the race it doesn't seem too bad. I did, however, start to realize that this race was not going to be as good as Sooke River for me. While I didn't feel too bad, I just didn't feel that I had the same snap in my legs or ability to push myself and hard. There was nothing I could do about it though so I resolved to race smart and see if I could still pull off a decent race.

I soon found myself running with local running legend Bruce Deacon. Bruce is a two time Olympian and was Canada's top marathoner for several years in the 1990's. Now a master, he has still held on to most of his speed. Soon we started trading the lead with me gaining on the climbs and Bruce pulling ahead on the descents. We would do this for most of the remainder of the race.

As we turned onto May St, we were treated to a little hill and although I expected it, it was still a bit of a bugger. I continued to feel reasonable, if not fantastic and when I went through 5 km in 16:15 I knew I had a very good chance to get under 33 min unless I really blew it on the second half. I managed the climb up to Clover Point and Mile Zero fairly well slowing only to 3:21 from 6-7 km.

Things started to get a bit rougher for me after that and Bruce pulled a bit ahead of me on the downhill towards Ogden Point. Fortunately, I did manage to keep my pace fairly solid even though it was a little slower than the first 5 km. With about a km to go, Nick Walker went blowing by me, obviously feeling strong. I wanted to latch on and have him help pull me through to the finish, but I just didn't have the ability to change gears at that time. I was just trying my best to not slow down. I managed a weak surge to the finish and closed in a decent 3:14. My final time was 32:43 good for 15th place. Considering that it wasn't my best race in terms of how I felt, I was happy with my time and the personal best. On a good day, I am confident a 32:30 would be possible.

I finished1 second behind Bruce, but somehow managed to get placed ahead of him. Perhaps because the official results are sorted by chip time rather than gun time? Nick was a few seconds ahead and Craig Odermatt just ahead of him. Willy Kimsop edged out Simon Witfield for the overall win in 30:22, about 30 sec slower than he was last year so perhaps it is a bit tougher course. The top woman, Karolina Jarzynska from Poland, ran an amazing 32:54 which I believe is a new course record. Congrats to all though who ran, I know many who had some spectacular races on a great day.

Results.
My splits: 6:31 (2 km), 3:14, 3:12, 3:18 (5 km split 16:15), 3:21, 3:20, 3:16, 3:18, 3:14

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sooke River 10k

April 17, 2011

Since I just ran the Times Colonist (TC) 10k today, it is of course much overdo that I get this race report up. Sooke River is the last of the 8 Island Race Series races. I have not run it since 2007 where I posted a then respectable for me 35:20. The course consists of some rolling hills so it not conducive for blazing fast times, nor is it super slow like Hatley Castle.

I had a break of 4 weeks without racing and while I had hoped to really get a solid block of training in, dealing with a new house while also trying to sell my condo sucked up the time. My speed and hill sessions were pretty solid, but I didn't get as many longer runs in as I probably should have, I was hoping this wouldn't hurt me.

I didn't have any aspirations that I would be breaking my 10k PB on this race, just figuring that if I could run in the low 33's that would set me up well for doing a sub 33 min at the TC. I went into the race relaxed, but as usual ready to do my best.

Off the line, Nick Walker, Shawn Nelson, and myself quickly separated ourselves from the pack. Within a kilometer, Nick fell back slightly undoubtedly opting to run his own smart race. Shawn and I continued to two abreast for another kilometer or so. It sounded as though he was labouring more than he should have been at this point in the race so he must not have been having a good day. I on the other hand was feeling expectationally strong and was running comfortably. When Shawn started to slip backwards a bit, I put the pressure on to get some distance between us. My 3rd km (with a good amount of downhill) was a pretty quick 3:10 although I didn't know at the time how fast I was going since I opted not to look at most of my splits.

I had a good lead at this point, but continued to feel really strong. The kind of feeling you get only a couple times a year (if you are lucky) so I wanted to capitalize on it as much as possible. Before the turn around, I only had the company of Garth Campbell, Hugh Trenchard, and one other cyclist who were leading the race. When I am feeling good, I like pushing myself so runnign solo wasn't a big deal.

My pace remained fairly consistent to the turn around just before the 5k marker. At this point, it was nice to be able to see the runners in the field behind me. Thanks to all those that acknowledged me even if I couldn't respond in all cases since I was really in the zone. I noticed that Nick had moved into second behind me (perhaps 20s back) with Shawn holding onto third, and Keith Mills nippling at his heels. At the 5k mark, I did look at my watch and was pleased to see a 16:22 split which was better than expected. I knew though that holding on to that sub 33 pace would be really tough on the second half because there was significant hill to climb on the way back.

I hit the big hill hard, really hammering up it and getting onto my toes, trying to keep all the speed I could. I did well on the first steeper section, but had to pull back a bit on the final section or risk blowing up. Despite my efforts, this was still my slowest km in 3:31. We were treated to some downhill in the last couple of kilometers which I managed to use fairly well. Things were starting to get more difficult at this point (as they always do) and I was glad the finish was not far away.

At 9k, I took a look at my watch and noted that I had 3:05 to get to the finish to dip under 33min...not much time, but I decided to try my best. I pick it up a bit and then after the final corner, sprinted the few hundred metres to the finish...32:30...oh maybe I can make it, I'm so close...32:45...almost there...32:55...in the chute...33:00....damn! not quite. I ended up with a 33:01, but couldn't be disappointed at all since it was better than expected. Picking up a win at an Island Race Series was also a nice surprise and quite honestly not something I was sure was ever going to happen since so many of the races are really stacked with amazing runners. Of course, I do have to thank the Sun Run for sucking all the top talent off the island for that event.

Nick held onto 2nd finishing about 30s back and Keith ran well to pull ahead of a fading Shawn Nelson to take 3rd in just over 34 min. Care Wakely took the win for the women, with a minute and a half gap over 2nd place Sara Gross. It was unfortunate that some runners from up island were unable to start with the main race due to a tanker accident at Goldstream. They did get to race in their own heat 30 min later, however.

Thanks to Island Road Runners for another successful event and to all the IRS organizers and volunteers - it was a fun season and without every ones dedication to keep things going, it wouldn't happen.

Results

My splits: 3:20, 3:17, 3:10, 3:13, 3:22 (5k split 16:22), 3:19, 3:23, 3:31, 3:18, 3:07

Here is a video put together my Chris Kelsall. The footage from Garth's bike it unfortunately pretty far away due to the wide angle on the camera.

 

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