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.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Where did you start and finished. I ran Tzou today from the yellow gate (entrance) to the top and back to the gate in 58 mins. Just looking to compare.


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