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.


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 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


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!).


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.


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