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.
A 100 Mile Journey Around Mt. Fuji
1 week ago