Thursday, August 2, 2012

Kusam Klimb

June 23, 2012

This was to be my fourth Kusam Klimb having run it previously from 2007-2009. I have been fortunate to be able to take wins for all three of those previous attempts. This year though, would be much harder, as Jeremy Clegg was in attendance and he has been training like a madman. I knew his climbing skills would be off the charts and it would be tough to beat him.

Jeremy and I took off quite quickly on the first couple of flat road kilometers running about 3:40/km splits. Then we headed uphill for the start of the epic 1650m climb over less than 6km. The first couple of kilometres are not too steep and Jeremy stayed together. While I wasn't suffering too bad, I wasn't feeling amazing either and knew that the steepest part of the climb would be tougher than ever this year. Jeremy definitely seemed to be more comfortable than I was and I wasn't surprised when he decided to take off on me about half way up. I wasn't able to match him and he slowly pulled ahead. This was the steepest part of the course where we were gaining 400m for each kilometre - running is not really an option for most of this section and taking close to 20min is not unreasonable. There are many sections so steep that I was on all fours many times.

The trail finally eases off a couple of kilometres from the summit, but the snow also appeared on the ground making it a little more challenging. By this time Jeremy was out of sight, perhaps a minute or so ahead. There wasn't much I could do about it so moved as best as I could on the remainder of the climb and hoped that I could reel him back in on the downhill. Soon enough I make it to the false summit where the course descends to the alpine lake before the final push to the summit. Unfortunately, the course is not well marked here and Jeremy missed the turn up to the final climb. I helped him get back on track and we scrambled together to the pass.

The extreme downhill in the snow is my favorite section of the race, with very steep snow covered slopes. There are ropes set up that some racers use and others prefer to slide down. I personally love just to run down, but some sections are just on the edge of my control - luckily I held it together and was able to put a bit of time into Jeremy on this section. He fought back though when the slope leveled out. I knew it would be a tough remainder of the race. Neither of of would allow the other to have an easy victory.

Once we were out of the snow, there was about 4km on double track with several creek crossings before heading onto gravel road with a nice downhill grade. We were cranking out kimometers just over 3:30/km for this section. The next section is a decommissioned road which is flater and a little tougher. Then comes a bit more single track and a final creek crossing and a tiny uphill grunt. It is nothing really, but hurts after so much downhill and I always cramp here a little bit. The final 2.5km is partly gravel road and then a final kilometer or so on pavement. Jeremy and I were still neck and neck before the pavement, but he opened it up on a small downhill section. I just didn't have anything to counter with since we were already running at about 3:20/km pace. I tried to make a move on the final flat section, but there was nothing more in the tank. Jeremy crossed in 3:23:03, just one second faster than my previous course record from 2009. I came in 14s later for my second best Kusam time.

I was honestly a bit disappointed to not get the win and lose my course record, but Jeremy certainly deserved the win and it was good to be challenged for the first time in this race. Matt Cecill was 3rd about 10 min back. Top woman was Alex Gillett from Victoria. Congrats to Jeremy Lawrence and Richard Knowlton for there 7th and 8th place finishes for the first Kusam try.

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