Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Esquimalt 8k and Mt. Doug Gutbuster 6k - July 26, 2009

I signed up for these two races about 3 weeks ago, and mainly signed up for the two of them to see if it was, in fact, possible to complete the double. The Esquimalt 8k started at 9 am on one side of town, while the Mt. Doug Gutbuster started at 9 am on the other side of town. Always looking for an adventure wherever I can find it, I seized the chance to register for both.
As great as my summer training has gone thus far, the week leading up to this race Sunday would be nothing short of awful. The Monday evening following the Hurricane Ridge run I came down with a chill and fever. For the next two days, I was on a diet of Tylenol trying to get my fever down, and needless to say, running did not happen. On Wednesday I went to the doctor who confirmed my suspicion: bladder infection.
I was put on antibiotics for the next 7 days and I was hopeful that things would improve quickly. And for the most part, they did. I tried running the next day (Thursday) out of guilt more than anything else, but the run lacked the usual quality. I also found that my heartrate was much higher during the small 6k training jaunt, so I knew I was, by no means, out of the woods yet.
Two more days passed without running. My back was still sore from the bladder infection, but my fever had subsided. I was definitely ready to run, I just had no idea now if I was 100% or just how fast I would go.

Race #1 - Esquimalt 8k
Race Sunday was a gorgeous day. The weather forecast was hot; highs would eventually reach 30. Staying hydrated was difficult in these conditions. Janelle and I drove out to Esquimalt and I began my warm-up. During the warm-up I saw a few fast runners, but no famous faces were seen. I knew what I was capable of, and I had run the course before last year, so there definitely was the potential here for a PB.
The race began with a false start. Dave Milne had by accident hit the wrong button on his megaphone and all the runners were forced to go back a few meters to the start. It was quite humorous really. When the race began for real, I positioned myself near the front of the pack and after the first kilometer I was in about 9th place with my split 3:37. Perfect.
Kilometer 2 and 3 would also be right on pace and I was right beside one of my training partners, Mike Janes. The big hills in the course were now over, so it was just time for my to put my foot on cruise control.
Easier said than done. After kilometer 3, I struggled to continue my pace. The heat was intense, my heartrate was again much higher than it should have been, and my feet were now dragging. The rest of the race would be a struggle. I lost my mental edge as well, and was simply distracted and found myself thinking of external factors and of my sickness rather than my own performance. I over the next few k's, I was slowly passed by a handful of runners. At one point, I considered pulling out of the race, but the reality was that the only fast way back to my car was to finish this horrid race.
With about 1/2 a k to go, I saw two runners just infront of me that I thought I could catch. I got a second wind and surged ahead of them and sprinted to the finish. I would finish in 31:39, good enough for 14th place.
Now although this result may sound decent enough, it was well below my potential. My result last year in this race was 31:23, and I know I am way faster than I was last year. Whether it was the sickness, the heat, or simply just a bad race, I didn't get the result I wanted. I figure that I should be hovering around 30:00 in this race. In summary, a mediocre race and result.
I did a cool-down jog with Janelle to the car, and then we were off to Mt. Doug for Race #2.

Race #2 - Mt. Doug Gutbuster 6k Short-Course
While the Esquimalt race was hot, things were only going to get hotter for the second race. I had finished the first race in enough time, and I figured that there was definitely enough time to get to the second race. The only bad new is that I forgot my waterbottle at home. With little hydration, Janelle and I arrived at the Mt. Doug start line at 9:59 am. Perfect. The race had not begun yet and I got my gear on that I had pre-laid out the night before. Different shirt, different shoes, and I was ready to go.
I overheard someone say, "He's here!" and apparently the race directors (Mark and Nick) were actually delaying the start of the race, waiting for my arrival. Wow...what tretment. The reality was that when I signed up to do the double, I figured there would be a handful of others who would do the same thing.
On the start line I felt in good shape. Of course, this is easy to say because I hadn't run up the mountain yet. There were some real hot-shot runners there, as expected, but I knew that few of them, if any, would be opting for the 6k option. I mentally made it my goal just to get up the mountain as strong as possible. I knew that once I got to the top, that going down to the finish would be a breeze. So here we go.
The race began and the fastees all jockied for a good position at the front. As for me, I was mainly just concerned about staying close to this pack. I did just this, and I entered the single track trail just behind mainstay Gary Duncan. I actually was running well up the trail, and managed the first section to the road without walking. I was still within eye shot of Gary, so I knew my race was decent thus far. However, the climb was about to get difficult. The Irvine Climb at the top is a true test of your climbing skills. It comes at a time when you gotta be tired, and sections of it are certainly steep. However, I have run up its entirety in training for sure, but with difficutly. It wasn't long before my power hiking skills came to the forefront. People around me did the same and a couple poeple passed me, but I also passed a couple myself. I was pleased to get to the upper parking lot in good form, and I rounded left where the short course goes. At the summit, I could see two runners only abour 10 seconds infrnt of me and I suspected one more fastee infront of them. However, as we bagan our decent down the sandhill, I could see no such fast runner up ahead. This gave me great optimism that I had a solid chance of winning this race, provided I could make the most of the flat sections below.
I decided to decent cautiously behind these two guys. I could have gone crazy and flew by them, but in doing this, I would be running unsafely down the sharp decent, and the last thing I needed this day was an injury. So I drafted behind these two guys and bided my time, knowing that I probably had them on the Norn Trail below. After all, I would consider the Norn Trail to be my favourite of all time, so I really now thought I had these guys in my back pocket.
When we hit the Norn Trail however, these two guys showed that they could run downhill. In fact, they were quite a bit faster than me and it took me a conisderable distance for me to catch them back up. The guy immediately in fornt of me reached for his waterbottle, and I took no hesitation in passing him. I then thundered ahead to the road crossing with the leader only a few seconds in front of me. Chris Callendar was there cheering for me and he told me that I had this one. And for the moment, I thought I did. I gave Chris the thumbs up and entered into the final single track. As I did this though, my right calf cramped unexpectedly and I was forced to walk to stop the cramping. I was passed once again, and my heart sank. Perhaps I got too cocky this time. Perhaps I could still muster a 3rd place finish if I could shake this cramp off. After about 15 seconds of walking, I tried running again and my cramp was gone.
I accelerated through the Norn Trail and I hammered into 2nd place yet again. I kept the pace going, and was curious to see just how far the leader was. I could see him way up ahead, and it appeared like I was gaining on him. I used my home-court advantage to get close to this guy, and I was now probably 5 seconds behind him as we left the Norn Trail onto the final pavement section.
The downhill again seemed to be this guy's forte and I made up no ground coming down to the lower parking lot. His strides were long, and he showed no sign of weakness to my threat from behind. As I crossed the finish line in 27:00, I was only 5 seconds off the leader.
It was a great race for me (2nd place), all things conisdered. Had I been 100% and only running this one event this day, I would easily have been 30 seconds to a minute faster. The climb in particular could have been stronger for me, and the sandhill down also was a little slow. However, I did underestimate the other runners infront of me and I really did think I had them. Overconfidence can kill you, and this race it did.
I visited with Chris Callender after the race and jogged home just in time to see Jason Louttit win the Long Course Option. In total, the day would be a total of 17k of distance. Some road, some trail, some hills and alot of heat.
With one final long training run this coming week, I should be in excellent shape for the Nootka Trail in 10 days.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hurricane Ridge - July 18, 2009

I was pretty excited that my running club, PIH, had decided to organize a 1 day trip across the U.S. boarder to explore what Olympic National Park had to offer. Hurricane Ridge is about 5000 ft. in elevation and most of our run would be in the alpine. This opportunity was simply too good to pass up.
In addition, there were some real high-flyers signed up for the training session, and I always have the desire to keep pushing myself to the next level, and that is best done by surrounding yourself with elites.
At the same time, this would be my first social running club event, so I also saw a big opportunity for me to meet others in PIH and really get to know them.
The schedule that was sent to us pre-event from Bob Reid indicated that we would be looking at around 3 hours of running. Perfect. I therefore was going to use this time to get in my usual Sunday long run..just in a different environment than the usual.
The day started early at 3:50 am, and I grabbed a quick bowl of cereal and jumped on my bike. I actually had left more than enough time, so I took my time getting to Bob Reid's place for the shuttle rendezvous. Julie Van, Jason Louttit and Gary Duncan would join me in the shuttle and we were off at 4:45 am. The mood was light and the excitement was building.
In no time at all, we were at the meeting point downtown where 4 shuttle vans and 36 runners assembled. We organized ourselves into the designated shuttles, and then we headed for the ferry lineup. Now at the Coho Ferry terminal, all we could do now is just wait for all of us to present the officials with our passports and load the boat. A couple people from our group had some I.D. issues, but everything was sorted out and we still had 36 of us on the ferry.
The Coho Ferry is an old, slow boat that has little to offer in terms of services. This vessel makes B.C. Ferries look like Princess Cruiselines. However, I ate a couple of bagels along the way and spent my time at the front of the boat getting to know some of my fellow running friends.
At 6:45 am, Bob Reid had everyone sit down at the front of the boat where he showed us the maps and the options for our run. I had already decided that I would be running as far and as long as possible. That is, after all, my forte.
We disembarked and shuttled our way through Port Angeles to a grocery store to pick up some last-minute items. We then followed the signs to Deer Park in Olympic National Park. The drive was an ascent through a dust-ridden logging road. The dust was as thick as pea-soup. However, it was all worthwhile, as we eventually got to the Deer Park parking lot, which would be the start of our run.
After some last minute gear-checking and a few token group photos, the run now began. The scenery was remarkable, and the trail was well defined. The initial part of the trail was a decent through the spruce trees. Occasionally we would pass meadows filled with wildflowers. We were cautioned to be aware that we were running now at altitude. Strange things happen to people at altitude, and it certainly is more taxing on your physiology under these conditions. However, I felt nothing and carried on as normal, as if this was just a typical trail run back in Victoria.
The trail then began to climb. And climb. And climb. The steepness was not too bad, but I decided to conserve my energy somewhat by power-hiking up some of the ascents. In the early going, there were just a few people in front of me, but in due course, the runners all found their different paces and I was close to the front. Not that it was a race by any means, but I did want to surround myself with people who would push me somewhat.For a little while, it was just Shane Ruljancich and Chris Kelsall infront of me, but shortly after, national trail runner Jason Louttit blew by all of us on his way to doing his own extended route. As we left the treeline up into the alpine, I was in a pack of guys who are all very strong runners: Shane Ruljancich, Gary Duncan, Garth Campbell, Chris Kelsall. In fact, if you were to look at all of our best 10k times, I am slower than these guys by a good two minutes. That is significantly slower. But trail running seems to be different for me. I don't know why, but it just is.
I religiously kept the nutrition going along the run. With gels, S-Caps and my Nathan hydropack, I wasn't going to let anything bring me down this day. After taking the gel, I got a second wind and began to push the pace a little. Shane joined me and it was now just he and I for the rest of the way. I was thrilled to be able to keep up with him. He is as solid as they come in terms of trail runners. Shane had raced the 1/2 Monty race (25k) the day before, so he was definitely going at an easier pace than normal. However, we both were feeling great at this point.
I cannot put in words how stunningly beautiful this area is. It actually made the running hard somewhat, because I was wanting to keep my head up to admire the surroundings, but at the same time, one wrong step on the trail could bring you down. About an hour in, we saw an orange marmot. At least, I think that is what it is. I'll have to google it and find out for sure.
Shortly after, Shane and I could see the parking lot at Obstruction Point. Shane said, "Wow, we are only 5 minutes away." However, although we could see the parking lot, it actually still was a long way off. The last section was running on broken bits of shale. The side of the mountain we were running on was steep. You certainly would not want your feet to stray from the trail at all. Then we saw Jason Louttit on his way back. He actually wasn't that far infront of us really.
We arrived at Obstruction point after 77 minutes. Shane and I then looked at the map to see what our options were at this point. We definitely wanted to do more, so we decided an out-and-back down to the lakes would be the best idea.
We were just about to head off when we saw the rest of the fastee troop arrive. We high-fived them all as they finished, but I was ency to keep going. After all, it was my original goal to run for 3 hours today, so there was no time to sit around and socialize. I told Shane I was going to keep going, and he promptly joined me as we headed up the next ridge trail. The other fastees followed, but Shane and I kept the pace strong. The trail went up and over a ridge, and then we descended very sharply for a few k's. In fact, I began to get some concern that the final stretch for us would be torture, as it would be nearly straight up.
We passed a few hikers along the way, and then we could see the lake in the distance. And just when I wasn't paying my full attention to the trail, I went down. I didn't lift my foot quite high enough to get over a rock, and I was simply lucky that I fell in a soft spot next to some wildflowers. Talk about stopping to smell the roses. At the same time, my calf began to cramp at I hit the ground. This was a sure sign that the rest of the run was going to be a struggle.
I brushed myself off, and we got to a river. It looked like the trail now was flatter up ahead, but I told Shane that we should probably turn around, in so that we made it back to the parking lot in time. He agreed, and we now started the long run up the mountain.
Ok, we didn't run. It was nearly impossible to run this ascent. Shane said he thinks he could do it if he was fresh, but we certainly were anything but fresh at the moment. So, we powerhiked up and up and up. Being such a good climber, Shane dropped me and my pace slowed down as I struggled with my cramping calves.
I persevered on however, and soon I could see the other fastee group power hiking back way up the mountain. I eventually made some ground up, and eventually caught a couple of them by the top of the mountain. Shane was gone, and he was likely in the parking lot by now. Once at the top, I was able to jog down to the finish at the parking lot.
The group then got back into their respective shuttles, drove to Port Angeles, had some food, and then took the ferry home. The last part of my journey was to get my bike again at Bob's house and bike home. I definitely wasn't looking forward to that.
In total, it was 2:38 of running in the alpine. For the most part, it was a strong run for me. I hope that this kind of training run makes me stronger in the weeks ahead, when it really counts on the Nootka Trail and the Juan de Fuca Trail. I would highly recommend every trail runner to take advantage of the Hurricane Ridge should the opportunity arise. In the years to come, I hope that I will be able to bring my family up here for some quality backcountry hiking and camping. It simply is stunning.
There is a small video that was taken during the run, and the video can be found here:

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Preview of the Nootka Trail

This summer, I have planned two major events for August.
First, the 40k Nootka Trail will be run on August 8th and shortly thereafter, the 47k Juan de Fuca Trail on August 22nd.
The Nootka Trail, as far as I know has never been run before by anyone. Not because it is impossible, or overwhelmingly difficult, but it is simply off the beaten path. With the only access to and from the trail being either floatplane or boat, the logistics and cost are a definite factor. However, after a year of figuring things out, everything (plane, boat, hotel, tides, etc.) is now a go for Saturday, August 8th.
So now the easiest part remains: run the trail!
I will be running the trail with my usual partner-in-crime, Bob Wall. He and I partnered up last year for the North Coast Trail and Juan de Fuca Trail Runs, and also in 2007 when we did the famed West Coast Trail run. It only made sense to complete the final coastal trail together.
Interestingly enough, once this trail has been completed by us, for the first time ever, it will be possible to get an actual running time from Port Hardy to Port Renfrew along the West Coat of the Island. Not that this time will be of importance to anyone, bu it will be a cool fact that we have conjured up.
In the next month, I plan on studying the Nootka Trail so that every detail in known to me ahead of time. I have a small guidebook that contains a map and some details of the trail. I know that the trail is almost exclusively coastal, and not your typical wooded environment. I also know that the trail should best be taken on at low tide, in so that one can take advantage of the flat sandstone shelves that lie in the water.
Ironically enough, one of my school outdoor experience trips did the Nootka Trail in late May. Although I did not go, I gave some instructions to the school chaperons to bring back a full verbal report on the trail. I also was hoping that a few students would take some photos of the trail. I'd like to thank grade 10 student Helen Ip for these photos of the trail. Some were taken from an aerial viewpoint from the floatplane prior to them hiking the trail, and some were actually taken on the trail.
I am hoping that gaining as much info before running the trail will help me greatly when August 8th arrives.