So, really. What is the statute of limitations for how long after the race I can post my report?
In any case…
I left off the story as Thomas took the baton and ran off to find our injured leg 2 runner, whom had missed the hand off as he was waiting in line for the PoP.
I hadn’t met Thomas before as he and Jacinthe were new to the team and Thomas was actually a last minute fill in for us.
Thomas was fast. Really fast. Leg 3 is pretty tough, not the toughest, but long and hilly. We provided team estimates to the race crew, 1 to seed our start time, and 2 so we know when approx. our handoffs will happen on each leg. We didn’t anticipate a 4:30 /km runner filling in for us. Clint was fast on leg 1, Jacinthe did amazing to meet her goal and Thomas was about 35 minutes faster than we planned for.
That is great, however, we have no way of relaying the info to our other teammates for future handoffs. At this point, we are 45 minutes ahead, and we have told our runners to be at the transitions 30 minutes in advance of our estimated times. We never thought it would be an issue as last year we were behind by 45 minutes in the first 3 legs. Being late has way less consequences than being fast…
Well, Thomas, who is Mr Humble and thinks he’s fat, was a superstar. He passed most of the other runners on the stage and just generally killed it! We had a trouble free handoff at the 4 leg transition and Trevor took off on the leg I ran last year. It was comforting to know that he hated the hills too!
While Trevor got started, I took Thomas back to his car and found out why he is so fast. He doesn’t particularly like running, as biking is his thing, but he routinely ride multi hundred km rides, up really sick steep hills, but says his running can improve. Well, we all can improve. I enjoyed listing to his bike tales and hope he runs with up again next year. I don’t mind being the slowest runner on a team of fast peeps, as it takes a lot of the pressure off.
I zipped back to leg 4 and got the chance to shoot our runner Trevor as he finished the last few kms. He looked good where I saw him, but as I said, he didn’t appreciate the elevation gain, as much as I didn’t like it last year.
When I got to the leg 5 transition, Kraig was there already, waiting for the start of the most dreaded leg. Leg 5 is normally reserved for the strongest runners as it is by far the hardest leg, gaining something like 1600’ in 18kms, ending up at 7300’ above sea level. Kraig was looking for a little redemption from a less than satisfactory Calgary Marathon performance (his words), and looked like he was ready for the challenge. In this photo, he is taking aim at his target and mentally preparing for the mountain leg!
Actually he was pointing to me to get out of the way of a 5-ton cube van that I was blocking while shooting photos from the highway. But I digress (and get out of the way)
Trevor showed up on time and Kraig was off. I had all kinds of confidence in him, rightly so, and knew he do really well.
These are a couple of my fav shots from the race…
Tina was the latest hire for our team. We told her to be a the leg 6 transition no later than 3pm. Well, Kraig finished by 2:10 (how much ahead we were at that point) and headed right over the hill top and down onto leg 6 (1600’ drop in 9kms), because Tina wasn’t there. Tina had another race in the morning that had shuttle issues and she just didn’t make it in time. Turns out we were at fault a bit too. When we said 3pm, we may have been thinking the Leg 7 start as there was a forced start planned for 3 on that one. I think it was just a combination of miscommunication and maybe some ambitious raceday logistics planning.
It was cold up on top of Highwood pass. Lots of snow around, and anyone who had to stand around was frozen. Including me. Being we didn’t know where Tina was still, I volunteered to wait as long as it took for here to show up. What I didn’t know was Clint had gotten ahold of her and told her not to come up to the Leg 5 trans. Well. I waited an hour… brrrrr. I did get to see the most bizarre sight tho. 5 backcountry snowboarders walking down the highway after a day of shedding, in full winter snowboarding attire, as a shirtless runner zips past. I didn’t get a picture, but it was pretty surreal to see that…
I never got to see Kraig on Leg 6, and I found out that Clint stepped in and rescued Kraig about halfway down the hill and finished the leg, handing off to 2nd year veteran Joanne for Leg #7. I tried to find the Scion support vehicle, couldn’t, and sort of got distracted by scenery. I was probably 45 minutes shooting this canyon until I realized I should probably go figure out what’s happening on the race course.
I found Joanne running, and asked her if she was being supported (as I couldn’t find the Scion earlier), she told me yes. I asked her if she was being supported by the Scion, and she said yes. That was good. I breathed a sigh of relief and headed down the highway until I found Terry and Jackie.
Hey, guess what!? Tina was there! And she was kind of a mess. All pouty and depressed because she missed her leg. I would be too, and I probably would have gone home, but she stayed and supported our team right until the finish! Thanks! What was funny was, Clint told her to go find the Scion and she could see about running her leg, but what no one knew was that the Scion was off getting gas. Many of us were frantically looking for our awesome support vehicle and it was not there.
Like I said earlier. All turned out good.
From that point on we had very little drama. Thankfully. Joanne finished leg 7 strong (before the forced start, I might add, a hefty achievement for our team. Props to all! (except tina);0) )and handed off to her hubby Daren, who looked confident and strong.
Joanne was going to wait at the Leg 8 Transition for Daren to come back and pick her up, but since I was there she hopped in with me so she could see her dude run, and then could head back with him later.
We drove up and found Daren, looking focused. We honked.
Nothing. He didn’t even look over. Pure focus. We yelled.
Just a slight quick wave of the hand. Focus. Determined. We honked again.
He looked over and smiled at us in the very polite way of telling us to generally F**k off and leave me alone, in in the zone.
We drove ahead a couple kms. Here he comes. HONK!
The look was: SERIOUSLY!! I’M EFFING ZONING HERE! …
Ok, ok, we get it. I have to get to the Leg 9 transition anyway.
I was actually feeling pretty stiff from my impromptu 2k run back on leg 2, some 10 hours earlier. I was also feeling nervous as I have not seen this course, and it was absolutely pouring out at this time, and the trails were destined to be really muddy and slick. I had a shoe choice to make. I had FB’d that I was for sure going to wear the Merrels. I didn’t. I love my Merrels Trail Gloves, but was not confident in the grip that was left on them as I have quite a few miles on them, with a fairly worn sole. That’s this only reason I chose the Vibram Spyridons. It was a gut choice, and turned out to be a good one. (except for the first 3k on pavement, which these shoes suck on) more in a bit.
So we sat in my car while the rain poured down, waiting for Daren to show up. I get pretty antsy right about now, so I braved the rain and headed over to the runner board to find out if he had crossed the 1 mile to go mark. He hadn’t, which I knew because I knew how far he had to run yet, but I still needed to check. It’s just what I do when I’m nervous. I check and I re-check.
Back to the car to wait for a bit. Chatted with Joanne (who had the temperature in the car set at 36c, I didin’t know it went that high) and Tina for a little while then finally decided to get changed into my race gear and head to the start.
It was pouring out. Like pouring buckets. I had resigned to the fact that I would be wet. I was and it was fine. I think that is the resounding theme for the race. It is what it is.
I walked over to the sign board to check, again, and as I did I heard over the PA “runner 167 is at the mile marker’. OK woo! Go time! I have absolutely NO idea what I am getting into, so let’s have at it!
Daren came in strong, and I left with a quiet worry.
I was worried, just because. No real reason. I knew what’s going on, I know how to run, and the distance wasn’t the issue. For me it’s the being part of the team. It makes me a bit of a basket case thinking I could be responsible for us not winner even more than we already don’t win!
The first 3k is on the pavement bike paths through some scenic flat mountain marshlands and over some wooden bridges. Then there is a left turn along the Nakiska access road and a few hundred meters later onto proper trails we go.
Up. And up and up. I started to get passed here, got passed by probably 20 people on the entire leg, not bad. After a probably the first km of uphill we really started to go up. And the course started to get really squishy. It’s a mountain squishy kind of squishy. It is grassy and ankle deep water at times, with muddy spots that may not have a bottom. It is lumpy in places and some of the steeper slopes made you get into the roots at the side of the trail to gain any traction. When it flattened out some the water could be pretty deep and in many places there would be an 3 –4’wide impromptu creek running through the path. There is a false summit about 2/3 of the way up, so I got feeling pretty good, only to be faced with a km of the steepest grades so far. I will admit, I power hiked the bulk of the ups.
About halfway up I caught and passed another racer. I knew then I wouldn’t be last. There were a few quick shoulder checks for the rest of the race, just to make sure tho…
Finally. We reached the top. 8kms into the 12km leg.
That only means one thing now tho. We have to get down off this mountain in less distance than it took to gain the altitude. Well, on really tired legs, I made the decision to let go a bit. Normally I’m pretty conservative on the downs, maintaining quick feet and proper form, but this time with what I had lost going up, I was determined to make it back going down.
It was truly agony. So much harder than going up. Trying to control my freefall was really hard. My large legs aren’t meant to rotate that quickly for that long. 20 minutes (4k) to descend what took me 7k and 48 minutes to ascend. I probably could have done it faster but the trail was in pretty terrible shape in places. The trail follows Ribbon Creek for a good part of that descent, and normally it’s a small creek. Today though it was absolutely raging. So loud and fierce. The hardest parts were where the creek had been recently high enough to wash over the trail, removing any top dressing they put on it, leaving only the largest, sharpest and most gnarly rocks to navigate.
It was at this moment when I realized my choice of footwear was very smart. The engineering that went into the Vibram Spyridons paid off in full here. There were a few moments when I noticed I was stepping down onto one of those pointy large rocks, and while I felt the impact, I wasn’t feeling the sharp pain I would have in my Merrels. The Spy’s have a nylon rock plate embedded in the slight arch of the shoe that dissipated the pointiness of the trail with aplomb. Good stuff indeed. The other part I liked was just bombing through the puddle as the fit and material kept the water flushing out quickly, with no loss of fit or traction.
It was about ¾ of the way down when I really started to feel my effort in my legs. My lungs paid the price on the way up, but my legs were crying for a rest by this time. I kept looking at my garmin, and had a goal in mind for where I wanted my average pace to be at the bottom of the trail. The more it ticked down, the more I wanted to achieve my goal.
I set a time of 1:30 to complete the 12k leg. Only seeing the elevation chart, but never factoring in the weather. When I reached the bottom at 11k I was certainly on track, even ahead slightly.
At this point we can hear the crowds at the Nakiska Lodge cheering others (but probably more cheering all the beer there) and that spurred me on. I have to thank my K-100 Teammate Kraig for following along and cheering me wherever he could, while the rest of the team were up drinking at the finish. (full credit, they were all at the line when I got there)
We made a hard left with 1k to go and started to climb again. This last km was really a killer. It was steep, narrow and really beat up with so much water and mud, it made even some of the better runners reduce to a hike. There just wasn’t any traction at times.
Well, 12km came and went. I beat my estimated time for 12k. But I was still climbing on the trail. WTF. Turns out the leg is 12.7km long and I still had that far to go. I finally made it to the top of the hill where we had a slight downhill to the finish. A lady had just passed me so I bunked in behind her to pace me to the finish. I didn’t want to have to walk any that last few hundred meters.
I was done! I really liked it! Even though it was a true test for me, it was a success. How did I succeed you ask?
Well, for starters, I finished in 1:29. Including the .7 longer than I planned for I beat my leg time estimate. Secondly, I finished ahead of not just the person I passed out there, but an additional 21 people. In a race with 150 runners per leg, why would that be good? Well, because last year I only finished ahead of 4 other racers on my leg.
Big race! Big fun. I love being a part of this team! Thanks to all the volunteers and race org for braving the terrible conditions, to the other racers for your motivation and inspiration, and to my teammates for being the coolest cats out there, even when things got a little messed up early on…
Our Final leg runner was a cousin (or uncle) of Clint’s who finished the shortened Leg 10 (13kms) in a pedestrian 40 minutes or something like that. sooo fast. I met him at the end. It didn’t even look like he ran. (he said he would send me a re-cap of his leg, but I haven’t seen it, until then he shall remain nameless) I was a mess. Felt good tho.
Ok. That sums it up. In a nutshell I guess…
Till the next one!