Sunday, 30 September 2012

Day 1: 2012 New Brighton CX presented by V.CX.C Race Report

Draft Report. check back for the full report by Tuesday:

Riding alonside Aaron Schooler. Sand hurts. Photocredit: Luckybiker.
New Brighton CX presented by the V.CX.C went off as the first race of a double header weekend in Vancouver on September 29th and 30th. These two races are only cyclocross events due to a bylaw that prohibits any bicycle races in the city of Vancouver proper between October and May. Kind of an strange, archaic bylaw, but that is how it goes. I guess nationals will never be in Vancouver, as was the case with the initial planning this year.

Matt Hornland and V.CX.C made some changes to the previous courses established by Team Wedgewood, making this iterition of New Brighton a more compact grass crit course, eliminating the road section altogether. V.CX.C utilized more grass within the park by creating more off camber twists and turns. The long sand pit that is a key feature to New Brighton was kept, only this time with only one go per lap across it. In my opinion, the course changes were for the better, even if the previous course played to my strengths.

The double weekend was a huge success as both events were well attended by nearly 200 racers and many other spectators. For the uninformed or curious, I think that what CX feels like while racing can best be described by the guy in this picture:

Mike Dolling. Really one of the best guys you will meet. Photo: Amir Shahrestani
 Yes, although he looks scary, he is actually having fun. Riding in sand, no less, which is not fun. The beautiful mug on this racer is none other than my team-mate hardman/englishman Mike Dolling. I think Amir nailed the shot here, and it is one of the coolest CX pic I have seen. Well done Amir!! Check out his shots here.

The look on Mike's face is one that everyone experiences while racing. We had great weather, so he should not be grumpy about that. There was no moisture in the unusually desert climate of the Lower Mainland this Summer and Fall, so really, why so down Mike? I will tell you why: because it is hard. It hurts. You get to taste your own lungs in your throat. Your muscles cramp. You go cross-eyed. You puke in your mouth and swallow it. And part of you dies. But then it is over. You recharge, you come back another weekend and do it all over again, no matter how bad it sucked, how many bike parts you break, and how hard you puked and bled during or afterwards. It is the most fun on a bike.

I have said this before, but in M3/4 I am used to riding up at the front. Now I ride at the back with a full gas effort silently saying "wait for me", and destroying myself in the process. It is a learning experience, one that is slow, but getting better. This weekends effort was consistent, I am getting the fast twitch working again, and am trying to put together a good race. It has not happened yet, but it will. My day started with a lame warmup because I was too busy watching my brother Aaron kick some ace in the Master 3/4 catagory, pulling out his first CX win ever!! Way to go little broder. Super proud of him and how he is racing: Smart and smooth. Some raw unedited video of not how he did it, but him doing it:

The other part of my warmup included crashing into the barriers because of a stubborn pedal that would not allow me to unclip, thus throwing me into the second barrier, surgically repaired shoulder first. I pulled my own personal Joey move, only I was going a teeny bit slower. "Captain" Morgan "Project B/ owner of the cutest dog in the world" Taylor was on hand to heckle me with a pre-programmed Benny Hill theme through the megaphone. I must work on barriers this season more. Shoulder intact, I picked up my bike and kept on going only now smelling like sweet, sweet grass.

Cornering and not crashing, although it looks like I will. Photo: Jeff Hanninen
My race me sucking the tail of the group again, and trying to gain positions and claw up to the Kamloops crew, eventual winner Chris McNeil, with Martin Bojesen in second. Kamloops has it going on with a strong, STRONG cycling community up there. They finished nearly 3 minutes ahead of me, so clawing up to them was never going to happen. Instead, I got to race against Keith Wilson, team-mate Peter Holzuter, and some other friendlies. Pete and I battled after he had a heart attack and had to take a dirt nap in the sand to get his HR back down from 238 bpm. This happens to him from time to time, and he knows how to deal with it by crawling into the fetal position and flexing his core. He lost many positions, but fought valiantly to catch me and take the sprint to the line. Atta boy Pete!! Way to deal with your own physical nightmares, and still finish, pipping me. Matt Drown rolled a tubular, having some bad luck on the course today after a couple of solid results from the first two races.

Yet another Matt, Matt Hornland and the crew put on a great course and a great race for Day 1. Aaron, Peter, and Myself were all left feeling tuckered out that evening. Better than a win, was getting this pic from my brother, showing off my sexy side. A side that I never knew I had, simply because I don't check myself out from behind (although I should start):

Running and biking give you muscles. Photo: Aaron Weiss
Riding sand is not my strong suit, and I definitely need some practice to keep my momentum going. I rode it cleanly probably 3 times of 7. I managed to lose time each lap going across it. Time that in a CX race, you cannot make up. Chalk up at least 7 errors in the sand. Not smooth at all. However, I did manage to get in front of these two guys, even if they were lapping me in the Elite 1/2 field give a two minute head start:

The only time I will be in front of Bob Welbourn this season. Photo: J.H.

The only time I will be in front of Andrew Pinfold this season. Not the only time he will pass me. Photo J.H.

The effort felt more consistent today, only I did not race very aggressively, had a slow starting effort, lost positions, and had a hard day trying to regain them. No crashes other than in warm-up. The body metrics tell the story of my own personal heart-attacks. Something that I love about CX is the flatline around 170bpm:

Body values are looking better. Good CX effort than in Abby.

The vuvuzela guy was funny and annoying at the same time. And extremely loud.

Getting Vuvazala-ed with a smile on. Photo: A.W.
Looking at the results, it is clear that I am not on form, although I am hammering the s#it out of myself during these races. My starts are slower than last year, something that I was strong at. The results are what they are. A bit of a disappointment, but hey, this is the next level up, and I am learning. I just have to get my head and heart in the game with my legs, all at the same time.

What I really missed was the bacon hand-ups in the race, something I will look forward too for next time. Only now, the price of pork is going through the roof, the weather is sure to change, and less CX'ers will be out to the upcoming races. Stay will us for a little longer, shoulder season-cousin of summer!

Thanks to all the volunteers, mother nature for the weather, and the VCXC/ Mighty Riders for putting this one on. Great job!

Railing corners. Photo: J.H.
Next up Day 2!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Bear Creek Park XC Race: 8km XC PB!

Bear Creek XC presented by South Fraser Track and Field went off today, marking my first shorter distance trail run since the Fraser Valley Trail Series, and Nadia's first footrace ever. The race was made up of 3 long loops and 2 short loops around the track, ending with an ambiguous button hooking course back onto the track for the last 100m, culminating in 8kms. The day was a good one for me, as it confirms I have recovered from the MYM 50, and look forward to cranking up the tempo runs through the winter. However, some other health concerns have reared up since the MYM.

So far this month (by the autumnal equinox today) I have managed to get in 38 hours of training and racing. Those hours are nearly evenly split between biking and running. It helps that twelve of those hours are the MYM 50. Although last week's cyclocross race was a bust, this week's cross country race in Bear Creek Park was much better. I don't know if I am getting better at running, and beginning to suck at cycling, but it appears that may be the case based on today and last week's result.

Last year, my CX season was off to a flying start. I was placing well and I could punch through the levels of pain to find new sources of energy to kick again and again--something that I am having difficulty doing this year when training on the bike.

Today at Bear Creek Park, I managed to start fast with the front group, remain steady on the run, keeping my kilometer splits within about 10 seconds of each other, save for the first km. The front two comprise of Drew Nicholson, 28, a beast of a runner, and 19 year old Travis Fraser of Douglas College, leaving us to a group of 5 to follow behind them. Having local fast veteran runner Rob Lang there was a bit of extra incentive to run fast, as I have never beaten him in a race before. Things went well over the course of the 3 long loops, as our group swelled, I dropped back to 7th or 8th, then tried to push ahead to make up some positions. Running with triathlete Mikey Ross, we paced each other trying to pick off those in front. With 1 short loop to go, and the family cheering, I kicked away from him and managed to gain sole position of 5th place, trying to run down a quick Darbara Ghuman, giving up on third place altogether. The last lap was quick, but not my quickest coming into the finish. I sealed up 5th, with a time of 30:46. Only 4 seconds behind Darbara. My fastest 8kms ever, running a 3:51 min/km pace.

Speed data and splits.
A bunch of other data from the race.
After running the Sandcastle in June, a race that I was quicker for, even with all of its climbs and descents, I seem to be coming back into form. But, cross country is different than road running, and although this course was pancake flat with an average of 6m of climbing and descending per kilometer, it is still off road. At times, I felt like backing way off and just resting due to the high exertion. The first km felt easy, the middle 4km  to 6km was a slug, and the last km was a good punch. With an 8k race, it is over so fast. I was running at the limit. I took 1st in my age catagory, in the 30-39, which is pretty cool, even though there was only 3 of us in that catagory today. This placing gives me 30 points for the series so far, and completing 4 more races with top finishes could have me winning the points series. Unfortunately, I am focussing on finishing DFL in every CX race this season, so winning the cross-country catagory for 30-39 is on the back burner.

Post race meal had me succumbing to the boysie's asking politely for golden arches, where we scarfed grease food. I went home spent and passed out from the intensity of the race.

As for those health concerns I mentioned at the top, I have been experiencing night sweats for the month of September. Perhaps a sign that I am overtraining, and not getting enough rest. My sleep at night is less than adequate at about 6 to 7 hours of rest on the nights before my early morning runs, and 7 to 8 hours when I have a morning off of running. Sleep is something that I love, and need more of in order to get quicker, stay healthy and feel better. Something to shoot for.

Gear notes:

I ran in my Sugoi notch short, Sugoi BC tank and NM compression sleeveless, along with my Sole socks and New Balance MT110s. Nutrition took the form of Oatmeal, water, 2 eggs for breakfast, a gel pre-race, sportlegs. Post race was a bottle of Scratch and some gummis before lunch.

Of note, Sean noticed my severe right foot heel pronation. The Asics are my gold-standard go to shoe. The NB 110s have been great, but perhaps not the perfect shoe for my pronation. I have not had any injuries due to the footstrike or pronation, but would like to prevent anything like that from happening. Even my Crossmax do not feel the greatest, with a bump in the arch, but with the right sock, they are pretty good for a high mileage trail shoe.

I am looking forward, oddly enough, to the rain and getting out my Gore Tex lined NB 910 trail shoe, and trying out a set of Gore Tex XT Wings for the winter.

Bring on New Brighton and Vanier!! CX season is underway, everywhere!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Movin' on up or How I learned to race well in Masters 3/4 and DFL in BC CUP #1 M 1/2

Looking like I am having fun, off camber and all. Photo Credit: Doug Brons 
Yesterday was a beautiful day for a CX race and a great time to meet up with some old friends, teammates, and fellow cross racers from the last few years. We all take this seriously, but enjoy cyclocross enough for what it is: fun. However, there are a few things that would have made it better. We can  look at those in my race report card for the Abby CX a bit later. First, let's talk about what it is like to race in a new category.

Due to the MYM 50, I had to miss the first CX race of the season at Aldor Acres. I am not at all upset about that, however, getting to race cross is something I love (as stated in my last post), and today came with some high expectations for myself, and not enough gas in the tank to meet said expectations.

Now I know that the big boys race fast. I have raced many of them in years past, and fancy myself an able CX racer. It took me a couple of years to understand CX at the Men's 3/4 level, a year off in 2010 with a shoulder injury, and last year racing at the front of the Master 3/4 cat. Those 3 years of racing taught me very much. I remember what it was like to start racing CX back in 2008, and it feels like that all over again in the M 1/2 catagory. My second ever cross race in Crescent Park resulted in me finishing close to DFL. Tyler Dumont and I feel pretty much the same way from this one, after comparing notes. The 1/2 catagory is fast and we don't want to be last.
Me and Tyler, before the race. Enjoying each other's company and growing tumors from the power lines.
But now, the education starts again if I would like to get quicker. I remember all the things that are needed to put together a strong placing in a cyclocross race: Have a fast start, try to crack the race open from the gun, hammer for a good 13-17 minutes, back off a bit, pedal out of the corners, hammer the straights, then build up the rest of the race with a flourish at the finish. That is how I like to finish--digging so deep that my eyes are rolling in my skull, and I am seeing purple spots for a while. If this is the case, I am happy with my effort, and my effort will usually read 181 BPM average for the race. The placing? Well, I am now used to higher placings from my previous catagory--top tens and top fives.

HR was dropping out as the race progressed. Usually I stay consistent. Not today.

Which is why this year, I am happy to try my luck in Master's 1/2. The new level will test me against the fastest of the local guys 30+, and hopefully I will improve my riding and fitness for racing against them. Today had to be one of the toughest races I have attempted, and the toughest course I have ever done.

The race was tough for a couple of reasons: I had zero in my start, my legs just had no get up and go in them. Dave Neubeck suggested that is in part due to the 50 miler, which I may tend to agree with. My old buddy from the neighborhood in Kamloops, Ryan Kazakoff (*who rolled his tubular and DNF'ed, something I think he has never done before ever, as he was supremely disappointed in himself from what I could see--take heart buddy, these races are tough!) came down for the race--great to see him, and he asked me if I had recovered from it. At time this AM, I told him that I thought I had. I really did not think that the 50mi run would play into this race 2 weeks later. Honestly, I feel pretty darn recovered from it.

But starting the race, I realized that this course would be curtains for me right from the gun. The whistle blew,  I settled in to a mule train of other masters riders, and then proceeded to go backwards, pooped right out the back of the race within the first lap. 3 laps in, I managed to get passed by Elite rider Kevin Calhoun, and a little while later the head of our race, Bob "Lovely Lady" Welbourn (*I held the course tape for him to cross in warm-up. He called me a gentleman, I replied "Anything for a lovely lady". He fingered me. We laughed about it), caught and lapped me. Secretly I had prayed for this to happen because I wanted to be out of this race sooner than I could finish all of the laps--that is how much I loved it.

I know what type of cross racer I am. Mud Pits, tall grass, deep gravel, overhead power lines--I hate. Rain, climbs, running sections, dust, twisty stuff, off camber, fast lines and straights--I love. Today had all that I hate, so naturally, I guess one is supposed to practice their weaknesses.

And suck I did. The whole race. I threw in the towel around lap seven or so, trying to ride with some fire in me belly, but really I just wanted it to end. The race was over for me early on, even though I still fought it out to the finish. I can't say that there is anything more notable from the race to mention.

I was DFL of the finishers. CBC messed up and I was behind Tyler. Also, Kaz did not start this race, he DNF'd in 3/4.

So now the work begins. Intervals. Lots of them. More racing. Less brakes. Faster cornering. All the things that I tried to do to other racers in 3/4, were done to me in yesterday's race. Chapeau, fellow riders. Hopefully it does not take me 3 years to be a contender in M1/2.

Shout outs go to Doug Brons--dude, you are amazing, Scott Sportsman for his single speed effort, Bob Welbourn and Kevin Calhoun for lapping me (Kevin did it twice he was in a class all his own), Paul Craig and the Local Ride hooligans for heckling me with chants of "Fred Flintstone" on the demi-run up, and most proudly to my brother, who beat everyone in M3/4 save for John "The Beast" Irvine. 2nd place is pretty good for your fourth CX race ever AW!! Very happy for that one.

Broder Aaron on his way to 2nd in M3/4. Doug Brons Photo
Check out the fine work of Doug Brons here:

Abby CX course/race report card: 

Cycling BC tried their hand at organizing this race, and yes, they succeeded in making a challenging course, one that tested our ability to:

One: ride technically challenging terrain in the form of potholed tall grass along with everybody's favorite, a  BC Hydro service with road soft, deep gravel. The weather was HOT, and the course was dry and dusty.

Two: test our abilities to fend off the development of the possibility of getting cancer later in life by having us race under 500kv power lines. There is a reason that they do not/should not build houses underneath those things. DE team member Peter Holzuter DNS'ed the race because of his heart condition, and the danger of racing under those lines. I do not blame him at all for that call. It just sucks that he made the trip from Kamloops, to then pull the pin after looking at the course and those power lines.

These two made the course nearly dangerous. I joked that I should have brought my full suspension for this race. Perhaps that would have been a good thing on this one.  A lead suit would have probably helped as well to shield from the carcinogens and electro-magnetic field.

I experience it everyday on my commute to work: when riding underneath those lines, I cannot touch any metal part of my bike with my body or hands (thank goodness for carbon-soled shoes). When I do, my hands can feel the shock, and when seated, I get shocked between my thighs (hubba-hubba). It freaks me out. And I felt that today, too, on the course. The electric shock in my legs racing under the power lines when my inner thigh touched my Race Face Deus seat clamp. It is especially bad when there is moisture in the air, or rain, which is most of the year for my commute. Not healthy.

Along with a shorter than normal 1.98km course, the fact that:

  • The role call (not call ups, because CBC did not want to use last season's BC Cup points tally) was a mess, 
  • The results at the end were wrong in many categories listing riders who had gotten lapped as podium finishers (In Masters 3/4--my brother Aaron came 2nd, and he was listed as 3rd. A challenge on that resulted in him taking his rightful place), 
  • A lack of porta-potties within a reasonable distance to the race course, 
  • Poor/ Lack of communication regarding parking, team tent areas, on the Cycling BC website, or elsewhere
  • No race announcing, music, or PA system
  • Length of the race (we were told it was 45 mins for M1/2, and they had us racing for an hour) and proper start times (an inconsistency on the CCN website and the confirmation that they send out with the receipt confirming your registration and payment--was it 11:15 or 12:15? We did not know until the day of)
Organizing a race is not an easy thing to do, and thanks to Cycling BC we had a race yesterday. But it was a disappointment. Add everything up, and this one is a C- or D, considering all of the other courses and settings we have been treated to over the years. The next two at Vanier and New Brighton are arguably the two most scenic races in the lower mainland. We are spoiled with those two. It makes me wonder, why did they even bother? What was in it for them?

The consensus among the racers is that Cycling BC does not support CX or mountain biking. And the general feeling in talking to the racers is one of dissatisfaction, to be polite, about the direction and attitude Cycling BC has taken towards supporting some of the cycling discipline in this province. The CX race calendar was not even published on the Cycling BC website until sometime in August. REALLY?!!? C'mon guys, get it together. It has been better in the past. What gives? We have a national championships cyclocross event coming up in November that needs to be a strongly supported event.

We can see the success of the Cross on the Rock, and by next year, Vancouver Super-Prestige will be in full swing to take over all of the organization to perhaps leave Cycling BC out of it all together. We have enough clubs and CX enthusiasts as it is to make a go of it. How can Seattle and Portland draw up to 10 times the participants that we in Canada can. Perhaps I just answered my own question--we are in Canada. But it does not have to be this way.
Many of the mountain bike and running races I have been to have had better organization of much more participants, and more atmosphere than this race. Perhaps I need to start announcing for all the Lower Mainland cyclocross season. I bet I could drum up some atmosphere.

At lease the day ended better than the race. Even if I was still the lantern rouge within my family.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Reflections on MYM50 and CYCLOCROSS!!

Over a week since the MYM50, and I am feeling back to normal. Body and leg fatigue was a factor for the whole week until last Friday, when I managed to get a mountain bike ride in the Watershed. Saturday was a 3 hour cyclocross ride with the Saturday Crew, and a trip to Buntzen Lake with the family. I had a solid 1.5 hours in me before I started to peter our out on the cross ride. Sunday was a rest day, but since then, I have been hitting it hard, amassing 13 hours of training since last Friday. It still feels like Summer with the weather and the September heat. The clouds have been absent, and the time to get outdoors is now.

Some thoughts about MYM50:

Actual running time during the race was 11 hours, 10 minutes, finish time was 12 hours, 21 minutes. Sean and I dicked around for 70 minutes in aid stations. We spent almost a half hour at the halfway point (Aid #3), 15 or so minutes with the family at Aid #2, and the rest was lost at the other stations. Perhaps taking it more seriously would have lit a bit of a fire under our behinds.

Alas, that was not the point of this run. We wanted an experience. We got an experience.

So. Less time dickin' around in the aid stations. Check.

Hydration was awesome. No cramps on this run, the longest I have ever done. Refresh was the ticket. No Gatorade, no sugar drinks. In fact, I am off of those from now on. Skratch, Gu Brew, Refresh. They rock.

Going out with 50 miles in mind was easy. I had some doubts on the run, but stayed positive and focused. Every volley, spectator, family member, or fellow runner I met, I encouraged with positive accolades, and in turn, managed to make myself a super optimist.

The registration for MYM 50 2013 just opened yesterday. Will I be back? Lor says "No". I say, maybe not next year. I think I would like to try something else, like the Squamish 50, or another race. With Sean's retirement from road running, I am left being the sole participant in our group of two who is going to take on the road as well as the trail.

Now, cyclocross season has begun in earnest, as the first race of the year was on the same day as the MYM50. Tomorrow is the first BC CUP race in Abbottsford. I am riding in the Masters 1/2 group due to my performances last year. I suppose that I am cursing myself today for the good season I had last year. For the M1/2 group, I am hoping to stay up front, top 5 or so. If that does not work, then I will try to not get dropped and/ or lapped.

I am genuinely excited about the CX race tomorrow, because:

I like to go hard;
I like the taste of lung in my mouth;
I like to have my Movescount file come back with a 5.0 TE on it;
I like to try and barf in my mouth from going waaaaaay too hard;
I like trying to break my bike with how fast I try to ride it;
I like the feeling of being completely shattered at the end of the race;
I like being smooth on the bike.

I am going to love racing tomorrow.

Some MYM50 Pics for y'all.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The 2012 Meet Your Maker 50 mile: An ultra report for the ultra race.

My first 50 mile race was and effort in:

1. Determination
2. Patience
3. Discipline


4. Running slowly.

How else would one approach a race that you were forced into by your brother-in-law? On September 2nd, 2011, I attempted to complete the first ever Meet Your Maker 50mile in Whistler. Going out too fast, I could possibly be crippled by the course with dehydration, cramps, a crash, or any other type of ailment that goes along with ultra-marathons along the way. However, going out too slow, and I ran the risk of not making time cuts and getting pulled from the course. Sean and I were victims of the latter rather than the former.
The profile is daunting.

Wake up call at 4:30am, Sunday morning. I tried to organize everything the night before: clothing, hydration pack, breakfast, electronics, and shoes. All I had to do was meet Sean in the lobby of the Marquise, and we would be off to the Olympic Plaza to begin our day. Instant oatmeal down and a bottle of Skratch for breakfast was all that I needed to fuel my morning.

At the start, I bumped into Mike Murphy, my old cyclocross competitor from last year's Aldor Acres CX race, and wished him luck on the run. He had just finished 2nd to Adam Campbell at the Squamish 50 21km event, and I had hoped that he would be fast for this day. I told him after the race that I would find him and kick him in the crotch for bringing this race to my attention. With a pre-race pep talk from Chris Colpitts about the course and the day, and the lead first aid attendant who asked the racers the question "What would your grade 8 P.E. teachers say if they could see you now?", the countdown was on, and we were off.

Looking fresh at the start

Start slow and then back off--words used by my father-in law when running marathons. We knew that the race was going to be long and steep with 3637m of climbing, 2000m more climbing than we had ever done in one single go. We did not expect the grades to be as steep as they were, both climbing and descending.
Below is a recount of the stages of the race. The time limit to complete the course was 13 hours.

Stage 1: Olympic Plaza to Wedge Parking Lot, 10kms

Within 5 minutes, Sean peeled off the trail and headed into the bushes to have a nature break. We lost almost 20 or 30 places in that break, but I justified this by thinking that everyone was going to blow up on course and we would be fine. This section of the course was relatively easy. Not much climbing, not very technical, kind of like a run in the Delta Watershed, save for the rare steep rocky descents on fire road. We made it to the aid station in just over an hour, taking our time along the way.

Stage 2: Wedge Parking Lot to Base 2, Blackcomb, 21kms

A gorgeous day in Whislter for a run

This section of the course was run on a shorter version of the 25km Comfortably Numb trail. I thought of my son Noah while running this mountain bike trail. One time he mentioned, after seeing celery for the first time, that he had never eaten it before. After trying it, he proclaimed "You can't eat that, it is not food!" My feelings were the same about this trail. Mountain biking on this trail would be arduous, slow, and painful. Crashing would be inevitable due to the extreme technical nature of it. It seems next to impossible for someone to clean the whole trail on a bike. Rock descent, stunts, log bridges, and steep pitches litter this trail. I thought we could complete this section of trail in two hours. It took us nearly 3. We passed a gentleman whom thrashed his hand during a crash and sliced up his fingers (therefore deemed "Bloody Fingers for the rest of the race), met Vicki and DK, Minimalist Lee, and East Van who did not want to pass her ex-boyfriend up the trail. Sean, Lee, and I ran into Base 2 together, where we met our families there and took pictures. It was a huge morale boost.

Base 2 support crew. Parenting the kids around the aid station was difficult as they thought is was a buffet for them.

Stage 3: Base 2 to Peak to Peak Gondola, 10 kms

This had to be one of the cruelest section of the course--straight up Blackcomb mountain until the service road, and then wind our way up to the singletrack, over the top and then descend on the Peak to Peak. What we thought would take us and hour took us closer to two. Some first aid for Sean's blisters, a change of shorts, some lunch, and a refill on Refresh and we were on our way across Fitzsimmons Creek in the gondola, spanning the two peaks.

Straight up Blackcomb!

Peak to Peak. 

Panorama of Whislter

Stage 4: Whislter Peak to Peak to Creekside. 8km Descent

This quad thrashing downhill had us run one of the slowest legs on the day as we were cautious to not crash. Perhaps running with a bit more reckless abandon would have been good, as we could have made up some time, but we were not willing to give up safety for time, and manage to walk some of the hairy-er sections of trail. Making it into the Creekside aid station by 2:30 pm, it gave us only an hour to make the cutoff at aid 5, and thus, we had to run the next 12 kms in one hour. Something that, 50kms into the race, would be asking alot of Sean (and I) with the state of his blisters. The Creekside attendants taped up Sean's heel and toe blisters and managed to get us running. We lost some time here due to the first aid.

Stage 5: Creekside to Function Junction. 12 kms.

This leg of the race had us running through Kaedenwood highlands, up fireroad until we made it to the Cheakamus river and some sweet singletrack. Wow!! This part of trail running was gorgeous!! Absolutely fantastic to run alongside the river, dancing off of the rocks, passing 3 runners (one of whom, a relay
team member, who proclaimed "You are my hero" as I passed her. Thank you for that, fine lady). At this point in the race, I had resigned to quit because I knew that we would not make it to aid #5 by the cut-off time. By 3:48, aid #5 was within sight, along with Kathryn Stanton. I saw her and immediately and gave her the double thumbs down. She asked me how I was doing, I said fine, and she told me that if I left that second, she would allow me to continue the race, even though I was 18 minutes past due. I said I would love to, but I had to wait for Sean to arrive. She said "Every second that you wait, your window is getting smaller for me to let you go." She made a deal with me: Finish the race before 7 pm; complete the remaining 21kms of the course in less than 3 hours and 7 minutes, and get back to the east side of highway 99 by no later than 6:30pm. To me, that sounded like a joke. Completely doable. Two minutes after I arrived, Sean came into the aid station. I told him that we were allowed to continue, but we had to leave right then. He refilled his Refresh, and we went off into Function Junction, and to the trails above Alta Lake.

Stage 6: Function Junction to Rainbow Flank Trail: 10kms

Crossing the 99 at Func Junc, Sean peeled off to pee, yelling at me that he would catch up. I power hiked the last 1000m of climbing and managed to lose him, passing Bloody Finger, Visor Man, and another person. They looked toasted, whereas I was feeling solid. A heap of climbing, and great vistas of Blackcomb and Whistler. Amazing singletrack. I got into aid 6 at 5:10, with the cutoff at 5:25. A few minutes there and I was off to the finish.

Stage 7: Rainbow Flank to Valley Trail/ Lost Lake/ Finish Line

I caught up with Minimalist Lee on the Valley Trail with the final 10 kms to go. It was great to meet up with him and chat with the last bit of running ahead. I figured that he and I were going to be the last two to finish, so I made the effort to take off. Those last 10 were deceptive. Very difficult through the Lost Lake trails, especially when I expected it to be more direct back to the Olympic Plaza. Towards the end of the race, my voice starts to waver as you can hear on the videos.

A huge surprise to me was that I bumped into Sean on the trails. We were able to cross the line together, as we set out to do. After pulling himself on leg 6, Kathryn drove him to Lost Lake to meet up with me. 

42 solo racers who started the race. Only 20 completed the full course. I was 19th overall, the second to last finisher in the solo catagory by 2 minutes or so. With the last 3 legs of the event, I saw many people too tired to go on, exhausted, injured, or fed up with running. Invariably, they abandoned the race. Even for myself, going into aid station #5 after the 3:30pm cutoff, I was considering throwing in the towel. I am glad that I did not. I'd say we were in pretty good shape for our post-race interview:

Two days later, my legs and feet are swollen. Usually thin and bone-ey with protruding veins, after this race my feet look full and puffy, my quads lack definition, and walking is not very much fun, especially going up and down stairs. My father asked me today if I would do the race again. Without hesitation, I said "absolutely". In fact, I look forward to next year--to improving my time, pushing harder, and challenging this course, rather than doing it for the experience and just to finish. Until then, I have to wait until the Chuckanut 50, which will be my next ultra in March.

On a side note, something that got me through this race was thinking positively the whole time. I smiled at all the volunteers, people spectating, and other racers. Knowing that the race was 50 miles, I did not let myself give up. Keeping my chin up and staying focused on one step at a time was huge in getting me through this, along with all the well wishes from many, many friends and family leading up to the event. Thank you all for that! 

All the deets from the body, 8000 calories to boot.
A huge congratulations to Mike Murphy for taking the win at this one! The man is a beast. A very thin, small, lightweight, quick beast. (Mike--I still owe you that kick to the crotch!) Thank you so much to all the volunteers, RD Chris and Kathryn, all the 5 Peaks and Salomon crew, Sugoi Brand Champions, and all of the sponsors for such a wonderfully organized event, great food and prizes, and, most importantly, a well marked course.

This race is sure to become a classic ultra marathon. Truly challenging!