Sunday, 3 February 2013

Aldergrove Mud Run 2013: Putting together the perfect race

Sunday February 3rd was my third time racing the Aldergrove Mud Run in as many years. The third race in the Fraser Valley Trail Series, this is a beautiful course takes runners through a good portion of Aldergrove Lake park. A number of  short, steep, punchy climbs and twisting fast descents on wide, soft gravel paths weave through the undulating forest of the park, with a few bridges over marshes and creeks. This is a beautiful park. The temperature today said 5 degrees, but once the race was underway, the conditions were perfect--almost warm, no rain or wind to speak of, only overcast.


My pre-race meal started yesterday. My change in nutritional choices had me throwing back an omelette yesterday morning, some peanut butter and nuts for lunch, and to finish off the day a NY strip loin with all the fat trimmings, a Red Racer Stout, and a salad. A piece of chocolate, some berries and Greek yogurt for dessert topped off my day, all the while throwing back glasses of water.

Absent from the day was any form of refined carbs, save for the piece of Toblerone and the beer. Which brings me to my pre-race meal/ breakfast: Oatmeal! I love it and it has not let me down for years. A tsp. of brown sugar, some raisins, and cinnamon. Add a cup of earl gray tea, and one mocha Gu just before the race, and I was fueled. In the past I have been so against the steak dinner before a race, but that was when I was jamming myself full of break and beers and pasta and potatoes to go along with the meat. After today, I am no longer scared of the HFLC pre-race dinner.

To add to the race experience, after my minimally fueled 40km run last weekend, I aggravated my groin. The pain has been radiating through my torso and crotch. I was confident that it would hold up today as the pain has subsided, but Tuesday and Wednesday of this week were not very much fun as it peaked in pain.

Arriving at the park, I met up with Shannon Penway, the winner of the last 2 trail series races. It was good to see her and do a quick 4km warm-up with her. Today's game plan was to string together 8kms at a 3:45min/ km pace. I wanted to simulate the Yasso 800s that Sean and I run on Friday mornings, only for 8 kilometers.

My main goal for the race was to be close enough to the Laurie brothers, as they have been throwing down some really fast times at the previous races. I mentioned this to Shannon during our warm-up. Doing a bit of recon on the course in warm-up was a good thing, simply to keep the hills in check, and not to blow up way too early.

At the gun, separations began to form. I was content to run with Shannon, similar to our last race two weeks ago at Campbell Valley. Young Olivia Willett played this race smart today, trying to not blow up at the beginning and run step for step with Shannon.

I let a number of guys go from the beginning as their pace was too fast for me. I did not want to try and keep up with them and use up some valuable energy I knew I would need at the end. This race was uncharted territory for me, as I did not set a time goal, but a pace goal. My pace from the start for the first km was faster than I had wanted to run, but knowing about the big hill and how the rest of the course played out, I was fine to tap out the steady pace and slow it down at the inclines.

A couple of guys passed me between 2 and 3 kms, and by 3 I looked back and saw Shannon coming up the hill just behind me, with Olivia Willett on her heels. By marker 4, I had caught up to Eric Laurie. We exchanged pleasantries. He told me it was a tough run for him due to his cold. He was behind his brother, Graham who, in years past, has been faster than him. As of late Eric's results this year show that he has gotten faster. We stayed together for the race, me pushing the climbs, him letting loose on the downhills. I yo-yo-ed with him for the middle part of the race picking up 3 other racers on the backside flat heading from 6 to 7kms.

Eric was hurting as we passed through the 7km marker and got onto the flats with one km to go before the finish. To be truthful, the final kilometer is a bit of a blur. I do not remember who I passed, or who took off. I may have passed up to 4 people, or only two. On the flats setting up for the finish, I set my sights on Eric's  brother Graham, who I caught and passed. I thought that the pass would not be a wise move, so I intentionally let up a bit with about 400 meters to go in order to save some energy for what I thought would be a sprint to the line. Graham and I were running neck and neck. I hit the bridge first knowing that once across, it was going to be between 100m and 150m to the finish.

Reminiscent of my sprint finish at the provincial championships, Graham and I went full gas to the line, running even. I have been in enough sprints, and am stubborn enough to go way deep into the red for that effort. I kept on the gas, and held my line through the finishing area. The amazing thing about a sprint like that is once you have gone red line for 7.9 kms, to kick the pace up to 27 kilometers per hour at the end is something else. Unreal, really.

I could feel every muscle in my legs--calf, hamstring, quads, feet, gutes, all screaming, burning, dying. I thought for sure that I would pull/ tear something at that pace (my groin being on the area of concern on my mind in those 15 seconds). My watch recorded a max pace of 2:13 min/km equal to 27km/h. What a way to end the race, with a full out sprint to the line.

Graham congratulated me with a "Nice race." But he added some sour grapes which, in turn, made it a backhanded congratulations, diminishing the complement altogether. He then said that I had cut him off. In the sprint? When he was out of my periphery, I charged to the line, in front of him. Both of us ran even, I surged, ran even again, I kicked a second time to cross the line in front.

Perhaps I had cut him off today. I don't think so.

The reality is that we ended the race in a tie, with the same time. I was faster than he was to the line in the sprint. He started very fast as he does, and it pays off, as he has won a couple of these things. I started slower and caught him at the end. But a congratulations with an *asterisk* is not very sporting...

Or humble.

I held my line and got the better of him fair and square. It does not really matter, as we were not racing for a prize, only pride and a placing. The sprint was super fun, I must say. It was good to finish with someone who has a lot of speed, whom I have admired as a runner. Graham and Eric are both very good athletes. We ran two very different races, him starting fast and fading a bit, me starting slower and picking it up--the Sean Baker way.

Although, I don't think that running a 3:20/km pace is Sean's style. Nor mine. But after our morning intervals, this way worked today.

I was happy to best my goal of running with the Laurie brothers today, coming in front of both of them, although Eric was off his game. Better than that was the finish time: 8 kms in 29:25 30.42! A personal best, if it is a true 8km course. 3:41 min/ kilometer race pace. Better than 3:45min/ km.



Aldergrove Mud Run Results

2011---35:15
2012---33:14
2013---30.42

This result is huge. Finishing the race, I felt like I can do anything! What it confirms is that the LCHF nutritional choices are helping me feel stronger, faster, lighter, the hurt doesn't hurt as much, and I had energy to burn. I am feeling pretty stoked for the rest of the 2013. With the BC Cross Country Champs in October and Canadian National Cross Country Championships November, there is nowhere to go but up. Good whole food, little sugar, few carbs, hard work, and differentiated activities will get me there.

Faster, stronger.

Older.

Pretty cool.

Shannon got the best of Olivia. Another win for her. We cooled down together on the same pre-race warmup loop, chatting about all sorts of things. Congratulations on the draw prize today, Shannon ;). And the string of trail race wins you have collected. They do a ton for your confidence as a racer, including raising expectations, don't they? That is a good thing!

Thanks to Peninsula Runners and Mizuno for sponsoring the third race of this really great series!

The future looks bright.... The Vancouver First Half Half Marathon is next weekend. I am looking to go 1hour 22minutes on the course that I know very well. Maintaining a 3:53 pace on the road will be tough, but not out of my league. A personal best is about to happen!!

Official Results are here.

My highest placing yet! 5/141 overall.

*The Salomon Speedcross 3CS were fantastic for their grip and cushioning. This is the shoe that will be my choice for the Chuckanut 50. I did find that my feet got a bit hot in them today as they were a little damp/sweaty, perhaps due to the Climabshield membrane keeping the moisture. A confidence inspiring shoe for the grip.

**My original post had me running the race in 29.25 according to my watch. This, according to the official results, is incorrect. I must say that the idea of running sub 30 minute 8 km had me mildly freaking out. But now I have elevated goals to achieve.