Sunday, 24 February 2013

Fort to Fort 30k Trail Race: Building for the bigger events

If a racer targets goal races, A races, and then the lowly B race, then the Fort to Fort 30k Trail Race on February 24, 2013 was a B race on my seasonal plan, and a C race in terms of course marshalling. First off it is a first year event, having changed up from the Houston Footrace 10k of the last number of years presented by Peninsula Runners. Any number of things could go wrong for the organizers, and they did.

Secondly, I did not know the full 30k course other than the parts of the Houston Trail. I was going in blind to this one once the trail headed east, away from Derby Reach along the Fort to Fort Trail. Knowing the course is key to turning out a dynamite effort, something I was not willing to give on this day.

Thirdly, this was a big weekend for my specific training, starting on Friday morning. Friday was interval day, 8 x Yasso 800s at a 2:55/km pace (14km run), followed by a Saturday morning at Burnaby Mountain where Sean and I ran up and down it 3 times (22kms--the downhill mountain running is a killer), a second run in the Watershed with the family Saturday (5kms), and then the race/ tempo run today (32kms). All told, the weekend ended up having me run 75kms. Normally I would take a rest day after Yasso intervals, or a rest day after the ups and downs of SFU. But with the Chuckanut 50 coming up in 3 weeks time, I wanted to simulate a tremendous amount of fatigue in my legs, and have a healthy recovery in this coming week. Kinda like money in the bank, barring an injury. I did just that.

Leading up to this race: 

After the two workout days on Friday and Saturday, I was definitely feeling the hills and intervals before the start of the 30k race. Rising at 5:55 (the third day in a row before 6am, on the weekend no less), I seriously considered throwing in the towel and heading back to bed. But, I managed to drag my behind out and downstairs, throw back my pre-race meal routine, and get out the door 10 minutes later than I had planned. By the time I hit the parking lot, I had given thought to just go home, but my pre-registration motivated me out of the car, and over to the picnic area to gather my race number.

The goal for today was to run an average of 4:30 min/km for every km. I thought that I could push it faster a bit, depending on how I felt, but how I felt dictated the pace, and I was not going to try and run it any faster as the race began. I packed only 2 gels on my fuel belt, leaving my Camelbak Delaney Race bottle belt in the car. I did not want to have to run with that thing around my waist for the distance. Doubt crept into my mind when everyone around me was carrying their own hydration packs at the start line.

The Start:

As per usual, Graham Laurie took off like a shot and lead out everyone, a tactic that would relegate him from first after five kilometers. Brian Dickson held with him and took over at 5, where he began to distance Graham for the rest of the race. I maintained my goal pace, and ended up running with Tyler and Darcy from 2kms to 13kms. Normally, I would want to run with the lead group, knowing full well that I can after the last few races. But today was about thinking about the future and the greater plan. The 4:30 pace was working for me, as my legs did not protest too much.

The First 10 and Marshall Mistakes:

Through the first 10kms, I hung on to a time of 46:20, a minute and change over my race pace. Things were going well on the Fort to Fort trail up until the bridge to McMillan Island. It was here that things started to head south for the organization of this race. The marshal at the west end of train station told me to "run straight, then go over the bridge". With no course markings indicating a turn onto the bridge, I continued straight across the road following the racer in front of me.

When I got to a parking lot below Fort Langley, I knew something was wrong. I yelled to the racer in front of me, but he was plugged into his Ipod, and did not hear me. I turned it around when I saw the guys following me by a couple of minutes make their way across the bridge. I had gone 500m off course, and had to make the return. There are a few things that can ruin a race in a hurry, and poor marshaling, or a lack of course direction indicators are two things that did this race in. The top four did not complete the full course because the marshals did not direct them the right way for the second short loop.

McMillan island was made up of some plain and simple flat trails. The course shot us out to Tavistock Point, and then back. I was well back of the leaders at this point, but that was not the point. I was still keeping a 4:30 pace. With 8kms to go, I tapped into my first gel, washing it down with a cup of water. I continued along the donkey loop that course organizers added in to make up the distance, and continued to track down the three guys I had lost time to in my off-course misstep. I caught them with 7 to go, and managed to try and up the pace for the last half hour.

The Finish: 

Punching out the Fort to Fort Trail felt pretty good considering my efforts, yet I could feel my hamstring twinging. No matter, the race was almost done, and I had a healthy lead over the 3 gents that I caught. Coming off the Edge Farm Trail, I began to run along the access road that parallels the river. Again, no course markings or marshal to indicate to stay back on the trail. A 5k runner told me to get back on the trail, so I bush-wacked through the greenbelt back onto the trail and finished up an official 2:21:11. I don't know what placing-- I assume it was a top 7 finish, but don't really care.* (Good enough for an 11th place official finish). The training that this race gave me will help in the coming weeks.

Tired, stiff, and cold, I changed into my dry clothes. The fuel belt was awesome again, my second race using it. This is something I will use just for a number holder, if not for gels. I only took one gel at the 23km mark, and 3 cups of water on the whole run. The HFLC diet is helping me stay consistently paced throughout the race. I am experiencing way less sugar/bonk lows in my races as of late. I used to think that I needed a sugar boost to get out of that fun mid race. Once people figure out how to manage their nutrition on a day to day basis, the energy supplement energy will dry up. Our addiction to sugar will make sure that we never see that day. I am get faster and use my body fat for fuel, without all of the gels and gummis and powerbars. Right now running for one and a half, two, or three hours without fuel or water does not seem like a scary thought, and I am managing it well. But, it is February and rainy as shit, so I am not sweating like I would on a warm summer's day. That will change when old man lower-mainland-winter packs up and leaves in June. Or July. Or whenever.

Keeping a 4:30 min/km pace for this race was relatively easy. I would not have done that for a weekend long run, so this was a great training day. I am tired, but know that a day of recovery will help with tuning me up, ready for the Chuckanut 50. My Suunto footpod was bang on even after switching shoes. My Garmin Edge 200? That thing is quite unreliable for running, showing that I had run 29.4 kms, when I had actually run 31.2 kms. BOO!!! to Garmin.

On to the racers: It was really great to meet Darcy and Tyler, two fellow teachers from Abbotsford. The 10 km run with them was good--fun conversations about cyclocross and Ironman, among other things. Meeting the days winner Brian Dickson was good too as we compared notes on the run, and where we were headed as runners. He also ran in the Meet Your Maker race last September. As I said to him, with success at each of these races, our expectations of ourselves continues to increase.

Post race analysis:

I am way looking forward to getting back on my bike and doing a little cross training. Right now focusing so much on the run has me wanting for some road riding. The recovery after this little weekend of physical exertion has taken its toll on my. IT, quads....I am a little weak in the knees right now, as my daughter calls it when she sees me going downstairs backwards because my quads hurts so much.

This weekend was a killer. But if I had to predict, this is what the BMO Run Van prediction would be: 2:55
McMillan thinks differently. Based on my half marathon time from two weeks ago:

I am on track.

Too bad for the race and the organizers, that the vollies were not briefed well enough. 50 racers for the 30k race--a pretty good turn out for a first time event. One good, hard race was had.

Thanks to Peninsula Runners and all the volunteers for putting on a great trail series. Once again, year after year, they do a very fun and competitive race series for athletes of all abilities. The poor course markings of today are the first that I have experienced in doing this series for the past 3 years. I know that they will take this back and correct it for next year. They always put on a great race, and hiccups do happen. I will definitely be back for more of this trail series!

Official results