Sunday, 19 January 2014

Campbell Valley Stomp 2014: Raised Expectations

The 16th annual Campbell Valley Stomp went off today, and I had high hopes after my New Year's Day result of 2nd place at the Resolution run. This is my fourth running of this race, after completing it in from 2011-2013. I figured at best, I could run a 3rd place finish, knowing that Mike Murphy and Chris Barth were in the race. Those guys are a different breed of runner from me, but over time, I am closing the gap (note: the gap is still wide). I had no idea who else was going to show up to the party, so 3rd sounded reasonable as a best case scenario.

Sleeping in past my alarm, I did my usual breakfast thing and rolled the van out of the drive by 8:40. The plan for the day was to do the race and meet with Mike afterwards to jam out a mountain bike ride in the South Surrey bike park as he prepares for the Dirty Duo in March. I am just getting back on the bike after an extended autumn off of the two wheels, traded in for a variety of trail runners. Riding after a race? I thought it  to be totally doable.

The course map...
...and elevation profile for two laps.
I got to Campbell Valley at 8:25, picked up my number and greeted Chris and Tracey, Corinne and Brad, Mike, and Cyrus. A 3k warmup with some sprints felt better than ever, and I was hopeful. I talked with Mike in the warm-up about goals for the race, sharing with him my 3rd place aspirations. He said something pretty profound today: The goals should be performance based, rather than outcome based.

"If you want 3rd place, and the UVIC track team shows up, then what?"

Good point Mike. So a quick readjustment of my goals was drawn up--finish the race 2 minutes quicker than last year? Run sub a 40 minute 10k? Suss out my opposition and try for 3rd? Using Brad Issel as my soineur to pack all my pre-race crap (Brad--I owe you a beer for being awesome), I toed the line behind Mike and waited for the race to start. I was resigned to give up on running with Mike, but thought maybe I could make something else happen.

The frenetic start. 5k and 10k runners go off at the same time! Purple shirt is on the right of the pic. Photo: Peninsula Runners
At the gun, Chris took off like a shot, Tyler, Mike, me, and a young guy in a purple shirt hung on. Within the first km, the race broke apart, leaving me and purple shirt to chase. I crossed the 1k mark at 3:07, and the 2k marker at 6:40. A super fast opening to this one. By 3k, I put a surge on purple and dusted him off. I could see at the corner of 16th and 200th that coming behind was Darren Walton, and Graham Laurie further back.

The descent into the valley was steep and fast, as always. I was running alone in the single track until Darren caught me just after the 4k mark. We exchanged words, and agreed to work together in the race to keep the race away from us, as the lead group was not going to be caught.

4th and 5th place hang in the balance between us.

Up the hill out of the valley, we backed off the gas, and took it conservatively going into lap 2. We had come through the first 5k in just under 20 minutes. Considering the hill, that was good. Over the next 5k, the race between me and Darren took shape.

Working together, and kicking each other's a$$es. Photo: Caroline Walton
By the time we hit the 6k marker, I turned to look back with Darren in tow. We had daylight on the race. It was just me and him now. We had worked hard enough to make the race ours between us, with no sight of the lead group. We ran. Through 7k we stayed in the same position: me in front, Darren following.

The whole time, I was able to gauge my effort, constantly assessing my feelings, pace, and foot turnover. I feel like this was a race that I was in total control of--I had not put myself into the red, although by all accounts, I should have been there. But 10k is a short race, and I had not burned a match in the first 7k--yet. I had hoped that I had saved my effort for the last two kilometers, where I though the race would be decided.

Into the valley, I challenged him just a bit on the downhill, every so often testing him with little surges to see how he would respond. At the valley bottom trail, he took the lead in front of me, and gaped me just a little. I fought to catch on to his lead and we ran through 8k over the roots, rocks, and ducking tree branches until the boardwalks at the end of the trail. This year there was no snow, no water or flooding in the valley. It was bone dry and a little bit greasy with mud.

Darren turned an ankle over twice in the last mile or so--I called to him to be careful on the first one. Over the last set of boardwalks, I took the lead back from him, hooked right onto the main path, and put another dig in on him before the big hill, all the while listening to his footsteps, his breathing rhythm and depth, and concentrating on keeping my own steady.

I pinned the hill, and created a gap. Knowing he would be right on my arse, I took no time to recover at the top, going into the red zone with the finish within striking distance. I sprinted for the line, not knowing where he was, but that I could no longer hear him at all.

Into the finishing straight. Darren (just) in behind me. Photo: Peninsula Runners
I rolled in for 4th place, a few seconds in front of Darren. Mike came in first, followed by Chris and Tyler, respectively. Top 5 finish in the books for me. This trail series is a boost to my confidence as I hammer out each race. Corinne Issel was the top female in this one. A solid performance by her.

4th place of 113 racers. Still 4 minutes down--It is crazy how fast Mike is!
Chris 2nd, Mike 1st, Tyler 3rd. Photo: Pen' Runners
This course is not that physically demanding, other than the big hill at the end of each lap. It is more mentally taxing. The interplay of body and mind runs 10 rounds in this race, making the race seem harder than it actually is. I remember my first few years at this race. The hill at the end was more daunting-- it overshadowed the rest of the race course--a course that is relatively flat, with a good amount of elevation loss.

I was really happy to run with Darren--comforted to run with a pretty straight up dude, fast racer, and gentleman. I knew that he would not pull ahead drastically and blow his race up trying to dust me as we are so evenly matched. Don't ask me how I know that, I just do. We both raced a smart race, with the final climb being the determining factor between us. It is almost fitting that we let the course decide who would place in front of the other. Today was a good day.

Over the years, I have run this race in snow, floods, bone dry, and just plain cold. Today the conditions were perfect: shorts and short sleeves at 6 degrees, no rain or wind to boot. This was by far the fastest that I have run this race over the four kicks at it.

Results by the numbers. Notice the progression over the years:

2014: 41:20--New personal best on this course. 4th overall (Full results are here)

2013: 43:20 10th overall of 102
2012: 51:28 Snowy/ icy course 12th overall of 45
2011: 46:53 Wet/ Flooded out course 18th overall of 104

I am certainly on track for running fast in 2014. Compared to 3 weeks ago at the Resolution Run, this 10k was a piece of cake (my foot pod measures the course at 10.7 kms; I ran a sub 40 minute 10k). At no time did I feel like I wanted to die, heave a lung, or quit. The effort was more consistent, and I think that is thanks to the fact that I have had way less beverages and crap food, along with some pretty solid runs as of late. The post race 4k run and mountain bike ride will benefit me more down the road.

This run definitely builds more confidence for those performance goals.

Thank you again, Peninsula Runners, for a great race! 2 weeks until the Aldergrove Mud Run. 8K. I will be better at that one too.

4 weeks until the First Half Half Marathon. Sub 1:20? That would make my winter. A very lofty goal....

The mountain bike ride in the bike park was a nice touch to finish off the morning of heavy efforts.

Thanks Mike!!