Wednesday, 26 March 2014

2014 Dirty Feet Trail Race #1: A mixed bag of weather and terrain.

After the 8k Fort to Fort trail race, I was a bit mentally and physically exhausted. Enough for me to hit the reset button and try my hand at a consistent block of running and having some fun. Less structure, more volume, short, long, all of the above.
Mud all packed up in the lugs after the first Dirty Feet Trail Race of 2014.
Thank goodness Spring Break arrived, and with it, a trip to the interior. We had planned some time in Kelowna instead of the usual Kamloops for a change, someplace to make us feel like we were on vacation. I had scouted out Knox Mountain for a neat place to get some trail running in. The night that we arrived, we took the kids up the Apex trail to the lookout over the city. This proved to be my recon for the next few days of running. Paul's Tomb, Apex Trail, and Knox Summit all factored into my last few morning runs setting up for Sunday's Dirty Feet Trail Race. I loved the fact that the climbs started straight up right from the base of the hill. Running in a place that I had never been before made for some rather exciting efforts! Knox Mountain park is the jewel of the city. Every city needs some wicked terrain like Knox. The best part too is that it has so many friendly users who don't mind getting out there an hammering up this hill. The Gordon Trail climb off of Paul's Tomb trail was my favorite--steep switchbacks, not a soul in sight--a good challenge for a 8-10 minute well paced climb.

The Base of Knox
Apex Trail Summit at sunrise, filtered.

Apex trail lookout.
The trails high above Lake Okanagan.

Looking across to Bear Creek Prov. Park. Some more good trail running in the canyon, so I am told.

Looking to the Westside.
Sunrise on Knox Summit.
But enough about Kelowna...On to Kamloops.

Dirty Feet always seem to put on an amazing grass roots event, whether running or cycling. Both Phil and Grace Hiom are racers themselves. The events that they put on are the sum of all the other events that they have done as racers. It is clear that they they parlay those experiences--what other races do well-- into making a Dirty Feet events a super fun, racer centred experience for all that toe the line.
Walk to the start from the shuttles.

Snow dusts the ground, but by mid race, it would all be gone, replaced by mud.,
 The first DF trail race of 2014 was no exception. Set in Bachelor Heights on the north shore or Kamloops,  the course consisted of a short 5k opening loop, followed by a pretty awesome 10k loop with some serious climbing, finishing with the same 5k loop as the start. My Ambit recorded 20k, not the 21.1 as advertised. That may be a function of some dropped signals, or a mis-advertised race distance. Since there was no tree cover at all on this course, I suspect the latter. Anyway, a trail half sounds better than a 20k trail race....

The Course Layout
...and elevation profile

I approached this race having looked at the registration list, recognizing a few familiar names:

  • Hans Aabye--I have race with him before--he is a lithe, lanky, and graceful runner. One of the most graceful runners I have seen! 
  • Matthew Fortuna--I raced with him in 2011 on this course. I remember the exact spot on in the race that he passed me then. I thought I might have a chance to keep with him, but his Athlinks page shows that he has gotten speedier since then, as well as taken on more ultra marathons. 
  • Ryan Day-- He is a 2:16 marathoner from last year's Victoria Marathon, and a former 3rd place finisher at the BMO Vancouver Marathon. I had him pegged to win, being the fastest guy in the race. But like many race days, anything can happen.
The desolate beauty of Kamloops.
I realistically felt that I could finish as high as third or fourth, knowing who was in this race, my prediction went as follows:

1st----Ryan Day
2nd---Hans Aabye
3rd---Me or Matt Fortuna

So there it was: 3rd or 4th place for the race. But like Murphoffroad says, shoot for a time goal, not a placing. My time goal was to be better than 1:46 from 2011. I figured I could come close to 1:35 or so.

My pre-race prep in Kelowna and Sun Peaks had me imbibing in a few carbonated brews, but none to excess in the week leading up to the race. The evening before the race I abstained from any fun beverages and opted for the bottomless plastic cup of water, generously offered to me by Kyle and Magda Recsky in Sun Peaks. We shared a lovely evening catching up on all things family and kids....It was great to see them!

Quite literally, the coffee table book at the Recsky's Sun Peaks condo. Heavy reading, as Magda brings her work home for some study time. This textbook was 3.5 inches thick. 
The morning came, and I had to leave our place in Sun Peaks at 6:30 for the 9:30 start time. The trek down the mountain was snowy and slippery from the weather the day before, and took longer than usual. I jammed back some breakfast at my parents house, only an hour and a half before the race--not my standard 3 hours to be finished before the event. Oatmeal and a Tim Horton's coffee before the race would have to do. I made it to the shuttles (this race had participants shuttle from a designated area in Kamloops out to the race course--very cool!) on time at 8:30, and arrived soon enough to get a short warm-up in. I chatted with Ryan, Matt, and Hans, and set my plan in action. Those snowy, freezing conditions from Sun Peaks had also blanketed the ground in Kamloops.

My biggest decision of the morning was which footwear was I going to opt for the standby, relatively light, reliable Salomon Sense Mantra's--my preferred training shoe at 6mm offset. I have never raced in them, but they are my go to. Or, the Speedcross 3--a hearty, heavily lugged bomber of a shoe that would give me ample traction if the temps rose and the ground softened.

I chose the Speedcross 3 for the race, hoping that it would be the best decision. I would find our that it would, and it wouldn't.

On the warm up, I came across Ryan Day. We chatted and discussed footwear for the race. He chose my favorite New Balance MT110--I have burned through a few pairs of those. But I am not Ryan--not nearly as fast or technically skilled. Plus, I left my MT110's at home.

DF start banners.
We lined up, the gun went, and right away, I was in 6th place. Ryan took the lead, followed by Hans, Matt, and a couple of other guys that I did not know. The start was fast, as the five in front were kicking up mud and dirt into the air, landing on my face and shirt. I was officially holding down 6th. The first 5k loop was great--some downhill and undulating terrain. The front 3 steadily built a lead, while I tried to keep the next two in front of me. My shoes proved to be a pretty good choice for traction, however I had thought of swapping out just before the climb in order for something the Sense Mantra's with a smaller offset. The 5k had me feeling like I was too high in the 12 mm offset. 5km done, then into the big, steep called Lac du Bois climb. It is a bit of a leg burner. I opted to run/power hike the climb, and made up some ground on the two guys in front of me, whom I affectionately deemed "Orange shirt", and "Tank Top".

I ditched the beenie partway through the first 5k.
Coming around the backside of the tower hill and descending from Lac du Bois climb, I hit sub 3:45/k paces, and felt pretty good approaching 10k. Halfway at 47:32 Had me looking pretty good for a strong finish; I was not worried so much about time, but about catching the two in front of me. I noticed Ryan Day right in front of me, about 300m up the trail. WTF! Ryan Day was having a bad one. I knew right away that he probably ran off course (which he did). I then proceeded to use him as a carrot. However, this carrot was going to fast for me.

I made the catch on Tank Top, and we ran together through the second big climb on the course. We chatted about running as I asked him if he was a distance runner ( I knew he wasn't because of a couple of clues: 1. he was wearing TRU Wolfpack shorts, indicating he was on the cross country team; 2. he was really young). He told me he was a cross country runner, and he had done one marathon. He was a better descender than me, but I could make up ground on him on the flats and climbs. I paced us over the top of the mountain, and he took off on the descent, as I had observed prior. I knew at the base of the hill, there was only 5k left to go. If I was to make a move, I would have to happen soon.

The second catch of Tank Top happened as we started the final 5k circuit, where I left him behind. But by now, the sun was out, I had gotten rid of my gloves, arm warmers, and hat, and the ground was greasy, soft, and slippy. My Speedcross were great up to that point, but with 5k to go, my shoes were akin to a set of muddy cyclocross tires: the tread had picked up so much mud and bunch-grass that they nearly tripled in weight. I was running in shoes that weighed over 3lbs each, the debris was not clearing the tread pattern. My pace slowed every so slightly, but I still ran hard enough to keep drilling time into the young buck that I had passed at the beginning of the final circuit.

Happy to finish and hold down 5th!
I finished up the race with a well earned 5th place finish, 5 minutes behind Ryan in 3rd place. He took a sprint by 4 seconds over Orange shirt. For me, this was a good high tempo training effort. I did not want to put myself too deep in to the red, knowing that I have bigger fish to fry coming up at the start of May. This race confirmed to me that I am heading in the right direction for the BMO Van, and enjoying the process along the way.

From Left: Ryan, 3rd; Hans, 1st; Matthew, 2nd.  Photo: Hans Aabye

Official results for the Men's 21k race.

My HR was about normal.

Movescount Data. 

Signing up for Strava Premium has given me the ability to see my race data in a pretty concise format. I don't know if I would switch from using Movescount, but this is kinda neat.

Things look pretty good from here.
A bit of a muddy affair back there.
Mud. A disastrous mess.

Catching up with a very inspiring and  recently retired Jim Fulton! Well done Jim!
Yet another great race put on by Phil and Grace. If you are ever in the interior and find yourself jonesin' for an awesome race experience, check out Dirty Feet. They put on a many races--trail running, ultra's, snow shoe, and mountain bike--throughout the year, and have dialed in their product to compete with the other best race organizers around!! Truly superb!

Thanks to all the volunteers and sponsors for making this race very, very fun! I will definitely be checking out Wild Mountain next time I am in Kelowna!

All of the results are HERE!

This spring break has been a good one, in both Kamloops and Kelowna!

Next up: the Vancouver Sun Run, and the following weekend: the Vancouver Marathon!