This year has been another year of goals based around running. After a long winter of training, I had a disappointing run at my first race of the season back in March at Way to Cool 50km. With that said, the rest of my season has been really satisfying. The fact is, I have put more quality training in then in any other year, which has given me the confidence to let myself run a little outside my old preconceived boundaries.
Comfortably Numb is a 25km race in Whistler that my store has sponsored since its conception 5 years ago. This years version was my break through race. I ran within myself for sure but I had gained confidence from my experiences at Miwok 100 that allowed me to mentally push myself to run more of the uphill terrain then ever before and at a pace where I wasn't sure exactly what would happen. I nailed my nutrition on this run, which has given me the confidence to know that I can go to other races and run well. This year at Comfortably Numb, I ran with confidence, which lead me to a 12 minute PB. I knew that I was ready to go push at Knee Knacker because the very next day I went out for my last long run before tapering for Knee Knacker, and I felt awesome.
And that brings us to yesterdays race, the 2009 running of the Knee Knacker 50km.
I assure you, I have learned from my mistakes at Way to Cool. This year I did a lot of mental and written prep both in regards to split times and 1,2,3 goals. I also used a crew (my wonderful sister and girlfriend) and gave them a very detailed outline of my race plan(This was a main reason for my success.)
I was pretty lonely getting up on Saturday morning because my running pal/ girlfriend, Nicola, was sidelined with a foot injury. I was glad that she listened to her body choosing to pass on this years run. She is a lucky girl, and has received some of the best medical advice/services with NSA employee response times.
Up I got. I did the regular toast and PB and chilled out getting my things ready. I had to wake up Nic to Sport shield my back before my run. My good friend Mark Grist and his lady Kristi live just up the street and had offered to drive me to the start. It was just before 5am when I heard the faint knock on the door. I quickly did those last minute things and was out the door after a good by kiss.
The start area has been changing yearly ever since the move from the old start. It wasn't really warm that morning so I was glad to have worn track pants and my NSA Jacket. I greeted many smiling faces as I looked for the ones that mean a little something special to wish them all a grand adventure. I was fairly focused but relaxed and I passed the time chatting with different friends, sharing in some great conversations. The final words were said by Kelsey, and at this point she past the mic to Enzo and we approached the start line. With only 2 minutes or so to go, I got the urge to pee. I ran up the hill to the right not really out of view at all and executed a quick tinkle. I ran back over quickly and we were off.
I wasn't really sure what to expect of the day, except that I was going to work fairly hard getting up and into Cypress and see where I was. I felt fine working at the level I was and my nutrition seemed to be working. I had an interval watch on my wrist letting me know with regular beeps when to take a salt pill. Even though I was taking 4 salt pills an hour, I soon realized this would not be enough. And so it began...the salt pill popping addiction. I was with a man that I had followed at Comfortably Numb on much more runnable terrain. The 2 of us moved very well together but as the climb up Black began to steepen, my walking quickly overtook his and I past and caught several people. I quickly fell in behind Chris, a man that had run Miwok with me earlier in the year. His PB was 5:59 for KK and I was feeling really good running behind him. Once we got to the scrambling part of Eagle Bluff, I quickly got ahead, running straight up the rock face with confidence. I even walked a little towards the forest to let my HR recover a little before the next runnable section. I had learned on our one training run up Black this year that the section between the top of Eagle Bluff, through the mud pits, and up to Black Mountain is more runnable then I had thought. So with that in mind, I ran all of it, except for 3 short but steep climbs. I cruised through the first aid station. I chose to wear my Salomon Pack, which carries 2 L of water, for the first 1/4 of the race, ensuring I would have enough water to make it into Cypress. I cruised along the steepest downhills on course keeping everything in check. I knew from the moment I got my first view of the parking lot that I was there a lot quicker than I had expected. I only hoped my crew was there and ready to go cause I was a coming in hot.
I ran well into the aid station. I finally spotted Kath (my sister) and Nicola standing on the right. I had such tunnel vision coming into that aid station and besides those 2, Heather Macdonald is the only other person I remember seeing at that aid station. I quickly and I mean quickly, like without stopping handed off my unwanted bag and garbage and grabbed a new smaller camelbak and gels and kept going. I had seen Ellie Greenwood leaving the aid station as I ran in and I had passed another guy that was at the aid station on my way out. This next section in past races has been slow for me and it shouldn't be because the running is technical, something I'm good at. Me and the guy that I had passed at the aid station ran through this section together with Ellie in view about 100m or so up the trail. We chatted and I found out the he was from Connecticut, he was loving what he was seeing and I gave him some inside info as to the course ahead. We finally caught up to Ellie just towards the second to last climb before the cross country ski runs. I quickly chatted with her and followed in behind as we were coming up to one of the most runnable sections of the course. Other than the mud and technical nature of the running it is almost all slightly downhill into Hollyburn Lodge aid station and the top of "The Chute". Now during our training run through this area Nicola was much braver than Jurgen and myself by foraging through the mud with no hesitation while Jurgen and I tip toed around the edges, I warned her that I had heard stories of people having there shoes ripped off by the suction of the mud. Well guess what! Not only a minute down the ski run, I step right in a mud patch and to my surprise my heel came out of my shoe. I thought maybe I could just cram it forward and it would go back in but no. So then I put my finger down the back and tried to stretch the shoe to get in, but that didn't work either. I stopped wasting time and removed my gaiter and untied the shoe and put it back on a lot more securely. Both Connecticut and Ellie were long ahead again so I put my head down and worked hard to go try and catch them. I caught Connecticut but still couldn't reel in Ellie. I ran conservatively down "The Chute" as I was already a ways ahead of schedule and still holding up well. I never saw anyone down this whole section except for marshals at all the key points. I even stopped to go #2 and no one passed me. I came into Cleveland Dam in 2hr 44min, my best case goal was for 2hr 55min...WOW.
Again this was a crew trade place and again all went smoothly except dropping one gel on the way out of the dam. Again I saw Ellie leaving this aid station as I came in.
I quickly started up Nancy Green Way where I was able to see 3 people out in front. Ellie was one of them and the other 2 I had no idea. I ran until the road steepened then walked until it lessened, repeat. Just before the entrance to the Grind I passed one of the 3 that I had seen at the start of the only road section on the course. I got to the top of the first climb, well under what it takes me going a moderate pace. Last year just as I crested to the flatter terrain my hamstrings cramped and I was worried this may happen again. I was now over halfway into this event and I have taken somewhere around 25 salt pills and at least 5 of those have been since leaving Cleveland Dam 20 min before. As I crested the log I was hoping for a green light and all I got was yellow. My hammie's weren't cramping but they were not fully opening up. I walk a little and then started into an easy run, trying to stay focused. Ellie was just ahead of me again. I made up time on the last big climb. The technical nature was slowing her down enough that even in my so so-ness, I still kept her in reach. I followed her all the way down into the Mosquito creek aid station where I had my only glitch of the day. At the aid station is where I had told my crew to meet me. They weren't there, had they stayed at Cleveland to long and missed me? I couldn't risk not having a new bladder full of water, so I stopped and filled it. I quickly descended to Mosquito Creek to start the next climb of the day when I was pleasantly surprised to find my crew here. I wasn't exactly nice but I apologized later. I grabbed my new bag and gels and took off again. Quickly I reeled Ellie back in and just tried to pace off her up the climb. Once we got to St. Georges bench the trail flattened some and Ellie put that couple hundred meters back into me again. Oh well! I moved along this section in solitude, it is very familiar terrain and I subconsciously know where to go without really having to think about it. I self talked throughout the flatter sections along this portion and made myself keep up my intensity. Eventually I descended into Mountain Hwy Aid station and again ran into Ellie. The good thing was I wasn't stopping at all so off we went again me following in her footsteps until she pulled up to get something out of her bag and off I went. A strange sensation came over me, something I felt the rest of the day. When I have run in the past, I have never looked over my shoulder but having passed the women, that should be competing with my girlfriend Nicola(who is a more talented runner than me), I felt scared. It wasn't until partway down Varley Trail that I sensed something from behind and looked over my right shoulder only to see nothing. When I turned my head back forward I had actually just been passed on the left! Again its like I would let her get ahead by 100-200m and then I would be like go get her. We headed up Varley, across Pipeline Bridge, up to the 3/4 mark, finally reaching the Gazebo aid station. Having done several winter sessions of hill repeats on this small climb I thought, come race day I will run this hill. Well today wasn't going to be that race and I walked up.
My stomach had been fine all day but only 'just fine', not amazing. I made the decision to switch to coke from here on out. I had pre-warned my crew that I might want it at the Gazebo so they had it all ready. What more could you ask for. I grabbed a fresh camelbak, new salt pills and a hand held bottle full of coke. Off I went.
I had nearly 2 hours to get from here to the end to break 6 hours so I was pretty confident I was going to succeed at the first goal I had set out for the day. Was that good enough? I thought. Then I realized, that even if I was the same pace as last year I would get really close to being sub 5 hr 50mins. So I put my head down and started running. Quickly I closed the gap on Ellie again only to sprain the shit out of my left ankle on one of the least technical parts of the run. I had to walk for what seemed like forever but was probably only 2-3 minutes. I finally started to run again and it felt better after a little while. I hit the next climb and hoped to see Ellie but with no such luck. I thought my chances of catching her were over. I had worked hard going up this climb and continued to walk for a little once on the flats at the top. I cruised up across Lillooet Road and dropped down onto the Seymour without seeing anyone. Amazing how you can be running a race and run 50% of it alone. Coming out of the Seymour River, I seemed to get a second wind and realized that I was getting really close to the end. I was about an hour away. I focused on drinking the coke, taking salt pills, and drinking the rest of my water in my camelbak. I knew my crew was just up ahead at Hyannis aid station. Again, I quickly grabbed a new camelbak and a new bottle of coke. I refused the gels as I had 2 with me and I was planning on all my calories coming from the Coke now. I quickly headed back into the forest for the last major climb of the day, "The Seymour Grind". Its really not that bad but it can be depending what part of 'mind hell' your in. It is a steep, technical climb that uses lots of major muscles groups and this is what causes me to cramp; especially when I have to start running again. I focused in on salt pill consumption with water and made sure I was drinking the coke. I never saw Ellie going up the grind but I kept looking back to make sure that no one was coming to get me, either. Once at the top of the Grind, I looked at my watch and I had over 40 minutes to break 5 hr 50 min barrier. Bring it on. I had the chance to have possibly the best finish I ever could have imagined. I wanted to leave as much out there as I could. I still ran a little conservatively at first but then as I got closer to the finish I went harder. Because of the intensity, I lost track of time and was just hoping to be under 5 hrs 50 minutes. Then I saw it. The clock had just past 5 hr 37 min 0sec. I cruised across the finish line in 5hr37min10sec. HOLY COW!!!!
Yes, I'm happy! It is nearly 2am and I am wired writing this. I needed to get it all out so hopefully I can sleep now.
9liters of water
1.5liters of coke
BEER AND PIZZA
First and for most, I want to thank Nicola for being a great training partner. As fit as I was this year, I know she had the fitness to do amazing things this year. She has the ability to set new standards for girls on this course. I would also like to thank her and my sister Kathleen for volunteering as my crew. They assisted me in something that I was so excited for them to take part in. Thanks.
To all the others that raced and reached their personal goals congrats. I stayed at the finish line as long as I could handle. I hope all that got a beer came by for one and if not next year then for sure.