Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Stage 3 – 30k Trail Run

Pictures have been added, but they are little blurry because of the extremely fast speeds we were running. I am surprised that the volunteers taking the pictures were actually able to get us on digital film.


A solid tactical run, a bit slower than last year. After finishing in a dead heat after a sprint finish, the same time was attributed to both Bob and I, leaving me, officially, with a 1:39 advantage.

Although there was a heavy rain yesterday afternoon, there was only dew to show for it on the course this morning. Today’s run was a 30k trail run – not trails like trail races in Victoria, but rather akin to running a 5k route around Beacon Hill Park. The route started out on grass by going around a soccer field, and then on road for about 800m to the next grass section – a loop with a sharp little hill in it (we will call that Hill #1). Upon finishing that loop you turned left and started a different little loop with a longer harder hill in it (Hill #2). After that it was down a hill and into a forested loop for about 2k with a big hill in it (Hill #3), before re-emerging and going up the hill that lead into the forest (Hill #4) and then 200m to the Start/Finish. Repeat 6 times.

But before we get into the race, let’s go back to last night. After being both grateful for Internet access at Darren’s, and frustrated by the speed of loading photos with a dial-up connection, I went to bed. I tried to get to sleep starting about 11:30ish. Around 11:40, I began to hear a cricket, and not the romantic evening walk with your sweetheart serenade, but a piercing, grating cricket chirp emanating from somewhere close by. I am staying in a basement room, so after about 30 minutes of trying to fall asleep I swore "Death to cricket!" I had assumed that the cricket was right outside the basement window as it was so loud. I turned on the light and went to the bedroom window to see if I might be able to reach out and crush the cricket with my bare hand. Standing on the bed to put my ear close to the window, I realized something very quickly; the cricket was not outside. The infernal chirp was coming from the foot of the bed. For those who have lived with me, this will come as no surprise, but I have my clothes thrown into piles against the wall at the foot of the bed. Turning my head from the window, I glared into a pile of shirts sitting innocently against the wall. I jumped down and opened my new white technical running shirt from the ENDURrun, only to find a black, chirping cricket. I wrapped the shirt back around the cricket, walked to the bathroom, and sent the cricket to meet his watery grave. Finally, sleep found me about 12:25am.

My alarm found me at 6:21 am. I woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head. Made my way upstairs and had a smoke, and looking up, I noticed….nothing. Actually, I shaved, showered, got ready and drove my minivan to the race. I felt good as I arrived at the race site and seeing last year’s winner, Mike Strano, was cool. We warmed up together and talked about running stuff. I also articulated to him that him racing a 30k race in Waterloo at 8:00am was not conducive to him catching his flight to Alabama out of Toronto Pearson International Airport at noon. I caught up with the other runners and then continued my warm up. I did an abbreviated warm up today and definitely an abbreviated cool down after the finish (trying to build suspense, although I kind of ruined that with the Abstract – damn you Trevor).

I donned the Gold Jersey for a second day and made my way to the line as Lloyd was calling going through the roll call. There were a few more people there today, one of which was a member of the Canadian Mountain Running Team (he ended up winning the day, becoming only the second person to go under two hours on this course). Lloyd, with his traditional On Your Mark call, sent us on our way. The run began quite conservative, with a 4:14 first km. This was a stark contrast in time to the day before, but oddly enough, felt as though it was the same effort. This was going to be an interesting day. By the end of the first kilometer, Mike had established a very good lead, easily 200m. This would be one of the last times we saw him. By 3.5k, our Mountain Running compatriot passed us, and like Mike, we would not see him again.

(The start/finish of the Trail Race)

Bob and I had, up until that point, been running together. The phrasing of the preceeding sentence seems to lead to the idea that we actually separated at some point, but don’t be fooled by your desire to predict the outcome (again, damn the abstract and Trevor). We were chatting about all sorts of things that you talk about on a run – recipes, favourite colours, broken hearts. The pace had also been quite comfortable – splitting just under 21 minutes for our first 5k. Again, yesterday I went 17:40 for my first 5k, but today’s terrain (soft grass and mulch) was not conducive to a fast pace. The other ENDURrun boys are doing great – John, Chris and Steven are running fantastic – but my focus is on currently on Bob. Mike was still blazing a trail out there, determined to finish quickly in order to catch his plane, and the Canadian Mountain Runner was passing Mike (side note: Mike stopped running after 25k, got in his car and booted it to the airport. I do not know if he made it, but I will find out as he is coming back to race the 25k Chicopee Hill run on Friday.)

The race has become tactical, which is very exciting. Bob had his coach, Ray, out there, as he does everyday. Ray is a great guy and is very encouraging of both us, giving us both our splits, but obviously, and rightly, giving Bob feedback and strategy when he can. This is how the race went for the first three loops (15k):

Bob would pull away on Hill #1 as I ran conservatively up the hill. I would catch him on the subsequent downhill, only for him to pull away on the Hill #2. I would catch up to him on the downhill into the forest and then we would run together to Hill #3 where he would pull away. I would close the gap across the flat and then pull up beside him after a short downhill. Bob would then pull away on Hill #4 and I would catch him about 200m past the Start/Finish.

(Bob and I running through the forest section of the race)

This scenario played out, to varying degrees for the first 15k. I would sometimes take the lead, and sometimes sit on his shoulder, but generally the uphills were his and I tried to close the gap on the downhills.

After 15k of running together I thought I would see what we both had in the tank. I pushed a little harder for the first 3k of that lap. Bob responded well and we ran together and spoke less. I realized that he was going to go with me regardless of my pace and thus I backed off at 18k. (side note: I had a friend do some internet research on Mr. Robert B______ and discovered that he has run a 34:20 10k this year and his last marathon was 2:46. That 10k is pretty much my 10k time and his marathon is my goal time. Folks, we are very close). We went back to our predictable ways, uphills and downhills. Up to this point my heart rate had been in check, but I had been getting progressively more fatigued. I had settled into a rhythm and I knew it was going to take a lot for me, and I believed for Bob, to really change the pace drastically. We finished our 20k with Bob having gapped me a little through the Start/Finish. I hung back a little to take a gel, but when I saw him pass Ray I wondered if this was go time. I worked a little to try to close the gap and got back up to Bob about 400m later, hoping that my presence would nullify any ideas of a surge. It didn’t.

At 22k Bob started to push. I felt the pace pick up and he used Hill #2 to gap me again. This time it would take me until after Hill #4 to completely close the gap, but once I did and we passed through 25k together, I thought we would cruise it in.

(The downhill part of Hill#4. The right turn leads us into the forest and we complete the lap by coming back out and up the hill that you see us runnign down in the picture)

The next few kilometers went well and we actually slowed down a little. Tomorrow is a 10-mile hilly road run, so I hoped that we would concede that in the next 2.5k neither of us would make any significant time gain. I told myself that I was going to stay on Bob’s shoulder up the hills so that I wouldn’t lose anytime on Hill #4 and through to the finish. This worked well through the first three hills, but as we began approaching the finish, the pace began to quicken. There is a nice gently sloping downhill leading into Hill #4 which Bob used to begin a surge on the uphill. I gritted my teeth and responded, carrying too much ego to let him run away from in the last 400m. I made up the two meter gap and then threw a surge of my own in as we crested the hill. The finish was now only 200m away. In all the different aspects of running, the final kick is where I believe I am strongest. I figured that, in the parlance of poker, seeing Bob’s surge and raising him a sprint, I would take the stage. When Bob pulled up on my shoulder, and then began to pass me, I was surprised, impressed, and thus dug deeper. The last 25 meters of this 30k race turned into an all-out sprint, with nothing on the line except pride and ego. I pulled back beside Bob and at the line he out leaned me (I mean, who gets out leaned in a 30k race!!) to win by three centimeters. Bob took the stage but we were given the same time, so as things stand going to bed tonight, I am still up by 1:39.

After heaving and panting and stumbling around for awhile, I took a small walk/run cool down (and thanks for the advice on warm up/cool down – Jazz, no bike or pool, but that makes the most sense; Carmen, good thoughts as well). I ate, drank, had some therapy done, and, at the behest of my friend Stefan Timms, bought 6 bags of ice on the drive home. Thankfully Mark and Luke were already awake at home when I lowered myself into the ice bath. 15 minutes of bliss later, I was out and numb. I followed that up with a massage a few hours later and I am on the road to recovery. A great pasta dinner and some sitting time tonight and I will be good to go tomorrow (I hope).

Today showed me that this is going to come down to the marathon. The 10k on Saturday is a time trial, but I don’t think either of us is going to risk much going into the marathon. The 25k trail run on Friday will be interesting as some time could be made up or lost there, but I don’t think either of us are going to make significant gains on that day. Tomorrow’s run has potential as well, but since we will be finishing in and around 60 minutes, it doesn’t have the length to make much of a dent. While the next stages will be interesting, I think it is going to be the marathon. Bob has two to his credit, and I have one. Hmmmmm.

Thanks again for reading for all the comments. Run well!
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