Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pinetree Classic X-Country Race Report

Abstract: I completed my first race since breaking my foot on July 12.  The race was not fast, but it was successful in that I was in it and my foot felt good. 

Yes.  You read correctly.  Race report.  That would indicate that the foot is feeling good after the first outdoor run at Burnaby Lake on Wednesday.  It did.  And I raced.  And it was hard.

(Follow this link to the see the GPS and map and HR data and other cool stuff)

Mundy Park on a nicer day than today. (Photo credit: Random Synpase -

After two weeks of Summer weather, Fall made its intentions known to Vancouver this morning.  Complete cloud cover and misting rain greeted me when I opened the door to make my way to the race.  The rain intensified as I drove to Coquitlam for the 10:00 am start, but thankfully subsided for the start of the race.  

After the realization that the ENDURrun was not going to happen for me this year, I decided to really rest and rehab my foot well.  I have been patient and done what I was supposed to do.  I had great doctors and chiropractors giving me valuable and, in my eyes, correct advice for my situation. 

(Long Sidenote: Kirsten Sweetland, the alternate for the Women's Olympic Triathlon Team, suffered a similar injury as mine to her foot in the week leading up to the World Championships.  It was more stress related, but she ended up racing on it and in a show of strength, courage, and pain tolerance, she completed the World Champs on a what turned out to be a broken foot.  After the race, her doctors put her in a walking boot.  I met up with Kirsten at a pub in Victoria a few weeks ago and we compared broken foots.  Yes, foots.  When discussing the fact that I didn't have a walking boot for my broken foot, she said she wished she hadn't had one.  The recovery from the recovery was taking longer than she had thought and it was frustrating.  Scar tissue, muscle atrophy and loss of proprioception were factors that I haven't had to deal with as a result of the a smart ER doctor at Lions Gate Hospital and Dr. Pelly, my chiro.  I have known Kirsten for a number of years now and know that she is fiery and inspired and will be fit sooner than later, but I was pleased to realize how fortunate I was to have received the advice I did.  With all that said, our injuries were different and Kirsten may have had no other choice than to have a walking boot - I know she has great practitioners helping her out.  I am just pleased that I had great practitioners as well.)  

Where was I?  Right.  Patience.  I have been in gym staying strong while my fitness has slowly been slipping away.  I have reintroduced running systematically and listened to my body.  And today, 10 weeks to the day since I broke my foot, I raced.  And it was glorious.

Mundy Park is beautiful, so I was excited to run in the park regardless of the race.  I have always loved cross-country, so I was excited to make it a focus for regaining fitness.  And when I got there and saw that my VFAC teammate Paul Krochak was there, I was excited.  Even the rain was somewhat fitting for the kick-off to cross season.

The warmup was good.  We approached the start line and we started with almost no warning.  I settled in quickly, but kept my race plan securely in the front of my mind.  The course was essentially two loops of the park, with a 800m from the start to the beginning of the loops.  I wanted to try to negative split the two 3k loops.  This meant that I would need to be very patient on the first loop as many people would run away from me.  So, it was at the beginning of the race, when I was starting to settle in with the leaders that I had a quick reality check.  SLOW DOWN!  I did.  

The first loop passed well.  I was running with Mike Murphy, a former national level triathlete from the days when Stefan Timms and Mark Bates were racing, who is now a track cyclist.  I knew that he would be smart because he had not been training for running recently, so I decided to pace off his shoulder for much of the first lap.  I felt strong on the uphills which I attribute to the gym, but I really had to focus on form.  I slipped past Mike on a downhill and moved a little closer to the group of five guys who had been running about 30m ahead of us for the lap.  

The second lap saw me draw a little closer to the group, making up time on the hills, both up and down.  I noticed that my running rhythm was breaking up.  Until today, I have not run more than 30 minutes since July.  That 30 minutes includes a warm up, some base pace type of running, and maybe a little bit of faster running in the last 5 minutes.  The loss of form was to be expected, especially as I fatigued in the second loop.  Most noticeably my stride rate felt slow.  I pretended to be Simon Driver with his little strides in order to counter this.  It actually worked and I began to reel in the last guy I had a chance to catch.  Two others were now out of reach, so my focus was on the guy in the white shirt.  As before with Mike, I sat on his shoulder for a little while, until we reached the last long hill.  I have to say, I am impressed with how much the strength training I have been doing with Turbulence Training paid off on the hills.   I relaxed and opened up a gap by the top of the hill and maintained that for the downhill run back to the start (caveat: While I felt strong on the hills, my HR was 189 at the top of the last hill, so I have a lot of aerobic base to rebuild, but the strength is there).

I finished unofficially in 29:00 (official results to come tomorrow).  I wasn't sure that I would be able to hold 4:00 min/km, so to run 29 flat was pleasing.  It was an undulating course with three good hills each loop, so it wasn't a fast course.  It may have been a little short according to my GPS, but I feel like that time would be pretty accurate on a flat road course.  If so, then it is very similar to the time I posted at the Pioneer 8k in 2007 (28:48).  The Pioneer 8k is the first race of the season in Victoria; a January tradition where everyone realizes that they have not raced in awhile. I bring this up because I ran that time after a full winter of training.  I got faster that year, but if I can run a similar time when I just coming back from 10 weeks of injury rehab, then things are looking good for next spring.  I held to my race plan and was very aware that I am stronger than I was when I was on the start line of the Knee Knacker.  I was also aware that today I was running a slower pace with a higher heart rate than I would have 10 weeks ago.  That was expected but is still a good reminder of the work to come.

Paul, who is also recovering from being hit by a car while commuting on his bike earlier this summer, ran to a third place finish.  It is great to see him rounding back into form as he has been working diligently to get to this point.  His injuries were so much worse than my little broken bone, so he gives me lots of hope for my own path to fitness over the next few months.  I was patient in letting the bone get strong again; I must now be patient in letting my fitness return.  Today was a great first step toward that.    
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