Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Iron Knee 25k

This was the race that started it all. I had been running trails before this race, but once I had run this course, it was love.

I love point-to-point races because you actually feel like you have gone somewhere. The big joke with non-runners is that we spend a lot of energy to go nowhere. The point-to-point is fun to run and gives a sense a satisfaction that looped or out-and-back routes don't.

After last week's disappointing half-marathon, I was looking forward to my first race back in the trails. This race is essentially two huge hills separated by a 3k flat stretch. Also, it is more like 20k than 25k, but no one really complains because it makes you like a hero when people see your time.

The plan this year was to start out conservative and build through. I had tried this last week, but it didn't really work very well. On the trails, you can't fake it - if you get cocky, the hills will remind you that you are insignificant. I relaxed in the first few kilometers, actually walking part of the initial hill, a mere 1km into the race. Walk early, walk often. It was important for me to maintain a lower heart rate on the day, so there was no shame in walking, but it is difficult to watch people run away from you. As usual, I tried to take note of the people passing me, with the mind to pick them off as the race progresses.

It was a few km in that my snowshoeing partner, Tom, pulled up beside me. We ran together for pretty much the first half of the race, getting caught up on our past couple of months and generally having a great time. I appreciated the company and pacing that Tom gave me, as he is veteran of many an ultra-marathon. We also caught up to eventual female winner, Katrina Driver, who is a climbing legend. I know that if I am anywhere near Katrina at the top of a hill, I am in good shape! It was at the aforementioned flat stretch that we parted ways and I started to make the move to bring back some of the people in front of me.

I was feeling great at this point of the race, which was the goal. I was starting to see groups of people in front of me, slowly watching their bodies increase in size as I approached. I moved fluidly and easily, but Powerline Hill, a 15 minute climb, was waiting for me. I had a decision to make at this point. I could keep pace with the people I had just run back to, or I could conserve my quads and legs and hike the hill, relying on my downhill running to make the time up again. I chose the latter a gamble to be sure.

The day was very warm and there is not much shade on this long, steep hill. I am not built for long climbs, so the decision to hike it kept me in a positive mindset, rather than suffering through the lactic acid of trying to run the whole climb. I crested the climb having lost about 6 position on the ascent, but with fresh legs. It was time for some fun.

It is the single-track downhill running that I love about trails and I was about to get 20 minutes of that as I descended from the apex of Powerline. I was able to make up a couple positions pretty quickly, and then two more guys came back. I knew that there was one more person that I could catch, as the leaders were far out of reach, but I had no idea where this person was. I had only caught a fleeting glimpse of him at the base of Powerline, so I was only guessing that he would be suffering after Powerline. In the past two years, I had lost positions on the last small climb in the trails, about 2k from the finish. It was with great pleasure that I saw my target at the same spots where I was weak in years past. I made my move and passed him, emerging from the trails and onto the road only to start feeling my calved seize. This was no time for cramping. I did the best I could to prevent a full on cramp, which would have stopped me completely, and sprinted-shuffled into the line. I was pleased with the result - a 4th place finish, but an enormous eight minutes behind 3rd place, which was Simon Driver. It was also 5 minutes slower than last year and 9 minutes slower than the year before that. I know that I hiked the hills more than I have in the past, but I didn't feel that much slower. Oh well, it was a training race and I had fun.

But here is the kicker - I twisted my foot during the race. My left foot, so that was good. And I didn't really feel any pain during the race nor for the rest of the day. At 3am, I woke up to an ache on the top of my left foot. No swelling, but I couldn't walk. I iced it that night and went back to sleep. I have been on an icing and traumeel plan since and it is feeling pretty good as of this evening. I am hoping that it will be better by Thursday so that I can go to VFAC, but these few days of rest are not a bad thing.

I am feeling good about running right now but I know that Scotiabank will be tough. I don't think that it will be a PB, that may need to wait until October and the Royal Victoria Half-Marathon, but I know that I will be fit and in the race.
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