16 July 2008

Scorched Sole 50k

The Scorched Sole this year more accurately should have been called the Swamped Sole. With a late snow melt and rainy conditions up here in BC over the extended spring, the normally blazing temperatures were cool, overcast, and the trail was worthy in parts of taking on monster trucks in the Giant Mud Pits (you have to say that with the right tone of voice and add an echo to "pits").

I was feeling pretty good heading into this run, but wasn't sure what to expect with my inconsistent results so far this year, and being just two weeks off a mediocre performance 100k at Blackfoot. But, I love this course, and the race directors put on a superb event so it is a must-do on my calendar. I really wanted to push as much as I could and get a good, final speed effort in before Hardrock, but also was willing to sit back a bit and take it as it came.

So, at the gun I moved off at a reasonable pace and through the first little warm-up loop before heading into the larger main run loop. It was interesting that the top racers all bunched by the end of the loop, and separated themeselves from the rest of the pack. Fortunately, I was in this group :-) We started heading up the long hill towards the 12k point, and I found that I was feeling very steady and smooth on the hill. Though some others took off quite strongly (notably Ellie Greenwood and Mel Bos), I kept to my own pace. I actually felt really good and motored up the hill using my "diesel" legs (high power, low revs, steady pace) eventually pulling away from a couple of guys behind me. Once we hit the high point of the course and tipped downhill, I took off and hammered, catching up to Mel and, to my surprise, Ellie as well. I led a small group of us into the half-way aid station, filled up another bottle of nuun, and hit the trail again with Ellie hot on my heels.

Ellie once again pulled away from me on the uphill, and I was pushing the pace at the point to try and catch her, but also hold off a very strong Mel behind me. I knew that if I could hold my positioning or minimise any losses on the uphill, my strength on the downhill would allow me to make up some time. In one of those "hey, I'm actually doing pretty well" kind of days, I kept up the pace for the entire uphill grind - harder in this reverse direction of the same first loop - quickly topped my nuun bottle at the top, and kicked it into high gear for the long downhill stretch.

While aware that Mel wasn't too far behind me, I knew I had a bit of an edge on her on the downhills, so my main concern was hammering to try and catch up to Ellie. The trail is literally almost all downhill for the last 8-10km, so
you can just fly if you still have legs left. I flew down the track, through the mud, and along the gravel. I blew past the mid-point aid station with a smile and blurted "thank you!" to the ladies helping out there. And, to Ellie's absolute credit - I didn't even see her, all I got was her footprints in the mud. I was amased to have been within sniffing distance of her at the end, since she is such a phenomenal runner; normally we chat at the start, and then I see her at the finish. Mel charged down the hill as well, but I did manage to keep my space from her. Still, we were all close and it made for an interesting race for all of us, pushing each other to either catch or stay away.

I ended up with a 4:43:04 time, good for 3rd place overall and 1st in my age group!
This was also my first race in the new ENDoutdoor Stumptown 10's, and they really performed well - super light for the hill climbing, great traction in the mud, and nice cushioning on the downhills. They look like keepers!

(photo - Mel Bos and I with our 1st place age group awards)

After a great run in the race, I followed up the nexy day by doing a long, 6-hour loop around and over Okanagan Mountain Park through the Wildhorse Canyon. Though this area suffered terribly from the large forest fire that swept through the area in 2003, I love getting back to it because it was the site of my very first ultra race, the defunct Wildhorse 50k. And, in keeping with the cool and erratic weather that we have been having this spring, I got snowed on at the top of Okanagan Mountain :-) Anyways, that was incentive to run hard on the way down, and I packed in an excellent back-to-back weekend in some of my favourite running terrain in BC.

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