20 December 2011

Deception Pass 50k - the last and best of the season

Running the coastal trail along Deception Pass, half a mile to the finish.
I had been looking forward to racing again after taking some time off after running Hardrock in July and the TransRockies Run stage race in August. The switch in focus was good for me, and I was charged with enthusiasm to get back running and training hard again. Races start to get a bit sparse on the calendar during the winter months, but a few flattering words and some bribery involving malted beverages of the highest quality scored me an entry into Rainshadow Running’sDeception Pass 50k. With a goal in mind, I took to the trails and jammed up the mileage on my feet, throwing a number of bike commute rides in to seal the deal (and because it’s fun when the weather in Vancouver is dry). Heck, I even did the first 60-mile training week I have done in months! And damn, it felt good!

While I would hesitate to go so far as to say that my running this year has sucked , because I have had the opportunity to run in some awesome places with amazing people – I have definitely been frustrated with how things have gone. Sickness, snow, monsoons, hailstorms, injury, lack of oxygen, waitlists, and a training regime that makes my butt look fat, have all contributed to some humdrum race results that have been way more work than pleasure to achieve. I was motivated and had been pretty solid over the past month or two, but I was still feeling a little trepidation about how a 50k would go, considering the struggle most other races this year have been. Many times at a race I will give my wife a projected finish time and hit that fairly accurately, but this time I didn’t even venture a guess besides “please go and get coffee or go shopping but don’t get back too late so I don’t get hypothermic standing around in the cold when I’m done.” (Thanks, honey, for getting back in plenty of time and hanging around!)

I know I have a habit of getting a tad long-winded in my tales, so the point of all this is that I am so excited with how well the race went that I had to say right now that I totally nailed it and had my best and most enjoyable effort of the entire year. Wow, it is soooo nice to end the season on such a high note! Ok, with that off my chest, onto the long-winded stuff:

Trying to stay warm before the start
The race started at a snappy pace, and I drifted towards the front pack while holding back a bit, trying not to go out too hard. There were also 25k runners mixed in, and it was hard to tell who was running what. Still, I picked a level of effort that I felt slightly restrained at, in the hopes that it was crisp enough to keep me towards the top third of the field, but conservative enough to hold through the remaining 5 – 7 hours. People were passing me, but I didn’t want to chase at this early stage. I ended up behind a couple of gals, and though I was barely holding them on the hills, I felt like I had to restrain myself on the flats and downhills, which was fine with me since I knew it would keep me reigned in. 

Once I knew I was sufficiently warmed up and flowing about 10k in, I did pull past the girls and ran my own pace. From here, I was surprised to see that I was slowly reeling in runners ahead of me, one by one. Though almost feeling like I had headed out at a 10k race pace, I felt I was maintaining the speed all the way along, while others were perhaps paying for their faster starts. I figured I was running in about 15 - 20th position or so, but slowly creeping forward. 

Following Shawna Tompkins and Monica Ochs over The Bridge
The trails themselves were quite inspiring to run on, and the beauty of the area was amazing. The day was grey and overcast, but still lovely - it would be absolutely phenomenal on a warm sunny day. I have never been to these trails before (you would hardly even know so much single track was even there!) and was loving the narrow, rolling forested trails that would break out into ocean vistas or exposed shoreline from time to time. There were a number of lollipop loops that we had to run to cover ground and make up distance, and I give huge kudos to RD James Varner and his volunteers for marking these out in such an incredibly clear manner. I’d also give a nod and thanks to my fellow racers who were all very polite and accommodating as we ran past each other in the narrow sections. 

I was running well. The trails were beautiful. I was a happy guy. All I had to do was not blow up towards the end. I kept running strong, and kept passing people, not believing how well it was all going. This was proving to the kind of run that is absolutely sublime: effortless speed, great trail surface, and a beautiful environment. 

A beautiful place to run!     photo: Glenn Tachiyama
The second half of the race spins off to do two 11k loops in another section of the park. I left the aid station and headed into my first loop, pleased with my time of 2:20 into the race so far, feeling comfortable but hoping in the back of my mind that I could hold it for the distance. So far, so good. I was running the uphill grades consistently, and only walked a couple of times on some short, steep sections. It struck me part way through the loop that I had neither seen anyone in front of me for quite some time, nor anyone behind me. I was running alone through the forest – racing in the hopes of either catching someone in front or staying away from someone behind. I was expecting the latter, since that had been the pattern of my races this year. 

I completed the loop in just under an hour, and finally saw some more runners as I approached a short out-and back to the aid station. After all the time running alone, I was surprised to see that I was not far behind four other people. I filled a bottle with nuunand grabbed a gel, then turned back to catch some of the runners ahead of me. On the way out, I noticed that there was a long way to the next runner behind; either I had run away from them, or they had faded out from their pace in the first half of the race.

I guess I was running well, because it wasn’t long before I caught up to the next runner in front, with another person in sight not too far along as well. I knew I would have to surge past them and keep going to make it stick, so with a bit of a sustained effort, I pushed the pace to go by and then build in a bit of a gap. Now, without seeing anyone in front any more, the motivation to keep up my pace was the pressure from behind me; I was determined to not get caught. 
Summiting the Goose Rock climb     photo: Glenn Tachiyama

Towards the end of the second loop, I was pleased to see that my time was about the same as the first lap, although I could feel a bit of a twinge starting in my quads. I had to hold my pace and not have my legs crap out on me now - there was only about 4km to go! I paused briefly at the aid station again for some more nuun and another hit of EFS LiquidShot gel, and then took off along the road. On a straight stretch, I could see the next person in front of me off in the distance. I could see them, but would I be able to catch them? The carrot was out there!

Alas, the sustained pace through the race was catching up to me, and my legs were getting weaker and more sore as I hammered as best I could through the final kilometers. After the road, I lost sight of the runner in the trail section, and was just going as hard as I could. I got hyped up a bit when I saw a glimpse of someone through the trees, but it was a 25k runner I had caught up to. I also really had no idea of how much further the course went, so hoped that my final effort wasn’t started too early. I recognised some of the trail we had headed out on, but wasn’t sure just how we would loop back to the finish.
I rounded a corner along the shoreline, and there was Martha taking pictures, so I knew I was reasonably close to the finish. After pausing to give her a quick kiss, I charged on and soon popped out on the parking lot that lead to the finish line. 

I crossed the line in 4:55 – the first sub-5-hour 50k I have run in a few years and good for 6th overall (and first 40+, for what that’s worth). I was absolutely elated. The trails were beautiful, I felt good and ran well, and the race organisation was impeccable.

Many thanks are due to James Varner and his sweetie Candice Burt for all their hard work organising and putting on this event and finding such a lovely place for us to run in. Check out more of Rainshadow Running’s other races, they are all great runs on fantastic trails. 


GU gel (4 oz)

1 comment:

Derrick said...

Congrats Bruce on ending the year with a great race!


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