Sunday, June 20, 2010

K100 Race Report

The Centaur Subaru Bow Valley Harriers finish SECOND overall in the K100 relay, narrowly beating the Running Room by three minutes.

Last Saturday the corporately-sponsored Centaur Subaru Bow Valley Harriers put itself on the Alberta running map by finishing second in the K100 relay, beating a confident Running Room team in the process. The following is how I saw the race.

Blaine, Nick and I met at "uncivilised o' clock" and drove the mobile business card (our sponsored car - see previous blog for photo) to Longview for the start of the K100. Blues skies meant a glorious day ahead.

Leg 1 - Aaron Swanson - 18.6k - 1.08:42 - 4th fastest

The first three legs of the race were run by the team's unsung heroes. By the time Mark Fewster was crossing the finish line over 9 hours later, it would have been easy to forget the efforts put in by the first three runners in particular. But these guys were the engine room. They literally left everything out there and set us up for the victory by putting us well ahead of schedule, with minimum fuss. 4th fastest, 3rd fastest, 4th fastest is a great way to start...

Aaron had his work cut out on the first leg. He was up against some decent runners; in particular a guy who had just run a 66 half marathon. The first three went off fast and Aaron stayed with them for about a mile before adopting the far more sensible approach of running his own pace. It paid off. He came in 4th but, most importantly, only about 30 seconds behind the Running Room. I had wanted him to run 70 minutes and he ran 68. Already we were ahead of budget (as I may have said more than once during the day).

Leg 2 - Nick Haddow - 16.5k - 1.01:45 - 3rd fastest

A very smooth looking Nick Haddow cruised to the third fastest time of his leg. This leg was all about consolidating the good work we'd already done. The Running Room had a speed demon on their leg 2 and so Nick had to watch him slowly get away from him which could easily have destroyed Nick's confidence. But not a bit of it. Nick hung in there and looked smooth throughout. The real work was done in chasing down the leaders and the second placed team. And Nick really closed the gaps. The top 4 were now only a few minutes apart.

Most importantly, we were another 2 minutes ahead of budget. A lead of 4 minutes on where we had hoped to be after only 2 legs.

Leg 3 - Blaine Penny - 14.7k - 58:00 - 4th fastest

Blaine was another unsung hero of the race. Running one of the most scenic legs, he barely looked up at the passing streams and mountains and with grim determination pushed his way through a number of the teams who had started at 6am, to finish 3rd overall on his leg. He told me afterwards that the team mentality of the relay really left him no option but to run well. "Letting yourself down is acceptable. Letting 9 other people down is not." Or words to that effect.

Leg 4 - Jeremy Deere - 14.1k - 49:26 - fastest (possible course record)

One of the stresses of organising this sort of thing is when your runner, who has been waiting to run for about an hour, suddenly decides to disappear the second you get your 5 minute warning. Blaine did it on leg 3 and I had to run about a mile up the road to find him on his warm up. Jeremy decided it would be a good time to start putting his number on. I left him in no doubt how I felt about this when I told him, in no uncertain terms, to "get his sh *t together"!! (Sorry Jeremy!)

Well, I think my words of "encouragement" may have worked because Jeremy certainly did get his sh *t together.

If legs 1-3 were the good start, leg 4 was where the fireworks began. Jeremy started the leg over 3 minutes behind the Running Room. By the end of the leg he was 5 minutes ahead of them. Yes, that's 8 minutes he took out of the Running Room. At the time, I thought I'd just seen our performance of the day. I was wrong - we had greater things to come. nonetheless, Jeremy flying past the Running Room put us in second place for the first time and we never looked back. GREAT running Jeremy (note how his feet are both off the ground in the picture - LITERALLY flying...)
Leg 5 - Sean Hulburt - 17.6k - 1.11:10 - 3rd fastest

Anyone who has run the K100 will know that leg 5 is the tough one. It's long and you run up Highwood Pass, topping out at over 7,000 feet. I'm told it's the highest part of Canada's highest engineered road. So what better runner to put on this leg than a guy I had never met who was only just coming back from injury?! The gamble, I am happy to say, paid off.

Anyone who has seen Sean run (and, in my defence, I hadn't) will know that he has an effortless style. Seeing him run I mistook this for laziness and so my words of encouragement were more along the lines of "don't leave anything out here, Sean" and "time to pick it up, Sean". I had nothing to worry about. Running the 3rd fastest time of the day, in the heat of the day, up the biggest hill and on the leg everyone puts their best runners, Sean finished a fantastic third. Sorry to have doubted you, Sean! At this stage, the Running Room were 4 minutes back...

Leg 6 - Jason Wilcox - 9.4k - 36:38 - 6th fastest

What goes up must come down. And Jason was our man for the downhill. Looking like a character from Miami Vice in his shades, Jason took it to the Running Room both in terms of speed and in style.

When I passed him in the support vehicle, he was flying! All legs and arms. Zero elegance, all guts. Jason was worried he might let the team down. He didn't. He sprinted his way to 6th fastest overall and was only 10 seconds slower than a much more accomplished Running Room guy. It was at this point that the Running Room started to worry.

Leg 7 - Darcy Bell - 16.5k - 59:00

Remember I mentioned stress? Darcy put me through the wringer before the start of his leg. With 10 minutes to go, he still wasn't there. I stripped into my running gear and was about to put my name down for the leg. Brian Torrance asked me "I thought you weren't running?" "I wasn't" I said "but my runner isn't here". "He is now" chimed in Darcy with film star timing. My relief was evident.

Darcy had a lonely leg with one mission. Stay in front of the Running Room. Not only did he do this, he put some time on them and came in SIX MINUTES under budget (yes, I was still banging on about the budget!) and opened up the lead to 5 minutes 30 seconds. Excellent work.
Leg 8 - Paul McCloy - 15.9k - 59.23 - 5th fastest

Had the leaders shot their bolt? Was Paul in trouble? Hamstring hurting, he looked like a man being chased as the Running Room brought out the big guns and whittled our lead down to 2 minutes 30 seconds by half way through the leg. Paul, however, had saved something special for the second half of the leg and brought the lead back up to 3 minutes by the end of the leg. Interestingly, we finished this leg so far ahead of schedule that they held us back for 60 seconds so that the marshalls would be ready. Paul pulled back 6 minutes on the leaders in this leg alone.

Leg 9 - Matt McCrank - 12.5k - 51:21 - 2nd fastest

Matt went off with the runner for the leading team and we all waited at the end with bated breath. The leading team's runner came in, clearly flying, and we all waited. And waited. 5 minutes went by before Matt came in and we were all concerned about our lead. We needn't have been. Matt stormed the leg and put FOUR MINUTES back into our lead over the Running Room, his efforts only overshadowed by the guy he was running with who ran a stormer. Matt had second fastest time of the day and quite possibly gave us the lead we needed.

Leg 10 - Mark Fewster - about 12k - 43:36 - 4th fastest

We knew it was going to be close. The Running Room had Andrew Carruthers on their last leg. A running machine. We received some good news in that leg 10 was reduced to 12k due to flooding. Mark Fewster, expert on the trails, set off hard and never looked back. At the turnaround point he was minutes up and cruised in to finish 3 minutes clear of the Running Room. He just needs to work on his celebrations which involved sitting in a chair.

Mark was so fast I didn't even get a picture of him.

Good work everyone. I never knew a 9 hour and 19 minute race could be so exciting! Well done to the Running Room who took it all in good spirits and were great competitors.

See you all next year!

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