Thursday, June 30, 2011

K100 Race Report - Part 3

Legs 7 - 10 - The Comeback Kids

by Duncan Marsden

To recap, we were 10 minutes and 35 seconds behind the team in the lead, with 4 legs left...

Leg 7 - Jody Draude - Fastest Leg - 55:49

Jody was ready.  Pumped.  You could see it.  But with every minute that ticked by from the handover of the leaders to the Travis handing over to Jody, hope was beginning to fade.  When Travis finished, he said " Jody needs to bring us to within under 10 minutes, or we're done".  I had to agree.  Worse still, Jody was up against an Olympian - Paul Tichelaar.

Jody had spent some time on the course.  He ran this leg last year and was third overall in 58:12.  He had also managed to get a training session on the latter stages and he said he knew he had to take the first part easy and not get carried away on the downhills.  He told me he was fitter this year and watching him on this leg, he was running like it.  Travis and I kept pace with him in Travis's car (which, if you've never been in Travis's car, you won't know is pretty much top speed), letting Jody know the split times.  And they were coming down.  Fast.  Jody pulled back just over 3 minutes on the lead and by the end of his leg, we were 7 minutes and 34 seconds back.  We can do this.  The leaders were starting to look nervous.  Even more so when Jeremy Deere stepped out of the crowd to take the handover from Jody.  "And we've got Joel Bourgeois next", I shouted to them! 

Two points to note about Jody's leg.  One, he ran 2.5 minutes quicker than last year.  Good lad.  Two, he won the fastest leg competition by one second, typifying the theme of this race - that every second counts.

Leg 8 - Jeremy Deere - Fastest Leg (by over 6 minutes!!!!!) - 51:21

Wow.  If anyone has run this leg quicker, I want them tested.  Jeremy FLEW.  He averaged 5'12" a mile for his entire leg and it looked like it.  The guy in front was running scared.  Seven minutes quickly became 5, then 4, then 3.  The guy in front asked Travis and me "Is he catching?"  We just laughed.  I wanted to say "he's passed you, you just blinked and didn't see it".  Jeremy was going to catch him on this leg.  It was just a matter of time.

Travis and I were in the support car, coming round a bend when we saw the leader pull up.  To say he was hobbling was an understatement.  He was dragging his leg like he was one of the living dead.  He was done.  They swapped him out and another runner took over.  Now, whereas our substitution ended up with me running 8 minute miles, this substitution worked very much in favour of the leaders from Edmonton.  Their substitute happened to be their best runner, admittedly tired from having run a leg, but that was hours ago.  Jeremy still ate into the time and finished only 1 minute and 24 seconds back, but we still weren't in the lead.

Leg 9 - Joel Bourgeois - Fastest Leg - 45:49

That changed very quickly.  With the obligatory Quebecois on our team (they had Maxime Leboeuf after all), we couldn't lose.  Joel looked effortless up the hills despite having run a hard 3,000m steeplechase the day before to finish 4th in Nationals.  The deficit quickly became a lead and Joel ran his leg 4 minutes faster than the guy who had been in front of him.  We had a lead.  2 minutes and 30 seconds.  Would it be enough?  We knew they had Adrian Lambert on their last leg, a 70 minute half marathoner.  But we had Scott...

Leg 10 - Scott Jensen - 3rd Fastest - 63:57

In the absence of Mark Fewster, our traditional finisher, I asked the team weeks ago who we should put on leg 10.  The response was unanimous.  "Jensen".  "He's got game".  "No-one will dig deeper for you."  "He'll do what needs to be done.  He's tough."  Just some of the comments.  And they were right. 

Leg 10 was a delayed start and so the first three teams started together.  That's tough because it meant Scott could fall behind Lambert, but not by too much.  Leg 10 is on trails and so you can't see what's going on.  We all stood waiting by the finish line.  There was a roar from the team from Edmonton.  "It's Lambert!"  And there he was.  Running up the last hill, looking strong.  "Start the clock" they shouted, jumping around like they'd won the Stanley Cup.  Scott had to cross in less than 2 minutes and 30 seconds' time, or we'd have lost.  Seconds ticked by feeling like minutes.  The last hill took at least a minute to run up and he still wasn't in sight.  We haven't got much time... and there he was.  The BVH roar was made all the louder by the silence Scott's presence brought to the team from Edmonton.  Striding majestically up the hill, "The Terminator" crossed the line just over a minute behind.  It was enough.  We had won by 84 seconds.  Less than a second per mile over 100 miles.

Usually these events have stand-out performances.  Jeremy and Joel are obvious choices.  But with a margin of victory of less than one second per mile, this truly was an event where everyone did their bit.  Literally (as Jeremy likes to hear me say), every second counted.

Well done boys.  Enjoy the glow of victory.  Although the Edmonton guys were fantastic sports and gracious to a man in defeat, I think we ruffled a few feathers.  They'll be gunning for us next year.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

K100 Race Report - Part 2

Legs 4 - 6 : Everything's Not Lost

By way of recap, our first three runners had all run heroically to hang on to the front-loaded team from Edmonton, and we were only 5 min and 12 seconds back from the lead.

Leg 4 - Duncan Marsden - Fastest Leg - 52:37

Eyes on the Prize
Leg 4 is one of the shorter ones and the team in the lead had used the opportunity to put one of their weaker runners in to bat.  I was running leg 4 for BVH and took the start hard. I realized that I would be able to pull some time back on the leaders when I was greeted by the support crew at about 2 miles in, and they told me that the gap to the lead was already down to 4 minutes.  Spurred on by this, I kept my head down and looked forward to each update (it really is all you have to work with, in races like this).  The gap kept dropping.  By the last mile I was about 3 minutes behind.  It was a downhill mile and although I was tired I took the opportunity to give it one last push to get the gap lower.  I threw in a 5'10" mile and by the time I crossed the line, the gap was 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

Leg 5

It's quite a surreal feeling when you get to the end of your leg and there's no-one to hand off to.  Of course, you know it's possible but you never think it will happen to you.  I kept looking for my runner amongst the crowd of bodies milling about and there was no-one.  I kept expecting him to burst out of the crowd, take the hand off and go, but nothing.  I jogged through the chute and Aaron was there with the bad news.  "He's not here", he said.  Three small words.  Crushing.  "What do you want to do?" Aaron asked me.  I really didn't know.  I was shattered, my legs could barely hold me up and all I could think was that I was facing another 18k straight uphill.  I didn't want to admit to myself that I'd have to do this on my own so Aaron drove ahead while I continued to plod onwards, watching the guy I'd worked hard to pull back into sight disappear again.  Aaron pulled on his running shoes and took the hand off.  I jumped in his car, drove up the road about a mile, grabbed some Gatorade and took the hand off again.  The plan was for Aaron and Natalie to go back to the start of leg 5, get the number for the leg, and bring it to me and then see who (between me and Aaron) would finish the leg.

I was not enjoying myself.  I had nothing.  The hills were terrible and for the first time in the race I got overtaken.  Matt Norminton of the Running Room passed in his car.  "What's going on?"  "We had a no-show".  To his immense credit, Matt immediately pulled over, jumped out with a gel and water and handed them to me.  "What else do you need?" he asked.  "Gloves?  Hat?"  That's one of the things I love about running.  He could see I was struggling and even though I was the opposition, he had no hesitation in helping.  Thanks, Matt.

After about 8k, our runner turned up.  To his credit, he ran a storming last 10k and brought what I had lost right back down.  But the damage was done.  The gap was now 7 minutes and 40 seconds.

Leg 6 - Travis Cummings - 33:47 - 2nd fastest

Travis was a hero.  Having already run leg 1, he flew down leg 6 in the second fastest time of the day.  Unfortunately, the guy who ran faster than him was from the leaders and, given that he was fresh, he ran 2 minutes and 50 seconds quicker than Travis. 

By the end of leg 6, we were 10 minutes and 35 seconds behind.  We had our best runners to come but this was looking insurmountable.  The leaders had beaten us in 5 of the 6 previous legs and we had a serious deficit to pull back.  We rang ahead to the remaining runners "Run like the wind.  Every second counts" but it was more in hope than in expectation.

To be continued...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

K100 Race Report - Part 1

K100 Relay - Saturday June 25, 2011

by Duncan Marsden

This.  Was.  Epic.  I simply cannot do justice to this race in one blog alone, so I will be writing a trilogy - legs 1-3 (the forgotten legs), legs 4-6 (everything's not lost) and 7-10 (the comeback kids).  This is part one.

Follow the white line - Travis Eyes 100 miles of Drama Ahead of Him

We had already had our fair share of drama even before the race with our leg 6 runner (Nick Haddow) telling us on Wednesday that a golf cart had driven over his foot and that it was broken and he was on crutches.  What he didn't tell us was that HE was driving the golf cart at the time.  Quite a talent. 

Ever-willing, Travis Cummings stepped up and agreed to do both legs 1 and 6.

 Leg One - Travis Cummings - 68:32 - 2nd fastest

Nick, Our Leg 6 Runner, On Crutches at the Start Line

Travis has often been compared to Steve Prefontaine (usually by himself) and he certainly didn't sacrifice the gift on leg 1.  Up against Maxime LeBeouf, Travis had his work cut out for him.  Maxime built up a small lead very quickly and Travis was staying with the Running Room guy.  Not for long.  In a burst of pace, Travis opened up about a 300m gap in about a mile, to leave the Running Room guy wondering what had happened.  The gaps pretty much stayed at that distance the rest of the way.  Travis came in second, 2 minutes and 38 seconds behind Maxime, his work well and truly done.  We were in second, and still in touch after one of their best runners had completed his leg.  It became apparent early on that they had front-loaded their team, whereas we had not.
Front-Running Pre

Leg 2 - Blaine Penny - 3rd Fastest - 63:12

Blaine was not only up against Matt Normington and Kris Swanson, but he was up against the wind too, in what had to be the windiest leg of the day (in fact, by the time Jody ran leg 7, it had turned round and was a tailwind - no such luck for Blaine).
Blaine Wonders if his new short shorts will be  help
What better way to hear about the leg than through the eyes of the runner?  Here's what Blaine had to say about his leg:

"I was going into this run like it was any other big individual race. I knew it was going to be a tough run and that every one us was going to have an exceptional day if we were going to challenge the win.

Matt Normington's View
Travis Cummings (a.k.a. young Steve Prefontaine) ran Leg 1, and was running in 2nd place with the competition about 3 minutes ahead, and the Running Room team right on our heels. I knew I would be starting with Matt Normington on my heels and have to admit I secretly wanted to hold him off. (Matt is a 2:21 marathoner!) My approach was to start at a good pace (at my upper end), and then adjust by how I was feeling, and not worry about Matt too much. I glanced down at the first mile split and saw 5:08 and was pleasantly surprised to be feeling so good. Definitely some adrenalin in the mix there I realized, and then settled into about a 3:40 min/km pace.

After about 3 km Matt caught me. Matt sat on my shoulder for a few minutes to recover as he was breathing pretty hard. I knew he started really fast and figured I could stay with him. He then surged past me and opened up a 10 second gap. I held that gap for several kilometers and then we were met with a crazy headwind. I could see Matt struggling ahead of me and soon caught him. He tucked in behind me and started drafting. I thought this was cool for a minute, but I thought I either had to shake him or work together taking leads. Duncan was yelling at us to start working together and that's what we did, doing 1 min pulls. It was an awesome way to battle the wind, and we kept a pretty steady (but much slower pace) to the Leg 3 transition where Aaron Swanson was in the chute and ready to go."

By this stage the gap was exactly 5 minutes.  Plenty of time...

Leg 3 - Aaron Swanson - 57:03 - 2nd Fastest

I did not see much of Aaron's leg but he looked majestic as he strode into the finish.  I know this for sure:

(a)  He blew the Running Room runner he was up against out of sight, putting 3.5 minutes between us and them.  We never really saw them again.

(b)  He was only 12 seconds slower than the guy who won the leg which meant that, importantly, the gap between us and the lead was only 5 minutes and 12 seconds.  And they were running out of good runners.

Legs 1 - 3 are the forgotten legs.  But the race is won and lost here.  Hats off to the efficient work of the "engine room" boys who did their job with minimal fuss.

None of us knew that the drama was about to begin.

To be continued...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

100 Miles of Magic

By Aaron Swanson
Photo Courtesy of Natalie Swanson
100 miles, 10 guys, 1 relay race. This weekend is the epic Kananaskis 100 mile (K100) relay race that goes up and over Highwood Pass in the Rocky Mountains. Its not actually 100 miles long but K100 sounds way better than K97.8. The race starts at roughly 1260m in elevation in Longview and peaks at 2206m on top of Canada’s highest engineered road before making the massive descent into the Nakiska ski area. I think most people would agree, the race is in a world class setting and in one of the best races out there.

This is my second year running the event as part of the Centaur Subaru Bow Valley Harriers team. While we placed 2nd last year, I think we still hold the title for the longest team name. We had a tight battle for second place but lagged first by roughly 25 mins. It would be great if we could close that gap and make those first place guys work a little harder. Overall, I think our team is much fitter than 2010 (not to mention we convinced one of Canada’s best steeplechasers to join our team) so this could turn out to be a very interesting battle.

The race starts in Longview, and as mentioned goes up and over the Highwood pass to finish at the Nakiska ski hill roughly 9.5 hours later. I have the pleasure of running leg 3 which is just before the course starts to get scary with leg 4 and the final push up the pass in leg 5. Legs 4 and 5 combine for roughly 700m in elevation gain in a little over 30km. Despite leg 5 being the notoriously brutal leg, I personally would rather take it down than face leg 6 which screams straight downhill (elevation loss of 340m) for 9.4km and has the potential to ruin your legs for a solid week. Check out the elevation profiles from legs 5 and 6:

Here is our plan of attack:

Leg 1 (18.6km) – Travis Cummings
Leg 2 (16.5km) – Blaine Penny
Leg 3 (14.7km) – Aaron Swanson
Leg 4 (14.1km) – Duncan Marsden
Leg 5 (17.6km) – Ken Myers
Leg 6 (9.4km) – Nick Haddow
Leg 7 (16.5km) – Jody Draude
Leg 8 (15.9km) – Jeremy Deere
Leg 9 (12.5km) – Joel Bourgeois
Leg 10 (18 km) – Scott Jensen

I should point out there will be a little bit of a Swanson battle taking place on the course as my dad is slated to run the same leg as me. Given the staggered start times (his team starts at 7am, we start at 8am) I doubt I will catch him, but that would have been pretty sweet.

Being a runner, it’s not very often we get the chance to compete in a team event like this. I find team events tend to bring the best out in people, as Blaine put it last year, ”letting yourself down is acceptable, letting 9 other people down is not.”

Buckle up, its go time.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Blackfoot Ultra 100km May 28th 2011

by Carl Pryce

This was my third year at the Blackfoot 100km. I finished second in 2009 and third last year, so there was unfinished business to do. 2009 was the year of the heat, where Blaine and I had run the first 75km together, before he opened a gap to win the race by 13 minutes. 2010 was the year of the mud. Continual rain turned to sleet, turning the course into a gloopy mudfest and over half the field dropped out. We had returned to our tent to find it flattened under the weight of heavy snow. This year conditions were much more benign, with the forecast calling for a high of 19C, and underfoot conditions were bone dry.

The Blackfoot Ultra is held just east of Edmonton at the Cooking Lake Blackfoot Provincial Recreation area. It is an area of Aspen parkland, with numerous lakes and lots of wildlife. The area has 85 km of trails and is the home of the Canadian Birkebeiner Ski Festival which is held in early February. The course uses 25km of trails, making a loop which is repeated four times for the 100km. Other races with distances of 25km, 50km, and 50 miles take place on the same day. Although on the prairies, the course packs in a lot of height gain as the trails almost continuously undulate. The hills aren't so noticeable the first time round, but seem to get steeper with each lap.
Being the longest race, the 100km is the first to start. Approximately 40 runners assembled for the 5:00 am start, just as day was breaking. After a few words of wisdom by race director Gary Poliquin we headed off into the woods. It always strikes me just how mellow the starts of ultra races are: there's no mad dash for the front, just gentle jogging to get the legs moving. I soon found myself part of a breakaway group of three - the other two being Oleg Tabelev and Charles Miron. Oleg won the Lost Souls 100 mile race last year, and Charles the Sinister Seven, so I was in good company. We chatted as we ran the first lap together, the kilometers sped by and soon we had 25km behind us in 1:59. The pace felt very manageable. Along the way we saw a huge bull moose bounding through the forest and heard lots of other animal noises but were usually too focussed on watching our footing to pay any more attention.
One of the great things about this race is the aid stations are well stocked with fruit, including over 90 pounds of strawberries. My nutrition strategy was to rely on a mixture of eload and protein in my drinks bottles, and gels and fruit for solid food. This worked well for the first 60-70km, but after taking seven gels I couldn't face any more. Despite downing nearly three litres of fluid I found myself developing an unquenchable thirst, probably brought on by the gels. As somebody who never drinks coke, I was surprised to find myself looking forward to a cup of flat coke at each aid station after 70km in an effort to quench the thirst. The fruit went down very well, especially as they seemed to have sourced the juciest oranges on the planet. I've always found that getting the nutrition right is the most important aspect of ultra running - get it wrong and you can end up with a very sore stomach, and stories of projectile vomiting are very common. I later heard that Charles dropped out with stomach issues after 50km.
The second and third laps went by in 2:06 and 2:25, and by the 75km mark I had built up at least a 10 minute lead over Oleg. Knowing that Oleg is a strong finisher with a lot of stamina, I was getting a little concerned as I could feel myself slowing. Last year on the Moose Mountain 42km race I was feeling complacent during the final 10km thinking I had built a sufficient lead on Oleg, only to find him cross the finish line just one minute behind. There were now lots of runners from the 25km, 50km and 50mile races on the course, so there was plenty of company. By noon things had warmed up and, without much wind, conditions were feeling warmer in the trees than the forecast high of 19C. As dehydration kicked in my pace slowed and the last lap went in 2:38, slower than I had hoped for. With 1km to go my children Bridie (13), Ben (11) and Anna (9) appeared and joined me for the run in to the finish. I had missed Rick Webb's course record by 19 minutes, but done enough to finish first. Just three minutes after collapsing into a chair Oleg appeared to take second place in 9:11. He had gained considerably on the last lap and was looking strong.
As usual I was feeling quite beaten up by the finish. This is where bringing along a support crew pays dividends, as Rosie and the kids attended to my every need. The coke had done little to quench the unquenchable thirst and when I mentioned to Rosie the only thing that could quench it was a cold beer, one appeared almost instantly. Not perhaps the best way to rehydrate after 100km, but very effective.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

BVH 5K Results - June 2011

Results from yesterday's 5k.  Report to follow:

1.  Darcy Bell - 16.39
2.  Frank Wollstencroft - 16:40
3.  Paul McCloy - 16:51
4.  Jody Draude - 16.58
5.  Duncan and Ava Marsden - 17.08*
6.  Ryan Twa - 17:12
7.  Tom Coll - 17:13
8.  Nick Haddow - 17:36
9.  Mark Fewster - 17:37
10.  Kevin Lindland - 17:45
11.  Matt Wanford - 18:15
12.  Kerry Zwiers - 20:24.

*Stroller course record.  (Note that the stroller course is about 150m shorter than the course run by everyone else.)

Series Standings

1.    Duncan Marsden 36 points
2.=  Blaine Penny 25
       Frank Woolstencroft 25
4.    Jody Draude 20
5.=  Travis Cummings 19
       Paul McCloy 19
7.    Chris Hooper 15
8.    Mark Fewster 14
9.=  Scott Jensen 12
       Darcy Bell 12
11.= Colin McArthur 10
        Aaron Swanson 10
13.   Ben Pryce 9
14.= Phil Villeneuve 7
        Ryan Twa  7
16.= Tom Coll 6
        Bob Banks 6
        Alex Harmer 6
        Kevin Lindland 6
19.   Nick Haddow 5
20.= Mike Brewster 4
        Lisa Harvey 4
22.= Bruce Dalton 3
        Kerry Zwiers 3
24.= Anna Pryce 2
        Matt Wanford 2
26.= David Omahen 1
        Glenn Mutsemaker 1