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.