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Monday, March 24, 2014

Race Report: Cap Crusher 13k

The Coast Mountain Trail Series is a set of races put on by Gary Robbins & Geoff Langford. It includes Cap Crusher, Survival of the Fittest, Buckin' Hell, Squamish 23, Sky Pilot and Rubble Creek Classic.

This was the 2nd year for the Cap Crusher, and the number of runners had increased nicely from the inaugural year in both the 8k and 13k options.

Going into this race I had two goals:

  1. Crush the Cap!
  2. Run it hard.
  3. Do it on tired legs.
  4. Run hard on tired legs.
The Saturday before the race, Gary and Geoff had set up the Squamish 23 orientation run. A whole smack of runners showed up for the run (there were 30 last year, this year over 70!).
The weather was calling for snow (which it did) and rain (which it did) and that wasn't enough to stop any of the mad trail runners (which it didn't).

We Love Trails!!
I was running the orientation with my wife, so we were going to use the entire 4 to 4 1/2 hours to cruise along and enjoy the day together. She did amazing, and at the point where her and I thought we were the last bunch coming in to see Dianna at the Aid Station (volunteer coordinator extraordinaire), all of a sudden a whole crew of runners showed up and we had an aid station party! Apparently a whack of people got lost, which is fair since white chalk on snow is hard to see and it covered up one junction. We called the whole gang of friends the "Lost Losers" in a joking manner.
Lost Losers Engage!
The orientation run was awesome, and getting the 20 + kilometres on the feet the day before the Cap Crusher race, with a 9 hour shift at work, and then 2 hours sleep was going to be perfect to hit goal number 3! 

The Sunday morning of the race was the most beautiful day of the year. Blue skies, snow capped mountains, and a cool morning which was going to rise to 10 or 11 degrees made for perfect conditions. Gary warned us that the stair and boardwalk sections were going to be very icy, so if you're not fighting for first, then take it slow on those parts.

Cap Crusher 2014
Registration was a breeze, and super well organized. There were tons of volunteers, both at the the start finish and along the entire course. The flagging was likewise superb, but we'll get back to that in a bit. 

The race start had Gary throw down the gauntlet for Mike Murphy to defend Canadian honour as Alex Varner, the world 50k trail champion had lined up as well. Exciting! 

Trail running countdowns always make me laugh. They sound something like this: 
"Okay, 60 seconds . . . 20 seconds people . . . 3 - 2 - 1 GO!" Reminds me of having foot races in the park as a kid. 

3 - 2 - 1 GO!
I have a great start and fall in step with Spring aka Pebbleshoo. We run the whole first climb together, up and over the BP section and into the second section that's going to take us to the turn around. Except we get turned around. Her, two guys and myself all missed a sharp right and end up at the dam again?! What the cheese!

Spring on my left 
Cleveland Dam
We stop for a moment, look around, and then Spring says we probably missed a turn. Another small point of hesitation and we turn back. We ran 600 meters too far, so have to run 600 meters back, and thankfully find the markers (there were about 53 flags there, but we missed it). 
Technical downhill is my strength so I break into the lead of our pack, and mentally I'm trying to keep my head straight instead of being angry at my mistake. By the time we hit the gravel section, Spring gets ahead and creates a gap of a few hundred meters. We went from middle of the field to dead last, so we burn hard to the turn around. I feel a little sluggish on the flat sections and much stronger on the technical sections so I decide to just cruise at about mid 5 minute per km pace to the split section. 
We manage to catch many of the runners who were behind us and get back into the trail system. Spring is long gone. I see Dayna from Run Like A Girl and she's cheering us on and taking stealth photo  #1!

I peel off my long sleeve Merino shirt since the day is warming and tie it around my waist as I navigate the Cap trail system. There are marshals everywhere, go left here, right here, straight there, and they were amazing. The route on the race is super loopy and mega fun, since you hit the same trail in different directions on multiple junctions. I loved that part of it as you get to see other runners moving in various directions. I put in my head that I was going to not only reclaim my position before taking the wrong turn, but gain a couple of spots also. I flipped a switch in my head, and started thinking about reeling in as many runners as possible who got in front of us. 

I run across Peter, who we ran with us last weekend at Diez Vista, and we stick together for a good chunk of time. We see Elaine who catches ninja pic #2!

Vera was marshalling with Myka (sans camera) and then we see Andy, who gets this shot. 

Too funny, all our friends being super volunteers on this race! I felt like every time I saw Andy, Elaine, Vera and Dayna it was like a super boost of energy, similar to a hot wheels car on a track that has the battery powered spinny things that keep the little hot wheel zooming over the trick tracks! That's what this course was like. 

There's a set of steps that takes you back to the start finish before looping you back into the trail system and I toss my long sleeve to my boys as I push through. I know there are at least three runners ahead of me that I have to catch.

There's about 5k left in the race so I push hard and pass two more runners, and then finally the last one who I needed to catch. I'm feeling great, and I know there's one more climb back up the BP section, so let's see if I can get anyone else. People who were ahead of us that I can get in front of. 

As a mid to back pack runner, I have to say that playing "manhunter" on the race was super fun. Rather than just settling into a rhythm and staying with the same group for the race, the whole chase for redemption added a particular urgency that really added to my day. Not that I'll make a habit of going off course mind you!

The final climb is steep, but not too long, so I go full anaerobic. I catch two more 13k runners and a few more 8k runners and then see the crest of the hill. I can't let the 13k runners catch me on the dam in case they have a faster base running pace, so I have to be aggressive on this technical descent. By far, one of my best descents ever. I jump down the trail totally in the zone, see a couple of 8k runners and yell out madly "Behind!!" since I'm on a kamikaze course as they leap out of the way.

The dam comes up, I don't look back and cross the finish line. 

Ed, Vera, Elaine & Myka

Cap Crusher was amazing. The way the trail weaved back and forth, went up and down, from technical to groomed and transitioned seamlessly was perfect. There was a super fun post race awards presentation with amazing prizes, some games and SO many people hung out to chill and enjoy each other's company. There were some spectacular views, like this one below, and the camaraderie, energy and unique quality of the distance was perfect.

Like the LEGO movie says: "Everything was AWESOME!"

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Stay On Target!

Gold Five

When it comes to long distance running, there's no such thing as a "bad run" unless you crash and burn so badly that you're out due to injury (like Gold Leader, although Gold Five was way cooler, he'd be an awesome pacer).
Going up DV in January

To that effect, the long run on Sunday March 9th was what I would call "Perfectly Imperfect".
It was exactly what I needed. It was going to be my longest run of the season, and the most mileage per week this year. January was spectacular for running and I had some great sessions on the trail and road. I've also been keeping my kickboxing going, so fitness level was all good.

February, in a nutshell sucked. With a flu, shitty weather, and lots of work stress, there was a 16 day period of zero activity, lots of hours at work, and no trail time. Even side fitness was suffering.
Once the chest cleared up, work details started getting sorted out with lots of diligent hard work and a few more grey hairs, March is looking very, very good.
Coming down DV in January

Time on the feet has reignited, but the first Ultra of the season, Diez Vista 50k is approaching fast: as in April 5th fast. My goals for this race are simple. Treat it as an experience to get better at Ultra Running. Simple .

Leading into the training for this race, I had positive thoughts and zero time goals. I really just wanted to get out into the woods and enjoy the day. Despite this goal, I hadn't had enough time on the feet or moments on a long run to ensure success here.

I set up a run with our group We Run Mas wherein we would start in Deep Cove, run towards Grouse Mountain and go in that direction for 3 hours. At that point, no matter where we were, we would turn back and head back to Deep Cove, either via the same route or a neighbouring  trail that would get us to BP at the top of Mount Seymour.

Vera, Carolyn, Andy (aka Deer in Headlights) and me

The run started awesome, and I was SUPER aware of my nutrition and hydration. I was fuelling before I needed to and moving at a deliberate but controlled pace to understand what my "safe" zones were. Carolyn, Vera and Andy all were on this run in different stages, Vera from start to finish. Carolyn did a short section to get back on the trails post injury, and Andy was doing the "reverse" direction to us, so he would start and finish at Grouse mountain.

By the time we hit Lynn Valley at about kilometre thirteen, I could feel my stomach start to turn. Ugh, not again. So early?!  Just before this point we ran across Solana and Hilary and they ran with us towards Grouse.
The crew took off and I slowed the pace to keep the gut in check. Just as we hit Lynn Headwaters, I took a Tums and steadily went up the stairs and climb to Old Mountain Highway.

The whole gang was waiting at the fountain and this is when the little devil on my left shoulder popped up and slaughtered the little angel on the right shoulder with a quick whip of its tail and a spear to the throat. "Hey Vera, why don't you run with the others and I'll turn around here," says the devil. "You can then run back and catch up to me, and we'll get into Deep Cove together. What do you say?"

Vera then does the BEST thing I needed that whole day. Maybe in my whole trail running history. She looks me blank in the face, looks at her watch, and says, "You said 3 hours in one direction. You have 15 more minutes. Let's go," as she turns before I can respond and heads up the technical slope in front of us. So we go.

Long runs are meant to pull you into and through these moments. Take you to the edge, toss you off, and make you realize that you can come out the other end. I fall behind over the next few kilometres and reach them at a walkway. Stomach is feeling better but my heart rate is really high and I know the difference between puking and staying settled is a matter of pace. Andy, Solana and Hilary all take off towards Andy's car, and Vera and I hit 3 hours and 5 minutes before turning back. Vera has ginger on her, which I haven't experimented with, so I pop a couple of the sugar coated magical pieces.

When I feel good, I run good. GINGER!!

Lo and behold, I feel good! Ginger is the key! We take Varley Trail to the Seymour Conservation Forest and follow the Iron Knee course to the Seymour Grind. It's a slow haul, and I forget to drink fluid, the temperature rises, and my face gets flush. Moments later, I'm cramping. We're at 23 km, and I slog up the hill and we talk about chicken curry.

Once at the top, I tell Vera about Nick's amazing push during Knee Knacker where he was cramping and still charging ahead. So, I'll channel Nick!
I take a few aggressive leaps down the trail, starting the descent, and my calf cramps up. "Is that all you got?" I tell myself. I push hard and Vera and I bound and leap and run down to Deep Cove and I feel great.

I dropped to the ground 50 feet from the parking lot with the hardest calf cramp of my life, and Vera's having a chuckle. We end up at Honey's donuts. Doesn't everyone? 31k and 5 1/2 hours of running (our return was faster, largely due to the route back)

The long run teaches us a lot. It brings us down and takes us up. I'll call it Emotional Elevation Training or E.E.T.
It does get better on the other side. Running with friends rocks! They push you. They don't give you the out. You're like a drug addict that wants to escape, and they ground you in reality, force you to face the devil and despite the shackles you have slung over your shoulders, and around your legs, your friends help push you through the adversity and deal with it. If I was solo, I might have found a way out. But I was accountable to the promise I made of the time we were going to run, and Vera held me to it. I had to deliver on that promise.

Recovery the next day was super. I felt great. My legs weren't sore, my calf was tender, but otherwise I felt wonderful. I rehydrated, refuelled and ate enough to replenish all that I diminished. The lessons I learned on this run helped me on the following weekend after when I did an orientation run with a dozen awesome trail peeps on the Diez Vista course.
me, Peter, Andrew, Melissa, Doris. About to start part deux!

My wife Simone, Melissa, Doris, Andrew, Erik, Peter and a host of others all came out to run on the Saturday morning. Most of them did 15k to 21k that day, but I had my heart set on a 5 hour run and got 31.5 glorious roots, rocky, muddy, windy kilometres in. George, who invented the Diez Vista race 18 years ago, even showed up and brought us donuts!

Geroge chatting us up

Aid station trunk

Waiting on a few more . . .

This coming weekend, we're running the back end 23k of the Squamish 50 course on an official orientation run (once again, we'll follow Gary's chalk markers), and then on Sunday it's 13k on the Cap Crusher race. So a back to back weekend of a long slow distance and then a hard push on a difficult 13k course with about 10 feet of flat sections.

I was concerned that I was going into Diez Vista 50k undertrained. Physically, that will still likely hold true, but  after the trials and tribulations and the coming to terms with myself on a deeper level, mentally I'm ready. It's gonna be a hard race, no questions. But I'm gonna enjoy the crap out of it!