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Monday, May 26, 2014

Race Report: Iron Knee 24k, Redemption

Race Day May 25, 2014

Alley, Leona, Gordon, Catherine, Emma Lee, Sean
Me, Elaine
A lot can happen in one year! In 2013, the Iron Knee was my 2nd official "trail" race, and I was still bewildered by the whole thing. Fast forward to yesterday, and I had one of the best racing days of my life!

For some background, the Iron Knee is a race put on by Mountain Madness, run by RD and super cool guy Peter Watson. He also does the Fat Dog Ultra Series, which is an immense undertaking. There are two distances on this particular race, the Iron Knee 24k & the Tender Knee 10k.

Being involved in the Ultra distance level of competition for my A races, the shorter races of 16k to 24k are the ideal way for me to get my kicks out with some hard efforts and speed along wherever I can. I also had a bone to pick with this race from last year's disastrous first 5k, so I was interested in slaying this beast with glory. The goal: run hard!

We had a great turn out of friends from our running group We Run Mas. We all know each other well over the past few years, and tend to be a pretty chill set of people; no uber-Alphas here. We chatted and did some warm ups before the race. Sean was tackling this distance for the first time, but is naturally a fast dude with great technical ability. Gordon, Alley and I were using it as a training race for Summer Ultras. Everyone else had their own game plans.

I bought a pair of Salomon Sense Pro's two days prior and hadn't worn them yet. Do I race in them or not? Well, they were damn comfortable and I wanted to run the Squamish 42 orientation run in them the following week, so I decided to succumb to peer pressure from my boys and Emma Lee who was also in new Salomons! So they stayed on my feet, and wow, best decision ever. Aside from two stops on the race to adjust the right shoe laces (I did it up too tight), they were like rockets on my feet! More on this soon.
New Kicks, Don't wear 'em on race day . . . fu@k that! They're arrrsum!!
Peter Watson does the standard pre-race brief, and then we line up. I move to the left side, and then he does a stuttered countdown as he tries to sync the Tender Knee races who are in Lynn Valley with our start. It's something like this, "5, 4, 3 . . . .2 . . . . .. and. . . ..1 - GO!" Oh trail races, how I love thee.

So we're off. I have a plan to run the entire first climb up Nancy Greene Way, which is 1.2k of road uphill to Grouse parking lot. I'm settled into the middle of the pack, and a few people pass me on the way up, but I also pass a few along the way! Yay hill training.

We cut right heading to Skyline Drive, and I see Gary Robbins aka "G Money" marshalling/cheering as we go. High five, and I carry on. I'm paying special attention to the runners around me on this race. I glance ahead to see colours, shoes and packs and start taking mental notes. I want to pass all those people. I also take notice of anyone who passes me on the uphill sections. I feel like Arya Stark from Game of Thrones with her list of people that she wants to terminate. These runners are all on my list, just not in an illegal/criminal way.

Arya Stark: Not Today
The Skyline road is a "recovery" section for me. I had this in mind from the get go, so fast walk up as a few more runners get on my list. Kate runs past, and we run to the drop into Mosquito Creek together. We talk about how it's nice to meet face to face after meeting on FB, and I pass her shortly on the descent before she rips up the technical undulating uphill of BP.

I'm carrying a single 20oz handheld bottle of Infinit Nutrition with 290 calories of fuel plus all my electrolytes and fluid, so I'm not stopping or replenishing at any aid stations.

As we carry on along the BP coasting along the Mount Fromme section, I'm picking off the runners I saw on the service road leading to Skyline. A runner here, a runner there. I pay attention, ensuring they don't pass me again. I see a group of four on the gradual downhill leading to Mountain Highway about 1k out from the fountain and next aid station and reel them in. Everytime I see a root section, steep rocks or big jump, that's when I turn it on and push a hard burst to get past, calling out, "On your left," each time.

Before Old Mountain Highway, there's a steep part, and I see another group of 5 going slow down the incline. I call out and jump down the trail, push past the gravel connector and back into the BP heading to Lynn Valley. I'm having a blast passing people! So fun, and the Cap Crusher experience is a huge factor in pushing this feeling and embracing my mini race amongst the pack.

After the steps, I run towards Lynn Headwaters and am feeling good. I plan on using Cedar Mills to LSCR as another recovery section, and I get passed by one runner. I don't see him again and he was cooking on the flat sections. Sometimes you gotta let one get away.

I see my family by the bridge that crosses Lynn Headwaters, and my youngest son runs with me for a quick stretch, after I high five my cheer team.

High Fives to my boys!
Photo Credit: My wife of course
As we pass Rice Lake, a girl named Marina runs with me stride for stride. We get to know each other for a few kilometres and go through LSCR aid station together, again without stopping. We're moving at a solid pace, and my splits on the 3k section are 5:08, 4:33 & 4:45. In other words, I'm running my 10k pace & effort on a mid-distance trail run! Superb! I catch up to Gordon on this section, and tell him I have to make up time before the Seymour Grind comes up. He and Marina both pass me on the Mystery Creek climb and I don't see them again. No matter, I wasn't expecting to reel in anyone this late in the race. Of course, it ain't over 'til it's over!

The Seymour Grind is a mulch, twig ridden climb that has an elevation gain of 300m in 3km. It's not the steepest thing you've ever seen, but it's also not too exciting. I put a mantra in my head, "You'll get there when you get there." I powerhike, baby step run, and walk the whole way up, and get passed by three people. One I don't see again, the other two will get on my list.

I love the signs that Peter puts out on the grind, and read all of them. It makes it easy to walk/run, read and break the hill into small sections. Once the last few hundred meters comes up, I run to the top and am greeted with cheers from the aid station workers. It took me 19 minutes to complete the climb. I know it's downhill after this into the Deep Cove descent, so I turn onto the trail and BANG, cramp. Right calf. I stop for a few seconds, stretch it, and two girls run past me as I stretch it out. The two girls run down the hill, hollering in joy, and I put them on my list.

I was expecting to push hard on this straight downhill to Old Buck, but I dial it back and let my legs relax. I'm talking to myself and saying stuff like, "Downhill, this is what I'm built for, I don't cramp on downhill. Cramp at the finish line!" and "NOT NOW!!"

The right turn after Old Buck, and I'm feeling better, downed the rest of my fuel and start to pick up the pace again. I pass two guys who were faster on the Seymour Grind, one of whom was on the side of the trail in full leg cramp, and now my eyes are on catching up to the two girls.

As I exit like a Viper out the Battlestar Galactica onto Indian River Road; I see the two girls about 300m ahead. Time to turn it up! I start running interval level pace and am pushing on the road section at sub 4 minute pace. I dive into the trail, and as Quarry rock comes up, they're right in front of me. I'd rather be the chaser than the chased, so I keep pace behind them, stride for stride. I find out their names are Jordana and Claire. I'm having a hard time not going too fast, but I know that there's three sets of stairs coming up mixed in with the downhill parts. We're calling out "Runner!" as much as we can to give warning to the day hikers and families on the trail, and Jordana yells back at me, "How did you catch us?!" I know they want to stay in front of me, and are pushing to keep me from passing. Jordana calls out, "Come on Claire. Come on!!" It's a three person race, and I'm having a hoot!

Claire seems to be fading with the effort (relative term here, she was still kicking ass), and I punch in between the two friends and divide them. Claire drops back. Now I have Jordana to race. We hit the last descent, and I call out to her I'm passing on her left. She kicks it up, and I start leaping like a mad person, channelling my inner Gary. Just as I pass her, both of my calves seize up, and I start yelling, "Not now! Not NOW! NOT NOW" over and over, down the final steps, see the marshall, "NOT NOW!" and run into the final chute towards the finish line. I'm trying to run fast, but can't follow a proper form with both legs revolting, so it's all mental. I hear the cheers, and cross the finish line! Jordana finishes 2 seconds behind me, and Claire 2 second behind her. Thank goodness there wasn't an additional 10 meters to the end. I would've been chicked.

Hugs, congratulations from my family and friends, and then we cheer the rest of our crew in.

Here's my official stats :
67th out of 176 runners
PR 2:30:19 (26 minutes faster than last year!!)

Here's the Strava report

Full Race Results

We were planning on a bbq after, but the rain was pouring down, and I was feeling a little depleted, so we left after everyone came in.

Elaine has a new finish line pose (tm)

A few of our crew decided to tailgate at Panorama Park, which looked like fun. Next time we'll really do it up!

Tailgate Party

These two were up to no good!!

Live Facebook Tweeters

And here's our epic finisher's pic!

Mmm, chocolate!

Next up: 42k training run in Squamish next Sunday!!

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