Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cardiac Classic

Knee, elbow, hip, shoulder, and head...almost. In no specific order, those are the body parts that were intimate, and interactive, with the Gear Jammer trail, up on Burnaby Mountain, this past Sunday during the Cardiac Classic, put on by West Coast Racing. Other than nearly smashing my head open on the slick downhill, they put on an amazing show. It went so well and everyone had a great time.

This was a three lap course for my category, Citizen Male 30+, and I expected it to take about 1:30. When I arrived at the start line for 9:00 am I heard the commisaire taking attendance. I thought it highly unusual, but rose my hand and said "present" at the appropriate moment. After a quiet "go!" we started up the powerline trail to be spread out before Mel's, an almost certain hike-a-bike. On a good day it might be rideable, but not with a pack of other riders after a new fallen rain. Not for this rider anyway. The climb and flank across to Gear Jammer was challenging, but was certainly the factor that spread us out the most. Heading into Gear Jammer I was possessed. My huge grin carried me down two, then three switchbacks. On the fourth I took a hard dirt nap, and was pretty rattled. The riders around me were so good about checking on me, and helping me up. I probably need a new helmet, but so the story goes.

I continue downhill on to lower snake and I was a bit timid, can't imagine why, but managing to hold my spot before being spit back out on to the powerline trail to climb back up to the start. At least I thought that was where I was going. A right hand turn led me into another fast and flowy downhill and I was renewed. The speed and flow of that section got me jacked up again before climbing to the feed zone and heading into Dead Moped to finish the first lap.

Subsequent laps were similar, other than a humorous tumble on the third. I ended up laying in the bushes laughing after sliding from a bridge. I came out with branches and green foliage stuck to me. I told the course marshal it was for camouflage. I didn't want other racers to see me coming.

It took me 1:20 and I felt great. I'll definitely do this race again. So many great volunteers, including myself and Mr. Duncan Coo, of the the Flight Crew, tons of prizes, heaps of sponsors, a brilliant location, and two amazing race directors. Great job Matt and Mike!

Following the race I told race director, Mike Tunnah, that I'd love to see this race done as a 6 hour enduro next year. I'll be the first guy to sign up.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Test of Metal 2009

This past weekend I answered my own question, "does running training transfer over into cycling training?" The short answer is yes, but the long answer is with pain. I managed to ride the Test of Metal course five minutes faster than last year, but it wasn't a pretty 3 hours and 31 minutes.

In past races I had gone out at a manageable pace, but this time I told myself I would go out hard. Apparently everyone else had the same idea. The pace was blistering and by the time I hit Alice Lake I was thinking about dropping out and doing some fun day-riding. My legs were just barely functioning and certainly lactic as I rode by Credit Line and I couldn't help thinking that would be a lot more fun. It wasn't long after that however, that I started to feel a bit better. Jack's trail was super buff and the flow on the trail was such that I was able to spin out some of the crap. I was thankful to be stuck in behind a speedy rider, and good friend, Karen Todd. And just three riders ahead of her was my arch nemesis, Duncan Coo. With my lack of mountain bike training this year, I figured Duncan finally had me beat. As Alice Lake spit us out onto Bob Macintosh Trail, Karen sped off and Duncan and I "yo yo'd" back and forth until the bottom of 9 mile hill. The lead up to 9 mile was meant to be super fast and flowy, but the trails were busy and clogged. Rob's and Cliff's corners and Roller Coaster were tight and slow. One rider was blaming the road riders. He said they were fast on the road and then faking it on the dirt. I laughed. I guess it made sense.
Going through the feed zone the first time was great. My feed boy, Mike Tunnah, stood in the middle of the road in his bright green West Coast Racing jersey, screaming. He had two bottles, one of them was not mine, and that's when I knew Duncan was still right behind me.
On our ride out to 9 mile we had a quick complaint session about the slow down Roller Coaster and then we settled into 45 minutes of pain. Once again, I left Duncan behind, but knew he was there. With those quads, he's always there, like Chuck Norris. Just before 9 mile bridge I caught up with Karen again, but was too tired to talk. I geared up for my ascent of Lava Flow Hill, passing ten other riders. I knew what was coming. The Rip! Thanks to the Test of Metal crew, the Rip had been raked and was incredibly fast. Before I knew it I was into the legendary Powerhouse Plunge. My body was really starting to hurt and I immediately had the "stupids" as I entered this trail. Managing to ride it all was surprising, but it wasn't pretty. All the while I kept reminding myself to spin as much as possible. I was certain I was going to cramp on my second pass through the Powerhouse feed zone.
Again, there was Mike screaming in the middle of the road, but this time he only had one bottle. I silently cheered as Mike pushed me up the hill and around the corner. Before entering Crumpit Woods I guzzled down the entire bottle of Nuun and just in time for a wicked awesome quad cramp. I muscled my way through the cramp and pretty much all of Crumpit Woods to meet a head wind on Plateau Drive. The end was near and I was going for it. Unfortunately my legs weren't going for it with me. Something was heavy and slow. I thought nothing of it and finished the race in 3:31.
I milled around for awhile to eat, see friends finish, and most importantly, cheer on Lara. She came across the line in 4:48 and was that person with the pumping arm and the ginormous grin. It was pretty cool.
After lounging on the grass, eating a sausage plate, and hearing of everybody's day, I retrieved my Yeti from the bike check to see a flat tire. I think I know why the last bit of the race was so tough.
It was a perfect day out there. The trails were tacky and buff and everyone I know set a personal best. Congratulations everyone. Next year I might ride my bike a few more times before the race. Running is great, but some of my muscles were definitely not prepared.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Cougars of Squamish

Recently Squamish has really seen it's share of cougars. Yesterday a small female "mauled" a three year old in the Brackendale area, and was subsequently shot. I love that word "mauled". I'm sure it wasn't a good time for the little girl, but the news makes a couple scratches sound like death. Anyway, then on Saturday another was shot. Not sure why so many are down low, but many a trail tale, especially Test of Metal trail riders, are all about cougar sitings recently. There was even a trap set up at the entrance to Crumpit Woods. I don't think they caught anything, but the cage has been removed.The most recent story I've seen is this video below. The story kind of speaks for itself, but what I can't figure out is why would reasonably prudent people mill around to film a huge carnivore. That thing could mess you up. Isn't it generally recommended that you try to look large and back away slowly? They sound British, maybe they're not reasonably prudent. Anyway, check it out.

I'd like to tell you that no cougars were harmed for the filming of this video, but I heard that particular cougar was the one that was shot Saturday. That sucks. It's a pretty cool animal.
I hope the only cougars I see at this weekends Test of Metal are at the finish line serving cold beverages.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Two Owls and a Pair o' Red Shoes

I hesitate to write this blog too close to the last, but this is too good not to tell and I've been waiting. Last Thursday I headed out into the trails to get in a last run before the 5 Peaks race - you know, just flush out the junk and turn over a couple times. It was supposed to be a half hour run, but it became a half hour sight seeing adventure.

As I entered the trailhead (above) and across Hastings Creek (Lynnmour area) I noticed something move in the tree beside me. An owl! Two of them (Hooters, Gary). And how fortunate, I had my camera with me. They didn't seem to give two hoots about me so I hung around for awhile. A long while. I'm standing there in my bright red S-Labs and I'm not running. If you've seen these shoes you'd know I should've been running...or break dancing. Anyway, I watched the owls for 30 minutes, got back in my car, and didn't run at all. And it didn't matter.

Sorry about the bad "two hoots" joke. It was there so I had to.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

5 Peaks at S.F.U....Really?

I haven't raced as short as 10k in years and I was pretty nervous going into this one. It feels great to train and race between 25 and 50 k all the time, but I knew that 10k was going to be a lung searing sprint. And it was.

At first I thought, "how bad could it be? It's at SFU". That was a stupid thing to think. The trails were steep, technical, and did I mention steep? Although we ran a loop, I think we ran uphill the whole time. Like one of those Escher paintings. It was an absolutely perfect place for the second 5 peaks race of the year. Great choice, Mark.

Anyway, I ceded myself up front with some big dogs and hoped for the best. We blazed it down the road for about a kilometer and cut hard left into some amazing single track (Gear Jammer). Of course it bottle-necked right away but I managed to get by a good number of racers early on. I was screaming down that section following every step of fellow racer Kim Steed. Four of us came out onto Powerline Trail and headed north up hill toward Dead Moped and back onto Mel's Trail. We carried on up hill for a solid 25 minutes until we came right back around to Gear Jammer. This time I was all alone and the turn over wasn't the same. I could actually hear my feet making a clomping noise. Even though I was alone I was embarrassed to be making so much noise. I tried hard to get back into a rhythm, but it took a while. The second loop brought us all the way around to the north side of Burnaby Mountain and into the zone of lactic hell - Cardiac Hill. Pre-race I thought for sure I would be able to run it all, but no can do. I power-walked about 100 meters and then heard a Kiwi screaming from up top. "Let's go, Tom! You're almost there!" What could I do but start running again. I emerged from the bushes and saw the finish line. It felt great to come in just under 50 minutes knowing I had left it all out there. I don't think I could've done anymore. I managed 9th place overall and 4th in my age group. 1 minute from the podium. Maybe another time.

Duncan Coo, of the Flight Crew, was 3rd place in his age group and came away with a bit of 5 peaks hardware. Amazing run, man!

After the race we spent a bit time in the Salomon tent hearing the stories of other racers. General opinion was that people were surprised at how many steep and challenging hills were on this course. Apparently everyone thought as I had, "It's SFU, how bad could it be?"

All in all it was terrific. I particularly enjoyed the eggs, sausage, hashbrowns, and coffee that I had after the race at Tommy's. It always tastes best when you stink like a runner.

Next race...Test of Metal. I'm quite interested to find out what might happen in that one as I have only been out on the bike about 4 times. Crossing my fingers that running training and cycling training transfers well. Yeah, right!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Iron Knee 2009

It was a hot morning for a race and I strapped into my Salomon S-Labs ready for a P.B...or at least I hoped. I'd previously run a 1:51 over this 21 km course and I really wanted to come in closer to 1:45. I also really wanted to beat fellow Flight Crew Member, and good friend, Duncan Coo. I'd been "secret training" for 9 weeks so why shouldn't I expect a P.B. and to beat Duncan?

As we started out of the Grouse parking lot I followed Duncan closely, trying to figure out what he was up to. I was thinking he was waiting for me, and then he'd follow me like he has in the past. It's his signature move to tail a fellow runner and then bury them with his gargantuan quads just before the finish.

Anyway, I passed him and carried on through Baden Powell Trail heading east toward Lynn Headwaters. As I crested the climb to St. Georges bench I found a nice pace with another good friend, Brad Cunningham. He carried me through to the headwaters and then left me on the flats. He's a turn-over guy. I ran through the midway with another buddy, Rob Doyle, who is also incredibly strong and quick. Considering the company, I started to wonder if I had ceded myself properly. With a push from my teaching colleague and coach, I put my head down and headed for the powerline climb up Mount Seymour. I knew I could run this monster, but I wasn't sure if I had saved enough today. On previous training runs I managed about 18 minutes river to peak. I managed the same on race day, even with a short walk just before the top. From there I made my way down hill toward the final section into Deep Cove. As I came out on to Indian River Road I grabbed some Cola from the Steed Cycles aid station. Thanks for the liquid encouragement, Kim. Back into Baden Powell and still no sign of Duncan, but four runners just ahead. The section from Quarry Rock is a personal favourite of mine and I had a suspicion that I might be able to catch these guys, and 1 girl. As I got by the third of the male runners and looked up to see Katrina, the first place women, I snagged my toe on an elevated root and hit the dirt. I rolled through it with style and grace of course, but it shook up my confidence for the remaining kilometer. A little rattled, I came out onto Panorama Drive and down into the park, still in front of the men, but no Katrina. I ran across the finish feeling solid and reading another 1:51. But, where was Duncan? I walked down to the ocean to bath my tired legs and at 1:58, Duncan's name was announced.

I'd managed one of my goals, to beat Duncan, but I still haven't run under 1:51. After telling Duncan about my secret training plan, I could see that "I'm going to get you" look in his eye. I'm really going to have to train hard to keep up from here on.

A great day. It was hot and sunny and I felt terrific. I'm really looking forward to this weekends
5 Peaks race at S.F.U. I haven't run a race this short in a while so it promises to be interesting. I was incredibly happy racing in Salomon's S-Labs and I'll definitely be out in them again this weekend.