Bouncing Back… With Another Gold!

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Howdy gang. Hope everyone’s had a good week! It’s hard to imagine but just a little over a week ago I completed my first Iron Distance triathlon. The first order of business after doing something like that is of course to rest for a little bit. However, that’s not the way I roll over here atActiveSteve .com! Although I did manage to do absolutely no training for the entire week, I didn’t want that to continue indefinitely, so on Wednesday I looked into doing the 5 PeaksEnduro trail running race at my friend Mike Caldwell’s property (the ARK) in Farrellton , Quebec. At the time, I hadn’t decided exactly whether or not I’d actually race. I thought that I would either volunteer at the race, or maybe do the short (5-6 km) race. As you might imagine though, things didn’t work out quite that way. Read on to find out what I’m talking about. You can also check out some of the pictures taken at the race by the fine folks at ZoomPhoto.ca.

The first few days after the Iron were a bit rough for me. Although my legs weren’t too bad, I certainly didn’t feel like doing any hard core training. However, by the same token, I also wasn’t suffering from the post-race depression that some people do after a big event. By biggest concern was that I wouldn’t be able to get back into training and racing, and that I’d get fat and lazy. Ha ha. So to combat that, I decided to test the waters with a trail run on Saturday. The idea was pretty simple, I’d show up, and if I felt good, I’d race, if not, I’d just watch and volunteer to help out. The weather was calling for rain, but that doesn’t make a big difference after all the crap I’ve trained through.

Saturday came, and I got up nice and early, but didn’t feel the normal pre-race jitters, because I was determined to just make a fun time of it. I got out to the ARK about an hour before the race and chatted a bit with Mike. He told me that I was free to race if I wanted, as there wasn’t a huge need for extra volunteers. Okay, that settled it I guess. I went into the ARK and slapped my money on the table. Of course, by then I’d also decided that if I was going to race, it would have to be the Full Monty, not the short race. I’d heard Mike saying that his GPS had read the course was only 5km, which meant that the 2 loopEnduro should only be about 10km, which shouldn’t be too bad.

I did a quick warm-up, slapped on my hat, shades and GPS, and made my way to the start line, 1km down the gravel road. The idea was to get the racers to spread out a bit before heading into the woods, with all the hills and roots and such, to avoid a big pile-up. Great idea. However, from the starting gun, I was blown away by the speed of the crowd. Before I knew it, I was pretty much at the back of the pack. Fine by me, I was going to take it relatively easy, right? Personally, I thought most people were just going too hard off the bat. At the start of the trail, I saw Mike, and just said, “They’re going way too fast”. Not that I think I’m an expert or anything, but I’d say that I have a far better idea on pacing these days, so I stuck to my guns.

Each lap of the course was a combination of what Mike uses as the ‘flat’ and ‘hilly’ courses used in the Mad Trapper snowshoe races. As such, there was plenty of hills, and I got to feel a lot of that pain. I noticed that my heart rate was red-lining quite extensively as I ran. For a lot of the first loop, I was hitting about 180+BPM . And yet, I didn’t seem to be passing too many people. At about the 5.5km point, I hit the aid station, and told Mike that maybe in fact I was the one that was too slow. He just told me that I’d likely start reeling them in on the second lap. Nothing to really do except keep going though. There was definitely some pain going on, but I’ve gotten quite good at suffering over the past year. The end of the lap held the biggest hills in the loop, so coming through the start/finish was a nice moment, as I was over halfway through. I checked my watch and noted that my distance was actually up around 8km already! That meant that the course was actually going to be closer to 15km rather than 10-12km. I now felt better about my pacing and my likelihood of passing people.

The funny thing about any race over 10km, and especially one that is off-road, is that unless you’re comfortable with those distances, there’s a good chance you’ll start to suffer. I’d heard that several people in this race weren’t used to running longer distances. Win one for me. I’m all about endurance, not sprinting. I’d also carried a bottle with me and hydrated for the first hour. Another point for me 🙂 Now, remember that blistering opening pace leaving me in the back? Well, I was guessing that would come back to bite some people in the butt. So back to lap 2.

The pace was still putting the hurt on me, but I was able to keep pushing through it. I kept telling myself that either people were right on my ass, or that there was someone just up ahead that I could catch up to. You see, in a smaller race in the woods like this, you spend a lot of time running alone, unsure if you’re truly gaining or losing. It just becomes a mental game to push yourself. By the time the second half of the second lap came around, I was starting to pass more people. Not tons, but definitely making up ground. At one point, I passed about 3 people. For sure this must be helping me, considering some of the other people had been racing in the single loop race. On the final hill of the race, I saw a guy up ahead walking up the hill. I decided that I’d pass him by the top of the hill. Yup, that hurt. I slowed down by a ton as well, but managed to sort of speed walk up, and powered past the fellow.

After passing him, I was really worried that he’d pass me back on the downhill, so I really started booting it down a steep part of the hill. Wouldn’t you know it, I took a header straight to the forest floor, rolling in the dirt. Luckily, I didn’t hit and roots or anything, and did my best to roll over and pop up to keep running to the finish. I took a second to glance behind me, and didn’t see the other guy at all, so I figured I should be in the clear, as long as I didn’t fall again. Just to be safe, I put in a good finishing kick to get to the finish in a time of 1:28:58, oddly, a mere 2 seconds slower than my 1/2 marathon time of earlier in the year.

After the race, I was probably the only person who took advantage of the outdoor showers to clean up. You see, that final fall wasn’t my only one. I had fallen once on the first loop as well, so had won the dirtiest racer award, as I don’t think anyone else fell at all. I guess my legs just didn’t want to do what I wanted them to. At the awards ceremony, I was surprised that I had in fact won first place in the Male 30-39 category! I’d also managed to scrape in 9th place overall. Sweet. That was pretty much unexpected.

So there you have it. Two weeks, and two back to back age category 1st place finishes. This has definitely turned into my winningest summer. I guess I’d better quit, since I’m now ahead, right? Don’t count on it, but I’d better be careful not to get expectations up too high for my future races. After all, I’m really just doing this stuff to have fun, I’m not trying to be a pro or anything. After all, I’m really getting a bit tired of all this training. I have a feeling that October and November will be a bit more restful for me. I’ve got two more events in September, then I’m done. Then of course, I’ve got 4 months of hiking and biking in NZ! Crazy. That’s it for my little story about my trail race. Remember kids, do or do not, there is no try 😉

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