Well how ’bout that folks? Another weekend, and another little race to keep the engine firing on all cylinders. My most recent exploit took place in Gatineau Parc at the Camp Fortune ski hill. I took part in the 5 Peaks trail Enduro Run, a 12km race up, down, and around the trails around the ski hill. I’m more used to riding these trails on my mountain bike, but that actually helped in the long run, as I knew what to expect, and where the trickiest parts were. I had a great result, and I’m pretty sure it was my fastest trail run to date. I didn’t have my camera with me, but you can at least check out some of the shots taken by Zoom Photo of the event (not yet indexed fully), and check out the map of the course that I made from my GPS. Once you’ve checked those out, come on back and read a few more paragraphs of exactly how it all went down for me.
Although I’ve been doing quite a bit of running in the past couple months, most of it has been on the road and pathway, not on the trails. I was certainly looking forward to getting off the pavement for a race, but suspected I may have some pretty tough competition coming from those folks who spend all their running time in the rocks, roots, and dirt. However, in spite of that, I had high expectations and planned to give it my all. After all, what’s the point of racing if you’re not trying your hardest? I have no delusions about winning most of the races I enter,I’m just there to do better than the last time I raced.
My original plan had been to bike out to the race, then bike back, which was a good plan, and would have been fun. Unfortunately, fate had a different plan for me. My alarm didn’t go off at the appointed time (or rather, I hadn’t turned it on in the first place). When I opened my eyes and rolled over, the clock read 8:07. Oops! Race registration had already started, and I clearly wasn’t going to have time to get ready and bike all the way to the start line. Damn. I quickly had my breakfast of oatmeal, took the dog for a walk, and drove to the start. The skies were overcast, and the forecast called for rain, but it looked as though we might be safe at least during the race.
I made it to the start with plenty of time to spare. Picked up my race number and chatted with some of the other racers for a bit. I knew a few people that were there, but not a ton. I’m always surprised at how few people actually sign up to do these races. They’re lots of fun, and put you in a different environment than you’re generally used to racing it. Also, there was the option of a 6k race consisting of a single loop, or a 12km race which would be two loops of the same course. I suppose if there were too many people it might get tricky on the trails, but I’m sure the venue could have supported about twice as many racers.
The 6k and 12k races both started at the same time, so there would be no way to know where exactly I’d be in the standings throughout the race. At about 10 minutes before race time, we had to self-seed ourselves according to how we thought we’d be able to finish the race. I set myself at the front of the pack, as I was pretty sure I’d be faster than a lot of the others. This was based on my past results at the Mad Trapper snowshoe races, where I’d generally be top 5. One person I knew I should try to keep up with is Dave McMahon, who leads trail running groups on Tuesdays and Sundays. I know he’s a speedy guy, so if I had any hope of a podium finish, I’d have to keep up with him.
As soon as the starting countdown finished, the pace jumped straight to ‘intense’. The first part of the loop was up a short section of the hill, then through some tricky technical downhill, before looping back through the parking lot and on to the main event. Within the first 500m or so, the group was already well dispersed. I managed to hang on for a long time with the leaders, but eventually, a group of 5 or so guys (including Dave) pulled away, and I was left to fight and hang on to my pace with another mini group hot on my heels. It pretty much stayed this was for the whole loop. I kept an eye only on my heart-rate,which was sitting pretty much steady at 172bpm. I saw a couple spikes to 184, but tried to get it back down. I’m always amazed at just how hard I can push when I need to.
In the last 300m or so of lap one, I pulled out a gel and crammed it down my throat, knowing there would be a water station just up ahead. That was going to have to keep me going for the second lap. When we got to the line, we saw that it took us 33mins for the opening lap. A smokin’ pace for sure, and confirmed by Mike at the line. Of course, now the pressure would be on to keep it up for another 30+ minutes. I had no idea how everyone else was feeling, but I was drenched and had to muster up all my strength to keep running up the hills. I certainly pulled it off, and didn’t walk a single step on the 2nd lap, at worst, I slowed down to a very slow run on some of the really steep bits, but never to a walking pace.
I certainly had the motivation, as there were a couple guys that were on my ass the entire time. I DID NOT want to get passed in closing kilometer of the race. I was also glad I’d worn my ankle braces, as twice I rolled my ankles on rocks, and if I hadn’t been wearing them, I know I would have been sprained. As it was, i had to hobble for a few steps, but was able to keep pushing. On one of the final climbs, I ran past a fellow who was walking. At this point, we were lapping some of the 6k racers, but this guy was drenched, so I was pretty sure he was in the enduro . That would mean I had made up a spot. Time to dig deep and keep it up. I had pulled ahead of one of my 2 shadows, but the other guy was tearing up the course behind me. On the next uphill, I put everything I had into it, and pulled away. Now to keep the pace.
As I kept moving, I once again heard the sound of feet behind me. i glanced back on the next turn, and realized it was the walker I had passed. He was a good foot taller than me, so his stride was much longer than mine. He was almost on top of my feet going through some of the stuff. I really wanted to keep my spot, but I could tell he was fighting hard to gain his spot, and it would be hard to stay ahead. True to form, when we popped out of the woods on the final downhill stretch to the finish, he turned on the jets, and strode past. I sprinted harder than I had ever sprinted in my life, but there was just no way I could get to him and pass due to his height. In the end, I crossed the line less than a second behind him. I didn’t feel too bad though, as he had been leading the race apparently for a lot of it. So he didn’t ‘steal’ it from me, he won his own spot back. I can live with that.
The other bonus was that we ended up pushing each other. Our pace had picked up, so the other two guys were now well back from us at the finish. I had pulled him through the last technical stuff, then he forced me into that crazy sprint for the finish. Only a little later would I find out that he had cost me my podium 😉 He was also in the 30-39 year old male category, and had clinched 3rd. Darn. Our overall standings were pretty good as well, and we were certainly amongst the speediest. Regardless of the actual positions, I was elated with my performance. I must say though, 24 hours later, and I’m paying the price. My legs are super-stiff. It feels the way it does after running a marathon, and I only ran 12k! That’s what I get for not doing any trail running I guess 🙂
Well, that’s it for my story. After mingling for a while at the finish (while it rained!), I headed home. Headed to a neighbours garage sale where there were burgers and pizza available and relaxed for a bit. After that, a nice shower, and of all things, mowing the lawn. Hey, what can I say, someone has to do it, right? Next week, it’ll be back to relaxing, as I will hopefully head out of town for a bit to enjoy some time on the Madawaska River. Stay tuned for pics and tales from that. Thanks for reading my story, and hope you enjoyed it.