Sunday, September 30, 2018

Rum Runner Relay 2018

So here we are at the end of September already, and that means Rum Runners. This was my seventh year taking part and now I was on my third team. No longer playing the roll of Hobo, I was running this year for the BLT Runners Men's Team, Extra Crispy. As I had done this race many times, I helped play a roll in getting the BLT Runners ready for this day as well, which turns out to be good, since our Captain got trapped in the horror of the world of Airports until part way through the day.

In case you don't know, Rum Runners Relay is a 10 leg race from Prospect to Lunenburg in Nova Scotia. Usually it is a 10 person team (ours was) and is a combination of tough racing and tough fun.

This year I opted to run Leg 1, as I try to collect the whole set (I had 1,5 and 8 left over). This had the benefit of being done early and then enjoying the rest of the day care free, but the ugh factor of having to be up and in racing form for a 6:30am start. Oh well.

So BLT Runners had not only a Men's team but also a Women's team and for Leg 1, it was myself and Heather starting things off.

Reflective vest were needed as it was super dark. Some runners also opted for headlamps, but I found there to be enough ambient light to run without one.

Soon we were off and I jumped into 4th place. There was a ton of tough runners on this opening leg of 13.6km. The top 3 zoomed off into the distance. My plan was to hold a similar pace to last weekend, though I knew that I might not be able to hold that pace again on a much hillier course.

Another runner came by and was running my goal pace so I tucked in and off we went. I held on for the next 4 kilometers as he eased up for a bit then ran alone in the dark. Having run this route earlier this year as a practice, I knew I wasn't missing much in the way of scenery.

Soon, Jaime, who had paced me earlier, came back by and was dragging alone another couple of runners. They eased off, but I knew I just had to run my own race as mu pace was still in the mid 3:40 range and pushing faster wasn't going to be a good idea. As much as I wanted another top finish, I also wanted a strong run and knew that my A race was coming up.

By the 10 km mark, I was getting happy that the leg was coming to a close, but I knew I also had to push to get up the hill in front of me, and it was a steep one, in fact this leg was equal to climbing 28 flights of stairs. Thanks for that info Garmin.  I pushed up the hill, seeing my pace on that kilometer drop to around 4 min/km. But i survived and a glance behind me showed I had a clear run to the end as long as I was smart.

I think the hardest thing now was essentially running by my house and not wanting to jump inside and go back to bed. But another quick hill and a downhill and I was soon at the finish line. A little push to get it over and I crossed officially at 51.15 with pace of 3:46. Wowza that was tough.

A drink and a Cliff bar (thanks Dave) and I was right as rain (did I mention the perfect weather?) and ready top face the rest of the day, cheering my team mates, meeting up with other runner friends and traveling the South Shore.

I do believe, no matter what the votes say, that our BLT Runner water stop was pretty freaking great. I managed to put and extra 2000 steps on my daily count with some fabulous dance moves.

In the end our team finished 14th overall out of 70 teams, and that is great. We didn't set out to be a super team, but one that was capable of good solid runs and good solid fun. We achieved. Our women's team finished 4th out of the women's only teams and that was also awesome.

Next year, Leg 8?

Monday, September 24, 2018

MEC Race 4 - Musquodoboit 15km

So I couldn't resist signing up for MEC Race 4, even though speed wasn't my thing this summer. The body was feeling pretty good, and this race usually allows for some fast times. Also, I figured it would give me a chance to actually regain a little speed lost during my switch to trail running, while limiting the stress on the body (it is a flat crusher dust trail run).

A bunch of BLT Runners headed out of town to take this race on, and a lot of great results were had.

I'll keep it all brief, since the story is pretty straight forward. I had a main goal and that was to run at a 3:45 min/km pace for the race. That would best my current PB at a 15km race which was set here last year while running a Half Marathon training pace run of 3:48. Last year I finished 4th, so it certainly wouldn't have hurt to grab a placing as well, but the A goal was the important thing.

So i lined up at the front with a few people and soon we were off. I jumped into the lead and felt good, settling into my opening pace, then easing back just a touch to get to around 3:45.

It didn't take long before myself and Luke put in a gap to third and I dragged us along for a bit.

By about the 4-5 km area, Luke jumped in front of me and started to pull away. I didn't feel bad, but I also knew that I couldn't burn myself up this early. And not knowing how strong Luke was, I didn't want to risk the main goal. So I stayed on at a 3:45 pace.

As I hit the turn around, Luke had a good 200 m gap on me and looked strong. I was certainly feeling the pace, but was doing fine. By the time I saw third place, I had a good 500-600m of gap and felt comfortable that i could work my own race at this point. Slowly Luke pulled away. 

For the rest, i just kept the pace as even as possible, eventually catching up with 10km and 5 km runners. There was plenty of room to pass people, so that wasn't an issue. With about 300m to go, I started to pick up the pace, though my average was right on. I eventually crossed in 55:36 with an average pace of 3:44 and was totally happy. I feel that pushing too much harder wasn't where I was that day, so any attempt at going for the win was not realistic. Second place overall, though, was wonderful. 

The cool Fall temperature was perfect for a hard effort. and I think that shows in my heart rate graph.

I was able to keep things perfectly flat, with a small surge at the end over the last 2.5 minutes. 

Now to rest up and get ready for the Rum Runner Relay.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Crooked Trees Duathlon, Keppoch - 2018

Sometimes a little gem appears and you just can't say no. Thus was the case of the last minute Triathlon Nova Scotia Off Road Duathlon at Keppoch Mountain. This race didn't exist until a hole in the schedule appeared and a great group took it as an opportunity to jump in with something new and unique to the area. 

Keppoch has become a bit of a local draw in Nova Scotia for Mountain Bikers, with great flowing trails up and down the mountain and some crazy gnarly steep descents. So adding an off road duathlon was, logistically, not a problem. 

I was entry number 1. I am by no means a mountain biker, but I am a duathlete and this new challenge fit perfect with my trail running program I have been focused on this year. At the very least, I'd get a great workout for the day.

I drove up the morning of with Sarah and Heather, both taking in the (maybe the smart choice) Sprint Distance Du, while I signed up for the Standard Distance. We arrived and the casual atmosphere was really nice.  

So, I don't even own a mountain bike, but my good buddy Sheldon at Sportwheels, hooked me up with a loaner. This Norco was older stock and is used as a loaner at the shop, but he tuned it up nicely and the shifting and brakes worked perfectly. And based on my test ride, it had just enough easy gearing to make it up the steepest climbs. 

As this was the first year for this race and it was kind of last minute, the crowd was small, but that doesn't mean there wasn't some tough competition. Certainly there were a load of people who were awesome on a mountain bike. A race briefing before the race showed us just what the course was going to be like and what trail riding etiquette was in case we came across other riders.  

Race organizers decided to start us back from the trail entrance for the first run in order to spread the field out a bit rather than have a crowd of us try to enter the woods all at once. Soon we were off and Peter, Daniel and I lead the way for the Standard Distance race. 

The trail was wonderful. Up and downs, twists and turns.  Daniel fell less than a kilometer in, but jumped back up quickly. Soon  he and I took off from Peter before the main climb of the first run. This run went from the base to the top of the hill, covering over 150m in less than 1.5 km. It was tough but we made it up and then Daniel took over with some very fast downhill running. I didn't stray too far though.

A brief foray on an access road lead us back into the woods and some really fast, downhill.  So fast that we both missed a portion of the course and went a different way. Apparently not the only ones to do so, though Peter managed to actually run the correct way. That made us come into Transition slightly behind Peter, having run an extra 0.5 km. 

As i opted to bike in my trail shoes, I had a blazing fast T1 and was first out on the bike though. But within 1 km I was passed by Peter and Daniel as they put some strong effort into getting into the single track first. Still I made decent time, banking on being able to do 30 minute laps (this was a double lap course in my race). 

I'm not going to say this was easy. It was tough. Most of the trail up was quite smooth, with some super steep switchbacks. But i made it to the top and began the descent. Unfortunately I dropped my chain a few times on some super rough patches. Realistically that made me lose maybe 2 minutes  or less. But it did mean that I took the second lap a little less vigorous.  At least I think that was why I took it easier. It was also likely because the first lap was tough. 

By the time I reached the top of the climb the second time, my body was really feeling things. My back was tight, my arms were weak, and my quads were destroyed. Still, all I had to do was go down!

And down I went, on a tight switch back, I was so tired that I grabbed too hard on the brakes and fell off the bike.  Luckily I was going slowly and the damage was just a scraped knee and shin. I was back up and riding quickly, but overall it looks like my second lap was minutes slower than the first. I was also passed near the end by Tim C. who was flying down with supreme control. 

Luckily for me, Tim C. only passed me near the end of the ride down and I caught back up to him in transition 2. I was back into running form quickly and headed back to the toughest hill around. This run was shorter than the first but basically included all the hardest parts of the first run. I made it to the top of the climb, grabbed some water (darn it was hot), and headed for the downhill single track. Happily this time the race director had fixed the issue with people going off course, so I ran the correct way, popping out and crossing the finish line in 3rd place.

Daniel had blazed to the win off of a strong mountain bike, Peter coming second a few minutes ahead of me, and I was totally wiped out but oh so happy.  I had hoped to beat 2 hours but eventually came in officially at 2:02. The dropped chains and fall didn't help, so I think I was physically there for my goal, which is great. 

This was one of the toughest events I have ever raced. It was a whole body beating, I dare say tougher than the marathon I raced a few years ago, and tougher than any triathlon of a similar distance I have done.   

It was great to see Heather and Sarah do really well, both winning their races (the one Sprint race became a sort of Sprint and Sprint Plus race due to the various paths chosen). We drove back to Halifax, but not before stopping for a yummy burrito at my favorite stop in Truro, Habeneros. 

Word is they are planning an off road triathlon next year as well as the duathlon. Colour me interested. But maybe I'll try and get on that mountain a little earlier, just to get my upper body acclimated a but.