Sunday, October 7, 2018

That Time I Decided to Race on a Trail - Cape Chignecto 2018

So this will be a picture rich posting.

The Spring was all about cracking into the world of a 1:20 half marathon and I succeeded. Then summer became all about preparing for the Fall and the Cape Chignecto 24km trail run. I picked this race because, it was way out of my comfort zone, but the distance wasn't too crazy daunting for me. 

I did my research, I hit the trails for constant 2 hour training runs but I also kept up some racing as well to keep the edge on my speed. 

Finally, the big weekend came upon us. The Race Director sent out an email with a list of the basic required items for the 24km and 48 km (that took place the next day) races. It wasn't huge, but having to carry your own stuff would be new for me in a race (I had of course trained doing this). A light jacket, food, phone and battery backup, water storage and a buff or warm hat.  

I have some shoe options, so I packed my 2 favorite shoes into the car and drove 2:30 to the race venue (we went a day early to be able to relax that morning). On race morning I was still not 100% sure which shoe to wear but opted eventually for my more cushioned shoes with lower lugs to deal with the pounding the hills would provide (the grey and yellow Sense Pro Max).

The sign says it all. I checked and out running route is listed as an all day hike. My goal was to run between 2:30 and 2:40. 

The view the day prior to the race was awesome.

Come race morning I was first to check in. I guess I was excited or something. Also I was quick enough that the safety pins for the bibs hadn't arrived yet. A bit of fore shadowing?

While the air was chilly, the sun was warm and I knew the weather was going to be perfect for racing.

My trail partner in crime Shane arrived shortly after I did, all decked out in a smashing BLT Runners top.

All smiles, silly us.

We gathered for a race briefing, which included many chuckles. We learned about course specifics and what to expect.

I met Paul, whom I knew from Twitter. He was Co-Race Director today, with Eric from 5 Peaks. Paul loves a good long race, I love a fast short race. seems about right for both of us.

I made sure Shane started up front with me and soon we were off. 

The start was a nice downhill (ugh for the finish) and I knew to take it easy. I was running beside a kid who would eventually win the 5.6km trail race. Then I passed him and took the lead of the whole race (there was a 5.6, 12 and 24 km race).  I didn't gun it, but ran within my ability. I knew this would be a tough race, but I also knew that 24 km, even with hills was totally doable at a comfortable race pace.

The trail is really quite nice. Flowy, a few roots and rocks, but generally nice. It is hard to say the ups are steep and the downs are fast. It has some of everything. Ups you have to walk, downs you have to walk, ups that are gradual and fast. You just have to be ready to react to what is in front of you. There were moments I was running along at a road level of pacing even.

So I hot the turn around for the 5.6km first and surprised the volunteers who weren't quite ready for me, though I did't need the water they had here anyway (it was available though). At this point I hit the first of the real downhills leading to Mill Cove. It is kind of an ATV road. Loose gravel, about 1 km long and a -17% grade. Basically unrunnable. But I ran it. If this were a longer race, I would have held back, because the beating my quads took was amazing. This early in the race I could deal with it.

Soon I was at the 8 (7.5) km aid station, well in the lead with no one in sight. Heading in, I knew I wanted to grad some Gatorade to top up the fluids and sugars and save my water supply. I had my speed cup on the ready and was in, had a drink and gone (they also take your bib number) in less than 15 seconds. Zoom.

I had planned to really focus on my heart rate for this run. Worrying about pace is tough and really pointless. Ultimately though I went by feel. I have a really good sense of when to slow and when to speed up, though I will admit that there is a bit of a mental game when you are speed walking up a hill and just have to push yourself to run when it starts to flatten. It is so easy to just keep walking.

So my watch really became my food timer. My plan was to eat a fruit leather every 20 minutes (50 calories), sip water constantly, and take gels on the hour mark (100 calories). The sugar is essential for quick brain functioning and my food choice is easy for me to digest. I didn't partake in the food stops, but if you are a slower runner, the options are fine (fruit, potatoes and peanut butter on bread).

My eating was fine. I hit my gel right before the drop into Refugee Cove which was very similar to the last crazy drop. Again, really unrunnable if you were to be going longer, but well within my ability to push through for the shorter race.  I was pretty much on pace by this point, knowing that the run out would be slightly quicker than the run back. I hit Refugee Cove (I didn't really know it was Refugee Cove) and the 12km mark right about 1:15.

So now it goes slightly off the rails. We were told a volunteer would be at the turn around to audit our bib numbers. So I kept running to said volunteer. The signs said go left, I did. The little flags continued. I glanced at my watch and now it said 12.4km. Still I didn't really trust the exact distance on it. GPS watches on twisty turny woodsy courses can be off. I mean I hit the 8km aid station at 7.5.

I kept going. But it dawned on me by 13 km that the course for the next day's 48km was the same course, and thus these flags were likely for it. So I turned around and started back, but then second guessed myself and turned back for a bit before finally turning back again (are you dizzy?). Finally I came upon another runner. My lead was gone, sigh. We stopped briefly and chatted and he seemed convinced we should forge ahead. We were both concerned that if we didn't find the volunteer we would get a DSQ. Alright let's go. So we ran together. Then hit 14 km and stopped. He pulled out his phone and tried to pull up a map but there was no detail on that map. So we found an email with the race director's phone number in it and called. We then learned we missed the turn around and headed back. Scott sent me ahead as I had been in the lead, while he did up his pack. On the way I passed a few other runners who learned their fate. In the end it looks like the top 7 runners were too quick.

Back on track, a little anger in the belly, my goal of a certain time erased, and the possible win eroded. Now to finish strong. Back up the first of the big hills. What can I say, this was a walk. A combination of walking techniques were used to push me up and over this beast and I was back to running. I knew now that I was going to have to ease back the pace a little bit, since I would be running further. I was also now "lost" as per distance and location. So I just had to run what was in front of me.

I started to pass runners. I made it to the second climb, out of Mill Cove and part way up passed Shane (he had also run long). At the top of this hill I actually refilled my water bottle before continuing on.

I ran when I could, and walked fast when I needed to. I came to the main aid station at what would have been the 16km mark. I grabbed a quick water and continued on as a few runners were there for a food break.

Scott had just passed me, but I need to hydrate, with 7.5 km still to go.  I knew I could salvage a good effort out of this still.

I passed more runners. It is always funny to do this up hill while walking, but it is what you have to do.

The saddest thing I heard all day was when the volunteers at the 5.6 km turn around cheered me on saying "Only 2.8 km to go!). Ugh. I knew that almost 2 km of that was up, including stairs.

My legs twinged occasionally, I knew they were done and burnt to a crisp. I was well past 24 km. At 26 km the muscles on my inner quads actually started to ripple. That was odd. They told me to stop. So I ran faster. Finally I recognized the final downhill portion of the race, this was the area I took the lead initially. I wanted to run fast down the hill, but was completely afraid the wrong step would lead to my legs giving out. So I ran as best as I could.

I cleared the trees and into the open grass field. I was still alone but felt good now. I ran.

As I rounded a corner into the final section, Elizabeth waiting and cheering me on with the camera snapping shots. It seemed to take forever to reach here.

A final uphill (remember ugh?) and I approached the gate. Scott had been there for a couple of minutes, and I congratulated him. Later he congratulated me on the win. But he finished first.

The race directors started grabbing our actual distances run and decided to determine race placings by pace. I will admit my overall pace was now way slower than I hoped. A full minute slower. The extra up and downhill was more than I could handle at the pace I wanted to go, plus the caloric needs and hydration. Instead of 6:30 I averaged a 7:27 for 28.82 km. I finished in 3 hours and 42 minutes (this also included a few stops as i didn't pause my watch while we attempted to figure out where we were).

Very soon, Shane came in, done but still strong.

After all the top runners had finished, they finalized the results and due to the fact I had the fastest overall pacing of the day, I was declared the winner. But huge props to Scott as well. He was looking strong.

Then the long drive home, but not without a stop at That Dutchman for some gouda cheese!

So an unconventional win, but the training paid off, and I still look forward to more trail races in my future. Not so sure I want to be pushing the longer distance. 30km even seems too long. Never say never though.

Thanks to Coach JZ and Kinesic for start me on the heart rate training path, which is really the best way to approach trail running. Even though I didn't need to look at my heart rate, I could tell my effort level from all my training.

The Salomon gear from Aerobics First was top notch. Find a shoe that fits! #1 thing for trail running. And if you are in the woods for any length of time, everything needs to be comfortable.

Big props to the BLT Runners who keep me running as well. It was great that Shane was there with a great finish.

Race stats:

12 km mark (1:15 on schedule) with a pace of 6:15
Finish 28.82 km with a pace of 7:28
Avg Heart Rate 156
Total Assent 1,552 m