Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Running The Keppoch 2018

With my season slowing down, I had the opportunity to do one more trail event. 12 km at The Keppoch near Antigonish. This former downhill ski location is no home to mountain biking, cross country skiing, hiking, and some awesome trail running.  Certainly it is not the place for those that hate running hills. 

The trails here are mostly smooth and flowy, as they are designed for downhill riding. That being said, you need to really take care for tripping hazards and rocks, and be careful of the sheer speed you can pound into your legs on the way down.

This event is a fund raiser for The Keppoch, and as such is more about fun. It was an untimed event followed by breakfast.

We had to get up super early to get to the mountain as the drive takes 2 hours. The closer we got, the colder it got, down from the balmy 3C at home to -8C at the race start.  

Also, home had no snow and soft ground. Here the ground was hard and ankle deep in snow. Good thing I brought all my trail shoes. I ended up choosing my Salomon Soft Ground. They are light weight, so easy to pick up your feet high and offer a ton of grip.

After a briefing we weer invited to race start and sent on our way. While I could have just jogged around the mountain in a nice social way, I really wanted to see how my legs were holding up and specifically my climbing legs, before they got a winter rest.

So I took off into the lead and never looked back. I pushed at a sustainably hard pace and really enjoyed breaking through crunchy snow on this well marked and groomed course. Volunteers were out in some key areas to guide up the right way when the course went between short and long (there was an 8 km option as well).

I took the downhills cautiously to start but found that I gained a lot of confidence as the run went on and I could place some faith my my shoes and legs to hold me upright.

Certainly there were some dicey icy places that required some careful passing, but in all it was a trouble free run for me.

I finished the course in 1 hour and 1 minute with over 300m of vertical climbing, first in the long run. I was happy to "win" but more happy to feel well enough to go back out for more at the end. My recovery during these trail runs has been great this year, the only time I have found myself near my limits was when I was approaching 30km at Chignecto.

The morning finished with some awesome oatmeal with a ton of topping choices and great coffee, as I got to chat with the other BLT Runners that came up for the run as well. We all survived the cold and snow and I think we all had a good run.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Flying Nutz 2018

It has been awhile. Frankly I took a break from racing since Chignetco, mostly going into an off season mode. But I had previously signed up for a local trail race called Flying Nutz. This is a shorter but no less tough race.

Waking up to torrential rain and wind the morning of does not make one excited about leaving your bed, let alone your house.

Still, when  your ride arrives, it is time to jump in the car.

So Craig and I arrived at the race setup and a small crowd had already formed. The rain was letting up a bit but we were still completely undecided about what to wear for the run.

Sign in time, I got number 53 to pin on, a shirt and a nice reusable trail cup. I must say that little silicon cup is awesome for grabbing a quick drink on the run.

The BLT Runners came out in force to hit the muddy trails (missing is Al and Don).

Race start came, the rain let up and we were ready to go after Jodi (race director) gave us a run down of the rules and course.

The beginning is tough and quickly goes from wide to single track. With the command to run, I took off for that narrow patch and hit it first, scaling a moss covered rock and into the woods and up a hill. Not sure how fast the other runners were, I took to a pace I new I could hold for some time, I was mostly concerned that that I would find a place where I could run at my pace and not be stuck.

But I didn't get passed and I ran my race. A small crew formed behind me, but I was mostly watching ahead and never bothered to look back. I passed a few areas where it was heavy switch backs, and at these points I could tell I had a small gap to second and third.

I didn't want to let up too much, even with a lead, as anything can go wrong. Also I knew that as an out and back course, eventually I would be running into the other runners on the trail, which may have made for a slower return.

Well, anything can go wrong and it did. I put my head down for a second, ran past a marking flag and found myself off course for a bit. I figured it out quickly enough and returned to the spot I left at and continued. Mad at myself, I pushed on and found out I was now in second.

Caution to the wind time. I flew up and down some hills and soon found myself catching Ben. It was only half way through the race, but I needed to push reasonably hard.

Some cheering on and I ran up a stupid steep hill where Ben was at the top. I can assure you this hill is one most likely walked up, but the anger and ambition set in and up I went.

Within a few minutes I was catching back up to first and we were catching the rest of the runners. Everyone was great and moved out of the way and cheered us on.

I stayed glued to Ben for awhile and found my breath again, but knew that if I wanted to win, I needed to do so under my own steam. I made the pass (Ben was gracious at letting me by) and I took off, regaining a portion of the lead I had once enjoyed.

As we got to the heavy switch back area with around 2 km to go, I could see other runners, but really had no idea where they were compared with me. That meant one thing, run harder.

Soon I was at the pipe line section, which meant less than 1 kilometer to go and flat ground. Now I really have to say that while the flat sections of the course were nice to stretch your legs on, I really enjoyed the moss, mud, switch backs and punchy hills that dominated 95% of the course.

I made a final turn, pushed hard through the final few hundred meters of woods and emerged from that giant rock to the open finish area.

No rest, I wanted a hard finish.

I crossed in 1:04 for the win with a 2 minute (ish) lead over second. That was tough and my screw up made it tougher. But the weather was awesome, the mud a blast and the win, icing on the cake.

A trophy, jam and draw prizes awaited me. Muddy shoes were also my reward.

I cheered on as Craig finished 5th and other BLT Runners came in strong in the field of 110 runners.

Thanks to Jodi and his crew for hosting and organizing a great event close to home. There aren't many shorter tough trail runs like this, so I was happy to have been able to do it.

Next up is my race, the Halifax Movember Run and I can't wait.