December 28, 2010
Snowflakes and Smiles on the Road to Recovery
December 10, 2010
Ellie's Gear of the Year 2010
I LOVE the geist jacket. Small enough and light enough to stuff in a pack or tie around your waist, yet warm enough to keep out a chill and block out the wind. My go-to running jacket for a wide range of temperatures. Great reflective pattern that is subtle yet higly visible. Nice ventilation and pockets to keep the essentials safe.
After Run Jacket
Socks: the Worst Christmas Gift?
December 6, 2010
Skipping a race, riding the recumbent bike, it can only mean one thing........Injured!
After Worlds I took a full week off running, I was in the UK with family and friends so plenty to do and I squeezed in one awesome hour road run in Tower Bridge area of London before jumping on the plane back to Banff. Within 2 days of being back in Banff winter and flu season hit with avengance. It was minus 35, I had a cough, a runny nose, I ached and had headaches and an unsettled stomach. It was all I could do to stagger into work, sit at my desk and stagger home again. On a few better days I began gym season and got some good short runs in on the treadmill, some elliptical work outs and even did some swimming and weights, which I notoriously avoid. I got over the worst of my cold and got some hill work in - a trip up Sulphur mountain in the snow and some steep inclines on the treadmill.
The weekend before the race I decided to do another trip up Sulphur - nice and easy but just get some hill memory back in the legs. I hiked/ ran up to the base of the trail from my house and began to feel a nagging pain in my SI. I had felt tiny (and I mean tiny) twinges once or twice the week prior but now it was much more intense. Having had this injury before and it being the only injury that has ever stopped me from running entirely, I relucatantly made the call to head downhill and home. Downhill hurt more so it was a long slow walk home (and I was super glad to have stuffed my MHW nitrus down jacket in my pack!)
The next morning I woke at 3.30am as Jackie was racing the 50 miler and Kristin the 50km. Just to be sure the vitamin I of the night prior had not performed supersonic miracles I went out to try abother run. It was 4am, it hurt, and in the pitch black with my headlamp and few sounds. I knew that more than wanting to race I just wanted to run. 8 days with no running and I was craving a run.
It was a lot of fun to see the race from the sidelines, Montrails Geoff Roes and Dakota Jones lead a strong mens race until Miguel Heras blew by them in the closing stages. Geoff finished 2nd, Dave Mackey 3rd and Dakota was 4th. In the womens race I was cheering for fellow Montrailee Joelle Vaught but also fellow Brit Lizzy Hawker. After Lizzy's 3rd place at the Worlds I so wanted her to find redemption and win in Marin, but she finished 2nd (behind NZs Anna Frost) - an outstanding effort given Lizzy was fighting a serious cold/ flu. Joelle came bounding over the finish line, smiling for her 4th place, and to top off the Montrail results Luanne Park placed 4th in the 50km (rocking her new Montrail Rogue Racers).
Full race details are at www.2.thenorthface.com/endurancechallenge/races/2010.ca/index.html
November 23, 2010
Motivation Night - Banff Lululemon Athletica - Tuesday Nov 30th
John Coleman – Performance Coach with the National Para-Alpine team and National Ringette team.
Ellie Greenwood – Elite Runner:
Second in the infamous Canadian Death Race in Grand Cache
Winner of Elk Beaver 100km on Vancouver Island , setting an unofficial world trail 100km record.
Winner of the Scorched Sole 50-miler in Kelowna , BC
Winner of both the Edmonton and Calgary Marathons
World IAU 100km Champion
Kat Feeney – Nutritionist at NuRoots, Canmore.
John and Ellie will combine their experience of maintain motivation from the psychological and physiological aspect.
John will focus on the 3M's that matter; meaning matters: “What is the meaning behind what you do? Why are you doing what you do and or why are you interested in starting something new?” Momentum matters: The question isn't “am I contributing to my momentum”, it is “how am I contributing to my momentum”. And the next question is “what momentum am I contributing to?” Moment matters: John will talk about the importance of being present in the moment when deciding to be motivated.
Ellie will speak about how she stays motivated during the cold winter months in order to get enough mileage in to remain competitive in the spring. Ellie will touch on the importance of goal setting (both short and long term), discuss a healthy training routine and talk about how the balance between being tough on yourself and also knowing when to step back can keep you motivated.
Kat will focus on seasonal whole foods and strengthening immunity. She will also be providing a list of recipes for you all to take home.
The floor will then be opened to discussion.
November 15, 2010
IAU World 100km Road Running Championships
I flew to the UK about a week before the race. I chilled with family and focused on having fun, getting over jet lag and going on a couple of easy runs to spin the legs out. Early Friday morning Team GB assembled at London's Heathrow airport and a few short hours later we touched down in Gibraltar and made our way to our floating Athletes Village, a cruise ship, our home for the next 3 nights. That afternoon our whole team headed out to recce the course and stretch the legs. Although on a map it looked like a pretty straight forward course (few wiggles around before hitting 19 x 5km loops) we soon saw that it was some tight twists and turns, uneven surfaces in the docks area and some hills which would be sure to take their toll by the 19th time we hit them. I think everyone adjusted their predicted pace after seeing the course.
Saturday passed quickly, last minute preps of bottles and food, a team meeting to go over the finer details of race rules and organisation and lots of carb loading at the buffet meals provided on the cruise ship. Like someone said, I think the ship's crew were rather bemused that such a slim looking bunch of people could consume so much food! I'd had my usual niggling hamstring pains and was rather concerned that despite a 2 week taper they were still bugging me more than I would like. I therefore decided to risk putting myself in the hands of our Team GB physio David and was glad that I did so as after some stretches and ultrasound my legs felt much better.
The opening ceremony on Saturday evening was a great chance to properly see all the other countries represented and catch a glimpse of the other racers, but after the lively ceremony we all headed back to the ship for an early and eerily quiet dinner before hitting bed by just after 9pm.
I don't think neither I nor my cabin-mate Emily (Gelder, 2010 spartathlon winner) really needed our alarms as we were eagerly out of bed my 4.30am quick breakfast, throw on the kit and by 5am we were wondering what to do for the next 1.5hrs other than pose for silly photos in our GB kit in the small cabin.
By 6am we were off the ship and walked the few hundred metres to the race start line. It was still dark (and would be for the first hour or so of the race) and it looked like it was perfect racing conditions, mild yet overcast. Soon the race was off and I almost immediately settled beside by GB team mate and 2006 World 100km champ Lizzy Hawker. With not being allowed to race with a garmin and there being no km markers until 10km we had to go by feel for our pace. All was going well until the lead bike faltered on which direction to take and suddenly all racers had stopped and we were standing in the street shouting for directions. Someone took the lead and we were off again, I suspected in the wrong direction but we then got back on course and I held my pace back as others rushed off at a much increased pace in mild panic.
After the initial twists and turns we then moved onto the main 5.06km loop which we were to complete 19 times. The first few loops were good to preview and assess how to tackle each part of the loop and I was feeling calm and strong. I soon needed to hit a pit-stop and after not spotting the port-loos on one loop I then found them on the next loop and nipped inside leaving Lizzy to carry on ahead.
My mum, dad, sister, brother-in-law, neice and aunt were all there to cheer me on and after a few loops I was glad to be able to check with them as to how many loops I had done as I was already losing count by the sixth! I was so focused on trying to track my splits per loop that I couldn't count the loops too. I aimed to run about 22mins per loop which would be approx 44min/ 10km and a 7h20 finishing time. Initially Lizzy and I went faster than this so in a way I was glad of my pit stop as this meant Lizzy and I were no longer running side by side as I feared if we carried on that way we would run each other into the ground and both blow up early.
I focused on taking on fuel from the start. At the start/ finish of each loop each country had a feeding station set up where I was grabbing gatorade and Clif shot blocks, whilst leaving picking up plain water from aid stations out on the loops. It was great to come into the start/ finish area as I had not only my family cheering me on but also the Team Canada crew!
I rolled past the marathon mark in about 3h02, this I thought was ok - fast but not crazy fast. However I was already getting a little concerned by how much I was feeling my hamstrings. I know I can run on mashed hamstrings but was worried whether I could run 55 more road kms in the state they were feeling already. It was around the 50km mark (about 3h34) that I shouted out to Team GB crew as I rolled through one more loop, 'my hamstrings are shot'. I was preparing them for the fact that I might need help by the end of the next loop. So it was at about 55km that I made my first stop at the feeding station, on all others so far I had grabbed a bottle or Clif shot blocks on the move. David immediatly had the physio table up and before I knew it his elbow was working wonders on my hamstrings as I downed a couple of paracetemol with gatorade.
I got up off the physio table and was back running. I knew I had lost time but knew it was unavoidable, without David's elbow working it's magic my race would have been over, at least now even if I had lost maybe 5mins I was still on the race course. My hamstrings felt much better but my legs felt just plain heavy. I had not forseen this being an easy race but I was scared by how tough it was feeling already. I still had about 45km to go and I was seriously considering dropping. My pace had slowed, my legs felt awful and I knew that one day my racing streak would come to an end but so didn't want it to be here at the World Championships. A French coach had been calling my splits behing Lizzy (rather kind if rather odd) and now it got to 5mins I said 'Merci Monsieur France but don't bother now' and I could tell he agreed, I was clearly not looking strong.
Here I decided on a few things - 1) I couldn't drop so early, I at least had to go a decent distance, 2) the wheels were falling off but they were still attached by a tiny strand of dental floss and I was going to use that dental floss to get them fixed back on more securely, 3) I was going to crawl to the finish even if if took over 9 hours, we only had 3 women on our team so all needed to finish to be in contention for a team medal, I wasn't going to let Emily and Lizzy down as both of them still looked strong, 4) I never want to run 100km on tarmac again so I better finish it this time as otherwise I'll have unfinished business and will need to run 100km on tarmac again, 5) this is crazy as I really never want to run this again but I may change my mind and if so I won't get on Team GB again if I look like a pansy trail runner who drops when the going gets tough on roads, 7) Three team GB guys have already dropped, Team GB are going to look right flaky if I drop too (note guys - this is no criticism to you, I know you were all ill & ailing!), 8) my friend Jackie is the toughest coookie I know who completed her first crazy hard 100 miler in 42hrs, Jackie must have felt way worse and I'll do this for her.
So off I was again running and with far happier hamstrings but still feeling awful and with all these thoughts whirring in and out of my head. I was going through ups and downs and can so clearly remember thining '7 more loops, I can do that' but then I got the 6 more loops to go and just had a melt down on team GB crew. Suddenly 6 more loops seemed unfathomable. I would feel ok coming into the feeding station but within a few hundred metres of leaving I was wondering how I would get around the the next 5km. So I split it down; they had shortened one loop due to our wrong turn at the start and Norman Wilson of IAU/ Team GB was directing runners onto the short loop so now I was running from the feeding station to Norman, then onto the BP gas station where a local was cheering me on, 'C'mon GB, lookin' great darlin'' ( this was a blatant if well intended lie on his part, I was looking deathly). I had given up all hope of winning or even placing well and was just doing this for the team. On leaving the feeding station with 6 loops to go I knew I would be ok if I got the 4 loops to go and I knew that 6 loops/ 30km was the same distance as one of my standard evening run routes in Banff. I thought of all the times I had run the Lake Minnewanka 27km loop exhausted after work, if I could do that then then I could do it now at the World Championships.
As I came into the feeding station with 5 loops to go I could see Team GB crew looking at me warrily and then stunned, I flew through, grabbed a coke and was off. I have no idea where this second wind had come from but I was a new caffeine-charged-woman and I could do this! Now don't get me wrong, I was still;not doing great but I had picked up the pace significantly and a switch had been flipped in my brain. I had even got my humour back and shouted out to Pete, Brian and Matt of Team GB, 'I'm never running on tarmac again', but it was said with a smile :)
With 3 loops to go I stopped at the feeding station again, I needed some chips as I had gone off my Clif Shots. I was munching away on my Walkers salt & vinegars when Andy said, 'You're only seconds back from 2nd place Ellie, and the longer the your spend eating those chips, the more time you have to catch up'. That was it, I was out of that station ...without even saying to Andy that I had thought I was in 2nd already.
Monsieur France was as stunned as I was by my second wind and began calling rather more optimistic splits. On entering the penultimate loop Norman who was standing on the side of the course casually said, 'You can catch them Ellie', to which I calmly replied, 'I know I can'. I picked up the pace a little more and began searching for an Italian singlet and Lizzy in the crowd of runners looping the loop. With about 7km to go I saw both Monica Carlin and Lizzy. For a millisecond I contemplated sitting behind Monica quietly but I knew I had no time for that so I floated past her and less than a minute latter I passed Lizzy with the words, 'She's on my heels, we need to go now'. I knew from Lizzy's sigh that she was struggling to pick up the pace but I didn't dare look back to see if Monica was following. I just ploughed on and came into the start/ finish with one loop to go and I was in 1st place at the World Championships! I so didn't want this to come to a sprint finish so I focused on extending my lead and praying that my now painful quads would hold for just 5 more km. As I hit the uphill out of the dock area I thought back to pushing the final hills in Chuckanut with Ryne of Montrail urging me, and as I got to about 1km to go I ditched my coke bottle and went for it. I had to take a corner wide around a slower runner I was lapping and the thought crossed my mind that I would be so annoyed if taking that corner wide meant Monica caught me! But I needn't have worried, I crossed the finish line in 7:29:05, about 90 seconds ahead of Monica, and with Lizzy a couple of minuted back of her.
When people have said to me this past week, 'Wow, what an amazing race you had' I don't think the have realised that in many ways I ran a bad race and ran a lot of pretty ugly miles. I won, I'm World Champ (and stoked to be so!), but like I said at the start of this post - I didn't have a 'Devon-day'; I didn't win by running beautfully, I won by being stubborn, determined and dedicated to my team....
A couple of other thoughts...
- Thank you to Team GB - it was a real plaeasure to meet you all and race with you. Look forward to seeing you at many more races to come! Congrats to us ladies for World Team Gold and to the gents for European Team bronze. Woo hoo!
- Thank you to Team Canada - you cheered for me as loud as if I was wearing a maple leaf and it was great to see you all (especially Denise McHale who ran sub-8hrs and Mel Bos) run so steady
- Thank you to 'Lookin' Good Darlin' BP gas station-guy. I really meant it when I said you kept me going.
- Am I happy with my time? ....Well it's a PB so no complaining here, but I may have to revisist 100kms on tarmac to see what can be done...
- Walking down stairs sideways can be an alternative when going forwards or backwards is not option post-race.
And here are a few links to a little more info about the race....
October 4, 2010
One Toadally Awesome Running Get Away
September 26, 2010
Turning Up the Speed!
September 18, 2010
Geeky Garmin Girl
That said, it has been fun to already do two of my fairly regular training routes and find out how far I am running. Fortunately the distance has been a pleasant suprise, I half imagined I would think I was running further than I actually was but in fact it is the opposite :) I'm also looking forward to the element of I will now track my mileage with zero effort. At the start of the year I started a training log with all my workouts but that lasted all of a few weeks until I would forget to do it and then try to remember my workouts weeks later. With my Garmin all I have to do is put it on and then once in a while plug it into my computer and hey presto - lovely maps and stats of my runs!
Being a bit of a techno phobe I opted for the pretty basic model - Forerunner 110, and I have so far managed to use it with no problems which shows how user friendly it is. Ok, it might not have all the bells and whistles of some of the other models and it might 'only' have 8hrs battery life, but I will be honest here - I never log 8hr training runs so the battery life will be no problem! And for any races longer than 8hrs, well there are usually some mile markers along the way so I'm not going to obsess about splits.
So all in all, I think it's going to be lots of fun and I think that's as good a reason as any to use a GPS. Got to go, I'm off to analyse my splits and pace of todays run.....
September 13, 2010
Vote for Vancouver's Homeless Community
Pepsi Refresh Projects are set up sp not for profit organisations can nominate themselves for funds to support projects that benefit a community. Organisations set up their profile on the website and then anyone can vote for a project every day until voting closes (2 month cycles) and the project with the most votes wins the funding.
In the current cycle (just started so lots of time to vote daily until October 31st), First United in Vancouver is trying to win $25K of funding to support their storage facility for homeless people. This is such a simple but smart concept. How hard must it be for homeless people, they have so few possessions and yet those possessions must mean so much, but there are times that those possessions become a burden. How often when living in Vancouver did I see homeless people fiercely guarding their few bags or shopping cart of possessions? Yet their possessions barred them access to many things we take for granted. What to do with your shopping cart of life when you want to go take a shower at the community centre, or even buy something in a store? First United therefore has a storage box system where homeless people can check in their things knowing they are safe and giving them the freedom to go off and do what they need to do without carting around their things and giving them the automatic label of 'homeless'. Such a simple idea yet can have such an impact on homeless people's lives.
So you can vote every day. Click on the link, keep it in your favourites and vote every day til Oct 31st. http://www.refresheverything.ca/firstunitedchurch.
Also, if you are on facebook, do a search for 'Run Change' - in August the first 5km run/ walk for homeless people was held in Vancouver. I'd read about a similar project in US cities in Runner's World but this is the first I have heard of in Canada. Homeless people were invited to come out and participate in the 5km run/ walk in the False Creek area. I just love this concept, I mean as runners we all know that if we're having a bad day or feeling down, we can just pop on our shoes and go for a run - it's like a happy pill to many of us. That feeling of freedom and relaxation, the joy of the the pure and simple movement, of being able to chat and laugh with fellow runners and escape from the stresses of every day life, the sense of achievement of running distances we never thought possible. I can only imagine what stresses and hardships homeless people must face, and I can only hope that some of them will be able to experience the joys and self-confidence boosting feelings that running brings. And if I am going on a run I don't want to bring my wordly possessions with me, I want to drop them off somewhere safe..like the storage facility ar First United.
PLEASE VOTE NOW & EVERY DAY UNTIL OCT 31st!!
August 24, 2010
Where are my road shoes anyway? Edmonton Marathon Race Report
Despite being in my home province, Edmonton is still a good 5hr drive from Banff but it was a fun road trip and Mike and I soon arrived at our accommodation for the weekend - Mrs. Cherniwchan is an 83yr old Ukranian lady and a close family friend of Mikes, and simply the best person to stay with for a race. We had food in our mouths practically before we were in the door and the beds were snug and warm with 100s of covers like no hotel bed ever can be.
Saturday afternoon was spent eating, relaxing, picking up race number and checking out the expo. The expo was small but I spotted a booth selling compression socks and calf sleeves. I'd been looking into getting some for a while and as my legs had been feeling pretty lead like after hoping back on the running band wagon pretty much right after Death Race I soon snapped up a pair of calf sleeves and figured I needed all the help I could get. For some reason the pre-race fuelling led us to West Edmonton Mall (largest shopping mall in the world. I hate shopping) and into the fun-fair area where Mike and I got our competitive mentalities honed on a few rounds of 'whack-a-mole'. I am sure that such a game can only be found in Alberta! Later in the day a friend of Mikes was kind enough to drive us around a good portion of the race course, which although I never think essential it was great during the race to have an idea of the course and landmarks ahead. Having not slept much the few nights prior I was in bed by 9.30pm, asleep by 9.35pm and the next thing I knew my alarm was blaring at 5.30am.
It was a short and worryingly bumpy 30min drive to race start where we could park within 100m of the race start/ finish at Northlands horse racing track. The reason for the bumpy ride become evident as we parked up and realised Mike's car had a flat, oh well - we had a race to run and car mechanics could be dealt with later!
The race venue at Northlands was awesome - tonnes of indoor space, lots of parking and well laid out. After a quick few hellos to some Vancouver friends who were also racing the full and the half, we made our way to the start line for the 7.30am start. A quick rendition of O Canada and we were off! I was confident to go out in the front of the pack as I was hoping I could scrape together a 2:55 or so finishing time despite the Death Race legs, and if I could post that time I figured I would be in top 10 to 15 runners overall. That said, I went out a little too strong and at the 1km mark posted 3:49 - oops, best calm down a little as I was meant to be on 4:08 kms! I reined in the pace a little and settled into a rythm and kept diligently checking my splits at each km. I was a little up but getting back on track and noted that Mike, who was out for a training race and aiming for 2:59, was on my shoulder. I yelled at him that we were 2mins up on my pace and this was only about the 5km mark, but I knew it would be easier for me to tell Mike to ease of his pace than for him to actually do that!
The course basically goes out and back to the start and then out in the other direction and back again, and pretty much remains pancake flat the whole way. On a map it looked simplistically dull but with the main route being along a pretty tree lined street, through shopping and well-to-do residentital areas it was suprisingly scenic. And of course the advantage of any such route is the steady stream of runners moving in the other direction to distract you when the going gets tough.
I passed throguh the 21km (and therefore almost 1/2 way) mark in 1:23:50 and had a little chuckle at myself. I have not run many half marathons so my PB is a not overly speedy 1:23:34, and now I was cruising along in a marathon only seconds off that. Although I realised this was a fast split I wasn't too concerned as I'd got 2mins ahead of pace in the very early kms and since then had held much closer to my intended 4:08 kms.
Because both of the turn arounds were loops it meant I couldn't see where 2nd place female was behind me so for all I knew she could be 20 seconds or 20 minutes back. This in a sense was good as it meant I never relaxed and never took my lead for granted, I just had to keep pushing in case I only had a small lead. Come the 30km mark I rather feared that my Death Race legs might get the better of me. I was tiring and thinking that maybe I had gone out too fast but I so didn't want to look stupid and post a slow finish to the race, so I dug deep and nestled in with a small pack of men and ploughed on. The 3 guys were chatting away as if they were out on a Sunday morning training run and I was rather glad that they didn't spark up too much of a conversation with me, as I was clearly breathing and working a lot harder than them!
I can vividly recall the last 8kms of Calgary marathon (in May) being tough, like really, really pushing-it-to-the-brink tough. But this time that toughness never really quite got me. I was pushing hard, I couldn't go any faster and I now just wanted to get this race done, but I was always in control and feeling mentally strong. At 36kms we hit the only hill of note in the race but with marathoners now in steady flow in the other direction they cheered me along and got me up the hill. By this stage I was churning out pretty solid 4:00kms and knew that if I could hold that pace that a sub 2:50 time was on the cards...just. I was blown away that I had come to this race really thinking my legs were toast and now a landmark PB might be happening.
For the final few kms I was urging on the next red km marker and toeing behind the lead-female bike. I had two bikes with me for good chunks of the race, both were ladies and it was great to have a little female company on the road :)
I pulled into Northlands, spotted the tower that I knew was near the finish line and powered in focusing on that. I was passing half marathoners and peeled into the finishing chute seeing 2:49:40 on the clock. There was no way I was letting that clock hit 2:50 before I was over the line so a final sprint push brought me over the finish line at 2:49:57 (or 2:49:54 chip time). Wow! I was stunned at my time and the fact that 2 TV cameras and 3 mikes started following me around until I could compose myself enough to spout out some incomprehensible-elated-excited-shocked-finish-line-ramblings.
Overall I am stoked with my result. The course is undoubtedly fast - very minimal elevation and not too many twists and turns. However I had not specifically marathon trained, my legs were not feeling chirpy pre-race, and although lower than Banff, Edmonton is still at 2200ft. I would totally recommend this race to anyone; the venue is awesome, the course scenic, the field large enough but not huge, the post race brunch tasty and the welcome from the elite director Brian Torrance superb. A few other things to note:
- Have you ever had blueberry perogies day before race day? Me neither, but they worked (thank you Mrs. Cherniwchen)
- Calf sleeves - I raced in them, they felt great, I'd wear them again. Hard to tell if they helped but I'd like to think they did.
-Congrats the Marilyn Arsenault, Katherine Moore, Mike Palichuk and all other sea dwelling Vancouver-ites who raced with less oxygen than they are used to. Nice work!
-A post race brunch of eggs, pancakes, fruit and coffee included in race entry and consumed sitting on real seats in a marquee is awesome for an event of this size!
- It takes a really long time to drive from Edmonton to Calgary at max 80kms/ hr on a spare tyre :)
Happy running and enjoy the end of summer (or at least that's what it seems like with the chilly mornings here in the beautiful Canadian Rockies)
August 7, 2010
Your Favourite Trail Race!
For my part, it's the Rubble Creek Classic held nr Whistler, BC on Sept 26th this year. 26kms, but oh my, it's one massive climb, the fun n flat and oh so scenic alpine cinder flats, and then one blasting, knee crushing descent. Big on scenery, low on hype and only one friend cracked some ribs last year!
Please leave your comments, I'll look forward to seeing if there are any...when I'm back in from my run...
August 3, 2010
A Date with Death. 125kms of Mountain Magic
Come race day I was pretty confident that I would finish the race when I listened to many people (who promised that the race was not as deathly as the organisers tend to imply) but still knew that only about 1/3 of starters completed to full race in 2009 and had warning from some who said it was one seriously challenging enterprise. Needless to say after the 6hr or so drive from Banff with my friend Mike I arrived in Grande Cache feeling much nervous anticipation. We arrived middle of the day, day prior to the race, but the afternoon seemed to zip by with package pick up, prepping drop bags, pre race meeting etc. But my most important task that afternoon was to meet up with the Adventure Science guys who were doing a study on gait analysis at the race and had got me on board. They filmed me doing some short runs to camera and I answered some surveys for them, they also explained the questions that they would need to ask me at each of the 5 aid stations on the race course. It was a great way to feel part of a team and importantly the Adventure Science folks would act as my crew at the aid stations. This was a big relief as Death Race has only one drop bag on the course (at 87.5km) so having access to gear at 4 other points would be invaluable rather than having to rely on aid stations.
Death Race is a little unusual for an ultra in that it starts at 8am in order to allow as many racers as possible the 'oppotunity' to run in the dark! This is just one indication that Death Race is a little quirky. The other main quirk is that at 110km you take a jet boat across the Smoky River, but only if you have not lost a silver coin that you are given at the start. No coin, no boat ride and you are DQ'd...at 110kms into an 125km race! Many competitors run Death race as a 5 person relay so I would hate to be a relay runner that loses your teams coin!
The 8am start and the fact that Grande Cache is a small, isolated town meant that setting the alarm for 6am was plenty time to crawl out of the tent, wolf down some breakfast and head over to the start line. Lots of locals were already lining the streets and starting their cheers 'Go Death Racer' that we would hear throughout the day.
As the gun went off (a mountie firing a rifle into the air - this is small, mining town Alberta afterall!), we raced over the line and jostled to get a good position on the opening 1.5km road section before we squeezed into the trail. With 418 solo starters and probably about the same number of relay teams it was a busy start to an ultra. I immediately fell alongside Denise McHale who introduced herself and we chatted on and off for the first leg. I knew that Denise would be my main competition and that being an adventure racer she had far more experience at long duration racing. Everyone had warned that with a net downhill over 19kms that on leg one it is easy to go out too fast so I checked that I was taking it easy. Pacing, pacing, pacing would be key to finishing this thing. On the first small inclines I saw Mike ahead of me slow to a power hike, I took note and followed suit - no need to try run the hills now - save the legs for later.
The first aid station was a zoo, I ran in, filled my hydration bladder with water from the aid station and then moved along to the Adventure Science tent which stood out nicely. There I popped gatorade powder into my bladder, took some extra bottles and answered their survey questions whilst draining a coke and grabbing a bag of chips. I was pumped and moving fast until one of the crew, Keith, said 'you've only been in 2mins'. Ok, I could slow a little and make sure I refuelled properly. For legs 2 and 4 I had planned to use my poles, Ally thrust them into my hand pre-set at the correct height, wow - this crew were pros!
I headed out and was excited to be getting really into the race with the 1st 'easy' leg done. As I didn't know the course I wasn't sure where the real climb up Mt Flood would start but I soon adjusted to running with my poles in my hands even if I wasn't really using them on the flatter sections. I can honestly say that even so soon after the race there are whole sections I cannot recall at all and the climb up Flood and Grande are two of them. I have brief recollections, chatting to Clint who I know from Banff, advising an ultra runner on how to try recover from already being sick, passing a runner who was struggling, but other that that I have vast chunks of amnesia about this section of the race! I can only put this down to the fact that I was so focused on the task in hand that I really was not taking note of the surroundings like I normally would. I do recall heading down Grande, a famed steep and teacherous descent. I met up with Simon (Denato) and Steve (Russell) at this point and it was great to chat and follow in Steve's confident steps down the dusty and sometime rocky, steep, steep trail. Leg 2 circles back to the start/ finish line in downtown Grande Cache so I enjoyed coming in and being cheered along by spectators. Again, it was a quick transistion as I Denise was literally seconds behind me and I headed out to leg 3 for 19kms of running with total 1000ft of elevation loss.
I enjoyed leg 3, it was easy to check off the kms and feel that you were making real progress, there was a rubbley descent that reminded me of the North Shore trails in Vancouver and then we hit grassy sections and what looked like prime bear territory! When I saw some bear poop and what I was convinced were bear prints I started hooting and hollering as a cruised along pretty happy (I later found out that a friend had been charged by a bear on this section during a training run!). I crept up gradually on Ricky, a young US guy with only 4 marathon finishes under his belt who was out attempting his first ultra. It was super to chat with him for about 15mins as we plodded along, he was so eager and as a 2:26 marathoner with such an obvious love of running I really hoped he would do well.
The aid station at end of leg 3 marked the 65km point. I rolled in at 6:49. One of the questions Adventure Science asked us at each station was 'Are you exceeding or meeting your expections?' At this point I was far exceeding my expectations but a little leary that I may have gone out too fast. I was feeling the heat a little (it was 3pm and super sunny), I was only half way and I had the infamous Hamel mountain looming. To top it off I looked up and saw that my friend Phil (Villeneuve) had dropped. Seeing Phil at this point was proably the toughest part of my race day, if he had dropped what was in store for me? But I knew that I was going to finish this race even if I had to crawl to the end, I'd not signed up to go away without my finishers silver coin and I didn't care what I had to do to finish.
I zipped out and up onto leg 4, poles once again in hand. I was blown away by the fact that I was now 2nd overall in the race, with only the demi-god of ultra running Hal Koerner about 30mins ahead of me. The first section up Hamel was lush and leafy and jungle like but very steep so I was talking to myself to keep going and chuckling at the thought of Hal Koerner being the only soloist ahead of me, certainly not soemthing I had envisioned pre-race day! Emerging from the forest at the base of Hamel I continued to power hike and was blown away my the amazing mountain scenery - rocky, rubble trails, views for miles and the sight of stick-men like vollies silouhetted on the ridge that we were making our way up to. There was no way I was running this, but I hiked as fast as I could knowing that Denise was probably still close behind. On the ridge there was a short out and back section before we began the rocky descent down. Denise was no longer in sight and I was now running totally solo, save for the occassional relay runner. My hydration bladder was drained so I stopped and refilled it with water from bottles in my pack and willed myself to run the flat sections even though even the slightest incline was now proving a challenge. I clearly recall the 80km marker and mentally noted that I was feeling pretty ok about the thought of another 45kms to go, now that the main climbs were over. Soon I popped up to the drop bag station manned by vollies at the start/ end of Ambler loop. I set out to do the 5km loop and once back grabbed my headlamp from my bag and dumped my empty bottles. At the pace I was going I doubted I would need the headlamp but it was race rules and who knows what could happen over the now 32.5 remaining kilometres. As I headed out of Ambler I saw Denise come in, ok - that meant she was 30mins behind me but I knew I should keep pushing in case she had a strong finish. I barrelled down the dirt road, great downhill grade to pick up the pace and soaked up the cheering and shouts of 'Go Death Racer!' from locals passing by on their quad bikes. At 100km I popped out of the trails and into the roadside ditch for 2kms to the 4th and final aid station.
By this point I was totally pumped. Jason of Adventure Science had been my main crew for the day and exceeded himself at this point. He told me to come get my coke (which I'd forgoten about by this point) and he had tipped out the contents of all my drop bags for me to see. Seems a minor thing but my this stage I coudl hardly recall what I had in the bags so to have it all laying there on the ground for me to pick and choose was awesome! I had contemplated changing shoes and socks here as my feet had begun to fell it a bit of the last leg, but now I think I was so pumped all pain had gone. I left the aid station, spirits high and said to Jason, 'I'm on 11:21, I've got 3hrs and 23km to get this course record'.
Immediately out of the aid station was a steep hike and I spotted a guy coming down, he was confused by the routing but I said I'd seen no other flagging anywhere so we carried on up. The trail soon levelled to beautiful single track traversing the hillside in a forest. It rolled up and down and I'd got energy back in my legs so was even running the hills. My only concern was there was zero flagging. The course had been immaculately marked all day and I was cursing the fact that we were now so close to the end and I was doubting the route. Luckily I had packed the course map so pulled it out and was reassured that I was going to right way. 10kms soon passed and I dropped to river level, handed my coin over to the ferry man (I hadn't lost it - phew!) and soon I got a personal jet boat ride across the river. The river had steep canyon walls and with the light diming at about 8.20pm it was simply stunning. I hoped out the boat, thanked the vollies and hiked up the trail. Was Denise catching me? Could I snag this CR? Could I get sub 14hrs? I had so many things to keep me pushing and with the finish line almost in sight and the evening light fading on the beautiful flat to rolling Sulphur Rim trail, I truly was loving this race even in the closing kms.
There was a final uphill on dirt road which I hiked and then out I was on the tarmac of Grande Cache. Even though I didn't know the road I knew it was a small town so the end must be in sight. I turned the corner, saw the finish line and sprinted (well, it felt like it even of it might have been more of a hobble!). Final time: 13:28:39! 2nd overall! New women's CR by 52mins! I'd even broken the previous mens CR! - of course so had Hal Koerner (in 12:45:38) but that meant I had run the 2nd fastest time ever on the Canadian Death Race course!!
Canadian Death Race is one beautifully scenic and challenging course. Not once did I get bored as the course was ever changing and challenging. The volunteers and community of Grande Cache are exceptional - never have a felt a race take over a town so much and be truly welcomed and appreciated by the community, from honking their horns when they saw you running the short stretches of highway, to the local church organising the breakfast before the awards, they fully embrace and welcome the race.
Check out the race website, details of Adventure Science and an interview with the Calgary Herald at:
World 100km Championships Here I Come!
I am so looking forward to representing GB, wearing the team kit, taking my training to a new level and racing with the best from all over the world (including lots of Canadian and US friends).
More officialdom about the race can be found at: www.gaa.gi
July 12, 2010
Returning to the Knarly North Shore
June 28, 2010
Scorched Soles, Icy Ankles