Pick Your Poison 2014

I think I went out to fast.  My objective is to push my boundaries, stop dreaming, get off my ass, just do it.  So in that spirit I run hard, I set ridiculous goals padded by some goals that aren’t so ridiculous, both challenging and rewarding.  This is my path to self discovery.  You may wonder what I am trying to discover.  The answer is a question, am I being the best that I can be?  While the answer to my question can be a binary answer, I complicate the answer by approaching each race looking to learn something new.  Which I suppose implies that I am not being the best that I can be because I am still (and always will be) learning.  At Pick Your Poison (PYP) 2014, I wanted to find out how hard I can run a 50 km and I wanted to place in the top 10, preferably the top 5.

PYP is a nice course that takes you around and across a ski hill at the Horseshoe Resort, which is situated just north of Barrie, Ontario.  The start is a teaser that runs across 3 or so km of relatively flat terrain where you can ‘kick it’.  Then the ‘back half’, I heard one fella refer to it as, brings you along hilly trail where you find yourself taking on some serious climbing (for Ontario standards).  Since Ontario has seen snow day after snow day, it was really no surprise to find the ski slopes were still blanketed in snow and even some of the single track trail had packed ice on it.  The packed ice wasn’t really a challenge, but the spring skiing type of snow made it very difficult to run on. If you had the pleasure, you would be moving at a snails pace redlining it to cross the glacial covering.  I have one word for it: sucky.

So my first lap taught me lesson one.  My heart rate is capable of beating faster that I previously thought. Yessir, 192 BPM.  Captain obvious here, that means that my 88% max heart rate pace is higher than I previously thought.  And this is exactly what I surmised while I was barreling up the first monster climb on the first lap at PYP2014.  So I figured that my safe 164 BPM average was now 170 BPM.  Which surprisingly enough, it is.  Why is this surprising, I didn’t calculate it or anything of the sort (which I couldn’t have done while heart rate (HR) was bumping at 170), I just figured it.  Why was this a mistake, I changed my game plan to be more aggressive too early.  My intention was to try to hit 1:06 on the first lap and then settle into a pace.  Instead, I upped the ante.  It wasn’t until midway through the third lap that I considered slowing down to make sure I had reserve for the final lap.

PYP has 3 races.  There is a 12.5 km, 25 km, and a 50 km race.  It’s great because it encourages all sorts of people to come out and run the trail.  What isn’t so great about it is that you (um, I) need to focus on your (my) race.  As the saying goes, don’t judge a book by it’s cover.  Or don’t assume someone is racing a 50 k’er when they are really running a 25 k’er.  I got so excited everytime I would be approaching someone.  I’d take a stab at what race they were in and go from there.  If the runner didn’t have a bottle, then I figured them to be a 12.5 k’er.  Another dead give away is when someone asks you what the distance is on the first lap.  The difference between a 25 k’er and a 50 k’er, come to think of it, I am not sure how to tell the difference between a 25 k’er and a 50 ‘ker – so therein lies the problem.  Nearing the end of lap 2  I thought I spotted a 50 k’er and that I was starting to catch up to the front of the field.  I managed to pass the fellow as we came down to the start/finish/drop area, I peeled off to swap my food bottle.  When I turned around to get back on the course and start my third lap, the guy congratulates me as he put his fist out for a bump.  “Damn!” I thought to myself.  Yeah, lesson 2.

Back to lesson 1, in the final lap and after I finished stumbling through the glacier at the bottom of the ski slope I peeked over my shoulder for the reassurance that nobody was catching up to me. Except that there was no reassurance this time.  Chantal was barreling forward and she impressed upon me that she had a full tank.  Immediately I started contemplating what this meant for my race.  Was she the only one that was catching up, was I loosing that much steam? My thoughts had me spinning out of control.  Crap, another climb.  So I did what any other hard headed person would do, I carried on regardless. She did pass me and as she did I couldn’t help but be jealous of her pep.  Coming up to the final stretch I realized that two more runners were on my tail.  I knew that there wasn’t even a kilometre to go. So I pushed it up the final stretch; a short rise to the peak of one of the ski slopes followed by a quick decent down half the slope, then an epic glacial crossing.  I learned that I was able to hold on to achieve my goal (not the ridiculous one), top 10 (at 10th).

Looks cold doesn't it?

Looks cold doesn’t it?

I hobbled over to my car with my new PYP socks (the finisher prize instead of a medal) in hand.  Pushed through the rigor that was settling in so that I could have dry clothes and hobbled back to the chalet where it was warm and where there was lots of food to eat.  I grabbed a healthy portion of food and sat down.  As a result I got to meet some of the other runners giving me insight into their experiences first hand.  One of the volunteers and someone whom I met is an incredible endurance runner, and it was really something else to hear her talk about what she is learning.  So that is lesson 3, stick around after the race and get to know the community.

I pushed my limits and while I am disappointed that I lost steam on the final lap, I was rewarded with achieving one of my goals.  I have an simple excuse to keep training: get to the top 5.

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