Creemore Vertical Challenge 2014

I was looking for every excuse I could think of not to register for this race.  I emailed my coach hoping that he would be disappointed by the elevation gain, but he was OK with it.  If I raced it, I figured I could complete the race in about 5 hours, 3 hours short of my planned training for the day.  Coach said make it up before or after the race, maybe run as opposed to race then do an additional 2 hours after the event.  I tried looking for outs by seeing how far behind the OUSER leaders I was, only 12 back from the leader having completed only 3 of the 6 races.  I waited until a week before the race and emailed the race director hoping there were no camping spots left, but there was one for me.  I just couldn’t come up with an excuse that I would feel good about.  So I gave in, registered for the race and on Friday evening I packed myself up and left for Creemore.

Once I was there I setup the tent and got cozy.  I found some course maps on the exterior wall of the garage and tried to figure out my first run of the day.  Pierre, the race directory, was doing some final prep work and as he came by I asked him about the course.  I knew right then and there that this was going to be a great experience.  He explained the course then took me on a quick tour of his property to show me where I could head off in the morning to get some climbing in.  Later that night, a few more campers showed up and Pierre gathered us up, cracked one of the kegs that was donated by the Creemore Springs Brewery and light a bonfire – a perfect way to relax ahead of a busy day of running up and down the Niagara Escarpment.

Wouldn't want to be caught in the hot seat!

Wouldn’t want to be caught in the hot seat!

I woke just before 5 am – I got out of my sleeping bag and got ready for my pre-race run.  One of the racers I met the night before was looking to log some more km’s and joined me for the the run.  During our run, Shane would talk about how he had “only” run 8 marathons in his lifetime.  It was as if he felt he wasn’t worthy.  1 is more than none, and 8 is more than 1, so all good!  We ran for 1 hour 35 minutes, clocked 10 km’s and we were feeling good.

When I got to the property, I was looking forward to the post race dunk in the Mad River.

When I got to the property, I was looking forward to the post race dunk in the Mad River.

It was 7:30 am and the rest of the party showed up.  Every time I run another race in the OUSER series, I meet another person and recognize more and more people.  I had my pre-race chit chat, met 2 more folks, then we were called to the start.  Pierre had his shotgun, and probably bruised his shoulder to mark the start of the 2014 CVC 50 km race.

Since I have been gaining confidence in myself this year, I have started to line up near or at the front of the pack instead of modestly lining up at the back.  Seeing as my plan was to run this race at a nice steady pace and clock 6 hours, I don’t know why I didn’t move to the back of the pack.  At any rate, we were off and about 3 km in I counted the heads in front of me: 10.  Ok, time to be competitive.

The group started in on the first climb.  Though, this one would prove to be a very modest slope.  Still, my repeats at Blue Mountain and the hill training on the treadmill paid off here.  I was able to keep a good pace while some of the pack leaders needed to slow down or walk.  I remember red shirt guy I haven’t met at about the 5 km mark.  He was still a fair bit ahead, but the real climbing started now.  During this early stretch of single track we seesawed along.  This was frustrating me because it is difficult to pass people on single track.  As the course change from single track to mowed long grass over rolling hills, my competitive ego wisely advised me to bide my time.  We were nearing the kilometre long climb (KLC), I figured I would loose him there.

About half way up the KLC I did pass red shirt guy I haven’t met and my sights were set on grey shirt guy I didn’t know and 2nd place guy on the OUSER leader board, an ultra runner from Kitchener, who, I met earlier that morning.  Once I crested the KLC, I noticed I actually gained some ground on them.  The course brought us through some nice trail that had some gentle ups and downs and then a final hurrah up, and that moment at the 10 km marker was the last time I saw grey shirt guy.

Following that quick trail sequence, was a easy boot down a dirt road to a valley that made me think of the the beloved saddle between Flood and Grand Mountains at the Canadian Death Race.  Trail looked like it was for a quad and it had all sorts of loose rock and troughs created by gushing rainwater.  I was careful going down the valley to make sure I didn’t loose my footing and then climbed up.  As I approached the aid station at approx km 15, 2nd place guy on the OUSER leader board was grabbing some water or something and so I kept on knowing that I was now placed 6th.

That was short lived.  2nd place guy on the OUSER leader board caught right up to me.  I decided that I would pace with him for as long as I could.  And that was OK for a while as we ran along one of the long dirt road stretchs.  As luck would have it, we came to another climb.  Here I gained some distance only to loose it on the flat road.  Around the km 17, I found his pace relentless and pulled back saving energy for the climbing that I would have to face a second time.  2nd place guy on the OUSER leader board gained some distance on me and that was OK, or at least I was trying to convince myself of that.

I crossed the 25 km mark to complete the first loop and as ran by all the parked cars, there was 2nd place guy on the OUSER leader board and orange shirt guy that was in front of me but is now behind me – 4th place now.  I was excited!  I have never been in 4th place.  Time to kick it up a notch.  I pressed on trying not to jinx myself by looking back.  Instead I focused on maintaining a steady heart rate and consistent pace.  I passed the 10 km marker and proceeded down the valley and then the German kid with a scholarship for cross country skiing and run ultras for entertainment comes barreling along.  As the hot seat burned the night before, the German kid sat beside me and we chit chatted.  I remember him telling me that he logs something around 25 hours of training compared to my 13 hours (at my peak, about 10 otherwise).  Anyway, once he realized he recognized me, he says “Oh, your pretty fast!” Yes his toned was pragmatically shocked.  I tried to keep up with him as long as possible, but I don’t think I could even pace him for a km.  He was nothing but a memory at about km 16.

From that point on, I ran alone, focused on keeping a good pace and trying not to slow down too much.  I managed to stay ahead of 2nd place guy on the OUSER leader board and crossed the finish line after 4:55:09 holding on to 5th place. Fantastic, I just needed to find the beer kegs and pizza so I could make my way to the Mad river.

My little North Face tent.

My little North Face tent.

After I soaked for about 30 minutes, I added up my running times for the day.  Then the realization that I only ran for 6 hours 30 minutes set in.  I still had to get out there for another hour and a half.

 

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