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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Iron Knee 25km Trail Race

The day started out at 5:45am. I looked out my window at what was to be an amazing day. The race director ordered sun and it was delivered in fine form. I quickly made some oatmeal w/ banana, raisins and honey and put on my Innovative Fitness race gear. My boyfriend Peter came to get my co-worker/ friend Justine and I and we were off to Grouse Mountain.

The race begun at Grouse Mountain and finished in Deep Cove. It used to be called “Half Knacker” and it was first put on in 2003. The name has since been changed to the “Iron Knee” because it isn’t exactly the same route as ½ the full Knee Knacker, which is a 50km trail race spanning Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove. The Full Knee Knacker goes the entire length of the Baden Powell Trail. The Iron Knee instead follows the power lines from Grouse Mountain, up onto the Baden Powell trail until the Lynn Headwaters, down fisherman’s trail to Mystery Creek, up Mystery Creek and up Power line Hill, and finishes back along the Baden Powell into Deep Cove (Panorama Park). Power line Hill is a real killer. It is a fairly steep hill with 13 switch backs. It is fairly open and on a hot day the sun will just beat down on you.

Last year, I finished 2nd overall in the women’s category. Katrina Driver placed 1st and her husband (Simon Driver) also came 1st in the men’s category (I should note that they both set course records last year = power couple). She happened to be pregnant this year and I knew I had a good chance of winning. I found out last minute that a girl by the name of Ellie Greenwood had signed up. She has won 2 big 50km trail ultra marathons this year (Diez Vista and Dirty Duo) and I knew that she would be a hard one to beat. I was not tapering or peaking for the event and was using it as a hard training day. I am peaking later in July for a 50 mile trail ultra marathon called White River in Auburn Washington.

After arriving at the start, I did a quick warm-up with Jurgen Watts and Darcy Young, both experienced runners who I have previously run with through the North Shore Athletics and Mountain Madness run clinics. We were cutting it a little close and literally made it back 1 minute before the gun went off. I quickly grabbed my camelback and headed to the front of the pack. I kissed my boyfriend (who was also running) and we were off to the races. The start of the race is a pretty difficult section for me. It is fairly hilly and my heart rate definitely sky rocketed quickly. The last thing I want to do was fatigue my muscles too early because I knew I could dominate the last 4km and wanted to have some gas left for that section. As soon as we got onto flat ground and headed into Grouse Mountain I found my pace. It is still a pretty difficult section because it is undulating and I found myself power hiking a few of the steeper hill’s. As soon as we hit any downhill’s I was gone. Downhill running is one of my favorite things in the world. Nothing makes me feel more alive and giddy than running down a mountain, especially one that is technical (lots of rocks, roots, and obstacles). A lot of people lose time here because they are afraid of tripping, falling, and rolling an ankle (all very common). To me, that is all part of the game. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have fallen, cut up my entire body, and rolled my ankle. I am lucky though, I have spaghetti ankles and if rolled, the pain goes away within a few steps. To make a long story short, the downhill sections are where I pass most people.

I chased down the 3rd place girl and passed her before heading into the Lynn Headwaters. This is a flat tempo section and it is here that I saw the 1st place female up ahead. She was probably a few minutes ahead of me and I was on her tail. We headed down Fisherman’s trail and up Mystery Creek. After a quick power hike up this trail I started my ascent up Powerline Hill. This is a really neat section because Heather Mcdonald, the lady who runs the Mountain Madness trail clinics (I am a volunteer leader for these clinics) makes personalized signs for the clinic members and has them lined up all the way up the hill. A few weeks before the race she had asked everyone in the clinic to tell her their mantras. She then takes these and puts them on signs. It is just a little tool to help runners stay motivated up this grind of a hill.I got passed a couple of times up this hill by a few men who were running it. They must be savage because that is really hard to do. Thirteen switchbacks later I got to the top, screamed “WOOOO” at the top of my lungs in Joy and started the final descent along the Baden Powell heading towards Deep Cove. I passed a few guys heading down and once I hit Indian River road one guy told me that the 1st place Female was just up ahead by maybe 30 seconds and to “go get her”. I love that sort of motivation. It really does make you want to push harder and catch that runner. I have run this section a lot this year and am pretty confident at it. I didn’t see Ellie until the bottom of the first hill. She was at the top and was power hiking up. I quickly did the same and chased after her. I didn’t see her again until the bottom of another climb. I just couldn’t gain anything on this girl. The last descent is very technical and it is one of my fastest/favorite sections. I could see myself gaining on her and finally almost caught her by the stairs that lead onto the road that leads you into the finish at Panorama Park. She was probably 10 feet ahead of me and I don’t think she really knew I was that close behind her. There was a volunteer between her and I that had a walky talky and was relaying information to the announcer at the finish line. He said “We are going to have a sprint finish”. Right then, Ellie turned her head back and saw that I was right behind her. She kicked and I kicked but she was just too far ahead of me to gain anything and pass her. She ended up winning by 4 seconds. It was the most exciting finish I have ever had. I was so happy to have chased her down and made up that much distance near the end of the race. She shook my hand after the race and told me she was running scared because some guys told her I wasn’t too far behind going up Powerline Hill. She ran a good race and deserves the win because she led the entire time. She is a talented runner and I will race against her a lot next year I am sure.

After the race I cheered in a lot of the Mountain Madness clinic members and co-workers and customers from Innovative Fitness (Josip, Justine Boulin, Paul Chung, Bob Hardy, Susan & Kim Sollis, Brian Young and Darcy Young). This race was my co-worker, Justine Boulin’s, first trail race. She was in 4th and doing really well until she unfortunately sprained her ankle right near Quarry Rock with 1km to go. My boyfriend Peter stopped to help her and ran ahead to get help. She said a lady came by and gave her a piggy back down the hill. Now that is amazing. Someone takes the time out of their own race to help an injured athlete get back safely. It is really noble and something you don’t see enough but is quite common in the trail running community.

The trail running community is amazing. The people are very friendly, usually a bit older than myself, have a passion for the outdoors and are a little more laid back than the average road runner. There is an unofficial rule that if you fall, you owe a beer to whoever see’s you fall. I have smuggled many celebratory beers that way post race. People always follow through on that one. Trail races take place on the most beautiful mountains and the finish line is usually very scenic. People usually bring their families down, have picnics on the grass, and stick around to cheer everyone on. They are not protected by fence barriers which you see in most road races.

All in all it was an awesome day. Couldn’t have asked for better weather! After congratulating everyone on a great day I headed up to Oliver to cheer on 19 customers and coaches from Innovative Fitness who were participating in the Oliver Half Ironman distance triathlon. I am sure you will here more about that soon…

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