Friday, July 17, 2015


I set a goal sometime last year that my focus for 2015 would be my 5th Knee Knacker. Its been years since I have been able to run it at my full potential.

I didn't do any early season races and took a month off work in March to go on a rad climbing road trip through the USA. I managed to sneak in some running amongst a lot of climbing and came back feeling strong and fit.

A couple weeks after returning from the trip I ran the Shuffle 29k in Powell River. I was set on trying to get as close to the course record as possible and ran my way 12 minutes under it. This was a confidence booster and it felt good to put in a balls to the walls effort.

One week after that I ran the BMO Vancouver marathon. Since I had just run a really hard effort (and was feeling the effects of that leading up to the marathon) I had very low expectations for the marathon. However, even with an early porta-pottie stop, I still managed to set my best time ever of 3:01.

I took a couple weeks to recover from this one mostly due to a tiny niggle in my quad which was a sign to take it easy anyways.

At some point during this time I thought it would be a good idea to sign up for the Fat Dog 120. Now I was trying to juggle 50km training with 120 mile race training. In the end, I think I ended up doing more long slow runs versus any type of speed work and I think this may have effected my outcome at Knee Knacker...but more on that in a second.

For the first time since I ran the Boston Marathon I was actually taking this race very seriously. I was going to do a proper taper and I spent a lot of time visualizing race day. Peter was going to crew me so I wouldn't have to stop. I was psyched to put my best foot forward and knew that my competition were similarly matched.

The weather leading up to race day was pretty shit. I went for a run on the Wednesday before the race and had doubts whether or not the race would even happen. The air quality was extremely poor and there were fires burning all over the province. Luckily, it was very windy on Friday and it blew all the smoke away. Best of all, the temps had dropped and race day was looking like it was going to be the coolest it had been in a month (by 10+ degrees!)

I found myself standing next to Darbykai (winner) at the start line. We hadn't seen each other in a long time and took the opportunity to catch up. The first split is my toughest. I am not a strong hill runner. I have trained myself to be half decent but I am never going to be the first one up black- ever. Most years I would walk/run the first hill but I knew I had to get in that single track somewhat up front. It can get really bottle necked and I didn't want to be slowed down. I watched as a few women sailed away but I settled into a nice pace with my friends Marieve and Tara Berry. The 3 of us stayed together all the way until cypress with Tara and I staying together until the cross country trails.

I was working going up Black. I wasn't pushing too hard though and if I were to do it over again I would go the same speed. If I was stronger climber, I might be able to run more of the little steep run-able hills. Although the temps were down, it was humid and I was sweating a ton. I was surprised to feel rain at the top of black mountain. I came in 2 minutes behind the leader, Darbykai to the Cypress aid station. At this point there was another lady 30 seconds ahead. The next section rolls quite a but and the lady ahead of me was a strong hill climber. It took me until the cross country trails to pass her. Tara was right on my tail here as well.

The terrain from the Cypress XC trails to Cleveland dam are my Jam. The trail is both technical and flat or downhill. I always use this section to gain time and have the time of my life doing so. This is my favorite part of the entire trail. I was hopeful to catch up to Darbykai on this section. I ended up running down with a couple guys who were great downhill runners and we had a blast making our way down the Hollyburn shoot. I was nearing the British Properties and had yet to see Darbykai. I honestly don't think I could have moved any faster. This worried me ha. I came into Cleveland Dam feeling a little spent. I have never worked that hard in the first half. I had set a PB on my first split (to Cypress) and matched my fastest 2nd split (to Cleveland). (side note: yes, I know all my KK splits intimately!).

No time to chit chat, I could see Darbykai on the road going up to Nancy Green. I had gained on her which was a relief. I grabbed my pack from Peter and began the climb up the road. I haden't taken in much fuel on the descent down to Cleveland so I hammered back a lot of water and some fuel. My face was incredibly hot. I was able to run about 3/4's of the climb but when the other guys around me began to walk, I did to. Meanwhile, Darbykai was sailing away in the distance as she ran with ease up the road.

Things turned a bit south on the Grouse section. My split was slower than in many previous years. I think I had tuckered myself out. I was notified that Tara was 30 yards behind me and I had to dig really deep to hold her off. I knew from previous years that if you go into the Grouse section with tired legs, you get WORKED! There are so many little undulations that are SO runnable...unless your tired.  Well, I was tired and walking most of them. Once the trail began to trend downhill I felt myself come back life a little bit. Oddly, it was on this section I began to feel little muscle cramp twinges. I had been using elite (liquid salt solution) in my water so I was a bit surprised. I wasn't carrying any back up salt pills on me (at the time) which was a mistake.

At this time I feel as though I am just holding my own. I am in second, I am feeling OK, and there is only 1/4 of the race left. I just passed my good friend Matt Berry who is experiencing a little bonk which reassured me that I could be feeling worse.

I am approaching the last tiny climb at the end of Varley Trail, when I see a familiar face running down the stairs towards me. It's Ellie Greenwood! I tell her to stop running so fast and she tells me that I am 1 minute off the lead. 'Wow', I thought and then 10 seconds later, just at the top of that little climb, both my inner thighs go into spasm. I immediately have flashbacks to the HURT 100 when this happened in January. But that is Hawaii and this is Vancouver, WTF!!! I'm literally reduced to tears because I can't move and the cramping was excruciating. Herman, the photographer is asking me if I am alright and all I am doing is swearing "fu$k, fu$k fu$k, wtf wtf" as tears are rolling down my face. Somehow, my quads relax and I am able to walk a bit before I am back running.

As I am running up the hill to the aid station this mountain biker starts talking to me. "How far have you run?", he asks.  I am in such an emotional mood that answering would take far too much energy and I don't answer. Assuming I didn't hear him, he asks a new question "where did you run from?". Again I don't answer, and when he finally turns his head to see whats wrong with me, I just shake my head and gesture with my hand to stop asking me questions. It was tough coming up to that aid station such a mess. I wanted to be that happy person that I usually am, but I wasn't. I grabbed the bottle of salt pills and filled my pack and got out of there as fast as possible.

I immediately take a few pills. A few moments later something cramps so I take a moment to stretch and take more pills. I could see Tara behind me and in all honesty I just wanted her to pass me so that I didn't have to think about competing anymore. She didn't pass me until the switch backs down towards the pipeline bridge (near Riverside drive). I pretty much had to slow down. My muscles were very touch and go and if I tried to push they'd just cramp. All I could do was focus on keeping the cramping at bay and continue to put my best foot forward. I was actually surprised when I saw Tara at the beginning of the Seymour Grind and it did give me some hope that I was still in it. But, in the end, I just couldn't push the last downhill and had a few more cramping episodes along the way, stopping to stretch until it relaxed.

On the bright side, I didn't cramp from Quarry Rock to the finish and was actually able to run more than I thought I would through that section. I was shocked when I still came in 5 minutes under my previous person best!!!

My goal was do my best and leave it all out there. I really felt like I did that. Even when the going got tough, I still tried my best and worked as hard as I was physically able to. It's tough knowing I was more to give had I not cramped but that's what this is all about. Perfect days are rare when you are pushing the top level of your game. Sometimes it's magical and sometimes its not.

It's funny because looking back I have cramped at 4/5 Knee Knackers. I've cramped when I have used electrolytes and when I have not. The one time I didn't cramp I was coming off an injury and didn't push the pace at all. In my honest opinion, I believe I am cramping because I am pushing myself outside what I have trained. In other words, I am trying to make my body go to a place it is not used to going. It's no secret that I don't do much intensity in my "training". I love to run, I love to have fun and rarely am I pushing myself out of my comfort zone. However, something changes when I race and I have no problem going to that place. I just don't think my body is always ready for it :)

But this is just my theory!

This race was a great learning lesson that if I do want to be competitive, I cant just get away with not putting in the work.

I'd love to thank the women who made me work hard during the race. You pushed me to my limit and kept me on my toes. I'll be a better runner because of it.

On the mental side: Competing is tough, I think so anyway. Its hard when your constantly getting (un-requested) updates every 20 minutes about the person in front of you or the people behind you. Your brain is ALWAYS on and it makes it hard to run your own race. I find myself questioning if I am going to fast, to slow or just right.

My shoes: La Sportiva Helios SR These shoes were perfect. Light. Amazing traction. Highly recommend trying them out!
Pack: Ultimate direction Jenny pack and UD handheld. I just ultimate direction products,
Socks: Defeet Monkey Socks: These are my classic socks. They are fun, affordable and I never get blisters!

Congrats to everyone who ran! Congrats to Darbykai on an amazing performance! The day before the race I said to Tara that it would be great to share some miles with you and I think we shared more than we bargained for! It was my first ultra and it's still my favorite race to date. The organizers do such an amazing job. I'll definitely be back!

Thanks you Peter for crewing me and giving me exactly what I need, which is often a "great job, get out of here".

Thanks Grandma for coming to Cleveland. Which I could have stayed to chat! My dad and uncle Steve were at the finish line. My dad had never seen me race before and it meant the world to me to have him there.

Ok, that was long!

No comments: