Thursday, December 30, 2010

Nice out..

So nice to step off the plane this morning into this gorgeous day. After the brown/white treeless sprawl of Calgary's suburban nightmare, I felt like I had been granted a pass from Erebus (the not so nice part of Hades) to the Elysian fields. Frosty air, the colour green and clear, white peaks. I sat on the Canada line and just took it all in.

By 11:30 I was on the trails in Lynn Valley. Amazing what a few days away will do for your appreciation of this place. I forgot to take my gloves so my fingers were a little numb trying to snap pics of things I wouldn't normally bother with. I just felt so invigorated! I snap my fingers at the cold! well I would if I could feel them that is..

Perfect trail running weather. You can't beat it. I was running with a smile much of the way and a nod from the old man with white beard and red flannel shirt, hiking in the opposite direction, told me he was having the same experience. Yah, you know what I'm talkin' about Santa! Come to think of it, he did have a bit of a twinkle in his eye...

Good to be back. Looking forward to more of this weather for the Crescent Park xc run on New Year's day. Hope to see some of you out there. Since you're up in the Arm of the Salmon, Tom, can I have your post race pizza slice?

Not expecting miracles against the trackies and a little sore anyway from following Curb's gym program he put together for me. Thankfully it gets me in and out of there pretty quick. Pretty soon I'll just need a hat and a pipe and I'll be lookin' like Popeye! :p

On a side note... I often get asked what I looked like with hair. So, since I was visiting family, I dug up some photos. Had to go a loooong way back to the days of film! Here I am circa 20 years ago. Oh, to have back our youth, non?! ; )

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hare and Hounds #2

Date: Saturday, December 11th
Time: 9:15am
Place: Starts by John Henry Bike store on East 5th Ave, North Van. Turn north onto Brooksbank Avenue and go to E 5th St and turn right. You're there. (It's basically opposite to the Park and Tilford shopping area. You can park your car in there or try on E 5th if there's room). See map.

Distance of the Chase: just over 11.5km
Course: See maps below in the description section
To Bring: 3 quarters (I'll explain at the start. No, it isn't coffee money for me)

This will be a fast out and back course with a little loop at the top. Most of the trail follows Lynn Canyon from John Henry to the Gazebo at the top of Lilloet Rd and back. Start/Finish is also a short walk to JJ Bean for coffee after!

The mostly out and back means there is less risk of people going off course and the opportunity to perhaps see your pursuers/quarry to keep the excitement level up. (Thanks to Tom for that idea.)

For a description of what a Hare and Hounds run is look at the posting on my blog about the first Hare and Hounds (basically below this one).

Course Description:
There is a gravel path by the river just east of John Henry Bike store. The start and finish is there.

Starting out you run north along this gravel path following the river underneath Hwy 1 and continue for another kilometre up to a footbridge over the river. Turning right, you cross this bridge and turn immediately left after crossing, onto a broad gravel path.

You continue north on this along the river bank. After about 800m the path narrows into a dirt trail that takes you into the forest and the start of a long steady climb through the canyon. Just stay on the trail. There is nowhere to go wrong ... (Princess...!).

About 3.5km out from the start this trail then meets the Baden Powell trail at a junction. Stay left and descend down a steep, technical hill (Girl Hill) to a boardwalk at the bottom. It's flat for a bit then climbs some stairs again and goes to a bridge (not suspension bridge). Stay right and follow the trail on the East side of the Canyon (which you have been on since crossing the footbridge near the start). The trail goes up more stairs and little climbs and takes you to the junction for the Suspension Bridge. Turn left and go towards the Suspension bridge but don't cross it (....Princess!..). Stay right at the Suspension Bridge and this will take you down to the Ten Foot pool and the start of a big stair climb. At the top of the stairs stay left and follow the gravel trail out to the pipe bridge. Don't cross this bridge. Instead turn right and go up the gravel path until you can see the Gazebo structure. Turn hard right again though before you get to it, onto another gravel trail that loops you back to the Suspension Bridge junction.

Once there you now just return by the same route you came out on. Easy! Then it's coffee time! :)

So far (Wed night) I have 7 or 8 other people and myself ready to go. Feel free to join us. You can indicate on the comment section on this blog posting if you want to come or have some questions, or just show up.

The important thing to do now is to try to guess as close as you can the time you think it will take you to cover the course. This determines the order people set off, who the hares are, who the hounds are and also a couple of other things. If you want to post your estimate on this blog you can, or just hold on to it until start time.

I'll start things off and say It's going to take me an hour.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hares and Hounds Kick-off

Note: No animals were harmed in the running of this event...mostly because treadmill runner Brad wasn't there ... We'll let you bring your hamster ball next time if you want Brad..

The idea for this (may or may not be original i have no idea, but it was original to me) came out of an email from Craiky. He wanted me to run from the Headwaters to Deep Cove with him ... with "no messing about" in his words. "What? Me mess about?" I wondered incredulously. "When do i ever mess about. I'm not the messing about kind am i ....?" ;-p

...Moving right along.... I knew he meant "run hard with no breaks, no shootin' the proverbial waste products." This is hard for many of us to do, and I wondered if there might be a way to make it a bit more interesting than just going out there, putting your head down and trying to hang on 'til the misery is over.Basically we're trying to re-create the racing effect without the $50 entry fee.

I have no idea how the electrical path was suddenly forged between my contemplation of that current problem, to an experience that occurred 29 years earlier on a snowy country lane on the Yorkshire moors in England. Crouched behind a dry stone wall, my friend and I waited for the sound of a car... any car ... it didn't matter. Darkness was settling across the moors with just a rose coloured strip across the far horizon and the white snowy fields for light. As the car came around the blind corner we stood up and hammered it with dense, heavy snowballs that thudded into the driver's windows. The brake lights lit up and the car came to an abrupt halt. An instant shot of adrenaline had us on our feet, stumbling into a sprint as the angry driver peeled out of his car and raged across the soft, silent fields in pursuit of us. Fear from the chase kept us moving long past the point where we would normally have given in to the protestation of aching legs and lungs. We kept going until we realized we had far out-distanced our pursuer, then collapsed against a wooden gate laughing and gasping for air. It was exhilarating.

"That's what we need to create," I thought! The exhilaration of pursuit by a monster or something. Ok.. maybe not a monster... we don't want people dying of fright. What about those greyhounds that chase the rabbit around the track to try and catch it? (It's a fake rabbit folks .. or at least it is these days). The feeling of being chased would keep people honest .. it would keep them pushing from start to finish.

A little more brain ache and the idea was formed for the Hare and Hounds run. We managed to gather six people for the first test run. The idea is you give an honest appraisal of the time you think you are able to cover the course in. Others can vet your time and harangue you if they think you aren't being realistic. Then you order yourself in reverse order. The slowest time goes first and then the next and so on. The last person to go is the hound ... the chaser. If you are passed by the hound you're "dead" ... or buying coffee or whatever punishment you choose ... UNLESS you can beat your own forecasted time by at least 30 seconds. This part is important because it prevents the "dead" hare from giving up. He/she still has a second chance at "life" but it requires him/her to keep pushing hard to the end.

That's basically it. Our first one seemed to go well and we all enjoyed it. We all experienced a nervousness waiting inside the End of the Line store for our start time. Once on the trail you know when the hound will start, and when you look at your watch and realize he is now coming out of the door and you're only across the bridge, the exhilaration is there... you really feel it! Tom and I ran pretty much the same pace and we were constantly looking back to see if the hound was coming. But we were also looking forward and trying to catch those ahead of us .. not because we could "kill" them but just because it feels good to see people ahead of you and chase them down; and also to put a buffer between you and the hound.

Stefan .. the hound... had given a time estimate 2 minutes faster than mine and tom's so he was the hound. In the end we were 6 or so minutes ahead of the hound and within 1 minute of our time estimate.

Kevin and Linda were also within a minute or two of theirs and the Pink Princess..? ..... well..... let's just say there was some "hare loss" happening that day ... ;)

But the whole thing was a lot of fun. It was fun to feel you were being chased and also to be trying to chase down those in front. Everyone pushed themselves from start to finish and got in a great speed workout. Perhaps just as important was the exercise in getting to know your own pace and estimating how quickly you can cover certain distances.

Thank you to the other 5 runners who agreed to submit themselves to this experiment (Tom, Linda, Kevin, Stefan and the Pink Princess).

Design Modifications:

The first iteration of anything is rarely perfect and this was no exception. It can get better and Craiky and I were already coming up with ideas for round two as we sped through the forest.

1) Money -- people could start off with 5 loonies or something and if you are passed then you hand over one loonie to the person passing you. If you re-pass them you get it back. The idea is to come out with more money than you went in with ... or at least to break even.

2) If you are 10% or more faster than your time estimate then you have to take your original time estimate and figure out if you would have been passed if you had run that time. If so then you hand over the appropriate amount of loonies, coffee, donuts or whatever currency you have decided on for your hare and hounds run. You can modify the percentage to whatever you think is fair for your group. Doing this forces people to (A) be honest with their estimates and/or (B) really start to begin thinking about their pace.

If everyone is quite accurate with their time estimates then all of the passing should only occur in the last kilometre or so of your run course. This keeps it exciting ... keeps everyone pushing to the end.

A group of ten or twenty would make for a lot of fun. So stay tuned for Hare and Hounds #2 and come and join us! Feel free to make any other suggestions for modifications. Happy hunting .... (no guns please).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

November Snow

Beautiful run on the trails this morning with the Pink Princess and three of her friends.

It's an odd feeling being the only guy on a group run. What would we talk about I wondered as I waited awkwardly in the parking lot for our start.....? Shopping? Spa treatments? Tea parties? Colours I have never heard of? Oh god.... feminine health topics?! Ew!

Just when real worry began to set in, someone mentioned yak trax. Yes! Thank you! I know something about those! And we were off...

Luckily, the girls kept to safe topics and ones I could participate in (at least when I was around). So thanks for that.
Run was really nice. Love running when there is a dusting of snow but the trails aren't covered and you get that mix of colours ... green, brown, white, gray (...see.. i can talk about colours after all).

Anyway.. thanks for the invite Princess. Fun morning. Nice diversion from report cards..

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Don't Go into the Light!

...or is it "Do not go gentle into that good night" ?

Whichever it is we did not lose Kevin today and managed to coax him back with a trail of harvest crunch crumbs. Although i swear i heard a voice, not unlike my own, screaming hysterically "go! go! i'll look after Linda!" followed by a mysterious figure, again, not unlike my own, scrabbling around in the dirt with a straw (insert sucking noises) in the vicinity of the harvest crumbs....

Our two hour jaunt up and down a large hill on a certain quiet trail captured the beauty of fall with its vibrant colour, soft light, cool temperatures and earthy smells from the decay of summer. A ghost or goblin would not have been out of place in this silent forest.

Anyway... it was a perfect morning with perfect friends followed by perfect coffee. I'll leave it at that and let the pictures tell the rest..

Happy Halloween...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rocky Mountain High

Well ... we're off to see the Wizard folks! Driving down the yellow brick road to Colorado this morning and taking our sweet time about it so we can enjoy the scenery, get some runs in and because we can!

Trans Rockies starts Aug 22nd and you can follow it through the website and through their tweety bird thingie @TransRockiesRun ...and.... through Craiky's tweety bird thingie on his blog site...


Saturday, August 7, 2010

"Miracle Mile"

Sort of in keeping with my previous post, the "Miracle Mile" was used to describe the race between John Landy and Roger Bannister, at the Empire Commonwealth Games, back in 1954. They were held here in Vancouver, at Empire Stadium, and it was quite a race with both milers going under 4 minutes, and both battling it out til the final straightaway.

Every year the Lions Gate Road Runners club host their own Miracle Mile race. It takes place on a cinder track at Balaclava Park where Bannister used to go, in the days leading up to his race, to train and escape the spotlight. So last night was the day for this year's event ... a beautiful sunny evening.

I had an invite from Linda Wong, a member of the club featured here in fine form during heat 1 of the race, where she turned in something like a 6:30 mile. Then it was my turn. Although a low-key event it was a little "eek" with all these fast roadies and club singlet wearers, some shaved legs and spikes and a big digital clock timer!

I stepped up to the line with about 10 others (maybe 20 total between 2 heats) and we were off. I think the "miracle" here is that i made it around the track 4 times at the zippy pace set by everyone. I kept forgetting to look at the clock to see my splits for each lap so I had to run by "feel" and it felt wheezerish for sure. I think I paced pretty well though and ended up with the best time I could get out of myself at this juncture. My 5:27 mile got me 4th overall and I'm happy with that.

(Pretty similar lookin' huh?! No? ... shut up.. close enough..)

We finished off with a 4x400 relay so I got to sprint another lap and earn a few more cream puffs from the pot luck table ... remember what i said waaaay back in one of my posts about motivation?!

Thanks again to Linda and LGRR for hosting and welcoming the "outsider." Back to the couch...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chubby Chook

There were also impromptu lessons after their meals, like the time when Cerutty
lectured them on warming up. A cat was sitting on a ledge outside one of the
huts when their coach snuck over and emptied a bucket of water over it. The cat
leapt away and disappeared in a flash. Cerutty then expounded: "There. Did the
cat do stretches? Did the cat jog around? Did the cat do knee bends? Did the cat
have a track suit on before racing? No, the cat just got up and went. No more
warming up. Forget it!" (Excerpt from Neil Bascomb's The Perfect Mile)

Don't believe him? Get a bucket, find a cat and see for yourself!

Cerutty was an unofficial coach for the Australian olympic team for the 1952 Helsinki olympics. He trained John Landy ... one of the contenders at that time, along with Roger Bannister, for being the first to break the 4 minute mile barrier. Cerutty was big on training mental fortitude by putting athletes through grueling bootcamp style regimens. Daily long runs up and down hills and over sand dunes, through rivers etc were standard fare. The idea was to basically train people to push themselves to their limits. It certainly worked to build endurance and mentally strong athletes but, unfortunately, he neglected speed training and Landy failed to break the mile barrier that year.

Too bad because Cerutty would probably like some newer ideas about training like the 30 second workout where you sprint as hard as you can for 30 seconds, rest then do it again 6 or 7 times. This is supposed to have a better training effect than running for an hour at a steady, easy pace. I haven't tried it yet but I like the idea of being able to get that same benefit in about 5 minutes! But here's the catch: to do that workout you need some fairly serious mental fortitude to push yourself as hard as you can for 30 seconds, several times over ... until you taste blood and/or bile in the back of your throat in other words. Most of us, I think, would rather do an easy hour than a painful 5 minutes. Physical and mental discomfort is ...well... discomforting to us.

For we have become a nation of softies looking for the easy way out. Look at me ... the lazy trail runner. A perfect example. I want to do the least amount possible to get a decent result (or at least beat monsewer Craik). But to do that I have had to become less lazy, eat less chips and push myself. And doing that has yielded some decent results.

Mental fortitude is necessary to improving at, I would say, just about anything in life. If we want to get better at something we have to put in the effort and sometimes do things that we don't like or that aren't pleasant or don't make us feel good. It reminds me of something I read in Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers" where a direct correlation was made between student successes in math and the willingness of students to persevere and not give up on math problems. Students who didn't give up or tried for a long time before asking for help were generally more successful than students who gave up quickly and easily.

I'm a teacher, and the empirical evidence is right there in the classroom for me. A lot of our youth lack mental stamina. "Why do we have to run? It's hard! I'm just going to walk and talk" "It's raining, we'll get wet!" "I can't do this work .. it's too hard. Help me!" ... and so on. The slacker culture. How did we get here? Whose fault is it? How the hell do I know. Are kids inherently lazy? Do we have low expectations of them? I dunno .. those are hard questions. I think I'll give up. Ok ... anyway ... a lot of "pushing" these days seems to be external (parents). That's fine .. there's certainly some place for it. But what of the internal drive to overcome problems... to test one's own limits (be they mental, physical or both) for the purpose of self discovery, self esteem and the feeling of accomplishment you get from not giving up? Do I have what it takes to finish that second bag of chips..etc? Have we overcompensated on the external whips at the expense of the internal ones?

I'm not talking very young kids. They haven't developed that yet. But certainly by the time they're 12/13 some interest in pushing one's limits/abilities should be present at least some of the time. And it certainly is .. mostly in girls which may support the premise of an article in Atlantic monthly magazine called "The End of Men" which talks about how women are now far more successful in school, university and work than men and how they are beginning to take up more of the workforce than men, especially in so called information age industries. It's pretty interesting and a bit of a wake up but I think the title is a little sensational. There's no doubt women are really kicking our collective male behind these days but, speaking from my experience in a female dominated profession, I can say that there is a point of diminishing return when a work force is either all or mostly women. It has its issues. So I'm not quite ready to write off men just yet ... but let's not be complacent! Anyway ... I digress... that's a discussion for another time..

Get out there and drive yourself into the ground sometimes folks. It'll do you good! Look at Gary Robbins. He's uglier than a mule! Hell if I looked like him I'd wanna lay down and die too! (..wait a minute... I...) .. Never mind. The point is he's out there whippin' himself and doing some mental fortituding and whatnot and he's had some pretty stellar successes for it all! So don't be a chubby chook. Get out there and give life a good rootin'!

That's two postings in as many days. What the hell is wrong with me?! Ok ... i'm tired and no one's helping me with this so i'm going to bed. Lazy's working for me right now. Night. ... (did someone say chips ..? .. )

Friday, July 16, 2010

Haze - The latest quarterly installment from the lazy blogger

The word describes my return to the Kneeknacker 5 years on.
I woke up in one at 4:59 followed by the sound of a distant but somehow familiar voice "crap!" ... my own. I've been known to oversleep on the odd occassion but have an uncanny knack of waking up just when Tom arrives to pick me up. Surprising myself with my mental agility at this moment, I implemented a diversionary tactic and sent him off to get two other people on his delivery route. That bought me a precious 8 minutes or so ... enough to awkwardly put running gear on a body that still hadn't woken up fully; put contacts in without getting an eyelash with them; stuff pack with gear i had laid out; drink a glass of orange juice (trying not to let the misery set in from not having time to make coffee) and head out the door hoping i had most things i needed.
The start was a press of people anxiously sizing each other up and jitterbugging around with nervous energy. Me? Nothing. Quite comforting really. I didn't care who was there or what was ahead of me ... I just wanted to get under way .. get my legs moving and get to the end.
The memory of the 5hrs:47mins it took to do that is guessed it... a bit of a haze. It was rather surreal and I will just recount it with the random thoughts/images that stick out ... which should help keep it shortish.
1st half - Humid, heavy air. Not a whisper of a breeze in the trees. Thinned out racers. I hiked/ran dripping sweat onto the parched Black Mountain trail. John Foy sighted ahead and Rob Doyle. Slowly gaining and then catching them where we reach the open bluffs and still no damned breeze! Fun and a few laughs as the three of us run together to Cypress.
Cypress - A little faster than I wanted. Foy takes off into the Hollyburn section bitter and cursing ... at what i don't know. It seems pleasant enough out here. The air by the streams is cooling. Foy disappears - i run stride for stride with doyle for a while and talk about the world cup. Hollyburn .. a larabar ... holy those things are dry. I can barely get it down without choking. Down, down to the dam. Sun's heat is coming through now. Feel a little weak but nice to see familiar faces.
Nancy Green - with Mr Green .... walk/run .... walk/run .... chocolate gel all over my hands... bottles... frustrating little inventions. Back into the forest. Energy returns slowly. St George's bench - recovered and running alone.... pretty much from here to the end - kind of like it. I accelerate and it feels good and sustainable. Unlike Black mtn the forest here seems cool and fragrant, holding the light like wine in a glass.
Mountain hwy .. two blue shirts ... Mr Green and Tom .. dependable and efficient as always. He made it easy for me to run on auto pilot while i noodled with a different kind of race ... the kind where you don't know where the finish is! Bummer..
Lynn Canyon, tourist slalom .... girl hill ... john foy .. yes! gotcha. Hyannis, Seymour grind and it's down to the finish... relief, satisfaction, cherubs in the grass and hot water on the legs...
Good night from Seattle..

Monday, April 26, 2010

First Peak - First Blood

It's no secret that Mr. Craik and I have a healthy and amicable rivalry between us when it comes to racing. Pretty much all of our training is done together (except for a 2month secret training stint this time last year by Mr. Craik). Our training is intense, but full of laughs and we keep each other motivated.

But when the gun goes off so go the gloves, and not one inch is given up ... not for pity nor friendship. We wouldn't have it any other way.

And so it was without the slightest concern this last Saturday, that I beat him over the head with a chair and shoved a hornet's nest down his shorts, before delivering the coup de grace by sticking a knife in him and giving it a little twist for good measure.

Oh don't worry ... he's ok. I'm speaking in metaphors. It was the first of the 5Peaks series at Golden Ears Park in Maple Ridge. Since the area has a bit of a wild west reputation I decided to go with the theme and call it our "dust up in the Ridge!" So the seemingly violent preceding paragraph just means that I beat him. ; )

When the young, spring chickens are givin' us old coots a can of whoop-ass, we have to get wiley and devious. So all that stuff about the chairs and knives, is just me saying that I used the element of surprise to lay him out on the saloon floor by blasting off the start line, and holding a pretty hard pace down the opening 3 or 4km stretch. As expected he did the smart thing and didn't follow - holding to his own pace and strategy and reasonably thinking that i'd probably blow up.

However, this wiley old coot was firing on all 3 brain cells this day and I knew i could hold that pace for a while and still only have to back off the pace a little to recover... instead of die. Which is what I did: after opening a good gap I just eased the pace a bit and started my recovery up the lake access road while maintaining a good clip.

The rest of the race went to plan as I dashed through the deluge and mud, feeling good all the way through to the finish in just under an hour, for a 9th place finish overall and 1st in age group!

Four more peaks to go in the series and the problem with surprises is that they tend to only work once before the other person wises up and shuts that avenue down. Since Craiky is a pretty wise ass with a newer and zippier set of wheels than me, I know that eating humble pie in the next few races is a very real prospect ..... which is why i'm gonna be a cocky little bastard today while I can be! =D

Shoes For the Day: Salomon Speed Cross
These shoes were perfect for the wet, muddy conditions. The Speed Cross are essentially racing shoes for the trails. They're extremely light with a heavily lugged sole to grip the trail. Like a well-built German car, the faster you go the more stable they become because you get up off the soft heels and on to your forefoot.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Shout out? How 'bout Shut up!

Apparently there is a list of the most tiresome, overused phrases as compiled by a group of researchers at Oxford University. The top 10 for 2008 are shown here:

It seems a little geographically/culturally limited as I could think of quite a few others that I'd put above those ones. According to a U.S. survey from last year, "whatever" topped the list in that country.

I'm gonna go out on a limb here (hmm.. is that overused..? .."go out on a limb"?) ...[and what kind of limb is it that i'm going out on ..? a tree limb? or an appendage ... like a leg or an arm or something ... should i really be saying "i'm gonna go out on an arm here..] .. i'd be just as apprehensive about going out on an arm as i would going out on a tree limb ... both seem pretty risky...

.. anyway .. so back to my train of thought ..(that could be overused too.. train of thought) .. but i'd like to add another phrase to the list of tedious and downright annoying phrases out there right now, and it seems to be "cropping up" all over the sports world "at this moment in time," especially the ultra world. That phrase is "SHOUT OUT"

Apparently a lot of people feel the need to "shout out" ...a lot! They shout out for people (as in "i'd like to give a big shout out for dumbass here!..."), products ("i'd like to give a shout out for.. oh, i don't know.. apples!), sponsors, fans, weather, girlfriends, hamsters, ... you name it and people seem to be "shouting out" for it.

With all this shouting it's gotten awfully noisy! "Absolutely" it has. And "at the end of the day," "I personally," "at this moment in time," "with all due respect," think "it's a nightmare!" I mean "like," "whatever!" it's like this shouting out has become "24/7" and "I for one" think we need to exercise some moderation in its use. Surely there are other creative, less annoying and less noisy ways to do all this shouting ... "it's not rocket science!"

But for now i'd like to introduce an old, "time-honoured" and to-the-point phrase for all you "hipsters" and "gangstas" out there who are for ever "shouting out" for everything and anything: ..."Shut up!!"

You sensitive folks who don't know me .. i'm all about the "tongue in cheek" .. although it's only half a tongue in cheek this time because, really, this phrase ranks right up there with "rockin' the" this, that or the other as one of the finger nails on blackboard phrases bouncing around the "blogosphere" right now... sheesh! And please ... don't "holla back, y'all!"

Monday, February 8, 2010

Orcas Island 50 or so K ..... take two

This quiet little unassuming race, tucked away on one of the San Juan islands, is the Medusa of ultras -- beautiful but lethal! Its steep climbs turn your legs to stone and the plummeting, never ending descents leave you wishing the rest of you would turn to stone so you could just roll down the hills.

Tom and Dr. Kevin picked me up at my school Friday afternoon and were lucky to escape with their lives after being mobbed by my unruly class who descended upon them with poking fingers, awkward questions and pinned them to the blackboards. (Lecture given Monday morning on how to make new adults feel welcome in the class...)

The weather this year was perfect ... sunny like last year but warmer and no snow. I didn't sleep too well (although apparently i was snoring at some point) but one of our cabin mates was thrashing around all night as though he was being eaten by a school of piranhas or something...

Last year i wore a pack to carry stuff. This year i decided to wear a bike jersey with pockets in the back that i could fill with grub and carry two bottles. Worked pretty well! Food is secure but easy to get at and the bottles can be filled fast.

At 830am we were off. The trails on this course are fantastic! Beautiful single track and really nice soft double track lined with vibrant green moss. Not very technical either. A real treat to run on.

The course has three big climbs and three big descents where you pretty much lose all you gained in the last climb. It's exasperating! You just wanna cry sometimes.

Anyway .. last year i didn't train much and also had a bit of an injury which took care of a two or three weeks and was still around a bit for the race .... so my time was around 7 hours. I enjoyed it more though i think... going slower : )

This year i trained more and smarter (although still not as diligent as i could have been) and i hoped to come in around 5:30 and beat Tom of course. Hmmm.....

I lost sight of him about 10 minutes in and ran for another 30 minutes or so without seeing him anywhere ahead of me. This had me cursing at myself that i couldn't be that much slower - heck i'd pretty much done the same training! Where the hell was he?! I pressed the pace a bit but tried to remind myself of the hours ahead of me. Then finally ... contact! I saw him going up a trail toward the top of mt pickett. I don't think he saw me and i tucked in behind trees and got out of sight but pressed a bit more to close the gap ... he was maybe 200m ahead. Doesn't sound like much but OMG!! is it ever hard to close it! I would round a corner after the trail levelled off thinking i'd see him ... but gone! poof! What?! Then i'd see him again .. almost at the top of mt pickett now and i was maybe 150m behind.

We descended the long winding double track down mt pickett. Tom always either out of sight or briefly in sight on a switch back below me .... each little maddening glimpse causing me to accelerate a bit. Then he disappeared as we neared the first aide station. But as i turned a sharp corner i saw him about 80metres ahead of me ..... walking! Haul in on the reel while i get the bat ready to beat him over the head with when i pass him! But then when i got to the spot where i thought for sure he'd be within clubbing distance i see him disappearing down the trail in the forest ahead! God damn it! I knew this pressing the pace to close was going to cost me later on but i wanted to catch up. As we started to drop into the first aide station i saw him below me again and he saw me out of the corner of his eye at which point the gig was up and i yelled "ooooooh yeaaah!!' to let him know i was right there.

At the first aide station Tom had filled his bottles and was on his way out as i came in. I wondered if he'd stop and wait ... but no .. he took off ... gloves are off when it's a race. I filled my bottles quickly, grabbed some grub and went after him as he disappeared off the end of an open field 150m away. I don't know if it was right to push at this point or how much it would cost me later but i wanted to catch up. I saw him look back as he went into another trail ... this time only 50m ahead and i knew he was thinking "damn!!" and started to push a bit himself.

The powerline was coming up. A one mile climb pretty much straight up that you pretty much have to power hike. I really wanted to catch Tom on this climb and felt the burn in the legs but i also felt pretty strong and i put some effort into closing a maddeningly small but persistent gap. I could see him checking back and knew he was a little worried and pushing hard himself now.

But as i crested the top of the climb i looked and the gap had blown open. i couldn't see him and i knew there was a long descent coming and that he was better at those than me. Going into that descent i kept looking as far ahead as i could see ... but nothing. Same for the loop of the lake where some of the leaders were running back against the grain .. wrong direction. I maintained a decent turnover around the lake but was feeling the ache and it was a little disheartening to have lost contact with the Creakster ahead of me.

I hoped to catch sight of him on the big climb up mt constitution but i couldn't see him. The first half of the climb is punishingly steep and my calf muscles and achilles tendons were screaming. The second half levels off a bit and you can run some good sections and see out over the ocean to mt baker and the snowy coastal peaks. The sun felt warm and my spirits were raised a bit by the views and the sun and the prospect of food and coke at the summit aide station. I reached the top and left (after a sandwich, some coke..and a few more pins in the tom craik voodoo doll... use silver pins next time ) at around 4hrs:07. Tom had left about 7 minutes earlier... not that i knew at that point. But a 2 minute gap had now become 7.

It only got worse though. The trail drops steeply off the summit and i ran gingerly down and then ascended quite well back to the powerline and crossed it to begin the pounding descent to the lake and the last mile or two. Again i was painfully slow going down the steep trail and only managed to find some speed and turnover for the last loop of the lake to the finish. 5hrs:40. The 2 then 7 minute gap had turned into 22 minutes! Tom had blasted the downhills and everything else in the last 12 miles to give the old jedi a butt kicking.

He is a more dedicated and whole (nutrition, recovery, stretching, strategy) runner than i am (i like my donuts, sticky buns and chips too much) and this dedication compounds the time he beats me by the longer the race gets. He has earned his victories and continues to make inroads against some of our community's better known runners. Look out! If you see a guy behind you with chocolate all over his face and a witty line in both holsters ... it's likely him! He never forgets a face or a name ... and you'd be wise not to forget his..

Meanwhile ... i'll try to give him a race over the shorter distances where i can hang on better ... up to 30k.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Christmas and Crescent Park cross country

Blog or die! But if i have nuthin' to say it's a little hard to justify putting something up. So i'll compromise and keep this short.

Christmas was spent in the Seattle area with family and gave me a chance to get out on some different trails. Even though they look much like our trails in North Vancouver (rainforest etc) .. it's still somewhere else and somewhere new. The trails are a little more groomed and less technical which makes it nice for zooming along. I was pretty impressed with their network of trails in urban areas and it's easy enough to join them up for a 2 hour run.

They have some amazing parks and sports fields that, as a teacher, i would love to have access to with a class. I'd be out there all the time and yet as i run by they sit empty!! Kids safely locked away in their houses glued to their new electronic devices. Ever noticed lately how if you plunk a group of kids on a field and tell them to go play they will stand around talking for 20 minutes and then come to you saying they're bored and want to go home? I'm sure if you're from my generation you don't need to be told that those sports fields and parks would be full of kids playing unstructured games all year round. I'm truly scared about what's going to happen in North America when these kids start developing diseases at younger and younger ages and start passing on their own life habits to their kids.

Anyway ... off the lecture podium and onto the Resolution 8k cross-country run this morning at Crescent Park in White Rock. No celebrating the change over from December to January for me (I mean about 2 billion other people in the world don't believe in it or celebrate a different day. I just don't get it). Even so, I woke up and slowly, slowly .. it began to dawn on me that there was a bit of light in my room .. enough to see objects and their colours. This could only mean one thing to my highly trained internal clock.... I was late! Hopped out of bed and phoned Craiky to relay the delay. Rush around and get ready. Pick up Craiky and head off hoping there's a coffee shop open.

Then off to Crescent Park. Really nice park with forest and big open spaces and nice groomed and semi-groomed trails criss-crossing it and, by north shore standards relatively flat.

The race was put on by Peninsula Runners and their series, The Campbell Valley Trail Series, is attended by mostly fast roadies and track/club runners. Great tempo training. I'll get my sandbagging done here -- Craiky and I had run 3hrs on Wed and 1 hr yesterday and then off to this thing so we were a little tired.

Up to this point it was 2-1 to me in our little competition between me and Craiky in the cross-country races. I had managed to burn him off on a beautiful sunny day at the Jericho 10k in December. As I said in my last post .. it's amazing what the promise of coffee and a sticky bun at Grounds for Coffee can do to motivate me =D

Today we were a little surprised to see such a big turn out. Looked like at least 150 runners and White Rock's newest resident, Ward Beemer among them!

The starter said "go" .. i think .. and i took off. About 50 metres in i heard Ward's voice behind me:
Ward: "where's he going?!"
Craiky: "that's how he runs.."

So I knew i was in front as we zoomed around a wide path and funneled into some fun single track through the woods. I zipped and swooped down the trail passing less sure-footed roadies and banked back onto a wider gravel/needle path, leaning into a little climb. Looking up I saw 20metres ahead of me a rather nice bum and the tanned calves of a cute girl fresh back from Mexico. As I was admiring her I noticed on her left a runner in black capri running tights and a familiar gait....

Doh!! What the #%$#%@ !!!?!!! How?!! Oooooooooo ... what?where... how? ... Bewildered and frustrated I closed the 20 metres in less than a minute and pulled up alongside Craiky.

"How'd the hell you get in front of me?!!!!!!!!! How'd you do that?! There's no way you passed me on that single track!!!"

Somehow that weasel had gotten by me at the start before we went into the single track and without me even noticing! The guy is a freakin magician!!! Kinda reminds me of this bugs bunny cartoon i watched as a kid.. there was no kissing involved though ...and no $10. =D

These races are great. I mean I like the long stuff but you don't really get the lungs going on those unless there's a big climb. But in these your lungs and heart are in overdrive the whole time, just on the edge between staying on the pace and being on your face in the dirt callin' a cab.

We both came through the first 4k loop in the 16minute area with craiky about 25 seconds ahead and he managed to keep that gap for the second lap too although i managed to pass the 3 people between me and him so that i finished 1 place behind him.

So now we're at 2-2 and neither of us really wants to go for a tie-breaker cuz it'll be piano wire and razor blades the whole way!

Another reason i liked this race was because they had pizza at the end! Really tasty and still fresh and hot in their little cardboard boxes! Then it was off to see Beemer's cool new place and eat bacon and french toast. That's my kinda new year's day!

No word on the results yet but craiky was 32:10 i believe, and i was 32:35 i think.

Damn .. so much for keeping it short. :p