Consider my gut busted: Guest post and race review and recap of the Gut Buster Mt. Tzouhalem!

Thanks to my husband for generously sharing his race experience with me! Here is his guest post- I did NOT do the Gut Buster, hills are not my friend! Without further ado…

Consider my gut busted.

A different type of race

A different type of race

This year saw an explosion of running for Sarah and I. While we have long been into casual running of medium distance, maybe once a week, and an annual crack at an organized race, in 2015 things got serious. The winter was all about road racing all over the island. And although I wouldn’t say we dominated the winner’s podium, we made some very favourable personal progress in being awesome.

So with new found momentum in running races I sought to find new avenues to flaunt my skills. Enter the Gutbuster Series. The first was scheduled for last month, but I had a last minute conflict that kept me away. So last Saturday I turned up at an idyllic orchard at the base of a mountain totally unsure of the intensity level I should expect. As it turned out, intensity was at a new level.

Off we go

Off we go

This should maybe not have come as a surprise. I was to run up a mountain after all. And my familiarity with the climb, pulled from childhood memories growing up just around the corner, should also have caused me some concern. In another year I may have been more wary, but fresh off my second half marathon, a mad dash up the side of a very steep mountain seemed positively reasonable.

Spectating is hard work too!

Spectating is hard work too!

About 2 kilometres in, my perception changed. Then on the left the “short track” peeled off and I cursed aloud the vanity that caused me to sign up for the 13km loop. It costs $5 more! What possessed me to dole out more for this torture?

Not long after that everyone was walking. I was close to using my hands like claws to pull myself up. Instead I was bent double, with both hands on my knees, pushing down to give support to each step. I’m not sure that it helped, but it was enough to keep going. I don’t have the actual numbers, but a quick review of a map shows that we climbed almost 500 meters in maybe 3 kilometers. When we got to the top there was an amazing view of the Cowichan Valley. I caught a glimpse of it as I gasped and whimpered and stuttered forward along a crazy ridge that while no longer vertical, had enough climbing that I was very slow to recover.

No climbs for this dog

No climbs for this dog

Around 6 kilometers (and I’m guessing here) I heard shouting up ahead. It was a volunteer who had biked up – and she was shouting encouragement. “This is the highest point!” she called, “Whoop whoop!” I cheered back, or tried to but my mouth was dry and my lungs were empty.

After that the entire race changed. I went from racing down a logging road to racing along a narrow deer trail amongst waist high salal, no room for passing. This was where my skill in trail running took over. And when I say skill, I kind of mean recklessness with a dash of local experience. It was fun and my lungs and legs began to work properly once more. I was surprised nonetheless on the terrain the trail plunged through. Without flags to mark the way, we would have been lost as it wound through every type of trail, nevermind the fallen logs, wash out, boulders, scree or holes.

The decent was a different kind of madness. It rattled my gut. Just as steep as the way up, I didn’t do my knees any favours. Yet I made up time and knew the end was near. After a final (and exasperating) steep segment right near the end, I was back at the orchard and done.

Strong finish

Strong finish

My legs hurt for a couple days after, and I was a long way from placing with the top finishers, but it was a great run. After running flat roads, straight and to the point, mixing it up by hauling ass up a mountain and through the woods was actually just what my running needed. Now I know what to expect next year.