Guest post: Finlayson Arm 28k 2017 Race Recap!

Courtesy of my husband who bravely undertook this insane race last weekend! Without further ado:

The good memories of the 28k Finlayson Arm race are overshadowed by my evolution through intensifying stages of discomfort. This constant pain was punctuated by bursts of sunlight piercing magically down between treetops, a stunning vista or two and little reminders that this amazing network of trails is in my own backyard. There was also the reminder that I had volunteered for this little jaunt through the woods and that no one would sympathize with my agony.

A few weeks before the race, I had decided that four hours was the longest it would take me – the rough number to beat. I figured that was setting expectations so low that I was sure to finish with a smile. There was even some pre-race training for me, complete with my brand new water-bladder on my back and getting lost for an hour or two in the trails behind Thetis Lake. I felt sure-footed and strong. This was a race I could do. All I needed to do was power through some tough hills and keep moving. In a sense, that’s exactly how things turned out.

It was a chilly morning when we set out – cool and clear over night – but the forecast was sunny. The 50k and (suicidal) 100k racers had finished the day before in the rain. As if their punishment was not enough. I went quick off the start as I anticipated getting bottlenecked later on the narrow single-track. After a kilometer I was established near the top 10. Then we hit the creek. Anyone who has been to Goldstream Park will notice how a four-lane highway rips through the middle with no safe way to get from one side to the other. You either need to dodge cars or get your feet wet (and maybe your legs and maybe your ass depending on how nimble you are). A rope strung across helped the crossing not be complete madness, but it was a gritty way to start a race.

With wet feet I carried up through the rolling side hill on the west side of the highway. This is a really nice section of trail that I will have to remember to check out when I’m not racing. It was a time to flex out your legs, find your pace and your seeding, a bit of a free pass before you hit the real hills. Looking back I wonder if I went too fast in this section, maybe blowing too much gas.

About five kilometers in, we were back under the highway (luckily through a dry stream bed this time) and through the main park, eerily deserted in the still early morning. I already had a pain in my leg, a nagging injury that I’m learning to live with, so I started to run a bit more cautiously.

Next it was on to the main event of the first half of the race, up the face of Mt Finlayson. There’s a slow build to remind you that this is a serious climb, to check your pace and your ambition. Then it gets steeper. Then the trail kinda takes a break and you start scrambling over rock, open to the sky. I should mention at this point all the volunteers and signage to keep you on track. There is plenty of both and I always felt like I knew where I needed to go. They seemed to anticipate in these early sections where you might go astray and had people there to point. On the mountain there were more guides. It’s the kind of climb where there is the very real possibility of running off a cliff into thin air so I’m glad they were there to point the best way.

At the top of the hill I felt pretty good. Well, not good. My legs were burning. But there was a lift in getting over what I knew was the hardest section of trail and I had kept my pace and not been passed. It was this feeling that propelled me down the backside, not too steep (which was nice) and into trail that I had never seen before. Just before we popped out on asphalt (a surprise) I was passed by someone with a bit more lift than me, but I stayed on his heels as we ran along the short section of road towards the first aid station.

The station could not come soon enough. Almost two hours into the run, I suddenly felt depleted. I wanted to stop and sit and eat some cookies, but my new nemesis just cruised on through. I grabbed a cookie and a banana piece anyway and set off on the next leg, back into trail. This is where my memory of the route got a bit hazy. What kilometre were we at? How far to the turnaround? Basically, the race had moved solidly into ‘not-fun-anymore’ territory and I was doing some mental math on how much longer I would have to move. At two hours the footsteps behind me turned into people passing me. I tried my best to make sure they weren’t increasing their lead on me, but I found myself slowing on every little hill, my flow completely evaporating.

There is a long hill in this section that, mentally, nearly did me in. Where was the bloody turnaround? The trail was also quite technical, with loose rocks and big steps up in places. Then I saw the front runners coming back down and couldn’t decide if I was elated or destroyed. It meant the end must be near but also put the necessary route back home into perspective. At least they were giving shout outs to keep me going: “Almost there!” I hoped they were right. Finally there were more people coming back down towards me – people I recognized! Hey, you’re only a bit ahead of me! And there were the volunteers, a photographer snapping a picture of my grimaced face, and the end of the ‘out’ – it was time for the ‘back.’ (Side note: one of the volunteers or spectators or whatever was announcing ‘halfway there’ and I thought that was a bit cruel. Maybe most didn’t hear or didn’t care, but I was a believer for a moment. Could this truly be only halfway?)

I was so happy to be heading home (and downhill to boot) that I even passed who I would later find out was my trail buddy. I swung my bag around and took out my gel pack. Time to take in some energy and get going. Things were looking good. Now it was my turn to dish out enthusiasm to those still on the grind to the top – “keep going,” and “almost there” I kept saying even as it became less true the further I went. And there were so many people behind me. I was doing well! Then all of a sudden I wasn’t.

I was coming undone, step by step.

After three hours of “running” I did not have the strength to keep my pace, or any pace. I was passed, then passed again. I knew the aid station would be coming back up again but I needed it now. As I popped out of the woods back into the daylight I was passed by another three. But I had to take a moment. I grabbed another gel pack, a banana and squashed a cookie in my mouth. The volunteers were asking if I needed to fill my pack, something to drink. I shook my head and imagined the madness in my eyes. I muttered something about wanting to use up what I had. Maybe I had filled my pack too full as well. Then I was off for the final few kilometers and my once measured race became an unhinged stumble to the end.

The return route did not go back over Mt Finlayson, but skirted along one side. It was a rolling bit of trail that took a lot of focus. Right in front of me was the aforementioned Trail Buddy – temporary companions in suffering. It felt reassuring to keep pace with someone. Those who had passed us seemed to have extra energy to tap and were pulling away, but we were hanging in there, moving forward. I knew the end could not be too far off, but looking at my watch I began to wonder if I would get in under four hours. More importantly, would I be able to stand on my feet for that long? We rounded the mountain and rejoined the steep trail up from before – this time heading down. My legs – knees, shins – could not handle the steep downhill. I grimaced with every step. Up or down would not do; I needed flat, please.

Down and down we went and we were passed again. My world got smaller as I narrowed my focus on foot placement without collapsing or catapulting downhill.

Next was a split off to the left, in the direction of end/start. I could hear the highway again. I was picturing a mental map of the park and where we were in relation to salvation. The end could be around any bend, I told myself after every bend. Out of nowhere this guy in his sixties came up on us, hooting and and maniacally urging us along. “C’mon boys, let’s give ‘em hell” he shouted as if we were heading over the top of the trenches or storming Normandy. I put on a face and groaned some more. The crazy old man disappeared whooping and skipping along. Maybe I imagined the whole thing.

Then at about the same time that I decided my legs were finished, I spotted spectators ahead. There was a volunteer with a clipboard, calling ahead with my number, the sound of fans and a PA system blurting out names and congratulations. And then I heard my name, a mix-up, before I shot out onto the grass and over the finish, some prize pack thrust into my hands, the buzz of activity all around. There was my run buddy (he beat me in the end) with a high five and then food, glorious food.

For the next 45 minutes or so, I paced around in agony in between vigorous stuffing of burgers and beer. I could not decide whether to sit, stand, walk, or crawl into the bushes for a little nap. It was agony, but I had done it. And I never had to do it again.

I stayed on to cheer some others as they came across. A seventy year old, a guy who had finished the 100k yesterday was doing the ‘double-double,’ some others who I recognized from races past. Were they fast, was I slow? Did we all do “alright?” I cared a little. As much as this race was an experiment, you want to do well. Or well enough for your expectations.

I got in at 3 hours and 51 minutes, somehow just inside my (soft) target. I might as well have run a marathon. It’s the slowest 28 kilometers I’ll likely ever run yet certainly one to remember.

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I can’t tell what the time is telling me

Yes, back again from a busy-ish weekend…My husband ran in the Finlayson Arm 28k on Sunday (crazy!!) and I rode, did some mild running, and had my ‘take the horses to the beach’ trip cancelled due to constant rain… 😦 boo

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Canoeing with Gidget on the long weekend.

Oh well we are going to try again for this weekend. Fingers crossed it actually happens!

And I had my jump lesson on Thursday and it wasn’t…great. I am now noticing that Oats gets quite sticky and stiff off the ground later in the summer (Aug-Sept) and it does greatly impact his desire to jump outdoors. He just isn’t forward and is quite reluctant to leave the ground!

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This is something I will need to start addressing- either with Previcoxx or hind shoes or both. I want him to feel great jumping again so I will focus on his maintenance going into the spring.

I did have a good ride indoors on Saturday (rain) and he was QUITE frisky on Sunday- outdoors was soft and still wet so I think he quite enjoyed the footing!

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I watched the LIEC dressage show after riding on Sunday too and it made me feel still kind of anxious about going up a level in dressage with Oats- what am I doing? Do I even know? Yikes…

Monday I was volunteering at a work event and was not allowed to have my phone or computer with me all day= busy busy busy. Back to the grind this week though…

The girls went to school at High Point yesterday and I was beyond jealous. Mannnnn.

Everything is starting to make sense

Had a BUSY weekend. But a good one!

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So, what did I, Oats, Ian and Gidget get up to?

Saturday I had rescheduled my lesson for this week so I rode two jump lessons last week instead- Thur/Sat. Saturday I was out in the field for my ‘brave girl’ jump lessons! And it went really well- though most certainly not perfect, ha.

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Oats was on fire! He was charging off and it surprised the heck out of me. Who replaced my lazy as sin pony with Mr. Hot Pants? Wow. We had to work through some stuff (a few silly stops when I pulled my hands up before the jump, one attempt through the barrel jump that was basically a runout-stop-climb over it, I think he was feeling tired by that point, and one jump we crashed straight through in a -go-no-stop-no-go disagreement…Whoops! We circled around and jumped it fine the next time, so no hard feelings on that one.

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We jumped a lot, ha. It was quite a warm day, so my husband and I then headed straight to Thetis Lake for some good trail running (9km slow) and then we picked up our swimsuits, got changed and went swimming in the lake! How perfect is that?

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In the evening, we went to see a film- The Big Sick and it was pretty good actually.

Sunday I was on the go again- I volunteered as a flagger at the polo tournament (Victoria’s Lt Governor Cup) and it was a scorching day in the sun! I wanted to ride in the slow chukkar but didn’t get added to the tournament, so spent the day volunteering instead. Bummer! But oh well, there will be plenty of opportunities to play coming up.

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It was VERY exciting, and I saw some really crazy plays- full bore gallop ride-offs, some neat backhand goals and some really intense gallop leads. WOW!

Then I hopped back in my car and went to ride Oats (dressage in the indoor, I was feeling completely fried by the sun. Ouch!! Even the next day my face felt tight and hot.). Silly me, too much sun exposure and no hat. I know better than that!

All in all, a good and busy weekend. 🙂

When they fight, they fight

Ah been feeling a tad unmotivated lately- summer lazy maybe? Oats has been a spooky  moron some days and it’s driving me insane…He’s good with another horse in the ring, and was pretty decent to ride when my husband came out to watch/get a pony ride, but other times he’s running backwards, spooking sideways so violently I’m hanging off the saddle, or threatening to rear while running backwards and trembling…Greeeeat…

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He is a handsome devil!

Canada Day celebrations were fabulous, I can’t say I would change a single thing! The day was pretty effortless, and on Friday we were even able to see Tegan & Sara (great!) and on Saturday The Arkells, and fireworks after attending a friend’s BBQ- she had ribs and they were soooooo good.

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Rode all four days- Sat/Sun/Mon/Tues to above-mentioned mixed success. He was fine last night too, rode in the other field and really enjoyed that ride. Wish he wasn’t so stupid and spooky right now! I can’t figure out what changes in his brain when we’re alone in the outdoor arena, and the most frustrating part is that he was SO GOOD when we came out in the outdoor…Then I take a week off for my sister’s wedding and he’s a total idiot. WTF?

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What gives?

Oh well, have to work through his dumbass behaviour until it goes away later in the summer.

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Celebrated 8 years of marriage this weekend!

Runningwise? Hah not happening. We ran lightly this weekend, like 5k and my legs were fried. Just fried. I have no real desire to run, at all, right now. I do think I am burned out of it, to be honest! Maybe I’m burned out of everything, ha.

But, I do want to try polo and that has been on my mind for awhile….!!

Hopoxia!!! 2017 Edition

This weekend was BUSY with a capital ‘B’ but hey, I knew that about June 2017 and I am totally loving it!!

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Saturday, I knew I was on a tight(er) timeline- I was trying to fit in a run (long), a ride & pack and clean up horse for the dressage show on Sunday, and a walk to Phillips Brewery for their Hopoxia beer fest!

I started with the run- 18km. It was absolutely horrible. I had terrible asthma, making my chest/lungs constrict in a super frightening and unpleasant way. I was gasping and clutching my chest. Hm, maybe I should have used my puffer, or at least carried it with me…It’s becoming very clear that I have either allergy-induced or exercise-induced asthma (or both!!) and it’s pretty nightmarish to try and run with it.

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Anyways, that was frighting and sucky and I hated it, but I did it. I did have to listen to my body and walk when I started gasping for breath, so be it. I did it! And went home to a great breakfast courtesy of my great husband, and then it was off to ride & pack up my stuff and give Oats a bath!

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I tried to go as quick as I could, and zipped home (note- I only showered on Sunday, after allllll of my events were over. Good choice or bad choice?? ha).

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We walked to Hopoxia, and I had a fab time there! We tried so many awesome beers, chatted with a friend/colleague and I really enjoyed the chance to try some super cool and unique flavours- standouts include a bunch of really sour ‘sours’, and the ‘A day off your life’ beer that was like 11.5%!?!!

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A great time was had by all 🙂

Second chance summer

What a great weekend. It was so lovely, I wish I could bottle it, so I could release those ‘feel good’ endorphins for months to come…

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Photo courtesy of my friend- blurry but it captures all the fun we had!

It was the kind of weekend where things just work out. The weather was fantastic, I had some great times with my girls, drank wine, ran, rode my pony, floated at Thetis lake and just had a fabulous time all around in the hot sun.

Saturday we went garage sale-ing in a community that usually has great garage sales, and this year it sucked! What gives??? I still bought a pair of shorts and workout pants (and they do look great) but in the past we’ve had way better luck. Oh well, that’s just how garage sales go I guess…

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Holding hands so we don’t drift apart! The two Sarahs.

Then I zipped out to the barn and rode Oats in the outdoor arena and he was really great out there! It was so hot too, I couldn’t believe it. Like a big frying pan. I had a super fun ride, hung out at the barn for a bit cleaning & conditioning my tack, and then drove home and prepared to…go on a really long run. In the heat. Wow! It was really rough, not gonna lie. More of an eternal shuffle-jog, but I did it!!

I then had the luxury of a great bbq dinner courtesy of my husband with a beer to share and a bottle of wine. Ahh….

Sunday I didn’t have to get up too early, but my super-husband made crepes! Whooo! And then we both set out for the day- I rode Oats and then my barn friends and I went and floated at Thetis Lake (a great idea of theirs and the BEST day to do it). I just had this feeling like, I wanted this day to last forever….

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Oats has also been enjoying the summer! Photo courtesy of Sarah C.

Husband went climbing for the whole day, so I wrapped up at the lake and then put my gym clothes on and stopped off and ran some hills (again in the heat, yeowch it was tough) before heading home to take Gidget out. I had to walk some, I was dying!! Oh well, my legs too quite the beating this weekend.

Home again, with an ice cream McFlurry to finish off an amazing weekend. I just wish I had so many more of these! 🙂

Run recap in photos from Cedar 12k

I found a whole bunch more photos, courtesy of some runners at Cedar 12k. Annd…thought I’d do a wrap up of the photos, as a sort of reminisce from my crazy-insane season of 6 races in six weeks, culminating in 10 races for the season total. The distances ranged from 5k to a half marathon, trail to road, and BOY was it a challenge this year.

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Yeeahhh a solid 9th place finish for me. HA.

Right now, I’m on a race hiatus which feels pretty nice actually. (sort of a lie right now because I did inadvertently sign up for a trail 29k on the Sunshine Coast and then forgot I signed up for it, and found out we got in on Sunday…and it’s this weekend so I had to cancel.

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But I did finish in 5th place overall for the series!

The reality is Mexico+booze+holidays+sun+home renos+back to work+decompressing from the insane stress of months and months= no go for me. Sorry Marathon Shuffle, I will try next year! I bet it’s fun!

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Looking sharp

Our stairs and bedroom look great though, so the home reno thing is going nicely.

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Had to miss my Tuesday dressage lesson to pick up family from the ferries, so rescheduled that for next week but I still have my jump lesson tonight to look forward to!

Comox

A fun bonus- this is from the Comox half marathon.

Oats on the other hand, has been enjoying his vacay from me a bit too much and came back into work on Sunday a tad grudgingly. Ha.

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At the turnaround. I have never had so many photos from one race!