Hatley Castle 8k Race Recap

Wow- two years since I last raced this series, and almost two since I raced- period! I did two little races this fall, to whet my appetite to get back out there 🙂 and I can tell you by this race, I was READY.

Pretty much dying, ha my neck is straining so hard! Photo courtesy of Lois D’Ell.

We missed two of the VIRA races- the first one was cancelled due to snow/ice, and we were in Mexico for the second (oh what a hardship eh??) so I was feeling eager for this one. I know Hatley is a tough course, kind of a heartbreaker for people hoping for a good time due to the rolling hills, steep hills, and gravel/trail sections but no matter we were racing again!

The weather was SO nice. Like, amazing. Too bad it’s absolutely miserable right now, lol I am dying it is so cold. Last week the sun was shining and it was around 10 deg? We didn’t need to dress warmly for Hatley, which is funny b/c I swear every photo I have from that race there is snow on the ground, or ice, or it’s hailing and we are frozen.

I know it looks like I’m walking, but I swear it was hard!

We started a bit late hilariously because the main gate was still locked, so they had to go get big snippers to cut the lock off!?!

So good thing it was so warm.

The start is very congested- I started fairly close up, but was still bouncing off folks for a good…1km. Ouch, that does hurt your time a bit. When you pass 1k and start heading to the first out-and-back hill, it thins out greatly. I was passing/getting passed a fair bit until kms 3-4, where I just got…passed, ha. I was running in a bit of a ‘reach’ pace I think, particularly for my inexperience in racing over the past two years (and no hills…and a serious injury…lol). But I kept at it! It felt pretty horrible but, a horrible I could maintain.

Something fun- this time I was ahead of Ian. So when we had two out-and-backs (km 2-3, and km 5-6) he waved to ME this time! 🙂 Now that’s a first!

I had to add this one b/c it makes me laugh. Photo by Lois D’Ell.

I thought I was running pretty well through the trail section but I was definitely slowing down. The transition from the trail to the ridge, and then the loooooong downhill, was much longer than I recalled/wanted. I hit the downhill and immediately felt like I was one step away from face planting most spectacularly, yiiiikes! I am not used to running fast downhill and it was freaky.

Then it was roughly 1km to the finish, and I did…Not run super triumphantly, ha. I was straining, it was rough. BUT then there was the finish! 🙂

And I did it! Gun time was 34:13, and that makes a 2 minute personal best for me on this course. I was really happy with that, not shabby at all. I, of course, coughed my lungs out for the next three days…Racing is extremely hard on my lungs, quelle surprise!

Ian finished shortly after me, and we cruised up to get our snack bags and surprise! Sweet swag in it. An Endur hat AND I won a door prize- a super soft t-shirt 🙂 how awesome is that?!!!

A gorgeous day and a good race. Life is returning to normal (at least sometimes).

Race Recap: MEC Race #3 The Tape Breaker!

I ran this one solo, no friend, no husband to join me but I was fine with it. The race moved from last year, the Sooke Potholes location. I really loved the Sooke race–I was fairly new to half-marathons, and found it quite difficult and hot, but the track, the scenery, the weather…so gorgeous!

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So when they announced a new venue I was kind of feeling crabby about it.  One of my favourite races was Sooke even though my time kind of sucked last year, just because of the lovely memories of it. So how was Royal Roads going to measure up?

Well! I can say I am very glad this was was changed when I was more comfortable with running the halfs, that’s for darn sure. It was quite a bit tougher, in terms of terrain to negotiate and the hills. Oh, the hills…I assumed it would be hilly but doable, but when you start with 2k of sloping hills, and then run up Wishart Rd–kind of kills your will to live!

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I’m not gonna lie, the first 10k I was feeling pretty surly at myself. My pace sucked sucked sucked, my legs felt really dead–I looked at my watch at the start and it was saying paces like 5:37, 5:40–at the START of a race? WTF was going on? Why so slow? Well, the slow was due to hill running, genuis! hahah.

It was a combination of gravel, pavement, some road running, then hill/road running, more trail running (roots) and back to gravel. A more technical half than I am used to, but you know what? At 12k a volunteer shouted to me–”Hey you’re half way there!” And I smiled and felt instantly better. Sure I am! Funny enough, having to muscle my way up a really long/steep hill made the time pressure much less for me. I was not going to get my goal time that I got at my last half- 1:45. So I might as well enjoy the process!

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And I did! It was still very hard, I was running dead alone for most of it–not many in the middle ground like me, some very fast runners ahead of me, and slower runners behind me, but nobody with me. It could have been very lonely, but I was fine. It was a hot day, I was sweating so much it was splashing off my ponytail 🙂

I made sure to stop at every water station and drink Gatorade too. I wanted my race to feel SO much better than last time, when I felt like dying and it was horrible. And you know what? I finished STRONG! Happy! FAST! *well, you know…

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My time was 1:50 and you know what? That is totally ok. I know I am capable of faster- on a different track- but on Sunday, that was good for me. I ran a race I am happy with. Congrats to MEC for putting on another affordable, well-run race for everyone, and I love the photos too!

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A strong finish. Thanks to MEC for another great race.

An Easter getaway in Cumberland

Ran out of time apparently last week to do a recap, but this past Easter we rented a small cottage ‘the Crooked Cottage’ in the mining town of Cumberland for a brief getaway. The timing couldn’t have been better- I was fried from the demands of the everyday, my legs were trashed from the half marathon, and needed some time to chillax.

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The crooked cottage.

Unfortunately it was FREEZING in Cumberland- like 5 deg and cold the whole time, but we enjoyed our stay anyways. We got there later in the afternoon and hiked around the mountain for a bit, finding some mountain bike trails that were pretty intense if you had to take a bike on them!

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Retro

My allergies also went into insane hyperdrive and I felt lousy the whole weekend…Blah! They also made me feel sick last week as well, with hot/cold chills, a sore and swollen throat and body aches. Lovely.

Regardless, I went for a jog in the Cumberland trails on Saturday morning, while my husband picked up doughnuts from the BEST bakery. We got cronuts, and jam-filled, lemon-filled, oh, everything. So hot and fresh. YUMMMM. The trails were great to jog on, the only bummer part was when I got turned around and my run went from an 8k ok run to a 10k slog! Oh well. We were also super close to the brewery (Cumberland Brewery) so we went there a lot too, haha.

The town shuts down early and doesn’t seem to open much at all- most stores were closed on Saturday and Sunday, unfortunately, so that left the bakery on Saturday and the brewery haha.

The bakery, to my ultimate sadness, was closed on Sunday (Easter Sunday). I had to console myself by sneaking onto the Easter egg hunt course by Mine site #5 and stealing an Easter egg. It had bubblegum in it though, grossssssss.

It was a nice weekend, too bad about the lousy weather and terrible allergies, but it felt good to get away, regardless.

Race recap- MEC Race #4- ‘The Best Getter’ 15k

Yep, better late than never?!

I signed up for this one in a flurry of signing up for races- this one and some random trail race happening next weekend.

A photo where it actually looks like I'm running. No recent pics, so you get this old one.

A photo where it actually looks like I’m running. No recent pics, so you get this old one.

Then I ran the Gutbuster, and then my knee got wonky again, and I started dreading my initial burst of enthusiasm…Why was I signing up for this race? What was my motivation? 15K is still a distance to be respected so what did I think I was messing around with?

ARGH.

So, the knee thing. I went back to the knee doctor and he said relapses are normal, and the biggest part of having the knee problem I have is that it is a complete mystery and people often have no problems, until they have a problem. The hard part is the near-constant worry and paranoia about my knee going sideways and me being unable to complete a run. It can take 5 years to resolve, or may never completely resolve.

Greeatt….

But, to keep doing what I am doing- knee strength exercises, gait retraining, and do the race. See how it goes. The week before the race my knee was killing me. It felt horrible, shifty, sore, swollen under the kneecap, just really shitty. So, I took time off from doing everything, save riding Oats, to protect my knee and prepare for the race.

Turns out that time off really does a body good.

The day of the race the weather was super crummy. We showed up right on time (aka almost 9 minutes before the start eeek) and started the race. Right off the bat Ian set a fairly assertive pace, and to my surprise I was able to hold it – well for like 1km. Then we settled into a quieter pace and then ran that for close to the whole race! I was feeling actually awesome!

The trail portion of the run had me very concerned- the up/down stuff combined with uneven footing + 15k distance= knee disaster. BUT I got lucky! We held the pace well, and coming out of the two trail loops I still felt quite strong.

That good feeling started slipping when we did an out-and-back to Tillicum. Psychologically it was very difficult to think…”but why aren’t we going home yet” when it seemed like we were so close to the road to the finish.

But we stuck with it (which was great!) but then people started passing us (WTF?). Ah, racing…

I didn’t experience knee pain until the bridge, and then it immediately started feeling unstable. I was lucky to hold out that long, honestly, but I was very concerned with being able to finish with just 3km left! What a heartbreaker that would be!

I grimaced and I leaned on my right leg to compensate, and gritted out the last few kms. They were’t very good. I was trying to protect my knee just to finish, there was another small hill (???? why so close to the end!) and the finish line felt far away…

Then we were on the home stretch! We got passed here by a few people again- gah!

BUT we made our goal- under 1:15 with a time of 1:14:33!!! YEAH!!! That meant I was the 7th woman finisher out of 47, and we were 30-ish out of about 99 runners. Not a huge field but a very keen one.

I’m glad I did it. I may not have been at the time, but at points, I really felt like I knew what I was doing. Maybe there is something to this racing thing after all….

Except out of all the photos, no photos of us. BUMMER!!

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.

Love/Hate

Yep that’s me and Oats most days~

Rode him on Saturday and he was a twit! I was super annoyed, because I was still kind of riding off a pretty good high of him being really good in my lessons last week- decent lesson on Tues and great lesson on Thurs and then Saturday rolls around….And he’s cow-kicking when I mount up again, acting pissy and bucking at the TROT even, and dicking me around like crazy.

Me: Trot please. More forward!

Him: No! Eff you!!! I’m going to hop! Hop! Hop! Instead of trotting, how about a canter instead?!!’

Me: No, I asked for trotting.

Him: Pop! Canter! Up!

Me: Oh okay..fine then, canter.

Him: Wait…Cantering is hard. Balk hard. Return to slow trot.

Me: Cluck cluck! Kick kick!

Him: Did I hear you thinking of using your crop? *Threatens to buck*

YEAH….so…

Not very broke to my leg these days, still, again.

He did get to go for a walk with a young lady who will be hacking him for me and he was good for her! I was glad for that, it’s been a good year or longer since he’s been out on the trails…And his behaviour in the ring indicates more than a good amount of ring sour pissyness.

Sunday, I warmed him up outside and he was way more interested in life. Forward, happy, ears pricked forward and didn’t feel balky, poppy or draggy. Good! Moved him indoors for more work and he lost a bit of his ‘pep…Bad.

Monday he had off, and the temperatures have dramatically plummeted!

Tuesday I had off, so I rode early- no lesson for us yesterday. He was surprisingly good! Got some really nice trot, didn’t push the canter too much as I wanted to work more on my ‘eye’ exercises (3,2,1- jump!) over poles. Good news is that they are getting much better, phew! Maybe I’ll develop an ‘eye’ for jumping yet. I’m trying to stay a bit more consistent with my eye-counting exercise, at least 1X a week.

Also did two laps of 2-point w/no stirrups at the trot and almost died.

And thank the saints that Oats is not a reactive type of pony…His quarter sheet, to keep him warm, flew off his butt when I was leading him to the arena, fell off his behind when I was RIDING him (had to get off and pick it up off the rail!) and then fell off him for a third time when I was leading him to the stables, where it got stuck under his foot. JESUS.

I have to figure out a better way to stick it on him, or it will cause a major disaster for me one day…Luckily Oats literally didn’t even notice it once!! Even when it slid off his butt in the arena.