I’m not sure I should be calling these races right now, as that would suggest the normal cycle of preparation for such an event was followed. You know, tempos, track intervals, hill repeats, longer runs with race pace legs – in short, training. Unfortunately, since my diagnosis of a suspected – and more recently confirmed – meniscus tear, my ‘training’ has consisted of trying to find the right amount of running distance, frequency and intensity that doesn’t make my knee too tight afterward. This, coupled with a plethora of core, balance and knee strengthening exercise, is what passes for training for me.
Prior to the diagnosis, while I simply had a tight knee, I had plans for this to be a season of reasonably hard training with several target races, and some specific road race time goals. Now, I’m viewing the races I did register for as simply hard runs to gauge my fitness and to keep me a bit focused. Five such events are the 5 Peaks BC trail races and today was the first one of the season, in Golden Ears Provincial Park.
I ran most of the course last weekend for familiarity, so I knew there was a pretty gnarly 1000 ft gain in one 1/4 mile stretch (aptly named Incline Trail), so I knew some of it would inevitably end up being hiked. While I have done some trail running in the past, it’s never been a big part of my running so, when coupled with the knee issues, I felt there was no point having much of a race goal. I decided I’d just make sure I was hitting Incline Trail as solidly as I could and would have a nice day on the trails. That’s exactly what happened.
The weather could not have been more perfect. Since I got up at 6 and wasn’t running until 9, I was able to do my typical breakfast shake so my pre-race meal was pretty much perfectly digested. I brought a couple of gels and opted for the hydration back pack, as opposed to a hand bottle. The latter on a run of this length would have been plenty and a little lighter, though bringing the pack did allow me to carry my keys and wallet, so it wasn’t a big deal.
Clear skies and 6 degrees celsius at 6am turned into probably 8 degrees and sunshine by race time. I picked up Greg at 7:30 and we were off to Maple Ridge. When we got to the Golden Ears parking lot, the parking machines were hooped and everyone ended up getting free parking out of the deal. Since we made a pit stop at Timmy Ho’s in Maple Ridge, we didn’t even need to line up at the porta-potties. Gee, could the day get much better?
The race was pretty uneventful overall. The route goes out roughly parallel to the road, ambles by Menzies Creek and then up toward the real climbs past the park ranger headquarters. I got into a pretty steady rhythm all the way to Incline, keeping things mellow, and was doing about an 8:45 mile by the time I hit Incline. I timed my first gel so that the boost would hit me as I was climbing Incline. I slowed to a power hike about 1/3 of the way up, and kept trudging along with no stops of any kind. At the very top of Incline, there’s a little twenty foot stretch along the fire access trail before you head right back down Eric Dunning Trail.
Given my complete lack of hills and trails, I’d say the transition between straight up and straight down was the toughest part of the race. My thighs tooks a few minutes to adjust. I generally like downhill trail running; so much so that I attack it pretty hard. For whatever reason I’ve always been pretty good at picking lines around bolders, stumps and logs. Coming down Dunning was a blast, though I never really came close to recouping the time lost on Incline. Once back to the road at the park ranger headquarters, there’s another gnarly, but shorter and less steep climb up Lookout Trail, looping back down across the road, through the Spirea Trail and back to the start-finish at the parking lot. I timed my second gel while coming down Dunning so that I’d get a second sugar lift going back up. There was really nothing eventful about the rest of the race for me. Once the climb on Lookout was finished and everything was downhill across the road and through Spirea I just basically put the hammer down to try and recoup a bit of my uphill pace loss.
In the end
I ended up doing OK, given all the circumstances. Officially, my finishing time was 1:20:18, good enough for 57th overall in the Enduro, 50/100 men and 14th in my age category. I was a little surprised that the course distance was supposed to be 14k, but that Garmin only ended up measuring it as 12.9. Even allowing for the problems that vertical causes for an accurate GPS measurement, this seems like a pretty big gap. Whatever, it was a fun time on a great course, on a beautiful day.
Going forward, since I don’t want the rest of my trail running to be quite so weak on the climbs, I’m hoping I’ll be able to convince my knee to add more hill work. Next up is the BMO Vancouver half next Sunday.