‘Comfortably Numb’ Trail Race Post Mortem

So – Survived this extremely technical run and lived to tell the tale…just!

Not quite the time or the placing I was hoping for, but I’ll take it for what it was – A good first serious forray into the world of trail racing. This race is known as a ‘west coast classic’ in these parts of the world, for a number of reasons. The main one being is that it really is extremely darn difficult, because of the ascending, descending and in particular, over the terrain in which you are asked to do it!

It was noticeable right from the start that I had the legs of many of the ‘racers’ as I inadvertently ended up leading the strewn out pack up the first fire road hills and onto the first couple of single track trails. However, this is where it all went wrong. I almost immediately hesitated and took a slight wrong turn and the 3 guys behind me all took off in the ‘correct’ direction. No big deal, just took off after them.

This was quickly followed by two or three kilometers of straight up switchback hills and worse, causing one or two to walk some of the steeper climbs. The terrain quickly switched to a ‘wall to wall’ root carpeting of the forest floor together with rocks, some mud and naturally more climbs as the first half of this race took us predominantly uphill.  It was in here that I quickly learned that my road speed alone was not going to be enough as I vied for my position for a few kilometers with a couple of guys who were 1) seasoned trail runners and 2) very accomplished at descending rapidly in this loose, slippy terrain. And so it went with them passing me on the downhill and me overtaking on any flat (not that there was much ever!) and the uphill sections.

This definitely become a little weary for me until I let these guys simply stay ahead for a bit. So out there on my own for a while allowed my to ‘run’ (more of a run , hop, step, dance and jump really) at my own pace and also come a little unstuck once or twice as I struggled to find any race markings and the natural path – obviously slowing me down further. A couple of near full body-plants into the ground were beginning to niggle with my temperament as I become more frustrated with myself until I eventually hit the ground a little harder, dusted myself off and took off again.

Eventually we reached a slightly rockier, firmer section of the race which allowed me to plant some firmer footing as I was getting fed up with the tree roots at every step and this typically meant being out in the open with the sun beating down on me.

Eventually I approached what I thought was territory that I recognized from a couple of previous forrays into the very end section of this trail as I’d previously tried to accustom myself with and felt a little happier. That was until I spotted a photographer on the course and tripped coming down off some rocks and boulders. Down and with the wind sucked right out of me, I really wanted to stay down to regroup, but with this photographer telling me I was doing great and in 6th or 7th place…for now, I realized that I had to get up and back on my running feet quick, not least as my pride was hurt and all I could think about was hoping he hadn’t captured that magic moment on film!

Shaken and in a bit of pain, I carried on, but in trying to shale off the niggles, I was quickly passed on some tricky downhill sections by a couple of speedstars who’d come from deep within the pack. By now, I was longing for some open, buff trail, where I could open my legs and really run. I knew I had the legs and speed to take these guys ahead of me, but was being well beaten by a few guys who were obviously far more comfortable on this terrain than I was.

Eventually I came out of the technical trails onto something I could really run on and set about giving some real gusto to my effort. Frustrated for miles about not being able to really speed up and let my pace show, I now wanted to see if I coud either catch someone, or at least feel better about pushing the envelope a little with a kilometer or two to the finish.

As I approached the finish, I could hear a few cheers and the tannoy. I’d obviously gained a little ground, but all I could do now was round off the last few hundred meters feeling relatively fresh, but happy to let rip.

Speeding across the line I always feel a little cheated as there’s always the thought that if I feel so good still, why couldn’t I have left a bit more out there on the course?! That said, all in all, a good fun run.

Apparently I’d missed the several bear sightings – too busy looking for my footing to see that far away from me…at least I assume they weren’t that close to me!

I was glad to have made the decision to run with a hand held water bottle. Something I wasn’t inclined to do, especially as there was supposed to be a water station at the halfway mark, which, didn’t materialize. Thankfully, the bottle also broke my fall a few times as well, although not sufficiently to stop me damaging my rotator cuff presumably on lens!

On reflection though, not a bad performance, slower than I had predicted by about 1o minutes, but given falls and wrong turns, not bad. Definite room for improvement and a nagging desire to quickly improve my technical downhilling skills.

Next up, the ‘Tenderfoot Boogie 50KM in 6 weeks. Mainly trails, but nowhere near as technically difficult!

Maybe we’ll give the Xterra trail running championships here in Whistler a throw of the dice with a concerted effort to run trails between now and then. Shouldn’t need much incentive, especially with a chance to run in the world finals in Hawaii at stake!

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