It really doesn’t get any better than this past Sunday...that is, for a trail running dad on Father’s day.
Race #3 of the Coast Mountain Trail Series, Survival of the Fittest, took place up at Quest University in Squamish. The trails were in amazing shape, the crowd was in a great mood, and we ended up with some perfect scorcher weather. Most importantly though, my two girls and my wife Jodi were with me, and they were totally into the event. In fact, the three of them were volunteering at the race and were going to be helping with the aid-station. You couldn’t imagine two more excited aid-station volunteers than my girls. At their age (almost five) they love to be given responsibility. The idea of prepping food and drinks, and possibly handing out water to racers, had them on cloud nine.
Now, let me go back a couple weeks. I DNF’d up at the Oliver Half Iron. It was one of the few times in my racing career though, where dropping out was the right move. I’m pretty good at denial: specifically, not admitting to myself that i was screwed before i even started. I had not ridden my TT bike since last July at the Desert Half Iron. I had every intention to get out for a few rides in May, but i sliced my hand pretty badly while doing some yard work (in May), and i couldn’t really hold handle bars.
Pretty much the second i hopped onto my bike in the race, and got on to the aerobars, my hamstrings and glutes were incredibly tight. All i could do was totally soft pedal and hope that my legs would loosen up...but they didn’t. I got through half of the bike (riding slow as hell) before I pulled the chute. Suffering through another 45km on the bike, then trying to hammer 21km of running on the pavement, was not going to do my body any favors. Given that one of my big goals this year is the Knee Knacker, and that the Oliver Half wasn’t even on my priority list, i chose to live to fight another day and to focus on my KK prep.
Having a fresh set of legs for these last couple weeks, meant that i was able to put in some big volume on the trails. More running than i have ever done before actually. I was able to squeeze in multiple runs in the 3-4 hour range, and some solid quality thrown in the mix. I had even convinced myself that a pair of measly 2 hour runs on Friday and Saturday was enough ‘recovery’ to be fresh for Survival of The Fittest....delusional.
Race day, and the Murphy’s were on the road by 6am and headed to Squamish. We arrived with plenty of time to check in and to sort out the dynamics of the volunteer team. I left Jodi and the girls in good hands (Jay and Dianna), and i headed out for a little jog.
CRAP! How can my legs feel so heavy and flat??
Must be just from the drive up this morning. They will come around. Just follow my usual warm up routine...
I crossed my fingers that a few hard uphill strides (after my 30 minute jog) would chip off the rust... but no such luck. You know you’re in trouble when you just want to sit down during your warm up.This was the point where i had to have a little talk with myself about the process: Today was a step in the process: work hard and get the best out of the day. Don’t worry about the outcome, it’s all about doing what i can on the day.
I know that i shouldn’t worry about my competition. I can’t control what they do. I can only control what i do. Toeing the line with two really solid athletes (Kris Swanson and Eric Carter), and not feeling like my usual self, i knew there was a good chance that i was going to take a beating. I had never raced against either of them, but i knew who they both were. Eric is a super strong skier/runner from Squamish, and Kris is a multiple-time National Mountain Running Team member, with several visits to the World Champs...enough said. My only real hopes of staying with them today was that Eric hadn’t found his running legs yet this season, and maybe Kris was having a really really bad day.
For the first km or so, the pace was quite pleasant. I was thinking that maybe i would come around if we kept it nice an slow like this.
Uhhh....nope. Barely onto Climb trail, and Kris was starting to crank it up a notch. I had to just hold back. I could physically feel the stress hormones building in my body, and Kris and Eric started to pull away. Fuck, this was going to hurt. I had to keep telling myself ‘It’s all about the process today’.
About half way up the opening climb, i could see that Eric didn’t fully have his running legs. I went past him, but i wasn’t at all convinced that it would be a permanent pass. Having him on my heels helped to keep me honest. If i had been totally on my own, who knows how slow i would have been moving. Just around 9km was the aid station. Seeing my girls definitely put a smile on my face. It also helped to remind me to see the big picture and just enjoy the day for what it was.
I’d love to say that at some point i started to feel good....but i can’t.
I never got into my stride, and i even had to walk a few sections of the route. I managed to stumble across the finish line in about 1:35 (slower than i ran the course in training). I was a good five or six minutes behind Kris, but somehow managed to stay a minute or two ahead of Eric. Kris put on a serious clinic out there; in a league of his own. I am happy with how i handled a bad day, but i really wish i just hadn’t had the bad day. In hindsight, i should have seen it coming. I’m not going to get too down though, it’s all about the big picture...KK in four weeks.
About 30 minutes after finishing, i got to see my super-volunteers when they returned. Three hours, for a pair of five-years-olds, is a BIG work shift. I don’t know how Jodi managed, but she did. Besides a good elbow scrape, the girls were all smiles. They could hardly contain themselves actually, telling me all about their important jobs at the aid-station. Being with them after the race, i totally forgot about the tough time i had on the trails. The awards were super fun as usual; Gary really knows how to work a crowd. Everyone at the awards (including a pair of five-years-olds) got a prize too.
To add to a great morning, after we left Quest, we went over to my friend Will’s house (just a few minutes away) for some lunch. It was really nice to get out of the sun, and to just relax for a bit. The girls were still going full tilt, but i was shutting down. Before hitting the road for home, i had a strong (and delicious) cup of coffee. I needed it to keep my eyes open. As for my super volunteers, they were sound asleep within about 30 seconds of hittiing the road for home.
All in all, pretty much as good as a day can get! *well, except for the ass kicking i took*