Even Steven: the Bad and Then the Good

Almost two weeks ago, May 31, was the Survival of the Fittest race. It's the second race in the Coast Mountain Trail Series, and it happened up in Squamish on the trails up around Quest. I was really excited to tackle the SOTF course again this year. I had a rough time racing it last year, and I was hoping to be able to get a bit more out of myself this time around.

Jodi and the girls and I camped out at Alice Lake and made an amazing weekend out of it. The three of them volunteered at the race again this year, along with my good friend Will, and they got to tend the aid station (again). The girls are only six, and can't handle to much responsibility, but Gary and Dianna (and everyone else) sure made them feel like their contribution was really important.

tough job, directing racers

tough job, directing racers

Gary and Linda giving the girls a prize for helping out

Gary and Linda giving the girls a prize for helping out

The field was definitely quick at the front end: Myself, Silas, Graeme, Mark, Nick, and an unfamiliar racer named Pascal...who I knew was a serious mountain goat. It was a going to be a tough race, but it was a beautiful day, and I was ready to pin it!

all smiles at the start (photo by Brian McCurdy)

all smiles at the start (photo by Brian McCurdy)

I'll cut right to the good stuff here: Pascal took off, and Silas slowly pulled away from myself, Graeme, and Mark. My plan was to stay comfortable on the long climb, (which is almost half the race) and then run like a man possessed on the back (more technical) half. At the top of the Climb Trail, I was feeling great. From the cheering and cow-bells,  I knew that Silas was less than a minute ahead. I was excited to give it some gas now, and begin to chase after the two ahead.

As we turned and descended Angry Midget, I was able to pull away a bit from Graeme and Mark. By the bottom of AM, I caught sight of Silas as I popped onto the FSR: the hunt was on! I was really hauling down the short FSR section, excited to wave to my girls coming up at the aid station at the corner. I could see from a ways back that they had been *promoted* to directing racer traffic, as they were standing arms-open-wide, and pointing runners which way to go (they were so damn cute).

myself, Graeme, Mark half way up Climb Trail (photo by Brian McCurdy)

myself, Graeme, Mark half way up Climb Trail (photo by Brian McCurdy)

But then, something disappointing started to happen. A fair bit of vehicle traffic on the FSR had been kicking some dust into the air. Add that to the near perfect pollen producing weather over the last few days, and I could feel my lungs tightening right up. 

No...no...no... Not right now...

Crap. Within about 2 minutes my lungs were screwed... asthma. 

It's pretty much having a limiter on my output. I was trying soooo hard, but I just couldn't hold my pace. I had to slow down as it felt like I was running on top of Everest. Within about another 2km, Graeme caught me and passed me. I was reduced to walking/hiking. It was all I could do. I knew I was still along way from the finish, and with no short cut back, I had to just keep moving forward.

To sum it up, the next 30 minutes really fucking sucked. Gasping, choking, walking, but somehow I made it back to Quest. Add in a crushing headache and tunnel-vision, but I made it across the finish line. That's when the real fun happened though...

I'm sure it's just that the 'fight' was over, but as soon as i crossed the line, things went dark and quiet for me. I don't really remember the next 10 minutes or so. I didn't pass out, but I couldn't really open my eyes, and there were a lot of concerned people helping me out. I knew that Silas was beside me, trying got get me to focus on breathing technique and making sure I didn't hit the floor. Diana was also right there too, and Anne-Marie ran too her car and got her own salbutemol (emergency) inhaler for me to use. After about another 10 minutes of darkness, laying out on the grass in the shade, my breathing became controlled again. My oxygen saturation came back up to normal, and I could finally open my eyes. Once my lungs came back to life, it was pretty much like hitting the reset button.  The sun was out and everyone (myself included) was having fun cheering the incoming racers. It was fun to just hang out for a while.

Even with the asthma attack, our weekend was really fun. The girls and I got out for a run around Alice Lake the next morning, before we headed over to ride the Sea to Sky Gondola. They loved the whole experience: the ride up/down, the suspension bridge, and a hike/picnic around the trails up top. It was definitely a weekend to remember!

the ride up

the ride up

family hike

family hike

Next up was 5Peaks Alice Lake (June 7)

I had bit of a rough stretch between races. We had a lot going on around home, and I got hit with laryngitis and a sinus infection (probably triggered from the asthma stress). I wasn't exactly full of confidence for the 5Peaks race coming up on Saturday, but on Friday morning I headed up to Squamish to help Solana mark the course. Will and I hiked/jogged while we flagged most of the Sport loop. It was probably just what my body needed, because by that evening I was starting to feel pretty normal  again. Racing the next day was looking good!

By morning, my energy seemed back to normal, and I got to Alice Lake pretty early for a long/easy warm up. My sinuses were draining a lot of snot, but I was feeling really motivated. This race was a qualifier for the National Mountain Running Championships (which I didn't care about), and it drew a few faces that I hadn't seen before. One person that I definitely knew though, was Jordan Maynard. We have clashed a couple times already this year, and we are really evenly matched...it was going to be a good one.

Right from the start, Jordan and I ran together. We pulled away from the rest of the group by around 3km, and ran a hard race within a step of each other right up to the '1km to go' marker. That's the point on course where the hard climbing is done, and the route turns to descend down Mid Life Crisis. Up until then, I had been running hard, but I was confident that I had a really strong last km in my legs. Jordan was still right on my heels, and we both started to accelerate. Unfortunately, right then I made a miss-step on a rock and slid out.

CRAP...that wasn't part of my plan.

Jordan gave me a quick 'are you ok' look, and I said to him 'I'm good'. He took the lead, and put about 50m on me before I got up to speed again. He was hammering, and kept his gap on me as we hit the bottom of Mid Life Crisis and turned onto Jack's Trail. From that last turn, it's about 600m of a false flat (uphill) to the finish. I saw Jordan tying up a bit ahead, and I slowly brought him back and took the lead again. I could see how this was going to finish...side by side, kicking for the line. With about 100m to go, the trail pops out onto pavement, and the finish line is just ahead. We were literally shoulder to shoulder, taking up the entire trail, right before the edge of the pavement.

Suddenly, from the side of the trail/road transition, I see this red shirt step right in front of us: a little boy maybe 3 yrs old. We were moving really fast, and somehow Jordan was able to slip past the little guy. I slammed on the brakes as hard as I could, grabbing the boy as I hit him. I'm sure it scared the hell out of him, but he didn't fall. He was ok, and It took me second to get running again, but by that point it was to late...Jordan had the win.

Jordan and I starting to kick, about 150m from the finish (photo by Mark Bates)

Jordan and I starting to kick, about 150m from the finish (photo by Mark Bates)

I don't regret, for even a second, coming to a stop. I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if I had hurt that little guy; it could easily have been one of my kids in the same situation. It would have been great drama for Jordan and I to have fought it out right to the line, but maybe the result wouldn't have been any different...

Even with the finishing straight incident, my whole race experience was amazing. I give the day a 9.5/10. I raced the hell out of that course, and loved the battle with Jordan. The location, the weather, and the atmosphere couldn't have been better. Plus, no asthma issues this week. And...to add to my fun, I got out for a 3 hour mtb ride later in the afternoon. It was a fairly easy ride, with a couple of really fun/fast downhill rips in it. At times, it felt like I was back on the BMX track railing some corners and hitting jumps. 

Next up for me....Knee Knacker prep. I'm not sure if i will race again before the Knacker (July 12), I'll play that one a bit by feel. I'm excited to take a second shot at that course. I learned a lot from it last year, which may or may not be a good thing. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.