Monday, March 27, 2017

2017 Around the Bay Recap

Posted by CheapRunnerMike

Race report!  My first race of the season was this past weekend in Hamilton, the Around the Bay 30K Road Race…oldest road race in North America, this being the 123rd anniversary.  This would be my third time doing the race.

I had signed up to take the bus down with the New Balance group, who provide bib pickup as well as the bus to and from the race for only $30…the only way I will ever do this race!  Michelle, my Mum and I caught the bus at 5:30am Sunday and we were pulling into Hamilton shortly after 7:00.  The race didn’t start until 9:30 so we had a bit of time to relax and enjoy the warmth (and toilets) of First Ontario Centre while we waited.  Once the race start was near we all headed off to our corrals to begin the race.  I ran into a few familiar faces I hadn’t seen since last season and said my hellos to Zindine, Brad and Luke.  I was at the start line with Brad and Luke but knew that their opening pace would be a bit rich for me as I had wanted to hold back a bit at the start.  The horn (a train horn since CN was the presenting sponsor) signaled the start of the race and we were off.

The Out (1K-10K, 4:00/km)
The first 10K of the race was through the Hamilton downtown and then out into a more industrial area as we headed towards Lake Ontario.  There was a pretty stiff headwind all through this section and that knocked my pace down a wee bit.  I was moving along well but just wasn’t able to find a good group to tuck in with to hide from the wind…everyone that I came up on was going a little too slow for my liking.  I made sure to not push too hard in the wind and tried to hold the pace around 4:00/km.  I came through the first 5K in 20:03 and began to run side by side with another guy and we held a similar pace through to nearly the 20K mark.  We were holding our own on the flat sections and every overpass we came to we bounded pass other runners.  Looking good for the hills on the back half, which I knew I needed to save the legs for.  We hit the highway offramp and looped around to the 10K mark in 40:03 to begin the next stretch of the race.

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The Across (11K-20K, 3:54/km)
As we crossed the 10K timing mat we were also turning out of the wind…it was still there to be sure but it was a much more manageable crosswind.  This is the section of the race where I knew I could bank some time, yet being careful to keep enough in reserve for the hills.  I found a group to run with this time and stuck right on the heels of a woman that was absolutely dialed in to her pace.  We cruised along at around a 3:55/km pace and it was feeling relatively easy after the headwind on the first 10K.  There was another woman a little bit up the road from us and I commented to my new running buddy that she was reeling her in…she just chuckled.  We were certainly closing though and it wasn’t long before we passed her, and good for her too as she ended up placing as the 10th overall female.  We came across the lift bridge and made the turn towards the neighbourhood hills and began the swaybacks with the wind assisting us for the first time all day…

The Hills (21K-27K, 3:56/km)
This section is the meat of the course, where the rubber really hits the road.  It starts out easy enough with some gentle rollers and builds up to a few really tough hills and ends with the Valley Inn Road Hill, the signature climb of the course which was returning after a 2 year hiatus due to construction.  The hills in this section quite simply will make or break your race.  I managed to hold my pace steady through the first couple of rollers and then I saw a familiar sight up ahead.  There was Luke, chugging up a hill.  I came up behind him and made a lame joke about using the force, then proceeded on my way.  Luke was using this as a training run for Boston in 3 weeks, it is a really great pre-Boston course as there are plenty of similarities.  Up on the next hill I recognized another runner ahead.  This time I was pretty sure I knew who it was because of their form and I was right…it was Trevor, the young kid that I ran almost my entire Ironman Mont Tremblant run leg with, along with his mom on the bike beside him.  I pulled up beside him and said, “Fancy seeing you here.”  He just looked at me funny and said, “Do I know you?”, to which I just replied “Tremblant”.  “Mike!” he shouted, “Hey Mom, it’s Mike from Mont Tremblant!”.  He was pretty stoked and I think it was a nice little boost for him to see a friendly face out there at a tough point in the race.  Again I was off though, bounding up the hills and on to the final big Valley Inn hill.  I used the big downhill approaching it as much as I could and then proceeded to chug my way up the other side.  Head down, lean forward, pump the arms.  I chewed the final hill up and spit it out at the top.  I could hear some heavy breathing from someone that was right on my heels the whole way and once I crested the top I just stuck my fist out for a fist bump and it was my female running buddy from earlier…she crushed the hill too.  In fact she nailed it so well that she took off once we were at the top and left me in her dust as she flew towards the finish.  Beast.

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The Back (28K-30K, 3:53/km)

The final 3K stretch after the hills back to the finish is all downhill, so you can really hammer it home.  Unfortunately the wind had other ideas on this day…yup, the headwind was back.  I knew how close I was though and I pushed the pace with everything I had left in my legs…I was now chasing a sub-2 hour run which would net me a gold medal.  I ignored my screaming quads and kept the pace rich, passing people all the way back to First Ontario Centre.  As we neared the finish there were cheers from the spectators and we made the turn into the arena to the finish.  I crossed with a bit of time to spare for the gold, official time 1:58:25.

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Brad and a couple of his buddies had just crossed the line and both Trevor and Luke were in just shortly after me, so we all congratulated each other and got some pictures together.  Then I was off to the bus to get changed and have a couple of beers before Michelle and my Mum finished their races.  I cheered on some runners and saw the ladies cross the line and then before long we were back on the bus heading home to London. 

Oh, one other cool thing…on the way to the race there was a clipboard passed around the bus for people to guess their finishing times.  Michelle decided that she would guess my time and went with 1:59:16, only 9 seconds off of my actual time.  Turns out I was closest to my guess and I won a $25 New Balance gift card!  Sweet!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

2016 Vulture Bait 50K Trail Race Recap

Posted by CheapRunnerMike

The triathlon season ended for me last month but that didn't mean my race season with done with…I still had my first ever 50K Ultra to look forward to, the Vulture Bait Trail Race.

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The race is local for us as it takes place at Fanshawe Conservation Area, just the other end of town.  The setting is beautiful as you run through the woods around the lake, one of the best trails to run in our neck of the woods.  I was looking forward to it, but really didn't know what to expect as my longest training run was only 30K and I had never run further than the standard marathon distance of 42.2K (26.2 miles).  Nothing to worry about, right??

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The race was Saturday morning and we were blessed with absolutely perfect weather…a true anomaly for this race as they were quick to let us all know.  Apparently this was the first time in the 14 year running of the race that the weather has been decent.  I did the 25K last year and we had snow flurries, so we were quite fortunate.  It was cool to start, probably around 10ºC or so, but the sun was shining and it warmed up to 20ºC during the morning.  Michelle was with me as well as she was taking on the single-loop 25K, her first trail race!  She was running with our friend Nancy, and we met up with her and her husband Tom in the parking lot on the way in.  There were plenty of familiar faces to say hi to and catch up with so the time went by quickly as we waited for the race start.  The wait wasn't completely uneventful though as I had to seek out first aid before the race even began.  I went to unlock the bathroom stall and the door was a little tight…as I slid the lock open I though to myself, "I better be careful or I'll end up slicing my finger."  Sure enough.  Knuckle gashed and dripping blood (it was just a flesh wound), I found a lovely volunteer to bandage me up (she also happened to be a nurse, lucky me).  Hopefully not a sign of things to come!

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9:00 rolled around and we all made our way down the steep (slippery) hill to the start line.  I scampered to the back of the pack and found Michelle to give her a kiss and wish her well, then made my way back up through the crowd to the front.  The 25K and 50K start at the same time (can't really call 300 people a "mass start", but you get the idea) and I wanted to make sure I got out quick enough to avoid the crowd as we headed into the single-track.  If you are looking for trail racing advice, that's about all I've got…get in the lead pack and avoid congestion…once the trail narrows you do not want to be stuck behind people that have nowhere to go.  Frustrating for you and frustrating for them too.

A group of about 10 took off and set the pace right from the start.  I had tried to scope out the bib numbers at the start to see who was wearing a 300+ (meaning 50K) as I had no desire to chase the 25K rabbits for very long.  It didn't take long to see the front 5 putting in a bit of a gap on us, and I called back to my buddy Abe (who was doing the 25K race) to let him know that this first 5K stretch was one of the only places on the course where you could book some time as it was pretty open and easy running.  He nodded and took off after the pack.  Shortly afterwards the runner in front of me called back to let me know that he was off the pace of the leaders in case I wanted to chase, but I was quick to let him know that I wasn't interested in running anyone down today.  It was pretty easy to tell who the 50K runners were!

I bridged up to this guy and we chatted for a little while…he had travelled all the way down from Sudbury (about 600km away) because he had heard how great this race was.  We ran for a bit until we hit the aid station at 5K…I just grabbed a quick sip of water and he stopped for a beat or two longer and that was the last I saw of him for the day.

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I made my way across the dam and ducked back into the woods again, beginning the real traily part of the race.  This section was a bit twisty through some pine forest with lots of roots to tiptoe through.  I was finding that I was able to run the road/easy trail sections around a 4:20-4:30/km pace and once I got back into the more technical sections I was down around 4:45-5:00/km…paces I would be very happy to hold.  Coming up on 10K and I saw a runner in front of me that I was reeling in…I recognized his blue shirt (or maybe purple?  Not sure, I'm colourblind #colourblindessdidnotwin) and knew it was Abe.  As I got up behind him I told him not to worry it was only me…nobody was overtaking him.  We started running together and chatted a bit along the way.  He was dealing with some hamstring issues but was holding a really good pace.  We spurred each other on through the next 9 or 10K before Abe eventually had to pull off for a moment to stretch out his wonky hammy on the Thorndale bridge.

Back into the woods for the last 5K of the first loop…last year this was the area that featured an unofficial "Hillbilly" Aid Station (which featured three types of beer…light beer, dark, beer and root beer.  Plus banjos)  This year was a different take with a beach party going on, complete with Bob Marley & Jimmy Buffett tunes and the Jamaican flag.  The guys were decked out in hula skirts and Hawaiian shirts and offered me margaritas, Red Stripe beer and cerveza…I downed a margarita (LOADED with tequila!) with a Red Stripe chaser, then tried my hand at their limbo station, all while some other guy went zipping by saying something about catching them on his second loop.  Jeez man, taking the lead from a guy doing shots and limbo???  Where's the fun in that?!?  I figured I better say goodbye to the Rasta-party-ans and chase this guy down before he got too far ahead of me.  I closed the gap and got on his heels after another kilometre or so and we ran together the last couple kilometres back to the start/finish area and our halfway point.  We chatted briefly about race position and wondering if anyone was out ahead, which neither of us believed was the case…we were fairly certain we were the first two runners.  We cruised into the halfway point and both of us stopped at the feed tables.  He quickly refilled his water bottle while I downed Coke and water and grabbed a couple handfuls of peanut M&M's and ju jubes.  As I was pigging out refueling the other guy was already out building up a lead of nearly 200m…time to chase again.  I took off and right away I felt gross.  I had been running a bit quicker than I knew I should have been when I was running back to halfway with the other fella and now I was feeling it.  I wasn't exactly letting him go at this point, but I wasn't going to burn all my matches trying to stay with him now either.  I still had a long way to go and I had to run my race.  I settled back into a more sustainable pace and was once again running solo.

I made my way through the quicker section of the trail again and as I popped out by the first aid station near the dam I caught a glimpse of the lead runner already heading up the hill, but surprisingly no further ahead than he was when we started our second loop.  he aid station volunteers confirmed we were 1 & 2 and urged me on to go get him, saying I was about 30 seconds back.  I grabbed some goodies at their station and took off again, keeping to my steady pace.  Back into the woods again I saw a couple out walking their dog…as I got closer I realized that it was Ralph, one of my buddies from work.  I'm not sure who was more surprised to see who.  A quick "hey Ralph!" was all I could muster as I trudged onwards.

Eventually I made it to the cottages section where we were back onto some road and coming up to another aid station…I knew it was coming so I downed my second and final Gu gel (Root Beer, yum).  This aid station was great…more Coke & water along with candies, cookies, chips, crackers and watermelon (which I downed in one big bite).  Seriously, when you are racing there is nothing better than watermelon.  Also at the aid station was the lead runner, once again refilling his bottle.  He left just as I was pulling in, but I knew that I was closing the gap.  Once I took off again I decided to try and make up some ground while I could on the faster surface before ducking back into the woods.  It was about a kilometre before we hit the woods again and I pulled up beside him just as we were going in.  I saw him stretching his arms out above his head a few times and asked him how he was feeling.  He replied that his stomach wasn't great and he was having trouble eating, as well as some cramps.  I wished him well and took off…he didn't even try to chase me.

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By now I was 40K in and was just focusing on making the next aid stations.  As I cruised into the next station the volunteers were still putting their finishing touches on for the 50K runners.  She told me I was about 3 minutes earlier than they were expecting people…that's gotta be a good sign!  I refueled with more Coke, water and sport drink as well as some delicious oranges and was back on my way.  I tore down the black diamond hill and noticed my watch beep at 42K…I was crossing the marathon threshold at 3:31.  I was now into uncharted running territory and way past that 30K training run.  I came out on the final stretch of road and took a peek behind me as I was turning back into the woods…you can see back close to 500m from here and there was no one in sight.  The race was mine to lose, I just had to make sure I didn't do anything stupid.

The next aid station was the unofficial beach party again and all I wanted was water.  I asked the Rasta-party-ans if they had anything non-alcoholic and one of them said, "sure, there's plenty of water down that hill…in the lake".  So Red Stripe it was!  No limbo this time and for the first time ever at their station nobody passed me!  I thanked the guys and headed off towards the final aid station up at the top of the hill.  By now I was wondering if I would see Michelle and Nancy and sure enough as I was just about up the hill I could hear Michelle's voice as she was leaving the aid station, saying something about not letting her husband pass her.  One last Coke, Ginger Ale, water fill up for me at Jeremy's aid station and then off to the finish line.  I came up behind Michelle and Nancy shortly after and they cheered me on as I passed them…I still think Michelle was trying to block me but she'll deny it ;)  There were actually quite a few 25K runners still out finishing their races and they all cheered me on as I went by and I tried my best to encourage them as well, but truth be told I was a little grumpy and tired at that point…the energy level just wasn't there.

I emerged from the woods and made the final 2K run to the finish.  Tom was there to cheer me on as he was heading out to cheer in Nancy and Michelle, and at the finish line there was a decent sized crowd gathered to cheer me in.  I crossed the finish line with a winning time of 4:11:34.  I knew the guys at the finish line handing out medals too and got mine from Kevin, which was kind of a nice touch.  I found a comfy picnic table to sit at and waited for Michelle to finish.  I gave her a big cheer as she crossed the line to complete her first trail race.

We were unfortunately unable to stick around for the amazing post-race food spread and awards ceremony, but I did get hooked up with some pretty sweet swag for my win.  I walked away with a $50 gift card for MEC, and I will soon have a new custom embroidered Columbia Sportswear jacket as well as a new pair of Montrail shoes.  Not bad at all!

Big thanks go out to the organizers and all of the amazing volunteers on this one…without you the race doesn't happen.  Vulture Bait is definitely on the must-do list if you are looking for a trail run here in Southwestern Ontario, highly recommended!  Cheers for reading folks :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

2016 MSC Lakeside Olympic Triathlon Recap

Posted by CheapRunnerMike

Just three weeks ago I completed Ironman Mont Tremblant, but there was still work to do with one last race on my triathlon calendar.  My final triathlon of the year was the Olympic race at Lakeside, which is relatively local as it is just east of London.  Lakeside has a Sprint race as well as Kids races on Saturday and then on Sunday there is the Olympic along with a Give it a Tri.  MultiSport Canada runs season long series and I needed one more race to qualify for the Olympic+ series…they take your top 3 results in races that are Olympic distance or longer and crown age group champions at the end of the season.  With a decent result I would be in good shape to win the series for my age group so I decided to sign up and give it a shot despite the heavy post-Ironman legs.  Training was somewhat non-existent leading up to the race as I only had a couple of swims and just one bike ride, but I was getting out running a bit more than I had been during the Ironman training (something that has made me happy…I’ve been feeling disconnected from running for a while and it feels ‘right’ to be back at it).  This race was going to be interesting, I really didn’t know what to expect going into it.

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I arrived at nice and early with plenty of time to get a great spot to rack my bike, set up my transition and say hi and catch up with friends.  It was a very cool morning (only 15º), something we haven’t had in a long time in these parts.  I chatted with one of the officials and he commented that wetsuits would probably not be allowed as the water temperature the day before for the Sprint race was 28º.  I was hoping that I could wear the suit with the air temps being so low, but I wasn’t worried if they weren’t allowed…I have enough confidence in my swim that I knew I would be fine.  Non-wetsuit might even be an advantage for me.

Swim - 1500m
24:21 (1:37/100m), 1st AG

The wetsuit call was made and to most people’s relief, they allowed them.  I headed down to the beach to get a quick warmup in and to scope out the two-loop swim course.  I was in the first wave and we took off at 10:00.  I positioned myself all the way to the far left and went out hard.  It wasn’t long and I had some nice clean water to work with and by the first turn I could see that I was up at the front with about 7 or 8 other guys.  The swim at Lakeside is fairly weedy, something a lot of people complain about, but I actually liked having the weeds just below my fingertips…they were a good reminder to maintain my form (or else I would get a handful of the stuff) and as a bonus it made me feel speedy as I saw the weeds zip by below me.  We made the second turn to head back towards shore and I decided to close the gap on the guy right ahead of me.  A few good strong pulls and I was on his feet, allowing me to catch my breath and settle in again.  I always find it hard to gauge my effort when I’m riding someone’s wake in the swim, but this felt way too easy.  I decided to pop out and go around him and the effort was minimal…good decision as he was slowing down.  I made the turn through the start line to begin my second loop and I  swam the rest of the time all on my own.  There were still a few guys ahead of me but they remained just out of reach.  My hands started grabbing sand and I popped up to run it in…one of my better swims of the year as I was 5th out of the water.

2016 MultiSport Lakeside Triathlon (Sunday)

Bike – 40K
1:07:26 (35.6kph), 6th AG

T1 was my typical 1:04…I always seem to be right around the 1 minute mark.  I set out to take on the 40K bike course, complete with wind and rolling hills.  Right from the start I could tell my legs really weren’t feeling it.  I wasn’t ‘slow’, but they just didn’t feel right.  I pushed with what I had and kept the cadence high and managed to hold off the charging pack behind me through the first 10K.  After we turned north I started to feel the wind a bit.  It wasn’t too bad as there were some treed sections that blocked it and I just tucked in a bit tighter to try to minimize the impact.  A couple of guys rode past but I was still holding my own.  We turned east and were able to get a bit of a push from the wind, but the wind wasn’t able to help me when my crank decided it didn’t want to turn anymore.  I tried to back pedal in an attempt to free it up to no avail so I had to come to a stop and get off the bike.  That’s a get-off-the-bike issue two races in a row now after never having a problem before.  I thought maybe I had dropped the chain and it was stuck but that wasn’t the case…figuring that it was probably bearings I gave the bottom bracket a bit of a knock to try and free things up and that seemed to get things moving again.  A couple guys zipped by me as I was going through my troubleshooting and looking back at my ride details it cost me a little over a minute.  Again though, I stuck to my seven year old’s mantra…”You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”  I didn’t let it bother me as it was out of my hands at that point, but I guess I’ll be looking at that bottom bracket in the near future.  I was able to catch and pass the two guys that went by me but the bigger pack was now a minute closer and a few of the stronger cyclists were able to get me (I’m looking at you Zindine!).  I kept pushing with what I had but between the mechanical and tired bike legs I knew it just wasn’t my day.  I made the turn back towards Lakeside and took on the rollers, which seemed like mole hills after Tremblant.  Back into transition, but not before one more bike gaffe…as I went to slip my left foot out of my shoe I ended up pulling my shoe right off the pedal.  I managed to get it back clipped in and dismounted well enough, but the shoe must not have been quite in as it went flying across the road once I crossed the dismount line.  I yelled back and asked a volunteer to get it off the road for me and they obliged, even tossing it over the fence to me at my rack during transition.  Thanks volunteer!

2016 MultiSport Lakeside Triathlon (Sunday)

Run - 10K
41:47 (4:10/km), 2nd AG

The temperature was warming up a bit and the sun was shining…really great conditions for a nice 10K run.  Judging by the empty racks in T2, I knew I was still up towards the front of the pack.  I took off for the two-loop run and started picking of relay runners and duathletes right away.  The run here is great as it is on a nice dirt road…really easy to run on.  There are a few potholes to look out for but I’d rather that than running on hot, hard pavement.  Just before I hit the first turnaround I saw Zin coming towards me from the other direction…he yelled something at me basically saying he wanted me to try and catch him.  The volunteers at the water station got a kick out of it and it gave me a bit of motivation.  I dug in a bit and picked up the pace.  Heading back to the start turnaround I saw teammate John coming (easy to spot each other in the Team Sheri jerseys) and we nailed a picture-perfect high five.  He’s in his first year of racing and looked great, getting better every time out.  I hit the start/finish turnaround and set out for lap number two.  My legs were really feeling good now and I was finding my groove.  It helped that there were a lot of other people on the course which gave me motivation…I was cheering people on as I went by and feeding off of the energy they were putting out.  I made the last turn and began the run back to the finish.  I was picking off plenty of people now and moved past Ryan Van Praet and his guide Steve Moore.  Ryan is a blind triathlete who is training for Ironman Florida this fall…it is so cool getting to race with him, what an inspiration.  He is tethered on both the swim and the run to his guide and they ride a tandem tri bike like a couple of bosses.  They went by my like I was standing still on the bike and took home the fastest bike split of the race.  He looks like he’s going to do great at IMFL!  Next up was the eventual race winner Jim Sunners…Jim is in his 50’s and shames the best of us with his fitness.  Very impressive.  I went past Jim with less than a kilometre to go (he started in a later wave than I did) and gave him a cheer…he just yelled something about how I better not be on my last loop :)  I came up to the turnaround to cheers from some familiar faces in Loe and Scott, then headed down the chute to finish up the day.  I crossed the line in 2:15:37, which was good enough for 8th overall and 1st in my age group.

2016 MultiSport Lakeside Triathlon (Sunday)

With the age group win I was assured of enough points to win the series as well, so I had achieved the goal I set out for myself.  It was a great season and I thoroughly enjoyed it, with podiums in every race not named Ironman Mont Tremblant.  Thanks to everyone for their support this year and thanks to MultiSport Canada for hosting such a great series right here in our own backyard…we are so lucky to have local races all summer!  Thanks for reading, cheers!

2016 MultiSport Lakeside Triathlon (Sunday)