Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Elk/Beaver Ultra Race Report

My goal for the Elk/Beaver Ultra in Victoria, BC was to qualify for the Canadian National Trail Running Team. To do so, I would need to run 50 miles (80 kms) in under 7 hours - or 1:40 faster than my previous best 50 mile time. Say what!?

If you don't feel like reading this whole race report, then I'll sum it up in three words: I did it!

Going into this race, I was feeling really good about my training and fitness. Since January, I have been working with Ryne Melcher whose ass-kicking workouts have put me in the best shape of my life and I have also had a couple of strong recent race results which have boosted my confidence.

Having lived in Victoria, I was familiar with the course and knew it would be fast because it was so flat. The race is named after the two pretty lakes that it winds around and I had plenty of time to admire the scenery as it was an 8 lap course with just a short(ish) out and back section at the beginning. I also knew that the race was very low-key so nerves were not an issue.

Now, I am famous for getting lost. I can't read a map to save my life and I don't follow directions very well but being a lap course, I figured that wouldn't be an issue. Wrong! Because this is an IAU bronze label  race, the distance had to be precise which meant instead of doing 80 km even, we were supposed to do 80.44 or something like that. So the 8 or 9 of us doing the 50-miler headed out from the start to do this little out and back with instructions to turn around a couple hundred of meters down the trail at the orange pylon. Can't miss that, right? Well you can if someone has thrown it in the lake! The few of us at the front were starting to get concerned when we were already at 800 meters and there was no sign of the pylon. Then Carlos, the race director, ran up behind us yelling "Stop! Turn around!" We had missed the turn around point and inadvertently added about 1.5 km to our day. Five minutes into the race and I was already off course. Seriously??

Anyway, we were soon back on track and laughing about it. I ran the first lap with a super friendly and cheery (especially considering it was 6am!) girl named Jude Ultra. She had similar time goals for the race so we decided to work together. Unfortunately, Jude ended up having something flare up in the first few laps and had to withdraw. I ran the rest of the race alone and would have loved some company. Maybe I wouldn't have slacked off so much in the last few laps if I had had someone pushing me. Oh well.

My wonderful husband Dave provided excellent race support - sandwiches, chips, Coke, bladder refills. A girl could get used to this. I'm sure it was a very boring day for him but it was nice to see him every lap (even if he didn't wear a costume as one of our friends had suggested). It helped break up the monotony. I have never listened to music during a race, but I decided that since this was a closed course it would be safe and might provide a welcome distraction after 4-5 laps. At the halfway point, I dropped my Nathan hydration pack with Dave to refill and grabbed it on the next lap along with my MP3 player. I was digging the tunes until I realized that the same 10 songs kept looping for some reason. I haven't used it much and didn't want to waste time playing with the settings so I listened to the same 10 songs for the next 3 hours. Awesome...

I haven't bothered to figure out my exact lap times - I think they were somewhere between 48-53 minutes - but my finish time was 6:46, which made me top woman and first overall. (Keep in mind that only 5 people finished the race!). I was about 5 minutes off the course record set by Denise McHale in 2009 so that's pretty cool. We figured that if some bonehead hadn't moved the pylon and messed up the out and back section, I probably would have finished 8 minutes faster and got the course record, but I'm not too fussed about it. It gives me something to aim for next time! (Ryne thinks that 6:46 may be in the top ten 50-mile times by Canadian women ever so I'm quite stoked about that.)

It was pretty warm so I drank a lot and my nutrition wasn't too bad considering the difficulties I have eating during a race. I didn't throw up after this one so that's an improvement. A couple of toenails were sacrificed but that's pretty normal. Otherwise my body feels good and I'm looking forward to a couple of easy weeks before I start preparing for the next event, whatever that might be. I'm considering the Canadian Mountain Running Championships in July and then maybe the Squamish 50mi in August and the Bend Flagline 50km in September. There are so many fun events out there.

If you're looking for a casual and friendly ultra on a fast and scenic course, then I'd recommend the Elk/Beaver Ultra. Victoria is a wonderful place to spend a weekend (and there are lots of local microbreweries for post-race refreshments - if you're into that).

What I had on me:
Brooks Cascadias
Injinji toesocks
New Balance split short
Random technical t-shirt
Brooks cap
Nathan hydration pack

What I had in me:
2 packages of oatmeal with almonds and a cup of black tea (for breakfast)
1 Clif shot (just before the start)
4 Gu Vanilla gels diluted in a flask
2 Chocolate#9 gels diluted in a flask
9 Clif bloks
Half a PB and honey sandwich
Chips and Coke (from the aid station)

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