Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Canadian Mountain Running Championships Race Report

This adventure began on Friday morning, when Dave and I loaded up our '78 VW camper van, affectionately known as "Roy" (short for Hemorrhoid because he's a pain in the ass) and headed for the city. Not long into our journey, we hit a wicked rainstorm that lasted most of our drive. A trip that normally takes about five hours ended up being closer to seven thanks to relentless headwinds along the Hope-Princeton Hwy and traffic delays in Vancouver.

With just a few minutes to spare, we finally arrived at MEC in North Vancouver for package pickup. We then headed to the nearest pub for a bite and beverage and strategized where to spend the night. Without good options for camping in Vancouver, we opted to find a quiet back road to park the van for the evening. After some driving around, we found an overgrown service road with some thick shrubberies to conceal Roy. Exhausted, we called it a night.

Race Day
After a surprisingly good sleep, I awoke around 5:30 am to the sound of raindrops on our rooftop. We drove down to a nice little picnic area for a breakfast of oatmeal and tea and just hung out for a bit as we had time to kill. I went for a little jog to test out my knee that had been bothering me earlier in the week to the point of not being about to run more than three steps. Fortunately, whatever was tweaked only lasted a day and hasn't bothered me since.

At about 8:00, Dave dropped me off at the starting area and I got in a 20 minute warm-up and then organized my race gear and chatted with some of the other participants and spectators to pass the time until the 9:00 start. Even though it was the Canadian Championships, mountain running is something of a niche sport (especially amongst women) so there was not a large field and the atmosphere was quite relaxed.

The 5 Peaks trail running group hosted the event, which took place at Cypress Mountain in North Vancouver. The championships alternate uphill and uphill/downhill years and this year was an uphill year with a total elevation gain of 1100 metres over the 11 km course. Being a horrible downhill runner, I was excited about an all uphill race. (Weird thing to get excited over, I know.)

A short, steep climb off the start set the tone for the course that had a lot of technical, single-track sections made more challenging due to the recent - and ongoing - rainfall. Somehow I managed to navigate the wet rocks, roots and other obstacles without breaking a bone or twisting an ankle and maneuver myself into fourth position and that's where I stayed for most of the race and also how I finished. (Full results here.)

Three very fit and fast American girls took the top placings, but I was top Canadian woman so I will now have the opportunity to compete at the World Mountain Running Championships in Italy this fall. I consider myself a fairly average person in all respects so the chance to represent my country at an international event is something I never thought possible and feels more like a dream.

Thanks to my parents and Kristen and Bill for being there for me at the finish line (even if it was the wrong one!) and to Ryne for the many, many, many vomit-inducing hill repeats I've done over the past few months to prepare for the race. And, of course, to my favourite Double Ds: Dave and Dora - you make me happy.

Me and dirty Dora with my lovely friend Kristen (who rocked the Sport course finishing 3rd in her age group!). That's Roy in the background. 
I would also like to congratulate Team Canada for placing first in the men's team competition and second in the women's for the NACAC (North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletics Association) championships that were a part of this same event.

For more info about this race and mountain running in general, check out the websites below. Let's get more women running mountains!

Canadian Trail & Mountain Running Association
World Mountain Running Association

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Have you seen my bejesus?

I had it scared out of me on Saturday's long run and haven't seen it since. Here's the story: 3k into my 40k out-and-back run along the Twisp River Trail, I was set upon by a freakishly large and aggressive bird of prey that obviously had a nest nearby and took issue with my proximity to it. For over a kilometre (one very long kilometre I might add), I was dive bombed by this evil feathered foe with a piercing cry and razor sharp talons.

I used a large stick (and my own hysterical shrieks) to fend off its attacks and it wasn't until I was a ways down the trail and out of the harm's way that I realized that the palm of my hand was a bloody mess due to my death grip on the stick which had several sharp barbs on it. Oh well, better a few sliced fingers than a full on scalping!

(As an aside, I have not been the biggest fan of birds since I was trodden upon as a toddler at a petting zoo by a goose with a mean streak who wanted the bread crust wedged between my chubby little fingers and would stop at nothing to get it. I also feel like I have been pooped on by birds more than the average person and while I know that it is supposed to signify good fortune in many cultures, it's hard to feel lucky when you're covered in shit!)

Needless to say, my out-and-back turned into an out-and-almost-back-and-then-backtrack-and-bushwhack to the road. There was no way I was facing that bird again!

After my run, I determined with the help of my friend Google and an old bird book that we have sitting around that my nemesis was likely the Northern Goshawk, which according to one source "will attack any perceived threat too near its nest, including people. It chases and catches prey in high-speed, aerial pursuits and will even crash through brush to chase its quarry on foot."

I guess I should be glad it didn't come down to a foot race between me and the angry accipiter. Although perhaps I would have fared better if it had.