This race was on my radar, but I hadn't signed up for it because I imagined December being a month off from racing and doing any sort of heavy running. Having said that, this run was exactly my style of run. Trails, hills, mud, rivers and long. Perfect. Time to pull out my Brooks Cascadias.
I was dropped off at Thetis Lake in ample time. I wandered around and said hello to a few of my running buddies. It is funny...this time last year, I knew nobody in the running world. Now I was showing up for a run, and figured I could just bum a ride home with someone.
It looked like it was going to be a good event. Only the passionate runner-type would sign up for such an event. In true Harrier fashion, the race course was set up very well, and very officially.
I started my warm-up. The warm-up consistend of running for 3 minutes into the bush, taking a pee, and then running back to the start area, where I pretended to stretch. I knew the distance could get to me, as I really haven't covered anything bigger than about 13k in over a month.
I positioned myself near the front of the pack at the start line. I didn't really have a game plan with this run, except to try and finish reasonably well. I knew this meant starting strong, but not too fast. I certainly didn't want to go crazy in the beginning, as I would be toast later. I also didn't want to be too conservative, as it is easy to get caught too far back in any cross-country trail event.
The race started, and I quickly found myself in the secondary pack. This was good, as Gary Duncan was in the same group. I knew if I could finish near him, I'd be in great shape. I also saw the fast girls in the same grouping, so again, I was where I wanted to be. The trails were in good shape, but perhaps a little wetter than the previous time I had been out there. This was going to be a weird race for me, as I was following the pack, and really had little idea where I was actually going.
The race meandered away from the main trail. The trail also got a hell of a lot wetter. I found myself running in water; the trail was a creekbed of sorts. As I looked ahead, I saw a river. I quickly saw the runners going right through it. Cool. I went through as well. Very cool.
At about the 3-4k mark, I saw a pool of water up ahead. I then saw a girl (Canada's Kristin Sweetland) bail and superman slide right into the pool. She went in, fully. She bounced up right in front of me, laughed, and continued on. Within minutes, she was back up ahead of me.
I was doing well so far, I even had passed Gary Duncan. I was concerned as it was still early in the race, but so far so good.
Damn. My shoelace came undone. How did that happen? I double-knotted them. This had never happened before during a race. Idiot. I tried to forget about it, and did so. Then Gary says from behind me, "Jeff, you're shoelace it undone". I replied, "Wanna stop and tie it up for me?"
I knew I was gonna have to tie it up. I took my gloves off, and then stopped to tie up the shoe. After a 10 second stop, my shoe was done up, but a group of about 4 runners had passed me. I was actually pretty pleased. The pit stop was one that Alain Prost would have been proud of.
I stayed at the same pace, and in the same spot until the mountain started. The Stewart Mountain Climb was crazy steep. It also went on and on. I looked ahead and saw some poeple walking now. What a good idea. I joined in the parade. It was actually even hard walking it was so steep. As I looked up, I saw Gary running still. He was barely going any faster than me, and I was walking. Near the top of the hill, I jogged past Mark Ritchie. He was exhausted. So was I. The terrain was now frost and ice. Not quite so wet up here.
I then go to the summit, and I was very relieved. At this point, you always know that the rest of the rest is definitely more downhill than uphill. Cool.
As I sped down the hill, I searched for anyone infront of me. Nobody in sight. I knew my downhill running was not my forte, so I guess I was on my own. It felt like I was on my own.
I then sped past a girl who had clearly injured herself. She was doing a very slow jog, and I asked "are you ok"? She said "yeah, I just pulled my quad". I carried on. I knew if I could keep a good pace, that all these 10k runners would eventually peter out.
After another few minutes, I saw Gary. And, I was gaining on him. I eventually passed him, and again, I was thrilled. A course marshall had just told us that we were 11th and 12th place. I kept waiting for my body to give in to the elements, but it didn't. I kept thundering ahead, and by the time I saw Thetis Lake again, I had passed another 3 runners. I knew there was now only about 2 km. to go. But, not so easy. I knew there must have been runners right behind me, waiting to pounce on any room I was going to give. But, I didn't let up. I maintained my solid pace until the last beach seciton, and by this point, I knew there was nobody immediately behind me.
I finished in a time of 1:15:22. I had done the claculation and thought I finished in 9th place. As it turned out, I finished in 10th place overall (out of 225 registrations, 184 finishers). Quite an acheivement for someone who just registered the day before.
I was thrilled and went back to the finish line to watch Gary Duncan and all the other Harriers to finish. I then chatted with people, attempting to bum a ride home.
At the award ceremony, I was presented with a 4th place ribbon, as that is where I had finished in my age group. This marked only the second time that I had received something tangible for my efforts.
Now, there really are no races until January. Time for some 2008 run goals.