Monday, April 12, 2010
Diez Vista 2010
There were many factors that resulted in my entrance into this year’s Diez Vista 50km to be one of anxiety and keen trepidation. Firstly, it would be my first official race since Knee Knacker back in July of 09 (excluding TransRockies that equated to little actual running for me due to an unfortunate stress fracture in my tibia); a return to the racing atmosphere brings with it certain components unattainable through regular training and preparation. Secondly, I only had approximately 500 miles of running since January 1st (my first meaningful run since my injury) with only the last month consisting of runs within the 3-4 hour range. Also, my longest endeavoured effort was a mere 4 hour 20 miles two weeks before the race. Lastly, with no taper going into this event, my legs were well worn and I had a hint of tightness in my right soleus during the days leading up to the race. To say the least, I was not brimming with confidence standing at the start line; but so it goes…
With that said, my plans were fairly modest. With my splits from last year ingrained to memory, I was hoping to take the first half of the race at a fairly “comfortable” pace and assess the situation at the three-quarter point (turn-around at powerline) where many racers begin to fade. If things were well in order at this junction, I would test the legs on the return and final climb/ descent hoping for a sub 5:30 finish.
There was a solid turn out for this year’s event with some serious heavy weights. Local and defending course record holder Gary Robbins would battle it out with Phil Villeneuve for most of the day until pulling ahead at the 3 hour mark and hustling into the finish with a new course record. Impressive!!
The course is a test. With 6000 feet of climbing and a similar total of descent, the legs are certainly put through the expected wear-and-tear. Much of this is covered over technical terrain until eventually winding its way through more runnable fireroads and groomed path. With this year’s race being slightly rerouted, the effect was an o-so-slightly longer track over more technical terrain. Broken down in this way, my tactic was to take it easy on the first 1800 foot climb/ descent, pick it up through the rolling 10 miles in the center and then hopefully find my “late” legs for the two finishing 1000 footers.
In general, excluding the end, my race progressed in this fashion. Through the first 20 minutes I found myself comfortably in the front 20 runners scouting out who I would likely pace with for the day. I caught up with a few other runners I had not seen in some time. One guy commented on my package of “tic-tac’s” (aka salt tablets) rattling around in my pocket. He said it reminded him of the Seinfeld episode which I could not help but laugh with and agree. There was about 5 of us grouped together making the initial climb. I continued with them for much of the ascent until finally falling back; I was in no mood to push it early, confident in my original approach to the race.
Despite a hint of tightness in my left hamstring things were going smoothly as I funnelled out of the descent into Aid Station 1, filled my single handheld and kept moving. At this point I was running solo, catching a glimpse of the same group of runners about 2-3 minutes ahead. There are a scant few straightaways over the next 10 miles which meant I was unable to continue to get a clear picture as to where I was in relation. So it is, I just kept rolling at a comfortable pace enjoying the absolutely picturesque day we were luckily enough to get.
Time was elapsing quickly; my mind was wandering all over the place, humming the repetitive beats of a few songs that inevitably are tattooed into my head. Eventually I hit the Aid Station prior to the switchbacks leading out to the powerline where the out and back begins. It was at this junction that I ran into Gary blazing down the trail, with a comfortable lead. Not coincidently, it was almost the exact point where we crossed paths last year; reassuring me that I was nearly identical to my pace from the year previous. Exposed in the sun, the next stretch is often excruciatingly dull (relatively speaking of course) as you make your way down to the turn-around-point, knowing you must retrace your steps. Broken by the odd encouragement from returning runners and the peekaboo views of the surrounding mountains, things are rather unmotivating through this part. On the plus side, it was in this area that I was able to reassess my placement in relation to the guys ahead of me, realizing once again that I was only a few minutes back. I passed one guy at the turn-around-point and started shuffling my way back up the hill, repeating my steps and gauging the state of the body. Things felt as expected after running for 21 miles: notable tightness in my left hamstring with that expressive sense of heaviness not too far away. However, I was feeling pleased and psychologically content knowing I was within one minute of my split from last year and feeling much better from a physiological perspective. I had fuelled well and was feeling the positive byproducts of this.
On the return trip I passed a few more runners keeping a high cadence up the climbs until eventually matching stride-for-stride with “tic-tac” man (aka. Ryan (I think)) at about the 24 mile mark. We said hello and continued on our way.
The last 6 miles were uneventful and in retrospect somewhat disappointing. I let Ryan lead, perhaps becoming complacent with the pace, all the way up the final climb and into the descent. I thought about pushing it on a few occasions but for whatever reason, the motivation just lacked. We were moving well and I just seemed to let things happen. Perhaps a consequence of my lack of racing over the past 7 months, or the fact I had done most of my running solo this year and therefore welcomed the company, whatever it was, I just didn’t seem to find the drive. In the end, we matched step-for-step eventually crossing the line in tow, 5:33:40. Nothing in my body gave, with only the moderate twitching in my left abductor on the gruelling 40 stairs before the 50 meters to the finish (nice touch by the RD!!).
All in all, I must sigh with a certain degree of qualified content. My body held up well given this was my longest run of the year by over 10 miles/ 1:30 minutes. I stuck with my original approach which is a rarity; I will surely take solace in this. On the other hand, I can’t help but be discouraged with not going sub 5:30 given how close I was; as I said, the drive was just not there. In honesty, I feel I can go a lot faster on this course and hope to do so in the future. Nevertheless, after a bitterly cold, yet paradoxically pleasurable soak in Sasamat Lake, catching up with the other runners, and downing some of the delectable grub at the finish, things were put into perspective. I was able to “defend” the under 30 division (for whatever that’s worth, don’t ask how many runners there were under 30 ;) and finish 15th overall (Full results can be found here).
In the end, as I strolled out to Lynn Canyon less than 20 hours later, for an 8-mile/ 1:13 shake-out-the-legs run, I could not help but feel a hint of excitement about racing again and the prospect of the upcoming ultra mountain running season.