Monday, June 13, 2011

Being on the receiving end... (Race report 5-peaks SFU)

  (This post is also published on my blog

This was the "Hill" we were running.
Not once but twice.  Looks small huh?
Remember this photo was taken 
from a distance of over 1 mile away
Last Saturday, I decided to run an impromptu trail race. This was another race in the 5-peaks series and it was based at Simon Fraser University (SFU) which is about 15 mins away from me. My friend Simon wanted to run this race and I tagged along. This was his first trail race and I thought I would come along for moral support and show him how it's done. ;)

The week before had been interesting. I had not been feeling 100% and on the Saturday I was quietly hoping I would have an email from Simon saying he wasn't going. I would then crawl back into bed. No luck. As the race is only 15 mins away and is so small, there are no huge cues or line-ups. I didn't crawl out of bed till gone 7AM, so it wasn't as if I was losing sleep. This is pretty much heaven as racing goes.So after the usual pre-race stuff that kind of happens, I get to the race site at about 8:20, register and wait around for Simon. We were planning to meet at 8:30 and I had a few minutes waiting and praying that Simon turned up. Otherwise I was running 9.8K and 2,000ft by myself!

"Little and Large" a.k.a. Simon and Me.
Simon turned up (YAY!) and we head to the back of the corral for the race start. So there aren't huge crowds on the course -it's mainly single track, the 300 runners were sent in 5 waves. We were at the back of wave 5. We KNEW we wouldn't be the fastest, this way there was less pressure to beat everyone else. If we knew we couldn't beat the whole group (and they whole group are made of 80% nutters), this just ensured we could chill out and enjoy the trip. How much did that sentence come to bite me later on!

So off we went on course and after talking to another running friend of mine, (Megan my trail running hero) we had a little more idea of the course. She mentioned that the last hill was a monster and that one of the main problems is that some of the downhill descent is in the form of a "V-shaped" gully. You have to run down the 25% angled sides with no level path and it's tricky.

The first 1-2 miles was all descent. During 1 mile there was a descent of about 1,000ft. Then immediately after there was an ascent of about 900 ft, again over about 2 miles. The first descent was a blast. We had to take it slightly slower than we would have liked as we were still in a small pack of runners. I didn't mind this, it just meant I had to chill out a little and enjoy the scenery. The track although not as rocky as the last race did have these sections of gully which I did not handle well. About half-way down I nearly fell but managed a fancy little "Bum-bounce" on the side of the gully and was back on my feet without missing a step. Alright, the fact I "almost" fell was not showing my trail-head cred to Simon, however, I have to admit I was fairly impressed by the gracefulness of it. I am not a graceful person, but I liked to pretend that this was a sort of move I perform ALL the time whilst trail running. *cough* In vanity we lay our own disaster!

The first ascent was a daunting reminder that I sucked at hills. I am reminded that I should do more hill training and that Simon was better at hills than I was. Okay, he is 6ft 3 and I am 5ft 2. He does have a little advantage in that he doesn't have as much leg turnover to cover the same ground. However, both of our ego's were beaten when on the start of our first ascent we were passed by the leaders starting their second ascent. (The leader was a guy called Oliver and he won the 10K in 43 minutes - I mean that's not right. That's almost inhuman).

We walked/ran a little up the first ascent. We had picked up some "shot-blocks" that they were giving away at the first aid station. We had both decided NOT to take anything with us on the race, so we did need to take in water and food at each station. I've never had shot-blocks before and I must say, overall if I was reviewing them... my conclusion would be, they are impossible to open whilst moving. It took Simon and I over 1K to get the blasted packet open. The contents were okay, but not anything special enough to warrant the almost animal behaviour we had to produce to open the packet. Teeth, nails, even growling at the packet did not work.

It became apparent during the first few KM, that Simon had a clothing problem. I like smiling during my races and it always made me smile seeing Simon try and pull his shorts up. Sorry Simon, but it was funny.

I kept mentioning to Simon that he didn't need to hang around with me, that if he wanted to go faster he could. "Likewise" he said and we settled into an even pace as we hit the second descent. Half way, down the second descent I was VERY pleased Simon decided to stick around.

We reached the "V-shaped" gully descent again and with the legs getting tired it was harder for me to stay on my feet. Today was all about falling over it seems. All of a sudden, my foot decided to go one way, my knee went another and the rest of my body went in a different direction entirely. There was a crack from my knee and I landed face first. The immediate pain was intense. I knew I had done something and it took a couple of minutes of staying still before I got a handle of what had happened. The bodies natural painkillers took over and Simon offered his hand to pull me up. I gingerly tried it and although sore it seemed okay. I told Simon he could go on, but he decided to stay. This was when I was on the receiving end of "his perfect race"

Simon could have gone and easily run quicker than me. He didn't. He didn't have to walk as much as I did, but he did anyway. He stayed, he kept MY pace and he ran to keep ME company. If it wasn't for him there, I would have gone to the next volunteer and stopped. I knew my leg wasn't the best and for safety I would have quit, but knowing Simon was there, I carried on. I knew if it got too much then I could stop and Simon would get help, but as I had that safety net, I knew I could carry on. He didn't make a fuss, or make me feel guilty about holding him back. We just ran a little, walked a lot more and had a laugh. At that point I realised that those moments you make when you concentrate on the people you are with and NOT the numbers DOES make a difference. I would have been on course for a DNF, but Simon with his quiet friendship meant I could go on. I am very thankful he was there, more so because it validates my thinking that putting other racers before your own goals DOES mean something.

At the aid station second time we spent a few more minutes than before joking with the volunteers. The female volunteer kept saying we were looking great and fantastic. I was covered in mud, my knee must have looked a sight and my leg was full of grazes. I did a look of "Yeah right!" to another volunteer and we had a bit of a laugh about it. We were about 2.5K from the end and about to hit the last ascent of about 800 feet - including the stretch of Cardiac Hill (as we found out it was called). At this point my sore knee was causing me not to pick my feet as much and I stumbled again. I have only fallen on a trail once in over 12 months before this race and here I was flat on my back AGAIN, grinning. I gave a shout "Really? Come on? Are you serious?" to the sky above. Here I was trying to show Simon how to run a trail race and all I showed was that I was exceptionally good at falling over! Simon took a stumble a few meters on, but I think he did that on purpose just to make me feel better. :)

Post race. I am sporting the new fashion.
TENSOR bandage.
As we thought the hill would never end, we could hear the music from the finish line. We rounded the corner to the quick downhill sprint to the finish, I over heard the volunteer saying "The party pack are on the way down". I knew it was code for the stragglers were finishing and they could start the course sweep, but it made me smile. As if the RD and volunteers knew me. :)

The clock said 1:30 at the end and after grabbing a cup of water and some fruit I headed to the aid station to get some ice for my knee. Now I had stopped I could feel it stiffening up. The Snow Patrol station iced and bandaged my knee up telling me I needed to get it seen to. I waved off that concern, thinking RICE would sort it out. It wasn't until the next day when my leg looked like a small bomb had been placed under my knee and exploded and my knee was replaced by what appeared to be a large potato did I go to the ER.

Do you think I did something to my knee?
This was taken in the ER. Hoping it's not
the predicted Cartilage damage the ER
doctor thinks. :/
I am now in a knee brace, crutches and I have an orthopedic appointment in a few weeks. I ran two miles on that knee - how bad arse am I? Okay, not as hard arse as Oliver who managed to run the whole thing in 43 minutes but still, a few kudos points?

Our final time was 1:26 and we were about 8 mins behind my running hero Megan. So overall we actually didn't do a bad time. Despite my fantastic fall I still enjoyed this race. I still had fun (even after my fall) and I can't wait to hit the trails again.


  1. Hope you manage to recover quickly! Glad you had someone who was willing to walk the rest of the race out with you. It might be the sort of thing many of us would say we would do for the other person as well, but being on the receiving end of that sort of selflessness always feels amazing. Good man, Simon!

  2. You are so hard core to finish with that knee! That thing is huge. I know I've been on the receiving end of a gracious runner giving up their time goals to stick with me and I've been so grateful. So when we get the chance to give back we do, right? Weren't we just talking about this?!!! I hope you get better quick and get back to those trails!