If the miles behind me could be put into words before you, you would feel my efforts, my struggles, my desires. Most of all you would see my joy. Watch me from afar run the trails and hills and miles upon miles and you will see ...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Jolly Ole England

I have to preclude this installment with the statement that this trip involved four of the most frustrating days of my life. You see, my plane from Vancouver to Montreal was about a half hour late "because of the lack of the usual tailwind" which left me twenty minutes to run from gate 1 to gate 61. As I was zipping past gate 40-something with my sandals slapping the ground I heard on the speaker that it was the final call for my flight to Heathrow. I arrived in about ten minutes and even asked if my bag would make the flight. I was assured that if I made the flight then my bag would as well. Untruth #1.

I went through Heathrow, then off to Manchester where I stared at an empty luggage carousel going round and round, praying my bag was still going to come out. I went to the desk and was informed that the bag was still in Heathrow. Untruth #2. This was 9:30 am. Not a big deal because it could easily make another :45 flight to Manchester. I jumped on my train to Penrith and arrived at 2pm. I phoned British Airways when I got there and was shocked to hear that my bag had actually not made the jump across the Atlantic and was in Montreal still. It would be sent on the flight set to arrive Friday morning at 6:30. I called a couple times on Friday and it was picked up by the courier around 4pm. 4pm!! I now began the frustrating and seemingly endless stream of calls to the courier company trying to arrange the bag to get out to Keswick. Because I didn't have a readily available phone I was jumping back and forth from our accommodations to the race headquarters.

I was in a "glass half-empty" mood so to cover my ass I bought some running socks and a pair of neutral New Balance shoes at the local New Balance store in town. How convenient was that? I would be able to return the shoes if I didn't use them so kept them in the box for that reason and also I didn't want to try them out and realize that something wasn't right with them. I wanted to be doing the run before that happened. The town of Keswick is a small town but quite touristy and every second store is dedicated to mountain hiking clothing. There were no department stores in the town and it was damn hard to find some underwear for me to use. I found the only store in town that had a super-small selection of the things. It's kind of one article of clothing you don't want to overuse.

The delivery people said they would call Friday evening to see if it could be dropped off before 11pm and I had to phone at 9 where I was told it wasn't going to be out until Saturday even after two days of emphasizing the fact I needed it for Saturday morning.

I had already initiated my plan B of acquiring various necessities for Saturday's race such as clothes, bottles, carbo powder, you know, just the simple things. Everyone on the team was very supportive and offered me whatever they had to help me out. I got a hat and singlet from Laurie, shorts, water bottle and arm warmers from Kandise and Darren, and CarboPro powder from Hassan. Luckily he uses the same stuff because that was a pretty important piece of the puzzle to have. When I thought about it I realized how lucky I was to be with such an amazing group of people whose generosity is second to none. I can't thank them enough because without them I would have been relegated to crewing the race which is MUCH harder than actually running it. Those guys are the salt of the earth.

Race morning saw the arrival of Jenn Dick who lives in Sheffield, about two hours from the race, and who has been on the team numerous times in the past. It was great because she had a cell phone and now I could use her as the contact for the bag to arrive. Bad news was that she didn't bring her charger for it and it died halfway through the race. She did manage to phone the courier guys who told her the bag would be expedited out and arrive around 6pm. Great news!!

Okay enough negative talk about the stupid bag. This was the first Commonwealth Championship and it involved a 24 hour race, the 100k, and two mountain races. The 24 started on Thursday and finished Friday at lunchtime. It was cool to watch the Canadian members in the event because I'd never watched part of this type of race. I can't say I'd be too excited to go around a 1km track for that long. Never say never though.

There weren't many people in the 100k which was very different from the Worlds. The start seemed like a small little quiet social gathering. I planned to start this one slower than Belgium and just cruise. The first few kilometres were mostly uphill and at the top I picked up the speed a bit to take the lead on the downhills. I stayed out front for about forty minutes. I just wanted my short time in the spotlight following the pace car. After this time Darren Froese blew by me quite literally and had it not been for the loops coming up I wouldn't have seen him the rest of the day. He was followed by a couple Brits that I followed for the next 10kms. So this race was 15k out, 7 loops of 5k out and 5k back, then the 15k back to the finish with a slightly different route back. It was nice to be able to see where you were in the overall placings and also give and take encouragement from our Canadian members.

It was a beautiful course along a lake with the weather cooperating giving us an overcast sky but throwing a bit of wind our way. The loops weren't so bad except I soon figured out the halfway point of each 5k and kept track of my times when I passed this point. It never feels good to see the time getting longer and longer until I got to this point. I kept track of when I passed Darren and he was definitely not slowing down like I was. He was having the race of his life. Hassan Lofti-Pour from North Van was another member of our team who sprained his ankle a few weeks back and had run only 4 hours over the last 29 days. Thierry Asslein was the fourth member of the men's team who completed the Tour de Mont Blanc three weeks earlier so I wasn't really in a position to have an excuse not to do okay other than my new shoes and socks.

After the 20km mark I chatted with some other runners and by the sounds of their previous times, 7:20, 7:30, I knew I was out of my league. I started purposely slowing down to save something for the end. I was going to try and pick it up some after the 80k mark but that never actually happened. When I finally finished my seventh loop I tried to increase the pace but my legs were having none of it. I began to check my watch in earnest to do the math that would get me in under 8 hours. When I passed Kandise for the last time before my 15k to the finish, she gave me my last bottle and I asked her if she was going to the finish line to see Darren cross. She said, "Should I?", and I said, "You're damn right you should, now go." Because Jenn had driven her car to that point she was able to whisk Kandise back in time to see the finish. It's not every day you get to see someone from our team pull off a 7:32.

My last 15km were a little painful, especially on the hills that seemed so easy seven hours ago. I was glad to be done and so glad to see Darren at the finish. I gave him a huge hug and congratulated him on an amazing race. From there it was to medical to have my feet looked at and find out why the toe boxes were covered in blood. It turned out to be only some minor cuts that wouldn't stop bleeding that made the shoes look like a horror show. I only had a couple small blisters in between the big and little toes on each foot. Nothing to make me stop running so I was happy for that seeing as I broke the cardinal rule about never running so far in new shoes and socks. After that it was to the massage tent for a quick once over of the legs then off to find my lost bag.

Long story short it was supposed to arrive at the race HQ at 6:30 so when 7pm came around I called the courier company for about the 15th time and they said the guy had been there but it didn't look like anyone was there so he went on with his other deliveries. I was a little choked to say the least. I begged them to get a hold of the driver and tell him to come back but they said once he tries one address he has to continue with other deliveries and now it would be Sunday when he'd come back. Are you kidding me?!?! I was ready to write the stuff off when, an hour later, we were at our hotel and, lo and behold, the driver pulls up with the bag. Just a little relieved.

Sunday was spent looking around Keswick some more and watching the finish of the mountain race. Congrats to the Canadian men's team who won bronze! There was the awards and dinner that night and once that was over we promptly headed over to town again to a pub and played "quarters" until the place closed down. The locals had never seen such a game and were curious as to why we were bouncing coins into our glasses.

Monday was a travel day to Manchester where Nadeem, Laurie, Charlotte, Lisa and her friend Sonya walked about 100km around town. Not a whole lot to see there but nice to visit anyway. I crashed on the floor of Nadeem and Charlotte's room for five hours before the train ride to Manchester airport, flight to Heathrow, and finally the long flight to Vancouver. And, hey, my bag was actually there when I checked the luggage carousel!!!

After perusing my last few years of running long distance I realized there was always some element of hills and/or speedwork. Not to excess, mind you, but some thrown in there to mix things up some. When I was doing Ironmans these types of workouts were paramount to the run and the bike. I am therefore going to try and incorporate one speed and hill repeat session per week for the next four or five weeks and also a long bike and a hilly bike workout. The long runs will be done on the trails for time, not distance, and will be hilly as well.

1 comment:

Scott said...

Good Job Mate! Once again a fine representation of Canada (quarters) and an awesome job on the run.
Hope your feet are recovering and on the up side, at least you didn't have any laundry to do when you got home... Talk to you soon.