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 ...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rainy Haney '09

That's my proposed new name for the Haney to Harrison 100k ultra and relay races. Or at least the Rainy Ultra because I've done the relay when the weather's been decent but never for the 100k. It's easy to prepare for this race weather-wise: Plan for rain and anything less is a bonus.
I picked up Denise McHale and her husband, Greg, from the airport on Friday afternoon. I first met Denise in Italy last November (the same weekend as the H2H as a matter of fact) and was soon in awe of her prowess as an endurance athlete. It wouldn't do her and Greg justice for me to try and stumble through the list of accomplishments they have, suffice to say they do some grueling multi-day races over distances like 900km non-stop, usually finishing at or very near the top. Who's crazy now, huh? Denise is actually racing in Abu Dhabi in December. Check out the site: Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge
After the airport the three of us went to the local grocery store that I frequent and going through the checkout, the lady, whom I've talked to many times in the past, immediately, and correctly I might add, pointed out how it was easy to tell that Greg and I were twin brothers. She said she'd seen us in the store before and prided herself on her how good her long term memory was. Denise had gone to get another item and didn't miss a beat when she got back to join in and add to the twins conversation.
After dinner and the final preps we hit the sheets to wake up at 1:30 to the sound of, any guesses? That's right - rain. We loaded up the boat with beer and other supplies we'd need for the race. Long-time crew person and friend, Tracey Shelley, showed up and we shoved off.

It was a dark and stormy night. The rain came down torrents. The captain said to the first mate, "Tell me a story". The first mate replied, "It was a dark and stormy night, the rain came down in torrents. The captain said to the first mate, 'Tell me a story'". "It was a dark and stormy night..."

When we docked in Haney, forty minutes later, it was still coming down like someone (not mentioning any names but rhymes with "god") was really pissed at us. I went to get my race number and it was coming at us like Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump describing the rain in Vietnam: "Sometimes it came sideways, and sometimes it even seemed to be coming straight up", as it bounced off the pavement. The tents offered no protection from the wind and water. After getting everything in order it was back to the van to wait for the start.
Amazingly enough when the pre-race meeting started there was no rain or wind and you could even see stars through the clouds. An omen that it might be a good day out there? Ha! The thing I don't like about the start of this race is that I can never say hi to all the people that I'd like to. We always arrive with just enough time to do the necessities and that's it. Plus it's dark and with everyone all bundled up it's hard to tell who's who. I turned around at one point and was surprised to see Kandise Froese, immediately assuming she was crewing for her husband, Darren (Mr. 7:32 himself). I was then surprised again to hear she was crewing for Jack Cook. Wow, this just got a little more interesting.
I hadn't done leg 1 since the changes from last year so I was a bit hesitant to take off but eventually I did. It was very easy to follow the signs and glowsticks. Once up on Dewdney Trunk Rd I knew exactly where I was. I decided this year to go with my super-mega lightweight Adidas CS racing flats for the first half of the race. The hills felt like nothing going up them and I was glad I decided on this. The only problem I had with them in training was they were about a quarter size too small and so the toes felt cramped after about an hour. I had taken out the inserts and cut a bunch off the front so my toes were kind of hanging over them and it felt better. After four hours, though, it felt like they were on a cheese grater and so changed into my Supernovas.
I didn't have to ask where Jack was through the first two stages because I could hear someone behind me blowing snot out once in a while and seeing Kandise going by me often solidified who it was. I was sticking with my "Never Look Back" plan. I try to run within my own means and not worry about who might be coming up on me because if you're going to get passed then you're going to get passed, no use in worrying about it until it happens. I have to work on how to maintain the pace or even speed up in the second half of a 100k. My plan today was to run a little faster each stage than in '07. I was planning on a specific pace and keeping it there so it didn't matter if anyone blew by me, I was doing what I was doing regardless of the outcome. With this in mind I was aiming for a 7:29 finish time.
During leg 3 after the hills I stopped seeing Kandise drive by me and by the time it was getting light Carrie said that Jack was nowhere to be seen. He had back issues once again and dropped out halfway through 3. I started leg 4 feeling a bit low. I think I managed to keep up the pace I wanted but knew it wouldn't last. The race actually felt it went by quicker than in previous years. At the bottom of the big hill on 4 another car passed by and stopped near our van, putting on the four-way flashers. As I went by I asked if they were crew and they said yes, for Brett Larner. I was happy that the Canadian living in Japan doing his first 100k would be having such a good race. As it turned out Carrie informed me that they were leapfrogging quite a distance ahead of him and wasn't as close as I thought. He ended up dropping around 80k due to the conditions.
The rain had stopped and it was quite mild so after I crossed the train tracks to start leg 5 I stripped off my tights and jacket, replacing my racing flats, and donning the headphones. It was strange because this year the music just wasn't pushing me like it had in the past. Maybe the wind, rain, and fatigue were having too much of an effect on me. Every time I had to adjust them in my ears it was difficult because my hands were so bloody cold. Getting through this long flat stage was accomplished by keeping my hat down far enough I couldn't see the horizon or what was really up ahead. Once in a while I'd look up to see how much further to the next turn or curve.
A little ways into leg 6 the rain came down with a vengeance. The wind was no longer at my back and now with only a shirt and arm warmers on my shirt stuck to me and the rain went through me. This has always been a high point for me in the race because I wait in anticipation of race announcer Steve King and his wife, Jean, to drive by then come back and give me updates on where the other racers are. He stopped half an hour later to tell me there was a pack about 4 or 5 miles behind me. That could mean my lead was anywhere from 28 - 40 minutes I figured. I didn't even care if that was enough.
Right before the exchange into leg 7, only with help from Carrie and Tracey did I manage to take off my wet shirt, dry off and put on another shirt and my jacket. I couldn't even do up the zipper on my jacket. I was warm for about another hour then the cold started biting again. I heard it didn't warm up higher than 5 degrees. About this time I started in on the soup and the warmth was most welcome.
The hill on 7 was the hardest it's been in the four years I've done this race. At the beginning it honestly felt like I was running in place and going nowhere. My toes felt good so decided not to change to my size 11.5 shoes on the 11% downside. On the flats to the leg 8 exchange I used my strategy of not looking up at the 2k stretches of road I had to cover after rounding each corner. It was the slowest I've ever run that last leg and don't know whether it was the weather or the cold I'd had for a week before but I just wasn't getting it done. It was yet another death march. I can't explain why but it still felt like it went by pretty quick. Before I knew it I was on the main road and turning onto the last street leading to the little bridge before the finish line. Having never gone this way because it was changed last year I didn't know how much further after the bridge I had to go so didn't get my hopes up. But as I turned I saw the finish clock a mere 100 feet away and 7:49 since I started running. I don't even remember much of what happened next. Must have been the cold but I barely remember hugging my crew and getting changed into dry clothes. Before I knew it Denise was crossing the line. Holy crap she was only twenty-five minutes behind me. She was amazing and ran a race I could only dream of: the night before we worked out her splits based on an 8:00/mi pace to give her an overall time of 8:16. Where does she finish? 8:15 and change. Totally cool. She destroyed the record of 9:09 by almost an hour!! Must have been my spaghetti carbo-loading dinner.
Off next to the traditional pub lunch then to the motel to get cleaned up. After a short nap we went to the awards, then to dinner, thought about going to the after party, decided against it, and crashed hard til morning. Thanks to the super-crew, Carrie and Tracey, for dealing with my "unusual" crankiness during the whole ordeal. It was the most one word answers they've had to deal with. I tell you it was harder to crew on that day than to run it. Plus all the volunteers out there had to put up with the elements. At least we could move to try and stay warm. I reported to Steve King that I had a terrible race and mainly that was due to me not hitting my time goals that I felt I was more than ready to do. The first half was brilliant but things fell apart somewhat after that. Blame it on my cold, the rain and wind or whatever, but I know I have a sub-7:30 in me somewhere and I think a course like this challenges everything a runner can train for: uphills, downhills, and flats. Will most likely be in Gibralter for next year's World 100k at this time so H2H will have to wait until 2011 but you never know.

Check out Dirk Handke's report and photos of the day at:

Dirk Handke's pics

My crew's photos:

This is me doing my "I Dream of Jeannie" impersonation trying to "blink" my way to somewhere sunny. Note my "twin" brother Greg McHale to my left

Judie Wilson a little TOO happy

Hey where's all this rain everyone's talking about??

That's better

At the bridge about to finish

Kandise and I saying congrats to Denise

What a wuss, eh Greg?!?!?

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