Sunday, May 25, 2014

Blackfoot Ultra 2014 National 100K Championships

Andy and me after 50K
      The race weekend started with a prerace dinner with friends Joe and Karon Huising. We ate plenty and over dinner we discussed my game plan for the ultra the next morning. The Blackfoot Ultra attracted a very fast field this year given the fact that it was designated the 100K National Trail Championships for 2014. A couple of the top runners Oleg Tabelev and Andy Reed had raced hard only two weeks prior. Knowing that it takes me longer than two weeks to completely recover, I thought my best strategy was to push the pace early in hopes they would follow and eventually wear out. This was a risky plan knowing I could bury myself instead.

John Hubbard, Joe Huising, me and Oleg Tabelev
       Saturday May 24th 5:00am the gun sounded and my plan to push the pace started immediately. The temperature was 12 degrees Celsius at race start and we ran out into a very rolly 25K loop in beautiful Elk Island Park eventually running 4 loops, each one proving to have their own challenges. A couple K into the race I noticed that Andy was the only chaser and boy were we moving. At times running 4 min/km our opening splits were crazy fast: 10K (0:43:30), 21K (1:31:00). At this pace a blow up was sure to happen but was it gonna be me or him. Around the 42K mark (3:11:00) there is an equestrian section of the course that my ailing ankle just hated. The pain set in, my lower leg started to tighten and my pace started to drop. Sensing an opportunity Andy blew past me. It took everything I had to keep pace with him to finish off that loop all the time telling myself "All I need to do is make it to the third loop, Sammy's loop."
New Balance 1400's
       In my last blog post I wrote about the four loops at the Blackfoot Ultra and how I was dedicating each loop to my wife and each of my kids. Two years ago the third loop was when I really suffered. This time around I knew that thinking of Sam would help me a ton. Upon finishing the second loop I was in big trouble and the pain in my ankle was getting worse. I was thinking while I run away into the third loop, I would stop and walk back to the start but the opposite happened. I sprinted out onto the course and said "Sam." My pace picked up, my pain diminished, spirits rose and every couple minutes repeated my son's name "Sam."
Me and Philippe Legace
       The dude that was winning the 50M at the time Mack Kont was back and forth with me and when I looked back, Andy was nowhere to be seen. Awesome this was the gap lap. I loved running past spots I remember suffering at two years ago, now breezing right past. The heat of the day was setting in and Mack was having stomach issues which made his pace drop and for the first time in the race I was all alone. Alone with Sam.
       For the third time that day I ran through the damn equestrian section of the course, once again putting more torque on the ankle. The mood started slipping yet again until I heard a familiar "Whoop whoop!" behind me. My buddy John Hubbard, who was
running the 50K, had caught up with me. He mentioned he was already suffering and we should run together…done! John and I ran the remaining third loop together and I have to admit, finishing 75K with 25K left to go I felt pretty bloody good.
       I learnt I had a solid 12 minute lead over Andy and knew a solid first half of the fourth loop would solidify the win. The fourth loop was different than all other loops since all 100K, 50M, 50K and 25K runners were now out on the course. Running with all the other runners was uplifting. Ultra runners are cool people and everyone was so positive. John and I ran the 
Me and Any Reed
Me and Gary Poliquin
Blackfoot hills (which I swear get taller every lap) and put out a solid 14K when I saw my friend and killer ultra runner Joe Huising on the course. He told me if I pick up the pace a huge course record could be set and I could squeeze under 8:30. The CR was 8:49 set by Richard Webb in 2007. I picked up the pace and felt good doing so but as I started really striding out my hamstrings started cramping. I took some salt tabs, started to run faster again and the cramps crept back. I decided at this point to hold back the speed and with now only 6K left coast into the finish for the win.
       With a mile left to go, my friend Oleg Tabelev met me on the trail and ran me into the finish. Unfortunately Oleg dropped out earlier after 50K due to hip issues. I'm proud to say we've become very good friends in the past year and it was great running the remaining bit with him. 
        I finished at 8:38, ecstatic I whooped, raised my arms and most importantly kissed Sharon. I am the 2014 National 100K Trail Champion and proud owner of my first course record! I raced in the New Balance 1400's road racing flat, not a trail shoe but 5.3 oz of true running bliss.

After race beverages with friends
25K in














       Upon completion I devoured two Dilly Bars, iced my ankle, drank a cold coke, sat down and reached for a beer when I heard "The second place finisher is coming." I turn around to see this guy I didn't know come barreling down the chute finishing in 8:51 to claim second place. Confusion set in, this is not Andy Reed, not Vincent Bouchard, not Rene Castel. It was Philippe Legace and this was his first ultra! Standing there in amazement (and yes a bit of fear), myself, Joe Huising, Oleg Tabelev, Wayne Gaudet and John Hubbard all taking note of this new threat in the Canadian ultra scene. Andy finished only 9 minutes back of Philippe in third place in 9:00 hours which would have won any other year. 
Copy cat
       The rest of the day was a fun filled, fruit beer drinking day hanging with friends under the New Balance tent. Half lit, watching runners finishing one by one is good for the soul. Many thanks to Gary Poliquin for once again putting on such an amazing event. With all the hype surrounding some ultras I believe the Blackfoot Ultra is the best kept secret in the Canadian ultra scene.
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