Thursday, July 16, 2015

Sinister 7

photo by Raven Eye Photography
The night before S7 I lay there in my tent trailer with Sharon tucked under my arm knowing that tomorrow's race would be a good one. At this point of the season, especially coming off the World 24 hour Championships in April I knew my fitness base was good enough to carry me through the challenging 100 mile course. The forecast called for thunderstorms between noon and five which sounded perfect as it would nullify the heat on the exposed course. The only niggling concern I had was the minimal amount of climbing I've squeezed into my training. To be honest, I hate it. I'd rather go to a One Direction concert than power hike. The other strange little concern I had was I was having a hard time digging up the desire to put out every drop of blood, sweat, and tears into tomorrow's effort. In other words I just didn't want it as much as I've wanted other races in the past. I fell asleep that night hoping I'd find the desire the next morning.

photo by Megan K Koevoet
photo by Raven Eye Photography
The gun rang at 7 am. The relay runners drove swiftly ahead leaving a clump of familiar faces around me. In the mix was the drop dead good looks of Devin Featherstone, the youthful optimism of Eric Reyes, the contagious spirit of Ian MacNairn, and the sexy legs belonging to Majo Snrik. Tucked smartly behind us was the stone cold killer Alissa St Laurent and the "closer" Travis Brown. Around 4K in I peered down at my watch and noticed a 4:45 pace and thought to myself, "Hmmm we could very comfortably pick it up a bit." A couple K's later I was all by myself, no one wanted to play with me and that was when the long, lonely day started. The climbing into T1 saw a lot of relay runners slow behind me as they couldn't keep the pace on the ascent. At T1 I saw RD Brian Gallant where I told him I felt very comfortable and just wanted to ride this flow for awhile. Leg 2 had to be my favorite. It has stunning views and tricky technical descents. I found myself smiling from ear to ear for two reasons. First I was enjoying myself, second I was flying past parts on the course that last year left me wincing in pain when my ankle was not able to take the demands of the course. This year I was in no pain and my effort level was still very low. It was gonna be a damn good day.


Sharon was the very best crew!
Approaching T2 I found the motivation I was missing and I found it in the strangest of places. To everyone at the staging area I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your cheers and words of encouragement drove stakes through my heart reminding me that I can sure act the spoiled bitch sometimes. There are people that would die to be in my position and here I am dug 5 feet in the ground with my first world shovel feeling bad for myself cuz I just didn't want it bad enough. You've got to be fricking kidding me. Sharon met me with new handhelds and apple sauce and I was off. As I climbed out onto leg 3 as corny as it sounds I had a song in my head 
photo by Raven Eye Photography

and it was set on repeat the rest of the day. It was a song and video Sharon made for me that I first watched in April, the morning I ran 257K in Turin breaking the Canadian 24 hour record and finishing in 6th place. Watch it here. The rest of leg three went seamlessly. I sponged down in creek crossings, slowed on the climbs and sped the downs. I ate a bar I got in my race package called Thoz Barz and it blew my mind, a bar Ill definitely fuel with in the future. The song kept playing reminding me how blessed I am and that life is too short for mediocrity and I am truly the luckiest man I know. I fuelled every 30 minutes, drank RE7 when thirsty and kept my pace well below the dangerous red line. Now 67K into the race I descended into the staging area now with a larger gap on the lead I eagerly awaited Sharon's aid, more apple sauce and the welcome of the crowd.

photo by Raven Eye Photography
Leg 4 was my predetermined GO leg. This was where I thought it best to pick up the pace and lengthen or close the gap on my competitors. With the first climb up the ski hill out of the way I quickened the pace. On this portion of the course I now reaped the benefits of staying cool during the heat of the day. The three things that aided this was my cowboy hat, arm coolers, and an ice filled bandana around my neck. Cowboys aren't just good looking you know. At the next transition station I saw Sharon, Misti, Dan and Laura. Sharon was holding the exact thing I was craving, an Iced Cappuccino. Like Snoop I dropped it like it's hot. Smack!!! Once the flavour hit my lips it was surprising I didn't drink it in one pull. Misti suggested I shouldn't drink all of it as it was made with milk. "That might not end well," Misti said with concern. She was right, I ran the next 10 K trying to not jostle my bowels to allow safe passage as the creamy goodness flirted with a northern passage. I passed by my best friend John
Hubbard through the ditch along the highway who had words of encouragement. He's always been able to get me to dig deep. As I turned north off the main highway the ugliest of ugly clouds swirled closer. Before you could say Adam Campbell, lightning was crashing down left and right. All I wanted was to get out of this ditch and away from the telephone poles. A sign showed a left turn off the road. YES, now I'll be safe. You wouldn't believe it, the course turned directly into an open field
with a row of electrical towers over 200 feet tall, BLOODY HELL THIS IS HOW I'M GONNA DIE!! Adam Campbell's voice was in my head telling me to be a moving target so I picked up the pace and got through that hell hole as fast as possible. By the time I got to the base of Mount Tecumseh the heavy rain turned to vicious hail. The cowboy hat was perfect as my arms hurt from the frozen bullets but my head and shoulders stayed protected. My pace slowed as I tried my best to keep my feet dry. The quad trails acted like a perfect culvert for the water to stream down creating a raging river. Twenty minutes into the climb I realized that the wet conditions will not be improving so I might as well get dirty!

photo by Raven Eye Photography
Into the storm we go
photo by Raven Eye Photography
Mud, mud, and more mud
I might be exaggerating but it seemed like I slipped and fell every 2-5 minutes. As awesome as the NB Fresh Foam Trails are they are lacking on muddy grips and this definitely slowed me for the remainder of the race. I arrived at the end of leg 5 sunken and demoralized. Putting on a brave face for my crew and friends I really didn't want to leave the comforts of that tent. Sharon noticed this, called me on my bullshit and almost physically pushed me out onto leg 6. Thank you Sharon! The first 5 K into leg 6 wasn't bad. My spirit was reasonable, my pace still okay that is until the climbing started. Did I mention I hate power hiking? For the first time in a couple years racing I really started to mentally struggle. Many relay runners passed me with words of encouragement but I was a miserable disgusting mess. Negative self talk filled my head and the feeling of not caring about anything took over. A passing relay runner informed me that Alissa was only 29 minutes behind me at the start of leg 6. I don't know much but I know what happens when you dangle a carrot in front of a race horse and this thought made me get off my ass and get up this mountain. Upon the descent I started struggling again and I found myself making the biggest mistake a runner can make.  I sat in a chair at a remote aid station before T6, covered in a blanket, with a cold fizzy pop kindly donated by one of the 3 amazing volunteers there, and I stayed for ten minutes. All I remember was my head was sunken staring at my feet when something caught my eye. I wrote 257K with a Sharpie marker on my arm in the off chance I'd need a reminder of how strong I can be and that 161K is nothing. I got up and ran. 

The crew: Misti, Dan, Laura, Johnney, and Sharon was taking the pic.
I arrived back at the transition station at exactly midnight. Still not in good spirits but certainly better than before. Sharon asked me what I needed. I said, "To get this F?*$!ng thing done." I hammered half a Red Bull and off I ran on the final leg and still in first place but by how far I didn't know. As I climbed out of the transition area my spidey senses tingled. At the top of the climb I looked back and saw a headlight approaching the climb. ALISSA, that little twerp, it's gotta be her! The remainder of the leg was really fun as most of it is single track slowly winding it's way back down into Coleman where the finish line awaited. The last 800m was asphalt road and it was only there that I turned, saw no light and began feeling safe. With 100m left Oleg Tabelev grabbed my handheld and exchanged it for a cold beer. Cracking the beer and chugging that bad boy through the finish line was certainly worth the suffer...18hrs21min, new course record and 2015 National 100M trail champion!

The predator and the prey

Sixteen minutes later Alissa crossed the line in 18hrs 37min!!!! Crushing the female course record! Un-freaking believable!


Team Proctor
Everyone sees me running out there on the course but what they don't see is the one person behind the scenes keeping everything afloat. Thank you Sharon for being my rock. None of this, I repeat, none of this would be possible without you.

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