April 06, 2008

Vindication, Diez Vista Race Report

(Roxy as a pup, I think D.V. 06 was her first race experience!)

So here is my memory of my previous Diez Vista experience in 2006. Super technical downhill section about an hour in. Long fast open running section in middle. Decent climb up another ridge to a soul destroying turn around up and down a gravel road with less than 10k to go. Completely blowing up like I did not even know was humanly possible and getting passed like I was standing still for almost an hour. Stumbling across the finish line in more pain than I had ever experienced while 'running' and honestly amazed that I was able to keep moving at all.
(me suffering across the finish line at D.V. 06)

Diez Vista 06 was still fresh in my mind as the absolute worst running experience of my entire life (well four years now), and I wanted nothing more than to get my revenge upon the course for inflicting so much pain and suffering upon me two years prior! I was lucky to have snagged a last minute entry from good buddy Ean Jackson and after picking up my A.R. teammate Todd Nowack in Lynn Valley at 6am, having myself crashed with good buddy Wade Repta in Vancouver the night before, we were off to Port Moody for the 7:30am start.

I had viewed the registered entrants in the days leading up to the race and noted such runner's as Darin Bentley, Aaron Pitt, and Americans Michael Sanders and defending champ Brian Morrison. My good buddy Aaron Heidt had told me that he intended to head down and attempt the last minute day of entry, and as I was to learn, he was not the only person with this plan in mind. Everyone who showed up for day of entry got in, and rightfully so as the drive to Port Moody and more specifically Sasamat Lake, is not exactly down the street for most people. As I was rushing around tending to last minute bathroom breaks, taking care of my drop bag, and then stressing over whether or not my shoes were tied to loosely I couldn't help but notice how many additional 'ringers' had decided to come out for the 50. Jason Loutitt was there along with Americans Matt Hart and Hal Koerner! This race had gone from being decently competitive to the most competitive ultra I was to have run on Canadian soil!

Hal Koerner won Western States last year, which is the premier 100 miler in the U.S. and internationally recognized. To win this race is to solidify your name amongst the best in the sport. Brian Morrison had won Diez in 07 and came as close as you possibly can to winning Western himself in 06, having collapsed just a few hundred meters shy of the finish and being DQ'ed for receiving assistance across the finish line. He had a twelve minute lead on second place at the time, so undoubtedly he is another trail animal. Matt Hart is a good friend from down the coast and has been chalking up solid running results for over a year now while competing on the U.S. Montrail Ultra Running Team. Jason Loutitt has competed for Canada in the world Mtn Running Championships and was recently crowned National Snowshoe Champ. Aaron Heidt is a former University track runner turned trail runner who had set new course records on all but one of his races in 07. Darin Bentley has run on the Canadian 100k team for years and holds numerous course records himself, and fellow Montral Canada team runner's Aaron Pitt and Ryne Melcher are always strong as well! I was in shock as I looked around and started wondering how far back I'd end up finishing on the day. For a brief moment I contemplated changing my race plan, then reminded myself that I was competing against the course and not any runner in particular. I had come into this race with a plan, and I was going to stick to it from start to finish, no matter how tough that might be to do!

The race started and Jason Loutitt quickly began to distance himself at the front of the pack. I though this was great because I had no intention whatsoever of going out with the lead group and was hoping some of them might tear each other apart while fighting for the lead. My plan was simple, I was going to start conservatively over the first climb, open up a bit on the first major downhill, concentrate on keeping a good tempo through the flatter mid section of the course, put in a solid but controlled effort on the last significant climb, and effectively safe myself for the final two huge descents into the finish. This is where it all fell apart for me in 06 and I watched fellow Club Fat Ass runner Colin Freeland put ten minutes into me in the final 4k alone! I knew that if I could just stay smart, and keep my legs fresh for this last stage of the race that I'd end up with a solid result out there.

The leaders were gone in no time and I was cruising along somewhere around 15th for the first 40 minutes. As I crested the first big climb I knew that the most technical section of the entire 50k lay ahead over the next twenty minutes or so and that this was a good area for me to make up some time. I quickly distanced myself from the pack I had been running with and thought for sure that I'd catch the group ahead of me. As I am now growing accustomed to, I ended up in no man's land for the next few hours! At the bottom of this descent you are spit out onto a hard packed gravel road and although I did spot four runner's just up ahead, they quickly pulled away over the flats and I did my absolute best to limit those losses. I thought I would be caught from behind by at least one or two runner's and was continually running scared. Thankfully this was not the case and I felt confident that my pace was not causing me any great time losses to the leaders. About 1h40m in a volley told me that I was just over 5min back, which was way better than I had anticipated! I told myself that I had another three hours to make up that five minutes and to not get too excited. I kept telling myself, 'Just stick to your game plan Gary, just stay smart out here'. So far so good.

You can only tell yourself 'so far, so good' for so long before you really need to see another runner. I felt confident that my pace was good, I was feeling fresh and happy with how my race had unfolded up until this point, but I almost started to panic when I had gone so damn long without seeing another runner! Why wasn't I catching anyone? Was I pacing it too slow out there? Did I take a wrong turn? Shit, did I take a wrong turn?! The one big benefit to running solo is that it absolutely forces you to actively search out all the flagging tape on course, and after my three second panic attack I saw yet another pink ribbon and knew that this was not the case. I calmed down by reminding myself that I had not been caught either, and right about this time it happened, I heard the voices of the next group of runner's in front of me! There was a short turn back section in which the road was about fifteen feet higher than the trail I was currently on, I heard Matt Hart's voice and at that moment I knew I was sitting in a good position. So far so good...

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that it snowed on us out there! It was a nasty day at times and I was very happy for the fact that I had given my Helly Hansen Mars Jacket to Aaron Pitt's girlfriend Rowan who was taking care of our drop bags. As I came in to switch bottles I ripped off my second shirt and threw on my jacket over my long sleeve lifa. I had been getting chilled and I was very thankful to have that wind breaker for the remainder of the run. Thanks Rowan!

I'm also done with competing with music on. Chuckanut was the first race I had ever run with tunes and my ear buds actually died on me about 1/2 way into the race. Well I had replaced them and the issue of the day was the ear phone cord sticking out of my pocket just a bit too far and snagging on tree branches, which would then rip the ear phone out and leave a cord dangling in front of me. After struggling with this exact issue three times I tucked the damn thing into my pocket and eventually slammed it into the ground when I grabbed my bottle from Rowan at the aid station. I then went about singing two songs for the rest of the race. 'The Shadow Of The Day' by Linkin Park and 'Renegades Of Funk' by Rage Against The Machine. This is of course, completely random and useless information...back to the race report...

I was feeling good and knew that the last major climb of the race was not too far off. I finally caught up to Matt and was dismayed to learn that not only did he manage a wrong turn on course, but that an injury had flared on him and his day was looking like it was over. As I headed into the switch back climb that would lead into the out and back portion of the course I spotted fellow Team Montrail Canada runner Aaron Pitt. I started to pick up my pace to catch Aaron but quickly told myself to just chill. I was almost at the crux of the race, I had followed my personal race plan to a T up until that point and it did not make sense to deviate from that plan now. I wanted every once of energy I could spare for these exact trails on the return trip.

I eventually caught Aaron at the top of the trail and did not realize how much pain he was in. I later learned that he was dealing with a flared injury as well and was really toughing it out at that point. I looked up ahead and spotted Darin Bentley within striking distance. The timing of it all felt perfect and I knew I would learn shortly who was leading the race and exactly how much time they had on me.

I was surprised, but knew I shouldn't have been, to see fellow Squmiash runner Aaron Heidt leading the way! I glanced at my watch to time myself back to that exact spot. I pretty much hit the turn around aid station together with Darin Bentley and Brian Morrison!! I was pumped...but also wondering where the hell some of the other competitors were? I would later learn that unfortunately Hal Koerner also dropped due to injury and Jason Loutitt dropped after taking a wrong turn.

Brian had stopped at the aid station just ahead of me and departed immediately before I tagged it and turned. I was confident in my Carbo Pro 1200 and Thermolyte game plan and did not utilize a single aid station on course. Brian lead it out over the climb back up towards the last big downhill and I timed off Aaron Heidt's lead at just over six minutes (I was later told it was as high as 9 min at one point, of course you can never be sure of exactly how precise this info actually is). I am guessing the distance from here to the finish to be about 8km maybe?? Could I make up six minutes in that time frame? Could I overtake and hold off Morrison? Were my legs gonna allow me to hammer the last section like I had been dreaming of for two years now!?

As this was the out and back section we were also getting a feel for where the rest of the field was in comparison. I had put in a bit of a push to pass Morrison, managed a bit of a gap, and was now in 2nd place. As Aaron Pitt ran past he had a big smile on his face, as did I, and he simply said to me,
"Go get him dude!"

Todd was not far behind, but when I flashed a big smile at him he was somewhat unresponsive. I had no idea of how much he himself was suffering, but I thought he was still running decently well and in line for a solid top ten finish.

As I spotted the single track switch backs to my left I got excited, this was it, this was what I had been planning my race around, finishing up strong and letting loose over this portion. I popped back a few Thermolytes and leaned into the trail. As people climbed up the trail it only fueled me more to be getting the congrats from other runner's, as of course I shared right back with them. I saw Wade Repta and he could instantly tell that I was having the race of my life. We laughed a bit as I ran past and I started telling myself that I was gonna catch Aaron if it killed me!

At the bottom of this first big descent I glanced back to see that I had gained at least a minute over Morrison. I told myself that this was my race, this was my day, I was gonna make this happen, I was going to pull out this win. Right about that time Aaron's brother Kertis biked past. I had seen Kertis earlier in the race as well and know him through the North Shore Athletics snowshoe team this year. He looked at me and said,
"I think you're gonna catch him! You're looking strong and he's hurting! He's only a couple of minutes ahead!"
Aaron's own brother was challenging me to take him down, it was priceless! To learn that I had taken back half of that six minutes in such a short period of time only helped to quicken my pace. I had saved my final two Thermolytes for the last climb of the entire race. My legs were feeling it and I was just hoping they would hold up for the last 5k or so to the finish. I power hiked up and over the last ascent and knew that all I had left was a big fast downhill strewn with decent sized rocks, which makes it somewhat technical, and about 1k of flat lakeside running...oh yeah, and about thirty stairs! What masochist puts the finish line on the upside of a set of freakin stairs!!

I hammered down the road and was constantly hoping to spot Aaron just up ahead. Towards the bottom there are two wide open sections where you can see a few hundred meters ahead, and I though for sure that I'd at least catch a glimpse of him here...but nothing. Aaron is an amazing runner and I knew he was digging deep to take the win on the day. For a fraction of a second I slowed, telling myself that he had me, there wasn't enough course left, then I internally yelled at myself to wake up and continued to leave it all out there. As I came into the final km of the race I was told that Aaron was 2m10s ahead. I knew he had me, but it didn't matter for this was one of the best races of my life. I had run the smartest race of my 'running career' and that in and of itself felt incredible. I continued as heavy a pace as I could sustain along the waterfront, cursed the race director as I climbed the final stairs, and sprinted across the finish line just 1m03s behind Aaron for second place!! I screamed out in elation as I crossed the line in 4h22m50s! Miwok here I come baby!
(Thanks to Brad Dean for this pic)

Both Aaron and I had eclipsed the previous course record (although barely for me), which of course belongs to Aaron now, and I believe that puts him at four out of five in terms of trail races he's run, to course records he now holds! Obviously it sucks that some of the top runner's were forced to drop out for one reason or another and hopefully no one is injured for too long. I think it was awesome to see so many American runner's on the starting line and hopefully they will continue to see more Canadian runner's at their local races throughout the year!

Unfortunately Todd was at the finish waiting for me! He had bonked hard, and seriously rolled his ankle early on. He made the tough call to drop at the turn around aid station and he was still freezing cold when I finished. His ankle had flared so bad that when we later went for Sushi he could put no weight on it at all. Thankfully it sounds like it has subsided since Saturday and hopefully Todd will be back on his feet again right away!

My new Montrail Streaks were awesome for this race and I think I may race in them at Miwok as well. They are a lighter trail flat type shoe, so I may keep my Hardrocks in my drop bag in San Fran just to be safe. I found that they were a bit slick on the wet rocks and roots out there, but don't see how another shoe would have fared better in these conditions.

My nutrition:

-1x Carbo Pro 1200 (I actually didn't even finish the first 1/2 so maybe closer to 1000 calories here)
-8x Thermolyte Tablets
-1/3 Pack of Cliff Shot Bloks

This is even less that I consumed at Chuckanut! Thankfully, once again, and for just the second time, no cramps Ma!! There are many contributing factors to figuring out my specific nutritional issues in the last few years, allergy to wheat, sensitivity to milk and soy, etc. But it appears that the addition of an electrolyte tab such as Thermolytes has been the final key to the puzzle for me and has finally helped me to bring it all together this year. To race without cramping is completely new to me and something I could definitely get used to!!

More pics to come in the next few days as they become available and full results here.



The Chaser said...

awesome job! you vaguely make me want to try this trail running competition thing. i know i hate road running...yuck, but love hiking and i enjoy running on trails for fun. i am pretty sure i would be terrible, but that i would enjoy it. maybe when the knee gets healed...

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on a smart race. Saw you at Aid Station 4 and you were flying. I agree it is nice to see a competitive field and best of all to see you sooo close to winning! Good luck at Miwok!


Anonymous said...

Congrats! Great blog on the run(I found it as I was looking up the top runners) I feel like I was there! I hoped to go but was out due to achilles- so I went to cheer at the finish line for you all. I love your blog- very motivating! I'll do the 5 peaks again this yr, maybe the iron knee, and will drag my husband in the DV run next year!! Keep up the great work!!

Heather V

Anonymous said...

awesome race (and race report) you got for yourself gary! if you decide not to run anymore, you could prob become a writer of some sort.

i was just looking at the race results and commenting to myself that for a 50-yr-old guy, you are in fantastic shape! hahaha

Anonymous said...

nice work gary. you guys are fast. i had to run a 4:20 just to get the pink ribbons up in time for the course markings and not be overtaken ... =P

Baldwin said...

I did a double take when I saw your age too! It's been corrected.

I will also wear the Streaks at Miwok. They worked great after coming out of the DV ridge.


Anonymous said...

Way to go Gary! Woo Hoo! awesome! Glad to hear there were no leg issues for you on this race!

garobbins said...

Thanks for all the comments and congrats!!
It was great to see some of you out there and I greatly appreciate all of the support!
Less than 4 weeks to Miwok, so time to get back at it again today.

Brian Morrison said...

Nice job at Diez Vista. That's a smoking time you ran. Good luck at Miwok. I think Miwok's the prettiest ultra course I've ever run. Good luck with the rest of your season.


Nell said...

Wow, excellent race Gary and congrats on sticking to your plan. Good luck at Miwok and I look forward to reading about it on your very entertaining blog

DARTvg said...

Nice write up and congrats G!

garobbins said...

Thanks again guys, wow, there are actually people reading this thing now heh! I am always amazed when anyone outside of my immediate family takes the time to do that!!
Thanks for all the comments and support, it's greatly appreciated!

Anonymous said...

You're a machine Robbins! Congratulations and good luck at Miwok. Hey, thanks for the tip on the Streaks too, and for fitting them for me. You're absolutely right, they're incredible. Way to go Montrail!

PS the dog's looking a little tired.

garobbins said...

She's just resting up to kick yer ass when I end up down that way!
Glad you like the shoes, I know I'm loving em!
Don't forget I get your house for 200 a month next year!!