October 09, 2009

Running For Toads, V2.0

For the second consecutive year three members of The Canadian Montrail Running Team were on hand to represent the brand, and The West Coast, at the 9th Annual Run For The Toad 25/50k in Paris, Ontario. (Just outside of Kitchener)

As with 2008 I’d be running in the event just seven days after racing The Cumberland Mind Over Mountain Adventure Race. In 08 Ryne Melcher took the win in 3h44m and I snagged second in 3h50m. The course is most certainly a true ‘runners’ course, even though it contains about 2000 feet of total climbing over the four 12.5km loops. I mentioned to Ryne after last years race that I thought a true marathon speedster would ‘run away’ with it. That theory was about to be put to the test as one of this country’s elite roadies was in attendance. Taylor Murphy would be trying his hand at his first ever ultra race, and we were well aware of the fact that he’d probably need to blow up for either of us to have any shot at being close to him.

Ellie Greenwood was also returning after winning the women’s 25km event last season and we were confident that she’d become the first ever woman to crack the 4hr barrier in the 50k.

Ryne and Ellie decided to fly out on Thursday but I’d chosen a Friday flight due to work restrictions. My supposedly mundane and basic 5hr fly time would somehow manifest itself into one of the most painfully drawn out flying experiences of my life!

The Flight From Hell...

A 9am departure put me in Calgary just a few hours later and with a minimal stop over I was back in the air in no time. My flight plan had me arriving in Kitchener at 5:30pm, at which time a few friends were to pick me up. I figured we’d grab a casual dinner, hit up the groc store for some breaky foods, chill for the evening and grab a proper nights rest.

As we approached for landing we could see the lights of civilization sprawled out below us, but as the landscape grew larger so too did the cloud cover. There was pretty much only one singular patch of fog over the entire region and it had firmly embedded itself into the confines of the Kitchener Airports tiny landing strip.

We descended towards the runway and right about the time we all thought we were about to touch down the pilot accelerated at full throttle and we shot back up to 12,000 feet. They made an announcement, said we’d circle for twenty minutes and try again. Attempt numero dos – same result. Then the news…

“We’re going to land in Ottawa.”

“Ottawa!” The cabin bellowed with moans and groans. I turned to the passenger next to me,

“What’s the drive time from Ottawa to Kitchener?”

“Oh about six hours!”

Twenty minutes later and I was standing in the Ottawa airport, frustrated and starving. I started asking for food options and before I could act upon them we were being re-boarded. I thought this a good thing and that we’d ideally be on the ground in our expected destination within the hour, delayed but otherwise fine. Apparently the fueling crew were on lunch themselves because we simply sat on the plane for an additional 45min before they even started the engines.

Finally we were again in the air, and shortly thereafter attempting a further landing in Kitchener. As we lost elevation the cloud cover actually seemed worse and for the third time the pilot accelerated up and away from our intended arrival point. They announced we’d circle an additional 20min and try again. Due to all of our ‘bouncing around’ they claimed there was no time to offer food or drinks and we simply received a glass of water. I was actually finding my stomach uneasy and the frustrations were mounting with each completed aerial maneuver!

Welcome To... Drum Roll Please...Toronto!

A fourth attempt, same result, followed by a tube full of swearing passengers. We were now off to Toronto. By the time we finally touched down at 11:30pm we were 6hr behind schedule, and nowhere near our intended destination. To make matters worse my luggage didn’t hit the carosel! I was so livid by this point that I was completely calm and laughing out loud. To no one in particular,

“That’s about right for how this day has gone!”

The irony was that for the first time in my life I’d decided to carry my basic running gear with me as carry on, so at least I’d still be able to run the race. As I was filling out the paper work regarding my luggage it miraculously and thankfully appeared from the depths of the airport. They had arranged a few buses to transport us to Kitchener and as I was rushing to load I managed to purchase a single gluten free energy bar as they were closing shop.

The bus ride itself was a painless and fluid experience however by this point in time I’d been sitting in a prone position for over 14hr…I could have flown to EUROPE dammit!!

At 1:15am I was finally standing in the Kitchener airport, almost eight hours behind schedule. Ryne Melcher was kind enough to stay awake and pick me up, and he presented me with my pre-ordered dinner from earlier in the evening. I scarfed down some chicken and asparagus, which were the only G.F. options available at 'The Keg', and we called it a night at 2am.

6am start to be at The Montrail Booth by 7:15am to help out. As with last year Montrail held a solid presence at the event and helped to educate swarms of new trail runners as to what a well constructed trail shoe is all about. Out of the 1500 registered runners I'd guess 90% of them had never even tried on a trail shoe before!

Opening ceremonies including National Anthems and bagpipers at 9am with the gun firing at 9.30am

Lap 1, Ow My Hamstrings Hurt

Ryne shot to the front and I followed suite shortly thereafter, in fact I can now say that I officially lead The Toad for almost one full km! Ryne lead tape to tape in 08. We bantered a bit about what Taylors strategy might be, of which he wasted no time in revealing it to us. He was going to run light years faster than the rest of us...end of story!

I ran with him for about a mile and could not believe how little effort he was exerting while I matched his pace. I could see early on that to preserve my own race I'd have to ease off. Ryne managed to hang with him for the entire first lap, then Taylor set off to blaze a new course record!

For me, the first lap was actually full of self doubt about even finishing the race. I had a slight hamstring pull earlier in the week and the extended travel time and lack of sleep had done me no favors.

Lap 2, Ow My Calves Hurt

By the time I hit the second loop however, and was feeling pain in my calves instead, I knew the hammy's couldn't have been too too bad so I sucked it up and continued onward.

Lap 3, Ow My Stomach Hurts

The third lap was all about the thorns in my side...literally. On the first lap, because we were all near the front of the pack, while running alongside the 25k field as well, we were leading through most corners. While cutting them as close as possible you would make contact with the bushes from time to time. The bushes just happened to be laced with little balled up thorns that attached themselves to you like high tack velcro. No matter how I struggled I could not remove them from my body, I just ended up making matters worse. By lap three the burrs stuck to the front of my shirt were chafing up a storm. I took it all in stride and told myself that something had to hurt so it might as well be this and not my hamstrings or calves.

Lap 4, Ow My Everything Hurts

By the bell lap Taylor had enough of a lead that he very literally could have ran it in backwards for the win. I was getting splits from our Montrail crew as to where Melcher sat in front of me though and I'd closed the gap from 2min down to 1.5 minutes. My goal heading into the race was to run a sub 3h40m, even a 3h39m59s would suffice! I was still on pace right up till the 44th km, but then my body just started to shut down on me. My km splits escalated towards 5min and I could feel my goal time slipping away. I caught sight of Ryne but had nothing left in the tank to do anything about it. I just held on till the line.

My finish time was officially 3h41m11s, so I missed by 1m12s, which all things considered I'm pretty happy with. When directly compared to my splits from 08 I was 9m23s faster, and I managed each lap at a sub 1hr pace this time. All in all it was again an absolute treat to be a small part of Canada's largest trail race. As expected Ellie smoked the women's course record by over 20min to finish up in an amazing 3h54m07s. Oh yeah, and Mr. Murphy...he laid down an apparently untouchable 3h23m31s!! Unconfirmed word on the street about Taylor's experience: (The guy has ran something like 28:30 for 10k on the track. He was one of Canada's best distance runners a few years ago. He's gone to World Cross Country Champs!)

My 2009 vs 2008 splits:

Finish: 3:41:11 / 3:50:34

Lap 1: 51:41 / 55:27

Lap 2: 53:51 / 55:52

Lap 3: 56:02 / 58:34

Lap 4: 59:38 / 1:00:43

My Gear:

Montrail Mountain Masochists, best shoes EVER!

Carbo-Pro 1200 x600 calories

Thermolytes x12

Gel x1

Full Results



Derrick said...

Congrats Gary! Especially on the heels of racing only a week earlier.

Yes, great to see Taylor try an ultra and win it for 'Ontario'. While he's been strong on the roads, his heart has always been on the trails and XC. He says he's not training seriously anymore, but pretty scary how well he ran the Toad. Hope he does a few more, but sounds like he's going to run it again next year at least.

I know what you mean about how effortless he looks. Have done a number of runs with him when I've been busting a gut and he looks like he's jogging.

Hope your recovery is going well.

Gary Robbins said...

Yup, no doubt the guys an animal! Hopefully I can give him a bit more of a run for his money in 2010...although I don't know how in hell I can get my legs to turn over that fast!!