April 20, 2009

Diez Vista, Version 3.0

Outside of my annual 'Club Fat Ass New Year's Day Hangover Run', the Diez Vista now stands alone as the race I've participated in the most, this being my third edition. Version 1.0 in 2006 will forever be known as my worst ultra ever, and the closest I've ever come to DNFing. Version 2.0, in 2008, was a solid race in which I managed to finish 2nd, 1m03s behind Aaron Heidt, who just happened lower Phil Kochik's course record down to a 4h21m47s. For Version 3.0 there would be no Aaron Heidt, there would be no Brian Morrison, no Matt Hart, no Hal Koerner, no Darin Bentley, etc, etc. The race dates were pushed back two full weeks, which is great in terms of local weather, but I think this puts Diez into direct conflict with numerous races south of the border including The Mt Si 50 miler this past weekend and Capitol Peak 50 miler next weekend.

It's rare for me to be able to do a race annually like this, and as trail running is such a 'course specific' sport, I was taking this to be one of my very few direct fitness comparisons to my 2008 running. With that in mind, the goal was simple, I set out to try and break Aaron's course record.

A Beautiful Day On The Trails

The gun went off...not sure why I always say this cause there is no gun...race director Paul Slaymaker said go, and we were off! I have rarely, if ever, shot to the front of a pack at the beginning of a race, but after last months Dirty Duo experience I was carrying a new level of confidence in myself and I knocked down a 3m45s first km around the lake. I wasn't sure who would accompany me and was happy to see that two runners, Michael Moody, and Mark Bennett also running up front.

After about 2.5km Michael took over the lead and helped pace us up and over the first and largest climb of the race. I have been working hard on my hill running for about six weeks now and it was showing immediate dividends. I was easily running terrain that even last year I had hiked up and over. Once we reached the crux of the climb Michael asked if I wanted by and I graciously accepted his offer. From there it was game on. The descent off of the first ridge in this race is now officially my absolute FAVORITE section of any race that I have done to date. The singletrack evaporates below your feet in a tangled mess of moss, mud, rocks and roots. It's 'hang on for the ride' and hope for the best for much of it and at times I felt like I could have outrun a mountain biker on the way down. Gettin into a 'flow' over technical terrain like this is what epitomizes what trail running is to me. I found my flow and felt like I nailed each and every step...and every step matters in this section because with one wrong placement you are on your ass and praying that you have not seriously hurt yourself. I didn't remember this section being so long from my two previous experiences, but I was not complaining, I loved every second of it! In fact this was the first time, in my three attempts at this race, that the weather had actually cooperated for us...I finally know what it is called The Diez Vistas Trail!! I had trouble remembering I was in a race along the top ridgeline and numerous times found myself looking out over an incredible vista of mountains, ocean, and islands below, while simultaneously trying not to take a race ending face plant!

I Didn't Think You Were Allowed A Pacer?

Once you get spit out at the bottom of this trail you end up on a flat'ish hard packed gravel road while heading into the main aid station and your 'drop bag' area at 23k. I was just finding my groove and concentrating on my cadence when I caught up to a few casual runners. I called trail and the girl told her boyfriend to step aside. I passed without issue. About three hundred meters later I heard footsteps catching me. I thought I had dialed the technical descent enough to have gained myself a decent lead? I shoulder checked, and what I saw completely threw me for a loop. The guy I had just passed, had decided to drop his girlfriend and he was now chasing me down! I hit a small climb, took it down a notch, and watched him blaze on past me. I think I actually threw my arms up in the air and shook my head...what was this guy all about!? I was aggravated for a second before I thought to myself,

'I could use a pacer right now...game on buddy!'

And with that I was off and racing a race within a race. I caught up to the guy shortly thereafter and as I passed him he indeed upped his running pace! This continued for almost 3km leading into the midway aid station, and the pace only got quicker as he continually tried to pass me! The terrain is flat'ish, but with some undulation and the last 2km of this foolishness were knocked down in sub 4min fashion with a 3m45s thrown in there for good measure. I can't say the guy was a jerk because he eventually introduced himself as Bert while we were running, but having said that, he was fully aware of the fact that I was in the middle of a 50k race as he knew all about the Diez Vista. Eventually I think he heard his girlfriend screaming at him from about 3k prior and he turned back. I actually should have thanked him for helped to push me along though!

I hit the aid station in about 1h50m, and my legs were feeling it. I dropped one empty bottle and grabbed two full ones. I hardly broke stride and was off and circumnavigating the lake I had just sprinted half way around with Bert, in no time. The next section of the race for me was all about just holding it together. I was on the verge of cramping numerous times and my calves in particular seemed none too happy with me. I was devouring my 'thermolyte' tabs with my 'Carbo-Pro 1200' mix and thankfully this seemed to keep them from shutting down on me completely.

Walk The Line

The mid section of the race for me was like walking a tightrope. I was trying to pace myself to my limit, while not loosing my legs all together. I found myself at the base of the switchback climb, which leads to the out and back section in about 2hr40m. This is a three way intersection that each racer goes through twice. The guy in charge of setting up this area had his back to me and I startled him when I said to him,

"It's up here right?"

He jumped a bit, confirmed what I already knew, and helped cheer me on as I started up one of the final ascents of the day. Last year I hiked the entire thing, this year I managed to run half of the climb, but I knew what lay ahead, about 8k of downhill after this out and back, and I had to conserve my legs enough to handle it without major issue. I hit the turnaround in 3h10m and could finally see what was happening behind me. Michael, who had won the Dirty Duo 25k, was running his first ever ultra, and he was staying strong late in the race and still holding down second. It was about nine minutes before I passed him and we cheered each other on. Mark Bennett was still in third, and then in fourth and fifth were the two top women. Tracy Garneau is one of Canada's most experienced and decorated ultra runners, having won such prestigious events as 'The Canadian Death Race', and 'Trans Alps', not to mention pretty much every ultra in B.C. at some point in time! Tamsin Anstey is my partner for 'Trans Rockies' and she was running her FIRST EVER ultra race. I was in the process of doing a time check on Tracy to let Tamsin know, when I saw her, where she was in the field. As I was trying to focus on my wrist I looked up to see Tamsin coming straight for me,

"TAMSIN!! She's right in front of you, go get her!!"

"REALLY? I heard she had a seven minute lead at one point!"

Seeing the other runners is always a huge boost as people exchange pleasantries and this was all helping to push me along and forget about the pain I was suffering through. I intersected with the top of the switchback trail in exactly 3h30m and now knew that there was virtually nothing but a long and arduous downhill to the finish line ahead of me...the course record was well within my grasp.

Thank Goodness For Downhills!

I opened up, as I love to do, and my legs responded nicely. They flinched a few times, but overall I was very impressed with how my body was doing at fighting off the lactic acid overload I was throwing at it! Eventually I cleared the final turn of the switchbacks and I knew I would not see another person, outside of the final aid station, until the finish line. I eventually hit up this last aid station and devoured a few cups of coke, some watermelon, and grabbed an orange for the final climb of the entire race. This final ascent, had somehow almost doubled in length from last year! At least that was the difference between how I remembered it, and how it played out, seemed to be! It was TOR-TUR-OUS and I kept hitting up my watch for the split times I was facing. I was going SLOW, and no matter how hard I tried my head could not process any math at that point. All I knew was that I had to get ready to hammer out the last 3km of trail that lay ahead once I crested this final climb.

The final descent was actually a bit treacherous as it was somewhat slick from the rains just 24hr before. I had the course record dancing in my head though and it helped propel me through the final few sections of the race at a much faster pace then I was actually comfortable with! With under 1km to go you find yourself running along the opposite side of the lake that you rounded over 49km prior. There are numerous stairs on this section of the trail and as I was trying to 'double step' one of these sections my leg seized,

"Not now, not now, not now...pleaassseeeee, NOT NOW! Only a few minutes to go, just hold on dammit!"

That last thing you have to conquer in this 50km race is a staircase climb consisting of 50+ steps...I got through it exactly like I had each time before...

"F'in Slaymaker, F'in Slaymaker, F'in Slaymaker..."

Up and over, and hard to the line...Roxy sprinted out to pace me in...4h15m21s...NEW COURSE RECORD!!!!

Michael held on for an impressive ultra debut in second, and Mark Bennett claimed third. In the Women's race Tamsin had managed to pass and gap Tracy and she won the women's race, in a smokin fast 4h49m! Very few women have cracked 4h50m on this course and the more Tamsin and I get to know each other the higher our sights get set for Trans Rockies in late August!

Thanks, as always, to Paul and his wife for putting on a great event, and each and every tireless volunteer who ensure that this race goes off without a hitch annually. Oh yeah, funny side note, my first EVER pair of trail runners were the Montrail Diez Vistas! Who knew...who knew.

My Gear:
-Montrail Mountain Masochists, now two for two in these shoes!
-Mountain Hardware shirt and shorts
-Carbo-Pro 1200 x900 calories
-Thermolytes x14
-Shot Bloks, x1 individual block
-Aid Stations, coke x about 500ml, watermelon slices x4, orange slices x1

(Age Group winner and 'old guy speedster' Rob Lang to my right...I wonder what Rob will have to say about that?:), Second place Michael Moody to his right. For some reason the full pic of all winners did not come out, sorry Tamsin!)

Full results will eventually be posted here.

OH YEAH, and MASSIVE congrats to Montrail Canada teammate and training partner Ryne Melcher for WINNING the Mt Si 50 Miler this past weekend as well. Ryne tore his miniscus during the Dirty Duo and is supposed to be heading in for surgery...he has been told not to run on his knee...so he cut his weekly mileage back from 120 miles to just 100 miles...he should be fine!



Aaron said...

That's pretty fast. I guess I'll have to bring it under 4:10 next year. Congrats buddy!

Nicola Gildersleeve said...

NICE WORK! You rock! Thanks for the post race recovery drink...I don't know how you get that thing down. I tried, I really tried.

Darin said...

Imagine what would have happened if I was there to push you!! Nice work, Gary, and thanks for including me in the list of competition that wasn't there, even though I wouldn't have seen you five minutes after the start.

The Chaser said...

Badass as always.

MJ said...

Sounds like a pretty awesome race - you obviously have your game well in hand... Congrats!

Mountain Way said...

Nice race Gary! Great to see you flying down the last switchback, looking strong, and finishing strong.


Sweet race. A win AND a record! I showed up late to cheer others on when I heard people talking about this amazing runner who crushed the record. I don't know why I even asked who it was- I should have known!

Deb said...

Way to go Gary, that's wicked!!

Gary Robbins said...

Thanks all! Sorry I didn't say anything earlier, kinda lost track of stuff for a few days there!