Yesterday I ran the Walk In The Park 18K trail race in Kenna Cartwright Park in Kamloops. The ultra marathon 54K race started at 7 AM, with the 36K race going off at 9 AM. Our one loop 18K race began at 11 AM, and I bolted out into the lead. We went uphill right from the start of the race, hit a small downhill after a couple of hundred meters, and then began a long ascent for the next kilometer, first running up a narrow single track trail through the woods, and then hitting a steep hill where I had to slow to a walk to get up it.
After another short descent we hit a steep hill again, and at the 2.3K mark we came out onto a flat spot where there was a self serve aid station. I stopped to open up a baggie that had Clif Bar pieces in it, and a fellow in a red shirt ran by me. I grabbed 4 pieces and took off after him, but he ran up the hill faster than I could and opened a lead of about 20 meters on me. I managed to stay behind him as we hit a very steep downhill, but on the next hill he again went up it faster than I did, and then on the ensuing very steep downhill he opened up an even bigger lead. The ground was very crumbly and I didn't want to wipe out so I slowed myself down, and by the time we hit the next uphill I couldn't see him anymore.
Now I was running along a narrow trail on a grassy peak, and the view of the mountains and the valley was spectacular, but it was dangerous to let it distract you too much. You had to keep your eyes on the trail or risk a bad wipeout. At about the 6K point I came out into a clearing with a wide path, and saw the staffed aid station 400 meters ahead.
Our race leader was there refueling, and I dashed towards it as quick as I could, but he took off when I was about 100 meters away. They asked if I wanted any food and drink, and I said "Yes!" getting a piece of dark chocolate, a salt & vinegar chip, a couple of pieces of candied ginger, and a cup of water. I looked and saw a bunch of runners approaching and only about 100 meters away, and took off myself before they reached me. I headed out into the woods and along the narrow trails again, and soon heard voices. I ran up on a cyclist following another runner and they were conversing, and as I came up on them on the narrow single track the cyclist said he would be heading onward and went around the runner and took off. I went around him too, as he saw me and moved over on the narrow trail. He asked me what race I was in and I told him I was doing the 18K, and he said there was one person ahead of me. He told me he was running the 54K, and I asked if he was on his final lap and he replied that he was. He said "You're doing great! Go get him buddy!", and I thanked him and told him he was doing great too, and headed off. Only later did I find out that he was actually the eventual winner of the men's race, and he was telling me how great I was doing!
There were some more ups and downs, and at one point I was running along a narrow path where I really had to make sure and keep my balance, because there was an abrupt dropoff, and a slip would have meant about a 10 foot fall and some type of injury. Soon I was hitting the steep inclines again, and my legs would feel like lead most of the time, before recovering for a bit until the next hill.
At the 10.5K mark there was another staffed aid station. Like at the other one, they had water, Gatorade, Coke, Carboom gels, bananas, oranges, watermelon, candied ginger, salted baked potatoes, mountain mix, S & V chips, jujubes, gummy bears, Clif Bar pieces, Sunrype fruit leather & bars, pretzels, and dark chocolate. At the self serve stations they had water, Carboom gels, fruit leather & bars, jujubes, and Clif Bar pieces. I grabbed a couple of jujubes and candied ginger pieces and some water, and asked them what the split was. They just looked at me so I said "The guy in front of me, how far is he ahead?" Finally someone said "About 2 minutes.", and I said "Okay, I'll give it a whirl!", and took off down the trail.
I knew catching him was a longshot because 2 minutes is quite a lead, and he seemed to have found another gear, but I was going to try anyway. There were more hills and then a steep downhill where I did some skidding but managed to stay upright, and then I hit a level spot with a wide path, and lo and behold, I saw a red shirt about 300 yards ahead. We were on a slight downhill and I sped up and ran down it pretty fast, and I could see that I was closing on him. Then I turned a corner and there was a hill that went almost vertically straight up. It was only about 10 meters high, and my adversary was just reaching the top as I started to climb up it. The distance wasn't far between us, but timewise he had a big gap on me, because by the time I struggled to the top of this cliff, he was gone. There were more hills now, and just when I got my legs moving faster again after cresting one of them, I'd hit another one. At the 14K mark I came upon the last aid station, an unstaffed one, and blew by it.
I heard a noise, and saw a guy in a white shirt coming down an incline behind me. He was only about 100 meters back so I sped up to try and put some distance between us. A couple of kilometers later I came to a road, and there were no markers showing where to go, so I turned and ran down to another road, but there were no markers there either. l turned around and ran back, and saw my pursuer coming toward the road. I yelled "Which way do we go?" at him, and he didn't know at first but then spied a flag in the field ahead of him, and said to go that way, through an opening in a fence. What had happened was that someone had removed the flags, or they'd been blown off the fenceposts, as the race director had put flags there but they were now gone.
I was now in 3rd place but not for long. I went by the young white shirted guy, and he looked exhausted and was breathing very heavily. There were only a couple of kilometers to go, so I redoubled my efforts and sped up running along the narrow path, which was relatively flat now. I came to a gravel road and there were some volunteers there and they told me I was almost done. I saw the finish line down below and ran down the road on a good downhill, turned the corner, and ran across the finish line to a lot of cheers and applause. Chris the race director came up and shook my hand, and I shook hands with the winner, and went and got some water. Soon Christian, the third place guy, came in, followed by the women's race winner and a couple of other guys.
We all congratulated each other, and went to the finisher's table where they had all the stuff they had at the full aid stations. The woman there told us they also had salads and smokies at the next tent, and so we headed there next. I grabbed some potato salad and a three bean one, and there was a guy who had the barbeque going, and I prepared a bun and got a cheese smokie. We went and sat down and ate and shot the breeze while cheering in finishers. I went back and got a veggie burger and a woman was getting one too and asked me what race I'd run. She wasn't wearing running clothes so I assumed she was a spectator or volunteer, and told her I'd come in second in the 18K, and she said "Congratulations, that's great!"
It wasn't until they gave out the awards for the top male and female finishers in the 54K that I found out that she'd won the race overall and smashed the course record by something like 40 minutes. The reason she wasn't wearing racing clothes when I talked to her is because she'd already had time to go across to the nearby truck stop and shower and change, as she'd finished so fast, about 45 minutes ahead of the top male. She's one of the top ultra runners in North America, and was congratulating me on finishing 2nd in the 18K, while saying nothing about what she'd accomplished!
They only gave out those prizes, 2 cool wire statuettes for the ultra winners, but Chris got us all together for several pictures, and we still have the bragging rights for our podium finishes, even without the podium or medals. It only cost $17 to enter the race, and in food alone you got your money's worth, never mind anything else. There were also draw prizes, and I won a tote bag with some fruit bars in it. Almost everyone seemed to win something. Ward Beemer, who I'd beat in the Boundary Bay 10K in 2010 to take 3rd place overall when his shoelace came undone, came in, he'd run the ultra. David who I'd seen at other interior races, finished the 18K, and then Wes Kibble, the race director of the Barriere Fun Run finished our race also. David asked if we should all do the 36K next year, and Wes suggested we do the 18K again, as they'll be doing it in the opposite direction then (they alternate it for even and odd numbered years), and we agreed to do that, and then go from there.
Wes told us about his dad, who's had 2 bouts of brain cancer, and he'd been using a walker, but now he's been clear of cancer for 2 years and is walking unaided again. He's always been an avid cyclist but never a runner, but told Wes he wants to run a race with him. Wes has a 5K picked out for next year, and they'll be doing it together.
We stayed and talked with the other runners and cheered in all the remaining 54Kers, and people continued to eat and have a good time. One woman decided to ask the winner of the woman's ultra race how she runs up those steep hills so fast, as her husband wanted to know, and she told us when she trains she runs up steep hills for at least 20 minutes a time. It's not enough to just keep doing repeats on a short hill, you have to do a really long one repeatedly. Finally she had to leave, I think she came here from Alberta, and I said it was nice to meet her. I stayed about half an hour longer before saying my goodbyes and heading back to Vancouver.
Results aren't up yet but I'll post them when they are. One thing I forgot to mention was the great weather we had. It's been hot up there but it stayed cool for our race, and the notorious Kamloops winds stayed away too. Chris's wife Tara got a shirt made up for the race with him on it, and down below on the left of this page http://www.facebook.com/#!/WITP.Ultra is a video of Chris on the local Kamloops TV news show being interviewed about the race, and the explanation about the shirt.
My next race is the Coho Run 14K, on September 9th at 9 AM, starting at Kits Beach and ending in Ambleside Park in North Vancouver.