On Saturday, December 8, I competed in the Harriers Stewart Mountain 10 Mile Challenge at Thetis Lake Regional Park just outside Victoria.
We took off at noon from near Thetis Lake's beach and headed off into the forest where we ran along a weaving single track path for a bit, hitting some ups and downs while watching our footing on the abundant tree roots.
It had been raining steadily in the days preceding the race, and when we hit the first patch of ice cold water it was a couple of feet deep. After a few meters we were out, but not before stopping and climbing over a huge log suspended about 3 feet high across our path. After running a few hundred meters through the mucky trail we were treated to 3 more water holes in succession, thankfully a little shallower than the first one.
Upon exiting the final one I yelled to the young guy in front of me "That's enough of that!", and he yelled back, "That's for sure!". About 100 meters later, however, just as I was getting some of the feeling back in my lower extremities, we were faced with one more water patch that froze us up again. I had been following Brian Connon for most of the race, never getting too far back of him and content to keep his pace. As we hit dry ground again and I'd come up right behind Brian once more I thought I should try going faster now, so I went by him.
Next we hit the uphill path to begin the ascent up Stewart Mountain, and most people kept running for the first 100 meters or so. Then it turned really steep, and most of us started walking, even though a couple of people continued running and gradually disappeared from view. At one point a fellow came up beside me who looked to be about my age. He was walking with his hands pressed down on his knees really hard for added support. I looked at him and said "My calves are screaming!", which they were, every step brought a massive burning sensation, and he said that his were too.
Every once in awhile we'd hit a less steep patch and start slowly running again. This was always short lived and soon we were back to the same old walking grind. Nearing the summit we started climbing over huge boulders and up short vertical paths, and there was a fairly large pack of us doing it together. We had to search for footholds and even handholds sometimes to make the ascent, and at one point an older fellow who was in front of a young woman asked her if she wanted to go past him, and she quipped "No thanks, that's alright!", and everybody laughed.
We reached the summit and one of the volunteers said "You're at the summit and the halfway point, and it's all downhill from here!", and I said "No it isn't!" and everyone laughed again, because most of them knew that plenty of hills still awaited us.
We started our descent down a steep narrow path covered with loose rocks, dirt, and tree roots. Occasionally we'd hit a more level patch and be able to pick up some speed, but it was never long before it would turn steep again. A guy wearing a Ceevacs club jersey went by me, followed by the fellow who'd been walking up the mountain beside me. Eventually we hit relatively level ground again as we completed the descent from the peak, and started running back through the muck and pools of ice cold water. After awhile I saw the 2 guys who'd passed me up ahead, and I sped up and closed in on them, until I was right behind them coming out of a pool. I darted around the pair and kept thinking they'd try and pass me again, but the next time I saw them they were crossing the finish line well behind me.
There were some fairly minor ups and downs along the way, but then we came to the first of the 3 final major hills. Last year they had signs out but this year there were none. The first had said "Gunner 1: little one. A fellow was running about 10 meters in front of me, and he made some struggling sounds but managed to keep running to the top, and I kept pace and crested it right afterward. A little further on was where a year ago the signs had said "Gunner 2: big one, followed by "Gunner 3: it's a big bugger!". Then I had to walk a good part of all of these hills, but this year I managed to keep up with my pacer and run almost the whole way. Finally we were on level yet rocky ground, and both of us started to get some energy back as our legs recovered. Soon we were running on a slight downhill, and you could hear the announcer calling out people's names as they crossed the finish line.
Both of us sped up as we hit the concrete path running alongside the lakeshore, and soon we turned the corner and the finish line was in sight! As we hit the beach we made a hard right and raced the final 60 meters through the sand to the finish. I managed to close in on him a bit but in the end he held me off handily. We bumped fists and told each other "Good race!". He said that those last hills so late in the race were brutal, and I certainly had to agree with that!
For refuelling they had tasty Power Bar protein chocolate fudge balls, chocolate chip cookies, Gatorade, water, coffee, hot chocolate, and chicken noodle soup. I had a few fudge balls and cookies, followed by a cup of soup, and ended up getting some hot chocolate later as we cheered in finishing competitors and waited for the awards to begin.
I went to my car and got my jacket, bell and camera, and then headed back to the beach to welcome the incoming finishers.
The odd person braved the frigid lake waters to try and get some of the mud off themselves and their shoes, while having a post race "ice bath" to kill any inflammation, but most chose to change into or put on warmer clothes instead.
When most of the competitors were in, we had the draw prizes and race awards. Besides winner's cups and prizes for the top 3 male and female overall finishers, they had medals for the top 3 in each 10 year age group, and ribbons for 4th & 5th place.
Brian was 2nd in his age group, and I won a $20 coupon for lunch at Evedar's Bistro http://evedarsbistro.com/home.html in Langford, and there's no expiry date on it so I can use it when I'm over there again sometime.
My first time running this race, in 2010, I finished 81 of 149 overall and 5 of 11 in my age group, winning a surprise ribbon, with a time of 1:34:24. The next year I was 83 of 156 overall, and 11 of 18 in my AG, in spite improving my time to 1:30:45. This year I finished 7 of 24 in my age group, but moved way up to 58 of 170 overall, with a time of 1:26:58. So I won a ribbon the first year, which was pretty cool, but failed to the next 2 years while running faster each time. But that's quite all right, I'd much rather be improving than just getting a ribbon or medal because the competition was weaker. I've cut almost 7 and a half minutes off my time in 2 years, so I'm very pleased with my progress!
Like in the other years, after the awards everyone cleared out pretty fast to get out of the cold and dry out somewhere warm.
My next race was the Holiday Hustle 5K in Sechelt the next day at 9:30 AM.