Sunday, July 11, 2010

Why would anyone want to do that?

"The Knee Knackering North Shore Trail Run is a challenging 30-mile foot race along the Baden-Powell Centennial Trail from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove... climbing 8,000 feet and descending another 8,300 feet in the process. Running Wild magazine has recognized the race as one of 25 toughest races in North America".

That sounds very impressive doesn't it? From the "second easiest glaciated peak in the world" last weekend to "one of the 25 toughest races in North America". I must be improving. I first heard about Knee Knacker 5 years ago when a ski-touring friend ran it. Having never run more than 10km (on the flat) at the time it sounded ridiculous. For a start, 50km is a long way... and look at the elevation profile. Outrageous. Five years later I have done some running (though not all that much really) and inspired by the ultra-marathon antics of Lina and Jacek, plus my survival of the Frosty Mountain 50km last year, I thought I should enter the lottery for Knee Knacker. Only around half the applicants get a spot anyway, so I would be fine. Then I got an email saying I was one of the 200 who got in. Uh-oh.

Race-day started with a 4am phone-call from Jacek to inform me that "he was on his way into town to get something he left at work". What could this be... his running shoes perhaps? or perhaps his lucky socks... Fortunately Jacek made it to my place and we drove over to Deep Cove in time to catch the last shuttle bus to Horseshoe Bay. Jacek had lost his heart rate monitor transmitter... so would have to rely on natural restraint to slow him down. He needs to be slowed down if you ask me.

It was really warm at 6am on the start line and I hoped we wouldn't get cooked out on the course. Then we were off. I shared a good bit of the first half of the race with this man, who I first came across in the race briefing on Friday night when he introduced himself to the crowd looking for a ride to the start line. He was quite a character... running along with his GoPro camera held above his head., commentating as he went. I think I'm going to have to get one of those cameras. The clamber up and scrabble down Black Mountain and Cypress was really great... big views and an entertaining descent. I felt just fine at the half-way mark where Lina had come out on her road bike to cheer. It turned out the nice man at Lynn Valley Bikes had helped her fix her broken chain on the way, despite the shop being closed. Thank you!

Cleveland Dam... half way.

I saw Lina again in Lynn Valley... three-quarters of the way though. By now I was pretty tired, but my knee didn't hurt, which was my main concern after the struggle I had with that in Frosty. Luckily there was a motivational banner along the way to encourage me.

Back in familiar mountain bike territory on Seymour and up the last big climb I was ready to get to the finish. The handfuls of sugary snacks and funny-tasting electrolyte drink had kept me going, but there's only so much of that stuff you can take. The boiled potatoes at the aid stations were fantastic... real food! I knew the last kilometer or so of trail would be hard as it's all up-and-down with steps and roots, but I enjoyed being back on trail after a short road section. Running on the road really isn't my thing. Then, after 6 1/2 hours it was all over.

Deep Cove at last!

Is my expression relief or just gormless? I'm not sure.

Knee Knacker was an amazing course, and now I can look over at the North Shore and think "I ran all the way across that". Well, I walked up most of the hills... but that is acceptable ultra-marathon technique apparently. Here are the results, look for me in 32nd place, and Jacek 30 places ahead of me!

Here are some more great photos taken by the volunteers:

Hollyburn aid station

Jumping up a mighty 6" off the ground wasn't so easy by this stage!

It almost looks like I'm smiling