KNEE KNACKER 2011
According to my friend Tom Craik, this post is LOOONG overdue, I agree. Sorry! Anyways, here is my account of my VERY FIRST ULTRAMARATHON- the KNEE KNACKER.
So, I must admit, that I was guilty for not using all of the great advice that was given to me by coach GR and was regretting it the few days/weeks leading up to the big day! I attempted though to justify things with the fact that I am a "crammer", and usually can feel relatively unprepared for any race or exam or whatever and pull a magical performance out of nowhere. I was hoping this would be the case for this situation as well.
I was most nervous because of the early start time (6am!) which meant I had to catch the bus from Deep Cove at 4:55- yikes.. I am not an early riser really, since my swimming days back in University, and seriously it was causing me more stress than the fact I was going to be running for 7-8 hours!!!
All went well though, after a relatively sleepless night, I was on that shuttle and off to the start line, taking in the scenery, and going over some visualization in my head. I knew that pacing was an important key to the race, and I could hear people talking about how they were going to approach the race. As we stood at the start line, it looked like it was going to be a nice day, but was chilly to start. I didn't really have a "possy" was totally on my own, and was super nervous to boot! I feel that the nervousness at the start is a necessary part of my preparation to get the competitive juices flowing as I size myself up with other competitors, purely based on how fast people "look" .
As soon as the race started I was totally in my element and it was "GAME ON". I had only ran this first section once in training, and it was pouring rain during that time, so already this was much better. I was told by many experienced knee knackers to keep it under control during the first quarter. I was a little confused at how you know you are not "going too hard" when you are climbing a mountain like Black Mountain that is 1200m high and about 10K long... I felt that I should always be pushing myself, but not feeling like I was dying was the right amount of push. The climb was nice and pretty much a steady stream of people all the way up. I figured that I wouldn't worry too much, as there were many kms left to regain some ground if I needed too.
Hitting the top of Black Mountain, I had to turn around and check out the views! Spectacular, again, the single other time I had done that climb was a rainy day, so there was no view. The KK photographers managed a spectacular photo as we crested:
Hitting the first aid station was sweet, just to know that we were making some headway, and although I didn't grab anything at this point, it was a good reminder to maybe take in a gel and some water to partially recover from the effort of the climb and to prepare for what was to come! There was snow on Cypress, which was a pain in the butt for the vetran Knee Knackers, but for us rookies, it was GLORIOUS compared to the massive piles of snow we had to deal with 3 weeks previous, during the KK training runs. It made the downhills fun as there was some sliding action happening. As we hit the cypress lodge I heard someone cheering for my new friend, physiotherapist Cathy Jensen, which was great to know that I was around her pace as we finished close together a few weeks prior at the Comfortably Numb trail race so my pacing was right on, assuming that Cathy was on too!
As we made our way across the cross country ski trails, which I had done numerous times this winter with my husband, I caught one of the ladies that I admired during the Wednesday night training runs. This was also Christine's first KK, although she seemed much more prepared than I was. I knew that Christine could run fast downhill, so I latched on to her for the next portion and we chatted and pushed each other on. The run down the Hollyburn Chute was faster than I had ever let myself go before, trying to not let the slender Christine out of my sight. We ran right past John, which was completely ironic, my first frustrating wednesday night training run was when I met John, the longtime North Shore Resident who ran trails just cause he loved it, twice my age, and wearing hiking shoes older than me, but was kicking my ass. Fitting, that I should see him on this race day! He latched on to us and I stuck with them through the trails through the British Properties, right into the half way checkpoint at Cleveland Dam. Maybe I used them a little toooo much at this point (see me tucked in right behind John as we come into the aid station!)
Next up: Nancy Greene Way. I felt better than predicted at this point, but made myself walk/run up this part as to not blow myself up. Maybe I could have ran the whole way up.. maybe that wouldn't have been the smartest idea. Hitting the Baden Powell at the base of Grouse made me glad I approached NG way like I did, cause this was my first sufferfest at this point. I knew I would, I hated this section in training and I was feeling the same way now. Christine had some words of encouragement for me at that point, she told me that if I could stay with her, I would go well under 7 hours.. well of course I lost her, and just felt sorry for myself at this point. Trying to keep my cool, I was cat and mousing with a dude named "Sean" at this point, who had done Ironman, according to some of the Ironman paraphernalia he was sporting. In chatting, he told me he had just done the "Vancouver 100", which is running the KK forward AND then turning around and running back to the start. Figuring he was a good person to follow during this tricky section, he promptly got us lost... awesome. Luckily, we weren't too far off, nor were we the first to go off track at this point, and we hit another aid station, where I crammed a handful of M&M's in my mouth and continued running. Side note- any sport where M&M's is considered nutrition is a FANTASTIC sport! As I made my way through one of the prettiest sections of trail I found myself running solo, and with an upset stomach=too many m&m's :(. It was quite peaceful and I began playing games- not really creative games, more like, see if I can catch someone in front of me, and don't get caught by someone behind me!
This portion went by extremely fast and I realized that I hadn't seen any of my friends and supporters who were supposed to be on course, when lo and behold, as I got through Lynn Valley, and I saw Keith from NSA, ran a little further, and saw some friends at the aid station. My friend Liz ran with me for a few hundred metres, just making sure I was ok, I said to her incrediously "Liz, I have pretty much run the whole way!!" and she said- "well Jenn, it IS a running race" which is a testament to how well she knows me!! Then she send me on my way!
Catching up to a man that I consider a legend, Mark Grist, who has done the knee knacker a ridiculous amount of times, I was feeling good to have someone to keep me moving! And that he did, all the way to Seymour Grind, he made me go faster than I wanted to go on some parts, he made me keep chatting to him to keep my brain working, and he made me keep fueling, despite me thinking that I was ok. I followed him until the Seymour Grind got the best of me, Sufferfest #2. A week ago, I had done this part, and said to my friend Shelley "It's not THAT bad!" Well I was retracting that statement at that point. I kept breathing, and tried to positive thoughts in my head, and just kept moving up and forward. Upon reaching the top, I was cursing and grateful for the unsteady gravel that somewhat resembled a path, and the downhill. This would be the last time I would feel absolutely shitty during this race! From here, it just got better and better. I have NO idea what hit me, but I started passing people (female and male) through the next sections and when I saw another MOVEO shirt up ahead, it was Kristie Elliot, a massage therapist I have the extreme pleasure of working with at the clinic and she gave me a great pick-me-up as the best cheerleader ever, telling me that Mark the Legend, was only a minute or two ahead and that I could catch him.
SO, I continued on my feel good blast repeating in my head "feelin good, feelin good" with a mix of "keep it goin, keep it going" and "don't fall, don't fall". I knew that once I hit quarry rock that I was close, but not THAT close, and with that in mind I just kept running, I felt fast and strong, and felt that if I broke my focus, I would be done. Passing The Legend shortly before the finish line, he cheered me on, and left me with some gracious praise!
As I came to the end of the Baden Powell and out onto the road, I knew I would only have less than a minute to break 7 hours, so I broke into a "faster" run, being a roadie, the pavement felt AMAZING! After stopping to hug and high five coach Gary Robbins on his crutches just before the finish line, I cashed in at 6:59.57 WHEW... could I cut it ANY closer... well I guess a few seconds. I was pretty darn estatic with that time and result. I was amazed at how fantastic I felt after that. I was so mentally prepared for the ups and downs from Ironman and I think I did JUST the right amount of training on the course to be confident with my direction but not too much to be bored with the course. I am certainly in love with this distance, and want to try another one to make sure that it wasn't a fluke. I also would love to attempt something a little farther! This race amazingly opened the doors to so many opportunities and races, and I am quite excited... do I miss triathlon? Not yet- bring on the trails!!!
Check out this cool video of some of the trails we were racing on!