Monday, May 29, 2006

Cabot Trail race(s) report

Where to start? It's a long story and don't have much time on my hands lately. In fact, it's now 2 days later and I'm still hobbling around not able to run because of very sore muscles. But what a nice weekend with a great team of fun loving people!

The drive down was a long one, leaving St. Andrews at 830am and not arriving in Baddeck till 5pm. This little town in Cape Breton is the basecamp and ending point for the relay. That night it was meet and greet the old and new team members over a few 'pops' (I mean beer) and a late buffet meal where I ate way too much food. Anthony, our team captain, also sprung the question as to whether I would do a 2nd leg, since we had a late dropout and would otherwise need to take a maximum time for a leg. Being an obvious sucker for punishment I thought about it for about 5 seconds before saying 'Sure, why not, as long as they are on different days?'. And also thinking that it could be just and easy run/warmup before the final leg on Sunday. We got to bed around midnight with wakeup for 530 to get to the startline for the 1st leg at 7am. The 'way too much food' thing kept me tossing and turning all night and didn't get more than a couple of hours shuteye (this is really not the way to get ready is it?)

Saturday was pouring rain at the start but mild temperatures at least and little wind. As the official team photographer my job was to get as many pictures (here) as possible of each runner on his/her leg. The Cabot Trail relay race is unusual in the way that the 17 legs are run as 17 separate mini races with all the runners starting together at the start of each leg. After the start the timing people leapfrog to the end of the leg which is the next starting location and setup the electonic timing for the finish. A red lantern vehicle follows the last runner (someone has to be last) for each leg and the entire race stays relatively together for the 26+ hours of the event. However with 63 teams of 17 runners and their entourage it can get quite crowded on this little 2 lane highway in the mountains of the Cabot Trail. The nice thing about this format is that all runners can feel like they are in a 'race' and not just running alone on a deserted highway with only their teammates on occasion. Instead you get teams in costume like the gnome team shown here and many other pics on my site.
And then you get various 'themed' water stops which all compete to be the most creative and outlandish. The winner is voted at the end of the race and the team gets a free entry into next year's race. The best one that I saw was the group with the Elvis theme in the 1st leg here, complete with loud music of course!
Is this a decent water stop 'or what'?
This crazy is one of the race committee volunteers doing traffic control, 'would you believe?' Does it look like we're having fun in the steady rain yet?
Another great water stop team on top of Smokey mountain, the 1st major climb, with our team captain snuck in with the 'chicks'. It's an all women team with the great name of 'Chicks Running Clicks'. There are some really creative names in the list of teams on the website. So most of the day I had fun following our team around the trail with a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that there was something that I had forgot to do.
Oh yes, here's our team, Aliant High Speed's water stop with the Mexican theme and music. It was good but not outstanding. You really have to go over the top here to get noticed ;-) This was just before my first 17.5km leg (#6) which started at 1530. The leg has a rating of 4.5 out of 5 and is described as:
"The scenery on this seacoast run will captivate you despite a couple of long challenging hills. This leg climbs to the finish at Cabot High School on the right. Elevation 90m. Be prepared for strong coastal breezes."

Let me tell you that I don't remember much about the 'scenery' on this course, it seemed to be all hills that never ended. The start was fast and smooth and the sun had just come out again but the winds were starting to pickup a bit into our faces for most of the route. My 'plan' was to try to take it real easy with heartrate as a guide in order to save energy in the legs for the next day. The 'plan' was a complete failure as no matter how hard I attempted to 'go slow' and take it easy, every time the watch was saying 'slow down', 'too hard', with HR pushing 160 which is over 95% of max for me.
Here's all the geeky data but the key is that you can see I'm steady in zone 5 which is 90% plus for most of the race. Duh, and there was nothing I could do but keep running... You can see there were some pretty good hills too from the green line. slowing down seemed to make no difference, even walking on a few hills and so plan B was to just hook up with other runners and try to run easily with them.

In the 2nd 1/2 of the race began trading the lead back and forth with a female runner that looked familiar and turned out to be G from Saint John. G has done the Ironman and is a top local marathoner and was feeling a bit off today because of a long bike ride earlier in the weekend. She welcomed my company recognizing me but warned that she was not going to be very talkative. Fine, it was nice to have someone to work with and try to keep me under control. We started cruising along nicely and began passing more and more people with special effort for the opposing women runners (G is very competitive, even when tired). The best pass came withing 500m of the finish line on a long grinding uphill. We cruised by the unsuspecting lady on the dirt shoulder with me in the middle hiding G on the inside.
Here we are cruising in to the finish at last and boy was it nice to finish! And who is that guy with the 'skinny' legs? After my 'race' we hung around for a couple of more legs before heading back to the hotel for the night. The drive back took almost 2 hours but we saw some incredible scenery and also encountered a terrified baby moose running down the highway without his mommy (poor baby).
Sorry this post is getting so long but it's hard to do justice to all that happened etc. That night was another late one after having problem getting some food in Baddeck but at least I got a bit more sleep. Slept in till 630 and arrived at my leg start in lots of time for the 945 start. However, I didn't watch too closely and almost missed the start while getting my gear and drinks together. This was a beautiful morning with only a few clouds and light winds. This was a bit of a strange run in that it was a complete opposite to the 1st leg as far as HR went. No matter how hard I worked the HR was low compared to the perceived effort and speed. You can see from the profile and hills that it was not exactly flat and the rating of 4.5 was the same as my other leg.
At least it had a nice downhill finish at the end and all the runners in this leg felt like heroes with the crowds from all the teams lining the finish in Baddeck. What a treat and what a weekend!
But I still can't walk too smoothly, let alone run yet.

I hope that things will be better tommorow. Good night folks!

Jag hoppas att saker skar är mer väl i morgon. Folks för god natt!