I read an article a while back about how it’s good to forget stuff. The theory was that if you let the meaningless little things slip from your mind you will always have room for the new and important things. I’m not sure about that idea but apparently my sub-conscious mind can remember what I have missed. The night before the DirtyDuo, I had strange dreams of my last race. I’m pretty sure it was my body’s way of questioning my intent for the next day.
The Dirty Duo is held in North Vancouver. The course starts in Lynn Valley and goes up to Rice Lakes, past the Seymour River and up onto the mountains following trails like the Figure 8, Old Buck and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. Much of the race is on very technical mountain biking trails. It’s a mixed event for both mountain bikers and runners with 15, 25 and 50 km divisions.
In the days leading up the event, it poured hard in North Vancouver and the forecast for the day of was rain. About an hour before we lined up to start it stopped. Judging by the rest of the event organization, they probably even changed the weather.
When I left the gate I tried not to overpace. It’s just so easy to, especially with the mixed start. I purposely held back from most of the other runners but I was still pacing at 4:20 km’s – way too fast for a technical trail ultra. I focused on efficient trail movement, enjoyed the dampness and the fog and made my way along the river. Within a few kilometers the loose lead group moved to a slower rate and I started making moves on the way up the incline sections. I felt lactic in my shins, a sure sign of disaster for a 50 but I lied to myself ‘oh well – just do this for a little while until you get ahead’.
We kept moving fast but drifted apart on the trail as we climbed up and up to the top of the first loop. My heart rate was very high – above 90% – but I felt good. Really good. Well – keep running then.
The trail was wild- big rocks, little rocks, puddles, running water, roots, logs and little streams. Up and down and around I went. By the time I hit the top of the first loop and a little bit of snow, I was in second place. Then transitioning onto Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, I kept my heart rate high but this meant I started really going as it was all downhill. I was barely holding on going as fast as I could, using the granite boulders for grip under running water. Barely controlling an uncontrollable descent, I passed the leader. He held on behind me for a few minutes but I lost him when things starting getting really crazy.
Humans are amazing creatures, capable of more than what we experience in what we do day in and day out. Moving faster than you can think, eyes fixed on the trail 20 feet ahead so your mind can autonomously direct your foot to precision placement on the last ¾ of an inch of a boulder in a split second and then repeat that 180 times a minute you can glimpse our full potential. We have gained much in modern civilization but trail running reminds you the old, internal skills are not lost – just simply below the surface. It takes letting go and trusting yourself to make this happen.
I hit the bottom of the gnarl and headed up past the Seymour bridge, up along the river and then into some nice slopes back to the gazebo at the Rice Lakes parking lot. I grabbed some salt and gels and bolted up towards the Figure 8 trail. I traveled the mountain bike trail fast – back and forth, up and down ramps and over obstacles and soon I was back beside the Seymour River and then transitioning to climbing again.
On the second loop, I learned a new trick – just uphill as hard as you can until you get tunnel vision. As long as you can still see the trail in front of you then you should be fine. My lack of peripheral vision did cause me to go off course once but I quickly corrected. I hit the second downhill as fast as the first loop with the only difference being fatigue. I didn’t see anyone except volunteers at the two aid stations and back at the gazebo.
When you are advancing on someone you are the predator but while leading you are the prey. You flee forward without knowledge of those behind, so you run like your hunted. I followed Lynn River and then onto the mud holes of the Diamond Trail. Knowledge that I was close to the end made my movement liberal enough to lose a shoe in the bottom of a bog. I considered running with one foot shod but thought better of it so I dug elbow deep and squished it back on.
I hit the road for the last 900 meters. It was downhill and I ran for all I was worth, counting the seconds to try and break the four hour mark. I made the turn and into the finish line at 3:57:09 with a first overall. Someone later pointed out that this was the third fastest historical time on that race course since the Dirty Duo started.
People were eyeing me a bit strangely. At first I thought it was because I was the only one from Prince George but a few minutes later a lower heart rate and an improved mental state made me realize it was my muddy form and the blood streaming down my leg from a tumble I had taken on some rocks.
I turned quickly to look back as I was intent to see who was in second. I waited and to my astonishment, he passed the line 24 minutes later. It was Matt Cecill from Victoria with a 4:21:35. Colin Miller followed with third at 4:24:40. Jude Ultra took first female overall with 4:58:27
Sometimes things come together and this was just one of those lucky days!