Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mud Anyone?

I always love the anticipation of that first 'race' effort...

A week ago I looked at the forecast and smiled..."Oh, it's going to be a muddy one!" I was almost giggling at the thought of slippin' and slidin' on Calgary Olympic Park's (COP) clay surface, which was scheduled to host the first Saab/Salomon 5 Peaks Series event in Alberta. From Monday to Saturday, the little 'weather display box' at Environment Canada website showed a grey cloud w/rain…and for once, it was true - Fun times was my forecast!As race day rolled around, the little grey clouds were still dumping rain on the course and I was still smiling!

I left Canmore bright and early to setup the Salomon Demo booth which would allow the 5 Peaks participants to test a pair of XTWings, Salomon's latest trail runner. I have to admit that setting up the booth in the pissing rain wasn’t that much fun, but once the tents were up, it was nice to have the shelter. As anticipated, it didn't take a lot of effort to convince the participants to try out the Wings…Besides, why bother getting your own shoes mucked up when you can get someone else’s all dirty?
5 Peaks participants take cover under the demo tents

With some sub-in help from Syl Corbett (Thanks Syl!), another one of those uber-fit multisport athletes, and some of the staff at
Out There Adventure Centre, I managed to escape my demo-duties for a quick preview of the course. The 5km loop consisted mainly of single-track, but more importantly, over 90% of it was clay! I previewed the course 45min before the start and it was already so slick you could barely make it up the climbs. Even with my aggressive SpeedCross 2, the footing was so slick that you had to aim for grass or bushwhack your way up (and back down) the climbs! The guys with spikes were fairing a bit better on the climbs, but the lack of traction on their heels made them slide on most downhills. Others anticipated the slickness and put ½ inch screws in their shoes! If you showed up with regular shoes, you were setting yourself up for one ‘fun’ ride! I could only envision what it was going to be like on lap 2 of the race… (grin).

The Ski Cellar ladies having showing off their new XTWings

Even though I wasn’t thrilled with my fitness level, I figured the race would be a good opportunity put a good effort in. That said, with the conditions (and moral of most runners) being as grey as the clouds, I knew I could hold my own in the muck and pull off a respectable result.
Let the fun begin!

A quick stretch, some speed and agility drills to loosen up the ol’ stumps and away we went! The start was too fast (as usual) but I tried to stay within grasp of the leaders, mostly just to stay up front and avoid the impending chaos. As expected, as soon as the course turned up, everyone started working 3 times as hard. Then it was time for the zigzag single track downhill…WOW! Guys were all over the track, sliding out of control, pulling ‘Indiana Jones’ style slides down shoots, grasping at trees, shrubs, grass, anything to regain the control! Despite the gong-show, I managed to stay on my feet and pressed on…

As I rounded the first lap, I was in 4th place, but pushing my upper limits…I popped shortly thereafter and got passed by one of the many cross-county skiers running in the race. Ian (Murray) would later pass another runner to move into 3rd overall. I managed keep 3rd and 4th place in view for most of the second lap, and despite a late attempt to bridge the gap, the damage was done.

Ian chasing me down at the end of lap one

In the end, it was an ‘ok’ start to the season – knowing there’s lots (and lots) more room for improvement. Sometimes it’s good to get the shit kicked out of you, just to let you know how much more work you need to do.

Anyone want to help me clean some shoes?

For full results visit:

Next week,
Nipika Trail Run!

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