Monday, July 13, 2009

PowderFace42 Race Report

The 2009 edition of PowderFace 42 was one tough cookie...

You know you've been part of something special when:
- Your race (marathon) includes a course change due to a grizzly feeding frenzy on a cougar kill
- Your race start is delayed by another separate bear sighting...(black this time)
- Participants cross the line with scrapes, limps, bruises, dripping blood AND still have a smile!
- Your palm has been punctured by a stick! He was actually smiling too!

When was the last time you had this kind of excitement in a race - What more could you ask for?

OK, I'm painting a pretty grim picture here...but the key is that PF42 rocked it. The flawless organization, amazing views and killer single-track just can't be beat - and everyone was left with a big smile at the end of the race!

Back to the race report...

Course Change: I was secretly smiling at the fact that less than 5min before our start, they announced that the course had been 'shortened' a few kms due to a grizzly bear feeding on a cougar kill...(that's a relaxing thought no?). Either way, organizers figured it was a good thing to bypass the ‘feeding zone’ to avoid any conflicts...I didn’t hear too many runners grumble…

The Race: A mellow start as 3 of us led the way out of Station Flats – The 7:30am start didn’t leave a whole lot of time to warm-up the knee/leg after my long drive to the line so I eased in behind the two, content to follow…

Soon after leaving the ‘Flats’, the first few bumps quickly made my HR jump into threshold zone (170+ bpm)...I was a bit nervous running at this pace so early in the race as I knew it wasn’t sustainable for the duration but I figured that once these first bumps were out of the way that the pace would settle, and it did.

A cool photo sequence as I round one of the many switchback corners on the PF course - Thanks to PF organizer Doug Stephen for the photos!

At the 10k mark (CP2), last year's 2nd place finisher Carl Pryce was setting a good pace, and I was keeping my ticker at 160-165bpm’s, a range I knew I could hold as we made our way up the gruelling 6km climb (500m of elev gain) to PowderFace Pass (alt: 2,000m). Shortly into the run, I noticed that I was pulling away from Carl, and checked my HR to see if I had increased the pace – I was still holding at 160+, so decided to keep on truckin’ along. At 21km CP3, I could see Carl’s fluorescent yellow jersey coming down the road (part of the shortened detour)…about 2-min back. I took a few seconds to stretch out my hammies and scrambled around the bend to get out of sight.

Cruising the meadows after some steep descents. Photo Credit: Jacob Wakefield

The second half of this race is deceivingly hard as up/down steeps start taking their toll on the body – Plus, my lack of descent training wasn’t helping the matter. My knee was holding strong but I was definitely feeling the abuse of the early downhills on my quads. I had chosen to run in my Exo ¾ (compression) tights to provide extra muscle support and delay the damage (to be) done as long as possible – I was starting to push my limits.

I plugged away at the terrain, running scared. I reached CP4 and 10k to go expecting to run into the half marathoners at their turn-around point, but only the encouraging CP vollies were on hand (I later found out that their 9am start had been delayed due to a bear sighting at CP1!). I resisted the urge to put my feet up and stuff myself with Twizzlers and chips, took a few gulps of water, stretched out my legs again and off I went.

I tried my best to enjoy the last 10k of racing as it includes some of the best single-track in the area. The few bumps that litter this last section are just brutal: “Where did these come from?” I reached CP5, chugged 3 gulps of the best tasting Coke on the planet and ran off – 5km to go…(sigh). At the 3.5hr mark, I hit that ‘other level’ of fatigue and my technique started breaking down. The paranoia of Carl running me down in the final kms was creeping in, and I would take a peek at the top of all the endless climbs while taking 10sec breaks to stretch out my quads. No Carl…

The last downhill was painful. The jarring abuse was vibrating up my body. I finally reached the flats and forced myself to straighten up and run. Instead, I shuffled…with a limp. The 1.2km to go sign was a welcome sight – I crossed the line in 3:45:55. Ahhhhh- Carl ended up crossing the line about 5min later…Anything can happen in races like this, and Carl made me sweat the entire run!

The rest of the day was spent chilling out with long-time (and new) friends listening to everyone’s PF war stories and comparing wounds from the run. One fellow entertained us with a pencil sized branch that had punctured his palm – pushing skin on the other side…Ouch! He seemed abnormally calm to me…

A big thanks to the PF crew (and their team of volunteers!) for organizing another fantastic event – See you next year!


Derrick said...

Congrats Phil! Sounds like a amazing race. Seems like you nailed it. Great that your leg held up well.

Very cool photo sequence ... especially with the poles. That must have helped take some of the strain off your leg. Had you planned to use them regardless or was it due to the injury?

Patrick said...

Solid race! Too bad it was shortened or you could take out the old record!

Didn't realize you had the poles...good call methinks. Definitely worth it for a big race like that.

Phil said...

Thanks guys-

As a nordic skier, I used to often run w/ poles to simulate skiing, so using them in a race situation is second nature to me...I know most elite runners frown on their use b/c they're cumbersome but I find it helps me both for the ups and downs (They're actually banned in some vertical km races in Europe b/c they are such a big aid). As for the downs, it definitely helps takes some strain off the legs - you can either pic away at the ground in front of you to 'soften' the landing, support your turn in curves or pole vault over puddles. Besides, 4 legs are better than 2!

I use some older Swix Team (CT2) poles that I cut down to 125cm in length. At 62gr/metre, they're super lightweight and stiff as hell. Cheaper poles work ok, but the cheaper you go, the heavier and more flexible (not good) they get.

Whether I use them or not depends on the course length and elev gain. I ran w/ them in 4/6 TR stages last year.

brendaontheRun said...

Well done Phil - that's awesome! Hope you're enjoying some recovery time; you deserve it.

Mike said...

Awesome race Phil! It takes guts to head into a race like that after an injury and then pull off the big one.
By my calculations your time would have been a sub-4 hour if we'd run the full distance but I guess you'll have to go back again next year just to make sure :)
Good luck at TR.

Phil said...

Brenda: Thanks - I'm definitely paying the price for the back-to-back runs, but looking forward to getting back out there! Congrats again on your adventure!

Mike: Great to see you out there - Finishing w/out injury was the goal so mission accomplished. It's nice to think that I 'coulda-shoulda-woulda' been close to a sub-4hr time, but as you say - that will have to wait for next year (as long as it doesn't sell out too fast again...).

JP said...

Well done Phil. Dom told me about your win and the time. Sounds like a very different race from last year. That race is one of my favourites, but was running the Knee Knacker this year.

Sunshine Girl said...

Hail the King! (Hugh, I mean...)

Nice runnin' out there superstart!