I’m being a bit unusual (but since when is that new for me?) and I’m skipping my Sun Run post to talk about Iron Knee. It feels wrong to me to write about races out of order but it doesn’t seem right to hold off posting just because I can’t find the gumption to write one post.
So, Iron Knee. I thought it’d be a great little preparatory race for Knee Knacker: roughly half the distance, some of the same trails, the same last few KM and finish. Awesome. I also knew it started roughly around the Grouse Mountain parking lot.
The hubris of the Knee Knacker lottery winner.
Why would I actually look at the course route or elevation profile before I was tying my shoes on race day? Well I checked the route a few days before and realized we were starting at the park across from the Cleveland Dam — which meant the race started by running up Nancy Greene Way. That’s a pretty rude way to start a race, it’s like waking someone up by punching them in the crotch.
So anyway, the race starts and we all go red-lining it up that damn road. I was wearing my hydration pack and I debated dumping out the water as the road got steeper. At the Grouse lot we turned into it and ran down the freshly paved lot (former gravel lot).
When you’re pushing really hard in a race, focus is essential. But when you’re coasting after killing yourself on the first 10%, day dreaming a bit is fine. Which is how I noticed that Grouse not only paved the lot but added pay stations to it. So now the question is, do you pay to park or park for free down at the Dam and walk up?
I also thought I saw a sasquatch as we left the parking lot and entered the Power Line trail — but it just turned out to be Gary Robbins and his beard serving as course marshals.
I had wanted to give a hard effort at the start of the race for positioning purposes. I was haunted by the Hallow’s Eve half where I felt I’d gone out too easy due to not warming up (or sleeping) and it was a pain once we hit the single track and I started warming up. After the hard hill start I started to ease up a bit with a plan on pushing the second half of the race.
Just past the halfway there was a few KM of really nice easy downhill. Gravel roads. I was cruising down them with another runner and we were going ~3:48/kms and I just thought “Wait, this elevation isn’t adding up” and it hit me that I hadn’t looked at the elevation profile at all.
“We’re going to pay for this downhill aren’t we?” I asked the guy next to me. “Hah? Yeah man! You’ve not done this before? We’ve got the Power Line Climb. It’s like 2km of brutal uphill” “Oh… awesome.”
I’ve never seen the Power Line Climb before and I could do with never seeing it again. When we turned on to it the whole thing loomed in front of us. The guy I was running with had pulled ahead a bit and just turned around and grinned at me. I think I replied with something to the tune of “Sweet Fancy Jesus!”
After what felt like an hour or two of the slow uphill slog we were treated with dozens of 8.5″x11″ posters with little motivational phrases on them. Ordinarily I wouldn’t think too much of those but they were a delicious distraction on this muddy cliff. Let’s be clear that myself and everyone I could see were “power hiking”. And by that I mean we were walking and swearing a lot. My lower back actually started aching for some reason on this climb, I assume it was my body grasping at straws to get me to stop.
When there was finally a course marshal directing us to turn back into the forest (and downhill!) I didn’t believe they were real so I reached out to touch them for verification. Sorry to whoever that was but I needed to be sure and I’ve been known to hallucinate during races.
The rest of the course was mostly downhill to the end. On the last, quite technical bit, from Quarry Rock to Panorama Park I passed a few people but one got me back due to my weak technical downhill skills.
I came out on to the street and hauled ass to the finish not wanting to get passed on the last little bit. I ended up 12th in 1:57.
All in all it was a good little pre-Knee Knacker check-in to tell me what I need to focus on in the last 47 days until KK:
* Technical downhill running. I’m not naturally good at this and need to work on it frequently, I haven’t been.
* Inventing some sort of anti-gravity machine to deal with the uphills
* Continuing to be awesome
My next race is Seek the Peak. I hear there’s a bit of a hill in the middle of that one too.