Always do something new on race day, right? Because of the logistics of getting to Deep Cove to catch the shuttle to the start line, I decided to try something new. I got up at 2 AM and had some oatmeal and then went back to bed for a little over an hour, getting up at 3:30 and heading out to pickup my Zip Car and drive over to the North Shore. I ate a banana and a Clif bar on the way and drank some tea. Arriving at Panorama Park with enough time to hit the washroom (big thanks to the park’s caretaker, José, for opening the washrooms early every year so us Knee Knackers don’t have to pee in the bushes!) before boarding the bus.
I ate a pack of Honey Stingers and sipped my Gatorade/Nuun mixture as we drove to the start. Trying to relax and not obsess about the climb up Black Mountain that I would be facing soon, just listening to the conversations going on around me.
We got to Nelson Canyon maybe half an hour or so before the start. Right away after getting off the bus I saw Dianna, checked in and left my drop bag in the truck, then got in the bathroom. With that taken care of, I sent a last text to Siobhan turned my phone off and stashed it away. Quarter to, take a gel, top up my bottle with water.
Chatted with Tom real quick, then hung out with Karl at the front of the pack before moving further back once we were 5 minutes out. And we were off.
I’d come out for one of the official training runs two weeks previous, and that had covered the first half of the course so I had a good idea what the next 4 hours had in store for me. As for the second half of the course, I’d run most of that before, bits and pieces of it are on the Iron Knee course and I’d done a few other runs out there as well.
But right now, it was all about climbing. From the start to the first aid station it’s a little over 5 miles (8 km) and in that time we climbed over 3400 feet (just over 1000 metres, or a Vertical Kilometre.) It was during this section that I had my slowest kilometre split – 31:57, this had 450m of ascent. As the aid station atop Black Mountain neared, I could hear classical music (or classical-ish music, I’m no connoisseur) and sure enough there was a cellist there with the entire aid station (5.1 miles) crew decked out in formal wear. Surreal. But no time for a waltz, a quick water refill and get a move on.
Descending now – down the section that I so loathed on the training run two weeks previous, switchbacks made up of crushed rock, with lots of pointy bits. But like the climb, this didn’t seem nearly as bad and in no time I was at the Cypress aid station (7.5 miles – timing mat here, 2:01:16) for another water refill, a gulp of coke, and some food. Then onward.
Some more climbing then more descending and pretty soon it’s the Hollyburn Lodge aid station (10.2 miles) about a 1/3 of the way through the race. I’d printed up a cheat-sheet with the relative and absolute distances of the aid stations, so I’d have an idea as where I was but I’d forgotten it at home. Of course, if I had been paying attention, I would have noticed that each aid station had a sign which said how far into the course we were, how far was left and how far to the next aid station. Oh well.
I did know that the next station was going to be Cleveland Dam, and that most of this next portion was pretty runable so I got to it. It seemed like no time until I was crossing various roads in the British Properties (on the training run, Dave had pointed out a street sign with glee “Look, Barnham Road!”) At one of the street crossings the course marshals had set up a mini aid station with, oh so wonderful, cherries. Delicious. Then it was back into the woods on the west side of the dam and then crossing the damn and the noise and bustle of the aid station (14.8 miles – timing mat here, 1:38:50 [3:40:06 total]) with the always enthused Eddy. Used my dropbag to change my shirt and hat, refilled water, drank some coke, ate some food, and grabbed a freezie for the walk up Nancy Greene Way to Grouse.
Up Nancy Greene Way, up the BP trail, Up and up and up. While this was slow going, I’d gapped the two guys who’d entered BP with me, and passed a couple of more. There were a few people I’d been yo-yoing with for most of the day and I figured that would continue. Then the Skyline Drive aid station (17.7 miles) for another water refill.
It was just more keeping on, as the Mountain Hwy (20.4 miles) came and went and then the route followed the river for a bit. I’d been hoping that the river would provide a bit of a cooling breeze, but instead it was more of humid, sticky wafting of air. Did I mention it was a hot day? So very, very hot.
Then it was the LSCR aid station (22 miles – timing mat here, 2:07:38 [5:47:44 total]) were I spent more than a few minutes stuffing my face and rehydrating. I knew the somewhere up ahead was the Seymour Grind and I was not relishing climbing it.
This next portion is a bit of a haze – there was the Lillooet Road (23.7 miles) and Hyannis Drive (24.8 miles) aid stations, one of which had Snow White and various dwarfs, and some crazy steep stairs.
But after Hyannis was the Grind. It was a steady climb to get to it – I kept thinking, am I on it now? Is this is? – but there was no mistaking it once it started. I recalled RD Kelsy Trigg saying at the briefing the night before that it wasn’t as bad as the Grouse Grind and it was only 20 minutes out of your life. That was quite the 20 minutes. But the trail after that was very runable and pretty soon there was the final aid station, Mt. Seymour Road (27.5 miles.)
A short stretch on trails, then it was Indian River Road and then the final section with all it’s stairs and bridges and oh so many hikers. Here I caught up with a trio in front of me which included local legend Ean Jackson and two women, Christine Chore and Janet Schonerville, who I’d been swapping places with all day. We burst out onto Panorama Drive together and I pushed hard for the final section, crossing the finish line in just under 8 hours.
Official Results: 7:57:35, 100th out of 192 OA, 28th out of 42 in my AG, 68th out of 120 men.
It isn’t up anymore, but Ultra Signup projected something like 8:09 for my finish time. Previously I’d never actually hit their projection so obviously I was very happy to have squeaked in under 8 hours this time. Not that this race didn’t take its toll.
— Greg Burnham (@becomingajock) July 12, 2014
One of the interesting sets of stats that Knee Knacker provides is your place at the timing stations. At Cypress I was in 107th and I held at 104th for Cleveland Dam and Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve. Given how often it seemed like I was being passed in the last quarter of the race, I’m surprised I advanced 4 positions (granted, 3 of those were in the last couple hundred metres) Another great stat is their temperature / median finishing times – maybe if it had been cooler I could have knocked some time off!
So many people to thank – first and foremost to Siobhan for her unwavering support and encouragement. I doubt I’d be a runner at all were it not for her early influences. Big thanks to my steadfast sponsour, Powered By Chocolate Milk, who greatly ease recovery. Thanks to Dave for coming out on the training run with me and ensuring I didn’t get lost (except that one time we took a wrong turn.) And to everyone else at the Broadway Run Club for their help. Finally to all the other Knee Knackers – the myriad of volunteers who hauled water and supplies and cameras, who set up tables and sliced fruit and laid out plates of cookies and chips; who handed out medals and cheered; who organized and planned and meticulously executed the plan – to all the other racers, those ahead of me who made me push that extra little bit and those behind who kept me going. Thank you, thank you, thank you all.