Tale of running with a friend, competitor, humble, down to earth, quite but thunderous champion:
I ran my second Elk Beaver Lake 100K on Saturday with Ellie Greenwood, one of the nicest competitors I have come across in my life.
My ultimate goal was to run 7:30 for this year race and if that failed then to best my last years time. Ultra runners know when I say if “that failed”, like Forrest Grumps said it, life is like a box of chocolate, you never know what you going to get. On a long ultra race you never know what is coming ahead. Just need to be ready and deal with it when it hit the fan.
Elk Lake is not the most fun race; repeat the same loop 10 times however in my book is considered one of the faster courses. It is also closer to Vancouver other than the down pour freezing H2H in November. It isn’t too hard on family being away a day or 2.
Thanks to the generosity of my Canadian teammate Darren Froese and his wife Kandise offering me to stay with them the night before the race. I caught the 2 o’clock ferry and by 3:40 I was in Victoria. I met Tim and Maureen Weins on the ferry and I was very happy about seeing them, it made the trip easier and more fun. We shared some good stories of our past races. Once we got off the ferry I went straight to the package pickup at Island runners, there I met some familiar faces including the race director Carlos Castillo. After that we headed to Froese house for the evening. I learned a few things about crewing and organization of pre-race stuff. Funny I have done a few ultra but didn’t think about labeling all my stuff, or put them in box in the order. I always was more spontaneous about my nutrition’s or the aids. But a few good lesson that will follow in my next race, Thank you Kandise and Darren.
About 10:00 PM went to bed and the first hour in bed I am re-thinking on my strategy to finish the race in 7 hr and 30 min. Start slow and then start pushing a bit but still conservative.
I woke up at 2:45 AM after a bad dream and for 10 min couldn’t fall sleep. Somehow a trip to washroom helped me back to sleep and 3:55 I was fully up.
I had a Banana, cliff bar and a bit of coke for breakfast. I started filling up my bottles, 9 tall, 5 Carbo-Pro and 4 Coke and 3 smaller with coke.
I wasn’t going to have a dedicated crew for the race, Kandise was the race time keeper and also crewing Darren. But knowing that I could get some help from Sukhi Pawa, Mike Palichuk, Glen Cameron at the race eased up the pressure of not wasting too much time at the aid station trying to prepare or replacing the bottles. We got to start line about 5:45.
I greeted Ellie, big hug, met Sukhi and Mike, Got into my race gears about 5:50 and slowly started to loosen up the muscles. It was a bit cold and looked a bit darker than last year may be due to the clouds or the rain. Mother Nature couldn’t go wrong; after all I was going to race and face another test. I chat a bit with Ellie about her goals and mine; she mentioned she wanted to qualify for UK team. Knowing the UK women team is fast as I ran with them in Keswick, I said to myself, Ellie must go sub 8:00 and that immediately became an added goal to the my list. Then I met Julie Flynn, an energizer bunny from our Tuesday clinic and then Suzanne Johnson, we took a couple of pictures and joked around.
Let the show begin:
Carols gave a quick briefing of the race and count down started and off we went. I started the race behind the pack and slowly made my way to the front and run along with Ellie, chat and run the way. In the lead we had two of our masters 50 K runners, my idol and good friend Darren Froese and Keith Wakelin. Then a 50 mile runner joined us, I didn’t know this young man and I wasn’t sure if he was going ahead of us or at some point he was going to slow down
We had the masters in our sight for while and at 23' 30" we hit the 5K marker. Slower pace than usual but It was best run ever in ultras especially early in the morning. But then it hit me I couldn’t run the pace for long time while thinking about my goal of 7:30, then I am thinking Ellie must run sub 8. I picked up the pace a bit and Ellie was following me. Last 2 K closing to the end of loop trails branch out and I was worried that Ellie might take a wrong turn especially with most of trail marking being washed away by rain;
Ellie also mention earlier about her bad luck at Orca Bay, I kept looking back where Ellie was and shouting the directions. At about 8.5 K with the last turn Ellie couldn’t have gone in the wrong direction I picked the pace a bit more. About 9 K marker, I saw some encouraging sign that Sukhi and Mike put on the tree’s for Ellie. It was great, they put smile back on my face. At about 44:36 finished the first loop and as I was about grabbing my next bottle, I sighted Ellie. Then I said to Ellie if she was going to be this far back we better run together, a bit of backward running, I could hear Kandise shouting Hassan get going, then Ellie join the run and we had a great 2 more laps together. As we finish the 3rd lap, Ellie needed to stop for washroom break and I kept going for while at a bit slower pace knowing Ellie that she would catch up but unfortunately by 5K I didn’t see Ellie close to me so I kept my regular pace and continue shaving off a minute or 2 each lap however in most cases I wasted those banked minutes looking for my bottles or grabbing a bit of olives for salt. This race Olives were the only solid thing I ate, I couldn’t swallow anything solid and had difficulty with my Salt pills, I normally take 2 of them together but this time I would take 1, drink a bit, run then take the second one otherwise I was going to choke. I was happy with my race pace, never ran that steady before and kept saying to my self that the next lap is important and continue to the next lap. 5:56 I finished my 8th lap. Not only I was dead on my goal pace I was even faster, however just shortly after I left the aid station a nasty chill hit me, I felt cold and all of sudden my heart rate from 83% dropped to 69%, I was shivering and moving at a way slower pace.
I was never able to regain my heart rate back up again. Then I remembered Darren was asking me at 70K if I was taking enough salt, just knowing how itchy was my face skin I knew it wasn’t enough but I had no craving or desire to take more, hard time to swallow. 9th lap was slow, way slower than I thought. I was cramping all over my legs, hamstring, calf wasn’t bad, and it was manageable. I noticed some fast runners were running in the opposite direction, I couldn’t move fast and I kept saying to myself should ask those folks to run with me, that may get me going again to meet my ultimate goal but they were moving fast I had no chance to ask but there were a few slower runners every time I pass them kept saying encouraging words, thank you. I walked about 4 times and sometime very long ones. Before the race I thought a few times running my last lap about 40 min. As I was getting closer to finish of the 9th lap I kept looking at my watch if I was still in the right track but by the time I finished the 9th lap, I had no chance making it to 7:30. I was cramping hard, Kandise rubbed my hamstring a bit and Darren kindly filled up the coke bottle and I was set to go. As I was about to leave the aid station I saw Ellie finishing 9th lap. I was very happy seeing Ellie, she was going sub 8 and she had a chance to beat the last year world champion time 7:37. I thought to myself running the last lap with Ellie at least I best my last year’s time and possibly I could go under 7:40. While I was waiting for Ellie to get her drink, I remembered the story from the book “Born to run”, the American girl and the Tarahumara runners in Leadville 100. I joked about the battle of sexes. Ellie was my savior and there was a chance we could finish the race together. We started the lap together but Ellie Race has just started “Way to Go Ellie“ but mine was going to be slow walk in the park. I was trying very hard to keep up with her and cramping was causing me a lot of discomfort however I was playing a good actor to hide it however unsure of for how long. Finally after about 1K I said to Ellie, If she wanted to take off It was all OK with me and I didn’t want to hold her back. I raced with Ellie before, she is a superb finisher and I didn’t want to be burden to her success. Ellie picked up the pace and the gap grew bigger and bigger. About 2.5 K she was nearly a kilometer ahead as I could see her in the round corners of the lake. I kept digging by starting to count my strides to bring my heart rate back up but somehow my body was disappointed by the effort. I ran 5K in 29 min. If I kept running every K in 6 min I was still under my last year’s time but I set a goal that I would run every remaining K in 5 minutes and stuck with it. K7 was even faster. 7:43:04 I cross the finish line and I was relieved the race was over. As I cross the finish line, Ellie was there to greet me with a big hug. Who won the battle of sexes, off course Ellie did, a truley deserving champion.
I was pleased knowing I accomplish 3 of my goals. I bested my last year’s time. I improved my running strategy from the previous 100K runs. Ultimately Ellie finished sub 8 and beat the last year world champion Kami Semich’s time by 1 minute. That is a remarkable accomplishment for her.
Ellie finishing last lap about 46 min and me 53 reminded the last year’s race. What goes around comes around, history teach us lesson. Last year I started the final lap about 30 sec behind Darren but I caught up to him in 1K and I never looked back. This year it was younger Ellie’s turn to teach me a lesson. After the race, Darren, Kandise and I had a bit of laugh about it.
I am very grateful to all my friends, especially Kandise and Darren for their generosity, help and their guidance. Thank you to Glen, Sukhi and Mike helping me with my bottles.
Big Thank you to Ellie for pace me at least about 1/3 of the race and kept me going.
Thank you to my Running family of NorthShore Athletics.
Thank you to my Sponsor Saucony for their tremendous support and their gears. I had a great time running in the Fastwitch 3, while the shoe is made for shorter distance I am very impressed they last 100K and probably I could go for another 100K straight.
Happy running and explore endless possibilities :)