Tuesday, June 12, 2012

5 Peaks Hardwood Ski and Bike. By Serghei Logvin

As my plans of getting a taste of European Orienteering did not take place this year, and the Orienteering season slowly wound down for me, I decided to enter a few trail and road races, which are always a blast to participate in, as well as give an objective measurement of my physical shape. I had always liked the 5 Peaks race series, as I find it might be the closest you can come to fast competition in nature after Orienteering and short Adventure races. In the years prior, I had run two 5 Peaks races, both of which I greatly enjoyed, and had won one of, and was 2nd on the other. Awesome technical trails, great race atmosphere and decently competitive field made me look forward to my next race. 

The race I registered for was to take place at Hardwood Ski and Bike, near Barrie, ON. It was a bit of a drive, about 300km round trip, but not too bad. My training was going quite well leading up to this race, and I was feeling pretty good, which made me look forward to it even more. With about two days to go, the weather forecast was set for a thunderstorm, which would make things extra exciting. Luckily, on race day, the rain had stopped early in the morning, and by start-time we were left with only intense humidity and pretty slick trails. I did a relatively short warm-up, and had really noticed the humidity right away, with my HR jumping around very easily. We were finally called up for the start, I made my way to the front of the pack, and we took off. 

The interesting thing with 5 Peaks events is that the Sport (~6km) and Enduro (~12km) courses start at the same time. Since I always run the Enduro course, it usually indicates a quicker pace than I should set off the start. Even so, I was usually able to settle into a good pace later on; this wasn't one of those times. As we're starting off, I'm very comfortably running at the front of the pack, with the leaders of the Sport course, with all of the Enduro runners behind. One of my greatest weaknesses going into this race with regards to my preparation, was that I had no idea what type of course to expect, except for this. Unfortunately no elevation profile was given, and no distance markers were set along the way. As humidity started doing its job, the hills just kept on coming and coming, and I could feel this reflected in my legs and HR. At this point, I'm starting to suspect that I've started off way too fast, as I'm working way too hard. I knew the winning time from last year was slightly under 57 minutes, and I think to myself "I must be running for at least 20-25 now", but my watch didn't think so, as it was showing just over 10 minutes. This was when I realized I'm in for a rough ride, while the hills kept coming. It seemed like the only times to recover for the next hill was either during twisty technical parts, or while hammering down the hills. I felt my legs starting to get pretty drained, and I noticed my loss of grip on the uphills a lot more now. My choice of shoes was an extremely worn-down pair of X-Talon 212s, great shoes, but probably not a great choice for the slick trails. I was slowly dropping the pace as I was trying to figure out my best tactics to make the best of what I had. I decided I needed to drop below the redline, and try to run a more even race towards the end. I didn't expect that to go too well though, because I was in a pretty tough position. It is incredible how lack of racing and adrenaline can really mess up your feel for proper race tactics, as this was the first official "running" race I've done after my break in 2010/2011. After all the years of XC, trail and road racing, I had a very good feel for pacing great negative splits. I felt like a total newbie, but had to work with what I had. 

The Sport runners had broken off on a different course just as as the winner of Enduro passed me. I saw him on the twists for the next little while, and even seemed to gain some ground on the downhills. I was trying to take it easy though, and soon had heard the 2nd place behind me. We ran a good 2-3km together, and he had passed me when I almost wiped out on a slippery turn, and then broke away on the next uphill. I was slowly coming back into my comfortable pace, but sometimes the hills would come as a series, one after another, which would send me redlining again. As I was into the second half of the race, I got a glimpse of the 2nd place, as it seemed I reeled him back in a bit. However, to my semi-surprise, I thought I got a glimpse of someone behind me. I had hoped that wasn't the case, but my fears confirmed as I got a clear picture of two runners on my tail. Of course this made me feel even worse about my tactics, but I didn't intend to give up. I pushed the pace slightly, and that seemed to hold them off for a bit. The hills kept doing their thing, and I was red-lining big time. The time was approaching 45 minutes, and I was estimating to run just over 1 hour, as I knew last year's winning time. I kept hearing the hammering of two pairs of legs behind me down all the hills for the past 15 or so minutes, and it kept me very uneasy. Every racer knows, that once you're in front, and are being chased down, you are very vulnerable, and lack the element of surprise. There was a section of the trail that passed through very open woods, and bent around, where I saw that the two runners were maybe 10 seconds behind me at most. They were gaining on me majorly. Thoughts of 5th place started to creep in and find comfort in my mind. Then, for some reason they fell back slightly, and in the next km, I realized one of the guys got dropped, and the other one was on a chase for me once again, this time by himself. It looked like he was kicking for the finish, as he was slightly gaining on every stretch, no matter how much I pushed the tempo. Eventually I had to do the same, to keep him at a distance, but was doubtful of it, because the time was only slightly over 50 minutes. Shortly after, as I'm coming out of the woods onto a the ski hill, and hear the finish crowd, I think we must do another short loop before we're done. However, I'm told there's another 400m to go, and this is where I give it my all. I put a pretty big gap between us in that distance, and was happy, but surprised to be done. Turns out my time of 56:11 would have been enough for a win last year, with many of the same runners, including the 2nd place finisher. From speaking with the finishers, most of them had run the course before, and some are regular bikers of these trails. It will help for next year to have been here before, if I come back.

I had the pleasure of running under "Team AttackPoint". It consisted of me (runit), Nikolay, Galyna, WandAR, FunRun, Bash, 'Bent, DoubleDown_on11, FB, Will, Hansel, Leanimal, Pat-hectic, Wilsmith (missing in photo). I thought that was pretty cool - represent! It was a very close competition, and we took 2nd place by a couple points because the other team had lots of points for volunteering. As always, this event had an awesome atmosphere and vibe, but it was even better to be in a company of so many familiar faces! I had a great time. 

Of course I need to learn on the mistakes I made at this race, and improve upon them. I feel like post-race analysis for these types of races are (almost) as important as after Orienteering races. I might have hung onto 3rd place this time, but I need to act differently to avoid these types of situations again. I feel like I could have shown a much stronger performance, and met my own expectations for this race, if I was smarter.

I am looking forward to my next race on June 26th, which will be the Tim Hortons Peachbud 10k, which I ran twice before. Pretty fast course, and very deep field. Winners go well below 30 minutes. The PB to beat will be 34:12, but by how much? ;)

I am also looking forward to running the Canadian Championships in August, provided I am able to plan things out better this time, and actually make it. Should be a great experience. I wish good luck to everyone racing in Europe these coming weeks - run strong and proud!

Serghei Logvin  

1 comment:

  1. Great post Serghei - thanks! Nice work team AttackPoint.