Monday, May 2, 2011

PYP - Pick Your Poison 50km Race Report

PYP - Pick Your Poison 50k
After DNFing at Seaton I was itching to get back out on the trails and get that stench of shame well behind me. I am well versed at running away from a stink I have just created so this should be easy. Lucky for me I have a pile of races (maybe too many races) lined up over the next little while so I didn't have to wait long. After 2 more good weeks of training Pick Your Poison was quickly upon me. Time to kick some ass.

Okay actually more like time to run a 50k as a decent training run. At least that was the plan. Have a normal training week, do a one day taper and then run PYP. I wonder is one day off of running really a taper? I am going to say absolutely, definitely, maybe.

The plan was simple going into this one. Since the course is conveniently a 12.5 km loop that is run 4 times it makes it perfect to get some pacing and controlled running in. Also going through the start area each time makes it easy to get the nutritional stuff down in preparation for longer races later in the season. I planned to run loop 1 hard, loop 2 and 3 easyish, loop 4 semi hard to hard. With the 50 miler at Bear Mountain coming up the following weekend I would try not run stupid hard and kill myself. I figure that with mountain in the race name I should have at least partially rested legs. I ran PYP last year and really liked it so had some idea about the course although there were some changes, lots of changes as it turned out.

We got up early on Saturday morning and grabbed a ride with JD up to the Horseshoe Valley. A quick check of the weather on Friday night called for sunny skies with a high of 18 and more importantly ZERO chance of precipitation. Is it possible? Could I actually get to race on dry trail for the first time this year. The weather earlier in the week had made me sceptical about any chance of dry trail. Rain, cold, thunderstorms, rain and then 80km winds on Thursday had lead to me taking an extra off day so I was taking the weather predictions with a grain of salt. Hey wait an extra day off means a 2 day taper, is 2 days off a taper?

We made the race site with lots of time to spare, picked up our swag and got changed. It was sunny, warm and we heard that the course was in great shape with very little mud. I did not however like the look of the snow that was still on the side of the ski hill that we would be running up, over, around and across. Usually snow + sun = mud but I was never really very good at math.
Pierre tries to tell us that hills are our friends

The Race
Loop 1 - lost in La Mancha
As soon as the race started I realized that the course was going to be a lot different then last year. Last year we had started to climb the ski hill right off the start which made for slow going and some bottle necking early in the race. This year instead we turned in the opposite direction and ran a nice long flat section on dirt roads. I came out as hard as I dared to try and get myself some running room early on.

There was no time to get used to the flat running however as soon we were headed up our first climb and into a short bit of technical single track in the woods. My cardio was feeling good as I got into pace and pushed it just a bit but I was having some discomfort in my ankles and shins. Nothing big but kind of annoying. I have had this before when I have run hard early without a good warm up. It goes away as I get loose but makes for an uncomfortable first few KMs.

Soon it was past the first aid station and back out onto another ski hill for more climbing, a small plateau, and then more climbing. I remembered this course as being hilly last year but the changes had definitely added more hills.

Back into the woods for some double and single track as we passed the halfway point of the loop. I felt really good now so I started to push harder and was passing other runners regularly. I had hoped to run somewhere around a 1 hour 15 minute loop and was right on schedule.

More double track and then up the giant hill next to the golf course. I remembered this hill from last year. I hated it last year. It kicked me around like an old tin can. This year I decided I only despised it. The hill was just as bad but now it seemed kind of familiar like an old friend you cant stand to look at.

Then it was some decent flat running in the woods along the edge of the golf course to the last aid station on the course. As planned I ran right through not stopping at all and a quick U turn had us headed back the other way on a trail that ran parallel to the one we were just on. For a good half km you could see the runners through the trees on the other trail headed towards the aid station. I had built a small but growing gap between myself and a big pack of runners behind me. As I hit a long downhill the trail opened up to a dirt road and I could see Morgan (who I didn't know by name yet) in front of me and Paul C. further up ahead. I concentrated on keeping them in sight and trying to slowly close the gap without running a totally stupid fast pace.

More uphill, downhill and single track it was all going so well and then as is sometimes, okay often, the case, Karblamo!! I had climbed up a wide almost road like hill, took the corner and headed down another hill. I could still see the other guys just ahead of me but they had stopped running. Oh Oh, worse then this two other runners were coming up the hill in the other direction. Crap thats not good. I looked and yes I could see markings going down the hill. Suddenly we were a group of runners having an impromptu meeting in the middle of the trail. It was like a meeting of the entire infield on the pitching mound. We all knew something was wrong but just were not sure what.

Did someone pull up trail markers? Did we just miss something? The general consciences was that we had already run this part of the course earlier so let the back tracking begin. Back up the hill and around the corner we saw where we had missed a turn going back into the woods. Crappppp, what the hell all the people I had worked so hard to get ahead of were now either ahead of me or right behind me. I had run about an extra KM and lost about 6 minutes. What a dummy or maybe thats dumbme in this case.

Side bar your Honour. In my defence the trail was as wide as a road and I was on the opposite side from the turn back into the woods. I was also watching runners ahead of me but may have missed the turn regardless. A sign (like in other places on the course) with an arrow might have been helpful. That said the trail was marked so kind of hard to put it on the RD. I know some other runners got discombobulated on parts of the course but I think it was decently marked for the most part.

Back on track I began to repass the same runners I had left in the rear view mirror earlier. I was pissed. I could not believe that I had missed that turn and gave away so much time. Let the mental games begin. I have done enough of these kind of races to know that crap happens and you got to just let it go and refocus or else thinking about mistakes will lead to more mistakes. Sure enough I ran right past another turn. ARRHHHGG!! Way to go Charlie Brown.

Okay this time no excuses the turn could not have been better marked, this one is totally on me. Great now I am passing 3 or 4 of the same people again for the 3rd time. Good Grief.

Out of the woods it was another climb up the back of a ski hill and then down the hill to the start finish. Stephan was on the crest of hill taking race photos and told me to smile. Sorry but that was not very likely, I am going to be interested in seeing my facial expressions in that photo cause I was pissed at myself big time.

Loop 2 - getting it in check
A quick stop to chug an ensure and grab a new water bottle and I was back onto the course. First loop and aid stop took 1:23 so when you factored in my lost time being lost I was right around 1:15. It was time to slow it down a little, stick with the plan and refocus.

This loop went really well. I mostly ran alone although I played a bit of leap frog with Morgan, Paul and another runner that I did not know. I just concentrated on staying relaxed and running an even effort for the lap. I didn't get lost, I didn't get hurt and I didn't fall down so mission accomplished. My ill temper at my lack on navigation skills soon was long in the past and I was really enjoying the run. The weather was great and it was some really nice trail. Not as much technical running as last year, more hills but still a decent course.

Before I knew it I was out of the woods on the last ski hill climb and then back into the start area for a quick refuelling stop and out I went again.

Loop 3 - This and that
Nothing to see here just keep it moving along. I ran about a 1:23 loop again for loop 2 so had executed the plan well. I wanted to keep this loop close to that if I could but was more interested in keeping my effort level the same.

The 25k runners were no longer on the course so anyone out there was in the 50k. Once again I was playing leapfrog with the same runners as the loop before. I was passed by 2 runners during this loop but also passed 2 others myself so I was happy with that. One thing I was not pleased with though were my legs which had begun to fatigue at around 30km, much to early as far as I was concerned. Not a big problem but still what the heck. I thought that heavy volume training is suppose to up your endurance. I mean I did give my legs a 2 day taper to get ready for this race.

Loop 4 - Get the lead out
Another quick refuel and back on the course. I asked Pierre and Stephan while I am chugging an ensure at the start line if I am in the middle of the pack. They tell me I am in the top quarter of the field. Back on the course I hit the first long flat section and can see 2 runners ahead of me. I had planned to run this loop semi hard to hard. I decide that don't want to lose ground to runners behind me so I will go hard.

I manage to pass the first of the two runners about 1km into the loop and have soon left him behind. It takes me another 2km of really hard running to catch the next guy. We have been trading places back and forth for the last 25km. I would like to pass him but he is moving well and my legs are slowing. We run together for the next couple of km. I am pushing hard but he gets away from me just before the big hill that I despise. Once on the hill I can see a second runner ahead of us. Looks like we still got some racing to do.

At the top of the hill I hit the flat trail section to the aid station. I want to push to catch the guys that are about 200 meters ahead of me but my legs don't want to turn over any faster. Looks like 2 days off really isn't a taper after all. Past the aid station and along the parallel trail I can see that there is nobody within a km behind me. With less then 4km left I am not likely to be caught by anyone.

I focus on the 2 runners in front of me but soon one of them has gotten away. I push as hard as possible but cant close on the other. I am sure he knows I am back here so I expect he is working really hard as well.

Into the last small wooded section. I have lost sight of everyone ahead of me. I am gassed but still working hard then 30 meters from coming out of the woods I am down. TIMBER!! I face plant really hard, one of the hardest falls I have ever had on a trail. I am not even sure what happened. My hat goes flying, my handheld water bottle bounces out of my grip from the impact of the ground. Damn what the heck. I hit the trail so hard I bounce and almost roll down the hillside. I pick myself back up and do a body check. Nothing seems to be broken, little knee scrap, no real damage except to my ego.

I stagger out of the woods and up the last hill still picking dirt out of my mouth and nose. Then a quick downhill and the race is done.

Post Race
I am pleased with how the race went overall. Great course, well organized, awesome swag with a cool shirt and socks. I found the course was slower this year then last due to the changes but still an awesome run. I vow to someday do a real taper. All and all a really fun day. Kim also had a good race. Race results are not posted yet but these should be right I think.

Unofficial results
time : 6:03:44
Place 13th out of +50 runners


  1. Great job Chris. Good luck at Bear this weekend!

  2. Nice job! I am hoping to complete my first 50K on a trail this fall!

  3. Face plants suck, but at least everything was in its right place afterwards. It's so fun when you're racing the folks around you...makes for some good times!

    Congrats and good luck with the next one

  4. Nice race. I don't know what the problem is with your legs. I mean, two day taper after the kind of mileage you put on them...they should be thanking you, right? Right?

    I'd be soooo annoyed about the missed turns. I missed one in my last half (on a trail), and even though I was only a few YARDS out of my way, I was pissed. Seems like almost every time I fall it's over invisible obstacles.

    Nice, strong race. Congratulations!

  5. You know now I am questioning if I went off course cause it seems most everybody else did.
    I say that was an amazing taper. Wouldn't do a thing differnt.

  6. Wow, congratulations on dominating those hills!

  7. Nice work! Just the thought of downing an ensure mid-race makes me want to puke. I know it is probably a necessary evil...but baarrfff!

  8. Great 50K race, Chris, considering that track along the hills. Congrats!
    Excellent race report!

  9. As usual...I am in awe of anyone who runs these...multiple times. congrats!

  10. way to go! That's incredible!!

    Check out the spartan race series!!!

  11. Wonderful report and well done even with the discombobulation on the course. I hate that feeling, cripes!

  12. wow - amazing...seriously. Sorry - I would have better words for you and all but I am still catching my "breath" from where you fell!!! Great recap, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time!

  13. great recap! i'd be so frustrated if i missed some turns and added on distance, lost my placing, etc. and i like that you got socks for the race. you can never have too many socks!

  14. Now I am itching for another 50k. I love that distance! Exciting retelling on your adventure.
    Great pace out there too!

  15. Got lost; face planted; and recovered to finish well. That race had everything!

  16. Thanks for commenting on my blog! WOW - congrats on your race, that's so awesome!

  17. Good job Chris, I know what you mean about getting off course like in the first loop though. I am bad at not looking for the markings and just running.

  18. That's great going, good for you!

  19. There were hills? Great job Chris! I also did a face plant, but on the smooth grassy field before the finish... It's those trail gremlins. What a great time out there!

  20. WOW Chris. I think in all my blogging I have never met someone that runs like you do. I am impressed. I am not sure how you found me but am glad you did. I'm going to follow you and just see where you're going and what you're up too.
    Take care Chris and have a blessed evening.

  21. Awesome race report, enjoyed reading that....sorry about the face plant! I think you did great though. Amazing 50K!

  22. even with your early turns you did amazing! congrats on an great race.

  23. Hi Chris,
    Every time I read on of your race reports I am awed and amazed! You are phenomenal! Congrats on your 50K!


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