|And we're off! Great shot of the 23k race start from Kathy Campbell|
The Cumby 23k Trail Runhttp://thecumby.ca
The Cumby 23k fit right into my schedule this year, so I signed up without hesitation, looking forward to racing in my back yard for the first time in a very long time. As the RD for the Perseverance Trail Run, I have been behind the mic in our local trail racing scene for over a decade and it was a pleasure to be on the other side of the stage as a participant in The Cumby! I was giddy with the novelty of stepping up to the registration tables in the same spot that I have hovered over as RD for 13 years. So fun to pin on a bib and get to be a part of the excitement in the trails!
The weather was ridiculously fantastic, with the rain stopping just for the race, it seemed. The Cumby 53k racers already had 2 hours under their sneakers by the time our sprint race started at 9am and they would still be out there for many hours after we had crossed the finish line. The Cumby 53k is a VERY challenging ultra course with a surprising amount of elevation gain, so be sure to check it out if you are looking for a challenge!
The race started in a full on sprint with the fasties busting off the line like race horses. I wasn't going to be able to keep that up, so I quickly settled into my own groove and mentally prepared to follow my personal race plan for the day. I had a big weekend of training on the books and this 23k was just the warm up. I was planning to run another 20k after the race and then follow that with a back to back long run the day after. But...sometimes plans change...
My plan was to run the first 2/3s of the race very conservatively, at my all day, pace, with no heavy breathing and no burning legs allowed. Then, I would gradually ramp up the pace over the final 7 or 8kms and drain the tank by the time I reached the finish line for a short interval of Z2-3 work. I had had a big couple of weeks of training beforehand, including multiple track sessions and a big volume of strength work - no taper for me! My legs were dead tired and my calves were still in knots from a big speed session two days before, so I made sure to do an extra thorough warm up to help my body (and mind!) prepare as best as possible. 5kms and multiple sets of skills and drills later, I was ready to roll!
The race starts up the Davis Lake Main logging road for a hundred meters, and then you get a quick break from the climb and you are off the road and into the single track right away. About half a km to catch your breathe and find your groove, and then the first of 3 main climbs begins. The route climbs up Bronco's Perseverance, a lovely grade and comfortably runnable, if you are holding a steady pace.
After Bronco's there is a few metres of flat road before one of the steepest climbs is thrown at you- Broadway trail. This is one of the original downhill bike trails (built by the ladies aka broads fyi!) but it isn't quite as fun on the way up lol! A few trekking steps to give the calves a break and switch muscle groups, and we were quickly through the worst of it and running again to the top. The route then crosses Perseverance Creek via the new (and bomber) Sykes bridge and takes a quick left onto Steam Donkey trail for some fun rolling single track. Not much excitement going on for me as I was plodding along in my all day pace, trying not to get roped into race mode too early! It was a lovely run through Steam Donkey and then up Teapot, which isn't so bad, when you aren't trying to climb it on your bike (perspective!). Then the hardest climb for me, but also short and sweet, and the LAST big climb of the day, up to the top of Truffle Shuffle. It was hands on thighs for everyone around me and we trekked our way in a steady rhythm to the top...knowing it was all downhill from there! Well...you know;)
Time for Vanilla! This is why I climb up things! I climb so that I can to rip down beautiful descending single track like this trail. Vanilla is a mountain bikers dream with birmed corners and smooth rollers that you just can't help but pop off. Built to perfection, and meant for flow, I just can't get enough of this trail on my bike! And on foot it is almost just as fun;) Especially when you have ridden it before- because you can 'be like a bike" and get into the flow. Not quite as fast...but pretty darn fun!
At the bottom of Vanilla, the route takes a quick right and the rolling single track continues, down Short Line, Blue Collar, Swamp Monster, Scat and Brat and Crafty Butcher (all classic Cumberland XC trails) before reaching the solo aid station on the course, at about the 11k mark. I had plenty of water in my flasks, so I just waved to say thank you and boogied right on by.
The second 'half' of the course started with the undulating Two Flats trail before taking a hard right onto the real bit of gravel road in the race, connecting us to the 'Eastern Block' trail network. Up up up on a gradual but steady climb we settled into Rapture Trail for the journey up to the final high point of the course, over on Fuji Jim mountain. The views are amazing on this section of the course! A wide view of the Beaufort Mountains still covered in snow and a panorama of the Salish Sea, Gulf Islands and even the mainland on a clear day. One of the best views in the valley is found on that Fuji Jim aka Little Nikkei.
At the top, we were greeted by a friendly man who was offering up strips of maple bacon but the vegetarian in me stuck out my tongue and politely declined;) A loop on the top and then it was back onto Rapture for the longest continuous flow single track to be had in Cumberland...Rapture never disappoints!
At the bottom of Rapture the work began, as I was pushing my pace and knowing full well that there were still endless mini hills and twisting single track before the finish line. You are so close but still sooooo far away once you enter the 'Childs' trail network. Mondays, Wednesdays, Tuesdays...who knows which day, they all blend together and have you begging for the weekend to arrive! I was zipping along with my tunes by then and had managed to pass a few peeps here and there, moving myself up to 2nd place and still feeling plenty of energy in my legs. I was just getting warmed up! Ha! That's what ultra running does to your legs! Takes at least 2 hours to get into a groove.
Once I saw the BMX track I knew it was only about a km to the finish and a big smile came over my face- wahoo! Just hold the pace and bring it in I thought.
As I rounded the corner onto the Colliery Line trail that leads to the finish, I passed a very tired looking racer who appeared to have reached his limit just a half a km from the end. I gave him a thumbs up and encouraging words as I passed him, and then not 10 feet later, WHAM! My left calf went into a full spasm as my foot touched the ground and I felt a searing pain, that had me stumbling nearly to the ground. Oh no! Not now I thought! A calf cramp? I am so close! Those ladies are coming! I thought I could shake it out after a moment of walking but I soon realized that I had strained the muscle severely and I couldn't physically weight bare on the leg. WTH? This spasm took me completely by surprise and I couldn't piece it together. There was no warning of twinges or threats of cramping at any point in the run, I had taken it super easy and I was just holding a steady pace on the flats. My calves being tight and tired were the only clue, but things didn't add up for me at the time. The racer I had just passed told me to grab onto his shoulder so that he could help me finish. 'No! I can't do that! You are so tired!' But after trying unsuccessfully to put any weight on my left leg, I realized I didn't really have a choice. I graciously accepted his assistance and we hobbled it in on those final metres together. I felt terrible, adding to his fatigue, so I opted to try and one leg it for the final metres and with searing pain and a lovely grimace I made it to race central, looking over my shoulder the entire time! Luckily I had enough of a gap on the next woman, that I held my place and once I saw that downhill stretch to the finish line, I sucked it up and ran in as fast as I could- to make it stop! 2nd female and a time of about 2:15 I believe. Across the line and the pain returned in full, along with the realization that I had torn something and this would not be a quick fix. A big hug and thank you to my saviour who half carried me in and then I hit the road, trying to walk it out (still in denial). Once I realized it wouldn't be letting up and that my big weekend of ultra training would no longer be happening, I climbed in my car and drove out to Comox Lake to numb the pain. Half an hour later and I was really limping but at least I couldn't feel anything lol!
I have made an awesome recovery in the past week, and it appears that much of the pain was due to spasms and muscle guarding after all. Looking back I can now put a few pieces of the puzzle together (post 55k Zion Ultra fatigue + big emotional fatigue the month prior = adrenal fatigue + super tight calves = breaking point). After 4 days on one leg and every treatment known to human kind, the muscles began to relax and I have improved exponentially ever since. The human body, never ceases to amaze me! Big thank you to my team for all of the love this week: Dr Kneeland my Naturopath, Michelle at CV Acupuncture, Amber P for Massage at Dynamic Spine, Derek Vinge for laser and ART at Fit Chiro, Jared at Ascent Physio. I'm gonna be back before you know it thanks to this crew!
Overall I have to say that I LOVED The Cumby 23k course. It highlighted some of the best single track in Cumberland (and that's saying a lot because we have a tonne!), included a nice mix of climbing, descending and undulating terrain and really made me smile! The end was just evil enough but not too evil (i.e. no big climbs) to make you feel like you really had to work for it. The Cumby is a very well organized race, a great community event and a fun way to explore the trails of Cumberland. BIG thank you goes out to all of the organizers, volunteers and sponsors who made this event happen so that we could go out and play in the trails!
See you next year!
The Cumby 23 and 53k
Fundraiser for the Cumberland Community Forest Society
Hosted by Comox Valley Road Runners