Monday, June 30, 2008

Monday Blog #3 KUSAM Race Report

I had a race like no other at the 2008 Kusam Klimb in Sayward! This turned out to be a true race in every sense of the word as I battled neck and neck with this Dirt Diva, Michelle Steele of Ladysmith (seen below beside me at the race start) for at least 13kms in a full out on for the gory warned it is a loooong story...


*Note the gushing blood and the terrible hip drop indicated serious fatigue-500m from the finish line*

It is the morning after the 2008 Kusam Klimb and I am piecing together the clips of race tales that are drifting through my head. As if two years of abuse weren't enough I have found myself once again recovering and reminiscing in Sayward, BC at the Fisherboy Park Campground. Following is my personal account of the 2008 Kusam Klimb. Warning: Tales may appear larger than they actually are.

320 Racers - The largest start to date in the race's 5 year history. As always, the majority of town turned out to volunteer and show their support. In reality this event is probably the most entertainment the town gets in a year.

8:00am Race Start. I had been out for an easy warm up on the race course with 2 other guys who stayed out a bit a bit too much longer. I returned to the start line only to hear the 60 second countdown had begun-yikes- good timing. I whipped off my second layer, grabbed my gloves, had a sip of e-load and GO! we were off only to pass the 2 warm up guys on their way back to the start line. Ooops.

8:11am. 11 minutes into the race and the fast trekking had already begun. As always the crowd thinned and the bottleneck was relieved quickly as the climb arched upward. I watched helplessly at this point as 1-2-3-4 women hiked on away from me. In my back pocket I knew I had the wild downhill runner card but as Kenny said: 'You gotta know when to hold em...Know when to run..."

Up ahead I could see Michelle Steele of Ladysmith in bright red stomping hard out of my sights. I though if I could just keep her in my sights then I could beat her on the downhill race. But...alas...she was quickly long gone. Sigh...I had to remind myself to race my own race and let her go.

The klimb never gets easier. Seriously I was wondering if I had done any training at all while dragging my wasted burning body up that mountain. Calves burning. Hamstrings under unimaginable tension. Gluteals searing with the strain. The first part of the climb is too steep to run but not steep enough to scramble using your arms for support. And so the burning continued and the breathing rate entered uncharted waters. I started to feel a bit dizzy and had a hard time getting in enough air so I took the pace back a notch and worked to calm myself down and find a more realistic pace.

The scramble up to 3000 feet was much the same-with the addition of some unprecedented views! It was a beautiful clear sky day and we had a few opportunities to see the vast depths of the Valley below...over my shoulder that is...

The snowline began slightly later this year and when it arrived we were offered greasy, slippery, slushy snow. This in contrast to last years cold temps which made for fast icy conditions in the alpine. Slip, slide, slosh, repeat. My mini-pace group of Greg Young and 3 young guys made it's way across the snowy ridge and merrily down the other side towards the alpine lake. As soon as the first section of downhill began I slid my way past girls #3 & 4...2 more ahead I thought.

The lake marked the start of the final climb to the summit-also known as the wall. This vertical snow climb boasts a 500m elevation gain and required a strong kickstep to create a personal stairway to so-called heaven. No other option but to claw at the snow with all fours to win the battle of one step up one step back.

As we made our way up the footsteps of the final ascent, I glanced at my watch to check in on my progress compared with last years time and GASP "I only have 6 minutes to make it to the top to beat last years time!" Pathetic. I know. But I had one goal for this years race- beat my time to the summit. For 2 straight years I have made the summit in exactly 2hours zero minutes. You would think in a 2 hour climb that one could shave off 5 minutes with training and experience. But no, not I. There is some strange attraction I have to two hours on a weird subconscious level. That or I am not training correctly! I was desperate to break the pattern in a hurry and quickly running out of time. "You can't go by time Sarah- every year is different", Greg reasoned. "But I have to TRY!" I cried in desperation. I made one last ditch effort to kick up the intensity but only managed a few powersteps before the burning over came my legs again. The 2 men appeared like angels gazing from above. Dressed in fluorescent yellow shirts, these volunteers marked CP2 and the official race summit. I pulled myself up to standing and looked at my watch...1:59:23!! Hurray! My arms shot up to the sky and I threw my head back in triumph! Around me, racers were standing, resting, eating and going through their packs- enjoying the opportunity to rest. CP's are not rest stops for me. Instead they are opportunities to pass other racers and so I just kept on running...Up and over the other side never looking back.

Later, I learned that there is a panoramic and stunningly beautiful view of the valley below this CP. 3 years, 3 summits and I never though to look over my shoulder or stop and check out the view. Moron. I will just have to go back next year.

Over the top and straight down the other side. This year the soft snow formed into a perfect bum shoot and the 2km snow descent turned into a full on luge minus the luge and the helmet. Armed only with a pair of old MEC biking gloves and shorts I ripped down the snow covered mountain side in a random series of haphazard moves: Piked on my back...Sitting up crazy carpet-style using my heels as brakes...Shooting the duck so to speak...Rappelling backwards...and Spinning 360s completely out of control. Looking back and knowing where I am sore today, this 2.5km section did much of the damage. A bruised rear end and trashed bicep/forearm tell the tale today. Seriously out of control. Serious snow rash. Seriously fun. whooohooo!

The snow conditions made for a faster descent and Greg and I reached the old growth forest and logging road in speedy time. 2:20 into it and we were onto the road legs. Smack Smack Smack- the hard downhill double track began and we enjoyed the valley vista below us. I was keeping an eye out for Michelle when I spotted her red shirt 500m below. And so the chase began. Within a km I was upon her as she paused for a critical moment to take a drink at CP3. "Hi Michelle!" I sang in my friendliest racer voice. "Hi Sarah!" she sang back. A few race stories were exchanged as we switched positions and I slowly broke away from her on the downhill road. Girl #2 and then there was only 1 left to catch!

I ran as hard as I possibly could down the steep doubletrack sections- easily reaching max effort and leaning into every step with arm pumping strides. My only hope of beating michelle was by creating a gap before the descent flattened out. I knew I could outrun her on the steeps but I also knew that she could match me on the flats and flat out kick my ass on any climb. Every stride counted. I had passed at least 10 people on the descent and even Greg fell behind me with painful cramps. The kms ticked by and I focused on maintaining a full out high speed cadence and basically sprinted for at least 9kms. At one point I came across a few km markers on the logging road and my pace clocked in at 3:50min kms - very fast for me after running for 2.5hours hard. Gotta love downhilling for setting PRs!

The surrounding forest changed slightly and bright green grass sprouted up alongside the old grown in logging road. The descent lessened in severity and I found myself in the middle of the infamous 'X-Ditch Culvert' leg. A quick glance over my shoulder confirmed my worst fear- Michelle was 50m behind me! A crazed smile came over my lips as I laughed at the situation. All my sprinting and hard work had proven worthless! She had managed to catch me on the flats! A steep descent began once again and this proved to be very timely as I took off again at a full gallop.

Kusam Klimbers always seem to grumble about those 'flippin X-Ditches'. I don't really see the big deal - you just take a few steep steps down and then back up every 200 metres or so. It was at this precise moment when I was thinking this precise thought when I took the hardest bail of my running career. CRASH. SPLASH. And WHAT the HELL just happened there? One second I was stepping through a ditch with grace and speed (uhuh) and the next I was literally face down in the ditch.

My body seized then relaxed and I felt for a moment that I might give up the race. For an instant I felt as if I was 8 years old and scraped up on the pavement after a rollerskate crash. If my mom had been standing there I swear I would have cried. (I am not sure why i am telling you THIS). I was completely beat down exhausted and this sudden break in my rhythm was threatening to break my mind. Then I remembered where I was and shot a glance over my shoulder expecting to see Michelle bearing down on me. But no one was there.

A bolt of energy in the form of pure hope supercharged my body and I was up out of the creek and running flat out once again. Pain seared through my muscles as they were forced back into action. Every muscle pulled hard on bone and threatened to cramp. Every hard point including my hands and knees burned hot from the crash landing onto blast rock. " I hope I'm not bleeding." A quick rapid body survey showed mixed results. Hands: skin hanging off, bruised but no blood. Knees: bleeding bright red down my shins. Eewww.

Wounded but not broken I pushed on trying to drain my tank before the finish line. I was joyously surprised to see that they had built a ladder up the bank of the final river x-ing for this years race. What a pleasant surprise and one that prevented an ugly scene of mud and root scrambling on the final leg.

2km to go!! CP 5 cheered me on... There were no splashes in the creek behind me. There was 2km of downhill ahead of me and I felt as if I was in the clear to take 2nd place with the gap I had on Michelle. Then the cramps started. My calves clenched in random patterns and threatened to all out seize up. 'No no no puleeeease not now!' I pleaded with my gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. It was too much and my right calf completely locked up and forced me to stop, massage and whisper kind words to it. Over my shoulder and there SHE WAS coming out of the bushes right on top of me...Michelle! Crap I have no choice but to run through this pain. And some how I did it. Some how the cramping held off just enough to allow me to run again. Somehow I hauled down the final hill which opened up onto a steep country road. Past cheering squads of locals on front porches I ran. Past cows in the field I ran. I had not seen another racer other than Michelle in nearly 5kms but I knew where I was and what was coming next...

The final CP and a hairpin turn to the finish came into view below me. There I could see Mary Ann and Susan cheering me on as they had recognized me. Beyond the CP was the cruelest part of the entire race- a 500 m flat stretch of road leading to the finish line. I felt the weight of the world hit me as gravity re entered my solar system and the decline came to a brutal and sudden stop. Please don't let her catch me on the flats. Please be far enough ahead. And suddenly a joyous surprise:: Brad was at the corner cheering me on to the finish! He jumped in and ran the final 1/2 k beside me. "Come on come on...You gotta push it!" Desperate I begged to know if she was gaining on me. "Well she aint slowin down " he warned. With that I pulled out the reserves and gave it everything I had. All my energy went to my legs. But man I could barely make them go any faster! A cheering supporter clapped me on from the side of the road and informed me " 50 m to go and she is 25m behind you- Go Hard!". And so I did. I managed to hold my tiny lead and take 2nd place in 3:15:23. 7 seconds ahead of Michelle. WOW What a race! That was the best competition I have ever had. Hugs, Kisses, Photos with blood soaked knees, Bagels and a soak in the creek.
Photos and results...
Till 2009.

Monday Blog #2

I enjoy starting my day by checking my favorite blogs and looking for stories that kick start my inspiration for the day. Right now I am constantly checking these two great blogs for updates:

BC Bike Race- if you have not already heard about it- is the newest and biggest multi-day staged mountain bike race in BC. Every day for 7 consecutive days, riders complete 80-150kms of trail, logging road and single track as they make their way from Victoria to Whistler. Today the racers arrive in Cumberland and will be crashing at Village park tonight. I plan to head out there this afternoon and watch some of the fastest riders come in...

MOMAR- Mind over mountain adventure racing. My next race is in 3 weeks *yikes* so I am searching the blog for any details about the course to help me prepare. Time to seriously get kayaking and biking again after all this crazy mountain running for Kusam...more to come on that in my next blog... where was I...after the ELM West Coast retreat we made our way back to Victoria from the 15th to the 18th to be with my family and celebrate the life of Grandma Lily:) While in Vic we spent hours on end strolling through Beacon Hill Park- a special park that I have many memories of from my childhood. We spent many hours and days and summers in the different corners of Beacon Hill Park and each time I return for a walk, new memories are stirred. Now I know this is supposed to be a blog about my 'fitness adventures' but I had to post these pics from the petting zoo...
Who can resist this KID baby goat? or this extreme extrovert Mr. Peacock? The best part was the 'goat stampede' which takes place at closing time as we all herd the goats back to the barn for the night. I had never experienced anything like this...Go Babies Go!


Monday Blog #1

Ok Ok I give! I have not been a responsible blogger! Nothing worse than getting hooked on checking a blog only to find that day after day there is nothing new posted! Don't go away folks...cause I am back to the land of the living after a crazy month (June going going gone) and there are many blogs coming your way! I am back from a week away and have much to update you on...let's go back...way back to June 13/14...
Womens West Coast Fitness Retreat!

We had a blast in Tofino at our annual womens retreat at Middle Beach Lodge. 6 amazing women and myself made the journey out to Tofino on Friday and we enjoyed a weekend filled with laughter, new adventures, inspiration and relaxation. Check out the itinerary to relive our delicious weekend...

Friday, June 13th
3:00pm onwards: Check In Middle Beach Lodge. Time to settle in and relax.
5:00-6:00pm: Appetizers and Meet and Greet in ELM cabin. West coast smoked salmon served on wholegrain crispbread with herbed cream cheese, fresh cut vegetables and humous. BYO Beverages.
6:00pm: Casual Dinner in ELM cabin. Organic garden salad, choice of fresh prepared dressings, African Yam and Peanut soup, wholegrain bread.
7:30-9:00pm: Tea and Talk: 'Creating your personal Vision Board'.

Saturday, June 14th

6:30-7:30am Group, outdoor fitness session. Beach workout.
8:30-10:00am: Breakfast-fresh prepared in the main lodge.
10:00-1pm: West Coast Adventures: A) Surf lesson or B) Kayak tour
1:00-5:00pm: Me time
5:00pm: Appetizers in main lodge
6:00pm: West Coast Dinner in mainlodge: Wild BBQ Salmon, 3 Fresh Salads, Fresh baked bread, dessert selection
7:30-9:00: Tea and Talk:: 'Overcoming Obstacles in Life and Health'.

Sunday, June 15th
6:30-7:30am Group, outdoor fitness session. Beach workout.
8:30-10:00am: Breakfast-fresh prepared in the main lodge.
11:00am: Checkout, Beach Walk, Head home or stay and play.

We have already booked our cabins for June 12-14th 2009! Join us next year for this amazing annual adventure!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer Solstice

Ahhh the first day of summer...really.

My apologies for the tardy blogging but I have had quite a challenging week with the loss of two family members including my sweet gram at the young age of 94. I was away spending time with family and we found some comfort in sharing stories and happy memories about our gram. I have experienced an outpouring of compassion and I would like to thank you for all your kind words of support. Yes, this is a tragic part of life. But it is just that ... a part of life. And so that is the focus of my blog life.

My gram had a seriously half full attitude and I thank her for passing it down the line:) She had seen much beauty but also much tragedy in her long life including the loss of her mother, all of her sisters, her husband in the war and the huge loss of her second child. And regardless of all her losses she would hang in there, work through it and move along living her 'half full' life. In her memoirs outlining these experiences in her life, she is quoted with one of her favorite lines: 'Like they said in the 70's...just keep on truckin'. And she is so right...and that is what we all must do...thanks gram...

So, on to LIVING this great LIFE. Kusam Klimb is tomorrow and I am just now getting my head around it. After being away physically, mentally and emotionally for the past couple of weeks I have lost interest in this race. Or rather, I have not had the energy to prepare for it. So, here I am the day before and finally starting to think about the race. I will reread my race report to get my head into it and refocus my energy.

Yesterday I had a much needed acupuncture session with Michelle of Comox Valley Acupuncture Originally set as a pre-race balancing session it ended up being focussed on my mental and emotional wellbeing. So on top of my regular points, Michelle used points to calm the heart, quiet the mind and improve the flow of energy (aka chi). I had needles everywhere-my ears, my forehead, my name it. I kinda wish I had my camera:). Anyways whatever she did it worked. I crashed into a deep semi-sleep (which I never do cause I am afraid to roll over and poke myself) and awoke feeling light, refreshed and with a new outlook. Hurray the cloud has lifted:)

Last night we had the final run of our Spring Adventure Running clinic in the Cumberland X-C trails. That was my first real run in a week and it shook me up and put some spark back into my step. There is plenty of energy in nature and it was spilling over into my tank last night. Beautiful moss draped limbs...thick forest floor nipping at your heels...winding single track paths leading onward. Green is good! Thank you to the clinic participants for such a fun clinic and a great final run/dinner at the Great Escape!

I am heading up to the north island following the Kusam for a week of camping and boating on the north east coast. Sayward, Telegraph Cove, Robson Bight, Alert Bay, and possibly even part of the north coast trail are all on our list for this adventure. Pictures and stories to come upon our return on June 30th!

SUMMER PROGRAM REGISTRATION is ongoing and some of our classes begin the week of July 2nd so don't delay if you want to see your favorite summer clinic kick off in a couple of weeks! Go online to view the upcoming programs and register by mail, by drop off at Extreme Runners or online!

EXCITING NEW SPONSOR! And I can't forget to release the details about our exciting new sponsor...West Coast Expeditions Kayaking!! I am thrilled to have Dave Pinell and the crew on board as ELM Sponsors. Check out their website for more information on kayaking packages and other services that they offer from their base camp on Spring Island on the West Coast near Kayuquot. Stay tuned for ELM trips...

See you in a couple of weeks!



Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me...

Happy Birthweek to Me! Yes, I am officially one year older today and the sun has decided to come out and give me the best gift ever...a sunshiney June day! Had a fantastic fun filled 80's weekend with my family and friends in were tunes ever good in 1988! A sunny day at Beacon Hill park complete with egg on the spoon blindfolded races, a pinata and 'sloppy joes' and 'ants on a log'.

For the first time in my life I skipped a race and decided to relax in Vic on Sunday and spend the day with my family...the most important thing in life:) Thinking of you cousin Jeff...

My family indulged me and allowed me to fit in a guilt free 2 hour run up Mt. Work-my new favorite mountain. And we worked hard for that view from the top...

I am also lucky enough to share the same birthday with my little sister Dani...Happy Birthday Dani you 80s superstar!!

More to come later...


Thursday, June 5, 2008


Nicaragua...Wouldn't you love to be there right now...Yes, it really does look like that on Little Corn Island. Rain rain go away...

I WISH I HAD a permanent helmet cam sometimes as I frequently find myself without camera in the most photographic moments. Like yesterday, for example, when Lene, Shelly and I were out biking Twister between Nymph Falls and Stotan Falls and we got all westcoast -hippie and shimmied up a wildlife tree covered in moss and snails to snag a goldmine of Oyster Mushrooms...quite an image:)

I can't believe it has been over a week since I last blogged! Life has been busy and full of adventure. I have been getting the ELM Summer Program calendar all lined up and working on posters and brochures to spread the good word. Registration is NOW open for our July and August programs and you can find all of the dirty details on the ELM Website:: Summer Bootcamp, Baby Bootcamp, Adventure Running and Yoga-Fit, Half Marathon Training, Orienteering, MOMAR 101, and Womens Only Hiking!

Last week was a great week of training and playing once again. Where did I leave off...

Monday: 60 minute Trail Run at Nymph Falls with the Women's Off-Road Clinic...Bootcamp at Sandwick Park.

Tuesday: Bike to Work (thought it was bike to work week:)

Weds: Bike Cumberland- Perseverance Trail Race Scouting Session with Lene, Terry and Shelly. We are changing up the route this year as Timberwest went ahead and logged the 'Bucket' portion of our 2007 course. Things happen for a reason and we have the makings of a spectacular 2008 course!! Amazing view points...steep fun fun trails which will be new to many...Managed to introduce a knife edged rock to my bum and tailbone while scrambling down an embankment full of blast rock. The meeting left me with a beautiful colour show which is a rich shade of blackberry over a week later.

Thursday: Adventure Run Comox Lake Dam...Tomato Creek!

Friday: Bike

Saturday: Kusam Training Run 25km? 2hours 50 minutes with 1:15climbing...45 downhill road and the rest along the river trail flats- See Map below...Following this great run with chilled our legs in the Puntledge River at the way to stop inflammation if you can handle the cold:) I couldn't make myself go above the knee even though Elaine and John were swimming!!! Foreshadowing Sunday...

Sunday: 3.5hour BIG bike ride from Nymph up to Forbidden...then it was all downhill starting with Screamin Demon for 2.5 hours of XC and some ugly DH bike dragging...don't get me started. By the end of the ride I was feeling the Saturday workout and ready for a hot shower and feast...

NOTE: Danger on Forbidden Plateau Road...after just leaving the parking lot at Nymph Falls one of our guys got his calf ripped open by a dog on the road. 2nd driveway on the right, young black lab shepherd cross with a red collar on...didn't look the least bit aggressive! Didn't growl or bark and just bit Terry's leg as he went past slowly. 2.5inch gash meant an end to his ride and a trip to emerg for stiches. Yikes. Watch out for the biggest hazard there is out there for bikers and runners...dogs who have been raised by poor owners!

I had some SORE lateral quads on Sunday morning! My shins and calves felt fantastic (thanks to the cold soak) but my quads were sore to the touch for the first time in a long time. The downhill road run and lack of cold water bravery were the culprits. But, now the microdamage is done and my body has rebuilt to be even handle the punishment of Kusam (3 weeks away...)

And is already Thursday and the week has been going much the same as the last...with the continuation of grey raining back to school weather.

Tomorrow I am off to Vic for a b-day celebration with my sister who also shares the same b-day:) We are having a 1988 retro b-day party at Beacon hill park on Saturday with tightrolled jeans, hypercolour and teased bangs as the dress code. The music and food will also take us back to the 80s as we lipsync to M.J. and eat Nerds...check out the top 100 songs of 1988 for a blast from the past::

Sunday I plan to run the Gutbuster Half marathon or 8km in Nanaimo...legs and post-party condition dependant.

Have a great rest of your week!!