Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Creemore Vertical Challenge RD Report

Hey!  I'll post some pictures soon, somewhere, but here is the RDR:

Creemore Vertical Challenge 2013

Tracking the weather for the Creemore Vertical Challenge over the years would not induce anyone to rush out and sign up for the race.  After this year’s race, the tally is 5 years of high temperatures, 1 year with severe thunder storms and 1 year of comfortable running weather.   I realize that “hot” is relative.  The temperature during the race on Saturday, July 6, 2013 reached a high of 30C (86F).  In Florida, they would be running with a light jacket.  The vertical is also subjective.  The 50K runners experience 1.75 kilometers (a bit north of 1 mile) of vertical gain.  Not exactly flat, but low for a mountain race.  However, given that the race is in mainly-flat Ontario, and takes place after a typically cool Spring, the local runners are hit with a challenging combination of heat and hills.

Race preparations went smoothly.   There are 12K of trails that need cutting or weed whacking.  The finishing touches on Friday, the day before the race, were only marginally hampered by torrential rain.  A new format for registration seemed to go well, with less need for bags and runners taking the brochures that interested them.  The new lime green technical T-shirt, the height of garish, was a big hit.  Thanks to Diane Chesla of Dirty Girls fame, for the shirt production.

The forecast during the week leading up to the race was all over the map.  Warm and muggy, then rain, then cool in the morning and cloudy for the afternoon.  Predictably, all the weather variations were a sham intended to make the runners and I wishful and optimistic.  Race day dawned warm and dry, then progressed relentlessly to hot and muggy.

The 50K started at 08:00 with neighbor Dave Kennedy firing an 1800’s flintlock that left no runner in doubt as to when to start running!  98 of the 105 entrants started the 50K and quickly spread out along the Ganaraska trail.  It did not take long for all 98 to realize this was not a good day to push too hard.

Soon it was time for the 123 runners who opted for the 25K to toe the line.  Another thunderous report started the race and off went the crowd into the increasing heat.  The temperature reached 30C (84F) which, with significant humidity, made for a tactical race, conserving energy for the hills and open road sections.

With the hills and heat, it is wise to provide more water and HEED (High Energy Electrolyte Drink) than in a race with easier terrain.  The original outlay was 450 liters for 240 runners.  It was not enough, but a close estimate.  The floater (Nathan Cohen, who stocks the aid stations with ice and other goodies) was not hard pressed to keep up to the extra demand.  The sponge stations were in constant use and even ran low on water, which will be addressed next year.

Quite a few more runners went off course this year, possibly due to the increased numbers (the cap was raised from 200 to 250) and the humid weather.  Dawn Hamel, leading the 50K women at 30K, took a wrong turn.  This happens in trail races, but Dawn has run the course in training runs over the years, so better signage will be on next year’s to-do list.

The 25K podium saw 2 regulars, with Kyle Aitken finishing in 1:47:00, ahead of Mike Tickner who clocked a 1:49:34.  Kyle and Mike are usually much closer, so it is possible the heat had more of an effect on Mike this year.  Kevin Souter rounded out the podium, in a time of 2:11:20.  Most times were slower than previous years, as the humidity was very much in presence even at the start of the 25K.  Wendy Rading broke the tape for first in a time of 2:23:36, with Allison Thompson (2:24:46) and Anje Podlatis (2:25:01) rounding out the podium.

In his first stab at a race distance of a marathon or more, Calum Neff showed that he could take 50K in stride.  Calum rocketed into the S/F at the halfway point (the course is 25K) in a time of 1:54:nn.  A sub-4 hour record was a distinct possibility and I’m sure Calum would have pulled it off had the weather stayed even a bit cooler.  Nevertheless, Calum completed a 50K that includes 1.75K of vertical gain, in a time of 4:01:44, taking almost 5 minutes off the record!  This, on a day when many seasoned ultra runners where packing it in after 25K.  Rob Vanderwerf (4:18:59) and Sean Roper (4:25:03) pushed hard and also went home with pottery, maple syrup and Creemore Coffee.

Hard work also paid off for Denise Rispolie, first in a time of 5:14:49, with Dawn Hamel (5:16:35) and Kiriam Thompson (5:43:40) taking home prizes.  Prizes abound at Creemore, with 40 runners in various age categories taking home pottery (made by my lovely wife Lee Anne Cohen), maple syrup and Creemore Coffee.  More prizes and medals await those in the 50K who have the gumption to run The Limberlost Challenge 56K near Hunstville, next week.  Yes, 2 ultras in 8 days.  Go big or go home!

Most years, what keeps the runners on the course is the “incentive” supplied by Creemore Springs Brewery at the end of the race, or at the25K point of his 50K for Ron Irwin!  This year was only slightly different, as many were looking forward to sitting in the Mad River almost as much as a Creemore Springs.  Not far behind was to snag a slice from Pizza Perfect, another sponsor from nearby Creemore.  Foodland in Creemore supplied filtered water for the entire race.  HEED and gels were provided from the Ontario series sponsor Hammer Nutrition.  Many thanks to all the sponsors for making the race possible and affordable.

Highlights of the race?  Possibly summed up by the finisher who paraphrased the Deer Hunter (the Horror, the Horror) with “The Hills, the Hills”… 

Many thanks to the volunteers, who helped with set-up, during the race at aid stations, traffic, marshalling, and during take-down.  Many are friends who share the passion of running.  I only hope they get something back, after so much giving.  Volunteering can be very rewarding.  Last year’s race was a constant deluge.  The trails were a mudfest.  One runner wanted some watermelon, but her hands were covered in mud.  My brother Michel used a sponge to help wash her hands.  She was so grateful, she wrote about it in her bog!  Consider volunteering at a local race.  I guarantee you will get something out of it.

Changes for next year?  You bet!  I am always amazed at how many improvements can be made even 7 years after starting the race.  It helps to have volunteers with deep experience, such as Henri Ragetlie (Niagara Ultra) or George and Peggy Sarson (Run for the Toad).  George suggested pre-mixing HEED in large containers the night before the race.  A simple idea, but one that reduces set-up time for the aid station volunteers.  Another change:  I’m retiring next year, hopefully just before the race.  It will be a novelty to have more than 7 days to prepare for the race.

It’s a Hill.  Get Over It

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Pierre! Lee Anne, your pottery is absolutely beautiful! Sending a big thank you to everyone who helped to make this race so incredible - you're the best.:)