Monday, August 10, 2015

Creemore Vertical Challenge: Race Director Report

Well, I have finished tearing down the trail, pulling the signs, dismantling the tents, tarps and washing out all the containers.  There is still some financial and statistical work to complete, but the race is finally over, for me.  I'm tired!  I ran 20K on Sunday, stooping every 10 meters to pull out a flag.  Most trails I have to run and pull, then I run back to the car, hence the 20K run to clear 12K of trail.

Synopsis:  The race was a success.

I had a few regulars who (I hope) joked about how the weather was perfect for running, so what was I going to throw at them instead?  There is some perverse rumour that I control the weather and that I don't like runners.  The CVC is typically uber-hot, unless there are severe thunder storms...  Just because the extreme weather always hits during the CVC, somehow I am to blame.

So this is an attempt to pre-empt anyone from coming to the conclusion that I had anything to do with tearing apart a wasp nest and spreading it on the trail.  Half the 75K runners were stung, as they passed the wasps at about the 10.5K point.  In reality, some animal dug into the ground nest and spread it around, so that everyone could enjoy the stings.  As a side note, there is only one animal that I know, that would rip apart a yellow jacket nest for the grubs.  A bear.  I'm not saying that a sting is better than 3 rounds against Yogi, but I prefer wasps, in moderation.

Let's talk about wasps in moderation, for a moment.  I got stung by one near the pottery studio on Friday.  Sure enough, there was a nest beside the door.  About an hour later, Lee Anne phones and warns me that a ground nest has been ripped apart and there are wasps all over at about the 6.5K mark.  Lee Anne was stung.  My neighbour Gavin and I head out at dusk to kill the wasps at 6.5K.  It appears that some animal has ripped apart the ground nest.  I then head back home and spray the nest near the pottery studio.  At 5:00 AM Saturday morning (race day!), I turn on the front door light and about 30 wasps start circling it.  I later find a nest near the front door to the house.  3 nests so far.  At 6:00, the 75K runners start.  They encounter a nest (second one ripped apart by an animal) at about the 10.5K point and inform the volunteers at aid station 3.  AS 3 calls home base and I rush up to the course with wasp spray.  I spray for about 5 minutes, but there are wasps everywhere and they seem to be very angry.  4 nests, in 2 days!  I rush back home to start the 50K (8:00 AM), then rush back to the 10.5K wasp nest and cut about 40 meters of new course through the bush, to circumvent the wasp nest,  Please tell me we are done with wasps for the day!  At about noon, a parent is holding her young daughter who is crying and repeating "I got bitten by a bee" (something to that effect).  I'm running out of wasp spray!  I use the remainder of my last can to spray 2 holes that have wasp traffic, near the finish line.

5 wasp nests in 2 days...  Seriously?

Enough about wasps, here is the skinny on the race.

Adding the 75K filled me with a modicum of trepidation, to say the least.  Sunrise was at 6:15 on race day, so there would be enough light at the 6:00 to avoid having to use head lamps for the start.  A bigger concern was how would runners fare in stupid-hot weather, running for 11+ hours on a very hilly course.  The 75K has north of 2.5K of vertical ascent.  The answer was, everything would be just fine, if the weather was ideal for running.  Race day started cool, became cloudy, then a light misting at about 9:30 AM.  I could not have asked for better weather.  A close call for Stephen Bridson, who was stung and has had an allergic reaction in the past.  Stephen was carrying an epi-pin, but decided not to use it unless he started having a reaction.  Other 75K runners were stung up to 4 times (Stephan Miklos) with a report that one runner incurred 6 stings.  Ouch!

Adam Takacs was on fire, posting the new 75K record in a time of 6:34:03.  Adam surprised many when he finished his first 25K loop in slightly over 2 hours, shortly after the 50K started!  My first thought was 'does he know this is a 75K race, not a 7.5K race?'.  Stephen Bridson was second, in 8:00:14.  I think Stephen wanted to finish under 8:00 hours, but seriously, have you seen those hills?  Sven Jurshevski rounded out the podium with a time of 8:09:55.  These are seriously fast times for such a hilly course!

Charlotte Vasarhelyi, who holds or has held a bunch of Canadian ultra records, can now add the Creemore 75K record to her list.  With a time of 8:51:53, Char mentioned that she was just out for a fun run, but still clocked a time that is difficult to match.  Larissa Chankseliani was the only other women to start the 75K distance and finished with an impressive time of 9:52:09.

18 runners started the 75K distance, which earns them my respect!  Incredibly, 17 made it to the finish line intact and upright.  Maybe the 75K is not as hard as I thought.  Perhaps I should run it tomorrow...  Right!

In the 50K race, Calem Neff from Texas put on a show for us mere mortals.  His 25K split was completed in 1:37, 4 minutes UNDER the 25K record!  I recall mentioning to Gerry Arbour (a volunteer) "that isn't possible".  Calem is an elite athlete and I can only assume that he really likes maple syrup and Lee Anne's pottery!  Calem had the old 50K record of 4:01.  I have wondered and worried for 8 years, if anyone would ever run the Creemore 50K in under 4 hours.  Perhaps Calem has some unfinished business in Creemore, because he came back and crushed the 50K record, with a time of 3:25:52, taking 36 minutes off his old record!  That's over 14 KPH on a course with 1.75K of vertical gain.  Wow!  Robert Hamilton posted a 4:15:55 and Alan Ross was right behind him with a time of 4:16:31, both impressive times and likely in the top 10 fastest for the 50K.

Pascale Berthioume came close to the woman's record, with a posting of 4:47:06.  Beth Stephens grabbed second place with a time of 5:09:53 and Carolyn Caskie stepped onto the podium with a time of 5:23:37.

As a note, Calem left me with a conundrum that I have never experienced before...  His 25K split is the fastest anyone has ever run 25K at Creemore.  Does he get the 25K record as well as the 50K record?  My reasoning is that the 25K record is intended as the fastest time in the 25K race.  Calem has the fastest lap time, but would have to run the 25K race in order to set a new 25K record.  Hopefully no one realises that my real intent is to get Calem back to Creemore to run the 25K sometime soon!

The 25K also held quite the surprise.  I can't quite believe that the CVC has an international reputation, although (surprise!) the UK edition of Runners World listed the CVC as a top 50 international race destination.  I have no idea where that came from!  Nevertheless, Kanchhi Maya Koju, an elite runner from Nepal, ran the Creemore 25K.  I believe that Kanchhi is visiting Canada as her home town of Kathmandu and the surrounding area has been severely affected by the recent earth quakes.  This was Kanchhi's second trail race and she cut 9 minutes off the record, with a finishing time of 2:00:52.  Kanchhi holds a few middle distance records for Nepal, so I can only imagine what the future holds for her trail running!

Meghan Duffy also broke the old record, recording an astounding time of 2:03:35.  I spoke with Meghan, who appeared to be surprised that such a great performance landed her in second place.  I explained that Kanchhi ran in the 2004 Olympics,  Yes, Meghan picked the wrong year to attack the Creemore course!  Kelly Repoli was third in 2:10:24, a few seconds off the old record.

For the 25K men, it was Neil McCallum in first with a time of 1:52:21 followed by Craig Plunkart in 1:57:29 and David Hutchinson in 2:00 :34.  Fast times at Creemore high!

Both Lee Anne and I were impressed by how many runners approached us and thanked us and the volunteers for such a great race.  I would like to stress that the runners mostly interact with the volunteers, who are the ones who deserve the accolades.  Yes, Lee Anne and I put in some crazy hours preparing for the race, but the volunteers are on the front line and directly help the runners.

Improvements for next year?  Many.  I received an email suggesting that I should include real-time updates during the race.  Good idea!  I will endeavour to provide something for those who would like to participate from afar.  Signage seemed to be better this year.  There were no reports of runners going off course.  Although some of the runners can probably run the course in their sleep by now...

Above, I mention how important volunteers are to the race.  As an example, Saj and Agnes Moktan and Adi Shnall volunteered their sons and friends to help with the aid stations.  I like to think that these teenagers benefit from the experience of assisting the runners, and obtain first hand information on trail and ultra races that might help them in the future, should they attempt such a difficult race.  The help of all volunteers is appreciated by Lee Anne and I, as well as the runners.

I would also like to thank the land owners.  A running joke at Creemore (get it?) is that if you don't like the terrain, wait 5 minutes.  The CVC is not just one trail or road.  It is a combination of different surfaces that range from smooth flat gravel roads to steep downhill scrabbles.  The varying trails are mostly on private property.  These land owners have no need for 250 runners on their property, but every year they generously give permission, so that the race can continue.  Many help with trail preparation, provide a hose, or even an ATV, should a runner encounter distress.  A big thanks to Paul Carruthers, Stewart Lombard, Jeanette Poste, Rene Petitjean, Ron Flack, Ken Day, Cliff Weston and Audrey Tidd, for the use of their trails.

Well, the ninth annual Creemore Vertical Challenge is in the books.  213 people signed up and 196 tested their training and skill against a tough, challenging course.  There were few DNF's, likely due to the ideal running weather.  Wasps aside, perhaps changing the date to early August will be deemed a strategic move.  I have noted that stupid hot weather in Creemore is more likely in July than August.  Perhaps there were so many wasp incidents because of the drought?  Many thanks to all who participated in the 2015 Creemore Vertical Challenge.

Dig Deep!