Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Pick Your Poison Race Report - 2018

I would like to break the PYP race report into 3 sections:

1.  Some history on the race.
2.  More detail than I normally provide on a shoe:  The new Arc'teryx Norvan LD trail shoes.
3.  Yup!  The report.

The 10th edition of the Pick Your Poison race is in the books.  This year, Adam and Heather Hill, and Dawn and Ron Hamel put together a great show during one of the coldest Springs on record.  Imagine trying to clear trail one week before race day, with a foot of snow on the course.  It is difficult to clear branches when you can't see them.  In some areas, Adam was having trouble finding the trail!  I was called in 2 days before race day to cut some trees that were blocking the trails.  Trees that had not been visible a week earlier.  Get the picture?  Probably not, unless you ran the race, then there is no need to explain further.  You might gain some insight into race day conditions if you compare the finishing times with other years.  In the woman's 50K, only winner Melanie Boultbee was under 6 hours.  Yes, it was a 50K, not a 50 miler...

Before Pick Your Poison, Daniel Boon staged the infamous Ganaraska Trail race, which was set in the same general area and shared part of the course as PYP.  Ganaraska was a 25K loop, so there was no 12.5K race, just the 25K and 50K.  In 2003 during the 25K race, I vividly recall being torn into tiny pieces by the course.  Near the finish line, I was running with another fellow and I commented on how glad I was that the race was over.  He smiled brightly and mentioned that he was in the 50K, congratulated me and stated "off for another loop - see you soon"!  It had not really occurred to me that there were people so twisted that they would attempt 50K on this brutal course.  I decided that I needed to research this in more detail, the following year.

PYP is set early in the year and is the first stop on the OUTRace series.  As such, it is a great eye opener and test of how things might transpire as the racing year unfolds.  In recent years, PYP has sold out.  This is a great benefit to the race director, as there are less financial surprises before race day.  Not so great for those of us who tend to sign up closer to the race, but in a way it helps assure continuation of the race.  Back in the old days, it was not always the case.  In the 2003 Ganaraska 50K, there were only 31 finishers.  It is difficult to stage a race for so few people.

Norvan LD Trail Shoe

I had the very good fortune of receiving a pair of Norvan shoes, made by the Arc'teryx sports apparel company.  Over the years I have used several brand name shoes and although I have some favourites, nothing on the market really jumps out at me.  This is likely due to my demographic and physical condition - perhaps some background is in order.  In an earlier blog, I wrote an article entitled Advice on Injuries.  It is intended as a bit of light humour for those struggling with an injury.  Unfortunately, most of the injuries stated, with the exception of the paragraph about running after death, have happened to me over the last 40+ years.

Having had surgery on both knees, weighing in at circa 180 pounds and reaching the alarmingly ancient age of 60 this year, I have difficulty finding a shoe that provides the correct combination of cushioning, support and traction.  For the youngsters under 50, 180 pounds is about 82 kilometers.  Trying a new shoe is typically no fun, as any drawback in the above 3 areas just reinforces the fact that for me, running is becoming problematic.

The Norvan's are a different story.  I was about 1 kilometer into my training run before I remembered that I had on a pair of shoes I had never worn before.  It was eerie that nothing was rubbing the wrong way, the shoe was neither too wide or too narrow and seemed to simply fit my foot perfectly.  The Norvans have a Vibram sole, which I have never tried in a shoe before.  At this point, I had not reviewed the product features, which incidentally, I don't fully understand.  However, I know how other shoes worked on my regular 7.5K training run and the Norvans took the mud, hills, ice, snow and cliffs in stride.  Sorry, I had to use that at least once!

Trying a new pair of shoes in a tough 25K race is usually not a wise choice, but after experiencing impressive traction, support and cushioning on two shorter training runs, I thought they could handle a 25K.  During the Pick Your Poison race, I tried a few things one should avoid.  Ahead on the single track was a slide pattern set down by an earlier runner who had obviously gone sideways due to the slick mud.  I deliberately placed my foot on the exact same spot, which usually results in the same slide, or a fall.  Perhaps it was the intelligent side of my brain screaming at me not to do these really stupid things, but I was able to keep my footing.

So, after the first week of running on the Arc'teryx Norvan LD's, the prognosis is very favourable.  I would recommend these shoes to any new or experienced trail runner.  I can see these shoes helping elite trail runners, although I can't help with such a review.  But if you are getting on in years, these shoes might be what it takes for your trail running to improve.

Pick Your Poison Race Report

If you have read the above, then you are aware the conditions at PYP were not favourable for setting a PB.  In my 2012 PYP RR, I mention that I set a PW for 25K at 3:02.  In 2018 at PYP, I again set a PW of 4:01.  I am slower than 6 years ago, but not by an hour!  Much of the extra time was due to the conditions.  I would guess that about 3K of the 12.5K course was under ice and snow.  Another 3K was under water (spongy grass that had been covered in snow a few days or hours before) or was slick mud.  It was fantastic!

After hiking for 3 weeks in Ecuador, that included very little running, we returned to Creemore where I contracted a cold that came and went for 6 weeks.  Did I mention it was maple syrup season?  The drawback of making maple syrup is that on some days, you had to get to the sugar shack and boil down, before it became too cold, too warm or before the sap spoiled.  None of this is conducive to proper training.  I went into PYP under trained for a 25K.  Add that to the conditions and there is little chance of staging a fast finish.  I knew that a 3 hour finish was not going to happen, but I was hoping for a finish of 3:30.  Talk to anyone who experienced PYP this year and they will tell you that there was little chance of maintaining race pace for long stretches.

Keeping an eye on the terrain was paramount for about 9K of the 12.5K course.  I took the first loop easy, as I fully expected to crash and burn closer to the end.  The first loop was uneventful, although painfully slow at 1:56.  I actually felt quite good during the first 3K of the second loop, which coincidentally, is the easiest part of the course.  A tree had fallen on my right ankle while cutting firewood for the evaporator.  I'm sure this happens to everyone.  It turned an ugly shade of purple and yellow, but did not hurt much, unless I brushed it with my left foot.  I also tore my right calf muscle on a training run two weeks back and it caused me significant discomfort for the first 5K.  I believe that favouring my right leg was a large reason why my left hip extensor starting cramping about 4K into the second loop.  Yet another reason for slowing down...

Although the energy reserves were hovering just slightly above zero, I managed to continue running slowly, walking all the uphills, until the finish.  My time of 4:01 is a new PW, but I'm happy with the results, given my lack of conditioning and the trail conditions.

Now would be a good time for me to start training in earnest, for the Niagara Ultra 50K on June 16.  We plan to run in the Kingston 6 hour race on June 2, as a tune-up run.  Hope to see you out there soon!