Cabot Trail Relay 2010 race report

The long overdue race report from my weekend in Cape Breton is now, well... due.

I notice that the last entry was about the Bluenose weekend, which makes me remember that last year I did the half marathon and then took my chances in Cape Breton with a long run the following weekend, which, clearly was a silly thing to do, risking injury and all that. So this year I had planned only the 10k at the Bluenose and a slightly harder leg at the Cabot Trail Relay Race (last year's report is here).

I picked up the three guys I would be travelling with - one was a good friend, Ian, and the other two were people I'd not yet met but who turned out to be great runners and travel companions (Craig and Kevin). On the way up, we listened to the "new" Cabot Trail CD containing each runner's song contribution, as well as last year's mix. Both were excellent, of course. And if you care to ask, my pick was Smoke and Wine by Hank Williams III (click here for the video -- not really safe for small ears). Our team name was Everything is Coming Up Orange, presumably related to the orange-in-colour nature of the online running forum which brought together many of these runners. Last year's team name was the Fundulators. Frankly, I think that's a slightly less "tough" name, not that it matters. We had a lot of the same names on the roster this year, as the Fundulators did not get in due to the lottery at registration time.

We arrived in Baddeck, Cape Breton on Friday evening for the team meeting and to have a beer or two (I think I only had one), have supper, and then head to the ceilidh in town.  We stayed at the Hunter Mountain Chalets, which were well appointed, though not very close to town. The dinner was served at the fire hall, and consisted of a plate of spaghetti and meat (or non-meat, if you choose) sauce about the size of one's head, a roll, and some salad. I polished off my plate, knowing that I would probably need the extra energy for the morning's 0830 run.

We hit the ceilidh for a little while, and knowing I had an early morning,I bailed out early and headed back to the chalet for a good night's sleep. Three of us (Ian, Kevin and myself) climbed into the car and headed into town to pick up our boxed lunches. Kevin had Leg 1 and was welcomed by bagpipes, something I didn't get to hear last year but really got the day started right. We supported him with blaring music (Alabama 3- Power in the Blood) and then headed to the start line for my leg. While walking to the start line for warm-up, I hooked up with Bill from Herd of Cats, who introduced me to Sarah, who would be running Leg 2 with me. I don't often have anyone to talk to during runs, so maybe this would work out.

The weather was sunny and cool, but the day's heat was starting to be felt, and I had a hard time figuring out if I would run with the long sleeved technical shirt and a sleeveless over top, or just lose the sleeveless. In the end, I opted for just the sleeveless, and I'm glad I did.

Uphill starts are less than motivating, if you ask me, and though I was expecting this one, I still wasn't happy about it. I think I got away reasonably quickly, not playing my usual leap-frog catch-up game that I seem to have perfected in previous runs. I really had no idea where I was in the pack, but I watched the leader (who ran shirtless and with no hydration, if that gives you any indication of how long he was planning to be on the course) disappear into the distance, and kept pace with a shortish girl in front of me. I don't run with a garmin, so I really don't know what my usual race pace is. Usually I can sustain a 5:00/km  pace pretty well, and I can duck under the 5:00 pace if I have someone to run with to keep me focussed (that is to say, to keep talking with me!).  Eventually I passed her on a downhill and sidled up behind a guy in a Toronto Triathlon Shirt for a few kilometres, listening to his race watch beep now and then, and trying to figure out if it was beeping for his pace, his time, or his distance. I still have no idea, but I enjoyed having something to think about while I was tailing him.

Kevin supported me, again with blaring music and supportive shouts, while Ian headed to the start line of the next leg to pick up Karen's car and take it to the end of her leg / the beginning of his (Leg 4 - Cape Smokey). With Kevin's support also came some support for Horst, my Toronto Tri guy, in the form of "he's gonna catch you!" taunts from his team, and eventually a little smack talk about my "drafting" behind him. Frankly, there was no wind, so I wasn't drafting as much as borrowing his pace a little. Finally I acquiesced and passed Horst, introducing myself as I offered to "pull" for a ways. I think I probably lost him on the first hill, but in my defense, I confessed that I didn't know what pace he was keeping but I didn't mind running in front for a while.

I kept watching the Timex, trying to figure out how much further the race would be, but not knowing your pace makes it difficult to figure out how far you've gone. With nobody to talk to and no idea how much more race was left, it was hard to gauge whether I should try to attack the guy ahead of me. But I'm kind of dumb, so I did. I caught him on a hill that was probably in the final 3km or so as he stopped for some water (I was carrying water, gatorade, and gel, so I didn't have to stop at all) and maintained my position until the end of the race. 

Seeing the "1km to go" sign was amazing. I hit my lap counter to see what my final 1km split would be and picked up the pace for a while. At one point in that last km, I looked down to see how much longer I would have to run, assuming I was running a 5:00/km or less -- and was shocked to see what I interpreted as 1:24 on the watch. At that point, my heart fell, as I was sure I was closer to the finish than only a minute and a half into my last kilometre, but I pushed on. Evidently I can't read my watch, as it was telling me I'd been running for an hour and 24 minutes, and that wasn't part of my final split time. My final split was definitely under 5:00, though I don't recall what it was now.

Distance: 17.92km
Time: 1:26:10
Pace: 4:49
Placing: 18 / 69

Last year, as it turned out, I think I had the best placing of my team, though not the best pace that year. This year, my placement record would hold for only a few legs, and then I would take a backseat to a few speedy runners. I grumped in jest for a while, but of course congratulated them on some fantastic paces and placing. I guess the competition is actually part of it, or I wouldn't even bother to mention placement.

Oh, and I never did see Sarah from Herd of Cats on the course. From the results, it looks like she was a couple of minutes behind me, still beating a 5:00/km pace. Horst would come in a minute and a half behind me. I found him and congratulated him on a good run and for being a good pace bunny. Hopefully he didn't have any hard feelings about the alleged "drafting".

To wrap up the following 25 hours or so in a paragraph: we helped support Ian on his conquering of Cape Smokey (24th place at a 4:41/km pace!!), and a few other friends in the following legs (Karen, Jeffrey, and the very-speedy-yet-totally-untrained Colin), before heading through the rest of the trail and meeting up with those same people in Cheticamp for a great fish and chips dinner, and then a twisty and dark drive back to Baddeck, before getting up and cheering on the final three runners of the event.

In the end, the team finished 48th, with a total time of 25hrs, 9 minutes, 56 seconds, and an average time of 1:28:50 per leg.  We were extremely happy with our placement, and I think most runners were happy with their performance and the weekend in general.

Next year, I have the uncomfortable task of choosing between running with this team and my previous team. I suppose that will only be a problem if they both get in again, but I know the Fundulators will be granted a spot in 2011, likely because they didn't make it in for 2010.  Both were very fun teams (probably because of so many team members shared between the two!), so I have no idea how I'll choose.

Posted bythemikestand at 1:27 PM  

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