Finally after a winter that seemed to never end the start of the Ontario Ultra season was just around the corner and six months of road training had left me twitching like an addict to get back onto the trails. For two weeks I ran on the snowless trails of High Park and the Sulphur Springs course getting the legs ready for the first race of the OUSER, Pick Your Poison.
On Saturday April 26th I headed up north of Barrie with Chris H. for the 9 AM race start. Kim was nursing an IT Band injury from Around the Bay so decided to be smart and rest it. Chris was running 25k while I was in for 50k of hilly goodness.
We arrived at Horse Shoe Valley Ski Resort nice and early only to be met with an unexpected treat. There was a tonne of snow still on the course and I mean a tonne. It was a little startling given the clear trails at Sulphur but apparently Northern Ontario gets more snow than we do. I guess I knew that but given this is the 5th time I have run this race and every other time out there was little to no snow it was surprising.
Snow on the courseWe grabbed our race kits, which contained a nice race shirt and a bottle of fresh honey, chatted with other runners and then headed to the start line. There were some last minute race instructions from the RD and a quick up date on course conditions, something about snow on the course, and then we were off.
PYP is a 12.5k loop course which has a little bit of everything. There is some wide groomed trail, a good deal of technical single track, some jeep / logging road, open field running and even a small bit of pavement. Oh I almost forgot there is also the hills, lots and lots of hills, with each loop coming in at around 2000 ft. of climb and 2000ft of decent. You got to love that.
Loop 1 0 - 12.5k
I came in planning to run semi hard my first loop, take it easy for the next 2 and then pick it up in the last one. With my goal race being Mohican in June I really just needed to get some decent miles in on the trails. Chris and I ran together for most of the first loop but it became clear pretty early that a hard first loop was not the way to go. The course was slow due to the snow and my ACL less knee does not do well running in the snow. After a few km I fell into a decent but moderate pace and ended up just using the first loop to get a feel for the course.
Loop 2 12.5 - 25k
I stay at the start/finish aid station for a minute or 2 waiting for Chris to show up but I don't see him so I just take off. It's a bit of asphalt and a quick turn onto jeep road which is clear and very runnable. Soon you it hit a little short section of technical running and then are out onto wide groomed trail. This is all snow covered and slow going. The jarring is already bugging my knee and my feet are wet but besides that things are going okay. I bump into a number of other runners that I know during the loop although most of them are doing the 25k and I end up running parts of this section with different people.
Eventually the snow gives way to some nice clear technical single and double track before reaching the mighty ski hill climb at around 5k. Its long, its tough and the snow make it even harder. I plod along eventually catching up to Andrew H. who was kind enough to pace me for a loop at Sulphur last year and who I keep running into at short road races (which is kind of weird). We cruise along together for the rest of the loop. I end up running 1:33 for loop 2.
Loop 3 25 - 37.5k
Just as I finished 25k Oliver F. arrived at the aid station at the same time. I met Oliver during my first 100 miler at Sulphur where he was also running his first. I can remember running together for a while debating whether we had come out too fast (I had of course). I had also seen him at Leadville last year where we both ended up DNFing.
As it turned out we were running around the same pace so we just ended sticking together. Oliver was running to get Ks in and not racing either so it made sense to cruise along with each other. We chatted about upcoming races and bitched (but only a little) about what had happened at Leadville. I told him I was going back in 2115 or 16 as for me that race has become my White Whale. He told me he would come crew and pace me if I wanted....SWEET.
How Leadville has become in my mind
By now my legs were getting tired, my knee was becoming very unfriendly, and I was in no mood for a snow cone. Ended up finishing the loop in 1:38
Loop 4 37.5 - 50k
The first part of the loop both Oliver and I seemed to get that "almost done" feeling and picked up the pace some. Honestly I think I was just wanted to finish quick and get to the hamburgers. Once again when we hit the big ski hill we could see people at the top so we ran a little faster with the plan to catch them in the next few kms. Once again we passed them just before Mount Evil. This time it was a bit different however. I knew one of the runners Kim V. and when we passed her it was clear she still had lots of energy left.
She ended up falling back some but was still in sight most of the time. That meant that my plan to putter along into the finish was out the window. Thanks for keeping us honest Kim we thought you were going to pass us for sure. Soon it was down the last big snow covered ski hill and into the finish where I picked up my finisher socks and made a bee line for the burgers. Loop time was 1:36.
Final time was 6:18 which was not the 5:50 I had planned for but not bad given the conditions. Once again RD Adam Hill put on a great race. I always have fun on this one. Special big thank you to Carlos Vicens. for sticking around and giving me a drive home.
Next up Seaton 50k on May10th