Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Grizzly Ultra 50Km

So how do you define success? For athletes it’s often simply a comparison game. "Did I beat so & so?.. what place did I get? How many came in behind/front of me?" I feel this is setting ones self up for defeat. In 2 day’s ago Grizzly Ultra 50km at Canmore Nordic Centre I came in 28th out of 400. To some it sounds good, but that’s a lot of people in front of me.

I’ve said before that you simply take what the day gives you. I’ll add to that though, after the day gives what it may, what you do with it, giving back determines whether or not the effort was a successful one.

5 weeks ago I had a similar race, Mt Robson Marathon. Weaker field, yet it’s own unique challenges. From that race I was hoping to go upward still in my fitness. The next weekend I had a pretty good ½ marathon trail race at the Nordic Centre, then the following weekend I tweaked a muscle in my groin/hop flexor area while on a spectacular 4 hour mountain run. That run was the apex of my running season. My fitness was at its zenith as also was my experience in my newly found summer training passion-mountain running. But with that tweaked muscle came a little more rest, a little more prudence, and generally reined in enthusiasm.

Part of the joy of mountain running is an uncluttered joy of exploring. A freedom to hike when the going gets tough and to fly when the downhill beckons. With the injury and my hoped for full recovery for a maximum effort in the Grizz 50km there was less joy and maybe even a little anxiety.

In the race the first half went off great. I learned from previous experience to reign in early enthusiasm and pace myself for the long day. Yet on the final descent into the stadium on loop 2 (of 5), the ½ point, I could start to feel that muscle go. From then on I had to really step gingerly down the descents. Then my other muscles started going as I compensated. I didn’t have major cramping issues as in the Robson race, but they really started hurting.

I held on though, even passing a few people. But the highlight came for me when my 14 year old daughter, who was anchoring her relay team, caught me on the final leg with only a couple km’s to go. She blew by me on a short steep uphill I was walking up, but then I resolved to finish with her, so dug down deep and reeled her back in on the flats. The comeback was short lived though as we then began the final descent into the stadium. That pesky groin injury was just too much even with me applying pressure to it with my hand as I ran. She gapped me be quite a bit feeling pretty smug. I had a lot of joy though seeing her fly so fast!

So was my day a success? I’d say yes. I know I can go faster, but under different circumstances. I raced that day as fast as I could. I maybe should have dropped at the ½ point to eliminate risk of further injury, but I don’t think I made things any worse. Ironically, I won my age group. At Robson I was 10th male, but only 4th in age group. In the Grizz the closest in my age group was 40 minutes behind. So certainly you can’t judge success by place. You just never know who’s going to show up. I have no control over that, but I do have control over whether or not all of me shows up on race day. I think I did in this case....bad groin and all. So yes, I took what the day gave me, gave back all I had and walked (actually hobbled) away feeling successful.

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