Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Top 7 at Sinister 7???

It's safe to say that this year's Sinister 7 has the fastest, most accomplished field in its history. That being said, it's time to get our ultra geek hats on and start geeking out. Let's make some predictions shall we?

I've compiled a list of what I believe are the top runners on July 5th soloing the 100M journey over 5687m of trail goodness called Sinister 7. Now keep in mind, there is always some young unknown that shows up on race day and knocks it out of the park. Sometimes racers fly under the radar and one big race will announce their presence. Off hand I can think of a few in that position that are running this year. But this list is made up of the seven men and women that, in my opinion, I think it's safe to say will have big days barring in mind injury, epic fails or running off course. You'll notice as well that I'm not placing these runners in order from one to seven. That takes all the fun out of it…that's for you to do. Another reason I'm not predicting the placing order is I'm putting myself in the list. I hope you don't think this is an arrogant move on my part but I do believe I have a place in the top seven. So, here it is, ladies first:

Michelle Barton
Michelle Barton (Laguna Niguel, CA): A quick click on ultrasignup and you'll see that Michelle runs fast, races a lot and obviously recovers well from race to race. Specializing in 50K/50M races (and winning most of them) Michelle has a knack for carrying speed over tricky terrain. After last year's win at the Javelina Jundred100K in 9:50 she is an obvious force to be reckoned with at Sinister7.

Dennene Huntley
Dennene Huntley (Edmonton, AB): A strong downhill runner with great speed on roll sections, Dennene has the strength and definitely the attitude of a seasoned ultra marathoner. A three time podium finisher at the Canadian Death Race, momma told me never bet against a 9:04 100Ker.

Tracy Garneau
Tracy Garneau (Jasper, AB): A legend in our sport Tracy won Western States in 2010 with a time of 19:01. She returned the next year and ran 39 minutes faster but found herself in 4th place. She has won the HURT100M 3 times and has won the TNF50K proving not only does she have crazy endurance, she also has incredible speed.

Deb Russell (Calgary, AB): For the past few years I followed (aka stalked) Deb on Strava and I have to tell you, this girl is the real deal! She climbs like a beast, descends like a gazelle. Deb had some bad luck at last years S7 with a fall and eventual DNF. Placing 2nd at Sun Mountain50M earlier this year, Deb looks raring to go.
Deb Russell

Naomi Humenny (Kimberley, BC): Naomi is consistently placing in the top 10. She DNF'd at S7 in 2012 enroute to winning the Fatdog70M so she may have been using the S7 as training. Having a strong race at the mountainous Fatdog sets her up for a great finish at S7.

Abi Moore (Fernie, BC): The hometown fave and reigning 2012 and 2013 S7 champ, Abi has stood on the podium at every ultra she has competed at. Some say that Abi has just got started. The sky is the limit for this gritty runner.

Joanne Schmidt (Calgary, AB): Already claiming a victory at Blackfoot50M in May Joanne is looking in fine form. Finishing in 5th at S7 in 2012 Joanne knows this course well and will look to improve this year.

And now for the boys:

Oleg Tabelev
Oleg Tabelev (Calgary, AB): With a 2nd in 2010, 3rd in 2011 and a 1st in 2012 Oleg has shown time and time again his dominance on the S7 course. Starting the 2014 season with wins at both the Frozen ass50K and Elk Beaver100K Oleg is a stone cold killer who'll always make you check your rear view mirror.

Hal Koerner
Hal Koerner (Ashland, OR): OMG!!! When checking ultrasignup I found this 'little' resume: 1st 2006 Angeles Crest 100M, 1st 2007 Western States 100M, 1st 2008 Angeles Crest 100M, 1st 2009 Western States 100M, 1st 2010 Lake Sonoma 50M, 1st 2011 Javelina Jundred 100M, 1st 2011 Rocky Raccoon 100M, 1st 2011 Hardrock 100M, 1st 2013 Javelina Jundred 100M. Shut the front door! While your at it go to the back door and shut that too!

Vincent Bouchard
Vincent Bouchard (Edmonton, AB): Finishing 3rd at last year's S7 and winning the Blackfoot100K that same year Vincent (in my opinion) is sooo close to breaking out from his cage. Look for a strong leg 6 from this up and comer.

Joe Huising
Carl Pryce (Calgary, AB): The list of podium finishes is too long for these skinny, old fingers to type. Mostly sticking to Alberta ultras Carl has been a dominant force in the Alberta Ultra Series since 2007. If you notice an animal rip past you up a steep hill its most likely a Carloileus Prycianus.

Joe Huising (Edmonton, AB): This bad mamma jamma gets better year after year. With a 2nd place finish at S7 in 2012, a 1st place finish at the Lost Soul100M in 2012 and a 3rd place finish at the Canadian Death Race last year it's obvious Joe is amongst the leaders in every race.

Carl Pryce
Dave Proctor
Dave Proctor (Black Diamond, AB): It's kinda weird writing about yourself. I've been on a roll since 2012 winning 5 out of 6 ultras I've completed including 2012 Blackfoot100K, 2013 ElkBeaver100K, 2013 Lost Soul100M and just recently the 2014 Blackfoot100K. I feel a steady improvement and look forward to testing myself at S7.

Philippe Lagace (Calgary, AB): Okay, here's my wild card for this year. As an unknown racing his first ultra Philippe ran a 8:51 and finished 2nd at the Blackfoot100K this past May. After the race I asked him if he was running S7 which he replied "Yes, but it'll be my first 100M." To which I say, yeah, but this was your first 100K and you kinda whipped this race like a rented mule.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

First attempt at being a pace bunny

     Earlier this year I registered for the Calgary Marathon 50K to run with the MitoCanada team. After registering and taking a better look at my race schedule I realized this race was only one week following the Blackfoot100K, an "A" race and this year's National 100K Championships. Fearing I would show up at the Calgary Marathon 50K and race the damn thing, I emailed the organizing committee and begged them to take me on as a pace bunny. The finishing time I was given to pace was 4:30, a 5:24 min/km pace which isn't a normal pace for me but isn't painfully slow either. Approaching race day I knew of a few runners that would be joining me, one of which was Dennene Huntley who has run an average pace of 5:24 min/km over 100K so I knew we'd be surrounded by good energy and fresh legs.

     I arrived on the start line 15 minutes before start time. Immediately runners started surrounding me, some friends (Frank, Mark, and Greg) and some pleasant strangers all about to embark on a 50K journey through Calgary's finest neighbourhoods. Surprisingly, my friend and running icon Ryan Twa approached me and announced he would run with me that day. Ryan is a sub 2:40 marathoner and a recent victim of a hard fall off his road bike. Road rash everywhere and a possible cracked rib he couldn't see himself racing, so instead he took it easy with me for the day. 

     While most of these runners were about to take on the new and scary experience of running an ultra marathon, what was new for me was being a pace bunny and ultimately being responsible for maintaining said pace for 50K. That being said, the energy and the positivity shot us out from the Stampede grounds, through the Calgary Zoo and eventually towards the city's SW. Now, I'm biased but hot damn we had an awesome group! The next 25K were spent laughing, high fiveing children and carrying on a steady even split pace. At times I'd look back and see 25-30 runners latching on to the energy and spirit of the group and boy, in a sport where pain and focus reign supreme, positive energy is the nectar of the gods. 

     As we ran north on 14th Street the runners in my group grew quiet. This was the typical timeline within a race the "suck" bleeds in, so even more so I tried to be more positive and encouraging. We circled onto Memorial Drive which I later called the 'Pain Cave'. The heat  seemed to absorb into the asphalt and one by one the runners slowed their pace. It seemed like every time I looked back the group was thinning out. During the beginning of our first out and back on Memorial I relished in the glory of being passed by all the faster 50K runners, all of which I'm quite good friends with. Even Oleg Tabelev stopped to give me a back massage, shouldn't that be the other way around? As the crowd of now struggling runners grew quiet I got louder. But I wasn't alone, both Ryan and Dennene played the part of cheerleaders the rest of the way. The last 5K of the race was a very interesting experience for me. Besides the cheering from supporters on the sidelines it was as quiet as a morgue and it seemed like there was a sniper hiding not far, occasionally shooting out someone's hamstrings or lower legs with a cramping bullet. I would get passed by one then I would pass twenty. I felt horrible as I passed because they'd look up and see a fresh pace bunny bound passed them, look up and see the 4:30 time on my sign, most likely the time they wanted to beat. I'm proud to say when my GPS clicked 50.0K my time was 4:30:06, SNAP! I crossed the finish line in 4:31:?? and spent the next while hugging and high fiving the runners I tried helping that day.

To any runner that hasn't been a pace bunny before, do it! I thought it would be a rewarding experience but it's fair to say this was definitely the most fun I've ever had at any running event. The final 10K was spent with a smile plastered on my face. I got a solid 50K supported training run in, made new friends, spent time with old ones and I'd like to think I helped others in achieving their goals.

Oh yeah, you maybe asking yourself after seeing me in all these photos carrying the sign. Aren't you supposed to only run with the sign the first few km and discard it at an aid station? To that I ask you, "What else would I ride like a horse through the finish line at the 2014 Calgary50K?!?!?"