Monday, July 28, 2008

MOMAR Cowichan Valley Race Report

I got on the bike, spun out of the TA and once I hit the Trans Canada Trail, I just started hammering. My plan in this race was just to push the bike as hard as I could as I was feeling great after BC Bike Race and knew that I could put some serious time into other competitors. This was was my first time taking on the MOMAR solo and while a category win would be nice, my true goal was to get the overall win. I was well prepared and set out my calorie intake so that I would be a little over the minimum but not much. If I needed more, I would simply have to suffer to the line. After less than five minutes on the bike, my preparation went out the window. I went for some fluid in my hydra-pac and then... nothing. Ziltch. Nada. My pack, previously filled with 1200 precious calories of Carbo-Pro, that I was relying heavily on to get me through this race, were gone. I tried a second time and again was given instant resistance to let me know that I was simply compressing the bladder. Sabotage?! Bad luck?! Regardless, it was going to be a day of suffering. This was the Mind Over Mountain Adventure Race in Cowichan Valley.

After being deserted by my good teammate Gary Robbins ;), I was taking on my first MOMAR as a solo racer which was exiting but also made me pretty nervous. Usually, Gary is the stressed out one and I think it just makes me more relaxed. Without Gary to get nervous for me though, I found myself with more pressure to perform and this was enhanced by the fact that I would be paddling a single sea kayak that would be not nearly as quick as a surfski let alone a double kayak. With Squamish winners Justin and Jeff of Team Helly Hansen Vancouver Island arriving at the race with a K2, I knew that I would have to make up the time on the bike and nav. Knowing how strong they both are on the bike, I figured that this race would really come down to the last navigation stage into the finish.

I made a very bad mistake right at the start of the race. I pulled out in my kayak and simply just found a spot and stayed there. My plan had originally been to line up with Justin and Jeff and get in their draft right at the gun. For those of you who don't know, drafting behind a faster kayak is key to moving faster on the water. Most double kayaks out there will be faster than a single. So, if you're in a single like I was, you want to surf the wave of the kayak in front of you.

Once the race started, I went hard off the line and tried to see who the fast boats were and where they were in relation to me. I immediately saw Justin and Jeff who were paddling a K2 and whom I knew would be fast (unless they capsized of course!). Another boat was a double surfski paddled by Lina Augatis and Marshall House. Unfortunately for me, I had no chance of hooking onto their draft once they got going which meant that I spent the first kilometer of the course paddling hard in no-man's land. In hindsight, both these teams were going so fast that I probably wouldn't have been able to hang on anyway. Lina and Marshall were just hauling in their boat and were easily the fastest boat and first team off the water. Nice work!

I ended up hooking on with Aimee Dunn and Ina Irvin who were paddling a sweat kelvar Necky double. Soon, we ended up with a big draft line with Doug Doyle, Jen Segger and Shawn X, and John Barron and Geoff Huenemann. We soon engulfed Roger MacLeod at the buoy turn around on Lake Shawnigan and headed back to the start line which was now the transition area to the bikes. Norm Thibault was hanging on to the pack as well but with a few kms to go, decided to push the pace and try to make up some time on the pack. I was going a little slower than I could have gone but was happy to save the energy in the draft and would have made no ground trying to outpace the group. Thanks again to Aimee and Ina! I still owe you both a beer!

We all hit the TA and I quickly unloaded my kayak gear, grabbed the first control punch, and got on the bike before the rest of the group could go.

On the kayak I used a small hydro-pac and left my race pack with my shoes in it at the bike. It was here that my pack must have been sitting on my bite valve that I lost all my fluids. (that or Justin and Jeff had some pre race plans that I was unaware of ;) ). Luckily for me, I took down as much fluids as I could in the boat and also made a pre-race decision to take a third bottle on the bike with me. Had we been in for a hot day, I would have been hooped. I was very lucky that the temp was cool which allowed me to get through the rest of the race with under 2 litres of fluid and about 1200 calories.

On the bike, I caught several teams right away and just had Norm and J&J to contend with. After the climb up to CP4, I found J&J coming out of an unmarked trail with disappointment written across their faces. I knew that something must have happened since they are both extremely strong riders and there was no way that I could have made up the 8 minutes they put in me on the kayak so soon in the bike section. They needed a bike pump as they had already incurred two flats and had used all of their CO2. I found out after I left them that they needed yet another tube and this put them back far enough that they knew they were out of contention and had to just go with it and try to finish.

From here, it was down the classic trail, into some more singletrack, a short climb and then down into the Can-am trail. I had some really good flow going although the trails were super dry and easy to wash out on if you weren't careful. I made a mistake coming into the next CP as I thought I may have overshot it, doubled back and then realized that I was ok and kept going. This cost me a few minutes and when I saw that the control was right on the side of the trail I was happy but confused. How was that a tricky one B? :)

From here I took the lower river trail which was more direct but tougher going than going up and around. The trail was pretty gnarly in sections but overall was quite rideable.

I hit up the river run just behind Norm and it was here that I was again reminded of how much I hate my Salomon XA Pros. These things were absolutely terrible in the wet. I keep using them in these races due to the quick laces but had I had my Montrails with me, I would have saved time just by being much faster and more confident on the rocks.

The water in the river section was so warm. I could have stopped then and there for a nice swim. This was a nice and exciting break from the bike. Thanks Sandquist!

We were then onto the last bike section with a good climb out of the river and onto some more singletrack. This is when Norm double backed on the trail I was on and I found out that the course ribben had been sabotaged just ahead and that he had just blown his "huge lead"... of 42 seconds. I should note here that Norm was joking at the silly map holder on my bike prior to the race and now was starting to fumble with his zip lock bagged map to figure things out. I looked at my map for an instant, saw where I was and needed to go, and led the way out.

Just then, my adjustable seatpost decided that it had enough and the engagement mechanism broke off the seatpost. This left me with a seat that, when sat on, would lower 4 inches. While I could easily fix this during a longer race without issue, we were almost done the bike section so I stayed standing to the quarry and O section. Norm showed me how it's done with his fast front crawl and then hit up the O section just in front of me. This of course, was fine with me as I wanted to distance myself as much as I could so that I could do my own thing.

Unfortunately, Norm took the line to the first control that I wanted to go and I took a much less advantageous route. I fumbled, went back out to the trail, and had to come back in to grab it. I saw Norm again looking for CP J and I was pretty confused at that point as well of where I was. After over four hours of racing hard, the mind tends to crumble.

I had a pretty bad start to the O section with a big fumble on CP A, and then I didn't hit CP J very clean (although once I figured out the large yellow open section, I came into it without a hitch). I also had problems coming into control CP P as I came into a parallel re-entrant that wasn't mapped and this forced me to again bail out to the trail and attack from another known location. This is what you have to do if things are not working out for you. If you're 'positive' you're in the right place but the control isn't there, you have to move in a direction toward something that will catch you. This could be a large clearing, hill, or a major trail. Once you confirm where you are on the map, you'll probably find that you were in fact NOT in the right spot before. Re-orienting yourself takes time but not nearly as much as wondering around in circles.

With several mistakes, I really wasn't sure how things would pan out for me at the finish. I didn't think about it, and just tried to stay as focused as much as possible on the last few controls. Getting the last control I could hear the music and Norona on the mic down below. I ran down the hill, came out into the open and that's when I heard those sweat words I wanted to hear.

"Here comes our first runner...".

I was ecstatic!!! A couple fist pumps and hard run around the fence put me at the line in 1st overall after 4 hours and 26 minutes of racing! I gave Jenine a big hug and was so happy to not only finish first, but just to be done!

It was so great to see fellow PIH runners' Shane Ruljancich and Garth Campbell take 2nd overall and good friend Roger MacLeod having his best finish yet with 3rd overall. Nice work also to John Downey who came out for his first ever MOMAR and finished as the 4th male solo and 8th overall!

Post race was filled with fish and clips with Doug Doyle and Garth at the local Shawnigan pub, a good lake bath, and then some great food at Merridale Cidery (this was a great venue for the after-party and definitely a must for next year!).

It was great to catch up with all of the fellow racers and just to chill in the open air and down some race rocks beer and Merridale cider and give a cheers to completing another MOMAR. It was a great way to top off a great day and the 25th MOMAR to date!

Thanks very much to all my sponsors who have helped me through the year so far:
Helly Hansen
Princeton Tec

I'm now taking some good forced downtime in Penticton and up in the high Arctic for work followed by a week of backpacking in Strathcona with Kim. Should be a great month and I'll be jacked up as ever to get things going again in late August.


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