Racing mindset is something that I have been trying to work on recently. Just gathering information from awesome running friends I have met over the last few years, learning what they do and focusing on working on my mental strength. I have said in previous posts that I don’t race often and I signed up for this race last minute, 2 nights before race day actually. I had a few friends running and was having a serious case of “fear of missing out” so decided to join in on the fun. I chose the 18km option which had a challenging 1000m elevation gain thrown in. This race, Survival of the Fittest, is part of the Coast Mountain Trail Series and if you know anything about this race series, you will know that they put you to the test!
Everything for me is training for the Squamish 50 mile that I will be racing in August. I view everything like part of a training run and try to train my body to run tired most of the time. My reasoning behind this is that I want to prepare for the worst out there. I know that the worst I will feel training is probably the best I may feel at a low point during race day, so I need to be able to push through those moments. The day before Survival of the Fittest, I got up at 5am, ran to the First Peak of the The Chief, and then did a set of small hill repeats on my lunch break at work.I was going to do the Sea to Summit trail that evening with Leigh, but he convinced me to taper that evening…hahaha tapering the night before a race!
My fellow crazy running buddy, Adam, stayed over at our place, since he was also running the 18km race.. It was nice to have a partner in crime to bounce pre-race jitter energy off of. I woke up feeling tried, pretty much as usual and on schedule, but after a coffee and oatmeal was feeling more race ready.
I didn’t do a huge amount of research into the course, as I live in Squamish and know most of the trails in the area. The only thing I did check was the elevation profile which was 1000m over the 18km course. This seemed like it would be a challenge but definitely doable.
When they made the call to get to the starting line, Gary (the race director) said everyone wanting to run fast and finish first needed to get up to the front. Now usually I place myself mid-pack, but this time I got up front, no mid-pack mentality today. I knew if I wanted to race I needed to see the fastest people ahead of me. I needed someone to chase.
One of my running friends who also happened to be running that day was right up front as well. Shauna is a strong runner and I knew if I could keep close to her I would be near the front of the pack. 10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1 and we were off! I could see her pulling towards the front and tried to keep her in my sight. As soon as we entered the forest and started climbing up the switchbacks I lost sight of her. But I knew I had to keep pushing. I ran every single step of that climb. It was all climbing for the first portion of the race. I was feeling good about pushing, even though there was a few times I wanted to walk up the hill, I told myself “this is a race, it’s only 2 hours, keep pushing”. And to be perfectly honest I was thinking about Leigh, who always encourages me to push hard; he always says I have more in me than I think I do. Plus there is always the added bonus of some beautiful downhill at the top of a big climb. And I was told that 2 of my friends would be waiting at the top of the climb as course marshalls…so I just kept running knowing that once I seen the smiling faces of Erin and Gemma that I would be at the top of the hill!
Adam and I were neck in neck for most of the uphill. I managed to get past him and then ended up behind a female racer and stayed pace with her for a bit. I knew I needed to pass her. So I found an extra gear and pulled away on the uphill. I could see her behind me for most of the uphill section, but once I reached the top Erin cheered me on saying “you’re third female, go catch her” and by “her” she meant Shauna. This gave me a second wind! I ran past Erin, seen Gemma at the entrance to the downhill, received another encouraging “Go Spring” and launched down the hill. I have never moved so fast on technical downhill in my life. It’s also something that I have been working on the last few months, to be more confident and speedy on the descent. So with a combination of some excellent new Salomon shoes, the second wind and the pull of receiving my first top 3 finish in a trail race, I just went for it. I literally told myself “use your long stride, use your legs”.
The downhill was beautiful, seemingly endless and a well deserved respite from all the climbing. However it wouldn’t be a CMTS race if they didn’t throw in a few extra gruelling hills in at the end, which also happened to pass through open sparsely forested areas which was hot hot hot, as the day was bluebird and sunny. You definitely earn your finish in these races! So up and down I went for the remainder of the race. Seeing some more smiling, friendly faces along the course as Solana and Jay Klassen with Guiness, the cutest course marshall of the day, kept appearing at bends and bridges along the trail, cheering and taking photos. There was even a volunteer playing guitar for us! Gotta love the trail running community!
I kept glancing behind me to check if anyone was on my tail and no one was there. This is the first time I have been able to gain and hold a position like this in a race. Towards the last half II started to see runners from the 13km race, as they said there would be some crossover on the course. As I started to pass them I noticed some friends out there charging hard. Kenzie was running her first ever race and Ray was killing it on his 2nd race. Way to go guys!!
Coming up the last section to the finish line was uphill on sidewalk, ugghh, but you could hear the cheering and I pushed. Gary was at the top giving out high fives as you passed and only another 50 metre push and you were at the finishing arch. I sprinted to the finish and jumped through. I was done!
At that point I didn’t know where I stood in the race, a few friends came up and said I was still 3rd place female, but I just couldn’t believe them. I had to wait until the awards section of the race to see for sure. But I still had to wait for my friends to come across the finish line. I stood near the finish, camera in hand waiting for Adam to come through. He was only a few minutes behind me and came sprinting through the finish. Then I seen Ray flying through and then Kenzie with a look of disbelief on her face that she finished.
Adam and I grabbed some cookies, orange slices, vegetable soup and laid out on the grass in the sun with the rest of our friends and waited for the last runners to come through. There was even time to get a free post-race leg massage….ahhh yes, it’s a tough life. And then they made the announcement it was time for the awards. They went through the 13km mens and womens awards first and then it was time – 18km womens top 3 finishers….3rd place finisher with a time of 2:03:07 Spring McClurg! I couldn’t believe my ears. It felt great to know that my hard work in the race paid off. My friend Shauna came in with 2nd!! No surprise there as she is AWESOME!
Coming out of this I have learned that all of the early morning runs up the chief, the long sometimes tortuous runs on the weekend and running with stronger and faster friends (Chloe, Erin, Shauna, Adam and Hailey) has paid off. Leigh always tells me that he knows I am capable of running faster and harder and that I just need to believe it myself. A race like this helps me to see that I have the ability, I just need to keep training hard, be confident and never stop!