Even now, a day later .. this race almost a distant memory, i’m still snickering .. snickering to myself .. snickering at how some road runners have been “duped”, in a sense .. but snickering in the most non-malicious and only playful way because to run a race like this, you have to learn to “play”. Let your inner child out and not take it so seriously.
As Bob Reid, Race Director of the Gunner Shaw Victoria, puts it, “This is a character course and it’s challenging. It’s more like an experience than a race.”
And it is just that. With sections of the course earning nicknames such as:
- Little Gunner
- Big Gunner
- Big Bugger
- the infamous Swamp/Puddle
- Thetis Lake “Shoe Wash”
and a brand new section ..
a swamp on the course about four-feet deep with a log jump in the middle. “It’s not a gravel bottom either, it’s a mud-sucking puddle,” Reid said. “If your shoes aren’t tied tight enough, it’ll suck your shoe off.”
Ok, fair warning. Almost 20 LGRR’s made the trek from the Lower Mainland to tackle this beast – some old hats to this course, some cross country virgins, and some recovering from injury but going to show some numbers in support. I’m in the latter group .. recovering from injury. Only two months ago I found myself with a knee injury, leaving me crutch-bound for a month and 6 months of heavy training down the drain. But does that deter me from running in this course? Absolutely not.
As a self-proclaimed poor hill runner and not so stellar trail runner, I knew I was not going to break any records. What I do know about myself is that I’m realistic about my goals and am honest about my capabilities. Going into this race, I knew I had a hard time finishing 10k under 50 minutes on road so rather than racing, I set out to have fun. Of course, I have a competitive side that has a natural way of creeping in but I’m crazy, not stupid!
I ran Gunner Shaw Victoria 2 years ago and it was tough (putting it lightly) then .. but it was even harder now as the course was “modified” 2 years ago because of construction in the area. They’ve decided to move it back to the original course, which consequently was run in the opposite direction that I ran it originally. So what little I had remembered about the course had been tossed out the window.
Newton, the dear soul, came along for the ride – with the California International Marathon imminently approaching, he decided to “play” on the course with me. And that we did ..
The course starts on road for the first 3-4 minutes and then you start going into the trails. It’s wide at first, to thin out the crowd, and then slowly goes into a single track trail around Thetis Lake. I thought I had dressed appropriately .. only 2 shirts and my singlet. Wrong … just over a mile into it, I pulled off to the side of the trail and stripped myself of a layer .. Newton was still with me at this point but I told him to go forward. And off he went. A minute or so later, as I’m still struggling to strip down, Roger passes me. A little while later, I spot Newton, looking like an animal in the bush waiting to pounce on his prey. Luckily, he was just waiting for me. 🙂
And we continued .. sometimes he was in front, and sometimes I was .. at one point, whether from delirium and/or exhaustion, we were singing Christmas carols on course .. I couldn’t tell you if this was before or after the two swamp/bog/puddles we had to trudge through but somewhere in the mix, we ran through them all. Ok, we walked/ran – who are we kidding?! And aside from the two “puddles” we knew were on course, there were many, many more we deeked, dodged, and dipsy-doodled our way through. If we weren’t running up hill, we were running down hill .. flat sections were hard to come by but were met with relief across our brows.
About 4 miles in, Newton was pulling ahead and rather than keeping to my plan of just plodding along, I decided to open up my stride a bit and play. Uphills are not my forte but I can take downhills with almost no abandon and that I did .. passing runner, after runner, after runner until I was almost at Newton’s heels again. The only thing i could do was just laugh .. not because I caught up but my inner child had taken over and got to come out and play.
The last mile and a half ..maybe 2 miles .. were the ever looming triple threat hills – Little Gunner, Big Gunner, and Big Bugger. You can only imagine my excitement as what little speed I had accumulated to this point came to a grinding halt. Newton is a bit of a fiend on hills – up and down – so off he went like nobody’s business, whereas my heartrate goes off the charts and my speed drops in opposite proportion. Staggering, isn’t it? Ever see someone’s heartrate climb up to over 200 and have their speed slow to about a 13 minute mile? Well, c’mon down! I’m the next biggest attraction. 🙂
After the 3 crazy stupid hills, I finally hit a section that’s fairly flat and I’m almost positive that the finish area would be coming up soon. I also knew this was where you ran through the lake. Yes, through the lake. I won’t repeat it again. Newton’s nowhere in sight .. but as I turn the last bend to the end of the trail to be spat out at the entrance of the lake, there he is standing at the platform. “How nice,” I’m thinking, “He wants to finish together.”
Um, no. Not quite. We hop into the water and in no time, I’m attacked by an onslaught of lake water to the face! Oh no .. this unassuming, smiling, quiet Lions Gate member that is seemingly so nice and helpful has a sinister side to him! Water dripping from every part of my body and dribbling out of my mouth, Newt takes off to the finish, leaving me to fend for myself in the deeper part of the lake and drag my heavy body through. Two ladies I had passed earlier overtake me by running closer to shore .. wow, in hindsight, what a smart idea. I should have done that .. had I not been bombarded within my first half step in the lake.
Do I sound bitter? hah .. nah. It was probably the most fun I’ve had in a race .. ever. You sing, you laugh, you play.
Now the person who said, “There is something wrong with these people!” .. yes, yes there is, Leo. 🙂 But I love it and I can’t wait to do it again. Thank you, may I have another please?!
Cheerios & toodles ..
(i will now gingerly get off my chair because my body has decided to punish me back for punishing it yesterday)