Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Athlete’s Corner: Race report with Craig Frizzle

Official shirt awarded to each of the five finishers of the inaugural trifecta.
You know you want one ....

Three stellar courses, three consecutive weekends, July 11, July 18, July 25th (2015)
150km combined distance and 48,000ft of elevation change!

Craig Trifecta Results:
Knee Knacker 30mile – 6h48:14 – 61st (Strava)
Broken Goat 50km – 7h45:10 – 49th overall (Strava)
Buckin’ Hell 50km – 7h10:13 – 29th overall (Strava)

Gary giving Craig the thumbs up at the finish of Buckin' Hell.
Photo by Chloé.

Chloé: You have been racing ultras for some time now, up to the 50 mile distance. What was the appeal with this Triple event?  

Craig: My first ultra was in 2013. It was the Meet your Maker 50miler in Whistler. My motto for that run is “Mistakes were made”. I was completely undertrained and unprepared to run that far in that terrain. I was able to finish but certainly would not recommend it as an entry into ultra running. (*note: sadly, MYM50 no longer exists).

In 2014, three friends and I decided that the Squamish 50/50 was going to be the next ridiculous adventure. I felt more prepared, but really, how prepared can one be to run 130km over two days on a Gary Robbins course …

This year, I intended to enter the Knee Knacker lottery but otherwise had no other race plans. This quickly changed after I heard about the Broken Goat 50km race in Rossland on the Seven Summits trail. It was an area I wanted to explore and figured a race would be a guided tour of some of the best trails the region had to offer. Shortly after signing up for the Broken Goat, the trifecta was announced. I knew this would be my 2015 challenge.

Around the same timeframe I was convinced by a friend at the very last minute to put my name in the UTMB CCC lottery as a team of four. I figured my lottery luck had run out but alas we got in. Thankfully the Buck Me, this Goat is Knackered courses are all great training for the UTMB in August.

Photo by Brian McCurdy Photography.

Chloé: Did you feel ready, how did you prepare for this

Craig: Intellectually, I was as ready as I could be for something like this. Yet feel like, and maybe should have done more. My training is a hodgepodge of past experience, books I’ve read (Eat & Run by Scott Jurek and Hal Koerner’s field guide to Ultra running), and discussions with other runners. I’m a shift worker so I have to tailor all training around working 13hr days and nights, and around all the other life stuff that inevitably comes up.

For nutrition I have Tailwind in my water and I usually carry fig bars, baby food, gels and some type of real food (perogies, baked eggs, burritos etc) in my pack. However, on race day I usually end up relying on Aid station food. This usually means I consume a lot of Coke and watermelon with the occasional chips or pretzels.  

For gear, after trying several packs I finally found one that works for me which is the Salomon S-Lab Adv Skin 12. I’m on a constant search for the perfect shoe. Though it’s an even split between Salomon and Pearl Izumi. For the trifecta I ended up wearing the PI EM Trail N2’s for KK & BH & N1’s for BG.

Happy finish for Craig at KK.

Chloé: So, overall how did it go? 

Knee Knacker
First off it was just great to be at the start line of this race. After a full week of wondering if forest fires would force the cancellation it wasn’t until late Friday afternoon that word was sent that the race was on. It was a tough week both being disappointed that I’d have to put my name back in the lottery to have my first KK experience and that the trifecta would be over before it even began.

As for the race itself, I’ve run this course numerous times in training so there would be no surprises there. After a very dusty beginning where we all inhaled a lot of dirt, I kept a steady pace up Black Mountain, but perhaps pushed a bit too hard as I started feeling quite nauseas and light headed and was having trouble consuming food. I really struggled from Cypress to Cleveland Dam, a stretch I normally have a lot of fun on. Thankfully at the Dam I had several friends who became my de facto crew. They refilled my water and restocked me from my drop bag while I just stood there trying to get my wits about me. Their cheers and support sent me on my way up Nancy Greene Way with a smile on my face and a new sense of purpose. From there I felt quite strong and had a great second half of the race. I was aiming for sub 7 hours and came in a very surprising 6h48.

Broken Goat
After a lengthy road trip over two days I arrived in Rossland, checked-in at package pick-up, and sat through a long pre race briefing, the highlight of which was the women who had a panic attack when the Wildsafe BC spokesperson started talking about bears and cougars.

The race itself started in a clearing just off a gravel parking lot on the side of the highway. It was a chilly morning as we all stood around chatting, taking pictures and generally waiting for the start. Although not as drastic, the Broken Goat starts much like the Knee Knacker with a long steady climb. I took it out pretty slow but when I attempted to push the effort I realized that my legs were not going to cooperate for this run. I wasn’t generating much power on the uphill and didn’t trust them enough to  run fast on the downhill.

The beauty of the surroundings and a steady stream of encouraging words from runners on the out and back sections kept my spirits up despite leg issues. When I was starting to get a bit down I saw my wife at the 40km aid station. She provided me with an ice-cold beverage and some positive energy for the Vertical Mile hill. I had mentally prepared myself for this hill and my whole focus was on continuing all the way to the top without stopping. I knew it wouldn’t be fast, and it wasn’t, but I just wanted to make it to the top. 

My only real negative moment of the day was on the last stretch when I could hear the finish line announcer and then the trail turned back away from it and climbed up and away for what felt like a long time. However, that moment passed quite quickly as the trail turned back towards the sound of the announcer and I happily finished to the enthusiastic cheers of Rene Unser the race director.

Buckin’ Hell
The week leading up to it, I was expecting to have a rough race day. I’d be tired, and since I knew the trails, figured that it would be tough to maintain a positive attitude.

Buckin’ Hell, like the previous two races, starts with a long steady climb out of Deep Cove. Despite my week of worry I felt shockingly good. My legs were strong and I ran very well through the lower Seymour sections and the climb to Mt. Seymour aid station. I devised a strategy that on the numerous long steady uphills I would run for two course markers and then walk one. This kept me motivated and it was never too far, because hey it’s a Gary Robbins marked course. I hit a dark place as I ascended from the Mt. Seymour Aid Station up to Brockton Point. I called it Bonk City. For a stretch, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. After a pep talk from friends and volunteers at Mt Seymour and some lengthy downhill I was able to emerge out the other side and have a strong finish to complete the trifecta, which obviously is the most memorable part of the Buckin’ Hell for me.

The view from Old Glory Mt at Broken Goat.

Chloé: What was your favourite about each event?

Knee Knacker – I know the course very well so there were no surprises. Although even having heard all about the volunteers and aid stations it was still an amazing sight to see the lengths they go to make sure we have a good race. From Black Sabbath Mountain, The High Rollers at LSCR and the Roman Emperors of Hyannis it brought a boost of energy every time I saw the enthusiasm and effort the volunteers had put into their stations.

Broken Goat – The entire first half of the course was a treat, with amazing single track, ridge running and spectacular views from the mountain summits. The positive words from all runners I met on the out and backs were a good reminder of what a great community we have. I did not love the Vertical Mile hill at kilometre 40 of the race, but it was definitely memorable. It was also great to see at the awards ceremony how the entire community of Rossland got behind this race. For example, The Mayor was on the course volunteering, how cool is that?

Buckin’ Hell – Honestly because I knew most of the trails on this course the highlight was the last 4 or 5 km from the top of Old Buck where it meets the BP, it was then that I allowed myself to celebrate the accomplishment. I knew that section very well from Knee Knacker so I knew I could power it home from there. Having lots of friends & family at the finish line to cheer me in was also very special.

Chloé: What top tips do you have for others who are considering racing multiple ultras in a row? … would you do it again?

Craig: I figure that anybody who is considering it is physically going to be able to accomplish it. What it becomes is a mental challenge to make sure you take care of yourself and run smart to keep your body in good condition. For me it was important to listen to my body and not push too hard. It’s also very important to spend the week following each race eating anything and everything…it may not help you complete the challenge but it sure is fun.

I never say never but I can’t envision a scenario where I’ll do that again. Much like the Squamish 50/50, I am extremely proud of the accomplishment but now I look forward to new challenges.

I want to give a huge shout out to Matt Barry, Michael Senior, Ken Legg and Katie Clegg whom I was fortunate to meet and share this experience with. I was in awe watching how strong all of them were in completing the trifecta. It was great to see that all five of us who started at the Knee Knacker were able to collect our much deserved shirts at the end of Buckin’ Hell. And to top it off, great to share a champagne celebration with Katie after her finish. 

Also, a special thank you to my wife Robyn who is the best support crew a guy could ask for. She makes an effort to be out on the course with her signs, cowbells, and loud cheering not only for me but all other runners. It gives me a much-needed boost every time I see her out on the course.

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