Laying it all out there…Knee Knacker 2013

Ok, It’s 2:15am, just over 15 hours since i crossed the finish line at the Knee Knacker. I have slept for a couple hours, but my aching body, and the hamster spinning the wheel in my head, won’t let me lay in bed any longer. Might as well get this race report done…

As a fairly experienced athlete and competitor, I have come to truly understand that the satisfaction i get from an event is directly proportional to the honesty of my output (during that event). I can’t control my competitors. I can only control what i do and how i perform. My performance at the Knee Knacker was about as good as it gets; there just happened to be one competitor who was faster across the line…nothing i can do about that.

In the days leading up to the race, the (potential) starters list was looking absolutely stacked. The deepest field to date, (at the pointy end of the mens field anyway). Gary, Nick, Adam, Shaun, Graeme, Nathan, Ed, Jeremy, and myself; just to name a few. Even with injuries keeping a few from starting, we still ended up with a ‘top 5 contenders’ list that had some serious weight. Add in the amazing course conditions, and we had all the ingredients for a kick-ass race.

For the past three months i have been focusing on the knacker. Whenever i was in Vancouver, which averaged out to a couple times a week, i trained on a section of the course. I love to break a course down and to really learn it’s intricacies. The BP is such an amazing trail, and i enjoyed every training run on it. Over time i was able to establish what i thought were three tough, bold, but attainable goals for my knee knacker debut. They were based on how i saw the course, and how i felt the course should be run to get the absolute best out of myself. With only a few clicks, anyone can pull up the past Knacker results and see how the best performances have been broken down. From that history, and from what i learned in training, i formed three goals for my race:

1.   Even split the first and second half (or even a slight negative split)
2.   Finish the last quarter faster than anyone else ever has (…ever)
3.   Absolutely empty my tank out there. Nothing left at the end

So here is the play by play… (how i saw it anyway)

Right off the start, Gary, Nick, Shaun, Graeme, and myself formed the lead group. I was fully prepared to just let them all go when the trail kicked up a notch though, and that’s exactly what happened. I had a plan, and a key component of it was to not cook myself up Black mountain. My strengths are my technical and downhill running, and i needed to be able to use my abilities later in the race. You can’t run technical trails when you’re blown…period!   *[That’s important for later…]*

I could see and hear them up ahead now and again, so i knew i wasn’t too far behind. I put in a bit more effort down off Black and into the Cypress check-point, and i only conceded around 2 minutes to the guys (a bit more to Shaun). I fully expected to bring some of that back on leg 2 though, especially on the Hollyburn chute. My support crew, Will, had my nutrition ready on-the-fly, and i was reloaded (Honey Stinger gels and water, the entire race) without missing a step.

I kept controlled across the next technical bit, and then really opened it up on the ski-run section. That’s when i got a bit complacent for a second though, and wiped out HARD. The combination of my speed, the angle of the sun, and taking my eyes off the trail for a split second, and i was cartwheeling through the rocks. I dismounted my cartwheel with a wicked finish too; the back of my head onto a rock!

Now, i am no stranger to hitting the deck on the trails. (Years of hard mtb riding, and me and the dirt know each other well). I picked myself up pretty quickly, but right away i knew the wipe-out was a good (bad) one. I had dinged by hip and my knee on rocks. I must have hit a nerve or trigger point, because my right leg was numb and totally powerless. I couldn’t put any weight on it

OH ****!! …

Walk it off Mike…walk it off…it’s a long day, don’t panic!

It took a good minute, but then the feeling started to come back. I kept it at a slow jog for the next little bit, and eventually i built back up to a solid clip. My head was kinda sore too, but i was running again.

Get back on the game plan Mike…problems are just part of the day….work through it

As i came through the section right before the Dam (the half way point), i caught Shaun. He was struggling a bit on the downhill stuff, and i got past him. We came in to the dam pretty much together, about two minutes down on the guys. I could hear my girls cheering. They have the absolute best ‘Go Daddy Go’ cheer, and it definitely got me motivated to keep grinding it out. Once again, Will was on point, and i was re-stocked in no time.

I was putting in a solid effort climbing up Nancy Green Way (up to Grouse), when Shaun went flying past me. The guy climbs like a billy-goat, and he motored right past me. Once we hit the trail again, he was gone and out of sight. I knew i was moving pretty good though, so i didn’t panic. With that said, my earlier crash was starting to show its teeth. The climb up from Grouse really hurt…i was getting little electric pains on my right leg every step. I don’t want to make too much of it though. Everyone has their own issues in a race like this, and I was prepared to have to deal with something like this. I reminded myself to enjoy the day. This was exactly what i signed up for.

Shut up leg…you have along way to go yet!

It was nice to crest the climb on Fromme and cruise the flowing technical sections down to Mountain Highway. I caught and passed Shaun again, and this time i was pretty sure it would stick. As i popped out on to Lynn Valley Rd., i caught sight of Graeme. I didn’t surge to catch him, but i passed him near the beginning of the Varley trail. At that point i started prepping myself for the last quarter of this race:

All or nothing from the Gazebo to Deep Cove.

Once again, i was really happy to hear my cheering family, and to grab a refill from Will. I was really present at that moment, and just enjoying the process. I was excited about the challenge i had set for myself on the last leg. I was told that Gary was about 3:00 ahead at that point. Obviously, knowing he was within range gave me a bit of a boost.

I left the Gazebo at FULL GAS.

Dig deep! Suffer! This is why i’m out here!

Pretty quickly, i knew i was making time on both Nick and Gary. I could hear ahead as they went through the crowds every now and again, and i knew i was moving fast. When i hit the bottom of the Seymour grind, it was nice to see Adam Campbell on the trail. He was genuinely excited to be watching the front of the race be so close, and he confirmed that Gary and Nick were just ahead.

My electric leg flared up a bit again on the last climb, but i didn’t at all panic. At this point in the race, it was all about fuel, not pain management. Going full tilt means that i burn glycogen at a scary pace, but i had to take the chance…all or nothing. As i turned right onto Mushroom trail, looking down the rocky decent, i caught sight of Nick! I was pinning it, and came up on him pretty quickly. I could see that he was struggling a bit, so i went past him with a surge.

Then i tripped and hit the dirt…again (uggghhhh, that hurt), and dropped my last gel.

Back up in a flash, re-pass Nick, and pedal to the metal again.  I crossed the Mt Seymour Rd. and was surprised to see Will waiting for me. It wasn’t in the plan to have him there, but it was a total bonus for me. I needed calories badly!!

I grabbed a small flask of cola from him and he let me know Gary was 30 seconds ahead. I guzzled the cola and pinned it. No guts, no glory!

It’s a short trail section before getting kicked out onto Indian River Road, and i had Gary in my sights. I knew i was pretty screwed for fuel though, and the coke i just had was barely covering the deficit i had been in. So, here’s the plan I came up with…

Absolutely pin it on Indian River Rd and catch Gary. Then, bluff him, and go past him as hard as i can for a good 30-60 seconds. Then, hang on for dear life, and hopefully he cracks.

BUT….i got within 10m of him before he turned off the road and into the trail. He saw me coming, and he kicked it into another gear. I tried to respond, but i was totally blown. I pin-balled off a couple trees, tripped and almost bailed again, and Gary peeled away from me. You just can’t run technical stuff fast when you’re blown! I still had to try to hold it together though, Nick was right behind me.

It was ugly, but i managed to stay upright, and to hold off Nick. As i hit the home stretch, with 200m or so to go, i looked at my watch…4:42. At that point, somewhere in the back of my foggy brain, i remembered seeing that Kevin Titus held the masters course record: 4:42 something. I don’t know where i got the energy from, but i kicked…and i kicked hard. I crossed the line with absolutely nothing left. It was quite surreal for a quick moment: everything dimmed, time slowed, and the world went silent. Thankfully Gary was right there, because as he hugged me he pretty much stopped me from blacking out and going down.

I was pretty out of it for the next few minutes. Lots of people talking to me and congratulating me. Family and friends all around me, asking questions. I’m sure i wasn’t making much sense though. It took me a while to focus in and get my bearing again, but it was a great feeling having all that support around me. The next couple hours were really fun. The atmosphere was amazing, and i was on a high. I really enjoyed just being at the finish and soaking it all in.

Unfortunately, by around 1pm, my wounds started to over-power my endorphins. I was hobbling pretty badly, and a solid headache had set in. My wife Jodi let me know that it was probably from the bloody bump on the back of head…ouch. My girls had put in a big day cheering and playing, and they were shutting down too. They needed to get home, and i needed a bit of time alone. We packed up the kids (both fell asleep within about 2 minutes) and headed back the race start to grab my car. After sending them all home, i was happy to have a bit of down time by myself. I had time to kill before the awards, so i grabbed something to eat and set up a lawn chair in the shade to chill out. It was fun to talk with so many people at the banquet. I heard so many great race stories; everyone had to battle their own demons out there.

On the drive home i had time to really reflect on how my race went. It was pretty much perfect. I was tough as nails, and i accomplished all three of my goals. My process was flawless. To top things off, there were a few surprising outcomes from my effort: I had the best KK debut on file, ran the 3rd fastest time ever, and set a new master’s record.

Now, some of you may say, “but you didn’t win”.

But winning was not one of my goals. I ran my perfect race…period. I can’t control what my competitors do. Gary was the faster man out there. I’m content to take second place in a full-throttle, tank emptying, battle to the end. I have no regrets whatsoever.

I definitely have my fingers crossed that i get in the lottery again next year. I learned a lot racing it this year, and i have new goals on the BP.
Thanks to my buddy Will for crewing for me (again), and thanks to all the volunteers and the organizers. You guys put on one hell of an event. Absolutely top notch.

Next up for me is a few days rest, then back at it. I need to get in some big mileage days. The Squamish50 is only 4 weeks away. Nick and I (along with several others) will be fighting it out in the 50 miler!