A group of us have participated in the Haney to Harrison (H2H) Road Race each year from 2005 until this year. This 100K run starts in Haney (part of Maple Ridge) and winds its way to Harrison Hot Springs. There are ultra-marathoners who run the whole 100K; we participate in the very popular 8-staged relay event. Sadly, this was the event's last year, but a new event is set to take its place in Whistler next year. In the meantime we were determined to make this year our best ever, and we didn't fail. We have shuffled around runners and added and lost people over the years, but there have been a few of us at the core of our group:
Team name: Take the Rains
Steve (a good friend of mine, our fearless leader and Stage 2 runner this year)
Heather (Steve's wife, Stage 3 runner)
Marcia (injured this year, team support person, photographer, cheerleader)
Steph (new runner this year, friend and neighbour of Steve and Heather's, Stage 1 runner)
Mike (another good friend and my almost-weekly running partner, Stage 7 runner)
Cindy (partner to Marcia and our team volunteer- her role is exchange captain at exchange 4)
Julianne (Cindy's niece, has been running with the group for three years, Stage 5 runner)
Rob (a new running friend of mine and new member of the team, Stage 4 runner)
Jennifer (Me, Stage 6 runner. I've done this same stage each year.)
Since Rob, Mike, and I were running later stages, we planned to meet up with the group at exchange 3 before Rob's run start. Mike and Rob picked me up at the Skytrain in Surrey at about 7:30 am, and we made our way through Maple Ridge and Mission to try to watch some of the early running. Our team start time was at 6:00 am, and we found out that Steph, our Stage 1 runner, had had some problems on her run. She had knee pain (ITBand) and was forced to slow down to a run/walk hobble by then end, but she did finish her stage and handed off to Steve. Soon after she went home ice and baby her knee, so we didn't see her for the rest of the day.
Stage 1: Steph, 9.57K, 1:07:59, 7:07/km
We tried to spot Steve on the road, but he was too quick for us and had already handed off to Heather by the time we drove through exchange 2. He finished with an impressive time given his limited running since Victoria Half-marathon.
Stage 2: Steve, 13.51K, 1:13:17, 5:26/km
Driving from Maple Ridge to Mission near the Stave Dam we did manage to see Heather on her run. She was climbing one of the challenging hills, and well on her way to a very impressive finish. This is the best she's done in this relay, following a string of PB races in her first year post-baby #2. Great work, Heather.
As we were looking to spot Heather coming into exchange 3, we saw another runner with bunny ears. Steve said, “She's not too far behind the bunny.” We kept watching and soon she came in, looking strong, and handed off to Rob.
Stage 3: Heather, 15.12K, 1:21:45, 5:25/km
Steve took Heather home and we would meet up with him later at exchange 5 before my run. He also planned to bring Patty, another friend and neighbour of theirs, who was to run Stage 8. Meantime, Mike, Marcia, and I then drove on toward exchange 4 where we would meet up with Julianne and see Cindy, exchange 4 captain and our team volunteer. While driving along Stage 4 to the exchange, we did manage to see Rob a few times and stop and take pictures. [Marcia has those pictures so I hope I can get one up here later.] Rob had never met Julianne before, so I told him to look for someone “very blonde” (we didn't know what she was wearing). Thankfully, exchange 4 went without a hitch as we spotted Rob coming down the small hill and alerted Julianne. She was off.
Stage 4: Rob, 14.42K, 1:12:02, 5:00/km
I was a bit nervous about getting to exchange 5 with enough time to warm up and get changed, so we started driving soon after Julianne left. We got there in plenty of time and Steve met us there just as I was starting my warmup. As I was warming up, it occurred to me that Steve was alone-- where was Patty? Well, Patty was sick at home with a bad migraine and couldn't run. While I was warming up, Mike, Steve, Rob, and Marcia were discussing who would run Stage 8 (a very flat run of about 8K). Heather wasn't feeling up to doing another run and she was home with the kids; Steph was obviously out, and Julianne was also making her way home as she needed to go to work. Rob's calf had seized up badly at the end of his run; he was OK after some icing and stretching, but not willing to risk another run on it. Mike could do it, but wasn't sure he was really up for back-to-back runs totaling about 21K. In theory, I would have been the best choice, since I'm not too far from marathon mileage, but they didn't want to suggest this to me and possibly force me to run slower than I wanted to in Stage 6. That left Steve, who thought he'd be up for the task, but we decided to wait till I finished running to confirm. They encouraged me to run Stage 6 as fast as I could, and if necessary I could jog the 8K afterward. That turned out not to be necessary (Thank you Steve!), and I'm glad I didn't even consider holding back on my run.
Julianne came in looking strong but a bit earlier than we expected, so I wasn't quite ready. I quickly went to the exchange mat, getting my Garmin and iPod ready. I had a great playlist prepared and I didn't want it to go to waste!
Stage 5: Julianne, 13.12K, 1:13:22, 5:36/km
My run went about as perfectly as I could have expected. My goal was to be as close as possible to 5:00/km; in earlier years my best pace was closer to about 5:15/km on this slightly hilly route. I locked into a pace of about 5:00/km early on and stuck with it. It felt TOUGH as early as 3-4K, but I just kept telling myself to hold on. I didn't let my heart rate freak me out, even as it crept up near and over my lactate threshold pretty early. The hills slowed me down a bit, but the downhills seemed to go on forever. Even though this route does have a slight net elevation gain, it somehow felt like I was going down more than up. I liked that. I was passing lots of people, including the bunny-eared team member. About a third of the way in I caught up with guy wearing a yellow-singlet, and stuck behind him for a while. I passed him at one point, and then he passed me-- this would happen back and forth about three times before I finally passed him for good.
I remember mentally breaking up the run into 2K chunks, telling myself, “OK, just get to 6K, 8K, 10K...” Each 2K bit would take about 10 minutes, and after 10K I knew I just had to stay on cruise control. Don't get me wrong-- it was TOUGH, but I remembered, “This is a race--- not too much longer to hold on.” When I saw the exchange tent I just kept pushing, and then handed off to Mike. “Have a good run!!” I was THRILLED to see my time of just under 1:06, or 1:05:54 to be exact. 13K at 5:00/km is exactly 65 minutes, but this run was just over 13K (13.08K by course measurement) which gave me a pace of 5:03/km. I'll take it, and then some. :) That's almost three minutes faster than my previous best time on this course. Here's a link to the data in case anyone is interested:
Stage 6: Jennifer, 13.08K, 1:05:54, 5:03/km
Rob and I quickly got back to Mike's car, and Steve and Marcia drove Steve's van up ahead. We decided to stop along Stage 7 to try to take pictures of Mike running and discuss the plan for Stage 8. We passed Mike, stopped somewhere about half-way, and then decided that Steve would be our double-duty runner. I was relieved. :)
Mike's run had a huge hill up and a long hill down, and he really rocked it. He finished with an impressive time given he's taken some downtime from regular training and is now getting back into regular running. Soon he'll be wanting to run too fast for me on our weekly runs. :)
Stage 7: Mike, 13.47K, 1:09:45, 5:11/km
Mike came in to exchange 7 and handed off to Steve, who would run Stage 8 at a pretty quick clip considering his lack of training and running on supposedly tired legs. :) We drove along to the finish area hoping not to miss him. Marcia managed to get a picture of him coming under the finish-time clock and approaching the timing mat. That time would be our best in all the years we've done this as a group. Not bad considering we are not fast-stacked and we had some injury issues along the way.
Stage 8: Steve, 7.87K, 40:18, 5:08/km
I will definitely be sad to let this race go. I had a great time running with everyone and spending the day together. This report doesn't even mention many of the funny and fun things we encountered along the way (I figured it was long enough ;) ). I hope our group can stay together for future versions of this race. Thank you all for such a great experience.
I'm having trouble uploading the pictures to this blogpost, but you can see them in this Facebook album.