Putting the customer first

For years I’ve been going to the Running Room on Wednesday evenings. Initially it was a great place. I always had a group to go with and, because I could schedule it, I would go regularly. There were groups that would go at specified speeds for a decent run.
But for the past few years, it has gone downhill, and not in the fast running way.
Nowadays, it is catering only to the running clinics. Now don’t get me wrong, the running clinics are great for learning how to run or to improve your distance. But once you have “graduated,” the Running Room doesn’t seem to want you around anymore.
I showed up today, and could not find any group to run with. It was only clinic runs that were going 5km or under, or doing hill training. I just wanted to go out for a decent run with friendly people. This is a constant problem, where I don’t know if going to the Running Room will give me people to run with. When I expressed my concern to the staff, they didn’t see it as a problem. They almost seemed to think it was great that you could show up and not have an idea as to what you will be doing.
But if every group is going too short, too slow, or too hilly, I’m going to have to run alone. Why do I even go to the Running Room then?
When I took off on my own, as luck would have it, I came across Beto and his group. Beto is one of the best runners in Edmonton and he now works at United Cycle where they have their own running groups. Their groups are organized by speed, not clinic. I immediately turned around and ran with them. It was great!
I’m going to start going there on Wednesday evenings.

I Believe!

I believe in the power of healing through running.
I’ll be the first to admit that the Death Race can be damaging on my body. Since I ran it, I’ve had various aches and pains. Mostly these happen while I’m running, which has meant I am running less and taking it easy. Letting my body recover. There was one pain that was happening in situations not related to running though. My ankle, which shouldn’t be surprising after the nasty accident several months ago. Mainly, it would hurt going down stairs.
Well, after my reasonable 16km run on Sunday, it hasn’t been bothering me.
So what I’m taking from this is that I should be running more often. I haven’t been doing the Wednesday evening runs, and I think that needs to change.
There is also an interesting race that I HAVE to sign up for. The 5km Edmonton Gorilla Run. I think it is for some good cause or something; I don’t really care. Because you GET A GORILLA COSTUME! Who can’t use a gorilla costume?

Victory is Sweet

Let’s look at my result compared to previous years.

Rank Leg 1 Leg 2 Leg 3 Leg 4 Leg 5
Overall Gender Age Denard Flood Grande Town Duck
Hamel Ambler Hell’s
44/223 38/177 10/54 02:02:50 03:49:10 06:10:56 07:16:45 09:51:27 13:34:03 15:33:35 17:47:01 19:47:25 22:19:58
02:02:50 01:46:20 04:08:06 05:13:55 02:34:42 03:42:36 05:42:08 07:55:34 02:00:24 04:32:57
56/232 43/171 12/42 02:06:49 04:00:37 06:26:35 07:36:30 10:25:13 14:12:57 16:11:35 18:33:54 20:38:51 23:01:27
02:06:49 01:53:48 04:19:46 05:29:41 02:48:43 03:47:44 05:46:22 08:08:41 02:04:57 04:27:33
78/418 64/304 30/112 02:00:37 03:42:42 05:56:43 07:04:50 10:08:16 13:39:11 15:25:41 17:44:38 19:41:41 21:41:51
02:00:37 01:42:05 03:56:06 05:04:13 03:03:26 03:30:55 05:17:25 07:36:22 01:57:03 03:57:13
103/360 79/270 31/106 02:08:53 04:03:02 06:20:21 07:31:24 10:32:05 13:40:22 16:47:44 18:14:01 20:39:26 22:58:32
02:08:53 01:54:09 04:11:28 05:22:31 03:00:41 03:08:17 06:15:39 07:41:56 02:25:25 04:44:31
In 2010, leg three was extended by two kilometres, and leg four was reduced by the same amount. The waypoints aren’t completely consistent either. The Ambler Loop waypoint has moved frequently.

For each point on the race, the top number is the overall time to hit that course point, while the bottom number, in italics, is the time to reach that point since the start of the leg. For purposes of ranking (among other things) I am male and aged 30-39.
The rankings also don’t tell the whole story.

Year # Solo Finishers # Soloists # Soloists Signed up Conditions
2008 81 172 223 14 C – 2 C. Dry
2009 80 194 232 27 C – 7 C. Dry
2010 150 335 418 Unknown. Dry.
2011 131 286 360 23.5 C – 0.3 C. Fair to wet
# Soloists is taken by the number of people who finished leg one.

This was a bad race for me. As I’ve previously mentioned, there were a number of things going against me. But my family got me up to Grande Cache, and we got into Tent City. The day we arrived it was breezy, so there weren’t any mosquitos to bother us. And it didn’t rain overnight. But the weather prediction for the next day was a hot day and a cold night.
I was still under a bit of a cold that drained energy from me and I really noticed it on the first leg. I was slower than I have ever been before. That might have been the mud from all the rain this year. But once I got out of the woods, it was dry enough, but I think I was going too fast; trying to make up for lost time. That would probably hurt me later.
One of the most fortuitous things I had done was to prepare for wet conditions. MEC gave me the advice of Gore-Tex socks. And they were great. With them on, I didn’t have to try and avoid all wet spots. If my shoes got wet, my feet would stay dry and not end up in blisters. This really helped me get through parts faster. I could run through mud instead of trying to figure out a dry path. Valuable time was not lost.
The second leg wasn’t too different from previous years. It was muddier at the bottom parts of the slugfest. At the bottom of one of the valleys, I found a man wading in a mud pool up to his shins. Apparently he had lost his shoe in there and was looking for it. After I left him, I think I heard him say he had found a shoe, but it wasn’t his.
I finished up the leg, slower than usual, but still standing. Years ago, when I had first signed up for the Death Race, the form had asked me to put some biographical detail in. They probably weren’t going to vet it, so let’s have some fun. For three years they had completely ignored it, but at this transition point, when my mother is in the crowd the MC loudly announced that I was an adult film star. And he seemed to be enjoying it very much.
Leg three always seems to do me in. It is claimed to be the easiest, because it is all downhill. But by this time of day I’m hot, tired, and the trail is uneven. When it is over, I’m completely knackered. And I made it only half an hour before the cutoff time. Part of me was thinking of quitting. But I had made myself a promise that I could not decide to quit. I could only fail to make a cutoff.
I did do something different on that leg that I’m thankful for. At the start, while climbing up the first big hill, I took a look behind me. The Smoky River valley was spread out before me, looking gorgeous. I do believe I saw Hell’s Gate for the first time.
Leg four is a good leg for me. It is considered one of the toughest, but I guess I have a good attitude about it. That and the stair training seems key to doing well. But an hour and a half in, it started to rain. I wasn’t really dressed for it, but it wasn’t bothering me that much. It was keeping me cool. And that is especially important if you are trying to scale a 6986′ mountain. It only became an issue when I got to the very top and had to do some running along the spine. Then the wind was blowing and I was getting cold. And night was falling.
But once I was done on the spine, I went down the other side and the wind wasn’t that big a problem. Unfortunately, it then started to really rain. I kept moving, so it wasn’t too bad. But I was getting cold and miserable. Puddles were getting bigger and bigger. When I got to the Ambler Loop station, I found Beaver Dam Road, previously a lovely dirt road, covered in muddy puddles. The run down it was not especially pleasant.
And to add insult to injury, there was the bridge over Malcolm Creek. It was having maintenance done on it, so there was construction equipment on it. Cars could still use it, but someone had decided runners couldn’t. That was just malicious. We had to go down into the creek and wade through the water to the other side. This of course filled my nice Gore-Tex socks with water. At least the transition was only a few hundred metres further. We did our best to dry them out, and the new socks seemed to make it possible to continue. The rain had died down a bit while I was at the transition. Thank goodness I was still convinced to ignore that and I put on a rain jacket and a toque. I would need them.
Leg five was muddy. The first part, before the river crossing, has always been slow for me. If something goes wrong in this area, I have no idea how they would get someone out. And now it was slippery muddy too. So despite the narrow trail, with many roots acting as tripping hazards, I have to fear any small decline. I remembered the treacherous climb after the third creek, that is difficult even in dry conditions. It didn’t get better in wet.
After the river crossing at Hell’s Gate, I climbed the hill and tried to run so I could get a good time. Or at least reach the end before the cutoff. But since it had been raining constantly all night, there was mud everywhere. My plan to run as much as possible was actually a dangerous idea. I did eventually fall behind someone who seemed to be good at picking routes around mud puddles and was running, so I got myself some breathing room. But about seven kilometres before the end I was having a lot of trouble running. And my fingers were getting cold. I think my body was shutting down! Maybe I hadn’t been eating enough?
Fortunately, I knew I had made it. I knew I had no one to compete with. I knew I had nothing to prove. I walked the rest of the way. Many people passed me. I didn’t care. There was the sign that said “Hamburgers in five kilometres”. Those sound good, but I kept walking. In town I saw a familiar face from earlier in the run. She had been on a relay team and said she had “Run leg two yesterday”. Leg two did not feel like yesterday to me. It felt like today, and a lifetime ago at the same time.
I only started running a few hundred metres before the end. I hope, for once, I didn’t have a pained expression as I crossed the finish line. And of course the MC was still happy to announce my adult film star occupation. Apparently at the same time my sister was trying to chat up a cute Sergeant in the military.
There wasn’t any food at the end. I was forced into a shower and then we went to a restaurant. But that took an hour and I could have really used the food faster.
But I’m done. I have run four Death Races. And I get to lord it over my friends who have only run three. For the past few days I’ve been convinced this would be my last one. But doubts are starting to form.
I probably need help.

If you want to help, I can really use you on my support team next year.