Seeking the Peak of Grouse 2014: A Post-Race Analysis
The 11th annual Seek the Peak trail running race took place on June 15, 2014. There were nearly 500 solo participants and another 300 relay or team participants. This was the fourth time that I decided to throw my body into this event. Last year I skipped it because I felt I wasn’t ready for its physical demands, which some believe are grueling: sixteen kilometers with a 4100 foot climb from Ambleside Park in North Vancouver to the top of Grouse Mountain.
Armed with 2010’s 2:24 hr time and the top times in age group of around 1:35hr I have been motivated to at least achieve a sub two hour time. Ever since I stopped competing in Biathlon I have felt that I have more potential and a talent for endurance events. With proper training I could achieve some top 10 finishes in my age group.
When looking for improvement it is important to take a deeper look at each event, even when goals are achieved. Some say success leaves foot prints! While I missed the sub two hour goal this race was still a big success.
Stage 1 is a very gradual uphill which gives participants the opportunity to go fast to bank a little time, but risk using up all their glycogen stores. My goal was to push the pace a little bit and finish under 15 minutes, a time I met in 14:43.
Stage 2 keeps going uphill, but also has some good turns and fun downhills. Although, I quickly found out though that my training runs were not quite on the same trails my feet were still quick and I was sure footed. This stage takes racers further along the Capilano River past the fish hatchery to emerge in the park near the damn by climbing up a long set of stairs. Taking a slightly more conservative approach I reached Nancy Green Way while passing several people on those stairs.
Nancy Green Way is 1.6 kilometers of boring pavement pounding which ends at the start of the Grouse Grind. This section takes more mental energy than physical. The aim was to complete the road section in under 10 minutes, which I came very close to doing.
Stage 3 is the Grouse Grind which I predicted a time of 48 minutes. The strategy for this stage is just to keep the legs moving while repeating “one step at a time.” It was grueling and at times I wasn’t sure if my legs would take me to the top. The left ankle strain of last year did not rear its ugly head either which was a big concern. Final time for the Grouse Grind was 47:36.
If you haven’t been training hills stage 4 will fill you with dread! It did my first year and it started with a severe left calf spasm which left me hobbling. This time around my strategy was 30 speedy steps followed by 30 fast walking steps. With a grade nearly 16% to the chairlift there was glory in reaching the final turnaround which also meant it was all downhill from there.
The gravel road down is bumpy and slippery when wet. Zigzagging down racers need to be careful to not run into anyone coming up on their left. This year I felt the most sure on my feet I have in the several years during that section.
Finally the last few meters are almost flat but slightly downhill and the finish line was in sight! Time to turn on the jets. Well as best as I could! Out of breathed I cross the line in 2:01:10, 8% off my goal time and a personal course record. Looking up as I neared the finish line I saw 2:01:10. This good enough for a top 100 overall and 21/80 in the male 30-39 year old group, which I have two years left in.
See the full Training Peaks File.
Planning for Seek the Peak 2015
Overall the race plan was executed very well. The call of a 1:55 is still out there for me to achieve and it isn’t that far away. It requires a fitness improvement of 13% in one year. Challenging? Yes. Do able? Yes.
What are the take home lessons?
- Keep fit from September to February – maintain the capacity to run 16 km
- Start the main plan February 1st instead of February 28th
- Increase leg strength and leg power – start training for power earlier
- Incorporate more Pace Zone 4 (tempo) and Pace Zone 6 (threshold) into the training plan with longer intervals
- Hills, Hills, Hills