Thursday, November 12, 2009

H2H update

Just returned home from the Canadian Championships in Vancouver. A big thanks to Darin and Carrie for their amazing hospitality and congrats to Darin on an impressive 7hr:49 min run, 1st place overall! Another huge accomplishment to add to your resume!

Big thanks also to Greg for his stellar support crewing! I know it is tough as an athlete to crew and not be out there competing...and let's face it watching someone run for hours and hours has got to be pretty flippin' boring! The force feeding and extra motivation was exactly what I needed.

Haney 2 Harrison was the host of the Canadian 100km Championships this year. The week before leaving, the competitor list was sent out and I immediately went, oh crap...Suzanne Evans, yikes! I am definately not a 2hr;44 min marathon runner, so I knew I was going to have my work cut out for me...I figured my only hope, given her speed, was that the weather would be miserable, as I figured I likely have more experience suffering in miserable conditions...a bit sadistic perhaps, but I am an adventure racer after all, which is all about prolonged suffering...

The race started at 4:00am, and we were given about a 20 minute reprieve on the rain as in was coming down in buckets minutes before the start of the race. My plan was to run 8 minute miles, or a little faster and maintain that as long as I could. I was hoping to beat my time of 8hr:32 from the World Championships, and my ultimate lining up of the stars and moon goal, was to run a 8hr:16 min 100km, which would average 8 minute mile pace. I had run that pace in italy until about 75 km, at which point I just couldn't maintain it any longer and the wheels slowly fell off the bus. The tough thing about running this distance is the pace is fairly easy for the first half, starts to hurt a bit shortly there after, and then starts to really hurt around 80km, hence the slowing down....

I ran the first couple of hours with Gary and Tim from Edmonton and we chatted a bit on and off. These first few hours in the dark were very peaceful and I just enjoyed the easy pace and conversation. Suzanne started out pretty slow and passed me at the end of the 1st leg at a pace that I knew was too fast for me. I watched her go and thought, hopefully I'll see her again late in the race. That's the other thing I've learned about ultra running - stick to your game plan and be patient...Greg gave me periodic updates and I knew she was putting time on me. I felt the urge to speed up, but kept reminding myself it was still early and to run my own race and hope that she slowed down. By the end of leg 3, she had 9 minutes on me. I knew that was going to be tough to make up, but also knew this was only her second attempt at the 100km distance and there was a good chance she would slow down. I was starting to feel the first low spot around the middle of Leg marathon down and my legs were starting to feel heavy and sluggish....oh oh...I focused on pushing through and trying to maintain my pace. I put my ipod on near the beginning of Leg 5 and immediately felt a surge of energy. Close to the end of leg 5 I had lost the other guys I was running with and caught two more guys. One of the volunteers told me I was now in 3rd place overall, and Greg reported I was making up some time on her and was now just 5 minutes down. This gave me a huge boost and early on in leg 6 I could see her in the distance. I started battling some stomach problems, but managed to work through it and saw I was very slowly gaining on her. As we approached end of Leg 6, and I ran through the Check point, I saw her pull off to the side. I ran through and figured this would be a good chance to make up a minute or so. Greg continued his race reports and I soon had 2 minutes on her, 3 minutes, 4 minutes. I focused on just maintaining my focus and keeping my pace. I still had 20 tough km to go and knew I was on my goal pace, but was starting to feel pretty knackered.

A few gradual uphills, and some level points and I crested the top of a hill, and looked down to to see a huge downhill. I knew I had about 10km to go, and this downhill was going to hurt. I felt like I was running on 2 stumps of wood down that hill, and that it was never going to end.., give me an uphill anytime at that point in the race over a quad smashing downhill...

The came into the last CP and knew I had only 8 more km...40 minutes if I could keep my pace...piece of cake..right?? It's amazing sometimes just how long 8km can seem to take some times! Somewhere through the midway of the last leg, the first relay team caught me..the guy passed me like I was standing still...I thought how badly I'd like to be that guy and how badly I'd like to be Darin, as I knew he'd be done by now! Just keep running, one foot in front of the other...Greg told me at that point, that the finish line was on the other side of the mountain in front of me. I came into town and finally started to think about the finish line. I don't like to give myself that luxury until the race is over, as I've certainly learned over the years, that anything can happen. I looked at my watch and realized I was going to be really close in making my goal of 8 hr:16 mins if I could keep this pace the last couple kilometers. I finally rounded a corner and asked one of the volunteers, how much farther. ...he answered, 300m! I felt a surge of energy and ran hard into the finish....I could hear the announcer calling my name as the new women's 100km Champion, and crossed the line in 8hr:15 min:56 seconds, which was apparently a new womens course record, which was a nice surprise. Greg was there to meet me and give me a big hug. Darin was there to congratulate me as well looking like he'd jogged an easy 5km that day...I'd like to say I looked and felt the same, but it didn't really matter at that point, I was done and had averaged 7:59 miles.....some days it comes together and this was one of those days. I changed and waited at the finish for Suzanne to come in shortly after. She ran an impressive race, and will definately be a force to watch in the ultra world.

Overall, H2H was an excellent, well run event, and is clear the organizers have done this a time or two before. The awards were later that night, followed by a post race dance. Would love to say I danced the night away and that we celebrated in style, but I think I had left it all out on the course.

Am home now and on my way to recovering. Next up for me is Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge, which is a 6 day Stage race in the United Emerites. I leave November 30th and will be racing with Salomon/Crested Butte. Time to hit the paddling machine and pool for the week and ease back onto the bike.

Whitehorse star article

Denise McHale to defend Canadian 100-km Champion title

Whitehorse’s Denise McHale is off to Vancouver for the Canadian 100 kilometre Championships on Nov. 7.


LOOKING FOR ADVENTURE – Denise McHale of Whitehorse is heading to Vancouver on Nov. 3 for the Canadian 100 kilometre Championships to defend her title.

Whitehorse’s Denise McHale is off to Vancouver for the Canadian 100 kilometre Championships on Nov. 7.

The race, called the Haney 2 Harrison is a 100 kilometre course and McHale is expecting the worst weather conditions – not that that’s a bad thing.

I expect rain, rain and more rain,” said McHale. “I expect conditions to be somewhat miserable, which is fine with me.”

McHale’s adventure racing experience has provided her with the ability to get through any conditions a race has to offer.

“I think my experience in adventure racing tends to lend itself to dealing relatively well with adverse weather conditions and things that are out of my control,” she said.

Even with her experience, McHale says the course won’t be a walk in the park.

“I expect a tough race because of the weather conditions, and because the course is rather hilly,” she said. “It really all comes down to proper training and a little bit of luck that things come together on the day.”

McHale hopes to keep her title of Canadian 100 kilometre Champion.

“I am going with the hope of defending my title and running a personal best,” she said.

McHale began racing in 1996, when she joined a learn to run group at Better Bodies, where she worked.

Her first run with the group was three-kilometres.

“I still remember being thrilled with that accomplishment,” said McHale.

After a few years running, she ran her first marathon.

“ I ran my first marathon a couple of years later and was hooked from there,” said McHale.

There is no formal ranking system for adventure racing, but fellow marathon runner Keith Thaxter says she is one of the top competitors in Canada.

“She’s a pretty amazing runner,” he said.

McHale says Canada’s running team has had success nationally and internationally in recent years.

“We’ve had some success adventure racing in Canada and internationally and have had a really good 2009 so far,” she said.

The team has also joined up with members from other countries.

“We’ve expanded our team over the past year and have been racing with a couple American based teams with some team mates from Australia, New Zealand, Spain and France,” said McHale.

Racing against her teammates is what McHale is looking forward to the most for her upcoming race.

After the Haney 2 Harrison in Vancouver, she is heading to Abu Dhabi, United Emerites, for the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge with team Salomon from the U.S. for her final event of the season.

Racing has brought McHale all over the world.

“I’ve the opportunity to travel to some amazing places and race with some incredible athletes,” she said.

McHale has found that her participation in adventure racing has proved beneficial in other areas of her life.

“Adventure racing especially is so complex both physically and mentally that I find the experience I have gained flows out to so many other areas of my life and has helped me become a stronger person,” she said. “I love the challenges that endurance sports brings.”

While travel internationally could be a strain on an athlete’s personal life, McHale travels and competes with her husband Greg.

“I’m lucky in the fact that my husband and I race together and have been able to share so many of these experiences together,” she said.

McHale has been running for almost 13 years, and the thrill she felt when she completed her first three-kilometre run is still alive and well.

“There’s nothing better than when things come together and you cross a finish line after days of racing knowing you’ve left it all out on the race course,” said McHale.
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Denise McHale’s career highlights

August 2009: Primal Quest, in South Dakota, U.S. 1,000 kilometre expedition – third place.

June 2009: Best of the West, in Alberta, 600 kilometre expedition, – first place.

May 2009: 50 mile Canadian Championships, in Victoria,BC – first female and new course record.

March 2009: Rock and Ice Ultra, in NWT. 225 kilometre run – 1st female

November 2008: 100km World Championships, in Italy – first Canadian Women and 23rd female.

August 2007: Raid the North Extreme, in Prince Rupert, B.C. 600 kilometre expedition – third place.

May 2007:100km Canadian Championships, in Edmonton – first female and new course record.

December 2006: Nuevo Leon Outdoor Challenge, in Mexico – third place team.

October 2006: Extreme Adventure Hidalgo, in Mexico – second place team.

August 2006: Primal Quest, in Utah, U.S. 700 kilometre expedition – fourth place team.

May 2006: Mississauga Marathon – third place female.

2004: Calgary Marathon – 1st place female.