After running the Klondike Road Relay this weekend, I have to say, the body truly is a mystery sometimes?! I went into this race having very little expectations, as I had been sick for over a week and really hadn't gotten in the miles since the Death Race. My longest run in the 5 weeks since the Death race was a 25k road run, so I was a little worried how the body was going to hold up over the 72km of punishment on the pavement. I went into it thinking my first goal was to just run the distance in a respectable time under 8 minutes miles, and come out feeling healthy with not too much recovery time needed, as it really was just a long training run for the World Championships, which is in Gibraltar November 7th.
The race started at 5am in Carcross. Similar to Haney to Harrison, which I ran last year in Vancouver, the KRR is a 10 person relay, which runs 180km from Skagway, Alaska and finishes in downtown Whitehorse. I woke up at 3:30 to eat a quick breakfast and my friend and support crew Kim and I left just before 4am for the start. I got there just after 4:30, which was enough time to get my things sorted and ready for the start at 5:00.
The race started at 5 and my friend Keith and I took off together. Temperature was 5 degrees, and was actually a little cool for the first bit in my long sleeve Merrell jersey and shorts, but I knew it would warmup once the sun came up a few hours later. I stopped for a quick pee break and Keith carried on. I chased him for over an hour and was still not catching him. I knew our pace was pretty fast, so I didn't want to push myself to go any faster and figured I'd catch him evenutally, and better to do my own thing.
Leg 7 and 8 which totalled 33km, seemed to fly by in no time, and I felt happy to feel strong and to have quite a bit of energy. I caught up to Keith finally early on in Leg 9 and asked him what pace we were running as I knew he was wearing a Garmin. He told me we were on 7:16 pace and thought to myself, I hope this isn`t going to be a problem later on. I felt really good and figured just keep running at that pace as long as it felt fine. My excellent support crew kept me well fed and hydrated and I made sure to eat a gel or something every 45 minutes at a minimum. As we hit the first of the hills on leg 9, I could feel Keith dropping off and after running together for a bit, I gradually put a little bit of distance on him. I grabbed my ipod partway through leg 9, and it seemed to provide me with a little extra zip, as I managed to average 7:11 min miles for leg 9, which surprised me in the end. Toward the last few km of Leg 9, I could feel things start to stiffen up. I carried on until the end of the leg, and when I looked back at the Transition I realized I was on my own.
I hit the Alaska highway with the remaining 19 km to go and a bit of a headwind. I forced some more food down and focused on just getting the 11km to the corner and off the highway knowing I`d be into Miles Canyon by then, which is one of my favorite places to run and on the home stretch. This section was definately the low point of the race, but I kept reminding myself that this was 28km shorter than the world champs was going to be, so better suck it up and try and maintain a good pace. I finally hit the turn off, Kimmie handed me a skor bar and that would be the last time I`d see my support crew until the finish line. I ran through the hills at a pretty good pace and was surprised I still felt pretty strong on the uphills, but was definately suffering some on the downhills. I crested the last of the hills, plodded down the backside and turned the corner onto Swatka Lake knowing it was all flat from there to the finish line.
I crossed the finish line in 5 hrs:28 minutes, in 1st place and with a new course record by 17 minutes, which was certainly more than I had expected from the day. I was thrilled to realize I had averaged 7:24 minute miles, which is 19 seconds per mile fast than my goal pace for Worlds. Im not sure that I could have maintained that pace for another 28 km, but hopefully with another 6 weeks of training, and a bit of speed work I still have some time to improve.