Kusam Klimb 2007
Another magnificent race in Sayward: mountains, gatorade, and snowflakes.
Learning from the mistakes of last year, we left Victoria around 3:30 on Friday; Mark came with, despite his declaration that he would "never do that again". A respectable contingent attended from Victoria, the majority being Harriers.
Morning rolled around and we loitered at the start line, chatting with Sandy, Lara, and Randy. The race started out a few minutes late (7:04?), with the air seeming a bit chilly. The fastees darted out and were quickly out of sight -- I opted for a slow warm-up. A very large field this year -- close to 290 registered and the participant count was in the 260's!
This year I was better settled in with people of my own pace. During the unrelenting climb, only Jo, Lara, and a few others passed me on the way up; I felt a bit winded, but strong nonetheless. Just over Keta view rock it was snowing; there really isn't any worry about poor weather in this race -- at worst a shower becomes a light snow... A few minutes later patches of snow appeared, much like last year but in less quantity. The first ropes and slippery drops caught me off guard and slowed my descent. This wasn't bad, considering it was only a few minutes down to the frozen lake before we all climbed up the snowy slope to the saddle (aka Checkpoint 2).
At the lake some stood at the edge thinking "do we have to cross this?", while others spotted the left hook in the trail and snook past. The sparse flagging around the lake confused many, but there was a selection of footprints to choose from, all of which leading up. Soon I found myself at the saddle (nearly a 1500 meter climb) a full ten minutes earlier than last year (1:50 versus 2:00).
Things quickly became very interesting. The backside offered ropes weaving between the old growth and tree wells, when necessary. I got stuck behind a gentleman for a minute near the top, but hopped off the rope at the first opportunity and scrambled past. For whatever reason, I was feeling both confident and reckless and continued down without the rope for the bottom half. Soon I found myself weaving through the trees at top speed taking full strides -- barely under control. I saw Lara and a couple of others cautiously trotting down the snowbank; I let out a whoop and cruised past. The downhill was ABSOLUTELY AWESOME and definitely the highlight of the race. I had descended more than 700 meters in just 11 minutes!
Now my heels were chilled and legs muddy, but I was feeling quite exhilarated. My only complaint was that my wet shoes felt a little loose. This part of the race felt a lot quicker than last year, with more water in the creeks. I only saw Jo off in the distance and caught up 10 minutes later. Lots of up and down through ditches in the deactivated roads. The checkpoints looked attractive as usual, but I opted not to let these sirens lure me. I got ahead of Jo and Craig, but stopped to tie my shoe and never caught Craig again. After stopping again a few minutes later to tie the other shoe, they were out of sight. I did eventually get just ahead of Jo, but only because of a temporary cramp -- next time I won't be so lucky.
Soon the roads started getting "better" (depending on your perspective). With 2.5 km to go, we go from gravel to well-groomed gravel to pavement. I spot half-naked guy again (from last year), and realize he's probably the only guy in my age class in front of me. I pushed hard and passed him about 4 minutes from the finish line. It paid off, as I came 17th overall in 3:01:10 (versus 3:14:14 last year), and again came first in the 20-29 category.
Other results: Jo was only a minute or so behind (3:02?), Lara just after (3:11?). Most surprising was Mark, who trained hard and shaved off over 2:30 by switching from walking to running -- he was somewhere around 3:40. Shane did extremely well finishing in just 2:38 -- which is incredible, but actually within my reach if I trained very seriously.
This year there was no banquet, but lots of nalgene prizes again. My loot was a pair of tech shirts. A get together was arranged at the Cypress Tree Inn, but the restaurants were ill-equipped for the influx of people. Waits of over an hour were commonplace, and orders often altered or completely wrong -- we were in no position to complain though, being so voraciously hungry. The only heartbreaking thing was the closing of the local rec centre -- we all _really_ wanted a soak in the hot tub!
Most headed to the Salmon River Inn for the dance/live music, and "free" drink. We stopped by, had our drink, a game of pool, and realized we were exhausted and snuck out.
All in all, another fantastic event! Next year registration will definitely be competitive, given that the 300 registrant cap will be hit.