I have only run one 5 Peaks race before, back in 2002. Compared to the Roadrunners XC Grand Prix series these races are expensive, but they also offer swag, on-site music, chip timing, longer distances in mostly warmer weather, different locations, and medals for age group winners. Compared to triathlons, 5 Peaks trail races are very affordable, I don’t have to manage so much gear, I get to run on DIRT, and their Enduro distances are just right for my preferred training level.
At this 1st race of the Central Alberta season we all received a nice pair of socks. Racers who had signed up for 5 of the 5 Peaks races this season were also supposed to receive a free 5 Peaks t-shirt, but a couple of us who signed up for a split of Central and Northern Alberta races were denied. Evan, the very cool race director, was nice enough to pull a couple of his draw prize shirts (without the 5 Peaks logo) to appease us, but I really want a 5 Peaks shirt. I signed up for 5 races; I want a series-branded shirt to show for it.
Never mind, I was not there for the shirt. I was there to run up and down and all around the dirt trails of C.O.P. Just before I parked my car I heard on the radio it was 2*C, almost freezing. No worries, I was dressed for it. I had some old sweats on over top of my racing clothes to keep warm until the start.
The race began at 10:00 am in three waves; Elite, Used-to-be-Fast, and Tourist. I started somewhere in the middle of the Tourist herd. I was passed by many racers in the first km, and passed a couple runners myself on the way up the first big hills. It was a typical double-loop race, where in the first loop I took it easy in between cautious racers who gently picked their way down single-track descents. There was no point in getting aggressive on the steep downhills at this stage – my pride would be sorely bruised if I tripped in trying to skirt around other runners, and they would all likely catch me on the next ascent anyway. Besides, I was running two loops and many of those at my pace were only running one. I would get a chance to go crazy if I still had energy left later.
About 2/3 of the way through the first loop the sun came out and skinny fast racers started lapping me. The racers around me weren’t bunched up in packs anymore. We had all spread out on yet another climb. I counted 15 fast lappers before gulping down a drink and turning off on my second loop of the Enduro course. The first lap took me about 40 minutes.
Now I was pretty much on my own. There were runners way ahead of me, and likely a couple more behind me. I was able to just run and hike my own pace without accommodating anyone else. The sun warmed things up considerably, and I was glad I’d left my warm layers at the start. The gloriously long, technical descents were well worth the climbs and I let out whoops of delight as I plunged downwards. The finish line was a perfect downhill grade. It was impossible not to finish strong and feeling amazing!
After the race I hung out with a few Roadrunners while munching on standard post-race fare; bagels, fruit, cookies and pretzels. The clouds took over the sun again and it got chilly during awards, but I just donned all my warm layers again. It was a good race and I definitely got my money’s worth. I’m looking forward to the next one.