Monday, September 21, 2009

H2H Leg 5 Nicomen Island Trunk Road

I had it all planned in my head. Visualization is the key to a successful run. I was going to wake up at 4:00. I had my clothes all laid out, camelback all clean and ready to go. I even slept downstairs so I wouldn’t wake Jen up. I was going to do Leg 5 of the Haney to Harrison alpine style. I call it alpine style as in alpine climbing where climber makes assaults to higher elevations from base camp and then retreats back down to base camp after setting up a camp higher up. They do it for slower acclimatization I’m doing it for pretty much the same reason to acclimatize to the conditions of the course and familiarize myself with what is out there.

When the alarm went off at 4 o’clock I had to drag myself out of bed. I had to go early because I knew I’d be about 4 hours maybe more. The most important things were to happen later that day, kids soccer game, basketball signup, another birthday party. I let the dogs out the back door to the sound of rain. Lots of rain coming down in all directions and for a brief moment I thought I’m not going out today. Then I thought, it very well may rain on race day so I’d better suck it up. I laced up my shoes and headed out the door.

By the time I hit the Highway, about 2 miles into it, my shoes were soaked. The blisters on the souls of my feet from my foray into barefoot running had just started to heal. This would not be helping.

The problem with discovering a course alpine style is that you have to take the most direct route to the start of ‘the Leg’ you are discovering. The Lougheed Highway is a connector two lane highway that joins all the small towns and municipalities in my area. The H2H route does a good job in avoiding the highway by crisscrossing and using feeder roads. Although Highway 7 as it is also known is the most direct route from Haney to Harrison.

Running along a highway isn’t pleasant at the best of times. Add torrential downpours in the pre-dawn hours of the day and it paints a pretty ugly picture. By the time I made it to Dewdney Elementary, the start of Leg 5, I was soaked. My shorts were clinging to my legs and a steady stream on water cascaded off the brim of my visor down my cheek and down my shirt but at least I didn’t get ‘trained’. The term ‘trained’ refers to those unlucky individuals who whilst running a route that involves a train crossing get stuck and must wait while a 200+ car train makes its crossing. I just missed getting trained by a few minutes, today was my lucky day.

As I ran through the town of Dewdney I started scanning road signs for the turn. There would be no course marshall to guide me. Although I had to laugh because at 5:25 in the morning with the exception of a few choice milk tankers flying by me creating a tsunami-like wave there was hardly anyone on the road. Nobody except some dude in a Golf with a snowboard asking for directions to Hemlock. I found the turn to Nicomen Island Trunk Road and made a soft right.

Nicomen Island is a river delta at the confluence of the Fraser and Harrison Rivers. Nicomen Island Trunk Road is a feeder road to the island’s residents. Most people passing through will drive through Nicomen Island via the highway but the H2H route winds its way though the lush farmland that is home to many of the provinces dairy producers. My plan was to do an out and back so I could scout for landmarks and take in the scenery. Unfortunately at 5:30 in the morning it is about 1 hour before sunrise and there are no streetlights in ‘Farmville’. The only lights were my headlamp and the rather well lit barns. The next hour was spent running barn to barn.

H2H Tip: Know the course
I can see on this part of the course where people could take a wrong turn and end up off course which can be both frustrating and time consuming. Nicomen Island Trunk Road parallels Highway 7 and joins it in several spots via feeder roads but the route actually runs from one end of the trunk road to the other. Your inclination is to join the main highway but keep your sites on it and keep it in the distance for as long as it goes. Eventually the two roads converge near the end of Leg. If you run a 10K in close to an hour you shouldn’t hit the highway until about that.

I hit the 12 mile mark at sunrise exactly. I was still about a few miles from the end of the Leg but I wanted to get home at a decent hour. I turned around as the sunrise slowly revealed some of the most picturesque landscape I had seen all day. Field after field of incredible greens and brown hues and in the backdrop the hilly terrain from which I came, it was so beautiful. And although it was still raining it didn’t dampen the beauty before me.

It’s amazing how a little light changes things. For the first time I noticed how narrow the road actually is. I also noticed that the side streets are marked but the road you’re on is not and how uneven the pavement is from years of patchwork and settling cracks. Slowly I made mental notes of all the benchmarks and stored them in my memory banks.

After I made it back to the highway with the post sunrise traffic now on the roads, I was treated to a never ending parade of fishing boats, campers, and 4x4s out for their weekend fun.

I had no speed left in my legs and I knew that this 10 minute pace would be too fast to run the whole course. I’ll have to practice a tempo run at sub marathon pace. The legs still felt good after 24 miles and I had to do one loop of the cul de sac just to get in an even 24. It was a great start to the day and I can hardly wait until next week. Just keep moving!

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