I remember back when I was “just” a cyclist and the East coast riders would talk about the “rules” for cyclocross racing: no training allowed, no whining allowed, and no organizers making the races too long allowed. Westcoast didn’t have much cyclocross racing until recently when Wendy Simms and Normon Thibault brought the Island Cup series to Vancouver Island and thus spawned a new generation of cyclocrossers. Now cyclocross has enjoyed an overwhelming resurgence in popularity which has made the events themselves a lot more serious and important. People TRAIN for it now. Cheaters. That goes against the code of offseason which means don’t train, just suffer periodically.
So I have to draw parallels now to the epic trail run series in Victoria, BC that diehard offroaders like myself gravitate to every winter, regardless of epic weather conditions dreamt by Mother Nature. These races are not serious and there is not much on the line aside from the loss of some excess calories consumed in the dreary darkness of 4pm for weeks prior. This year the theme/obstacle was “snow” and the questions included “are we running in the swamp with the razor blade ice surface?”. The Thetis Lake Gunner Shaw XC race never fails to disappoint in delivering post race tales of carnage, near disaster and self mutilation. The race commemorates the life and legacy of Bruce (Gunner) Shaw, one of three founding members of the Prairie Inn Harriers (which is the club that has adopted me for my running forays in the offseason). All proceeds of the race go towards bursaries which help aspiring young runners. With a good cause, fond memories, a challenging course and 500 brave souls on hand, the grassroots running community shone brightly, with many muddy, soggy, wet and dirty finishers keeping the boredom of winter at bay. Just as cyclocross used to bridge some of the gap to the road racing season… so too do winter offroad run events help us keep stoked through the nasty Pacific Northwest winters.
I stuck to my offseason mantra (no training, poor nutrition/lots of tasty food, late evenings with nonracing friends) so after an evening with too many red Bordeaux blends on my hit-that list I was in bed late and up early for a Specialized customer appreciation ride at Oak Bay Bikes in the morning. It was icy and sketchy so I was impressed with the diehards who were there undeterred by the questionable weather. I only did a fraction of that ride in order to make it to the run race. I didn’t want my Saturday to turn into a training day :).
As for Gunner Shaw, I think it went quite well this year. I managed to win the race in 39:08 which was a nice bonus after a day of battling a group of about 8 men who would continually take turns dropping me on the icy downhills or sprinting by me in the particularly steep uphills. I laughed at the final results where I ended up 8/8 from that group… either I cannot sprint at all or you can’t underestimate the motivation to be the last guy to be in front of all the girls. Likely a combination. All kidding aside, it was a super fun race with all very positive rivalries and some very fast running from some young juniors which I found very inspiring. Laura Schwartferger was second in the women’s and Karen Laberee was third. The men’s race was won by Shawn Nelson in 33:45 followed by Shane Ruljancic and Trevor Ruck. A new girl, Annie Ewart, is going to join the Pacific Cycling Centre group I will train with this year and after her junior win at Gunner Shaw I look forward to trying to nudge her towards XTERRA… hmmm but first I have to get her on a mountain bike. Ha!
Thanks again to Bob Reid and my Prairie Inn Harrier teammates who hosted the annual event. I actually have started to associate scalding hot chicken soup and hot chocolate with winter. It is now ingrained as a permanent association of Victoria winter fun: PIH events- I wouldn’t miss it for anything. Good times.