Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Haney to Harrison Relay by Cory M

On November 7th IF Kitsilano participated in the Haney to Harrison Relay, which is an 8-person running relay that spans 100km from Maple Ridge to Harrison Hot Springs. Much like any other destinations that us coaches participate in we brought along customers to create their own teams and participate in the run, but this year the IF Kits crew used this relay as a great opportunity to team build and grow as a coaching unit by having an all-coaches team. Each coach would run a specific section of the course, with the different legs of the race ranging from 9 to 15km and terrains varying from flat to mildly undulating, to the steep uphill or even a downhill sprint. At each transition the baton, or in this case a timing chip worn around the wrist or ankle, would be passed to the next coach.

Luke took the first leg of the race to set the pace for the rest of the group. Because of the length of the race, start times were staggered early in the morning to allow plenty of time for most teams to finish while the sun was still up. So Luke took his start at 6:45am, wearing a headlamp and brightly coloured shirt so that traffic would see him clearly. It also being well into fall in the lower mainland area, which also meant rain, and lots of it! The first leg was a mildly undulating 9.3km, and Luke made good work of passing people from the start and pushing his pace. He pushed hard enough even to the point of loosing breakfast along the run... twice! Setting a good pace, he finished 4th out of 28th in our corporate division.

At the next checkpoint, Jeff Berger took the reins and headed out on his 13.5km leg of many winding, rolling hills. At this point the rain started to pick up a little bit more with winds blowing right into Jeff’s face. The pace started out well, but around 7km into his 2nd leg of the race Jeff started to feel a lot of pain in the front of his shin. Slowly the pain increased until he could no longer deny the onset of a stress fracture that was now hobbling his run. Race directors who passed Jeff along the highway has seen his limp and worried about his health. I was picked up from the 2nd transition point where would be taking the 3rd leg of the race and was brought to where Jeff was hobbling along the course. Not wanting to be relieved of his leg of the race, Jeff pushed on for the remaining 3km with me jogging beside him.

Finally they both reached the 2nd transition and I took off on my 15km leg of steep uphill, followed by steady downhill. Rain now coming at me sideways it was impossible to stay dry. Especially when most of the race lined very closely to the highway and oncoming traffic would splash puddles in the direction of runners.  Cheering people on along the way, I made up pace and passed a number of other runners in our corporate division. We had lost a bit of ground due to Jeff’s injury and it would be up to us as a team to get it back. I finish my long leg of the race and pass the timing chip off to Ashley.

Up until a year ago Ashley had not been so much of a runner. Previous knee injuries had prevented her from tolerating the long duration of impact to her joints. Recently however she has developed into one of our facilities more avid runners and has made huge strides in her run progressions. Her leg of the race was a 14.4km run of steep downhill followed by a nice long stretch of relatively flat farmland. Coming down the final stretch, we could see her make a final sprint to pass one last runner before Kevin would take over.

As Kevin’s leg of the race was a relatively flat and not overly technical for his 13km, the difficulty of this leg is consistently pushing the pace of the run. It is very easy to get caught in a relaxed and comfortable run on the flats, so it takes a lot of mental toughness to keep speeding up and not settling into that tempo. Give Kevin credit for doing a good job of this and moving us as a team up the leader board.

At each of our transitions we were fortunate enough to have some amazing volunteers who spent their day driving around to each of the drop off locations and hauling around a carload of sweaty, wet runners. Thank you very much to Brittany and Reuben for helping this happen for the Kits team. It was also mandatory for each team to provide a volunteer who would marshal a specific section of the race and make sure that no one was lost and that all transitions happened smoothly. Our ex-receptionist/ current Support Center extraordinaire Nikkie Ruud jumped at the chance to help us out and we are all very grateful… even if it meant that race organizers seemed to have made up a job on the spot for you to “count trains”!

Moses’ turn came to run the 6th leg of the race, where continuous undulating hills lined 13km of path in front of him. The tricky thing about running in these later legs of the race, especially with the weather being as cold and rainy as it was, is making sure that our runners weren’t too cold from standing around supporting our other runners all morning. Being ill prepared for the run could result in muscle tears, cramping, or worse of all, a slow run time! That’s why we took lots of preparation in warming up adequately before each leg of the race and taking the baton in full stride.

Devon Goldstein was a previous trainer with us in Kitsilano until she left to pursue other career options. Although she no longer works with us here at IF, it was great for her to want to come back and contribute to the team by participating in the 7th leg of the race. Her previous run experience and Marathon training made her an excellent match for the steep uphill climb that rose in front of her 13.5km leg.  But what comes up must also come down. So Devon was rewarded with her hill climb with a speedy downhill descent into the last transition.

Kara is another one of our coaches who has made huge strides in her run progressions over the last couple of months. After just completing her first Marathon in Kelowna, Kara had the strength to “bring it home” for the team. Although she had a shorter leg of the race with a relatively flat 8km, she sprinted the entire way and made that final push to get IF Kits up the leader board and to a final team time of 8 hours 18 minutes.

The big take-aways that I personally got from the race this year interestingly enough reflected closely the keys that we use as a company to be successful.
High levels of communication- at each point along the way, from getting participants ready months in advance, to the day-of communication between all participants and volunteers, the high level of communication that we had made our run go as smoothly as possibly.
The right people will play- meaning that we had the right people in the right place for us to succeed. People with the same attitude of success pushing towards a common goal. (i.e.- Luke pushing himself to puking, Berger fighting through the adversity of his stress fracture, Cory running with his teammate for motivation, and everyone fighting their best to come from a 26th place start to a 12th place finish in our corporate category)
Follow the systems- Our key to success was laid out in front of us every step of the way. Our training programs were laid out clearly for us to follow, our race directions and maps were made up for us to get us to each transition smoothly, the itinerary was laid out clearly in the A-Z. Being successful was as easy as not deviating from the path.

I am very excited to take part again next year in the Haney to Harrison race as it was a fun way to grow as a team and be competitive. I look forward to both West Van and White Rock also getting a team together so that we could potentially set up a little bit of a friendly wager… anyone interested?

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