Local runners first, third and fifth in epic trail run
Although he swore he would never do it again after finishing second last year with assorted cramps and aches and pains, Kevin Titus returned to the Knee Knackering North Shore Trail Run last Saturday with a score to settle.
As races go, the Knee Knacker is a bear. Its 30 miles or 48 kilometres long and winds its way between Horseshoe Bay and Deep Cove along the Baden-Powell Trail Centennial Trail. It crosses over mountains, with 8,000 vertical feet of climbing and 8,300 feet of descents. Running Wild magazine regards the race as one of the toughest in North America.
Determined to beat the race that beat him, Titus and running partner Scott Pass put in months and months of long-distance training, hiking up mountains and going for five hour trail runs.
The result? Not only did Titus win the race, he also set a new record for the race, which was in its fifteenth year. The previous record has stood for 12 of those years.
Last year, Titus took the Masters 40 to 49 title and finished second overall with a time of five hours, 12 minutes and 43 seconds not bad for his first ever Knee Knacker.
This year the 46-year-old Titus started strong and finished strong, building a solid lead on Peter Findlay of Kamloops, the previous record holder. Titus had a three-minute lead on Findlay at the halfway point, but by the end of the race he was up by 23 minutes.
His time of 4:42:37 was two-and-a-half minutes faster than the record.
"I wasnt going for the record, not at all," said Titus. "Last year I finished in 5:12, and this year the goal was to make it in under five hours. The record never entered into my mind until the last hour of the race, and I felt strong all the way through."
Titus credits his finish to the training work he and Pass have done. He even went for a run three days afterwards, something he couldnt have managed after last years race.
He also had a bit more experience, and knew to hike the steep sections over the mountain rather than try to run everything. "Last year I would finish the steep sections and I had nothing left, I bonked halfway through the race. This year I was in shape and hiked up the worst parts, and felt pretty good at the top," he said.
It was Pass who lured Titus back into the race. Pass was injured last season, and Titus was motivated by the idea of having someone to train with.
"I wasnt all that happy with my race last year," he said. "I finished pretty well, but I thought I was capable of running that distance without bonking, that I could have run the race a lot better.
"The ironic thing is that after this race I felt fine. The run was so enjoyable."
Titus next goal is to return to the Canadian Cross Country Running Championships this fall to defend his Masters title.
Finlay finished in second with a time of 5:05:56.
Pass finished third overall with a time of 5:33:17.
"I was quite ready for it," said Pass. "I felt very good for the first three-quarters of the race, and in the last four kilometres I had some bad leg cramps and just sneaked in at third."
Although Pass was tempted at one point to drop out, he said he felt better as he got closer to the finish line.
"I did it once before and I ran it pretty conservatively. This time I went a lot harder and felt really great when all is said is done," said Pass.
Neither Titus or Pass plan on racing again next year, mostly because of the training commitment that was required, with an average of 14 hours of trail running each week.
The Knee Knacker attracted a record of 181 racers this year.
Sean Wolfe of Mt. Currie was fifth in the race, finishing just behind Pass in 5:34:53. Kevin and Declan Wolfe were 5:51:11 and 5:51:15 respectively to finish 12 th and 13 th overall, and third and fourth in the Under 40 category.
Walter Wallgram was 28 th overall and 11 th in the 40 to 49 race in 6:18:29.