The day after a 50km

Heather

So after having my butt kicked on the trails Saturday, you would have thought a nice relaxing Sunday was in store.  Fat chance, we were up early and off to Buffalo (no not to run the marathon) but to buy running stuff, mainly more shoes.  This sport is deceptively expensive and for some reason (even though our dollar is worth more) running shoes are up to $50 cheaper down south. Trust me even with the cost of gas it is worth us going cross border shopping for this stuff.

Funny things usually happen to us when we cross the border, mainly because Dan has a funny coloured passport, but this border guard was good, polite but authoritative.  It was actually sunny while we were crossing over, we told the border guard our intention of shopping and he just looked at us and said “on such a beautiful day? you should be out running or something.”  I think he was psychic or something, I just stared in disbelief, I mean why would anyone say that?  Dan just laughed and told him we ran a 50km race yesterday and were now in desperate need of new shoes. Now it was the border guard’s turn to stare in disbelief.

Anyway the shopping was ok.

My new kicks.

Dan got some too.

Dan managed to get two pairs, I had sizing issues.

Then we got thirsty.

Samuel Adams Summer Ale = yummy

And then hungry.

I would eat waffles for every meal if I could.

I was still hungry (don’t judge 50km is a long way to run)

I would eat cheese cake at every meal too.

We also managed to pick up some running clothing and a couple of nice hand-held bottles.  As we stopped to pay our taxes on the way back to Canada (we are such honest people) Dan was stopped by a border guard who complimented his shirt and asked what colour it was. I was once again staring in disbelief, Dan calmly said thank you and told him it was magenta.  Then it was his turn to stare in disbelief.

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We are Ultra Runners!

Heather

Saturday was the big day, the day we would run further than we ever had, 50km. The Sulphur Springs Trail 50km to be exact.

Excitedly awaiting the start.

Friday night we packed up everything we could possible need and managed to sleep very well.  Saturday we were up early as it was a 730am start and the locale was an hour away, it was foggy and threatening rain, but thankfully it did not.  We had already heard through the grapevine that the trails we were going to be running on were water-logged and it would be a muddy day, but I really didn’t understand what that meant.

Dan hoping that we'll be able to find all the trail markers

 

We picked up our bibs along with the other 50km runners and the 25km runners who would also start with us.  An hour earlier the 50 & 100 mile runners had set off.  We would be running 2 and a half loops of the course.  The start was a very understated affair (a horn I think) and we were off, down a massive hill, I looked at Dan and pointed out that we would have to run up this hill 3 times – gulp!!  That was the least of my worries, not even 2km into the race I lost my shoe, yes that’s right I stepped in some mud and it kept my shoe.  We had started at the back of the pack to stop ourselves from going out too fast so thankfully no one ran over my shoe.  I had to yank it with all my might to get the shoe out of the mud, my left sock now wet and also covered in mud, I tried to find somewhere dry to stand to put the shoe back on but that was not going to happen.  As I stood there struggling to get my (double knotted, now mud covered) shoelace undone all I could do was laugh, what had we got ourselves into?  Shoe back on and tied a little tighter we were back in the race or at least trying to catch up to the race.

Dan and I have been a little remiss about training on trails, we are too lazy to wake up drive for an hour, run for 4 hours, then drive back an hour,  we were paying for it, dearly.  This was a much hillier course than either of us expected, it made Albion Hills look like a walk in the park.  We quickly decided that we would walk up all the major inclines (a strategy that many other people were using) and as we hiked up the massive hill at the end of our first 10km we felt pretty good, we ran around the finish/start area loop and headed back out for our first full loop of the course.  It’s a neat set up as the course kind of loops and figure eights so that you pass the 2 aid stations twice (so four times over 20km, plus more aid at the finish/start) so if you were doing the longer distances you wouldn’t need a crew you could leave drop bags and coolers at each station with the stuff you need.  We were wearing our packs because we need to carry a lot of stuff with us for the whole Death Race, we looked a little funny carrying so much stuff.

It's a man thing, hands on the hips as they go up the hills.

The first loop went pretty well, there was definitely some tough sections along the course not just the ups and downs but some very boggy sections, it was a great test for our trail runners, both our shoes drained quite well so neither of us were ever really uncomfortable with wet feet. And as an added bonus I kept mine on this time!  As we finished our second loop we had been running for 3 hours and 45 minutes and I was beginning to feel it.  My legs were tired, but I couldn’t complain with one lap to go, the runners in the 100 mile distance would have to complete this loop 8 times before they finished!

The sun made an appearance on the second loop but the damage was already done to the course.  It was a mucky, slippery, wet, boggy mess and all we could do was put one foot in front of the other and hope for the best.  It was weird to me how our bags were getting lighter as we ate and drank our food and water and yet mine just kept on weighing me down, so it was pretty funny when Dan actually ran out of water.  I didn’t believe him and insisted on checking his bag, how could he not notice his bag getting that light?  We checked how much water I had (not much either), what a strange sensation and something we will need to be aware on the Death Race.  At 39km we were back at an aid station and filled our water, used the bathroom, and as we were going to set out again Dan needed to adjust his shoe, then the other, then he couldn’t decide if he wanted to change his shirt.  I was getting antsy the starting and stopping was taking its toll on my legs and my patience, we’d been running for 5 and half hours.  I was also getting frustrated because I couldn’t seem to rationalise in my head why it was taking us so long.  We run marathons in 4 hours 20 minutes, how could be only at 39km after 5 and half hours?  As we set off from the aid station (Dan in a new shirt) I started to lose it, I thought we were not going to make the final cut off, I tried to speed us up but Dan was having none of it.  He calmly pointed out that we had 2 and a half hours to go 11km we were going to make the final cut off, I didn’t believe him.  It took us 30 minutes to cover the 3.5km to the next aid station, but once I got there I started to feel better and calm down, I felt better for knowing that we were through the worst of the boggy bits of the course.  And my math skills were working again, Dan was indeed right, even if we walked the rest we would make the cut off time.

My shoes at their cleanest, after crossing through a small river.

Off we went, both of our spirits lifted.  Of course 5 minutes later we were stopped again because of a stone in my shoe (seriously stones please enter my shoes before the aid stations, they have chairs there) but we just grinded on.  We passed an injured 50 mile racer and offered what help we could, he was going to hobble to the finish because that’s all that he could really do.  It made me realise how lucky we were to still be moving so well, tired but neither of us were in pain.  It also made me appreciate having a running partner, it’s a long way to run by yourself, I have huge respect for all those runners on their own.

Last pass through the aid station and we were on the home stretch with the massive hill leading to the finish.  Dan gave me his blessing to go ahead and give the hill hell, I tried but it was a brutal hill, we were so close to making it to the finish under 7 hours.  I gave it my all to get myself across the finish line and ended up with a finishing time of 7:00:00 exactly.  Dan ended up helping another runner muster up the hill and crossed at 7:01:24.

So did we feel like we could have done that 1 and half more times?  The answer is yes!  We felt pretty good all things considered, yes I had a little melt down, but I think everyone does when you run for that long.  And never once did I consider quitting it was just a freak out, I got over it.

Are we there yet?

Post race, I had some tenderness and swelling around my left achilles, but that didn’t bother me until we got out of the car (sitting for an hour after running for 7 does not stave off any stiffness).  So we took turns with the ice pack (I guess we really could invest in another one of those), the foam roller and the tiger balm and slept like the dead.

This picture doesn't do the hill justice, but we weren't fans of this one.

Working our way up the hill.

The sun was finally out.

 

A welcome section of flat.

 

This was a very slippery down hill.

Dan uses a tree as a brake.

 

The big bog, there was no way around it.

Here comes Dan.

 

Finally done!

No dry bagels here, pizza!!

 

 

 

Ready for the Canadian Death Race. Sort of.

Heather

Last week we received a phone call that made us feel like we won the lottery, well actually it turns out we did win a lottery.  It’s wasn’t a monetary or prize lottery it was a hotel room, and to be clear we will have to pay for the room.  That’s right we were ecstatic to find out we had a room. And rightly so with only 5 hotel/motels in Grande Cache, AB, accommodation is scarce with many people camping.  Dan and I like to camp but somehow I wasn’t keen on the idea of camping two nights before a 125km race (over two mountains).  I figure afterwards I’ll be able to sleep anywhere, but I wanted comfort the nights leading into our 24 hour run.  We started calling in January to secure a room, before we had even managed to register for the event. But the hotels have done this before and all refused bookings for the death race weekend, but we were offered wait lists and lotteries. Of course we put our names on all of them and were then told to sit tight until May or maybe June!

I didn’t like this so we tried a different route of renting an RV/camper van.  No luck there either, apparently the middle of summer in Alberta is a busy time for camping and the smallest RV was a 23 footer, and not cheap (especially with gas prices rising).

Our most recent endeavor was to try to figure out what size vehicle we’d need to rent for Dan to sleep comfortably in because it looked as though we were camping and I wanted somewhere dry to sleep if rain should come our way.

So you can imagine what a relief it was to receive a phone call last week offering us a room at the Best Western. It may be a little more than we would have liked to have paid but there was no chance I was missing out on a room with a double bed, bathroom and mini fridge!!!

So tonight I secured us a rental car (compact since we shouldn’t been sleeping in it). Flights were already booked, so we are more or less set…except for the ever-important crew.  Anyone going to be in Grande Cache over the August long weekend???

The Marathon: Part 2

Dan

The self doubts I had been experiencing evaporated as soon as the race started; I was more than trained to do this distance. Like so many “first times” what was to follow would at times be exciting, all consuming, and leave me feeling sleepy but eager to do it again, however it did differ in that I would have liked it to be over faster!!!!

Half way and feeling good!

I was under strict instructions from Heather not to treat this as a race it was supposed to be a long slow training run (with no traffic). Interesting coming from the girl with klaxon amnesia but I am an obedient husband so long and slow it is.  The plan was to stick with the 4:30 pace bunny, I diligently did just that, well at least until we hit the 2km when the pace group took their first walk break. They were doing 10 and 1’s not something I have trained to do. So after 12 mins of the marathon I was on my own, after 19km I was just behind the 4:15 pace group so much for pacing myself.

Everything seemed to be going peachy, at 21km I had passed the 4:15 group and shortly after ran past Heather and Big Sister cheering me on. This great feeling stayed until the 30km mark, which I hit at 2:59 (far too fast). The last 12km were not going to be as great, the weather deteriorated the rain got heavier and the head wind picked up, so that last stretch was a real grind.    To make it worse the lakeshore stretch of the race is pretty dull and the weather meant not many spectators to cheer us on. The highlight of the final push was meeting a fellow DeathRacer, really helped pick up my spirits and it is always good having someone encourage a sprint finish – cheers fella.

The final time on the clock was 4:18, not lightening quick but a lot of fun. I’m particularly proud of my quick turn around from finish line to pub.

Bring on our first ultra.

The race was THIS big...

The Marathon: Part 1

Dan

My first marathon was weighing heavy on my mind. For all the kilometers I have been covering over the last few months very few of them have been without Heather by my side.  I was becoming genuinely concerned that I didn’t have the mental fortitude to complete the 42.2 km on my own.  This fear was also starting to manifest itself in my sleep, the week leading up to the marathon was

Damn wrong shoes!

filled with all manner of bazaar dreams.

The most vivid of these dreams found me at a deserted start line, anxiety coursing through my veins. The race is due to start, trying to calm my nerves, running through a mental checklist of my race readiness, I get to my feet, shoe laces tied? Hang on these aren’t my running shoes they are my bloody silly slip on bird shoes. Panic stricken I dash to the locker (I have a locker?) whip on my runners and sprint back to the start line, the count down begins 3 – I’m going to be ok, I’m going to be ok 2- breath, relax 1- sh@t, sh#t, sh*t how the hell did this happen, how did they get there, why are the bird shoes back on my feet?!?!

My mood was also starting to become effected. By the Saturday before the race I had a headache that I just couldn’t seem to shake, the family were staying with us the night before the race and I was finding it hard to engage and socialize feeling slightly disconnected from my surroundings. Fortunately we were spending a soggy night watching Toronto FC promise so much but deliver so little, this gave me a social reprieve, after the game I made my apologies and retreated to bed.

I slept surprisingly well, the next morning I went through my regular pre run routine, nipples taped, crotch and bum vaselined, pack check, this familiarity served to settle my nerves, by the time were headed out to the start the dread had morphed into something approaching excitement.

After watching Heather, her mommy and little sister head out on their half marathon it was my turn.  In the start corral I felt a little overwhelmed and out of place, the nerves were starting to creep back, then the count down started 3-I’m going to be ok, I’m going to be ok 2-relax breath 1- awesome I have my running shoes on, let’s do this.

The nerves are gone, honest, can't you tell by the look on my face?

Off My Leash

Heather

This weekend Dan and I trained separately. I think it was good to have a break from each other, we spend a lot of time together these days….

The Cheer Squad in their personalised tees.

Saturday morning I ran 37km.  I was lucky not to be rained on but it was sooo humid.  I designed a figure eight route so that I could pop home to check-in and use the facilities.  First half of my run was great, a little quiet as it was marathon weekend here in Toronto.  I had a woman’s dog follow me for about 800 meters along the Belt Line before a runner coming in the opposite direction pointed out the out of breath owner widely waving her arms.  By the time she caught up to me and took control of her pet I thought I was going to have to administer CPR, I politely pointed out that she should consider taking up running if she was planning on letting her dog off leash. (To be fair to the dog I didn’t even notice he was there he was stealthy but I think happy to be running). 
By the time I hit 21km I was back home I was feeling great, had to change my shirt and top up my water but headed out feeling positive.  Maybe a little too positive, my pace was a tad fast but it felt good and I was running across College street so I was stopping for lots of red lights. As I ran past a cute breakfast place I spotted my friend Angie sitting in the window, went and had a quick chat I was sadly disappointed to discover her group had just placed their orders so there was no food for me to steal (I was feeling a titch hungry) as I ran off it occurred to me that that is what normal people do on Saturday mornings. Meet friends for breakfast catch up over yummy food. I want to say I was jealous but I’ve come to terms with me freakish enjoyment of long distance running. I started to pay for my quick pace around 33km with some major cramping, I’ve never really had this problem before but, oh my lady gaga, you know when it’s starts to happen.  I stopped and stretched and stretched and stretched and finally got comfortable enough to run again. When my garmin finally beeped for 37km I was only at union station and since my legs were killing me I opted to jump on the subway home, I got a few strange looks.

The runners (I didn't receive the memo re: red shirts)

Sunday morning we were up early as both sisters and my parents had arrived the evening before since they were also participating in the Toronto marathon.  Mommy, little sister and I were running the half and Dan the full.  We piled into taxis and off we headed for the start line, but not before giving our cheerleaders their own free t-shirts!!! It was cool day for the run and it rained off and on and let’s not forget the 35km wind gusts.  Let’s just say I was so happy I only had to run the half!  I love this course and was surprised by the number of supporters along the route despite the weather.  The last 3km were by far the toughest as we were running into a chilly head wind, I had balled my hands into fists to try and keep them warm, this became a problem when I tried to wave at spectators as we approached the finish line and wasn’t able to unfurl my hand. (Any spectators reading this I was honestly trying to wave, not shake my fist at you.  To the guy running the 5km and asking how much further, I was shaking my fist at you.)  My mom and I literally ran into the back of some runners who decided the timing mat before the finish line was the finish, I think we lost a couple of seconds there for sure…

Can you spot us?

The full marathon starts an hour after the half so I had time to rush to the half way mark of the marathon in time to see Dan go by, it he looked fabulous.  I was happy to see him smiling even though the weather conditions were less than favorable.  I thankfully had enough time to have a quick shower and get dressed in warm/waterproof clothing to head back to the finish line to await Dan (living so close to the finish of marathon has it’s benefits).  I thoroughly enjoyed being a cheerleader for the hour or so that we waited for Dan.  It is so inspiring to watch all the runners coming through, achieving their goals and doing something that many people can’t say they’ve done.  Dan looked great when he crossed the finishing line; he looked like a super hero as they draped his solar blanket around his shoulders (he chose to wear his pack for the run so the blanket just billowed out behind him).  I was so proud of him and although we will be running distances further than this it was still awesome to witness him notch a marathon into his running belt!

Rocking the plastic bags!

Little sister on her way to the finish.

Mommy and me almost done.

And we're done!

Dan on his final approach.

Always a bridesmaid never a bride.

Dan

Or in my case starting to feel like always the cheerleader and never the racer. On Friday Heather was entered to run the Nike girls night out. A free 10 km around the Evergreen Brickworks, not an exclusively female event but certainly the tees and finishers medal/bracelet didn’t really shout manly.

Refusing to play.

Unlike the previous weeks 10km I didn’t have any real pangs of regret for not entering this race. There was in fact a brief moment of joy for not having entered as all the runners were assembled for a pre race warm up, akin to a bad 80’s aerobics class. Heather shuffled off to join this much to my amusement, and promptly returned 30 seconds later refusing to join in apparently not seeing the benefits of group flailing, shame really I found it quite funny. Possibly more concerning were the people Heather overheard blaming over exertion in the warm up for their poor start to the race, not the effect the race organizers were going for.

It was I have to admit a great little race for free, pretty well organized with outgoing and friendly race staff.

And she's off.

There was also another reason that I was happy not to have entered. It would appear to be poor form as a guy to beat the girls in a race called girls night out, much to my amusement I heard many guys gallantry questioned, in particular the chap who was silly enough to win, come on ladies whatever happened to equality? That said if Heather decides to run it next year I have vowed to do it in drag with her.

Ok now for the most important part of this entry. How did Heather do? Answer too well, let me explain to the non runners out there, this was only supposed to be a training run and should have only been run at 70% of Heather’s max exertion. However Heather seems to suffer race amnesia and forgets this fact as soon as she hears a starters klaxon. She set a PB for this distance finishing in a time of 48:16. I couldn’t help be anything other than impressed and proud, even though I knew it may mean a tricky long slow run the next day (it did). I actually think she could have shaved of more time had it not been for odd seeding system that ranked people by experience rather than speed, this unfortunately led to a few slow bottle necks on this narrow course, guess something needed to slow her down.

Done already?