Return to Sulphur Springs

Dan

This was my second crack at the Sulphur Springs 50k, last year it was my first ever ultra and despite it kicking my ass I loved it and the Dundas Conservation Area became one of our favorite running spots.
The day before the race it dawned on me that this was going to be my first solo ultra, Heather to this point had been right there on the start line with me. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be today.  Very glad I hadn’t acknowledged that I was going to be running this race on my own earlier, I think it would have freaked me out a bit.
My plan was to aim for a 6 hour 20 min finish, it didn’t take too long to realize that this was a little ambitious. It was hot hot hot, I suck in the heat, also if I am honest my legs were not fully recovered from the 50 miler 3 weeks ago. So I decided to just have fun with the race and see how the cards fell.
Running on my own meant that I had to keep myself entertained, so along with the usual things that go through my head as I run I decided to chat to a few of the other runners and had a grand old-time swapping stories with all sorts of runners, and non runners. One of the more  bizarre moments came when I was approached by a young man and woman with clipboards who explained that they were doing a kinesiology  project and wondered if I would mind being filmed and answering a few questions.  Of course I am not one to shy away from a little attention plus I was struggling a bit at this point so this distraction seemed like a win win to me. They agreed to keep up with me while they filmed an asked questions, not hard as I was at a bit of a low and had started to walk. They peppered me with questions, think I did an ok job of answering them, other than the on about the technology on my wrist, I explained that it was a buff (you know the things off survivor) that I was using to mop the sweat off my face.  Only later after retelling this story to Heather did she point out that they were probably referring to the very expensive GPS watch on my other wrist not the free buff on my left arm!
I also got the chance to be a good Samaritan a few times on this race. I stopped a 100 mile relay runner going the wrong direction. Even though I don’t really like relay runners, actually not all relay runners just the ones that don’t wear their race bibs on the back. It really pisses me off when they come blasting past, this can be a bit crushing when you don’t realize they are running on fresh legs.  So if by chance any relay runners are reading this follow good race etiquette, and would it hurt you not to be the rudest runners on the course, without fail you are the least likely to acknowledge another runners efforts. Rant over…
I was also able to help the special guest race marshal by covering her post so she could take a quick alfresco wee.  It seemed to confuse a lot of runners when a fellow runner was telling them where to go!

On my way to relieve the race marshal to relieve herself.

Not too long after this came across a pair of 25k runners one of whom was having a pretty nasty calf cramp, they didn’t have any water or salts on them so I stopped gave her a salt tab and handed her my handheld and told her to drink what she needed. Nice of me I guess but it turns out that she needed a lot more water than I had anticipated, so I ended up running the hardest part of the headwater trail with half a bottle of water, oh well she needed it more than me they were only 2k from the finish, I hope they managed to finish strong.
So how did I do? All in all I was pretty happy to come in with time of 6:54 which was 7 mins faster than last year, not bad considering the tired legs and the distractions.  Next year though I want to try it again without tired legs, I am convinced I can do it in 6:20 or less.

The final ascent.

It’s over.

Sweet swag

The full race course is actually printed on these bad boys.

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DNS

Heather

Let’s see, where to start?  Some have you may have noticed I didn’t post my weekly mileage last week.  Yes it was a long weekend, but no that’s not the reason I didn’t post.  Mainly it was because it looked like this:

It seems that my fall the previous week, did more damage to me than just superficial wounds.  I couldn’t run, at all.

So last weekend I went to the cottage as it was the long weekend here and relaxed in the sunshine and spent time with the family and tried not to whine too much about not being able to run.  I did yoga on the dock and spent a lot of time with my foam roller.  It was actually quite nice.

This week I was able to do a little more (well a lot more in comparison to last week) but sadly I had to face my first ever DNS – Did not start.  Which I guess is better than a DNF (did not finish).  Ultimately it was a good decision as I was in no condition to run a 50km race.  Dan and I had discussed my chances of running Sulphur Springs while at the pub (where many of our family decisions are made), and we agreed that it wasn’t wise to risk further injury.  So I emailed the race director to offer my assistance if he was still looking for volunteers, and it turned out he had just the job for me, I got to be a race marshal and make sure racers went the right way.  To be fair my “junction” was well signed and taped but it turned out to be a fun morning…and a little boring, but mostly fun.  I found some time to play with my new camera.

Where I hung out

Stay left

Go right

A couple of runners heading up reforestation trail.

Had me a little snack, these things are good, thinking it may have race day fuel potential.

Pretty bored now, tried out the fish eye effect on my camera.

Tried out the timer next, but it focused on that bit of my bag in the bottom left.

There we go, timer works, sometimes.

My highlight was when I group of runners went by and went up a different trail confusing some racers (whom I kept on track), but realised that Reid Coolsaet (one of Canada’s olympic marathoner’s for 2012) had just waved at me and given me the thumbs up.  For what I have no idea seeing as he wasn’t racing but still that was so cool (and I’m well aware of what a running nerd that makes me), I responded with a “oh, hey”, yeah I’m so cool.

It was interesting to be helping out instead of racing, most runners were polite and said hello or gave a wave as I cheered and pointed them in the right direction, but there were a few who out-and-out ignored me, most of which were wearing headphones, that even I could hear the music blaring from.  I also helped one racer clean up her knees after tripping on a root, and managed to watch two more people trip over the same root, that’s trail running for you.

To wrap up my training in the last two weeks:

Week 5

Planned mileage: 74km

Actual mileage:

Days run: 1 (if you can even call that a run)

Excuses:  My knee/leg was really giving me trouble.

Week 6

Planned mileage: 83km (including the race)

Actual mileage:

Days run: 3 (once on the treadmill and twice outside)

Excuses:  Still working on my injured leg, but it’s getting better.  Today I ran 15km with no pain, outside at a decent pace.  Made me feel good about deciding not to run the race yesterday.

I’m a little upset with how my training has gone but ultimately I need to arrive at the start line injury free, that being said the last two weeks were not a complete loss.

I’ve started getting back into my strength and conditioning which was missing from my training thus far, and I’m still biking when I can to keep my cardio up so hopefully next week I can get some quality runs in and get myself back on track.

What’s this?

Dan

What’s this?

I got mail, which in itself is unusual, even more so when it is heavy mail from a race.

So whats in the envelope?  Certainly not something I expected, I thought perhaps it may have been some sort of draw prize that I hadn’t collected after the chocolate run.

Apparently I placed in my age group, pretty cool, when we looked at the results afterward we thought I may have come in 4th, no idea that I was 3rd.

So how has this running stars training been going since the 50 miler?  Simply put not well, my feet have not healed as quickly as I would have liked. Attempted a trail run on Saturday managed only half the planned distance and doubled the size of the blood blister on my right heel.

Planned mileage: 42k
Actual mileage: 18k
Days run: 2

Excuses: I am a bit broken!!!

Mogollon Week 4

Heather

I can’t even be bothered to come up with a creative title.

Not much to report this week. Running 50 miles seems to have knocked me out.  I’ve slept like the dead all week and had a nap nearly everyday.  My legs were wobbly at best, no stairs for me.  Went for my first run Thursday with Dan and Roberta, watched them get further and further away for most of the run, but I did feel better afterwards for getting out there.

Saturday we went to Sulphur Springs for our long run.  My legs were still very wobbly, in that I had to walk the downhills!!! Uphill no problem, flats feeling good, going down no way.  Speaking of going down, I fell just over 2km into my run.

I thought it best to make sure my brand new camera was still working after falling on it!

Managed to scratch the my whole thigh on the opposite leg.

Another handy reason to have a camera on you while running. I banged my chin so I was able to make sure I’d washed on the dirt off before proceeding. (I’m just happy I didn’t bite my tongue or break a tooth.)

Dan and I chose different routes, so I was all by myself when this happened.  Actually some guy went by me as I was picking myself up and politely let me know he was passing my on left.  Not cool dude, most decent people would have at least asked if I was ok.  Thankfully my faith in the human race was restored when passing a runner in the opposite direction that actually did ask if I was alright.  Also a nice older couple on horses seemed very concerned that I fell on my knee, bless, I wish it was just my knee!  It was a tough slog but I managed 20km, in not too bad of a time all things considered.

Planned mileage: 60km

Actual mileage:

Days run: 2

Excuses:  I ran 50 miles a week ago and didn’t really plan a recovery week mileage wise.  I just couldn’t run.  I didn’t bother running today (Sunday) either because my knee is a little swollen from the fall and I just thought it’s not worth injuring myself, it’s not like I was going to 23km anyway.

Bearing My Soles

Dan
Heather covered all the major points of the race. I do have a pretty random collections of thoughts to add, be warned there are positives, negatives and some down right nasty ones.
Let’s start with an obvious lesson learnt.  I got me some badass blood blisters on my heels, yep both heels, I can’t resist a bit of symmetry.

OUCH!

The cause is two-fold, first I was wearing new shoes not just unbroken in familiar shoes but new and untested other than a quick jaunt the weekend before the race.  Why? Given the lack of trail running so far this year I was worried my feet wouldn’t be tough enough to run in my NB Minimus, so I invested in some slightly padded North Face Single Track Hayasas. The shoes themselves ended up being a good risk the real problem came because I only had one pair of shoes, so when H got to change her shoes at the half way point I had to carry on in the ones I had, which were soaked.  I did have a pair of Nike Frees to change into but they were woefully inadequate for the terrain. So a pretty simple fix going forward.
Any good race needs the right preparation, I don’t mean logging the miles or hitting the gym, that is obvious.  Real preparation requires getting into character and what is the ultimate ultra attribute?  Yep you know it, the ultrastache made a return, this time from a vending machine on our last stop on the way to Bear Mountain.  When I spotted it, it seemed like too much of a sign to ignore.  The stache obviously helped carry me through the race.

Bottom row in the middle. Are you serious???

Good things come in small packages.

The Stache

The Original Ultra Stache

The Ultra Goatee

The Ultra Unibrow

Snakes are terrible creatures, in the future snake free races are a must. Though like the killer goose it did highlight my incredibly well honed flight response.  Nuf said
Ok on too some over sharing.  My hydration was pretty damn near perfect which meant a fair amount of pee stops including one slightly too hurried on where I peed on my shorts. Under normal circumstances I would have been mortified by this but after 8 hours of running it seemed to entertain me, the mind does some crazy things. So peeing on myself is a race first.

Dan getting hydrated before the race even started

Skittles are magic and not just in a taste the rainbow kinda way. Heather mentioned that at the last hard cutoff I had a little sit down before announcing I was ready to carry on. I will attribute this not to the rest but to the three large handfuls of skittles I stuffed into my gob and the ensuing mind altering sugar high.
Baboon butt, is the closet description of my poor bottom following this race that I can think of, see picture below. Along with the ass chafage my balls didn’t fare too well either. Tip if you forget about this chafage shower gel is an excellent reminder.

How Dan’s bottom feels

So those are my thoughts and realizations.  Well there is just one more. For 14 hours 24 mins one thing remained constant, and that was Heather, there is no one I would rather have shared this or any other adventure with, thank-you baby, bring on the next adventure!!!
Planned mileage: 92 km
Actual mileage:  96 km
Days run: 3
Excuses:  Had a bit of making up to do for last weeks shortfall 😉

The Day After the Day After

Heather

Well we’ve made it home safe and sound from NY state.  I have to say thank you so much for the support that we have received over the last two days, even if you do think we are crazy!
After re-reading the blog (sorry for all the spelling/grammar errors the mobile app is not overly user-friendly) I realise that I seemed to focus on the negative.  Honestly the race was an amazing experience, and we are so proud of ourselves for finishing because it could have been so easy to quit and walk away (ok, hobble away).  But the amazing support we received along the course helped us make it through and we felt amazing as we crossed the finish line.  The thing about ultra distance running is that there are going to be ups and downs, because you are out there for so long, it’s how you deal with both the ups and downs that ultimately will make or break you.  We’re still learning this amazing sport so please bear with us.
So this weeks Mogollon training…
Planned mileage: 113km (including the 50 miler)
Actual mileage:
Days run: 3
Excuses: None!  I didn’t need to be hitting this kind of mileage but the race put me well over.  I skipped running on Wednesday to pack and I didn’t want to over do it going into Saturday.  I can guarantee I will miss my mileage next week because I haven’t really planned in recovery from the 50 miler so we will just see how far I get.
For example on our ride home every bathroom break we took I went straight for the wheelchair accessible  one, because I needed to hang on to the rail to get up and down, my quads are currently shredded, but tomorrow is a new day and tonight there is an epsom salt bath with my name on it!

We passed Marathon on our way to our Ultra Marathon

Breakfast of Champions!

Love purchasing cheap beer from gas stations across from hotels.

 

 

 

TNF Bear Mountain 50 Mile Race Report

Heather

I’m never allowed to choose races again.

Yesterday Dan and I ran The North Face Bear Mountain 50 Mile, in the Caskills of New York State. We set off at 5am with 275 other idiotsrunners. The weather was ok, cloudy, humid, but no rain around 18 degrees Celsius.

We set out feeling ready for this race, confident in our training. It was dark and we had to where head lamps for the first hour. We agreed that we needed to practice our night running, the terrain was really rocky and the ground wet from the night before’s rain, but we both managed to stay upright.

We came into the first aid station in about 53 minutes, ditched the head lamps at our drop bags, and carried on our way, feeling good. It is a really hilly course with a total elevation change of 14074 feet, the elevation didn’t really bother us, what we hadn’t realised was that it would be the terrain that would be the tough part. A good chunk of the race seemed to take place on old river beds, very rocky, or sometimes we just ran across giant rocks.

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We had been running bang on a 12 hour pace as we headed out of the 3rd aid station, but the terrain would just keep slowing us down. I don’t know how to convey how tough it was, jutted rocks everywhere, lots of mud to sink into, water crossings (none of which is mentioned on the website or course description), half the course was run on loose rocks of all shapes and sizes, we had to scramble up and down rock faces. I’m not complaining, much it was a lot of fun, but we just couldn’t move fast, I don’t know how the elites do it.

We made the first hard cut off with about 20 mins to spare.

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But there were lots of us and people still coming behind us, we weren’t worried. We had 7 miles to make it to the next aid station where we would be over half way done and where our drop bags would be (hooray for fresh socks!) But this 7 miles seemed to last forever and I would say I hit my first real low of the race. My legs were starting to hurt from the jarring terrain, I was hungry and I just wanted to get to the next aid station. Dan was having some indigestion issues, so I was trying to get him through that. He was starting to feel better and I can’t remember what exactly he asked but my response was bursting into tears. I managed to sob out “Just keep going already, I can’t stop anymore” and with that Dan turned and paced us into the Camp Lanowa aid station.

I have to say the volunteers at all the aid stations were great but the girls at Camp Lanowa were amazing. They had a spotter who called out our numbers on our approach so our drop bags were waiting beside chairs. We both got individual attention, my water was filled for me, gatorade topped up, garbage taken out of my bag, the young lady even removed my timing chip from my one pair of shoes and put it onto to my other shoes, while I tried clean my feet up. We were told we had 1 hour and 40 minutes to get to the next aid station which was another hard cut-off, 10 kms away, that should be enough time normally but with this terrain we just didn’t know. We agreed that we wouldn’t give up and just continue as best we could, which is what we’d done the whole race.

This was another tough section, we were teased with an amazing down hill on a road (5:45min/km), but then paid dearly with a very steep rocky climb/scramble (when I say scramble it means I needed to use my hands). We started passing runners who were going to drop out, which was depressing, but they wished us luck. There was a lot of watch checking. Dan asked if he thought I’d be able to go on even if we made the cut off, I told him we’d make that decision when we got to the aid station. Finally we could see it.  It was still slow plodding to get there, but we made it! With 3 minutes to spare. Dan sat down as I refilled my water and after a minute of rest he agreed that we should carry on, and then we watched as the last person to make the cut off came into the aid station and we were told we had to leave.

So we set off with a new game plan of “power” hiking to the next aid station and assessing how we felt. This system worked fabulously and eventually we had a little train of what would become the “last place crew” also feeling the benefits (there were 6 of us fighting it out for last!). Something very frightening also happened along this section, our path was blocked. By a RATTLESNAKE!!!! Now we never found our the real names of our companions but I created nicknames for all of them, so thankfully it was Green Sleeves (because he was wearing green compression sleeves) and Blue t-shirt man (pretty self explanitory) that found snake. Green Sleeves apparently screamed like a girl and Blue t-shirt man is a local who deals with this all the time. They had to find big sticks and it took both of them to lift the snake off the trail. It was big. The deed was done by the time we approached and Blue t-shirt man happily pointed out where said snake was and boy was his rattle going. I turned to look at Dan to see his reaction but he had just kept on going, Dan really does not like snakes. I don’t know what we would’ve have done had we come across it, Dan probably would’ve legged it back to the last aid station demanding to be taken home leaving me there screaming like a girl!

So we continued to hike/run to the next aid station, this aid station had also been our first aid station so we had a bag there and we dumped everything we felt we didn’t need and marched on with only 16km to the finish. Now we had been told that one of the worst sections was after the Queensboro aid station which we were heading to, but our “crew” agreed that this section was tough too with another rock scramble up and a straight down descent, but we finally rolled into Queensboro which was once again filled with amazing volunteers, I knew we looked like crap because for the first time the doctors actually talked to Dan and I and made sure we’d been drinking and peeing (which I can happily report our nutrition and hydration was executed perfectly). We reluctantly set off knowing we were heading into, well I just call it Hell. First bit took us along the side of a mountain that we felt like we could slide/fall off at any time, then it was another horrible rocky climb to another horrible rocky descent that went on as far as I could see and I just lost it. I was sobbing/crying the whole way down, there was nothing I could do, I had to go down to get off the mountain but this course was destroying my belief in myself. Somehow we made it down to the aid station, it took us an hour and a half to travel less than 5km. I was still crying when I reached the aid station, which being Canadian I apologised for. Thankfully this sweet girl who had run the 50km was there helping out and she assured me that worst was over, I was also told I wasn’t the first to have come in crying! So with 15 minutes before the 14 hour cut off for the finish we headed off with 4.5km to go. It really was a decent trail which made me feel better, we even stopped for one last picture.

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And finally we saw a volunteer who cheered and told us to follow the cones home and we did. And we were so happy to see the finish gate and completely surprised to see people cheering and the announcer still sitting there cheering us through the gate, where we were handed medals!

So total time 14 hours 24 minutes. Big shout out to the Race Director for letting us finish and even giving us a finishers medal even though we missed the cut off by 24 minutes. As for our “last place crew”. Green sSleeves rallied and made the cut off with two mintues to spare, Blue t-shirt man missed it by 7 minutes, then it was us and we got cheer in Sleeveless Shirt man, another guy we picked up at the Queeensboro aid station and lastly Skirt Girl (actual name Michele) Way to finish it out girl!!

Some final thoughts, we learned as we chatted with other runners, that we chose and extremely difficult course as our first 50 mile race. More than a 3rd of the racers would drop out. Also the course measured long on everybody’s GPS watches, which typically on a course with so much elevation it should measure short, so there was a lot of discussion/rumors that the course was longer than 50 miles, whatever.

We are stubborn and refuse to give up, even through my tears I was still moving forward. This race was frustrating for us because we did everything we could, we just weren’t fast enough.

With both finished with blisters and yes, we are sore but all things considered we doing ok. Dan already wants to find another 50 miler to try this year!

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