Saturday was my second attempt at the Niagara Ultra 50km. Last year’s race didn’t go very well and then I managed to break my nose, so I was expecting a lot coming into this year’s race. I can proudly say that I don’t have a broken anything!
Instead of getting up at 3am we treated ourselves to a stay at a B&B for the weekend. Of course I still didn’t sleep well because of the normal pre race jitters but at least I didn’t have to drive my tired butt anywhere.
Thankfully the humidity that had been hanging around week had broken and Saturday was sunny and warm, but not “soupy”.
I didn’t even hear the “go” but everyone ahead of me took off so I followed. This was my first ultra running without Dan; I was excited and nervous, but mostly happy to be running this beautiful course on a gorgeous day. My goal was to come in around 5 hours. I wasn’t confident since I have some “niggles” recently but I was going to give it a try.
The first 10km were uneventful, usual jostling for position and settling into a comfortable pace. The course is an out and back, this section is also really well shaded so I just enjoyed the coolness, knowing that it most likely would be very hot on my return.
Around 11km there is a climb up the escarpment. It’s not a lot of elevation (250ft) but it’s a steady climb for 2km. This is where I tend to pass people because I like running uphill and many people don’t. So there I am minding my own business trotting up the hill, as pass one man I hear “you might not want run up this love, there’s still along way to go”. It was all I could do not to turn around and kick him in the shin, really hard (I really wanted to punch him in the face by having never punched anyone I fear I would injure myself more than my target, I’ve kicked people before). But I gave him a little wave instead; I don’t know why people can’t just let people run their own races. Truthfully I figured he’d go by again once the course flattened out and I figured he’d be sure to let me know as he went by, but his comment bugged me. So it didn’t really help my mood as I go by the next guy he mutters “are you kidding me?” and starts running after me. Really buddy? You’re bothered that I’m passing you on a hill 12km into a 50km race? Apparently he was because as he passed when the course flattened out he said “there we go” as he went by!
Funnily enough two of the other men I passed up the hill also caught up to me but instead they wanted to talk. They were both marathoners and this was their first ultra, they wanted to know what time I was trying to finish in. I then listened to them try to one up each other in marathon times, destinations, etc. All they really wanted from me was to call out the km splits and pace them to a 5 hour finish! Finally White Singlet Guy declared we were going too slow to make it in under 5 hours and he started to pull away (thankfully) however Orange Singlet Guy felt we were running too fast and we should slow down a little. Where did “we” come from? I tried to talk to him but after establishing that I’d never qualified for Boston he didn’t seem interested. By now we had been passed by the lead marathoners and 100km runners were on their way back from the turn around (they started out an hour before us and would do the out and back twice) so I was happily cheering people on around me. This seemed to annoy orange singlet guy but not enough for him to go away.
Orange Singlet Guy got pretty excited as we approached the turn around that he took off ahead of me and was stuffing his face with pretzels when I checked in. He immediately started berating me about our time, we had just covered 25km in 2:26, which I was pleased with. I started to wonder whether I was wearing pace bunny ears! I quickly dumped some water over my head in an attempt to cool down and get out of the aid station but I heard a familiar voice yelling “hey girlie are we leaving already?” I started to run. Orange Singlet Guy was back with me in moments. I knew I shouldn’t let this bug me but he was creepy and I wanted to run my own race not be responsible for anyone else (that was the whole point of me running without Dan!). There was another guy who looked familiar that was also following us out and it finally clicked that it was Chuck, another runner staying at the same B&B as us. Chuck and I chatted, again I seemed to be the only one capable of asking questions, but I listened away. Orange Singlet Guy interrupted us to ask what time Chuck was going for he told us 4:50. Hmmm, I know my math sucks but he needed to pick up the pace if he was going to make it, this was all happening as we were ascending a small hill (and I “heart” hills), Chuck decided to walk it and said he’d catch up, I wished him a good run and decided to push it a little up the hill. Orange Singlet Guy decided he liked his chances of finishing sub 5 by sticking with the walking guy who was already off his pace. As I crested the hill it hit me that once again I had passed about 5 men and quite frankly they looked like crap, so I decided (quite pettily too) that I would become the “back half assassin” and enjoy picking off runners. And that’s just what I did. I probably shouldn’t admit this but with each person I went by I felt better and better. I was almost gleeful as I passed a man who always beats me. I felt rejuvenated as I passed the man who had been bragging about the amount of marathons he’d completed and asked “how hard could a 50km be?” while in line for the bathrooms in the morning.
And then I saw her, a lovely vision in purple t-shirt with a blonde ponytail. She had passed me around the 20 km mark and I remember wondering where she’d come from. She looked so good. And now I was gaining on her I knew I had to catch and I did just past 40km. It might sound like I have a little crush and that’s because I do. Allison ran so effortlessly and was nice to boot (meaning two-way conversations that didn’t revolve around marathon times!). We caught up to White Singlet Guy, who had declared I was too slow earlier, he was walking but as we went by he started running and passed us. Only to start walking again about 10 seconds later. So we went by again, and once again he ran passed and started walking. This was going to make for an interesting finish, but finally the White Singlet Guy gave up after a volunteer on a bike told him we looked way too good and there was no way he was going to beat us or stay with us. Thanks bike rider!! Allison had lots left in the tank as she had been running conservatively since this was her first 50 km attempt; she wanted to respect the distance and was glad she had. As we navigated our last road crossing I pointed out where the finish line was and told her to go for it, she said I better not be setting her up to sprint past at the finish. Bless. I explained that I don’t know how to sprint (unless it’s uphill) and that I’d see her at the finish. I tried to stay with her but man, she’s so good.
I finished feeling strong and like I could keep running (which is good since I will be running a lot further in September). Dan was cheering me in from the sidelines as I happily bounced across the finish line in 4:53:55! Good enough for 11th female overall and 2nd in my age group. We stayed around for the food and beer afterwards and to cheer in the first 100km runner who finished in less than 9 hours and was a woman! She looked amazing, still so strong.
Back at the B&B we discovered that Chuck had already been back and was licking his wounds, having to admit to the eccentric owners that I kicked his butt! As for White Singlet Guy, he finished but closer to 5:30 and I never saw Orange Singlet Guy finish, I hope he did (sort of). Let this be a lesson to all you middle age men who think they know everything, you don’t. AND never ever tell someone (especially a women) what to do.