This weekends training run was actually a tune up race. Of course to find a race long enough it required me to travel to Pennsylvania. Dan wasn’t able to get the time off work so I recruited my parents into being my crew and accompany to the middle of the state aka middle of nowhere.
We stayed the night in a little place called Brookville, it took us an hour on tiny twisting roads (complete with Amish carts and horses) to get to “the farm” which was race headquarters and the finish. When we arrived at the designated time it turns out that was also when the truck with the race kits arrived, and they weren’t assembled. But as ultra runners we don’t expect too much, so everyone waiting for their kits pitched in and unloaded the trucks, while that was happening, the only other Canuck, Jesse (who I ran a bit with at Creemore) enlisted Mommy and me into sorting out the race timing tags, and soon enough I had my kit and was headed back to Brookville for some dinner.
Brookville is tiny and has a very cute downtown but it was closed off for some event, so after heading through the drive thru beer store (I’m not kidding) we decided to play it safe and went to Pizza Hut. It was the oddest experience we’d ever had at a big chain restaurant. The staff was very sweet, but slow, and seemingly overwhelmed by the fact that there were already 4 tables seated when we showed up (and many more that needed cleaning up), we were told they were very busy but they’d do their best. From what we could tell, no one actually got the meal they ordered (including us) and I ended up eating very little. (I only order spaghetti and meat sauce but ended up with marinara sauce, shouldn’t have been a big deal but the sauce was so so so SWEET, it was disgusting).
Anyhow, in typical me fashion, I didn’t sleep much the night before, and had a bout of diarrhea (thank you Pizza Hut) I popped some Imodium and hoped for the best. We set off for Summerville which was the start of this year’s race. (The Baker Trail is about 150 miles, so each year a section is run and a different medal is given out each year, until you have all three which create one big medal.)
The start was delayed about 20 minutes, but it was worth the wait to have the excellent lesson in understanding how to navigate the trail (only marked with blazes or painted arrows). The race director shouted go and we were off. I ran with Stacy, this was her second attempt at 50 miles, the year before she hadn’t made the cut off, so she was looking for redemption. Our race plans looked similar through the first half, so we stayed together to help with navigation (Stacy got lost the year before, hence missing the cut off). I wasn’t too worried, I’m hyper vigilant and live in fear of getting lost, so I did a pretty good job of staying on track and calling back some people who missed a turn.
The Baker Trail is made up of forest single track and road. The roads ranged from somewhat major (in that area at least)to dusty, with barely room for two cars to pass. The race director told us that the route would be 2/3 road, so I made sure to enjoy myself when I was on the trail.
The race was well supported with 11 aid stations, the longest leg was the first at 13km. I came through there faster than expected, and due to not great instructions Mommy and Dad had arrived just before I did, this also being their first time crewing, I think they weren’t sure what to do, I asked for a new gel flask. Mom told me the cooler was in the truck, that was parked down the road, in the wrong direction of the race. I handed her my empty flask and smiled, she got the hint and ran back to the truck got my new flask, so it took little longer through transition but it was still early, I felt good and I knew they’d figure it out.
Next leg was 6km all on a nice quiet road, so quiet that the local bovines seemed unimpressed with our presence and kept snorting and mock charging (there were electric fences) but it was still very unsettling. Last little bit to the aid station was on a major road, complete with speeding dump trucks and no shoulder, Fun! This time Mommy was ready and had Dad carrying my bag of gear over his shoulder, I told him that wasn’t necessary just get the truck close to the aid station or at least park so I would run by it on my way.
Off we went, still on the road, past lots of farms and beautiful homes, next thing I know a very familiar vehicle is coming at us. Window comes down and Mommy waves, “we’re lost, these instructions aren’t very helpful when there are no street signs, but don’t worry we’ll figure it out”. With much of the race being on roads, you wouldn’t think it’d be difficult to find the next aid station, but the race director didn’t want loads of cars on the roads we were running on due to the lack of shoulders and the dust, I thought that was very kind of him, although a few crew vehicles blatantly ignored this request and would choke us all out once a leg. Ended up seeing Dad at aid station 3, which they had been planning on skipping over, but had to stop to get directions!
We plodded on through aid station 4, noting that all the aid station seemed to be at the top of hills. The next leg was only 6km, but it was through a field, I can’t stand field running. The tall grass brushing your legs, the bumpy unevenness of the ground, I think we went by some mining reservoirs because they stunk, and it was starting to get hot, I almost found myself wishing for road, which of course we got. At aid station 5 (35km) I made the decision to switch into my road shoes, my trail shoes were still comfy but the tongues were sliding to outside of my foot, which was annoying and kept causing my shoelace to rub the top of my foot. I was also told that the longest hill of the race was awaiting on the next leg, and of course, we jumped into some muddy single track almost immediately, great shoe change.
It was going up the big hill that I said goodbye to Stacy and started to do my own thing. I like uphills, and with Mogollon on my mind knew I needed to push myself on the climbs, because that’s what I’m good at. I came through aid station 6 in 5hrs 15min (half-way).
Quick shirt change and loaded up my pack and off I went onto, one of the best sections of this race. I felt amazing, I started picking people off, people we’re confused at how well I was moving (so was I), I couldn’t resist I just felt too good to not take advantage. This section had new cut trail, which was really sort of bush whacking and leaping over cut down trees, so much fun (although really regretting my shoe change). When I finally emerged onto a church lawn I felt unstoppable. Mommy was asking what I wanted from the aid station table, which was sitting in the sun, and for some reason that’s all I could focus on. Why was all this food in the hot sun? I got some (warm) mountain dew, picked up a potato and asked Mommy to grab some watermelon. I needed to sit down and get some junk out of my shoe. Dad helped me out with this while I drank some dew, my stomach flipped a little but I thought it was because it was warm, then I asked for some ice in my pack while I ate my potato, which I gagged on, uh oh. I stupidly forced the potato down, threw my pack on and headed out carrying my two pieces of water melon. I was on a major road again so I tried to eat and run, but my stomach was just churning, I somehow finished the watermelon, and at the last minute noticed that the trail crossed the road into a field. (Dad had actually spun the truck around to make sure I hadn’t missed the turn off). A field in the blazing hot sun, with a watering mouth. How could I have gone from so good, to wanting to lie down and curl up into a ball?
I took a little walk/sulk break and reminded myself that I needed to pull myself together this could (and most likely will) happen at the Mogollon. So instead of dwelling on how the “wheels had come off” I tried to figure why they did and get them back on again. First things first, I think I ate too much at the last stop, and not just that, but food that was really unappealing, I figured that I did at least have enough calories in me to get to the next stop so I told my body that I would not be trying to put anything in it for a bit. Then I tried to cool myself down, I was out of the field now and on a really decent dirt path beside a river, however the river was brown and stagnant, I decided that sticking my head in that wouldn’t be wise. However I shortly came upon a brook that went into the river and it looked cleanish and was at least flowing so I stopped soaked my visor and splashed my face and neck, that did me a world of good. I finally started running again, mainly because it was a really runnable portion of trail and I knew I should be taking advantage. This section seemed to go on for ages and eventually lead me to a big hill, I started to run it but quickly stopped when I barfed up some watermelon, but boy, did I feel better! So I hiked my butt up that hill, near the top there was a local man telling me I should run, I told him he should carry me, we agreed to disagree and I finally made it to the next aid station.
Things got better here, my crew had managed to get fresh ice and came up with the brilliant idea of putting ice down the back of my shirt and dumping icy cold water on my head. It was also decided that they would keep my gels on ice, because I wasn’t getting the hot ones down (the beauty of close aid stations). Just as I was heading back out another runners crew showed up and looked really confused. He wanted to know if he’d missed his runner since I was already there, and I was supposed to be behind his runner. Huh? My crew jumped up and pointed out that I had picking up my speed for the last 20km and I must have passed their runner (proud parental crew!) Was I speeding up? Dad thought I was, I had lost my pace card so I had no idea what I was supposed to be running, I was just running and faster apparently, I didn’t feel that way.
The next leg was another long one, but I just kept feeling better, so I kept on passing people. Such a nice feeling. We were getting into Amish territory now, I would love to know what they thought of us scantily clad runners trotting by their farms. If they were offended they didn’t show it, they just smiled and returned the wave I would always give.
At the next aid station Mommy said “I know this sounds weird, but you only have 12 miles left, and you still look good!” And thankfully I was feeling good. Lost a little time here looking for the bathroom (had run right by it) but Dad didn’t let me get too far before showing me the way.
Next section had me passing many death marchers, I know it was hot, but I hoped I wouldn’t have to death march until much closer to the finish. At the next aid station I ditched my pack for a handheld as my pack seemed to be bruising my rib cage, I don’t know if I had it too tight (or maybe too loose) but I’ve never had an issue with it before, that does worry me a little (I don’t have time to break in a new one!). I took advantage of being able to take it off though, ate some ice and carried on with only 8 miles to go, all on road, I was feeling pretty good (silly me). The next 4 miles to the last aid station were hilly, I passed more death marchers, discovered that I could still run uphill, but the downs hurt my knees (at least the really steep one did) I also learned that as a pedestrian it’s your job to get out of the way of horse and carriages because they really don’t handle all that well.
I was so happy to arrive at the last aid station, I still had 4 miles to go, Mommy was all excited to get the volunteer to turn the garden hose on me (heaven!) As I was leaving, I got a fist bump from a guy who loved my shirt (I had no idea he was talking to me and then I thought he was trying to punch me, running for that long really can make one stupid). Of course it was rolling hills on dirt roads, on one uphill I actually passed a horse and carriage, that caused quite a lot of laughter from the occupants of the cart, commenting that they had the suspicion that their horse was lazy, but that I had just confirmed it!
Just as I was thinking I could take no more and that I must have gone off course somewhere I hit a major road, oh please let this be the road that the farm is on, it was! A car load of people wearing medals went by honking and waving. There was one last hill (through a field) up to the big art sign on top of the hill, it was than that a bell started ringing, I smiled hoping it was for me (it was!) then down the hill where I nearly fell jumping over the ditch to the drive way (bad spot to put a ditch), passed a lady with a sign say “You did it” and on to the finish to be scanned in one last time.
I was elated to be finished, but I felt like I could have carried on (which is good), I finished in a time of 10:39:17, 25th place and 7th female overall!
I stretched a bit and changed into some dry clothes, Dad gave me a beer and I tried to eat while chatting with some other runners. As we were leaving I realised that I had a mostly full beer and a mostly full bowl of chili, hmm, oh well, I guess I wasn’t ready to eat yet. As we made our way our way back on the twisty roads to the hotel, Dad had to pull over and for the first time ever post race I projectile vomited everything that I had eaten. I apologised (because I sound like I”m being exorcised when I’m sick) and pointed out that that doesn’t usually happen. Needless to say the crew went for dinner without me. I managed to sip on an Ensure in their absence, they brought me back a cup of soup and some sort of pancake dessert thing from Denny’s. I ate half the soup, but knew I was on the mend when I devoured the pancake things. I woke up in the middle of the night with horrible leg cramps, but managed to stretch them out without waking the crew, they wouldn’t have heard anything since they were trying to out do each other with their snoring. I was worried about how I was going to feel in the morning remembering how bad I was after Bear Mountain.
But morning broke and I literally bounded out of bed, and had no issues moving around, I managed to eat a good breakfast and keep it down. Overall the experience was great, it’s given me a new confidence going into my first 100 miler.
Planned Mileage: 94km
Days Run: 3
Excuses: Nailed it!