Sulphur Springs 100 Mile Race Report

100 Miles is a long way, so I apologise for the length of this report!

Sulphur Springs is a great race put on by the Burlington Road Runners.  They offer race distances from 100 miles to 10 km. Dan and I have both run the 50km.  This time around I took on the 100 miler.  This required me to complete 8 circuits of the 20km loop.  The loop is well supported with aid stations at the start/finish, the gatehouse and headwaters trailhead, you go though the latter two aid stations twice on each loop.  It’s a great set up so that us runners get to pass each other on a few different occasions, especially nice when there are only 100 milers left on the course.

The 100 and 50 mile race sets off at 6am, it was cold about 6 degrees, but not a cloud in the sky, it was a great day for a long run.  I didn’t have a specific race plan, I would’ve liked to have finished in 24 hours but my training hadn’t been what I had hoped, so I was just going to focus on being consistent and finishing.  But mainly just finishing.

It was chilly, but at least it was light out...

It was chilly, but at least it was light out…

Loop 1

I headed out at the very back of the pack, I knew I couldn’t go out hard, 100 miles is little long to try to “muscle out”, so I stripped off my layers at the one minute to go mark and of course realised that I hadn’t turned on my watch or attached my gaiters, oops and set out just about dead last, perfect.  Like I said I didn’t really have a plan, so I just tried to run comfortably slow.  I chatted for a while with a woman running her first 50 miler, she was so ecstatic to be out there but super hyper about her pace on her garmin, so I eventually pulled away because I couldn’t handle that, I figured I’d look at my time after each lap.  I was trying to be good and walk the ups but some are so slight it drives me insane to walk them so I ran them, I was also trying to take it easy on the downs since that’s what will kill your quads.  Before I knew it I was on the lollipop section and suddenly these super fast guys were thundering by, I looked at my watch and figured out that the 50km and 25km race had started and it was the fast 25 km guys flying past.  It was a little unnerving as they didn’t give an “on your left”, it was also tough to not get caught up in their excitement.  The rest of the loop was uneventful, I drank my bottle of Vitargo and ate my Justin’s almond butter as per my nutrition plan and finished loop 1 in 2:26.  I took a 6:44 break here, using the washroom which is opposite the gear area (bit of a bummer), refilled my bottle, and grabbed another Justin’s, oh and read my little note.

The note

The note

Loop 2

As I headed on lap two I was kept busy for a while wondering what kind “parking skills” Dan was on about, I mean he parked the car!  And then I wondered why he’d put all my stuff into a different bag….oh, I think the note said packing skills, and you know what fair enough, that is really not my forte.   After I’d worked that one out I met Cameron, this is something I love about these races, meeting new people.  I knew who Cameron was and mainly that he was way faster than me, but he seemed happy to be plodding along at my speed.  We just chatted away the whole lap, and before I knew it we were marching up Martin Road back to the start/finnish area.  I figure that was the last I’d see of him, loop 2 done in 2:26.  Dan was back from the his 10km race (which was why he was missing at the end of lap 1) and he helped my refill my bottles (we realised a fatal flaw in his crewing me was that I never actually told him how I like my drinks mixed, he was a quick study) packed some more Justin’s and finally peeled off my arm sleeves.  Break 8:18

I have no idea what we were talking about here, but it looks like I had to fart and told Cameron to pull my finger!

I have no idea what we were talking about here, but it looks like I had to fart and told Cameron to pull my finger!

Loop 3

As I headed out on loop 3 feeling fantastic I was surprised by Cameron falling into step with me, he had decided to wait for me so we could run together.  I was happy for the company, it never ceases to amaze me how just being runners some how immediately makes you good friends and how easy conversation can flow.  Cameron seemed to know everybody in the race so I was introduced to loads more runners and at every aid station Cameron would stop and have a gab, I would just trudge on knowing that aid stations can be a total time killer for me.  They’re so fun and social that I sometimes never want to leave!  Cameron never had an issue catching up so our little system worked just fine.  On the lollipop section we caught up with Peter, Dan’s co-worker, so I had chat with him for a while, but he was not having a good day and I eventually said goodbye, and then it was back up Martin Road, not going to lie, that hill sucks.  Loop 3 done in 2:34.  I was feeling like my right big toe was starting to blister so I decided to take the time to pop it and tape it up, I also decided to try to eat a lot, I was feeling hungry so I was worried that I wasn’t quite hitting the calories I needed.  This break was 10:28.

Still smiling before heading into loop 4

Still smiling before heading into loop 4

Loop 4

Cameron had decided to wait for me and as we headed out for loop 4, I could just tell this was going to be a tough lap. First of all going down hill was really bothering my hip flexors, secondly I was getting strange pains at the back of my knees as we entered the trail I realised there was no way I would keep up with Cameron this lap and I didn’t want to hold him back, so I kept telling him to go ahead, he tried to get me going but finally set off at his own pace.  I was feeling really nauseous, I was bummed out by it too because I had been feeling so good leading up to this point.  It finally occurred to me to pull myself together because I wasn’t even half way there yet and this was way too early in race for tears. So instead of thinking about how crappy I felt I thought about how I had just become an aunt, (my nephew was born on the Thursday before the race) my sister had handled her labour with such strength, determination and grace.  She gave birth to a beautiful 7 lbs boy  completely drug free, that was her 100 miler, now I was at mine, time to find some strength and determination (I didn’t worry about the grace as I’ve never had that!).  As I passed through the gatehouse aid station a second time, I was already feeling better, the amazing people and the awesome atmosphere at this aid station gave me the energy to run out the last half of the loop.  I brought it back in 2:51.  Half way there!  I took a longer break here, 19:54, changed my shoes, ate an appropriate amount (I think my nausea was caused by over eating), Christa, who we had met at PYP gave me some of her homemade power balls and guacamole, thank you Christa!  First 50 miles took 10:44 which is scary as my PB is 10:39, I still had to do that all over again.

Heading out for loop 5

Heading out for loop 5

Loop 5

I left for loop 5 with the knowledge that when I got back my friend Rochelle would be there and possible my parents too. It’s amazing what can motivate you.  This lap was ok.  Things were getting tougher, however I was still managing to run some of the small inclines, when I came into the gatehouse aid station, Jess (a super awesome volunteer there) helped me fix my gaiters (duct tape fixes everything) and she told me I was the second place woman.  I was like huh? Jess said the leading lady just went through. I just said thanks and ran off, it was a good distraction for the next section, trying to figure why on earth she would think I was in second and just how many people had to have dropped out for that to be true.  But never fear I figured it out, the leading lady had gone through the aid station ahead of me, however I was one full lap behind her!  That made much more sense.  Also on this section I was lapped a second time by the leading male, who I poked fun at for wearing his headlamp since he most likely would finish in daylight!  So on my way back through the aid station I thanked Jess for the distraction.  On the next section on the way to the lollipop I was lapped by another female, April who I had met at Bear Mountain a few weeks earlier.  She looked great and was moving well, but still slowed down to walk and talk with me for a minute (the downhills were giving me some serious trouble now).  April would end up running the race in sub 20 hours, not bad for her first 100!  I got such a boost from all the short interactions that I had with the other runners.  As I entered the lollipop section the sun was starting to go down and the trail suddenly seemed dark, maybe I shouldn’t have poked fun at the lead male, I was kicking myself for not picking up my spare head torch in my drop bag at the gatehouse and come to think of it I wished I’d picked up my long-sleeved shirt.  I finished lap 5 warm enough and with daylight in 2:54.  I was excited to see Rochelle (she was running loop 8 with me so her arrival meant I was getting closer), but also my parents had made the trek over to see me.  I always appreciate people who come out to races to see runners.  I mean they saw me for maybe 10 minutes total and they had 2 hour round trip.  In case anyone was wondering my parents are awesome.  I spent 9:09 here, changed into pants and long sleeves, picked up my head torch and most importantly…Dan!

My awesome family

My awesome family

Loop 6

This loop started out fantastic.  I was pumped from seeing my family and happy to have Dan running with me, I was surprised at how well I was moving, I loved listening to Dan telling me about his day and about all the wonderful messages people were sending via Facebook (Thank You!).  We made it to the gatehouse in no time where my parents were waiting, they gave me one last hug and my Mom ran right with me up to the trailhead. And then we plunged into the dark.  It was the that weird dusk dark, my light went off and on a few times around this section, but by the time full dark had arrived I wasn’t feeling too well.  I tried to solider on and follow Dan, but I was feeling light-headed.  As we approached the aid station, I told Dan how I was feeling so we stopped, I had to sit down (something I had been trying to avoid doing) and actually put my head between my legs.  The aid station crew, especially Jess and Caroline were great.  Jess was concerned because I had actually looked so strong all day.  I tried to stop myself from panicking but it’s scary when you feel like you might pass out. I ate some soup, and tried to calm down, I was given some chocolate covered coffee beans (apparently a cure-all) and after about 12 minutes I decided to head out again.  As soon as we left the aid station I started to shiver, by the time we reached the trailhead Dan stopped me to help me into my coat and gloves, but that seemed to do the trick and the shaking stopped.  Along this section I started to feel better and Dan and I realised that in all the excitement of my parents showing up that I actually didn’t eat any solid food, doh!  The rest of the lap was a run/walk/march.  I made sure to take on as many calories as I could.  We got back to the start in 3:29, we were pleasantly surprised to see Rochelle waiting for us (it was the middle of the night and we had told her to feel free to sleep in the tent until it was her turn to pace, but she said there was too much excitement going on to really get any sleep). My break here was 7:12, some avocado and a granola bar and I was off on my penultimate lap.

Loop 7

Not going to lie loop 7 was hard.  I walked a lot.  It was hard.  I had to pee a lot.  It was hard. I was probably no fun.  It was hard.  The only bright light was that we ran with a guy named Brian (he was on his last lap), he and Dan had a good old chat that I don’t really remember but it certainly helped make time go by.  Then it got really cold.  Did I mention this loop was hard?  After 3:44 I was finally back at the start.  I layered up, ate some more even though I wasn’t really interested, and warned Rochelle that this might not be too pretty.  Dan warned her about my sudden urges to pee and the fact that I was making groaning noises while going down hill (I was wondering what that noise was).  After a 13 minute break I was off on my last loop.

Me and Rochelle heading out for my last loop! Somehow I'm still smiling.

Me and Rochelle heading out for my last loop! Somehow I’m still smiling.

Loop 8

Last loop!!!  First of all Rochelle and I headed out with Cameron and his pacer Marika (sorry if that’s not spelled correctly). This came as a bit of a surprise to me as he had been doing so well, but a 100 miles is a long way, plenty of time for things to go wrong. We headed out as a group, and would separate and then find each other again, it was quite funny actually.  Rochelle was awesome, she just caught me up on what she’d been up to, we discovered pretty quickly that my walking speed was faster than my running speed and more sustainable! So we settled in for a moonlight walk.  At the gatehouse we got a cup of tea, it was fun to see Rochelle’s reaction to the buffet that are the aid stations at these events, Rochelle has only done big road races, so she was pretty pumped to grab a hot cup of tea to walk with.  We saw deer and watched the eastern sky start to glow, it would have been quite pleasant had it been a tad warmer, but whatever, at least I was still moving.  We mostly walked our way back around to the gatehouse and by the time we got there it was light enough to leave the head lamps in the drop bag, hooray!  As we marched off into the next section Rochelle once again did a great job of pushing me on, even though we were walking she would always walk head pushing the pace.  I told her that I knew I could run a lot of the lollipop section and that I wanted her to push me as much I could take.  So as we left the headwaters aid station, I put my head down and got to work.  We actually made some good time, until we hit the big hill, then I marched.  But once at the top we were with Cameron again and we decided that we’d had enough and we were going to run the rest of the way back, and we did, sort of.  I felt like we were running it might not have looked that way.  As we popped out of the trail and bade farewell to the amazing volunteers at the aid station, I saw a familiar figure coming towards me, it was Dan, he had timed it perfectly to help march me up Martin Road and finally to the final turn, I can’t tell you how happy I was coming around those pylons for the final time. Final lap 3:54.

I think my smile says it all.

Me and Cameron with our buckles.

Me and Cameron with our buckles (and medal, what I pleasant surprise for a medal hoarder like me).

Big thank you to all the race volunteers, you were amazing.   All the cheerers (aka other people’s crew) for their unwavering support the whole race (it was awesome hearing mitten clapping at 4am).  All the other runners for the support, inspiration and smiles just when I needed them.  Thanks to Mr. Free Hugs (Steve) for the free hug after lap 4, you have no idea how much I needed that then.  Christa and Chris Baker, thanks for the food, the smiles and the encouragement.  Cameron, it was awesome meeting and running with you.  You helped 100 miles fly by.
I have to say a BIG thank you to my parents for coming out, Rochelle for staying up all night in the freezing cold to walk 4 hours with me.  Lastly to Dan, you are my rock and even when I didn’t believe I could finish, just knowing that you did gave me the strength to continue, you are the best and you know it.

The Buckle!

The Buckle!

Alright enough of the mushy stuff.  My official finishing time* was 25:39:34, 6th female overall and 3rd in my age group. Completing this race has helped me realise where my training has been great and what needs work, but one thing for sure is that I can’t wait to head to Arizona in September and try this distance again.

*the times posted for each lap are from my watch, I kept track of my breaks separately, so my splits don’t match the official results.

If you would rather not see what my feet looked like after more than 25 hours of running you should stop reading now.

My feet suffered.

My feet suffered, but are looking better already.

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17 comments on “Sulphur Springs 100 Mile Race Report

  1. Alex Kaine says:

    Absolutely amazing!! Great job Heather. I am excited to see you slay the Monster this year!!

  2. Mom says:

    Heather I am in awe of you. I am proud to say my daughter ran 100 miles…yes without really stopping…yes she ran for 25 and a half hours…yes she ran through the night and the dark…no it will not damage her health…no I have not been drinking…no no she has not been drinking and so it goes. And yes we are your biggest cheerleaders! Bring on the monster…he does not stand a chance! xoxo

  3. Steve says:

    Congratulations on your amazing achievement! Glad I could help lift your spirits a bit.

  4. noel kingston says:

    Heather, Congratulations on your first 100 miler. I am hoping that the Monster will be my first 100 mile finish this year. I ran with Deron Ruse and Danny Speros at the Zane Grey 50 this year and actually finished the race with Danny – great running with them on sections of the Highline. I look forward to seeing you and Dan in AZ in September. Again – GREAT JOB!

  5. Emir says:

    Awesome job Heather! Great read too.

  6. Gary McGugan says:

    A truly amazing achievement in a whole series of achievements! I am impressed with your continuous efforts to accomplish more and more, in a very demanding sport. Arizona should be yet another outstanding experience!

  7. Mum & Gaz says:

    You truly are an inspiration ! what a fantastic achievement, we are so very proud of you – just know this year you will beat the monster ! xxxxxx

  8. Alex Campbell says:

    Nice one! Thanks for the race report. I did the 50 miler and did it this time – last year DNF’d. It was amazing weather for great times and maybe I’ll join you and Dan on the 100 miler next year. Keep well and good luck in Arizona.
    Alex Campbell (aka the runningdude01)

  9. Robin says:

    Congratulations to you! I’m just reading this now as I’m registered for my first 100 at Sulphur at the end of May. I’m both excited and terrified. Glad to hear you pushed through with such an amazing finishing time.

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