Haliburton Forest 50km Race Report

So the plan for Hali was that we would  be heading out of the city at 1pm getting up there with plenty of time to set up camp and catch up with people before the pre-race meal and meeting.  Isn’t there a saying about best laid plans?
We ended up arriving at the Haliburton Forest at 6pm just as dinner was to start.  We quickly grabbed our race kits because they had our meal tickets, but even that took longer than expected as Dan threw everyone for a loop by announcing that he would like to drop from the 100 mile to the 50km.  I was surprised but completely understood where he was coming from.  Once we got that sorted out it was off to get some grub (as usual I was starving).  Having never run this race before I loved sitting at the big tables in the chalet style restaurant listening to everyone’s excitement.  It just so happened that we ended up at the same table as Carolyn, who I’ve run with a bunch of times now, and her running partner Yves, of all the tables!  As dessert was being served a microphone started being passed around the room and we were all asked to introduce ourselves and say what race we were doing, etc.  I’m not going to lie, I was not excited at this prospect and wondered how long this was going to take, but I very quickly got swept up and enjoyed listening to all the comments and I finally got to put some names to some faces!  After saying lots of hello’s we figured we better go and find somewhere to camp, but as luck would have Dan’s friend Mitch,who’s in-laws have a trailer in the reserve, invited us to stay with him, that was awesome.  The downside was that he was stuck in traffic, so we’d have to wait for him.  Well he didn’t turn up until just after 9, then it was a 25 minute drive to the trailer, then we had to make up beds (Cameron, who was traveling with us slept on the kitchen floor!).  I tried to get myself as ready for the morning as possible but with no space to spread out it was tough, plus I just wanted to get to bed because as it was rapidly approaching 11pm and we were going to be up at 4:30, I was mostly bugged by the fact that I couldn’t tape my toes up and new I would end up paying for it.  Despite the trailer being toasty and our bed comfortable, I had a terrible nights sleep.  I heard every trip to the bathroom, woke up to find Cameron standing over me causing me to scream, scaring Cameron reaching for a pillow over me, making him scream, it wasn’t good.  I was staring at my alarm willing it to go off for what felt like hours, it finally did and it was comical to watch us all dancing around one another trying to get ready.  We somehow managed to get out the door on time.
I’m glad we made it to the start on time because Helen said a lovely prayer and then we had a piper march us to the start line.  I ran around the start line hugging my friends heading out on their first 100 mile attempts (ok maybe one or two second attempts as well) including Alex, Carolyn, and Joe, saying a silent thanks that it wasn’t me.  There was a count down and we were off!  The 6am start included the 100 mile, 50 mile and 50km racers.  It was a little dark, thankfully enough people had planned for this and their lights helped to lead the way, it also helps that the first few kilometres are on the road.
I didn’t really have a plan going into this race, I had only run 10km of the course (10km that was not in my race!) but I knew from that run that this was going to be a challenging course.  After looking at the previous years times, I figured if I finished between 7 and 8 hours and be happy and firmly mid-pack (just the way I like it).  The course is an out and back with a loop in the middle, it sounds and looks confusing but the race organizers did an amazing job of marking the course and letting us know about when we needed to pay attention.
I really struggled with the course looking at this map but once explained and I saw the flag placement it made complete sense.

I really struggled with the course looking at this map but once explained and I saw the flag placement it made complete sense.

Dan and I settled into a nice pace, by the time we hit the first trail section the runners had spread out enough that there was no conga line issues, something I did start to take issue with was the prevalent use of bear bells.  Okay I get that this is bear country (but so is Limberlost and I’ve never heard a bell there), but seriously bears are way more afraid of you and there is no proof that they work (this article quotes an expert who says you may end up attracting them)!  If you want to scare off a bear then get a bear banger, or at least get a bell with a magnet so that it doesn’t jingle until you need to make noise.  Ok rant over, where was I?  Yes I was finding myself irritable.  I think it was the lack of sleep, but I felt down right grumpy and anti social all of a sudden.  I’m sure Dan was wondering about my short one word answers, and the fact that when we passed people I only said hello instead of asking their life story as usual.  To be fair the course is stunning so I was distracted taking in the beautiful sights (and kicking myself for not bringing my camera).  It’s also gnarly, constant up and down, roots, rocks, moss, log bridges, everything and anything, so I was trying not to fall over, there wasn’t much soft ground to fall on.
After A.S.#4 Dan and I were pretty much on our own (no more bells!), he was leading and we were running some runnable trail, when I could hear two woman chatting behind us, and that was it, I passed Dan and just took off.  I just wanted to be alone in the quiet in this beautiful forest, me and my foot steps (and panting).
Running fast was therapeutic and I loved every step, in the back of my mind I knew this wasn’t sensible and that I would be miserable and cranky if I blew up but I didn’t care.  At 20km the lead runner passed me in the opposite direction, moving crazy fast, he had 10km on me!  Seeing people on their way back to the finish only made me move quicker, the lead lady went flying by looking amazing, I passed through A.S.#5 and headed to the turn around, I didn’t know how much beyond the aid station it would be (much further than I thought!) people already turned kept telling me I was almost there, finally I came up to a sign that simply said “50km turnaround”.  I stopped and stared at it.  I was on my own and was confused that there wasn’t an actual person checking off runners, to be sure I shouted “hello?!”  no one answered so I turned and headed back.  Only in ultra running would there be an honour system turnaround!
It took me 3:11 to traverse 25km and now I had to go back the way I came.  I saw Dan just as I was approaching A.S.#5, he gave me a high-five.  He looked pretty good for a guy who had hardly run in 6 weeks, a bit warm but otherwise not too bad.
At the aid station I ate some oranges and filled my water bottle.  I had made a small error in the morning, because I was cranky and being a brat and I couldn’t find my camera, I decided to just run with 1 handheld, threw some Justin’s PB in my waist belt and figured I’d be fine.  I have no idea why I thought that, I’m always hungry and 1 bottle of Vitargos was not going to last me for 50km!  I even had some in a little bag that I could have brought with me and mixed at an aid station since I only wanted carry 1 bottle, but no I was left with no choice than to eat at the aid stations and hope my tummy co-operated.
As I headed back out on course I caught up to a man and we chatted a bit and then he made some comment about running like a girl and took off.  I was left wondering what the heck he was talking about as I walked up a big hill eating my hazelnut Justin’s, so tasty.  And then the 26km runners started to pass heading to their turnaround.  I made sure to great everyone, I didn’t always receive a reply which quite frankly is just rude.  Then I noticed that I seemed to always be the one getting out of their way, and well that annoyed me so I started charging straight at everyone unless they were looking like they were going to share the trail (and I know I shouldn’t enjoy doing that, but I was running further so get out of my way!).  I caught back up to the man who had run away from me earlier and he started to tell me about all his injuries and why he was going to let me go today….let me go?  What, you’re sure you could beat me any other day? Dude get over it, a girl passed you there is no shame in that, there were lot’s of ladies ahead of you.   Anyway I told him he should just run his own race and left him in the dust this time.
Speaking of running their own race, I was starting to wonder where our friend Mitch was.  He was doing the 26km and this would be the furthest he’d ever run, it’s so exciting watching someone get into running.  Next thing I knew he popped up over a crest, I made sure was alive and told him he was doing great.  He wanted to know when I dropped Dan 🙂
At the next aid station I made the mistake of having some Heed, that stuff just touching my lips had my stomach flipping, thankfully the sweet volunteer saw my near vomit and swiftly took the cup away from me replacing it with water, she just smiled and said “a lot of people have that reaction to Heed”.  It has to be said all of the volunteers were amazing.  I mean fantastically amazing.  Just awesome.
Back on my way, I wondered how my brother-in-law’s 12km went.  This guy doesn’t train and is fast, my sister feels he’s part gazelle.  This was his first trail race though and I thought it might humble him, it didn’t, he was 4th male and was hanging with the winner for the first 5km!  Well done Steve.
As I came into A.S. #2 I actually saw Steve, and it took me a second to realise he was done and back to cheer us on.  What a boost, my Daddy, Sisters and best of all my 3.5month old nephew!  (Cutest little guy, aid station ladies agreed with me!)  With 12km to go mentally I felt the best I had all day (although I give my family credit for that boost) but my body was beginning to feel the hard effort and the constant terrain changes, I reminded myself that sometimes it hurts and to get on with it, I’m going to be in pain for much longer in a couple of weeks at Mogollon.
I managed to pass one man the whole Normac loop, he was lovely and tried to run with me telling me how he’d run the race 15 years prior in 4:15, he said this hurt more (we were over 6 hours now).  He finally had to walk but told me I looked great and to keep going it’s the easy road stretch, no excuses.   And that I did.  The road is rolling and had a funny slant so I was running in the middle where I was sure I’d be hit by a car, but I promised myself no stopping until the finish.  Back into A.S.#2 I was shocked to see the family still there and hugged them all again, handed off my hand held bottle and headed to the finish.  Of course it’s still 2km from there and there is hill (not steep but long), I ran every step.  Passed a guy in the 26km race who told me he pulled his groin…ok boys, seriously enough of this!  I was too happy to be finishing to worry about his ego. The final stretch is through the gate and I lucked out that a nice man was coming through and he let me through before closing it (other runners had to go around the outside of it).  I didn’t have a kick (never do so this shouldn’t have surprised me) so I stayed steady for the finish line, of course 30 meters out pulled groin guy decides he can now sprint and blows past me.  All I could do was laugh, the people on the sidelines were all commenting on what a jerk he was and good job on my finish.
Finally finishing a race happy!

Finally finishing a race happy!

All said it took me 6:46:11 and I placed 8th female and 21st overall.  Not a bad effort for what I thought in the first 10km was going to be a horrible day.
Another one for the pot!

Another one for the pot!

I have to say again that this is a fabulously run race, even at the finish someone was straight over to me with water in hand calling me by my first name (I know it’s written on my bib but it’s the extra effort to actually use my name that’s touching).  I was given a “brown bag” lunch which I wolfed down because (surprise surprise) I was starving.  Then put on some warm clothes and waited for Dan and Mitch to finish.  Mitch did great and has already signed up for another race in November (I think we’ve got him hooked).
Dan finally sauntered in, smiling and happy to have finished a race!  And that made me smile for the rest of the day.