I don’t even know where to start with this one…
On Friday night we headed to Huntsville having decided to camp at the race so we could sleep in (haha). I proceeded to have a terrible nights sleep, I love camping and am very comfortable in a tent, what I’m not used to is being packed into a field in which people kept arriving until well after mid night. Our tent neighbour snored like a machine driving me insane, and then people started arriving at 5:30 to set up. I was exhausted.
Put my brave face on and the trail shoes I hate the least (I’m having some serious shoe struggles right now) and headed off to the pre race meeting. My mood improved as I met up with familiar faces, it was already hot but not too bad, maybe today wouldn’t be so bad. My goal was to beat 8 hours having missed it by 34 seconds last year (I also state in last years report that I should only do the 28km race-why do I not take my own advice?), but really I was hoping for 7:30.
As the race started I met up with Carolyn who I ran with at PYP, we seeded ourselves pretty well and settled into a nice pace along the stunning trail to the first aid station. You can hear the kids working this aid station from 3km away, they cheer for every single runner as we pop up over the little hill leading to the aid station. Lap 1 I didn’t stop at any aid stations as I was testing out my new UD Scott Jurek Hydration Vest, so was pretty happy to breeze by the stations. I wanted to run this lap conservatively as I know how difficult Lap 4 can be. Although the race consists of a 14.2km loop, it is deceptively difficult, there are no real big ups or downs, but lots of rolling, and lots of roots, rocks and mud, it takes its toll. Near the end of the lap we started getting passed my marathon runners and even a couple of 28km runners (who were bombing by) I wondered if Dan was going to end up lapping me since he was doing the marathon, I figured he might but probably not until my third lap. I was feeling good as we came around to complete Lap 1 and was astonished to see the clock read 1:59, oh that’s a lot slower than expected, the pace was comfortable but I believed we’d been moving a little quicker.
Carolyn and I decided to stay together and got out of the aid station quick, we had come into it in a bit of a conga line and didn’t want to get stuck behind again. We ran the road to the trail head quick, passing a few more people before jumping back onto the single track. We both wanted to pick it up on this lap, Carolyn paced the first half and I took over for the second. We both thought we’d done a good job of pushing but when we got back to the finish line we had done that lap in 1:55. What?!? I felt like we had worked so much harder for about the same pace, oh dear this was not going to end well. Then I realised I was looking at a familiar face, Dan’s. He confused me for a minute, I thought he was done, but then remembered he hadn’t passed me. The conversation while I switched out my bottles went like this:
Me: What are you doing here?
Dan: I’m going to run your next lap with you. (All smiles)
Dan: Because I’m nice.
Me: What? What about your race?
Dan: It’s over.
Dan: Um…I got lost.
Me: How? This is a very well marked course, there are flags every hundred meters!
Dan: (looking rather sheepish) I’ll tell you all about it on the lap.
So off we went, a threesome now, and Dan told his tale. He was running so well and feeling so good that he was composing his “redemption” email to a friend that he carelessly followed the guy in front down the wrong trail, it would turn out that he wasn’t the only one. Once him and the guy he was following figured out they’d gone wrong the turned and headed back, only to be met by an oncoming runner insisting that they had been going the right way, so he turned around again, and finally ended up climbing a tree to try and see if he could find any flags. Finally headed back the way they’d come only to be met by more runners, this time they insisted the other people turn around and sure enough the were back at the junction realising their error. He’d run about 3.5km extra and was annoyed so he finished the lap and waited at the finish line to cheer on a friend who had run the 14km, provide same aid for some ailing runners before deciding he’d head for a loop with me.
Lap 3 was tough, it was getting hot now as it was noon, Carolyn managed to get a big rock in her shoe and then have the quietest fall in the world. Dan was good company, we passed some carnage, including Alex who is a fantastic runner, but not having the best day, he managed to give us all a high five as we went by. As we went through the 8.8km aid station I was still feeling ok, I still felt like the effort I was putting in was not giving me the speed I wanted but I was still moving relatively well. A few minutes after leaving the aid station Dan noticed he’d lost his bib, he had it the aid station, so he turned back to go find it (no one likes a litter bug) and this is when things turned a bit for me. You would think for a married couple we’d have great communication, actually we do, just not when we are running. Carolyn and I assumed he’d book it back to the aid station looking for his bib and then run back to catch up. We coasted a bit to give him a chance to catch up, but people started passing by that we’d already passed. I asked if they’d seen Dan and they all said he was going back to the aid station. I needed to pee, so I decided to stop and wait and told Carolyn to go on ahead, he couldn’t possible be much further behind. Finally he appears, walking and chatting to another runner, when sees me standing there he starts to run to me telling me I didn’t have to wait. I told him that he didn’t say that, and I was trying to be nice since he’d been having such a bad day (he also lost his shoe in a mud pit, retrieved it, sat on a log to put it back on only to discover the log was rotten and he sank right trough it and ended up sitting is said mud pit), he apologised for not telling me to go ahead, especially since he’d WALKED all the back to the aid station, found the bib, and then proceeded to chat with everyone he passed by! Whatever, he was back, I had some company and we were running again. About 1km down the trail he tells me to “go ahead” he was feeling a bit “pooched”, ARGH!! The thought of killing him gave me a much needed adrenaline boost as I booked it back to the finish to try and catch Carolyn. Lap time 2:08. I was absolutely roasting by the time I popped out of the trail and the run across the baking field didn’t help the situation. I decided to dump my pack and just go with a handheld for the last lap. Carolyn was already gone and I knew there was no way I’d catch her now as she is faster and stronger than me, I left for my last lap feeling pretty bummed.
And that was the mood I would stay in. It’s amazing how quickly things can change. As a motored down the road in the glaring sun, with people who were finished their (shorter) races driving by kicking up dust, I wanted to stop and turn back. For the first time ever I really wanted to quit. I tried to reason with myself “it will be better as soon as we hit the trailhead”, but it didn’t get any better. I tried to sing to myself (that usually helps) but I couldn’t think of any songs, I literally could not come up with a tune. Now I was getting scared, what was wrong with me? I was starting to feel hungry and realised that nutritionally I hadn’t been too diligent but I wasn’t ravenous. I was just in a funk. I big stinky funk. I was down for the count and let my brain wander to all those dark thoughts that I can usually ignore. Thoughts like how I haven’t really felt strong running since Sulphur, how I didn’t deserve to run a sub 8 on this course because I was lazy and hadn’t done any work to make sure I achieved this goal. Then the pity party started I questioned why I even bothering going back to the Mogollon Monster, and how I didn’t deserve such a wonderful husband who always supports me (emotionally and financially) in all my crazy endeavors, and then I felt bad for wanting to kill him earlier and then the tears came. Apparently I needed a good cry. I just wandered along sobbing in the woods by myself, then I realised I needed to pull myself together as I was approaching the last aid station. I tried to act cool, there but I knew they knew I’d been crying. They were very friendly but quickly got me out of there. With 5km to go, I wiped my nose, stood up straight and ran every last step, forgiving myself for having a bad day. I have no idea why I’m so hard on myself, I mean, it’s just running for crying out loud!
My pity part lap (aka Lap 4) took 2:24, official time 8:28:09, Dan greeted me with a big hug as I was given my medal and I started to cry again (this is getting embarrassing) these tears were mainly relief that it was over. So not my best effort and certainly one that I’m not overly proud of, but at least I finished. I’ve got some work to do as well, because I AM going back to the Mogollon Monster and I DO believe I can do it. I just need to put the work in, stop putting myself down and train like hell.
Where has the time gone? Hard to believe that it’s been over a month since Sulphur. We’ve been busy, somehow that always seems to happen in the summer, so here is a quick update.
1. It took me 10 whole days of rest before I could run after Sulphur. I might have been able to try sooner but I didn’t want to push anything and I’m happy I took the rest. I only lost one toe nail even though right after the race it looked more like I was going to lose whole toes. After the swelling went down in my feet and ankles I noticed a small lump on the tendon running up from ankle. Working in health care has its perks.
Turns out it’s just a ganglion cyst. It most likely developed from the tongue of my shoe rubbing my ankle. I remember my tongue bugging me and telling Dan about it but I don’t think we did anything to fix it, so now I will wait and see if it goes away. On the plus side it doesn’t hurt anymore.
2. Dan and I explored some new trails at Rattlesnake Point. I like running here, lot’s of ups and down and more technical than what we usually run on.
3. Saw some wildlife.
4. Took a newbie out on the trails, cousin Alex, Dan tried to kill him and I chicked him. We are such fun people to run with!
5. Dan’s parents arrived from England for a visit and their first half marathon at the Niagara Ultra. Dan ran the 50km, and I dropped down to the half so I could keep my mother in law company and throw water on her head. Turned out to be a pretty hot and humid day, something that in-laws had not been used to running in (ever apparently), so the heat caused some havoc for them but they soldiered on.
6. Dan and I ran to the Bleasdell Boulder. Dan has passed the sign for the boulder for the last 7 years and decided he just had to see it, I’ve passed that sign my whole life and have never been all that fussed. Now we can both say we’ve seen the large erratic.
It was Canada Day that weekend so we stopped to look at some decorations in Batawa on route to the boulder.
There may have been a beer mile and a fastpacking adventure in there too, but I’m hoping to get my act together and write more detailed posts about those. Next up is Limberlost this weekend, I can’t wait for a hot 56km on my favourite 14km loop.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After seeing Dan off on what would turn out to be a less than stellar run, I had 2 hours to kill before the start of the 50km race. Thankfully I found a couple of other Canadians, Melanie and April, who had to see off their runner at 5am too. They’re also from Toronto, it was the first time we met (I did recognise them but really only from the back as they are WAY fast and are usually running quickly away from me) and it turns out it wont be the last as they are also running 100 miles at Sulphur Springs, it was nice to have some company. Finally the sun came up, it started to warm up and before I knew it I was lining up at the start line receiving some parting words from the Ultramarathon man, Dean Karnazes.
Everyone in the ultra community knows who he is and it seems you either love him or hate him. I’m not really in either camp, but I have read all his books, so I’ll say that I like his writing.
At 7am I set off with 335 other runners on the 50km course, I was pretty confident since a good chunk of the course is the same as the 50 mile course. However as I made my way up the first incline of the day I didn’t recognise a thing, mainly because last year I ran this part in the dark (sometimes running in the dark is really a blessing). Anyway it was the usual jostling for position and conga lining for the first little while, I was a little disappointed with how rude some people were being, literally shoving pass on single track. Hey, first of all I’m a nice person say “on your left” and I will step to my right and let you by, second what is the rush? If you are behind me you are not winning this thing so simmer down, be polite, and sprint like hell way the trail opens up! I know I sound a bit harsh but most of the people who shoved their way past me, I passed when I ran through the first aid station (we had only run 6 km you shouldn’t need to stop yet) and never saw again, so what was the point (other than to agitate me)?!
On the next leg there was a longish stretch of uphill on the road so I decided to just hammer up it and get into a spot where I’d be happy and I was, until we hit the first little rocky section we had to skirmish over, hmm had forgotten about that but, onwards (down a technical descent) into aid station 2, which I once again blew through. I was quite proud of myself for not stopping a. because I didn’t need to and b. I waste so much freaking time at aid stations, this is something I’m truly trying to work on. Two aid stations in and I was doing great.
Third leg was longer at 8.5km and this is where I started to see the carnage, the first 3km are nice and runnable on a fire road and then we go up and across a ridge. This part I remembered and was ready for, so I ran every runnable section and power hiked what I couldn’t and then was thankful for my boxing classes as I easily scaled up the big rock section, sadly getting down is still tricky, but I was really pleased at how much I was running, so were some other runners who tagged on behind and I found myself the (unwilling) leader of a conga line into the next aid station.
Aid station 3 is where the 50km separates from the 50 mile so it was new territory for about 6km but then we merged back into the 50 mile course. It was getting hot now so I did stop briefly at the aid station for some straight up water (I was carrying two bottles of Vitargo) but I made my stop quick because I didn’t really like leading a pack of men through the bush, so I set off down the a 1 mile road section being sure to run and appreciate the pavement.
Once back in the bush the trail was pretty runnable but really over grown and the brush was scratchy, although it was hot and I didn’t need them, I kind of wished I’d worn calf sleeves. But hey, nothing says trail running season is in like scratched up legs! This is where I caught up to a lovely young women who had fantastic hair, I mean it looked stunning, perfectly in place, her pony tail swaying side to side, blonde hair glistening in the sun, sigh. Why can’t I look this effortless whilst running? Anyway I told her her hair looked fantastic and we got to talking, turns out last year on this section she had seen a rattlesnake, so that settled that, I was sticking with blondie until we were out of the bush. We made it to the 50 mile merge without any snake sightings, but we did have a star sighting, we could hear one single person clapping and cheering and figured it was a hiker who thought we were crazy and decided to cheer for us, but nope as we came around a corner Dean Karnazes was there giving out high fives. He told us we looked great “fresh as a daisy” apparently (I’m pretty sure that comment was for blondie but I’m taking it too). The star sighting kicked blondie’s butt into gear and she eventually pulled away from me, I was sad to see her shiny hair go but was pretty happy I was still moving along. I was even passing some people, which made me happy until they tried to tag along, I kept asking if anyone wanted to get by, but they all seemed happy to follow on (I did have to eventually tell the guy behind that if he wanted to pace off me fine but that he had to back off a couple of feet, I felt like he was going to step on my heels). Finally we hit a climb that I decided to walk thinking I would lose the posse behind, sadly no, the guy behind me asked if I was aiming for a sub 7 hour finish, I told him nope this is just a training run I’m just doing whatever. And then it hit me, if I was on pace for a sub 7 hour finish I was going to fast, and things were probably going to get ugly soon.
Finally we popped out of the trail and were at aid station 4 (which is also aid station 1) for some reason this aid station was really busy or so it seemed. It was really warm now so I dumped the last of one Vitargo’s (mango flavour was not going down well anymore) and filled that with some icy cold water and was out of there. I exited with a young guy, named Corey who really liked my gaitors, this guy looked awesome, like he was just setting out for run, that’s when I noticed his bib it was orange which meant he was a 50 mile runner and he was in 9th place. Inspiring to say the least, I plodded across the parking lot and watched as he took off from me with the grace of a gazelle and disappeared into the trail. My focus turned to just trying to run, I was getting tired and stuff was hurting now and I had a blister on my toe again, this part of the trail is pretty runnable so I really talked myself into running what I could (quite literally too, I scared a group of ladies out walking with my self chat). Then there was a big climb that I remembered and then a very steep descent that I was scared for, my legs felt wobbly and it was really steep and instead of rocks it was loose dirt and dead leaves. I slowly picked my way down, kicked a stump, cursed, as pain seared though my toe and into the pit of my stomach. As the toe pain subsided I noticed my sock felt funny, like it was really wet all of a sudden, I started to worry that I was bleeding, but then when I started to run realised that the blister pain was gone….sweet I popped my blister! That meant I wouldn’t have to stop at the next aid station to do it! I ran as best I could into the next aid station but I was struggling, it didn’t help that I knew what was coming. Upon arrival at aid station 5, I marvelled at the fact that I was mentally in a good place, last year when I was there a medic almost pulled me from the race because I was in such a state. I ate an orange slice, dumped some water on my head and headed off on the longest 4kms in the world.
The participant’s guide describes this section as follows “This section features several climbs, including the hardest up to the Timp Pass. The Timp Pass Road descending from the Pass turns very rocky.” I don’t think that sounds nearly as tough as it really is and even though I knew it was coming it still beat the hell out of me. The positives that I have come away with is that I stayed positive through this section, everyone around me was falling to bits but this girl soldiered on. The first place female, Ashley Moyer, went by me we had a brief chat, I told her she looked awesome and that it was quite inspiring watching her tackle this, she smiled and told that was exactly what she needed to hear, that gave us both a boost and I tried to chase after her, but decided that was foolish as I would surely trip and die. By the time I hit the last aid station I was giddy, I was also telling anyone who would listen about how I came into that station in tears last year and had to be consoled, this year I was all smiles. I did waste a little time hanging around this aid station, but it was just what I needed, I took off out of there a new woman. I managed to run most of the last 5km and at a really decent clip too. I came through the finish line ecstatic, I was all by myself too, so my name got announced, which is usually exciting as the announcer always comments on what a good running name I have. Not this guy though, this is what he said “And welcome back to number 981, Heather (a pause while he noticed what my last name is….) ‘not so light on her feet’ Lightfoot!” Cheers buddy! I’d like to see what you look like after running that 50km, the volunteer who was giving me my medal looked mortified, the announcer was lucky I could see where he was sitting.
Of course I was then really surprised to be met by Dan upon exiting the finish area, I felt so bad for him after the run I’d just had. Saw Melanie and April too, they were already changed and had eaten and totally rocked the race coming in 14 and 15 female overall! I finished in 7:17:56, good enough for 33rd female and 10th in my age group (I think I can start calling myself a “first third of the packer”).
It was a beautiful day so we basked in the sun cheering other runners in. We met an awesome couple from Philadelphia, you can read Amy’s race report here. This was their first 50km race and first trail race, they are very brave people. We also hung out with James who we met in the morning at bag check, he knew us from this blog, and through out the day I was freaked out by other people who asked if we were Race In Pieces. So hello to readers who aren’t our Mothers!
Big question, will we do it again next year? It’s a fantastically well organised race and in a beautiful part of the world, but I don’t think so. I think we said that last year too.
This was the view on the way to our first trail race of the year.
Needless to say I wasn’t too happy about it. This winter has dragged on, just 5 days ago I went for a morning run in my fleece pants, so I was worried, I just didn’t feel up to being cold and wet for 6 hours.
Thankfully the downpour ended, however running a course that took place on a ski hill meant that we had one last bout of snow running ahead of us.
PYP takes place at the Snow Valley Heights Ski resort, we had never run this race before so we didn’t know exactly what to expect other than we would most likely be running up and down ski hills. The course is a 12.5km loop that you can run once, twice or four times (at one point I really wished that there had been a three loop option). Dan was running the 25km and I would be taking on the 50km.
The course was fantastic, all on trail, some smooth double track mixed with some sweet hilly single track. Very well marked, not a single worry about getting lost. There was 3 aid stations which allowed us to run without a pack or bottles (especially since it was pretty cool out when we started). My goal for the race was to run consistent, unlike my training, and try to run the same time for each lap and as always, not stop and linger at aid stations.
Lap 1 I ran with Dan and we tried to start out slow, actually I feel like we did a pretty good job of this, we started near the back and stayed calm when we hit the first single track in a big conga line. We opted to run all the slight inclines and walked the steep ones, which there were plenty. We finished lap 1 around 1:27 (official results are not yet up so this is a guess from our watches) so now I knew what I had to do for the 2nd.
Dan and I started out lap 2 together, I knew Dan would probably take off when we reached some fantastic single track after the 2nd aid station but I was happy to have his company for most of the lap. Again we ran the small inclines and walked the steep ones, I found walking across the snow covered portions of the trail easier than running, the snow was slippery. Dan took off when I expected him to and I started talking to a girl who’d been running close to us for while, Carolyn, she was aiming for a sub 6 hour finish so I decided to try and stay with her. That lap was around 1:27.
Lap 3 I started out on my own but had seen Hutch go by while I was fueling and decided to try and chase him down. I met Hutch at Limberlost last year, he is a young guy with such an impressive endurance drive, it was great to catch up to him and hear about all of his adventures, he carried on while I stopped to grab some water at the first aid station, the rain had completely moved on and the sun was now making an appearance, it was warming up quick. I caught back up to Carolyn as we slipped across the now melting snow, we ran the rest of the lap together, she was good for me to run with as I pushed us up the hills and she pushed us down (why don’t I like going down?). Finished this lap around 1:32. This was the last I would run with Carolyn as I needed to use the bathroom. The nice thing about this race is that we got to use the ski chalet, making for a very civilized bathroom experience, the bad thing about this race is that if you needed to go you had to walk a little off course, down some stairs and then back again to get back on course.
The bathroom break killed my momentum. I started out lap 4 happy with the knowledge it was my last lap, but then I just got tired and had a side stitch. I forced myself to run the first few kilometers that are nice and flat, as soon as I hit the first incline though I treated myself to a walk, but then I started to get annoyed with myself because I know I could run this section and I knew if I kept walking this lap was going to take forever. I suddenly felt super out of shape finding every little incline tough and I don’t really know why. I’m still working on my nutrition so that may have been it, but I was also getting really hot and regretting not having a water bottle with me. I used the snow on course to my advantage and started putting little snowballs down my shirt and on the back of my neck. Eventually I caught up to Chris, who I also met at Limberlost and we had a good chat. He had run 100 miles at Across the Years in Arizona this year and we realised that we knew a few of the same people and shared a love for AZ. That really seemed to revive me and I eventually pulled away, at this point I hadn’t been passed the whole lap but I noticed a guy slowly reeling me in. That was all the motivation I needed to keep moving, I resolved to not let him get past me. He got close and if the loop was any longer he probably would have had me, but I threw myself down the final hill, half running but mostly skiing across the snow and splashing through the water at the finish from all the melting snow. Final lap took about 1:43.
No medals for this race instead finisher socks.
We also got some honey, which is awesome since I go through honey at an alarming rate.
Dan even won a door prize, more socks.
Post race we had burgers and salad which were tasty (most things are after running for more than 6 hours though). I beat myself up on the car ride home for falling apart on the last lap, but after sleeping on it I feel pretty good about my effort. I did run pretty consistently, I was unprepared for the heat and my nutrition still needs some tweaking so I’m actually quite pleased with my result.
I’m disappointed about my new shoes though, I really like them but this was the longest distance I’ve done in them and I learnt that they don’t drain water too well, my feet were wrinkly when I removed my socks and I got this;
And I do declare that spring has sprung because I also got this;
My first sunburn of the season, a nice base for my farmers tan.
2013 Edition – It’s just running.
Dan loves this race, he says it’s his favourite early season race. I always finish saying never again, but then I do. In 2011 we ran slow encumbered by our too big packs (or at least Dan did I don’t know what my excuse was), in 2012 Dan wanted to go fast and I just wanted to run without pain, Dan ended up sticking with me because I apparently “sped off”, but at least I was pain free. So that brings us to 2013, Dan once again wanted to go fast and I’m trying something new this year in that, I don’t race every run I enter, especially the ones meant to be a training run.
Dan and I parted ways before the start as he got himself into a fast corral and was allowed to start closer to the front, I had to walk around the back like majority of runners but I was ok with this, I was going to take it easy. I had no time goal, I just wanted to run consistently, push a little (not coast along comfortably) but not care about my time. I was presented with my first challenge of not caring about my time while I tried to get a little closer to the start, you see I’m an eavesdropper, I can’t help it I have excellent hearing. So the first place I stopped and thought “I’ll start here” I over heard the ladies behind me talking about how they were going to take their time and were hoping for a four and a half hour finish(!). I don’t like to judge, but I hope they were walking, which spurred me on to move up just a little more and then just to be sure a little more, I stopped when I reached someone wearing last years Boston Marathon jacket.
When we finally did get going it only took 5 minutes to cross the start line and then of course we had to sort ourselves out, but I refused to get sucked in and race ahead of the people who really should learn to seed themselves better, I took my time and just ran along passing when convenient. The first kilometer would be my second slowest of the whole run. Let me tell you about my slowest, it was just after I passed the 8km marker. I had found myself pacing off a girl in a great pink top and moving so effortlessly it made me want to cry, there was also a guy in green hat that seemed to be moving comfortably so I kept my eye on him for good measure. I had just settled in and was ticking along when I heard a strange noise, sort of like warning bells. And son of gun would you look at what happened next.
Yup a train. Here’s the interesting/scary part, my initial reaction was laughter, I mean it’s just running, right? My second reaction was one of horror as I watched people in front of me and even beside me try to sprint to beat the train, people were ducking under the barriers!! The police officer standing by was screaming, the trains horn was on constant blast, and all I could think was that poor train driver doesn’t need this in his day, people it’s just running. As I approached the barrier but stayed a safe distance back (you never know what could come flying off a fast moving train), I was astounded by the people who were pushing past me and even going under the barrier to stand between it and the train. I mean seriously, none of us were going to win, none of us were even in contention for the fast times medals, it’s not like this race is some sort of qualifier, relax, it’s your life/safety versus a few minutes off your time. Once again my eavesdropping kicked in and found it so entertaining to listen to people’s frustration. Some people wondered why the train wasn’t stopped – because the whole world doesn’t stop for 11000 people to run a road race on a Sunday morning in Hamilton, sorry. Didn’t the RD consult the train schedule? – um, I wouldn’t know where to find a freight train schedule and again what was the RD going to do about it? Ask the world to stop so 11000 self absorbed people could run around Hamilton on a Sunday morning? Sorry no. And then there were the people bouncing and running on the spot, really? Just take the recovery, there is still 21 and bit kilometers to go, IT’S JUST RUNNING!!! For anyone interested this what a 5 minute train stop looks like;
Anyway once that “horrible inconsiderate train” finished, people took off like the race gun went off. I stayed cool and just carried on looking for pink top girl (thank goodness I decided to stalk someone where a pretty top) and sure enough I found green hat guy too, so I just followed them as we re passed all the people we had passed in the first few kilometers. I have to admit I kind of liked getting stuck by the train, first I like resting, second there was only a small pack of fast runners in front of me. As we rounded a corner to where a big group of people were cheering I felt like I was in the lead (sort of), the crowd erupting in cheers (they probably wondered where the heck we all were) and the next aid station we passed was sort of tidied up and was ready for the next wave of runners. This is where I lost pink top girl. I guess she wasn’t running as effortlessly as she looked. So it was just me and green hat guy as we glided by the eclectic homes of Beach Blvd (no bacon station this year 😦 maybe with the gap in the runners they thought it was over and went inside…).
We finally passed the 15km relay exchange (half way!) and over the scary grated bridge, I’d still like to see a barefoot/vibram runner get over that, there is never any around when I cross. Then it was onto the rolling hills of North Shore Blvd. I love this section, lots of supporters and lots of rolling hills, I lost green hat guy, he apparently does not like hills. One of my least favourite parts of this race is when you go by the 20km relay exchange, especially if you are a slower runner, because at this point you’ve got some cocky jacked up guy who is annoyed that the first legs of his relay have done so poorly that they speed off at a sprint, it’s tough because it’s a narrower section of road and well, I’m jealous of their fresh legs. But this year took the cake when some jerk almost knocked over an amputee runner (who was running the whole 30km), I mean seriously, IT’S JUST RUNNING. But then I noticed something odd in the distance…
I immediately wondered if it was the guy who ran dressed as the helicopter last year and made it my mission to sneak up on him and ask. It was.
Finally we passed the high fiving dwarf and made our descent down Spring Gardens Rd and up the “dreaded” Valley Inn Rd hill (which I don’t really think is that bad but I do have a preference for hills). Onto York Blvd and the home stretch, high fived the Grimm Reaper and then ran into the days best cheering squad.
It’s always so wonderful to have people come and support you, Melissa was a little shocked that I stopped to hug them, but again I like the rest and it’s only running, they took time out of their weekend to come and cheer for us, the least I could do was stop and say hello. Alright I was kind of getting excited to get finished and get my medal, so I decided to push the pace for the last 2km, it was at his point that I overheard someone saying to the their buddy, “push we can still make 2:45”, huh? I hadn’t looked at my watch since the train incident, hmm it would be close but why not go for it. So I did, and realised I really need to do some speed training, or something, running fast hurts. I blew down the coliseum ramp and elbowed out some guy to cross in 2:50:12, doh, that is nowhere near 2:45. Ah well, it’s just running. But wait! The train! My guess was a 5 minute stop….and the chip time says…2:45:26 (good for a 7 minute PB). But hey, it’s just running.