Pick Your Poison 25km 2014

Dan

Every busy schedule needs some respite. In years past that rest has been in the form of breaks from running, however the past 6 months we have been more than a little preoccupied preparing for next big adventure (read www.jfdioverland.com) so running has actually become the break, the pro of this is that any long run feels like a treat, the con is that I have turned into a rolly Polly tub of lard trundling down the trails.

So with the stress of condo rental, insurance, truck mods, route planning, and what bloody social media outlet is the most engaging and interesting for people, oh and not to mention how to pack my personal gear into a 62L tote, put to one side for the weekend (well a Saturday morning) it is time for my first race of the season, Pick Your Poison.

This is how I found myself driving a motley crew of Cam, Mitch, Ben and myself to Horseshoe ——- with Geoff meeting us there. We arrived to find the hill shrouded in fog and still covered in snow, conditions obviously weren’t going to be quite as conducive to a fast run as they were last year, that combined with getting fat over a cold ass winter and all reasons/excuses for not getting a PB were in place. Now don’t be thinking that this is one of those under dog stories where at the end I triumphantly dip at the line to shave a second off last years time, I didn’t, in fact I added several hundred seconds to last year. Ok there, that is out of the way, so I can continue and any of you reading won’t have false expectations.

It was great seeing all our trail buddies coming out of hibernation, it was unfortunate that Heather had to work, however Mitch and Geoff were keeping me suitably entertained. Mitch had decided to throw down the gauntlet and declare that he would be pipping Geoff to the finish on this day, Mitch is an aspiring ultra runner, where Geoff is much more of an ultra veteran, still I thought this may be an entertaining dual as Mitch has been training hard in preparation for Sulpher 50k his first ultra. Geoff was a little taken a back by the challenge but more than happy to take up this whipper snappers challenge.

The race started at pretty gentle pace, the trails certainly were going to be challenging. I got to catch up with a few more friends on that first loop. Just after the first aid station I decided to look back and see how the Mitch-Geoff battle was shaping up, I saw Geoff was a minute or so behind me so I waited for him to catch up, we chatted for a while and established that Mitch was just behind. Mitch caught up and we cruised together for a while with me chastising Geoff for his decision to sign up for a Tough Mudder. Near the end of the first lap I pulled away from the boys on some long up hills.

At the start of the second loop I was going to wait for the guys and run some more with them and watch their battle unfold, but at the first aid station I got talking to a girl I had been running just behind during loop 1, and we ran together for half of that second loop having a good old natter so time just flew by. The only slight hiccup of our time running together came when we were taking about work life balance, as the word balance left her lips she tripped and hit the deck hard, fortunately the irony did not escape her and we had a good laugh about it after she had dusted herself down. I had put some distance between myself and the boys but had been able to catch glimpses of them as the trails switched back and forth. I saw that Geoff had built a lead over Mitch but couldn’t really tell by how much.

The trails were enormous fun, I actually really enjoyed all the slipping and sliding, then to cap off a great race I got lapped by a 50k runner a couple of minutes from the finish, not normally a bonus, but it was Simon Donato from the TV show Boundless, we had a brief chat and I was a little star struck.

I happily collected my socks and settled in to wait for the boys battle to pan out. To my surprise Geoff game blasting in just a few mins later, he must have turned on the afterburners in the later half of that last lap. Mitch came in not too long after, but I made sure to be fully changed for when he did just to psych him out, young grasshopper needs the odd slap down. Mitch was delighted however this was only his second time running this distance on the trails and he had taken the better part of an hour off his previous time.

The rest of the morning was spent chowing down on the awesome post race food, and waiting for our 50k friends to finish up.  Shout out to Melanie who took third female in the 50k.

The only low point of the day was the near 3 hours it took to drive home.

Only two more races before we head out on our big trip.

www.jfdioverland.com

Advertisements

Mogollon Monster 2013 Race Report

My second stab at the Mogollon Monster took place on Saturday, in Pine AZ.   Dan and I flew to Phoenix on Thursday, only stopping in Phoenix long enough to pick up race supplies (we only flew with carry on) and headed to Pine.  We stayed at a fantastic homestay/B&B right in Pine, about a mile from the start line.  Lorrie and Bill, the owner’s of TwoJ’s were wonderfully hospitable and very excited about my race.  Unfortunately on the drive up to Pine (approx 5500′) one of my ears wouldn’t “pop” and I was battling a bit of a sore throat that I picked up after running a charity run on Saturday in the pouring rain.  I wasn’t too stressed though and figured a good nights sleep would have me feeling good to go.

Our home for the weekend.

Our home for the weekend.

Me and a sign.

Me and a sign.

Friday I woke up with a sore throat, a still not popped right ear and runny nose but still I wasn’t worried, we spent the morning getting my gear and drop bags ready, then we decided to visit the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.  It was beautiful, the weather was fantastic, and my ear finally popped on the steep drive down to the bridge!  We walked around the trails and decided to hike right down to the bridge, it was a pretty easy walk, but on the way back up I felt really winded.  I mentioned this to Dan and he (lied) and told me that he felt winded too.  I chalked it up to the altitude, I’ve never had issues with altitude but there is a first time for everything.  We went to get my bib at around 6 pm and had a great evening catching up with other runners and race organizers/volunteers.  I wasn’t sure why I sounded like I’d been chain-smoking all day, but something was definitely up with my voice/throat, however I didn’t feel too bad, maybe a little tired, but mostly just really excited.  I was so ready for the Monster.

Visiting Tonto Natural Bridge.

Visiting Tonto Natural Bridge.

Saturday morning my 4:30 alarm came too soon, I did not have a great nights sleep.  That’s not too unusual, what was different with my lack of sleep was the coughing fits that were keeping me awake (usually it’s just nerves/excitement).  I told Dan that I thought I had a cold, he agreed.  There wasn’t much I could do about it at this point.  I didn’t really think it would affect me much, I kind of hoped I’d sweat it out in the first few hours.

It was cool at the race start, lot’s of dancing around to keep warm while Jeremy ran through his last minute instructions, but Dan pointed out that it was great running weather (just not great standing around weather).  I was excited I was ready, I found Elise and Margaret at the start, I had the pleasure of running with these two amazing women last year and I hoped that we could run a bit together again this year.

It was a tad cool at the start line.

It was a tad cool at the start line.

Finally it was time to go, 44 braves souls set off up Pine Canyon, my goal was to stay relaxed.  My ultimate goal for this race was to finish, my race plan had me finishing in 35 hours and I truly believed that I was going to the finish this year.  Margaret and I set off in a pleasant pace up the first climb, after this climb I heard a strange wheezing noise, it took a few minutes but I began to realise it was coming from me.  As I wheezed away my voice also started to disappear, I figured it was the altitude, Margaret was a little concerned but there wasn’t much I could do about it, I told her she’d have to do all the talking!

As we traversed above the town of Pine I was smiling and taking in the stunning views, still amazing a year later, it’s amazing the things you forget though, like the rocks, I remember rocks, but not that many.  A new twist this year was that there was a lot of rain so the brush on the side of the trail was really over grown and there were lots of trees down, but it was still fun and beautiful and I was going to do this.  Up the climb to the top of the rim (and the first aid station) my wheezing got a little louder and runners around me started to comment that they could hear me coming.  I told myself to stay calm and that it would wear off, I was still moving really well, talking on my calories.  I came into the Pine Canyon aid station about 15 minutes ahead of schedule.  Dan was there and I told him about my wheezing, but at this point I was laughing about it, I thought it was kind of funny, but still felt it was going to “go away”.

On top of the rim, wondering why I can't breath.

On top of the rim, wondering why I can’t breathe.

The next section to Dickerson flat aid station is very runnable so Margaret and I had a quick walk break to eat some food and so I could blow my nose, I was alarmed by the colour of my snot, it matched my day glow yellow shirt!  But I felt so much better now that my nasal passage was clear (for the moment) and we set off.  Margaret quickly pulled ahead of me and I happily let her set the pace, as we hit the road section I started to find it hard to keep up and my wheezing was back with vengeance, for the first time I was beginning to think that what ever this was it wasn’t going to just go away.  As we hit the aid station (manned with fantastic volunteers I might add) my voice was gone again, I had to hand signal what I was after!  After reassuring everyone that I would be fine off we went to go back down the rim, I was hoping that the descent would help my wheezing.  I have to add that this is a stunning descent especially as the sun was just hitting some of that canyon walls, my breath was being taken away by the views for the moment.  After navigating the technical downhill we hit the trail and I stopped to use the bathroom, when I stood up from this I was dizzy, in the stumbling around way.  I ate some more food while I tried to catch back up to Margaret but I didn’t feel hungry and I’d been staying on top of my calories and hydration, worry started to creep into my mind.  We finally reached Geronimo aid station, Dan was there and swapped out my bottles, I told him I wasn’t feeling to hot and that I couldn’t catch my breath, he assured me that I would be fine.  I was still 15 minutes ahead of schedule, I re-applied sunscreen as I was heading out for 9 miles of the Highline Trail, which doesn’t have much shade, Margaret set out just ahead of me, but I just couldn’t catch up.  I watched as she got further and further away.  I couldn’t run.  At all. I let this get me down for a bit, but I realised wallowing wasn’t going to get me to the next aid station any quicker, I put my head down and walked/hiked as fast as I could.  I was supposed to arrive at Washington Park at 2 pm and that became the focus, to get there as close as I could to 2.  So “just keep moving” became my mantra, and it worked for a while, but then I had to blow my nose (more radioactive looking stuff) and then I developed a bit of a headache, oh and then there was the chest pain.  Finally I knew I was getting close to Washington Park because I could hear it, but I was still (what felt like) really high up, eventually I descended and arrived at the aid station.

Stunning, my pictures really do not do this area justice.

Stunning, my pictures really do not do this area justice.

There I was met by Dan, as well as our B&B owners (a fantastic surprise) as soon as I tried to talk to Dan I started to cry, I was panicking as I was now 15 minutes behind schedule and I still couldn’t run, and my voice was gone again.  Dan did a great job of calming me down, I told him I didn’t feel well and just to prove it I started to have a coughing fit that ended with us both staring at solid yellow “thing” in my hand, tears started coming back to my eyes and Dan shook my arm so the “thing” would no longer be in our view.  I had some soup which really soothed my throat and chest, thanks to the volunteer who made soup for me at the hottest part of the day when all the other runners wanted ice, I really appreciated it.  After 20 minutes of sitting and eating, I put on my pack and left.  I just wasn’t quite ready to give up.

Leaving Washington Park, my legs are saying "lets go", my face is saying "why are you making me leave".  Photo curtasie of Lorrie Johnson

Leaving Washington Park, my legs are saying “let’s go”, my face is saying “why are you making me leave”. Photo courtesy of Lorrie Johnson

I had 6 miles to the next aid station, my plan said it should take 2 hours and I was about 35 minutes behind schedule although somehow still ahead of the cut-offs, as I wondered off from the aid station I formulated a new plan, it was to get to the next aid station without coughing up anything solid.  First 2 miles of this section is all up hill including a section that has a 45% grade, but then you end up on the rim road, which in my head was totally runnable, that memory was wrong!  I settled in for some serious power hiking and some serious view absorbing, as crappy as I was feeling the views helped to make me smile and remind me how lucky I was to be there.  Then a car drove by kicking up dust and I was back to coughing.  When I could I would run until I couldn’t and just kept repeating that pattern, and just when I thought I had to be almost at the aid station, Dan drove by.  This was odd as he was not supposed to be meeting me here, in fact I was pretty sure that he quite possibly risked life and limb to beat me to this aid station (by car it was much further than 6 miles).

Up to the rim road I go, it's only 2 miles...

Up to the rim road I go, it’s only 2 miles…

Gorgeous.

Gorgeous.

Finally I made it into the Houston Brothers aid station and broke into a fit of coughing.  I did not feel good, I plunked myself down in a chair.  I asked for some tissue and was given some, I was also offered to have “medical” come and look at me, I hesitated for a moment but then agreed.  Danny (who finished the Monster last year) was working this aid station with his wife along with Noah and John, so I was surrounded by familiar friendly faces and my mind raced with the potential consequences of being “looked at by medical”.  I was eating some soup when John the Medic arrived on scene.  He was really friendly and started asking some questions, I was truthful and even admitted to having some chest pain earlier (Dan did not look pleased that I had kept this tidbit from him), John had a listen to my chest and noticed “diminished breath sounds on the right”.  Hmm, basically I had a choice I could go on, he wasn’t going to pull me but, I would have to sign a waiver saying I was continuing against medical advice.  I looked at Dan, he looked at me, I did some math in my head and thought about the next section of trail, and realised I didn’t want to be that jerk who needs to get rescued when they should have known when to stop.  So I quit.

This is the first time I’ve quit, I could’ve sat in that chair and timed out, I could’ve asked the Medic to “pull me” but that wouldn’t have made it any easier, my race was over.  I’ve had an x-ray since being home and it turns out that I have bronchitis, mostly in the right lung, the radiologist I work with was impressed that I managed to run 33 miles with all the inflammation in my lungs.  I’m at peace with my decision because ultimately had I gone on I was not going to finish because I was not going to magically get better and I really hated the idea that I had I gone on I could have put other people at risk if something did happen to me.  Am I bummed?  Hell yeah, but it’s just running, there will be other races.

This was posted on the Mogollon Monster Facebook page courtesy of Michael Miller. If you zoom it you can see that the word "rough" is written beside my bib number (#21), I was a marked women

This was posted on the Mogollon Monster Facebook page courtesy of Michael Miller. If you zoom it you can see that the word “rough” is written beside my bib number (#21), I was a marked women.

Since Dan was there I didn’t have to wait for a ride which was nice, he was happy I stopped too since he was worried and he thought my mother, and maybe his, would’ve killed him had he let me sign a A.M.A waiver.

It also meant that we got to hang out and watch all the finishers (of which there were 23!) on Sunday (well not all, Steve Moore the winner was finished at 3am, I was in bed) and talk to some more of the wonderful people involved in putting on this race.  Not to mention all the runners whose races ended at various parts of the race. Unfortunately Margaret had to drop at 70 miles with stomach issues but Elise made it to the finish, I am so happy for her and I was so happy to be there to witness it!  I met so many inspiring people over the weekend it’s hard to be too upset with the outcome of my race.

I’m just going to finish by saying that this is an amazing race, put on by amazing people, if you’re looking for a challenging race with that “old school” vibe do this race. You wont regret it, and hey isn’t there a saying about “third time’s a charm”?

I love my mug, but does any know if it's dishwasher safe?

I love my mug, but does any know if it’s dishwasher safe?

My chest x-ray. (Well a picture I took of my chest x-ray, honestly the image quality is much better than my phones!)

My chest x-ray.

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.

Limberlost 56km Race Report 2013

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.

The new pack, not sure how I feel about it just yet.

The new pack, not sure how I feel about it just yet.

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)

Me: Why?

Dan: Because I’m nice.

Me: What? What about your race?

Dan: It’s over.

Me: What?!

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!

Oh so happy to be done!

That’s one exhausted runner.

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.

At least this year there was medal!

At least this year there was medal!

This and That

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.

Sagittal view. The black oval shouldn't be there.

Sagittal view. The black oval shouldn’t be there.

Axial view.  My lovely tendon, with a cyst on top.

Transverse view. My lovely tendon, with a cyst on top.

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.

A flat bit, finally.

A flat bit, finally.

There is a big rock.

There is a big rock.

3. Saw some wildlife.

A butterfly

A butterfly

This turtle was laying eggs in the driveway at the cottage.  Not the smartest place.

This turtle was laying eggs in the driveway at the cottage. Not the smartest place.

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!

Good thing we took the photo before we ran.

Good thing we took the photo before we ran.

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.

At the start of their fist half marathon

At the start of their fist half marathon

Mummy-in-law at the turn around.

Mummy-in-law at the turn around.

Dan returning from his hot 50km

Dan returning from his hot 50km

A family of medal hoarders

A family of medal hoarders

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's not small.

It’s not small.

It was Canada Day that weekend so we stopped to look at some decorations in Batawa on route to the boulder.

Batawa dressed up for Canada Day.

Batawa dressed up for Canada Day.

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.

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.

TNF Bear Mountain 50km Race Report

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.

That's him with the stylish visor (I knew they were cool) to the right of the flag.

That’s him with the stylish visor (I knew they were cool) to the right of the flag.

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.

Went by this lake on the route to the next trail head, it looked so inviting.

Went by this lake on the route to the next trail head, it looked so inviting.

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!

Fun post race festival, it was all closed up by the time we finished last year.

Fun post race festival, it was all closed up by the time we finished last year.

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.

Another day another medal

Another day another medal