Tuesday, April 25, 2017

2017 O24 ULTRA (24 HOURS) - RACE REPORT


Giant sized chairs at the start/finish line and fire pit and washroom area.
 
2017 Season – First Race
Hey there ultra friends. Here we are again. Another season about to unfold. New goals, new races and new friends and experiences along the way. My first race of the season kicks off in high gear with nothing so pesky as a 50km or 100km; but a full blown 24 hour! Boo Yaa. 
It’s location is Northeast of Cleveland, Ohio, at Kirtland, in a place called Lake Metroparks Chapin Forest Reservation and is a certified 1 mile looped course composed primarily of crushed gravel with one paved section beside the parking lot. There is a small hill of about 50 feet each loop and the start/finish and aid station greets you every mile. You are able to set up a tent and your own personal aid station at designated sections alongside the course. The race has existed for about 6 years now and my initial impressions based on videos, blogs and their website is that Race Director Zak Johnson is a really good guy, with huge attention to detail, and a genuine desire to help runners exceed their expectations. 
I’ve entered one 24 hour race previously which was an indoor 400m track in Ottawa, part of the Sri Chinmoy series. That was back in 2013 and it didn’t go so well and I ‘dropped’ after only 52 miles and 12 hours with spectacular blisters and a huge bonk brought partially on by poor hydration. 
Runners and non runners alike roll their eyes and exclaim, isn’t that totally boring! I’d have to say that I think it is a nice alternative to a straight race distance, going for a personal goal of distance based on time. How many of us ultra runners have been in races where we are alone for hours at a time during a 50km or 100km or 100 mile race as we spread ourselves out along the course?  Sure, that has its’ own appeal, enjoying the solace of the woods or the mountains or wherever, but it is also a very enjoyable experience being with all the runners in the race, being amazed by the speed demons and encouraging the runners new to the sport. It’s great for families, able to cheer their runner and others on a closed circuit, and everybody ‘wins’. There are no DNF’s here.
Medals are handed out for 50km, 100km and 100 mile buckles if you achieve those distances. 
Why this Race?
I didn’t know this race existed but entered Sulphur Springs 200 mile race in late May (Gulp!) and needed a long race that I could treat as a ‘training run’. I referred to the UltraResults.com website and looked for other runners entered for SS200 and found two others had entered O24 (or Outrun race). After researching I signed up.
There are 175 runners entered and of those, four are Canadians (Stephen Parke who held the course record here with 127 miles and was pipped last year for the course record which now stands at 129 (or 137 after this race now I'm updating this). Then there is Clay Williams, myself, and Iris Cooper, aka ‘Swiss Miss’, who is entered in the Tahoe 200 in August). 
Training to Date
So how am I feeling about my training so far with some epic races entered this year? Well, my last month of training has had weeks averaging 70-80 miles which is my highest mileage weeks ever. The trails have been boggy messes and I’ve been out in them but still feel I could use some longer single runs but time is up and the race is now 4 days away. I’ve got a few 50km and marathons and 20 milers under my belt in training. I’m not ‘worried’ about this race but would like to get a good distance tally and get used to the feeling of being on my feet for a very long time and running through the night which I’ll have to do at SS200 for, um, 3 nights in a row. So it’s all good practice for the ‘real’ race. Ha ha. 
Sun Issues
So last summer I noticed two small marks on my shoulder that were like small rashes and they would never really go away. I thought they may be friction burns or marks from my sleeveless shirts or rubbing from my hydro pack and then the Fall/Winter came and they still were there, never healing, never getting worse, sometimes slightly itchy and sometimes tender. 
So I finally went to my doctor who referred me to a dermatologist and it turns out it’s something called ‘Actinic Keritosis’, or fucked up cells which can mutate into SCC (sub cutaneous carcinoma – or skin cancer) if left. So first she whips out her trusty ‘blowtorch’ device and delivers a lovely dose of liquid nitrogen over both rashes which is rather painful. Then she tells you she needs to re-apply again two minutes later and I didn’t hit her but thought about it until I saw the paintings her children had done that she had posted on her walls. 
So I grinned through that and then she sent me on my way with a prescription for something called 5% Effudex which is a cream I was to apply 2x daily after the initial ‘burn’ healed from the cryosurgery, for a period of a month. So a week later, with pink skin showing, I began to apply this cream and for the first week or so no big deal but then it got rather unpleasant and is like having a really nasty sunburn and it’s pretty tender and sore but much better than the alternative. I was told to be liberal with the cream and go outside the area of the initial rash as you never know how many other cells might be changed too. So I’ve finished the treatment 3 days ago and hopefully things will heal up, I’ll go back to the dermatologist and she’ll give me a clean bill of health. 
I was told I was a ‘poster child’ for this; having fair skin and blue eyes and having exposed shoulders with sleeveless shirts and singlet during long hours of running training in the summer probably didn’t help either. The reason I’m mentioning it here in my blog is that all you runners out in the sun need to be vigilant and wear appropriate clothing and apply and reapply sun cream with a high UV factor. I’m going to be more careful about what I wear and reapply often. I’ve just purchased some arm sleeve UV protectors also. I’ll let you know what I think. So be careful out there and IF you find a mark or rash or something that is unusual or has been there for awhile, go check it out.


After liquid nitrogen and 2 weeks of cream (two more to go)
 
Race Kit
The race starts at 8am and weather forecasts change almost daily with rain forecast and cooler at night of course and during day possibly up to 28 degrees so hot, although today it shows 20 for the day so I’ll come prepared. I’m sleeping in a tent and will drive down on Friday. I got a new pair of Salomon Speedcross 4 (I had the model 3 last year) and I’m finding my baby toes are getting squished so I’ll pack them out with wet paper and stuff the toebox and hope that improves things but they have big lugs which may be overkill for the conditions. 
I’ll certainly take my well worn Speedcross 3’s which are battered but are comfortable. I also got a new, replacement pair of Innov Rocklite Shoes which are trail shoes but very light and for me don’t work on serious trail as I feel everything so I may go with them although with the high miles my Achilles tendons are tender. I also have a lovely pair of Altra shoes which are so comfortable, wide toe box, but the damn things give me shin splints. I think it is because most of my other shoes have a fairly large heel to toe drop and these are a 0 drop. It’s a real shame but I think they’ll come out to play at some point. 
I’ll take my new arm sleeves and LONGER sleeve shirts, my compression socks, hat and garbage bags for rain. 
Nutrition
I’ve tried Tailwind but it does not work for me so I’ll be sticking with salt tablets, water, maybe some Perpetuem and my Cliff Shot Gels. I’ll take orange slices, ginger ale to hopefully reduce stomach issues and try some form of caffeine at night. I’m not sure in what format because I don’t drink tea or coffee and it might make me feel crazed and elevate my heart rate too much. Hmmm, I should have tried this before. Ooops.
The aid station by all accounts has some delicious offerings through the race and I’m hoping noodles and broth and pizza are there and maybe perogies. I think those are things I would enjoy. 
Race Predictions
Well, looking at the results of past years and because of the nature of the race you’ll see the standard ‘pattern’ for a timed event. There will be those hoping to achieve their first 50km or 50 mile or 100km and those that will go for a few beyond those points, say 53 miles if they were going for 50 miles, to beat the ones that stop at 50 miles. Of the 175 entrants there seems to be between 13-17 that achieve 100 or greater mileage and that would place you pretty highly overall. I’m treating this as a long ‘training run’ but I really would personally like to get the 100 mile buckle but 100 miles is a very long way, as is 24 hours time-wise. I don’t know how I’ll hold up at this first seasonal challenge but that is the goal. 100 miles (yes, 102 if I get to 100 so I can get a few more places higher). So there you have it. I hope the training has paid off and I’ll update this race report once she’s all done. 
Enjoy your races and hope to see you out there. 
Alex, aka The Running Dude  
The Race
Welcome back. So my first race of 2017 is now consigned to the history books. I've been back 1.5 weeks and have had a 10, 20 and 17 mile run so I guess my legs are mine again after the race.
I drove down Friday morning with my GPS. At the border the only question I faced was why I had so many coats. Er, well, I'll be running 24 hours and the forecast looks cold and rainy. Off I go. The highway driving was pretty unexciting but it was sunny and nice and once I got off the highway the rest of the journey was pretty with some grand houses with well manicured grounds. The park was easy to get into and looked familiar thanks to my online researches and all Zak's great videos of the course on YouTube.
I pulled in around 1pm and had a quick reckie of the area and chose a spot to set up my tent and adjacent aid station. It was getting grey and I choose a spot with good drainage. After a number of hours of being set up I saw Steven Parke and Clay Williams and they set up their marquee next to mine which had 3 covered sides with one open side, inside which they set up their chairs and provisions. They were not staying and were going to a hotel for the night. Quite a few people did that and I probably would have got more sleep as it poured rain from about 8pm until midnight with sporadic rain during the night.
Tent with 'aid station' at start of trail
Aid station with food/clothing and supplies I brought
My aid station consisted of ginger ale and coke for when I wanted to settle my stomach, a Tupperware with 3 oranges sliced, another with peanuts and one other with salt and vinegar chips, lots of bottles of water, my hammer gels, bag balm for re-lubing and pickles with pickle juice (new for this race).
 
Steven Parke on left, me in middle and Clay Williams. All of us are entered in Sulphur Springs 200 mile in 3 weeks time
Once I got set up I wandered around and met some of the volunteers and chatted to some of the people setting up marquees for their club teammates. It was all friendly and I picked up my bib number, 268 which had my name on it which I thought was a nice touch.
The Course
I went for a walk of the course and it was finely crushed gravel with a short stretch on asphalt as you go through the parking lot. From my aid station there was an easy meandering trail through the trees. You cross over another trail and continue around until you eventually get to a gentle slope and here is the only hill of the course which is about 50 feet and is steep enough to walk but you are at the top quickly.
Then you have a short decent to a wood bridge, then another small incline with another short down, one more gentle up and then level for a 50 feet before a sharp left which takes you down and down and down until you level out and turn left up into the open field on your left with trees on your right. you cut right and you are at the 1 aid station with the toilet block and a sharp left puts you onto the pavement and over the timing mat. Immediately after the timing mat there was a big TV monitor which showed all the names/bib numbers and miles done for you which was really handy.
Start of trail from my aid station. Crushed gravel and very flat
Top of the hill looking down short decline to wood bridge
My sleep overnight was not great. It rained and was cool and I never felt I really fell asleep but no worries as I'd had plenty of restful nights the days leading up to the race. I got up and had time to have breakfast and say hello to some of my neighbors. Opposite me was a large marquee with a group of runners using it as a base. One couple I really liked. I'm terrible with names so they were 'hey you' for the purposes of this blog. Sorry!
She was really tall and on this occasion was supporting her husband and other runners. They set up a chalk board and were asking questions to runners every few laps like 'Star Wars' or Star Trek'. You'd yell out which and they'd take a tally. It was fun. She ran a few laps with her husband over the 24 hours and I joined them for a few when things were getting tough so they were good company and good neighbors to have.
Below is a photo of many of the runners and this was taken a few minutes before the start and within a few minutes of beginning the rain started.

Steven Parke at front in Green. Guy in front left is Troy who had the course record of 129 miles and killed it on this one, getting 137 miles! I'm in a blue top half way down the photo with Iris Cooper who got 104 miles.
The Race
My ‘A goal’ was 100 miles but I finished with 85, placing 19th of 156. I should be happy with that but the second half of the race I bled time. I went out at a stupid pace, maintaining 2nd until 35 miles. I reached 50km in 5:11 and from there slowed, reaching 60 miles in 12 hours. I got carried away with the ease of the course and the excitement and chasing down the runner ahead. Not the best strategy for a 24 hour race.

I certainly could have reached 100 miles if I hadn’t gone out like an ass and if I ‘cared’ more. What I mean by that is that this race was meant to be a long training run for my 200 mile race in three weeks and once I got tired I talked myself out of caring enough to reach my 100 mile goal. I also knew that for SS200 I need to maintain 67 miles a day for 3 days so I was content with 85 miles, knowing how it 'felt'.

After reaching 62 miles (100km) I thought, well, let’s get to 75 miles. Then I thought, well, 80 would be nice. I did the calculations and knew 100 was no longer possible and decided 85 would be a good figure to finish on as a long training run for Sulphur Springs 200. I could have gained two more places if I had just walked two more miles instead of taking down my tent and packing the car with 45 minutes left in the race. I could have placed higher if I didn’t keep taking 20 minute breaks every hour or so in the car to warm up. I hate being cold and it rained for the first 12 hours, sometimes hard, sometimes spitting. During the night hours it was cold, about 9-11 degrees and some of the momentum of the race can get lost when there are fewer people on the course and deep night creeps in.

I also took a 2.5 hour rest in the back of my car. I wasn’t able to sleep or get warm or comfortable and probably I should have just bundled up and kept at it but I didn’t. I wasn’t tired during the night hours at least, like wanting to fall asleep, although of course my body was tired from running.

At night there were far fewer runners than had started as many had reached their goals of 50km or 50 miles or 100km. It was more peaceful. I remember one tall guy was wearing a ‘viking’ hat that lit up. And I remember being bundled up with a ‘hoddie’ and long pants and seeing Troy (the race winner, beating his own course record with 137 miles! Impressive) lap me over and over and run the hill. I remembered hours earlier when I’d been maintaining his pace lap after lap but he was still killing it and hadn’t slowed at all.
 
The volunteers were lovely and always had a smile and waiting to help you with whatever you needed at the aid station. It was convenient having the washroom facilities readily available and the timing chip guy had a marquee and was there much of the race and often was very encouraging as you passed the mat and he could see your progress. He'd be like, 'you're doing great Alex'. It was nice encouragement.
 
There were all sorts of people at the race; shapes and sizes and ages. Some were alone, some had families supporting them at various points through the day and some couples had entered together. I really liked seeing them, lap after lap, sometimes holding hands in their ponchos as they walked the course, enjoying the experience and each other's company. Classy. There were 'gaggles' of girls in 3's or 4's chatting away. One was so oblivious about the race going on around her that as I came flying by on her left on the downhill, startling her, she screamed out loud. It's a race for many but also just a fun day out with friends to get in a good healthy long walk in together. It's nice being in a race which is unusual in this respect. 
 
The Food and my Aid Station
 
I most commonly snacked upon the orange slices and potato chips. I had a few cans of ginger ale and drank a lot of my water, filling up here rather than their aid station. I didn't have many Hammer Gels at all.
 
I was slightly disappointed overall but I think that's partially because when you run for so long your stomach gets very particular and some things become less palatable or the things that you crave and would like for hours end up being a limited time offer. Also, I'm not big into M&M's or 'little stuff' and I seem to recall trays of that kind of 'filler'.
 
While there was more on offer than what I'm mentioning here I had quite a few cups of ramen noodles which I enjoyed and which always went down well. I had a few slices of watermelon which I would have liked more of but I think they went fairly quickly. I loved the pizza when it came when it was hot but they cut it up into quite small 'pieces' but I guess that stopped too much greed but man I would have enjoyed more of that over the hours and when it got cold it wasn't palatable. They had just a broth separate from the ramen noodles. The other offering which everybody loved were the grilled cheese. I would have loved having a bowl of ketchup to dip them in but with double dipping it could have become gross. But grilled cheese is a winner and I'd even bring some with me I think seeing how well it went down.
 
Other Stuff I Recall
 
I did hear after the fact that they set up a 'bacon' tree which is hilarious. I saw some guys putting up string in a tree along the path and thought they were preparing to put up chemical sticks for the night segment. They had these but they were laid out along the path. After I got home I read that they put bacon attached to the string. That is funny. A bacon tree! Yum. Unfortunately when I passed all I saw were empty strings. It was a very popular tree.
 
Another funny thing was this model skeleton they put out which was at the final turn before getting back to the aid station. He/she was sitting there contentedly and the race organizers put different signs on it over the hours.
 
The night hours were lonely but quite novel. You don't run through the night that often and it's quite an experience seeing how your perspective changes and how your energy levels increase as the dawn creeps in. There was a nice band of lighting in the trees in the final approach.
 
I recall hearing the sounds of train whistles in the dawn in the distance. Cleveland is only a short distance away but it felt very peaceful and remote.
 
The rain sucked and while I prefer cooler temperatures I think the combination is tough in such a long race and over time the wet and cold seeped into me. But we all faced that and Troy seemed to be coping fine, blazing by me in skimpy shorts and a T-shirt through the night hours as well.
 
It was lovely to share some time with some of the other runners, or encourage them. Everybody was friendly and positive and the fire pit at the start encouraged people to hang around which made it nice, knowing warmth and companionship was only a mile away.
 
As I mentioned earlier, I was happy to pack up things before the official end and when you are really exhausted, pulling down a wet tent and cleaning up is no fun at all. I went in a chatted to Zak quickly and got my medal and mug and left him to prepare for the breakfast they were putting on for the runners still there. Here's a shot of me in the car shortly before heading home.

Ahhh, now I can sit down.
Why we do these crazy runs. It's all for 'The bling!'
The drive was long and twice I had to pull off to find a parking lot and try to have a nap as I was extremely tired and knew it was getting dangerous to carry on driving. My legs were extremely sore and uncomfortable and no position was comfortable for any period of time. I was very happy to get home and have a shower and sleep after taking two Advil to take the throbbing away.
The next day my feet felt ok, no chaffing or blisters but the following two nights were agony as every joint in my toes felt like they were on fire. I think this was the very lightweight Altra cross country shoes I wore and the pounding I put them through going down the last hill, hour after hour. The lack of support pounded them mercilessly I think. I've never had that type of pain in my feet before.
Below are the statistics Zak published a few days after the race which you might find interesting.
I think it was a great race and I'd definitely do it again. Zak is a great guy with a great team behind him. They are friendly and have a great venue and it's a race that can appeal to so many more than 'just' ultra runners. Everybody can try to exceed their expectations or just have a great fun day of walking. I hope some more Ontario runners will join us next year to support the O24 event.


Zak provided us with the statistics of the race which are interesting.
Thank you for reading my blog. I hope your running is going well and I look forward to catching up with you with my next race report which will be for the Sulphur Springs 200 mile in Ancaster. Send me your positive vibes because I'm going to need all of them. 200 miles! Holy Frick!
All the best.
Alex, aka 'The Running Dude'

Monday, November 14, 2016

2016 - MENDON PARK 50KM - RACE REPORT

2016 Mendon Park 50km Race Report - November 4th

Hey out there. Thanks for joining me. I had my last trail race for 2016, called Mendon Park, which happened to be in the US and took place Saturday November 4th. It was only 2 hours away from my house and is located just south of Rochester, New York. The course is a 10km loop with distances of 10, 20, 30 and 50km. The 50km runners start at 8am with the remaining races beginning at 9:30am. It also happened to be the last race I’ll have before turning 50! Yippee. New age grouping. Ha ha.

I only found out about this race in the last 2-3 weeks when my running friend Lisa told me she was going to enter the 50km and had raced the 20km a few years ago. I picked her brains about it and it sounded fun so signed up and at $40 I thought it was great value.

After doing some of the Ontario Ultra Series (OUS) races multiple times it’s nice to go somewhere new and I’ll definitely do this race again. It was beautiful and I really hope someone reading this decides to try it. Ok, the weather was absolutely stunning which helped, but the course is lovely too. At this time of year expect the trails here to be covered in brightly hued Fall leaves which can make foot placement critical and while there were a few downhills which had some loose rocks and of course there were roots in a few places too, overall it was very runnable and I didn’t stub a toe, twist an ankle, or face plant at all.

The majority of the course is tree covered and is hilly, although there are certainly enough stretches that you can open up your stride and a number of the hills are runnable although like any longer races, those hills grow as you tire. The elevation profile is more than some of the OUS races with a total elevation gain of 2,500 feet up and 2,500 down for a total of 5,000 feet over the 50km. Just for comparison, the CN Tower is 1,800 feet tall.
 
200 feet into the race - even though I saw the photographer shoot me multiple times I can't find any others
 
The setup is really good. The parking lot is really big and there is a lodge called Stewart Lodge a short walk from the parking lot where you pick up your bib with integrated timing chip and pins. The three of us (Tina, Lia and I) then headed back to the car we shared. We left just before 5am and arrived in two hours and even had time for a Tim Horton stop along the way. On the road coming into Mendon Park proper we saw about 4 sets of deer.

It was dark when we arrived. There were 4 port-a-potties at the corner of the parking lot and then a little hill up to a large covered structure open on all sides with many picnic benches where anybody who wanted could leave their drop bags. The course went through the timing mats with the Lodge right there. You hit the aid station set up on the other side of the lodge and then followed the trail another 150 feet to the covered structure and your drop bags and headed past the port-a-potties before a long grassy section on an incline, across the road and immediately into the trails. All very easy.

It wasn’t too cold. We carried our respective drop bags to the picnic benches. I visited the ‘facilities’, lubed up the butt so I didn’t start any ass fires, and, after settling for a bit we made our way to the lodge and sized up the competition. Ha ha. None of us saw anybody we knew but they seemed a friendly lot and the 50km runners were the usual assortment of whippets, grizzled veterans and newbies. The race Director made a short speech and indicated the starting line, which I happened to be standing right on. I made a tactical retreat in amongst the mid pack so I wouldn’t go off to quickly. Did it help? Hell no. I looked back and located Tina and Lisa who ran together and before the nerves could kick in we were off and the stampede began.

I ran with a handheld and a belt pack and simply filled the pouch with loose shot blocks, salt tablets and Advil for later. I wore shorts with two top layers, a short sleeve and over that a long sleeve technical shirt. Shoes were Salomon Speedcross 4 and taller socks with Salomon compression sleeves for the calves. Lap 1 I wore a cap and then dumped it.

There were the two aid stations. I mentioned the start/finish one and the other was 5km in. The volunteers were very helpful, asking what liquids I wanted refills on. I found what I did at every aid station was take two orange slices and one of the little cups of coke for settling my stomach and I virtually spent no time at all there. On offer as well as orange slices were banana slices, coke, ginger ale, Tailwind, M&M’s, pretzels and gummy bears.

Total people entered in 50km was 114. Total who started 100. Total who finished 79

Lap 1 – 0:58:16 (29th overall on this lap)
Lap one there were quite a few people around me at various points. A few speedsters came past and we caught a few and then I settled in around a woman and two other guys. One guy had long hair and a blue hydro-pack and I’d catch him on the flats and keep pace on the ups even though he tended to try a running motion and I power hiked it and then he’d go flying by on the down-hills. The first 10km was a little of a blur but there were many hills of varying degrees and I’d say 2-4 more major hills although short, with one longer steady hill taking you up to a huge concrete water tower about 2.5km into the course.

We came down the final hill which has many loose pebbles and then across a road and run slightly downhill along the grass into the timing chute and the clock said 58 minutes. Oh wow! Er, maybe a bit fast. Hell, no question about it, too fast. I was pooped by 5km aid station actually and was surprised it was ONLY 5km. Anyway, the stampede carried me along that first lap and I hoped I’d gain some wisdom on lap two now we’d spread out a bit. There was some nice clapping as we crossed the mats as the other distances now had about 30 minutes before their race starts.

Lap 2 – 1:01:55 (30th place – dropped 1)
Lap 2 is mostly a blur too with about 3-4 runners around me. It was weird though. About 4 that were in visual range ahead of me came to the 5km aid station and they all stopped. I decided to carry on and expected over the following 1-2km to be caught and passed again but it never happened. From that point on I don’t think I was passed by more than a very few 50km runners. Later it became difficult to know who was in what race as by Lap 3 you were in amongst the shorter races. I was running quickly for me and of course was feeling it but I loved the trails and the temperature and the colors of the trees and leaves. So amazing. I love cooler temps. Two of my summers racers were disastrous affairs in 35+ temps. I felt good about my 11:18 time at the Haliburton 50 mile in September and so felt I had some residual fitness from that and I had completed a 36km training run two weekends prior to this race. I was surprised that I had not dropped my pace too badly and came in at 1:02 for this lap.

Lap 3 – 1:04:10 (24th place – gained 6 places)
By lap three I was feeling it. I was alone and would occasionally pick up some of the tail end of the 10-30km runners. The day was still fantastic out. My pace was still not bad although I was starting to have to walk some of the hills sooner than in previous laps. I think after crossing the finish line this loop I went to my drop box and just sat for about 1 minute to get my wind back.

Lap 4 – 1:13:38 (24th place – no change)
I was really pooped now and plodded up hills and came across more racers from other distances and tried to encourage them along. People were good about moving over for me and when I heard pounding footfalls behind me I stepped aside. If I could improve both my fitness over all on the longer runs and improve on my hill training I’d see big improvements in my finish times I believe. The hills on this course were doable for some of the fit finishers. I threw up on this lap twice but not much came up but right after it I was back to running. I also found that my posture was likely the cause of my really tight shoulders and upper back as I was walking the steeper hills stooped over.

Lap 5 – 1:10:11 (21st place – gained 3 places)
Total Finishing Time 5:28:10 – 21st of 100
After getting to the end of loop 4 I knew I was flagging but really wanted a negative split for my final loop and actually felt that my first 5km was quite a bit quicker overall. It was really nice being familiar by now with what was coming up. The first 5km had some particular features which I recalled. A long slope up to the water tower and on the other side down and some good flats.

The second 5km I was doing my best to keep the pace up but there were a few slogs. You pop out to the side of the road and then head back into the trail twice. After the final road sighting you know you are almost there and there are only 2-3 steeper climbs. I caught sight of my two friends Lisa and Tina at this point as they crested a hill and every time I got to the top they seemed to be closing but not fast enough. I really wanted to lap them. That’s what friends do! We got out and crossed the final road and were on the grassy section and I passed one and had a few meters to catch the other but just missed her. She was NOT going to let me catch her. What a cow! I mean friend.
 
Lisa in the front and Tina just behind

Looking good Tina
 

After crossing the line I was offered the finishers reward. Tina looked back and gave me a ha ha for not catching her and I smiled good naturedly as they carried on their final loop. The finished prize was a nice glass for beer or whatever which was a change from a medal.  I sat on a picnic table outside for about 10 minutes, massaged the legs and gave them a break and then headed into the lodge which had a lovely fire going.

You helped yourself to two kinds of soup and a bagel with different toppings, a banana or apple, some cookies. Oh, they had some yummy apple cider too. I relaxed in there until I warmed up and really felt good with the way the race went. I got my drop bag, headed to the car and changed and then walked to the finish line to clap people in. My two friends came down the final hill and I cheered them in, let them do my routine with food and a rest and then we headed home.
 
We all finished top 3 in our age groups. Here we are, back home in a car park about to go our separate ways.
It was a stunning day start to finish. My finish of 5:28 placed me 21st overall and 3rd in my age group of 23 competitors between 40-49.

So what comes next? 2017. I am considering a few BIG races and will let you know when I figure out what they might be.

Again, I can’t say enough good things about this race. It is stunning scenery, beautiful trails. It is runnable but hilly so a good challenge. It is well run and has been around for 20+ years. Make it one for your calendar for 2017.

I hope all of you have had an enjoyable running year and look forward to meeting you out on the trails.

Alex Campbell (aka The Ultra Dude)
 
PS. It's been a few days since the race and as I post this blog of Mendon Park experiences, I have signed up for two future races in 2017 with one more event left to sign up for. One is a special 'first' for Canada. It is the first 200 mile race, being held in Ontario at the end of May and is the 25th Anniversary of the Sulphur Springs race. I've run the 50km and 50mile races here in past years and it will entail 16 loops of a 20km course. The race has a 72 hour (3 day) cut-off and no doubt will be epic in all ways. I had envisaged doing the 100 mile at some point and as I turned 50 last week I thought I'd do something 'big' for my 50th. Big and stupid and wonderful. So if you fancy joining me and 25-50 other nutjobs, please feel free to go to Race Register and sign up. It's $500 for the next several weeks and will climb quickly in the new year up to over $1,000 so sign up quickly.
 
The second event (but first in the calendar) for 2017 will be a training run for Sulphur Springs which will be the O24 (Outrun) 24 hour run in Ohio which takes place the last week of April. It is a certified 1 mile looped course.
 
The final big race I'm going to aim for is the Fatdog 120; a 120+ mile race in British Colombia in August nicknamed the 'Hardrock of the North', i.e. it's bloody hard. I have a training friend called Wayne Pinel who has completed it twice and as we are both doing the SS200 I'll have lots of time to grill him over how to prepare.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

2016 - HALIBURTON 50 MILE - RACE REPORT

3 Days and Counting. . .

I figured I’d update everybody on how the training is going for the Haliburton 50 mile. Well, not ‘is going’ since it’s now only 3 days away.

I sipped the bitter dregs of failure here in 2013 at the 100 mile distance and quit after 50 milers in a time of 11 hours 57 minutes, but no medal to show for it and no points for the Series, so of course I’d like to earn my finishers medal this time. I’ve completed two other 50km ultras this summer, both in dreadful times in dreadful conditions. I do not do well in heat and humidity. I think I need to move! This summer has broken all records and training has been a chore to be honest.

What has been useful and helpful is finding a few runners close by that are also running in the 50 mile at Hali. Well, that was the plan anyway. Lisa runs with our Trail Apes gang quite regularly; although this summer we’ve not been attending as many Sunday morning outings. Even better, she has a, um, HAD, an above ground pool to soak in after our long training runs. Aaahhhh. Problem is, it exploded one afternoon when she was home – a metal seal gave way after 11 years and adios pool.

The other woman we’ve trained with regularly is Tina Chumak, and I’d heard about her through Lisa. She was entered in the Eastern States 100 miler and after failing miserably at it myself I was curious how she would get on. Well, she completed it and while she doesn’t consider herself an ultra runner she certainly is. Her strategy is to start slow and keep it slow. It works! Later in the race she always passes runners that burned themselves out with a crazy starting pace. Being a postal worker she is also used to her daily 10 mile route. Her plan was to use Hali 50 as a long run for herself as she has Grindstone 100 in October.

So the only problem is that both ladies waited too late to enter and now it is sold out! Er, you have to be ‘in it’ to ‘win it’. Sheesh. Bad planning. Granted, both have had injuries that made them want to see how the training went before entering and the race does not usually sell out but what a shame. The only alternative now is if they get on a waiting list. I feel bad for them because it was going to be Lisa’s first 50 miler and while she is nervous about it, she’s done all the hard work and I know she can do it. Perhaps things will work out regardless. Maybe I’ll get her up with me and someone will be a no show.

So am I ready? Well, I don’t think so. I don’t feel I have the fitness that I had in 2013 and I certainly feel this summer more like the tortoise than the hare but perhaps the training that I did was more effective than in 2013 when it was ultras every second weekend which no doubt left me tired by the end of the season. I also think I am being ‘smarter’ about hills and not attacking them all, more content to walk them and then get back into the running motion. I’ve had one 28 miler, 2 marathons and several 23 milers on the trails in training over the last month or so.

Kit

So this race I’ll be wearing a 1.5L Salomon hydro-pack rather than carrying around my hand-held and waist belt although I may start with the hand-held and safe the vest for one of the aid stations at around 15km. I’ll be using my S-caps for electrolytes and orange flavored shot blocks for calories. I did try the much-hyped Tailwind and while it claims to be all the liquid, food and electrolytes you need in an ultra and prevent stomach issues, I had completely the opposite reaction and came close to chucking in training runs a few times. Sigh. I guess I’ll have to keep trying different things.

I purchased a new pair of Salomon’s this season, a ½ size larger than my old ones, and have found them good but I am annoyed that after only 2 months there is already a split down one seam at the base of the toe box!

On the morning of, I’m going to lube the hell out of everything with Bag Balm, even the lower back where I’ve had some hydro-pack rubbing issues, which is never fun. I’ve gotten away from the short ‘crew’ length socks and found the taller ones work better for me. The short ones always seem to end up down my shoe and cause nasty chafing, especially as they get soaked from perspiration or rain. And of course I’ll have my calf sleeves on. Hell, I’ll probably keep them on in the shower after to keep my legs from exploding in cramps. They really do work. I have yet to decide if I’ll utilize aid stations for drop bags but we’ll see.

Forecast

The forecast as of now calls for 26 degrees, feeling like 31, with 80% chance of precipitation with several showers. Oh shit. It figures that the day after calls much cooler temperatures. Wonder if they’d postpone it for me? Ha ha.

Expected Time

Yes, it’s time to put my money where my mouth is. So, in 2013, I managed just under 12 hours. What is that, about 4.17 miles an hour? Seems so bloody easy doesn’t it? Hell, who can’t fast walk that pace on a street but we are not on a street. Hali is not a mountainous course but it has its fair share of hills which I’ll soon be re-acquainted with. I remember at the end of it feeling that, based on all the OUS races, it was the hardest to date. We’ll see how it goes this time. Round 2. I intend to be sensible with the pace and not burn out in the first 2 hours and hopefully I can keep the pace down but sustain it. Ok, so I think I’ll finish in 11 hours 37 minutes! There. Happy? If I finished in 11:20 or less I’d be well chuffed and if I match the time from 2013 I’ll be disappointed with myself. So here we go. That’s all now until after the race. Any last words? How about 'I'm coming for you, Normac! Ya bitch!'

BACK FROM THE RACE

Here we are. I've had a few days to reflect Awesome experience. I went out for a 17km run on Thursday and the legs are almost mine again. I came away this time without blisters, Achilles pain or any other trauma to the feet. Just a little wrinkly from being immersed in some of the boggy sections.




Tired pair of wrinkly feet with NO blisters! Yippee

I drove up Friday at 10am and by using the 407 toll for part of the journey managed to get up there in 3.5 hours. The drive was uneventful. I love Highway 118 which is the last 60km or so which really is where you begin to feel you are in the ‘Great White North’ with the Canadian shield blasted to give way to the rolling highway which sweeps through great swaths of trees and bogs.

I called into the Boiler room and got my pack and then made my way to look for a camping spot. I found the identical one as in 2013 albeit this time I had to remove big horse turds. I guess with all the really hot days the horses were standing under the trees but it was ok (and dry!). I got set up and chatted with another runner a few cars away who was going to sleep in his car. Then I headed up to the toilets to check out the shower facilities and saw you need a $1 to run them for about 5 minutes. I had a bag prepared for after with a change of clothes and toiletries and money so I could just drive straight there.

Yes, I could walk too but after 50 miles I’m driving even if it’s 200 feet away.


All the kit bags inside the Boiler Room


I saw Ron and his wife Barbara and later that evening saw Richard Takata and KimberleyVan Delst running up for her pasta dinner with the other 100 milers. I’d not seen them most of the summer. Richard invited me to their ‘tent’ but holy crap it was more like mission central. It was about 40 feet long and like a giant caterpillar with various sections. I wish I’d taken a photo but they had comfortable chairs, a stove with water and all sorts under the table, then into their ‘bedroom’ with two sturdy cots and supplies neatly stowed under for each runner. I was amazed. These two are the most prepared people I’ve ever seen but considering they do 6 and 10 day events, comfort and preparation are key. After a nice beer with Richard I headed back to my tent and ate my home made lasagna. It was not warm but it went down a treat. I had two coolers with all sorts of food but really wasn’t that hungry. I organized myself for the morning and called it a night.

Having time, I explored just around the corner from me where I was informed there was a captive Moose in a paddock and I found him easily. He was small but it was interesting to watch him feeding and across the road was a pig pen with the biggest damn pig I’ve ever seen. When I saw him all I could think of was Rhonda who is crazy about bacon in all forms! Ha ha.


5 year old Moose in enclosed paddock - small but interesting to see up close


Ok, it's only a pig but this was one was HUGE. They get fed all the restaurant left-overs - corn husks and the like

The weather was sunny, warm and comfortable on the Friday, nothing like the crazy temperatures we’ve had all summer. I could hear all the activity around me and through the afternoon and evening had seen all sorts of people arriving and getting set up. Things did settle down eventually and I did manage some rest but don’t remember much actual sleeping. At some very early hour some muppet’s car alarm went off for five minutes, successfully waking up anybody and everybody I’m sure. Thanks asshole.


My camp setup - same spot as 2013


Tent set up - just have to run 50 miles now.

When I started hearing activity in the darkness around 4:45am I got up and went to the port-a-potty, had ½ a banana, got dressed and lubed the hell out of everything, and made my way up the road to the start line where people were milling around in groups chatting.

Helen, the RD, was there informing them there would be no roll call of names, just a gathering and a prayer. We followed down the road where her and Gary had a few words and Helen made references to Forest Gump. We had a quick silence while we contemplated our respective journeys and then it was time. It was going to be a long day for many.

The temperature was perfect and not everybody had headlights. I choose a handheld flashlight only and was wearing a belt with two small bottles and room for the flashlight and some salt tables with Cliffshot Blocks. I had a drop bag waiting for me at Aid station 5, located 28km into the course. That contained a hydro-pack with 1.5l of water and some items in the pockets. The idea was to run light and refreshed, pick up the vest and then on the way back see if I would keep wearing it or swap back to my hand-held.

There was a count-down and we were off and I guess I placed myself somewhere in the mid pack but it was a relaxed start and I was conscious that I just wanted to stay comfortable. The first 6km is all hard packed dirt/gravel road and has a few up hills which we walked comfortably but much had a downhill bias until we then get onto the Normac trail by which point the runners had thinned out enough that it was not a cluster heading into the single track. There was enough natural light by that point.

The trails were dry and I don’t remember much about this section. Over the next 25km I found myself with runners for shorter or longer periods. I was quite a while with Stephan Miklos who was in the 100 mile and I knew he was capable of a fast time and figured I’d stay with him as long as I could. That strategy worked quite well until almost the turn- around by which point I was with another runner called Chris I believe. We carried on and there was always a tall skinny guy with glasses without a shirt ahead of us. Sometimes he would get ahead and other times we’d pull him back, usually at aid stations. I reached the half-way 40km turnaround in a respectable 5 hours 5 minutes.

The weather for the first 6-7 hours was fantastic. It was overcast and not too muggy and then on the way back, as I was running along one of the road sections, it began to pour heavily and continued on and off for some while and the trails became wet and slippery with the boggy sections becoming very muddy. I enjoyed the rain actually but along the Ben trail I was getting very tired and the continuous steep ups and downs I was having to take tenderly as my quads were shot by then and I was really slowing down.

I had intended to take an Advil at the return Aid Station 5 but couldn’t find it and went off again just keeping the same gear I had. I found 10km aid stations were enough with the water I had. Fortunately at Aid Station 2 when I sat on the bench for a few minutes I mentioned my legs were about to seize up (they were twitching strongly through the calve sleeves) and he provided an Advil which I was grateful for and which kicked in about 15 minutes later and gave me immediate relief, giving my legs a bit more pep.

I managed to get to about 28 miles before I barfed violently at the trail side. As you know from reading my blogs, it isn’t anything new but as usual it really helped make me feel better. In the entire return journey from the turnaround only 2 runners passed me and I was on my own most of the way. I didn’t catch up to anybody but I really enjoyed the solitude of the trails. Climbing up the road and heading into Normac didn’t bother me too much. Yes, I was tired by then and the climb up the road to the trail tired me so I bent over and chilled, collected myself and headed in. Honestly, I didn’t find Normac as bad as Ben. Ben is relentless. Very steep up-hills and down-hills, over and over. The first section of Normac there was a lovely breeze coming off the lake in a particular direction and it felt great. Eventually I began to get tired of the trail and just in time I saw the road again. At this point it didn’t register that there was no more trail but I was relieved to be on the logging road again. The mosquitos were a bit more feisty and I was a lot slower so I was swatting myself quite a bit but once on the road it was fine.

The last several km along the road is constant gentle rolling and the rain begin a few times and stopped. I was pretty hot and poured water into my cap which was cooler than the rain. Finally I pass Richard on the final road stretch back to the start line and he is looking for Kimberley and seems to think she was ahead of me but that was never the case so I ran by him, wanting to finish and stop that clock. My Garmin 620 was till telling the time but I’d stopped it’s GPS tracking functions after 40 miles by which time I’d had 3 low battery warnings and I wanted to keep having clock functions. So I ran through the finish line, weary but extremely happy, in a finishing time of 11 hours and 19 minutes, 40 minutes faster than 2013 when I was entered in the 100 mile and gave up after 50 miles. I have seen the results and placed 25th of 60 finishers so I’m happy with that.

After crossing I hugged Helen and thanked her, getting her a bit wet in the process, sorry. I was just so happy to be finished. Almost immediately upon getting my medal the rain started pouring down and I walked over the marque and sat on the edge of the picnic table, getting soaked but it was nice to be rinsed off. I waited for the next runner to come in and it was a woman, gave her a hug and then headed back to my car as I was getting chilled.


One happy ultra runner, medal earned.


Can I go for a shower now, please?

After a nice recovery in the car I drove up to the showers which didn’t work for me despite trying 3 separate coins and then another guy comes in and it worked first time for him! Grrrr. So after slamming my Loonie in multiple times I finally got my hot shower which felt fantastic. After that I drove to the restaurant, showed my meal ticket and had chicken, baked potato and corn on the cob. I headed back to the tent and headed in, hearing various runners completing their 50 mile journey or the 100 milers turning around. Around 11pm I was starving again and went into the car and finished ½ a sandwich and then headed back to bed.

The second night was uneventful. I did hear an animal of some sort close to the tent making weird grunting noises and the wind started to get really strong all through the night. As morning approached it was a lot colder out and was only about 11 degrees but it was pleasant. I woke, ate some food in the car and then packed up my stuff and headed home.

That’s about it for this race report. After a fairly non-descript running season I’m glad I entered a longer distance race and that it went well for me. It was great seeing some of the runners I know and meet new ones along the way.

Thanks for checking out my blog and let’s see what comes next.

Happy running.

Alex, AKA The Running Dude

Monday, June 20, 2016

2016 - NIAGARA ULTRA - 50km - RACE REPORT

Niagara 50km Race Report

Welcome back and thanks for looking in. It’s the day after my fifth Niagara Ultra race and fourth 50km race distance here. It’s almost my back yard and I know the route very well. 

This was my second OUS series race in 2016 and came 3 weekends after my last one at Sulphur Springs. That race was hot as stink and this one shaped up to be the same, well into the 30 degree mark with baking sun. For me, it sucked out there! Damn I hate heat extremes. It was my worst performance at this distance at this race but I can’t complain, both for the fact it was so hot, and that I’d only completed two 10km training runs since SS due to an 8 day layoff with a severe cough. Poor Alex.

Until the afternoon before the race I was not going to even go. However, realizing how sorely I’d be missed I decided to cheer everybody up. . . Ok, so that wasn’t the reason. Try again. . . Um, sitting at work, having registered, I realized I’d like go out and see friends and maybe just have a nice social run and enjoy the pizza and beer at the end. Better?

Also, I can’t very well go and get my hoodie and wear it with pride if I didn’t earn it. I like the atmosphere at this race and know a number of runners so it’s great to cheer them on. That evening I went to collect the usual runner paraphernalia at the Kinsmen Scout Hall in Niagara-On-The-Lake and while there chatted to Diane and Henri (the RD). I stuck around for an hour or so and helped get people their timing chips and numbers and then headed home. According to the lists I saw, 200 were entered in the 50km event.


Minutes before the start, listening to race instructions. Photo by St. Catherine Road Runners

Seconds to go - checking watches. I'm right in the middle. Shirtless Jack is here along with John McAlister (beside Jack) who won this race. Photo by St. Catherine Road Runners
Fort George to Left - passing through open field to the Niagara Parkway. First 1km of race. Photo by St. Catherine Road Runners
Myself and Jack running together. The other guy/gal were with us for 10km. Photo by St. Catherine Road Runners

I believe this is the 10km aid station. Paramedics present along with volunteers supplying water, Gatorade, and various tasty morsels. Photo by St. Catherine Road Runners
After getting home at 8:30pm I organized my stuff and called it a night, waking at 5:15am, at which point I had ½ piece of toast with honey and a banana. After liberally applying bag balm (used on sensitive cow teats I believe – but makes a great body lubricant) on my various cracks and crevices I headed down to race HQ by 6:40am with a 7:00am start where people were busy little bees preparing their bodies and minds; huddling about in little groups, visiting the port-a-potties and generally trying to stay calm and chilled. The 100km race had started 30 minutes prior. Poor bastards on a day like this. It was going to get damn hot out there. I did this distance 2 years ago and did reasonably well but it was much cooler then.

I saw many familiar faces milling about and chatted to 'shirtless Jack' Kilislian. I saw Kimberley, bubbling with enthusiasm and good cheer for everybody. There was Henri, RD, with a wide brim hat who gave a quick overview of the race and then there was only 30 seconds left. The 'go fast' brigade were all at the front, raring to go, and I made my way back from Jack and John McAllister (who won the 50km in a smoking hot time) to the front 1/3 and had every intention of starting slow, and finishing slower!

Off we headed on a short grassy section before reaching the paved path with the sun shining down, the birds chirping and feeling in good shape. My race prediction was to hopefully squeak in under 5 hours. I've had two times of 5:01 and 5:11 and one awesome time on a cooler day when I was in better condition of 4:07.

I caught up to shirtless Jack going past Fort George and decided to stick with him and we had a few words and then settled down running side by side. Behind us I could hear Kimberley chatting away to someone and then as we got about 2km in an Asian fellow and a woman came past chatting and Jack and I sort of hooked onto them and we stayed this way until the 10km point.

Up until this time there were two occasions where a red van had stopped by the side of the road and a guy and two women were kindly offering Mr. Freezies for runners which I would have been hugely grateful for slightly later in the race but I lost my chance and declined the offer as I wasn't burning up yet. There was no real breeze but there are quite a few shady sections this time of morning for the first 10km. Things were ok but I had very little running fitness left after 3 weeks of hardly any training and even 10km without stopping was probably too much but my intention was to get to the big climb and walk that so Jack said he would carry on past the 10km aid station and I stopped to top up.

Up until now my plan had worked and I was at 5:25-5:45km/min pacing and on pace for a 5 hour finish. I didn't want to waste energy running the hill and walked the majority of it and was surprised when the field didn't come whipping by me. I got into a running groove past the hydro plant in the open sun and knew by the time I hit this coming back it was going to be scorching but I got into the 15km aid station and topped up and was out but after this station I quickly went downhill and was having walking sections every km and it was getting hot. I think by this point I'd passed a few of the 100km runners and there were certainly other morning joggers out coming towards me that had no race numbers and were enjoying the day.

It was a relief to get to the 20km aid station and I was mentally focusing on one aid station to the next. I was really paying attention to taking salt tablets and having my chewy orange blocks and drinking almost a full bottle between stations. I'd pour the small amount left over my head, top up at the aid station and drink one of their cups and another of ginger ale and usually popped an orange wedge or two before carrying on but didn't waste a lot of time at the aid stations as I was walking anyway. One of the aid stations, I think it might have been this one, had ice cubes which I popped inside my had and this gave me some relief for a few km.

It's after 20km that you start the rolling hills into Niagara Falls and there is a lot of exposure to the sun and it is sidewalk and road running from here until the turn-around point. By now more 100km racers were coming by and I gave them all kudos and carried on running and walking. By this point I'd stopped looking at the watch for pace and had no intention of looking at it again until the 1/2 way point. I lost a few places but far fewer than I expected and I guess everybody was feeling the heat.

I got to the marathon 1/2 way point and one of the guys I regularly run with was there taking bib numbers for that race color. He recognized me and made a comment which pissed me off. A bit of a joker, he's run a few ultras and should have known better. As any of you who run 50km, 50 milers, 100km, 100 milers, etc. knows, your mojo is hugely important. It's all about keeping positive thoughts going as long as possible and believing in yourself and knowing that when you are tired and feeling shit, wanting to quit but pushing yourself physically and emotionally, that any negative thought, once introduced, can eat at you and potentially derail you.

That's why the volunteers are so important at races and the aid stations and why you always hear such great things about them giving up their time and being so supportive of everybody. It's critical. So as I'm going by he quips, 'You've got a looonggggg way to go Alex. No, I mean, a llllloooooonnnnnggggg way to go!' Thanks ass! So I replied, yeah, but I'll get er done! I know he didn't mean it because he's a nice guy but shit man, don't fuck with my mojo.

The last 2km to the turnaround point got busy with tourists but I didn't find it too painful and always found gaps and it was interesting seeing how many were ahead of me and honestly it didn't seem as many as I expected. I finally hit the turnaround point and was feeling pretty rough but damn glad I was at least at the 1/2 way point. Diane offered me one of her home made cookies and I really wanted to oblige as I'm sure they would have been delicious but I honestly couldn't force one down, even walking so I did what I needed to, checked my watch, and turned around to narrow that gap to the finish line.

First half 2 hours 27 minutes. . .

Running back through the crowds there were many runners coming to their 1/2 way point, some familiar faces and many new faces, and I always gave some acknowledgement of their efforts and did my best to run as much as I could but honestly I was pooped. My shoes were Altras and they are trail shoes but very lightweight with minimal support and my feet were really feeling it and I might have been better off with a heavier shoe. I ran the 100km here two years ago with Hokkas and was thankful for their cushioning.

The hills leaving the Falls seem larger and longer on the return and I walked the majority of them. There was a steady stream of runners, sometimes singly or small groups. Many of them looked pretty shattered and I knew I felt this way too and I was trying not to think about the long way back. It's always this section until getting back past the hydro station that drains me mentally. Once I'm heading back down the escarpment it becomes more tolerable.

Jack had left me a long time back and I'd not seen any sign of him until coming in to the Falls but here he was, like me, walking up one of the hills and I'd caught up to him. I asked what was up and he said he was having some issues and I wished him well and said I'd see him again soon, certainly expecting that he'd recover and come past me but I learned he waited for one of his running friends and they ran the rest together.

Not much to highlight in the middle section. It was not pretty and the graph of my pace during this part of the race indicates what it was like; a short period of running followed by a period of walking and this many times coincided with any shady sections. I think at this point I was walking shady sections and running sunny sections but I soon ran out of shade and decided it was far more preferable to walk the sunny sections and run the shady sections. By the time I got down the escarpment I don't think I gave a crap if it was a sunny or shady section, I just walked or ran when it tickled my fancy.

I was relieved to be back on the way down the escarpment but my feet hurt and were taking a beating. I could feel blisters forming on the heels and my toes were getting very sensitive so running downhill was not pleasant but before I managed 1km of running down to the 12km point I spotted something delicious. Either the race director or Parks Canada had arranged to put out at the little round-about at the base of the stairs to the Brock Monument one of their big grass sprinklers. They'd put it on some table or barrel or something and it was squiring out a tight, powerful spray of beautifully cold water, going around and around every 30 seconds or so. I followed that sucker two full circuits, covered my eyes and let myself be doused. I loved every second of cool, refreshing water. That perked me up beautifully.

I ran down the hill with another runner whose name I've already forgotten despite talking with him after the race. Sorry dude! At the 1/2 way point down the hill I needed to walk again and let him go ahead but over the course of the next 8km he was within my sights with me catching up a bit when he walked and then him gaining when I walked. There were others like that too and the final 10km is really about getting it done and usually isn't very pretty. Yes, a few may pass you but everybody is hot as hell, tired, sore, and doing their best to run when they can and sometimes the gas runs out after 50 feet or 100 feet and then you walk some, muster up some energy and give it another go. Stop/start/stop/start. At least that's what it was like for me.

At the 1/2 way point down the escarpment my left calf really began tightening, so much so that it felt like it was going to cramp up badly and I had to stop for a minute to massage it painfully and then carry on down the hill. By the time I hit the bottom it hurt badly and was again on the verge of cramping completely and I was getting pretty worried. There seemed to be some village fair happening in the grounds of the old Laura Secord school but I'm not sure what it was exactly but I stopped again in the shade and took a bit longer to massage it and down two salt tablets, hoping they would kick in soon.

At this point I passed a big chap who seemed to be having some issues of his own and certainly wanted the race to be 11km closer to finishing than it was. I knew the feeling but you commiserate about the heat, your issues, tell them 'you can do it', and onwards you go. I was happy to be walking a hill than the flat and was able to make a staggered run/walk to the 10km aid station.

9km mark coming just past the tree cover with the river on your right and pine cones littering the path. . .8km to the little park bench and the split in the path, followed by a yucky camber in the path which messes with your legs, 7km mark after a sharp short downhill followed by one of the last small hills. . .6km mark over 2 of the 4 wood bridges and 5km mark at the final aid station and also the Line 2 Road which goes directly to my house! Hmmm, it's about the same distance to both so lets get this race done! I saw another one of my running friends, Tina, at the aid station and a quick hello and top up and off I went.

4km mark across the road from a farmers market barn, people with bikes in the shade eating their ice creams. Bastards! Many more people about now on bikes and walking by. A few runners I keep passing and being passed by. I have no idea if they are in the marathon or 50km and I don't really care. Just looking ahead at the next tree or sign and trying to run to it, or the next shady section, or whatever, just moving forward as best as I can.

I finally get to the sharp left in the path which takes you across the road and into the grounds of Fort George and this is the only time I ever look back. I hope it's deserted but no, I see a woman not far off and another woman I've just passed is walking. I get into the open sun and it's blazing down and getting to the big group of trees and the 1km mark seems so far away through the open field but I get about 1/3 of the way there before walking again, catch another runner who is walking who I believe is in a different race and finally make it to the trees and the car park before crossing the road again on the final 1km section.

I get across the final road and hit another open sun section before the tree lined path and then the unthinkable happens! That woman, damn her smelly socks, passes me! I'd been aware of her and trying to keep up my blistering 1mph but it wasn't enough. Now if it had been 4km back I would have said to hell with it, but with only 0.5km left I just couldn't let it stand. I saw a flash of red in her bib and knew she was a 50km racer. Neither of us said a word to the another. Normally I'd say you are doing great, keep it up but she went by, huffing and puffing and making a great effort and I was huffing and puffing and I almost let her go. I thought, what does one place matter. Who cares if she or anybody else beats me by 10 or 20 seconds. But then something kicked in and I knew it did matter, that it was a race and that while I would have preferred walking a bit longer before making a last dash for the finish line, I just couldn't let her run past me with only a few hundred meters left without at least trying.

So that's what happened. I jogged and caught up to her and passed her and 20 seconds later I was out of gas and walked and she caught up again. I think she did pass me this time and again I found a reserve of energy and passed her by and again, shortly after taking the lead I found myself walking. 2 more times I heard her footsteps and breathing behind me and then we were approaching the final bend in the path leading to the cones directing you to the finish chute and the timing matts. I didn't exactly sprint although it sure as hell felt like it at the time, but I knew I couldn't afford another walk. I was dimly aware of the people under the trees clapping for us both and then I was just focused on crossing that finishing mat and I was done, just slightly ahead of my rival. I'm glad she pushed me and I hope I pushed her. I feel bad I didn't turn around and give her a hug or acknowledge our little private race at the end but I did find out her name is Gillian Baxter. Congratulations to you on your race.

So there you have it. Final time, 5 hours 27 minutes which placed me 46th of 180 who completed the race.

30 feet to go! Being chased to the finish just out of picture

20 feet to go!
 
10 more feet to go! Finishing photos all by Mike from 'mysportsshooter.com'


Race Statistics

Happy camper with race medal. 2016 Niagara 50km race done. 5 hours 27 minutes

After stopping my watch and having my medal put over my head I made my way to the side of the building and just huffed and puffed with hands on legs for awhile and then slowly made my way to a shaded section and flopped down. After about 10 minutes of this I headed inside and grabbed a plate with a few pizza slices and sat down near the back with a cool fan blowing air and the side door open and began chowing down. There I chatted with Paul Chenery who I'd seen in a few races but it was two years ago at this very race where we both entered the 100km and for almost 50km of that him and I were running together. Unfortunately today was not his day and after bronchitis and 2 doses of antibiotics 50km was his limit. I also chatted to Pierre (RD of Creemore) and saw a number of other familiar faces. After about 30 minutes of sitting here and recovering I topped up for another 2 slices and the beer and headed to my car where I got a chair and went back to the finishing chute, set up my chair and cheered runners coming in over the next hour.

I sat next to Jack and Dave Rutherford who is bloody fast. He ran the marathon on this day and placed third. And then John McAlister stopped by and he won the 50km in a very fast time and shared some experiences of the 100 mile Easter States inaugural race from 2 summers ago.

It was really satisfying to be cheering on runners, knowing how they were suffering just as I had, and so damn close to the finish; looking weary, hot, but determined. I'm glad I didn't just not show up to this race. I'm sore now, 2 days later, with 2 toenails blackening, my calf very tender and legs that are still stiff. Every race is unique and I am glad I got the chance to experience this one. Congratulations to everybody that was out there. I look forward to seeing you out there again. Happy running.