Saturday, May 11, 2013

2013 - SULPHUR SPRINGS - 50 MILE - RACE REPORT

2 Weeks Prior to Race

Hey there. I thought I'd update you before the Sulphur Springs 50 miler - if there is a 50 miler for me. Unfortunately things are not looking good but I still am hopeful. What a crappy time for an injury - just as the ultra season is starting.

If you read my Pick Your Poison entry you'll see that I was in allot of discomfort during that race. I was stiff/sore for a good 4 days after that and did a road 10km but was in agony even after applying my cream. Call me Mr. Hop along  . . As I mentioned, the problem seems to be somewhere in my right hip/groin.

After 1.5 months of this, having to lift my leg with my arms when I go to bed or get in the car I finally said 'enough is enough' and went to the doctor. I was concerned it might be a fracture so I went for an X-ray. The results came back with the doc saying there is wear and tear but no sign of facture but unfortunately X-rays are not the best at showing up these so he is in the process of booking me in for an MRI. That will be a new one for me.

I don't know what I want it to be. I hate the thought of wasting a doctors time or the resources of X-ray machines and expensive MRI machines but I just want to find out what is the matter and try to address it. I am concerned about doing long runs (hell, it is tough even running at all) and a stress fracture would be a bad thing and mean a definite lay-off. If it is soft tissue then I guess I'd have to massage and do some painful exercises with a roller in that area. I guess the best thing is to listen to your body and I'm trying to do that which means my last run was 1 week ago. I drove to Sulphur Springs for the final run with everybody and popped my Advil and put on my cream and while a bit sore, I did manage one lap in 1 hour 45 minutes with another runner which is a decent time. I meant to be allot slower but wanted to see how it held up. It was a beautiful day. Really I should have tried another lap but I didn't want to aggravate things.

Part of the 100 or so runners - I'm in neon

In another 2 weeks this parking lot will be the start/finish and be lined with cones and heaving with runners and their well-wishers. It is a lovely course and if I can grunt through two laps running and if I have to walk two at this point I am still hoping it is possible - any thoughts of a good finish are fading for me - I just don't have the endurance with my lost training. Even if I can't race on the day I probably would go and see if someone needs pacing around on their 100 miler attempts. I'm feeling quite bummed about things because I love my running but I guess these things happen.

Take care and hopefully I'll have a race report for you in two weeks. In the meantime, I hope all of your training is on track and I look forward to seeing everybody bright and early.

Pre Race Expectations with 4 days to go. . .

Well, last entry before the race. Gulp. I know the course very well now but have low expectations. I drove to the course a week and a half ago and did 1.5 laps. I wanted to do it slowly and keep at least a tiny bit of fitness going. The first lap I did in 1:50 and felt I had really slowed things down but probably should have tried to do 2 hours. I walked every hill I came across and didn't go crazy down them either. At the car park I relaxed a few minutes getting water/gels/etc. and headed out but by the bottom of the bottom loop I just ran out of steam and the hip hurt and I decided from the road to walk back to the car. I hate walking - it takes so much longer!

My final run was yesterday, a 13 miler from my house down a long 3 mile arrow straight country road to the Niagara River. It was a holiday Monday here in Canada so the footpath along the Parkway was heaving with families cycling. I only came across one runner. It was very hot but I purposefully went at the hottest time of day and wore a long sleeve shirt (I don't like the sun) to try to get my body used to heat and humidity. You can't do it in one day but at least if it is baking hot this Saturday I'll have an idea. Well, the run was a disaster. I did allot of walking but at least I did it and got a 2 hour run done.

So here is the pre-race forecast which has become a habit for me - to see if I get it right or am wildly off. I looked at previous race results and if I'd been feeling fit and injury free I think I would hope to have an 8 hour 30 minute race. However, that hope is out the window and my pre race prediction is 10 hours to 10 hours 15 minutes.

OK Sulphur Springs. Bring it on!



The Night Before

The forecast had been excellent all week for a cool, dry race day - 15 degrees and sunny. I was really happy with that forecast as it's a temperature I am far more comfortable in. Fortunately I had the day off Friday and took my time preparing my kit and drop bag. I duct-taped both feet and prepared my gels, powders, oranges, chips, etc. I went shopping for ginger slices. I'd found ginger candies before but they were mint flavor and it didn't really suit me. I tried the new ones and I must say, ginger on it's own does nothing for me but I think a few times they did help me in the race. I put my sleeping bag and duvet in the car with water and was all set for a 3:00 am departure. I slept well on Thursday night and went to bed 9:00 pm on Friday. Overall I slept/rested well and I think it was because I had no real expectations. My goal was to finish the race this year, go slow and hope the hip didn't become a problem.

Race Morning 

I got up, ate cereal and put contacts in and was ready. It was an uneventful drive and I got the final parking spot in the closest parking lot to the coned finishing area around 4:15 am. I jumped in the back and settled down, not getting any sleep but felt relaxed. Around 5:00 am I began to hear activity. 

There were many other vehicles containing runners who had spent all or part of the night and they were all rousing. I walked to the marquee to collect my number and goodies which this year consisted of a nice technical cap, a T-shirt and Amphipod 16oz. water bottle. I brought those back to the car and began to organize myself. By this point they had started the generator and there were trucks arriving and it was a hive of activity. There were a stream of runners carrying or dragging their drop bags. They have a long marquee with tables and chairs set out and it's a perfect lay-out for runners. They cross the finish mat and turnaround and they have access to their bags immediately. This area is for 50 and 100 mile races. 

Drop bag location for 50 and 100 milers

It was chilly and I decided on my first lap to wear a long-sleeve shirt with Under Armour shirt beneath and gloves. I put my number on my shorts (hard to do since they are rather skimpy) and made sure I had my good-luck charm, a few strands of hair from someone important to me which I carry on my races for motivation - I hoped she'd surprise me but it was a no-show.
Just about ready to race - good-luck charm - check!

I grabbed my camera for a few photos and thought about taking some on lap 3 or 4 but decided against it. The race Director, Joe Hewitt, then announced we were about 9 minutes from the start and people should start lining up on the road. I ran into Chris McPeake taking his drop bag and saw Ron and a few other faces which looked familiar. As I was organizing my bag I found April Boultbee beside me organizing her 100 mile drop bag and got a photo. I see her and her sister often at these races but this time unfortunately Melanie had hurt her Achilles at the Bear Mountain race so would only be doing a single lap walking - so no matching purple socks today :( 

April Boultbee on her first 100 mile effort - finished in 19:37! Well done April.

I headed back to my drop bag a final time and took 2 Advil's, applied Voltaren cream to the hip and took 2 bites of a banana. For the first time I had peeled orange slices ready as I found these helped in the last race. No time for a pit stop so settled in on the road and figured out how far back I wanted to be. I saw Elise chatting to April and asked April what sort of splits she was hoping for. She told me 2 hours 30 minutes and I thought for me it is slightly slow but perhaps do a lap with her and then see if I can pick it up. Well, it didn't go to plan but we did run together for about 30 minutes. She passed me 3km from the end of my 50 mile effort. What a machine.

Start / Finish area

A few of the other runners preparing for their races

RACE REPORT
Lap 1 (of 4) - 20km loops (LAP 1 finished in 1:55.17) - pretty decent time

Before you knew it Joe was counting 5-4-3-2-1 and we were off. I really took it easy down the hill with April and we didn't really chat much, just went into cruise control and settled into it. We passed Ron and wished him a good race. 67 years old and doing 100 milers. Impressive. The 20km and 50km races were starting later so for the time being we had the trails to ourselves. As I mentioned, temperatures were perfect. This course has a wonderful amount of tree cover and is definitely hilly with undulations in many parts.
Knowing the course intimately now, I was in a fortunate position to know what was coming and how to play things which is always an advantage. I did tell a few runners that were new to the course what to expect as we went along. I was running happily beside April and then a group of guys came by and I got chatting to a guy there and when I looked, April was not with me anymore. I stuck with the new group and we were at the bottom of the river crossing at the furthest point in the first Eastern loop. That is the first steep climb and most people wisely choose to walk this one.

I ended up chatting to a guy called Nathan (easy to remember since I was carrying a Nathan water bottle) and he was wearing Vibrim 5 finger shoes. He said the longest he'd gone in them was 50km so he was going to try as long as he could and then switch them out. Him and I carried along the first loop together and much of the second. By the third loop he was in better shape and got ahead. I pulled him back a few times over the 3rd  loop but he finally got away for good and had a good race. He did have one tumble and there was blood pouring down his knee. He asked me at one of the aid stations if I'd finished throwing up. I caught up to him at one point but was not able to take advantage of running along with him because the exertion getting back to him caught up to my stomach but overall I didn't really throw up as often as I have and I think things went rather well.

Lap one went pretty well overall. The hip didn't start hurting, I tried to take my salt tablets and Perpetuem and gels at regular intervals and I was just enjoying the run. After I left April and picked up with Nathan and some others I knew the pace had picked up and knew it was probably a sub 2 hour lap. I had looked at the course map intensively prior to race day to figure out km positions and it made a big difference to me mentally and especially in the final lap when I became obsessed about hitting a certain time. 

The first 5km is about 3/4 of the way through the Merrick Orchard, just before you dive down into the river crossing. The 10km mark is when you've come back up the road and split to the right from the park bench. The 15km position is effectively the first of the 'Three Sisters' steep hills and then of course 20km is back to the start/finish area.

Nathan and I crossed the start/finish together in 1:55:17 and so 5 minutes slower than my slow run alone the week before. I felt OK about it and ran over to my drop bag and removed my hat and shirt and gloves and took 2 salt tablets, refilled my bottles and then Nathan was there asking if I was ready for another one.

Lap 2 (LAP 2 finished in 1:56:16) - wow. Nice and consistent for a change
Elapsed Time for 2 laps 3:51:33

Lap 2 began well and we carried along, chatting sometimes, just running at others. We walked hills and ran most of the rest. He seemed to like taking some of the steep hills down faster than me and I was trying to save my quads and prevent black toe nails. This lap got busy on the trails as the shorter races had started and coming up to the lollipop loop was a steady stream - they were really friendly and we wished people well. Nathan really had to hold me back sometimes and I was glad for it. He'd say, whhoooaaaa, you're doing a sub 5 minute now and I'd reign myself in. I really need to get one of these GPS watches. So when he'd see runners he knew he'd tell them we were a good match, me going fast, him going slow. ha ha. I don't know if I was fast but without him I probably would have had a big blowup just like in 2012. Regardless, it's always nice to pass the time with another fellow runner at your pace. It is a race but sometimes it's nice to feel you are out just enjoying a run - you're going to be out there a very long time. 

At some point from the last 3km section I must have gone a bit faster and ended up about a minute faster then Nathan coming back to the start. There were lots of supporters there in their chairs, cheering everybody on which is really nice. Up the final hill someone had a cow bell and there were a posse of woman yelling encouragement and being cheeky as well. :) Very nice. As I was coming up the final hill I ran into Rich Humber. He was not running unless maybe he was going to pace a 100 miler later, but when I saw him we gave each other a big hug. He's a really friendly guy and we trained together alot on the trails at Sulphur Springs in 2012 for his 100 miler. After that we lost touch but it was great to seem him 100 feet from where my race had ended last year. He said to me, you're going to do it this year man! :) It felt good.


Lap 3 (LAP 3 finished in 2:29:20) - oh well, so much for consistent - time for a walk!
Elapsed Time for 2 laps 6:20:52

I got to my drop bag and was definitely feeling it. I knew my fitness was not there and I knew I just needed to get out of the aid station as quickly as possible. I topped up and had some cold orange slices - mmmm. I got a new bottle with my powder filled, grabbed another gel for my belt pack and was off. I passed Rich on the way down the hill and headed into the trees. Nathan and I were either running together or I was playing catch up on this lap. He had seen a number of deer and I did hear some but once I saw one standing still just looking at me. There were still quite a few runners around but you still had sections where you were completely alone which was nice. The sun was out, the temperature was perfect and there was a little breeze. I was loving it even if my legs were starting to rebel.

By now my feet were starting to feel tender and I knew I had two blisters forming where I'd applied duct tape. I generally put it on the day before and walk around with it to get a good fit but I guess the positioning made it slip down and rub. Oh well, I got off relatively unscathed. By now I was beginning to walk sections that were even flat and I would try to motivate myself to run to a particular tree or to the next shade or whatever. I got to the 200 foot narrow single track section down to the road and did a face plant which took me by surprise. It's not a great position to take a tumble but besides some grit on the palms I didn't receive any injuries. By now you are tired and not picking up your feet enough and I guess I just clipped a root. Fortunately nobody was around and I carried on.

On the 3 Sisters hill I had to stop twice to get my breathe back - even walking my legs were burning with the effort. Up to the fields was nice and there was a photographer waiting at this spot each time. I look forward to seeing all the photos. They do a great job. I honestly can't remember where Nathan was during this lap but I got to the start/finish first by only a few minutes. I did see April at the start of the lollipop section and she was looking good.  I believe Elise had come by me already. I wasn't flying down the last 3km down hill but did manage to get back to the aid station and the final road with the big push up the hill. I don't really remember what was in my head but I again just wanted to get out of the aid station and not be tempted. I knew if I got out of there I'd get this course done and was determined. I was even pretty shocked by my time and now I didn't want a 10 hour but a 9 hour.

Lap 4 (LAP 4 finished in 2:36:48)
TOTAL time for 50 miles: 8:57:40 (my second 50 miler and my first success!)

I don't remember much about my visit to my drop bag. By then my mind was pretty muddled. I got out and was aware of my time and began the complex math to figure out a sub 9 hour finish! At the start I didn't really know but just wanted to have time in the bank and when I could run, I did. Even on the flats I would only manage about 100 yards of running and then feel knackered. I was definitely crawling along by this point and now it was just 50 and 100 milers and 100 mile relay people. Whenever I saw a 100 miler I'd congratulate them. 100 miles - a hell of a distance. One day for me, but not today.

When I got to the 10km point at the split above the road I knew I was almost there. I checked my watch and knew it would be close for a sub 9 hour but felt if I could only keep it together I'd just squeak in under 9 hours. I thought low 9:50's but then I could see the minutes being lost. Nathan caught up and we ran a short way together before I needed a pee and then when I ran to catch up I'd expended all my energy and ended up throwing up. He got ahead and I ate some ginger which I think helped - or maybe this happened earlier - hard to say - it did happen. I'm not imagining it!

April came past me in the Farmer's field and then immediately after her a chatty woman called Kat asked if she could have some water - I gave her a couple of swigs from my handheld and she chatted with me and then dropped back to speak to another few ladies coming up behind. I stayed ahead of her until the final hill back where she managed to pass by but she asked if I was OK (I had to stop 2 times to gather my breathe and tell my legs to get a move on) and encouraged me that I was almost there. Oh yeah, at some point in the laps I came across this woman having a great time. she had her headphones on and would sing out loud when a particular track came on. It was funny. There was more than enough room for people to get by so no problem. For me personally I just like to hear the sounds of my breathing and the forest noises.

At the 15km position before the downhill section I looked at my watch and it was still possible to get a sub 9 hour but it was going to be close and my legs were almost spent. For a short time I had a feeling like my legs were going to cramp - not my calves but under them - I've never had that feeling but I'm glad I didn't seize up. Of course just when every second becomes critical things come up to eat into those precious minutes. I decided I needed my second pit stop and could I get my bladder to start - noooooo. So another minute wasted there. Then what seemed a nice steady downhill which I just had no energy to run. I was getting fed up by this. I needed to be at the final aid station with 10 minutes at least and got there with 11 minutes to spare but I needed SOMETHING in my mouth and grabbed a Peanut butter sandwich slice (mouth didn't like that) and an orange slice and a few M&M's. I walked the little incline from the aid station and got to the crest and there was just a little down section, a little bit of running in the sun and then the final assent up that bastard of a hill to the finish line!

I could feel the time slipping and just couldn't do much about it. My watch was at 8:53 when I started the serious hill part and I knew this was going to be tight. I had to stop for one minute at a particular section and then got a little further before I bent over again and had to steady myself. There was a camera guy with a buddy here and I put my head down on my knees about 30 feet from him. I think it made an interesting backside view because I heard them laugh a bit but at that point I didn't care about anything other than getting to the top. Kat came by me all perky and with her motivation I was able to get around the corner at the top where you can see the trucks and hear the generator and you know in 30 seconds you are done. I rounded those cones and Melanie, Elise and another woman cheered loudly as I crossed the line. I was really releived and proud of myself. I didn't expect to be anywhere near that time and was really chuffed to have finished in under 9 hours and have completed my first 50 mile race!

Post-Race

I saw Nathan and congratulated him. He's a nice guy and I enjoyed our time together. He finished in 13th position and I finished in 19th out of 80 that toed the line. His time was 8:42:43. Well done Nathan. I was pretty overwhelmed, exhausted and elated all at once. Nathan told me where the food was and I was the only one there. There were 3 volunteers and I was allowed a bottle of water, a piece of fruit and a choice of 3 wraps. I choose the salmon wrap and sat down. How wonderful. I was out of the sun and just tucked into my sandwich, alternating with a sip of water or a bite of the apple and I would close my eyes and just doze between. 

After I sat there, for about 20 minutes, I got up and grabbed my kit bag. There was a 100 mile runner at his kit bag and I offered him my ziplock bag with the ginger candies and told him if he had any stomach upsets that it worked well. Then I grabbed my bag and emptied all the garbage in the cans provided and walked over to say hello to Melanie, Elise and another runner. Elise had an awesome run and placed second female and finished 8th in 8:17. The woman sitting with them was Dawn Hamel who finished 1st female in 8:01. Great times. We cheered in other runners like Helen Malmburg on her 50km effort and chatted about our races and then I headed back to the car. I took my photo with medal in hand. It was 4pm and I thought I should get going to avoid Saturday evening traffic and the ride home was uneventful but I was really tired and my eyes kept glazing. I did think about pulling over to sleep for 30 minutes but by turning on the music and putting on the A/C I got home OK. 

My first 50 mile medal - yippee.

I was not as stiff as I'd anticipated and unpacked the car and all the kit and then went for a nice shower before crashing for 30 minutes. A celebratory pizza was on hand and then I popped some Advil and had an 8:00pm night, waking 12 hours later. Waking I'm stiff but was determined to get out and walk so went for a zombie walk around the block and hope that will help me out.

Well, I guess that is this race report taken care of. I'll need a day or two to feel normal and then I will consider entering my next race on the OUS calendar which is a 6 hour short looped course in Kingston put on by Sri Chinmoy. It's a long drive but I've never done a timed event so that could be fun.

Thank you for reading my race report. I"m now at about 750 people that have read my blog. This time last year I had just started and had 60 viewers. Thank you for visiting my pages and I hope you are inspired to enter some ultras yourself or keep looking for new races that inspire you. Keep it up and I look forward to meeting many more of you out there.

And congratulations to April Boultbee. I just checked the results and she finished her 100 mile debut in 11th position in a time of 19:23! !

Best of luck to all of you.

Alex
Here are photos Ryder Photography took during the race. They just posted so thought I'd add a few.

Start/Finish chute with food marquee behind

Nathan Brooks and I on lap 2 on a steep downhill

Lap 2 start / finish area

Definitely hurting - coming up the steep hill to start/finish

An example of the beautiful trail we were on

Nathan and I entering the farmer's field area after 3 sisters hills - 4km to start


Looking fresh - a beautiful day