Thursday, August 22, 2013

2013 HALIBURTON FOREST 100 MILE - RACE REPORT



3 Weeks Out

What did Stan say to Ollie in some of the episodes (you'll have to be a certain age to even know who Stan and Ollie were) - "Here's another fine mess you've gotten us into!"

Well, I got myself into this mess and we'll now have to wait to see how messy it gets. I'm thinking there could be tears, maybe some blood and definitely allot of sweat. I seem to remember early in the season a few people saying that Hali was a GREAT place to do a first 100 miler. Now AFTER I've signed up I'm learning that 'something is rotten in the State of Denmark!' Those people extolling Hali's virtues have disappeared into the woodwork and doing my own researches I find that actually Hali is a pig of a course - technical, tough and demanding. In fact, one section of the course - the Normac - is also known by a far less endearing name because it's a major pain in the ass.

The good news is I now have an idea what 100 miles feels like from Dirty Girls 2 weeks ago. The rest is just bad news so I won't bore you. Ok, Ok, I will. I know how much bad news makes us feel better about our own situation. My hip pain was intense for 4 days after the Iroquois Trail Test - far too many twists and turns - but I think with some Voltaren gel I'll be good to go. The worse news is my right heel is intensely painful. I've had it since DG where they got pounded badly but the right one is worse. It has stopped me running anything since ITT last weekend. It's an injury I've had since earlier this year but it's obviously getting worse. I've looked up plantar fascia and Achilles tendinitis and yadda yadda yadda but I don't know exactly what it is. Maybe if you've had it you can suggest something. Right on the heel you can brush your finger down it (or run a feather down it) and it is intensely painful with just a breath - BARELY touching it - but push your finger harder into it and no pain - scratch that - there is pain if you press hard. It makes no sense. I find myself hobbling but I've had proper plantar fascia before and this isn't it. Anyway, I shouldn't make excuses. This is my blog and I'll cry if I want to, cry if I want to. . .

I'm sorry to report that one of my running friends, Chris McPeake, had a failure at Leadville that just happened. I was really sorry to hear that for him as this is the second attempt and I know he went out there this year determined to kick it's butt. He wrote saying he will write a two-blog report about the race and the factors (other than running) which precipitated his demise. I have read about one major problem from a runner that placed very highly so I might know what one problem was. What the other runner was saying was that there were just too many people on the trails - very narrow single track, trying to pass one another - many 'newbies' that would never hit the cutoffs and didn't follow trail etiquette going up and doing the mountain passes. We'll have to wait to see what he says. Oh yeah, and a total mess-up happening at aid stations.

Two other running friends that run EVERYTHING in the OUS calendar are ONLY doing the 50 miler at Hali and that gave me pause. Speaking to Ron Gehl who is a seasoned ultra runner, he is concerned about making the 30 hour cut-off. I think he has it in him but I respect his decision and having run the damn thing about a zillion times he knows. I have beat him in some of the races this season and he's whupped me a number of times also so I have to be slightly concerned. The other person, Kimberly, I think is keeping something in the tank for the Ottawa 24 hour track race which I think is where people may be selected for the worlds so if that is the case it's wise. She and Karin and Lisa are at the top of the female leaderboard and they are all very capable and determined runners.

Having looked at the names of those entered in the 100 miler I am up to my eyeballs in seasoned ultra runners - more so than at Dirty Girls. There are some people I don't know from the confirmation sheet, but 20 are names I know of people that spank me regularly at races, or have been in the top 3 of this race in previous years. Swiss Miss (Iris) will be there, a seasoned Badwater finisher, Maryka who placed second at DG, of course Gino and Karin who won at DG, Cameron Lutley, Patrick Campbell, Steven Parke, etc. It could be a very lonely race out there for me and I hope they don't create too many mud puddles for me. Maybe they'll scare all the bears away before I catch up an hour or two or three later.

My plan is to drive up on the Friday early morning and get there early to mid afternoon and get settled. I'll check in at the cabin and get my race kit and be able to have a relaxed pasta dinner that night and then settle in to my tent before a very early wake-up call and 6am start! That is the earliest race start of the season. I could be more comfortable staying in an Inn or Hotel but this camping thing is quite an adventure for me and it's part of the whole weekend experience.

The conundrum for me is aid stations and what do I drop off and at which one(s)? Dirty Girls was easy. Your tent with goodies is at the start/finish which you pass every 8km (5 miles). This one is an out and back 25 miles with 7 aid stations generally about 10km apart. You have to figure out when it will start getting dark out for your light and also some warm weather gear in case it gets cold during the night.

Information About Haliburton Forest and about the Race

Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve Ltd., or simply Haliburton Forest, is a unique, privately owned forest located on 70,000 acres of rolling hardwood. Check out their website with photos, video, etc. at [LINK]. It's about a 3 hour drive north of Toronto and is located South East of Huntsville and sort of South West of Algonquin Park.

For information about the race itself check out Helen's Malmburg's website for the race [LINK]. Just a note. This year is the 20th anniversary of the race.

In case you are interested in the route, here it is for your viewing pleasure:


Back to the Race

Oh crap! Looking for the Haliburton Crest logo to put on this blog I came across a blogger's report on his 50 mile effort back in 2011 at Hali and he was telling us all about the various runners he met during his efforts and he just HAD to tell us that 2011 was Steven Parke's 7th attempt at the Hali 100 where he DNF'd 6 times before finishing that attempt sub 24 hours. Now I'm pooping myself. Steve is ahead of me in the points series, a better runner and now I learn he DNF'd at Hali 6 times! Ok, take a deep breathe and no more blogs!

Ok friends. I'm calling it a night. I'll update you when I have something to update you about. Hopefully that will mean some running to talk about. Stay well and good luck to everybody on their training and racing.

5 Days to Go

Wow, the time has gone quickly. Only 5 days left before the biggest challenge of my ultra racing hobby - definitely not a career - I won't be giving up my day job because while I don't suck, I'm no elite machine. 

I think this race is going to be harder than Dirty Girls - running 100 miles with the clock ticking down to failure. . . don't make 30 hours and it was all for nothing. I would have preferred to do a training run here prior to get a feeling for the course but it didn't happen. It isn't that far away from the Limberlost course and I have DNF'd there twice now so I think it's going to be pretty rough. Certainly from all my blog reading that seems to be the consensus. 

Speaking of Limberlost, I was working in my retail store on the weekend and this young Asian guy walks in with his girlfriend and they are walking around the store. He sees something he likes and comes up and asks me something and spots a shirt I'm wearing which I didn't even realize had some running crest on it and he asks me if I run. I said yes, I'm into ultra running and have a 100 mile race next weekend and then asked him if he was a runner. He says, yes, I run ultras also. I was like, coooool. How often in life do you come across other ultra runners so I say, oh, do you do some of the OUS races and he says yes, I did the Limberlost 56km race. I'm like, cool, I was there. I say, so, how did you do? And he says, 1st! I say, holy crap man. Who are you? His name is Julian Ho. So it was terrible I'm at work and it's busy because him and I are just chatting away about ultras and it's like we have never met and yet here we are chatting away freely and openly and happily about something we both love doing. ha ha. Anyway, it was really nice meeting them both. He mentioned running with some Italian guy who it turned out is Gino De Carlo, so it is a close-knit group of people out there. I hope I see him in the future. Well done Julian.

I also heard that Elise has gotten over her DNF and has decided to continue running ultras. I'm glad to hear it. 

With regards to my running things have not been good. I did one training run almost a week after the ITT race and my right heel was very painful and has been swollen and sore. I've been icing it 2-3 times a day and have not run anything in 9 days. I went out yesterday (Sunday) for my first run, still with the heel sore but not brutal. I wanted to see if things have calmed down a bit and if I remember how to run still! Henri (race Director of Niagara ultra) added me to their mailing list and every Sunday they go somewhere on the Bruce Trail so I decided to tag along with them yesterday because I wanted to run with some people and try somewhere different. 

Yesterday's run was just down the road from me and started up at Woodend Park. It's up the Niagara escarpment, just a 5 minute drive from my gym club at White Oaks which is great as I was able to go there after the run and have a shower and get ready for work.

It was disgustingly muggy. We stuck to the trails but everybody's shirts were stuck to their bodies and the sweat was dripping. The course was almost all single track and some of the rocks were really viscous looking. They were pointed up in sharp triangle points so you really had to be careful in sections and no way I wanted to trip.

Henri took the lead and I followed with about 6 others behind me and then another group headed off from the car park who were going to do a hike rather than run. Henri kept pointing out poison ivy at different points of the trail and I was glad since I have not got a clue what it looks like. I had poison oak when I was a kid and remember it was not a pleasant experience and I didn't want any burning, itching going into Hali. I was running along happily and then felt a really sharp stinging sensation on the thigh and swatted away a damn wasp that had just stung me. Arrrrrrhhhhhhh. Second sting in my lifetime. The first was when I was a kid swimming in an outdoor pool and I saw this poor little fella struggling on the surface of the water so lifted him to put him on the side of the pool and he stung me. No good deed goes unpunished!

I must say I felt the lack of training after nine days without running. I'm hoping some of it was the high humidity but I struggled and was glad when the hour and a quarter was done. The intention is one more run Tuesday evening of 1.5 hours in Short Hills and then it's game time.

I have to admit to trepidation about this race. I really didn't give much thought to DG 48 hours and just showed up and started running. That's probably the best strategy and I'm just going to go with an open mind and run when I can and when I get tired I'll walk. People complain about the hills but as far as I'm concerned they are an excuse to walk. I mean, if it's flat and I'm shattered and I'm walking, others are probably catching me, but on a hill everybody is walking except the runners who I have no chance of catching. It gives me a chance to recuperate, and hopefully by the top I can get going again.

I'm not going to get freaked about running at night. I've at least done it once and 90% of the time it's actually an amazing experience. I have not yet packed or prepared drop bags so I'll do that on Thursday. I was glad to hear that Chris McPeake has entered the 100 also. I hope we'll get a chance to run together for awhile but if not it will be nice to share the experience. I was sorry about his Leadville race and to enter another 100 just weeks after the last one - I respect his determination.

That's about it for now. My fitness is definitely down but I'm looking forward to the challenge, the amazing trails and being with the other competitors. It's a new race distance for me, a new trail and before I know it, I'll be walking down the road with the other 50km, 50mile and 100 mile racers, being led by Helen Malmburg and the bagpiper to the start line and then we'll all be off.

Happy running and wish us all luck. I'll update you as soon as I can.

Oh - I can't leave you without. . . YOU KNOW. . . the pre-race prediction. Where's Kimberley's mystic ball when I need it. On second thought, I don't want to know. It thinks I'm a looser! Just to tell you my aim is to finish in 30 hours doesn't really do it, does it? It's a bit of a cop out, isn't it? But if only 53% of people finished last year isn't just finishing a respectable target? So cut me some slack. Sheesh. Ok, well, I would like to get to the 50 mile mark in 11 hours and be done in 26 to 26.5 hours.  If I squeak under 24 I'll be one happy camper. There you have it.

Day Before the Drive Up

Here we are. It feels like this is the most important race of the season - that all of the training has led up to this race. I don't know why but it does. If I fail here it will make a big difference to my chances for points in the OUS results. I've had one DNF so far this season but this race is critical. I was looking at my success and failures over the last two years since I got into ultras.

In 2011 I attempted two ultras (both 50km) and failed at one (Run for the Toad). In 2012 I attempted four (two 50km, a 56km and a 50 mile) and failed at 2 (Limberlost 56km and Sulphur Springs 50 mile). So far in 2013 I've attempted 8 and failed at one (Limberlost 56km). I want to keep the momentum going. After this race there are two left in the series. The 24 hour Ottawa track race and the final race of the season, Vulture Bait 50km. 

After my run on Sunday I did one final run after work Tuesday evening at Short Hills. I was apprehensive with the heel problem. It was a bit humid and my plan was to be very conservative and run slowly but try to run the hills. I must say I was pleasantly surprised to finish the run in 1 hour 7 minutes, 3 minutes faster than my best time there! I don't think I was super fast but I ran most of the hills, not having to take much recovery at the tops and that made all the difference. My only complaint at the end was my hip. Damn it hurt, even after applying the gel beforehand. The heel didn't hurt too badly and didn't swell up and I've continued the icing but I know it's going to get pounded on Saturday and I know with the arthritis I'm going to be taking a few Advil but hey, I'm ready as I'll be now so bring it on!

I spent the day at home carefully packing, patched the holes in my air mattress, got a few groceries and a few chocolate treats. I got some zip lock bags and have divided all my gels and extra socks and all the other stuff for the drop bags and have gassed and filled the car tires. I've printed off directions, got my lucky charm and filled my water bottles. Boy this ultra running is tiring!

Well, it's almost 10pm and I'm going to call it a night. I even did some research on bears and for the most part they are diurnal and I feel better that they'll be sleeping while I'm running. I don't really mind coming across any during the day as long as I don't startle one. All the best everybody and wish me luck :)


Post Race Report

Welcome back. I've been home exactly 45 minutes and have not even showered yet. I need the fresh(ish) smell to remind me about my amazing weekend and didn't want you to have to wait a second longer than necessary.

I'm not ashamed and truthfully I'm not anywhere near as disappointed as I was after DNFĂ­ng at Limberlost this year for the second time. The truth is I DNF'd at Haliburton after 50 miles. I gave it everything I had but Hali was more than I could cope with this year. I am going to revise my grading system now and put Hali as THE hardest race in the OUS calendar. If anybody disagrees I'd be happy to hear arguments for and against.

I can't cite weather as a factor. Those poor folks last year that had to race in almost constant downpours - I'm shivering just thinking about what the course would have looked like. It was probably as close to perfect as it gets yesterday. There were some long wet grass sections with wet logs but it's the middle of a bloody forest for goodness sakes!

I drove up Friday at 9:45am and got up in 4 hours 10 minutes from Niagara with no problems. It was easy enough to find. I drove in further from the Boiler Room after grabbing my race bib and found lots of camping spots along the road on the right hand side just before the gate which is locked which takes you further into the reserve. The start is right on this gravel road and goes past the gate and down a gentle road which eventually gets you to Aid Station 2. After this you head into the trails. I heard from Helen and Gord (the chap that was compiling all our race data) that they are going to change the course next year to make LESS road (currently about 20%) and also cut out the loop.

To the right is the road - there were various spots for people to set up campers or tents

My little spot - the finish is up the road to the left about 200 feet - to the right is the gate leading into the park

The gate - we all ran down here on gravel road for about 2km

Looking up the road to the start/finish - the Canadian flag on the left where the people are is where it was set up - further down is the Boiler Room and the Park entrance

Huge number of race kits for all the runners about to arrive - taken inside the Boiler Room

Here is the hoodie for 2013 - very nice. Do I have to give it back since I only managed 50 miles?

Volunteers in the Boiler Room checking in runners - I believe one of these ladies is Helen's sister.

After picking up my race kit, later in the afternoon, I returned to the Boiler Room and had my weigh-in. I was 153.5 lbs which is 1lb lighter than at the weigh-in for Dirty Girls 3 weeks ago. I was not weighed again and not sure when or where the 100 milers would be weighed.

Outside the Boiler Room where you left your drop bags for the various aid stations - mine is the big plastic crate at the front of aid station 2.

Race headquarters
 After settling in I introduced myself to a few people and then saw Chris McPeake. We chatted for about 20 minutes about Leadville and other races and I took the camera and got some shots which I'll post later. I was getting peckish (hungry) so ate 1/2 a sandwich and a few cubes of chocolate I'd brought and then lay in my tent while others arrived. Come 6pm I headed up to the restaurant and got chatting to Ron Gehl and his wife Barbara and then all us hungry runners were ushered in, relieved of our food tickets and served ourselves from a buffet of spaghetti with several sauce choices, a bun and a ceasar salad. There was a selection of cakes and pie after but I usually just have 2 main course helpings and leave desert to others. It hit the spot and I looked around and saw many familiar faces. Nobody here from Weight-Watchers that's for sure! 

Introducing all the runners

After everybody has chowed down the introductions begin with a microphone. Everybody there introduces themselves - it is very informal but most people will say stand up and say something like, 'hi, my name is so and so, I'm doing my first 100 miler or 50 mile and first Hali'. Then everybody claps. With so many runners to get through it takes some time but there were a few touching stories who got more clapping. 

video

Helen Malmburg who has been directing this race for 20 years then talked us runners through various aspects of the race. She is very soft-spoken and it was sometimes hard to hear her but we got it all in the end and she does have another awesome helper who marked out the course who is very loud and lively and sometimes he'd step in and clarify things. I believe his name is Don and he did an incredible job on the course marking. I never went wrong and I can't imagine the amount of time and effort it took into placing all those little flags - over 2,000 in all I believe! Only one runner was DQ'd - he missed passing by an aid station and obviously went wrong somewhere but he came clean - it's a shame as I believe he had run about 103 miles in total actually.

As we were eating Heather Lightfoot came by and said hello. It was lovely to see her and she indicated where Dan, her husband was. Unfortunately Dan had dropped to 50km due to his knee not healing up properly which was a shame. I think he feels this year his running has been cursed but I'm sure he'll be back on track next year. Helen was going to run with him and then settle into her own race. She kindly offered me a bear whistle (no, not the kind that hints, 'hey sexy, over here' - or is that a wolf whistle? All I did throughout the race in the parts where it felt VERY, um, woody, was to yell out 'A-ooooooohhhhh'. It seems to have worked since I didn't see any bears but I could swear I saw a wolf once - it was through trees at the top of a hill to my left while I was on a main trail but I won't swear 100%.

After the meal, around 8pm, everybody trailed out. I went to my tent and called it a night and set the alarm for 4:15am. I didn't have a restful sleep and heard all the noises of people around me and was thinking about the race. Occasionally during the night I felt some rain hit my tent through the trees but it was sporadic and short-lived. I woke before the alarm and waited until 4:30am before getting up as I didn't want to disturb people by unlocking the car. I got out of the tent and opened the back of the car and ate my cereal and banana and then walked up with a flashlight to use the port-a-pottie. There were about 6 set up outside the main toilet building which had a single toilet in it but also a shower - I'll have to remember that for next time. There are also cabins at the start line so I imagine they have bathrooms and proper beds if you don't want to set up a tent. 

I then walked back to the car and put in my contacts, applied my kenisio tape and body glide and prepared everything I needed including my lucky charm and then it was time to walk up for the role call at 5:45 at the Pump House. As the role call started it was apparent many runners were not yet present but I answered to my name and then my stomach started feeling unsettled again so I left to use the toilets and of course now there was a big line-up and when I finally got in the piper was on his way down the road with the runners so I took care of business quickly and met up in the final seconds and said hello to some familiar faces and then we were off with a count-down.

5:30am. Ok, so I look like a deer in headlights. I didn't take an after photo because road kill doesn't look very good either

No girlfriend to wish me well but I texted her before the start and have her with me in my heart.
 It was dark but the road was bright and only about 50% of the runners had head lamps. I had a little hand-held  in my bum bag in case I needed it but the first several km flew by and I didn't need it. As we entered Normac it got a bit darker under the forest canopy but mostly it was fine. By Aid Station 2 I was feeling a bit warm and removed my long-sleeve top and put it in my drop bag and was out quickly.

The trail was beautiful and I get into explanations of it later but I was feeling good initially and enjoying things. I started feeling tired after 2.5 hours and slowed it down a bit but was still making good time. I didn't pee until 4 hours into the race and felt maybe I was not drinking enough so tried to keep up with the Hammer gels, Perpetuem, salt tablets and water. It is a tricky balance. At the aid stations I would munch on orange slices or watermelon. I tried some cheesies at one and some potato which I dipped in salt but my favourite, much later in the race, was the 1/2 grilled cheese sandwich. Ohhhhh I needed that. Also, one aid station had hot soup which I loved but it was too hot and I couldn't wait for it to cool and burned my tongue and roof of mouth so that anything salty after that stung. ha ha. I only sat down at Aid Station 7 on the return journey to remove a rock and had to do that once again further along the trail.

People spread out eventually and it got slightly busy as the people ahead of you started passing you on their return so around mile 23 - 26 you got to see a number of people. Otherwise, from 26-50 I only saw about 20 runners either passing me or me passing them, and then closer to 50 some of the 100 mile people on their second loop. I can't remember when the first place guy came by but he was running up a steep hill! Wow. Then there was an almost 30 minute gap before the next runner and about 40 minutes to the 3rd place runner.

For the first time in a race I noticed that my fingers were very puffy and swollen so I guess I was retaining water and backed off drinking and then I started having to pee every 15 minutes for awhile and eventually the fingers stopped looking like weenies.

One lady, Iris Cooper, was very stylish. She had a cute little pink skirt with gaitors, her hair in her usual pig-tails and at some point I heard bells behind me. I turn around and here comes Iris. As she comes closer I say, 'Hey! I thought you were Santa Claus'. Off she went ahead, scaring the bears away for me. How awfully thoughtful of her! The only bear story I heard of any consequence was the lead woman who according to the volunteer I saw had an encounter with two. The first was easy enough to avoid but the second the bear got a little curious and started coming towards her. Now that would not have been fun. I don't want to scare you. As I said, I saw nothing much other than chipmunks and probably most other people didn't either and nobody has been hurt in the 20 years of this wonderful race but be aware there is wildlife and just act sensibly (and no, I don't mean run for your life). 

I also ran into Kimberly Van Delst during my race. She had dropped to the 50km and initially had entered the 50 mile. Her ankle was still not back to full strength after Dirty Girls but she looked to be flying. I'll have to check her results. Richard Takata was nice enough to drive her up. We saw each other as she was bombing down a hill on her way back from the turnaround and we had a quick hug and wished each other well. I was ahead of some of the good runners who passed me by as we got further out. Steven Parke came by looking great and also Jack Kilislian without his shirt. Steven, I had mentioned earlier, had DNF'd at 5 Hali's I believe and finished for the first time last year but this year he absolutely crushed it and came 5th overall in something crazy like 21 hours! Amazing job. I probably went off too fast (50km, 50 mile and 100 milers all start together at 6am) but honestly this was not the reason for not finishing.

I tried out the Injinji socks and not a single blister. I used Body Glide on the little piggies and put on Kenesio tape around the heel which works a treat. It doesn't work well on the bottom of the foot but is way better than band aids and I've been having better luck with it than duct tape. Kenesio is breathable and although it doesn't look like it will stick and stay in place, it does. I wore my slightly heavier deep trail shoes from Asics which I was slightly concerned about, thinking they might have been the reason my heel got so beat up at Dirty Girls but this time no issues in that respect. 

Pain wise the big problems for me this race was the same problem I faced at Limberlost. The right heel/sole of the foot - whatever you call it! It was getting excruciating after about 30 miles. I popped an Advil and fortunately the pain there subsided otherwise it would have been a LOOOONGGGGGG walk back. It was looking pretty bleak up to this point and I was on a logging road and looked back and saw Ron Gehl with his harem. I thought to myself, there is no bloody way is he coming by me. Not that he's not a great guy but I decided to use him as my motivation to move my sorry ass and by the end I had made up 20 or so minutes. He was entered in the 50 mile. Once that Advil kicked in I found a new lease on life and actually ran really well for about 10km and reeled back about 8 people who had passed me over the last hour.

One chap was an Asian fellow with walking sticks and I asked him how he found them. He thought they were good and we came into an aid station together and I guess I left ahead of him but once my surge was finished he came by me again and got to the finish before me - again, he was doing the 50 miler. Honestly I don't think I could have gone much faster even had I ONLY been doing 50 miles. I finished the 50 miles in 11 hours 57 minutes and while I had 30 hours for the cut-off, my head was not in the game anymore.

All the competitors were wonderful. Everybody said keep it up, looking strong, well done, etc. It didn't matter if they were lead runners or back of the pack, everybody was supportive of each other and that is awesome. I love it. There were only two I'd have to say were not in my good books but it could just be they didn't hear me. I was going through a grassy section that had logs and rocks and saw them ahead of me on the single track. They were only about 50 feet ahead - this was during my perky phase. A thick branch tripped me up. My foot went ahead of it, my back foot didn't lift far enough and caught the back end of it, slammed it into my lead foot and I went ass over tit, sliding into an imaginary base. I grunted loudly as you do when the air gets knocked out of you but the two ahead just carried on. Grrrrr. I picked myself up, wiped myself down and decided they had to pay and caught them shortly and didn't see them again! Needless to say they didn't get a well done, keep it up from me. HAAAAAAAAAA. Once I got out in the clear I looked at my knee and there was blood running down. How cool is that! Well, it was good enough for sympathy at one of the aid stations. Shock horror they wanted to rinse it off. Are you crazy I said? This is a battle scar I have to carry for the rest of the race. 

Of course this blog is in no particular order. I'm just reminiscing as I remember things. Another memory just came to mind. For the first time ever I had a call of nature during a race. I think a Huckleberry Hammer gel didn't agree with me (normally I have the raspberry flavor  and I had to go looking for an appropriate spot. This was about mile 22. I bushwhacked away from the main trail and of course at that particular time it was like bloody rush hour on the main trail and I'm having to drag myself through thorns and bushes to get away from anybody who might look over from two possible directions. Have you ever tried to, er, take care of business when your legs won't bend and you're having to direct your tackle so you don't piss in your shorts at the same time? I found it quite a challenge to do all this and not fall over since there were no big trees to lend a hand. Fortunately I had come prepared and had some tissues in my BUM bag. Hmmm, maybe that's where it got it's name. So there I am, making big efforts to be discrete and unfortunately I'm farting at about 100 decibels so I apologize if you happened to pass by me at that point and just have to tell you it was NOT a flock of geese! 

The most cruel section, but not the hardest, is by far Aid Station number 7 when you think you are finished your outward journey. You arrive there, stuff your face with all the goodies and then they tell you it's 'just a bit further' up the gravel road there. Fucks Sake! So off you go and the road goes on, and on, and on, and all the other runners coming back towards you all try to encourage you with 'you're almost at the turn-around'. I almost thumped the 5th one that said that when it was clear the damn turnaround was nowhere to be seen and it was obviously some malicious pleasure everybody was having at my expense being a newbie to Hali!

Well, that damn turnaround did finally arrive and I promised I wouldn't try to encourage anybody in the same manner upon my return. Ok, I did once and smirked after but I promise it was only the once!

Oh, hey, another cool moment - well to me anyway. I'm doing a slow shuffle on a gravel road on my way back, maybe at mile 42, when a guy running the opposite way looks over and slows and says, 'hey, are you that runningdude guy'? I say yes, and he says, I read your blogs! I say thanks and good luck and carry on but it really perked me up for awhile. So whoever you are, thanks for reading all my verbal diarrhea - actually some of it is OK. I even spell-check it on occasion. It was nice to meet you and I hope you had a good race. I see the blog 'counter' rise and know there are people out there but to meet someone in person that I never met before is cool.

I love reading other people's running blogs. I learn things from them - about a particular course, about training, about their lives and you get a feeling for some - what they might be like as a person. Most are really humble and it's really cool to get some insights into their races and experience their highs and lows. Sometimes I'll be like, hell yeah, I know exactly what they are talking about. Sometimes I'll burst out laughing when they are all serious and then they throw in some bizarre, hilarious story.

I only threw up once in this race and it was mostly dry heaves. I was walking allot on the return journey. I got to the turn around in 5 hours 27 minutes and I didn't get to the start/finish until 11 hours 57 minutes so the second half took an hour longer.

The weather throughout the race was pretty good. It stayed overcast throughout the day and there were occasional spatterings of rain but nothing serious. It did feel a bit muggy but that was probably more that you were wet and hot from running rather than it being unbearably muggy which it has been in a few races this year but September is perfect - hardly any mossies or black flies to worry about.

Now let's have a discussion about the course. If you ran this race you know what I'm talking about and if you didn't then maybe you'll be interested. The 20% road sections are all gravel, mostly very tightly packed so not allot of really mushy course gravel but hard-packed dirt. It was very runnable and I think there was only one real hill on the road which was on your way back to the start, going up and past the Normac loop. Maybe it wasn't steep but by 48 miles it felt it. Other than that it was all just pretty gently rolling and a good place to make up time if you were able.

The trail was pretty much all single track and it was hugely varied which was awesome. It beat the crap out of me and it's very hilly. All the big hills that you faced on the way out you faced on the way back in reverse and my personal feeling was that the return hills were worse - again, possibly because by that point I was exhausted. There were several long sections with tall grass which you had to be careful on because it hid rocks and at some points wet logs had been put down and there were sometimes gaps between them and sometimes it looked like parts were rotting so you had to be really careful about your footing because the grass and logs were wet. 

There were only two boggy sections but by being careful you were able to get around or over without getting a soaker but last year it would have been deep under water. There were of course sections with roots and rocks and some sections where you got into a rhythm and felt awesome, cutting through the woods, changing direction, feeling like you are a skier slaloming between the trees. Honestly I can't remember all of it but the 80% trail is extreme trail mixed in with nice moderate trail. The course is made up of about 6 different trails and they are all graded. 

This is NOT a course for beginner runners so I'll just give you that tip. If you are contemplating your first 100 miler then Sulphur Springs is a much more manageable looped course to do a 100 on. I'd say Hali is about 3x harder than SS because of the elevation changes and the toughness of the course. Similarly, Dirty Girls is easier than Hali but Dirty Girls is a great place to go for 100 miles. That's my two cents worth. If anybody has questions about any of the races just ask. I'd be happy to provide any insights if you are contemplating any of the races.

The race was extremely well managed and organised and I met some wonderful family members who were there supporting their son or daughter or father or mother. It was a great feeling at the start/finish and at the different aid stations where people were helpful and enthusiastic and I think many think we are a crazy bunch but they have allot of respect for us. I think that is cool. I like a challenge and a marathon certainly is but I never failed in a marathon and I think that's one reason I like ultras - being pushed to the limits of my strength and knowing that there is always a chance of failing.

I had one thing which frustrated me and it's the drop bag situation. It was my first true 100 mile race effort (rather than my 100 miles at DG which was a timed race). There were 7 aid stations and 7 places where runners could choose to have a drop bag. By placing your bag which was to be well labelled and left at the Boiler Room when you arrived, they transported it to the aid station requested. As you know I DNF'd in the 100 miler. When I finished 50 miles after 12 hours I let Helen know I was dropping, gave my bib number and informed her of my drop bag locations and asked how I could get them back. I was told that over the course of the evening drop bags would be brought back to the Boiler room as trips were made to the aid stations to drop off supplies or volunteers or whatever.  I gave her a big hug saying thank you for an amazing race and headed back to my tent. 

I was starting to shiver badly now that it was 6pm and my body was in a state of shock from the exertions and I took a towel and wet it and wiped all the sweat and dirt and blood off and got into some PJ bottoms and a shirt with sweatshirt over that and jumped into my tent and I was very uncomfortable for a long time. Before I slept/rested I consumed a big salad I'd prepared and had some water and 1/2 bar of chocolate. Then I tried to settle and get comfy but the legs were very unhappy with me but the feet were in great shape.

By 9pm I had decided I wanted to drive home. There was lots of noise from the family/friends who were waiting for runners to arrive up the road and I knew I was not going to get much sleep and felt after my 3 hour rest I could probably cope. I didn't want to face traffic jams the following day with weekend cottage owners coming back down Highway 11 and the 400. I hobbled up to the Boiler Room and saw some drop bags but neither of mine so I went to the start where there were about 9 of the volunteers and I asked one and I didn't get any real answer. It was annoying. I wanted to go and it seemed that nobody knew when the drop bags were coming back - it seemed to be the one thing that was not thought about. What about the 50 mile runners who used drop bags and were going to be leaving right away? Were they also supposed to wait until 12pm the following day to get their bags? What about the 100 mile DNF's? Again, did we have to wait until noon the following day?

I sat in the dark on a picnic bench beside the volunteers feeling very pissy. The volunteer said that Helen would take back the drop bags to her place in Toronto but I didn't want to have a 2.5 hour drive after the fact to collect drop bags and needed some of these items for other races and training runs.  As I sat there a lady came up and asked if there was any food going and was told there were all sorts of goodies there to help yourself. I didn't realize I was sitting so close to food! I asked if I could have some and if I needed a food ticket and she said they were taking them earlier but not now so I took a Styrofoam container and opened it and there was a corn on the cob, a jacket potato and a big chicken breast. It was cold by this point but damn I tucked in. I didn't realize how hungry I was. As I'm sitting there another runner joins me - he had come from Pennsylvania and had run the 50 miler I believe. I think his name was Mike so we had a good chat in the dark while we chowed down.

I decided I'd spend the night and collect my drop bags when I woke so I headed to bed, put on my iPod and fell asleep to music with the sound of night revelers and clapping as worn out runners came in to finish their 50 milers or turn around to do it again. 

Waking at around 7:30am I stumbled out of the tent and walked up to the Boiler Room and again, no bags for Alex. Aid station 6 bags were now there, but no sign of mine. I again went to ask one of the volunteers and the lady didn't know. I asked where Helen was and was told she was gone to get some more chairs for the volunteers and would be back shortly so I followed a guy into the Boiler Room and it was nice and warm and cozy. That is where I met Gord who was on his laptop compiling the times and results and I asked him how people were doing, etc. I spent about 45 minutes there, pet his lovely dog who was a real softy and then headed outside again where I saw Helen. I asked about the drop bags and said I wanted to get going. Again, it didn't appear there was any plan in place to get things back to runners so I have no idea how some drop bags were getting back and not others. Helen said she was taking the bags to her place if they were unclaimed but I said I don't get to Toronto often and she mentioned a friend in Welland which isn't too far from me. Being tired and wanting to go I said that would be great and I'd send an email. I know she had a zillion things on her mind probably so apologies but I think this is one aspect that needs to be addressed. 

Gords' dog - Chester or Chelsea or something. Real cutie - loved being pet

I ran into Steven Parke at the Boiler Room and a branch had caught him across the bridge of the nose and under his eye - ouch. But he came 5th overall in an amazing time and I congratulated him heartily. He's having an amazing year. I saw Gino de Carlo and congratulated him also. I think he came 4th and just as we were talking his girlfriend Karin was coming into the finish and he was standing  right on the finish line and gave her a huge hug and kiss. It was really touching. It's moments like that that I'll remember.

Off I headed once I got the drop bag news and began the long drive back home. My race didn't go as planned but even so I had an amazing experience and I'm really happy that I had a chance to do this course. I highly recommend it as a challenging but awesome course in some amazing Ontario natural beauty and I'll definitely be returning with a bit more experience and knowledge of what to expect.

Well, there is your race report. A long race so a long race report. Thank you for taking the time to visit. My next race is in three weeks - the 24 hour track race in Ottawa. I hope your running is going well and wish you the very best. I didn't get any race points or a medal but I had an amazing time and learned more about my strengths and weaknesses and had great pleasure sharing the race with all of the other runners.

Until next time, this is Alex (aka the therunningdude) signing off.

Friday, August 16, 2013

2013 IROQUOIA TRAIL TEST 34KM - RACE REPORT

The Day Before

Welcome back. The print has only just dried on my Dirty Girls 48 hour race report. Tomorrow I attempt (no attempts - I will do it!)  the ITT 34km race just up Guelph Line. I went to Guelph University many moons ago in another life and at the time studied Microbiology. Did I ever use that in the real world. Nope. Instead, after University I moved to the UK and worked in investment banking. No, I didn't bring down Lehman's.

34km after a 33 hour 33 minute race seems pretty doable. I'm glad I went two weeks ago to the training run there because there is no way I'm going to be cocky about this one. It is a true challenge and I intend to treat it with respect or I'll end up with something broken or sprained. The good news is that the OUS race series results have been updated since Dirty Girls and I moved up a place in my age group and overall. I'm in 5th overall and 2nd in my old fart age group of 40-49. Gino is definitely going to take it overall for the guys if he keeps it up and his girlfriend is doing very well also. I had a chance to run/walk with her a tiny bit at DG. She is nice but was faster than me and I told her to get going. Allot can still happen between now and Vulture Bait as there are still 5 races left in the season but congratulations to everybody so far. There have been some very varied races.

I have not run anything since DG and my heels are still bruised and sore but I've got out my kit and will be toeing the line tomorrow. The legs are definitely 'heavy' feeling. The forecast is to get up to 25 degrees but most of the race is tree covered. I'm going to try the Injinji toe socks.

This weekend I'll be signing up for Halliburton 100 mile. I wanted to do the 100 earlier in the season but after my DNF at Limberlost and 24 hours into Dirty Girls I thought I'd do the 50 miler but what the hell. I've read all about the pain and suffering in other blogs and figure I need a little more whimpering. Sorry Ron! I'm going to make you work to keep your placing! ha ha.

Well, time to go make a pasta dinner so stay tuned. Oh, I had Diane (race director at DG) come into my retail store (Beauty Safari) during the week. What a surprise. I learned at the race that she lives in St. Catharines which is very close to my store and she popped in with her mother and we had a nice chat about her and the race. They have added me to their email distribution for the runs they do on Sunday's around here so I'm looking forward to going out on one of those. I'm sure they know some great trails.

Here is the map of the course at ITT for 2013


2013 course map for ITT 34km race - part of OUS series
even though not a true ultra because it is one of the longest that has been around -
only the 34km counts for points in the series 


Well, wish me luck please. Oh, we can't forget the all important Race Prediction! Um, I don't have a clue. Previous years were a different course so I can't really make an educated guess based on my training run since I got lost. Let's just hope it's not 24 hours!  

Post Race


Welcome back! You didn't have to wait long for another blog entry. This race seemed to be ages coming and then Bam!, it was here and gone, and here I am the day after writing to you.

I went to the training run two weeks ago where I mentioned I got lost on-route (er, does that make sense? How do you get lost en-route?) but I now had a good notion of the course and the terrain. They are quite right to add 'test' in the title of this race - they are not kidding. You know those obstacle courses you see with the tires that football players practice on? Well, it's like that but with giant leg-breaking rocks dotted all around with fat roots interspersed. 

This is the most technical race on the OUS calendar. If you like trail you're going to LOVE this puppy. There was no shortage of blood to be had but fortunately I didn't see or hear any ambulance sirens carting off anybody but if you trip, the likelihood is you're going to see the stuff you're made of! Not really enjoying the sight of my own blood I was quite careful and the closest I came was kicking a stump. 

My legs held out pretty well considering my 100 miles last weekend and I had no expectations other than to want to finish and I did. I placed 32nd of 80 runners in a time of 3:44:27 (8th of 22 in my age group).

My 3 laps of 11 and a bit km were:

Lap 1 - 1:10:56
Lap 2 - 1:17:39
Lap 3 - 1:15:53

I'm very happy with those splits. My usual splits are a fast first lap, followed by a sliding second, followed by an abysmal 3rd. There were three races taking place; a 7km, 18km and 34km. Personally I wouldn't get out of bed for a 7km but Ok, I'm sure there are many that would rather stay in bed than run 34km! ha ha.

I woke at 5am, had some cereal and toast and was out the door by 5:45am. I got there a bit before 7am and parked in a field some marshals were directing us to. I popped into the big cabin and got my non-descript bib number and technical T-shirt. I saw Gino and Karin in the car park and congratulated him on Dirty Girls and inside I saw Ron Gehl and then I saw Joe Hewitt who is the race director at Sulphur Springs. I don't see him often at the races but he runs a crazy amount. I think he celebrated running 100,000 miles in his lifetime! He keeps a log so he would know.

Milling around the start I saw some other familiar faces from the ultras but looking around and at the confirmations it seems this race had many names I never see. 34km is not really ultra ultra but it's in the series because it's been around so long and I'm glad it's there. It is very different from the other races around here.

I didn't take a big assortment of photos this time. Time did not permit. I was putting on my Injinji socks and applying Body Glide. The shoes I went with were my light-weight Asics trail shoes which are only just worn in. I contemplated wearing the heavier shoes I wore at DG but I think they are a 1/2 size too large and that is the reason my heels were and are battered and bruised. I took a photo of my good luck charm, a lock of hair, and of myself just in case I forget what I look like. I applied my Voltaren gel on my problem hip and had my belt with Pepeteum drink and a few Hammer Gels plus salt tablets and one Advil if i needed it and of course had my hand-held with water. 


Gotta have my charm




The Course

I believe this course has changed over the years but the race Director mentioned he hopes it stays at the current location for many years and I hope so also. It seems a great place.

We started in the furthest parking lot and there is Champion Chip timing on your bib. We got started with a count-down and were off into the trees. The initial half km is on a forested car path but covered in grass with twigs. The grass was dewy but not too deep and you curve to the right and have one tiny uphill and then a marshal directed you left down a steep - very steep - single track. Down here was dirt with big rocks and you had to watch your footing. This continued to the bottom which led to a series of narrow but well-maintained ladder style bridges which had a few steps up or down, crossing a boggy area. At the other end of this was an equally steep uphill, this time covered in roots everywhere but very few rocks.

At the top of this hill you were pretty pooped and many people walked this short but challenging section. It then turned sharply to the right and was single track but nice and easy. I then get confused but don't worry, you won't. It was well marked. I think there was another uphill with a marshal directing you a sharp left if you were in the 34km. If you were in the 18km he directed in another direction and he had to keep a careful eye on the bib colors to direct people the right way.

I then remember a long section which was mostly downhill but not at a crazy down but it was very technical with many cambers and trees which you dodged left or right and then another steep down hill right and then a long lovely section which was more or less flat, maybe just a slight uphill but with many 'bridges' along the way where were allowing water drainage - but they are the same level as the path so you run smoothly. This section was well maintained and more like double track with two runners easily running side-by-side. 

At the end of this section you turn left and again I get slightly confused as to the order of this but you end up at a BITCH of a section on the Bruce Trail. Holy crappola this section is tough. It is just knarly rocks and roots. Since there is a giant drop to your left you just forge ahead. You can pretty much always make out there is a path but it's just NASTY. I became like a little girl wanting my Mommy (or was that a grown male wanting my Mommy). Eventually the rocks and roots and crap ends (I mean the fun) and you have a path again which goes up and down and finally leads you back to a wide truck path which is again grassy.

You breath a sigh of relief and it winds through the trees for quite a while and there are only a few minor ups and the final up leads you to a taped off area which directs you left into deep grass which has been trampled by the gazelle's ahead of you. Almost immediately you enter the forest again where some nasty rocks and roots wait, making you groan, but very quickly the path appears again and widens and all the rocks are a distant memory and it's smooth sailing again. It's lovely double track and then opens even wider to nice hard packed gravel paths going through the woods. You come to a sharp left and then come to Crawford Lake itself. There are some wooden walkways for the day trippers but you are directed right, away from the lake. All this is gravel and you get some great speed after all the pussy footing.

After this you can hear the people at the car park but you dive back into single track going a sharp right and it's hard packed dirt which has a few rocks and roots but seems pretty good compared to my earlier descriptions. It does get a bit hairy again further in but you are almost done. I'd say less than 0.5km of this and you are back out on the wide grassy section that you began when you started. You pass other runners who are making their way back so you can see who is ahead of you. You then enter the car park and are directed left and and back around over the timer mats. There is an aid station here with the usual Heed/water. 

The course is about 11km long but while there are some truly nasty technical sections, there are also some extremely runnable sections. I would highly recommend this and if you are new to trails it may be too extreme but if you are familiar with single track then try the 18km as a good test. There are no time limits so go out and enjoy yourself.

My Laps

Lap one I went out too fast - what else is new? I started getting passed on the first steep hill but then tried to be more sensible and while a few people passed me it was not a landslide. The legs were a bit heavy but the hip was a big factor. The Voltaren gel wasn't doing a great job - probably because there is so much extreme movement rather than regular running action. I stayed on top of hydration and took a salt tablet but didn't stop at aid stations other than to top up my hand-held and then move on.

I saw some of the fast runners going out for their second lap as I came out of the trees and I was at the start and around and back down for lap two. I wanted to stay ahead of Ron Gehl who has been beating me at some of the longer races and is ahead of me in the points right now but I figured my more youthful legs and better looks (er, maybe not) would get me around faster. Just to let you know. Ron is 67 so I better start beating him soon or I'm giving up running. He is a kick-ass runner and his faithful wife Barbara is always by his side. Anyway, the thought of him breathing down my neck kept me going and I was relieved not to see him come out of the woods. 

As I cross the start/finish line after lap 1 all the racers are waiting for the start of their 18km race which is only 5 minutes away from starting. The second lap my hip was really hurting so I popped an Advil and was relieved when it kicked in about 15 minutes later. As I start the really steep downhill into the boggy section the first of the 18km runners goes whizzing past and I continue to get passed going up the other steep incline by those runners. I yell up ahead to a group of them something witty (or at least I hope it was - or maybe it was - bastards! on their fresh legs). I waited for a sprightly young lady to catch up to me on the nice long downhill section and stayed with her, using her speed to keep me going and I held on as long as I could and then she was off. I was then caught up by Vlad (fortunately not the Impaler), another runner I met last year at the Run for the Toad 50km. We chatted for a little while. He is from Slovakia and he had a good race and beat me again soundly. I had a chance to congratulate him after the race. Running by yourself is very tiring, especially if you are tired. It is too easy to start walking or slow further but I was quite motivated by these faster runners to use them to my advantage. It was a good strategy for me.

I got to the technical section on the Bruce Trail and got worried. I seemed to be going and going and couldn't remember any of the trail. The lap before I'd been tagging behind another runner and not really paying attention so I got to a big tree stump and sat down, thinking, damn, if i have to walk back my race is over. Fortunately I had only sat for 30 seconds when I see another figure coming through the woods and who is it? None other than Joe Hewitt. I say "Joe, is this the right way? I don't remember this". He says "yup" so I tag along after him and I'm still thinking, I don't remember this and he tells me I can turn around if I want but I trust him. Then, finally, we come to the grassy section with markings and I'm back in business.

I have lost some motivation and energy and Joe gains on me a bit but I keep him in my sights and reel him in closer to the finish and as we hit the open grassy section and back to the start/finish area we are there together. I grab some water and walk over the mats and expect him to be there with me but he's not so I think, Ok, let's keep ahead of him if I can and I start running, using the thought of him gaining on me to keep me going. It works and I feel I'm running this lap well. I'm tired but I keep thinking, Ok, I never have to see this section again. Nobody is passing me after the various aid stations and I'm thinking if i can get to the gravel section I'm home free and not a single person passes me. I pass others but I'm sure they are from the shorter races or I'm lapping some of the 34km runners. It feels great to be passing people rather than being passed but I always offer encouragement.

I get to the grassy section and I walk to the top of the last hill, conserving my energy for a last burst of speed into the car park so people think I'm ready for a 4th lap if necessary (I'm not!).  I hear some people calling out 'Well done Alex" and then I'm over the mat and receiving my medal and Freezie! Oh yeah baby! I walk a few more feet and find some fellow runners sitting under a tree on a hillock and we chat about our races and watch some other runners come in. Joe came in about 5 minutes later and I clapped him in.

Not wanting to seize up, I got up and hobbled over to the big field where there was a food company they hired which had some nice food. They marked your bib and you then got a fruit cocktail and a choice of two yogurts and then a ham burger. I grabbed my selection and hobbled over to a picnic bench in the shade and watched all the comings and goings. Eventually 3 ladies came over to join me and we chatted for awhile. After finishing my food and realizing I had to get my sorry ass to work I hobbled over to the cabin and checked the results. My name only had 2 of the laps posted but I deducted I was around 34th place and allot of runners were still out.

I got back to the car, took a medal photo, soaked a towel and washed myself which was a relief as I REALLY stunk. Feeling more human I started my drive to work which was a disaster. The whole freaking world seemed to be heading Niagara bound on the QEW and I think it took close to 1.5 hours. It was a beautiful day and got up to 25 degrees but we started 7:30am which meant it was not too hot and the woods were always cooler.


I passed the test!

State of my Body

I don't like taking Advil during or after a race but sometimes the pain or discomfort I find just too intense. An Advil will sometimes let me get some rest when my legs and feet are in too much pain. During this race I had to take an Advil for the hip and while it helped during the race, the whole afternoon and all day today the hip has been extremely sore. I'm hobbling around and it's not very pleasant. My legs are stiff and sore but I know in a few days that part of me will be up for a little shuffle out on the trails. The Injinji socks worked a treat - no blisters or hot spots, just a little blister which tried to come up where I got one at DG - and the heels are still bruised but I don't think I made them any worse.

Today I signed up for the Haliburton 100 mile on 7th September. I think this one scares me almost as much as Dirty Girls - maybe more and in different ways. There are a few good runners who are doing the 50 miler instead of 100 miler. One of them is worried about the cut-off - 30 hours. I've heard horror stories about the Normack Trail and how terrible the conditions were last year (about 70% of people DNF'd). I am much more aware that we are in the deep North and are definitely in bear territory. I was able to keep that thought out of my mind at Dirty Girls being only an hour North of Toronto but I'm hoping it doesn't spook me. This one is two laps of 25 miles out and back and I wonder how I'll feel getting back to the start/finish knowing I have to do the same thing again - in the dark. Oh well. Bring it on! If nothing else, at least I'll have an interesting blog to write when I get back.

Stay running my friends and I'll drop you a blog closer to Haliburton. Leadville was yesterday/today and one of my running friends, Chris McPeake, is looking to finish it this year with a very close DNF last year. I hope he was successful. All the best everybody.