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.
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.
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.
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.
Alex, AKA The Running Dude