Monday, 29 May 2017

It takes a village

I planned to leave the house at 5 am, but my digestive system had other ideas and I didn't leave until 5:15.  No problem, I thought, there will be no traffic so I'll drive fast and still get to the race start in time, 6 am.  But then I came across construction on the 403 and moving 30 km/h so I had to park really far from the start, awkwardly drag my drop bin and cooler to the Burly tent, picked up my race kit at 5:54, and was still trying to pin my bib on while standing at the start.

Loop 1:
This was fairly uneventful.  Due to my familiarity of the course, I ran where I knew I could and walked the hills.  I had set my Garmin on Ultratrac mode and you know what people say about kilometres going by faster than miles, I swear 1K was taking about 15 minutes, the distance was waaaay short.  Met Kendra just starting her 25K and saw a beautiful little Buddha statue on the side of the Three Bitches.

In-person Supermom encouragement from Kendra!
A moment of serenity.

Loop 2:
My feet were drenched and I had only brought 1 pair of extra socks, so I called Greg and asked him to bring me more socks.  I turned off the Garmin because it was showing 25ish kms when I knew we were over 30, it was demotivating and the numbers were useless.  Despite using tons of Trail Toes before the race, I felt some bad things were starting to happen on my feet.  Met Greg at the tent and he was an amazing crew, helping me clean my feet, and Agnes helped tape them up.  I also asked Greg to buy me the 100K car sticker, fearing that they would be sold out later.  Jess was also super helpful, refilling my water bottles.

Kittyloaf ultra spectator.  Absolutely chill among all the dogs.

Loop 3:
I was starting to get lonely, really lonely and questioning "why the fuck did I want to do this?!?!?"  I don't have any problems running 50K without music or running partners, but I really needed to talk for some distraction.  I have to say I was kind of upset to learn upon registering for Sulphur that only 100/200M were allowed pacers.  Then I saw Jen running with Gemma on her final loop, so I asked her to try to find me someone to run with for the next loop.  I also texted Agnes to ask if she would run with me.  I went online to post an update, and saw that Alison had posted an encouragement thread. 

Supermoms are the fucking best!!!

Alison's post about turning off my mind...and remembering the car sticker was my main motivation, funny as it seems.

Loop 4: 
When I got back, Agnes told me she'd head out with me for the last loop and Steve F. would pace for the 4th loop.  Steve had already said a day or two earlier he'd run with me if the timing was right, as he signed up for 50 miles, regretted not signing up for 100K and wanted to make it 100K for the day.  It was 5 pm and quite sunny.  I remembered last year finishing loop four in the fading dusk but still light out enough to see a bit, so I didn't take my headlamp.  It got dark and cold really fast, I was only a little chilled wearing just a tank, but being in the dark with no headlamp was absolutely terrifying. If I hadn't had Steve to keep me company, my race would have ended right there with me curled in a ball in a mud puddle, crying.  We hooked up with a 100 mile runner, who shone his headlamp back at every mud pit so I wouldn't fall and somehow I stayed upright. I could see my breath but I think it was the humidity and fog, not cold.  My Fenix yelled low battery and I couldn't get satellites on the 210, so I just left it on watch mode for the time.  Steve overheard some 100 milers saying "100K people aren't allowed pacers." and I wondered if they would snitch on me to Tim, the RD, and get me disqualified, but I made up my mind I would finish 100K even if officially DQ'd.

With Steve after loop 4. 20K to go.
Loop 5:
Put on my long sleeve shirt and headlamp right away.  Even though my headlamp was fully charged, I put my backup one in my pack, just in case.  It had been a LONG time since I've run with Agnes, she wasn't wearing proper running shoes, so she borrowed some.  We saw Tim and he asked if Agnes was heading out with me.  I whispered, "is that ok?" and he replied, "she's not pacing you, she's a friend keeping you company." THANK YOU TIM!!!!!!!!! This was my first time in the overnight portion of a race.  As a kid, I'd always get disoriented at night even on my own street, (ahem, Halloween) so I was very surprised to still know exactly where on the course I was.  My mind was tired, but I drank a lethal amount of Coke and thought about the 200 mile runners out there on their 3rd night and told myself to suck it up.  Agnes and I counted all the landmarks that I would not have to see again: mud pit on Sulphur Creek, Three Bitches..then counting down the kilometres once I got to 90K.  Past the Martin Rd. aid station for the final time - ONE KILOMETRE TO GO!!! Climbing Martin Rd., Greg jumped out of the dark, as Agnes ran up the hill ahead of us for finish line pictures.

photo credit: Agnes

 Medal presentation by Tim.  photo credit: Greg.

A shout out and thanks to everyone whom I saw and encouraged me on course: Matt, Mari, Kathy, Jenn, Jeremy, Rhonda E., Clay, Steven P., David V., Javaid, Robin, Sarah, Heather G., Catherine, and ALL the Burlys who paced, crewed and volunteered. I'll also mention Karen, who cheered over the phone when I called Greg. And of course everyone who messaged and posted encouragement on FB and Insta!

And an even bigger thank you from the bottom of my heart to Steve and Agnes for their support during the final 40K! Finally, thank you to Greg for bringing me socks, helping me clean my feet, helping me to the car and getting cleaned up post-race.  I could not have done this truly takes a village to succeed.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Thom B Trail Run 52K

It's been so long since I chose my spring races for this year that I can't really remember why I chose Thom B 52K for my last long run before Sulphur 100K, but it was probably the opportunity to visit Heather in New York again, and try out different races.  Plus, the odd distance made it an automatic PB!

I got up at stupid o'clock and was the first runner to arrive at the race.  I had taken Gravol to help me sleep and I had almost an hour to kill after picking up my bib.  I sat down at a picnic table and put my head down on my arms to nap off the Gravol hangover, I really could have used a nap pillow.  

The forecast called for 15-20 mm of rain a few days out and then changed to showers early in the morning, it was a total downpour when I was napping, but let up at the race start.  There were only a couple scattered showers during the day.

The 52K runners gathered at the start, which was at the bottom of a hill, and five minutes before the start, a U-Haul truck came zooming down the hill, screeched to a halt just short of the pack and the RD, Joel, jumped out.  He said some poetic things about finding peace on the trail, especially in this pine forest about 5K in, one of the runners who had known Thom B told a story about them drinking many beers and then attempting to run a sub 3 marathon, then Joel yelled, "get out of here!" and everyone took off, FAST.

The race started with a little incline, which grew to a huge hill, and the road was in really crappy condition, so I had to jump from side to side for the best spots to run.  A guy absolutely face planted barely 100 m in.

That first hill seemed like it would never end (the next loop I looked to see how long it was - at least 800 m?) and I was already thinking, "shit, how nasty is this course going to be if the first kilometer was like that?"

Top of the first monster hill.  Apparently Boris is some dude from the FLRC
who always manages to get lost, despite being familiar with the trails in the area.
Photo credit: FLRC FB page

And then it was down, down, downhill.  I still held back, remembering, "what goes down, must come up." and waiting for more giant climbs, but it really seemed like 90% of the elevation in the 13K loop was in that first hill. 

There was a time limit of 2 hours per loop, and I finished only the first loop under the limit, around 1:58 or 1:59 so I knew I was in trouble.

The peaceful pine forest at 5K.  I could not capture the beautiful darkness of the trees.
"The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep."

The 2nd loop, I tried to run the downhills more aggressively, but of course I was slowing down already.  Got in a few minutes over 2 hours and they let me continue.
First loop on my Garmin was 12.84K, 2nd loop was just under 26K, third loop was...39.6?!?!! I always feel that the 3rd quarter of every run is the hardest, and it didn't help that it was also the longest!
By the end of the 3rd loop, I was about 10 minutes over the limit and I was going through the possible scenarios when I got back to the start/finish area:

  1. Finish at 39K, DNF.
  2. Official DNF but run a bit of the 4th loop out and back, to get at least a marathon in.
  3. Remove bib and run 4th loop on my own.
  4. Finish 4th loop officially.
There were no volunteers waiting when I finished the third loop, so I drank some Coke and ate an orange slice, when two racers asked if I was done.  When I told them that I wanted to continue, they called Joel over, and I said, "I know I am over the limit, but I am feeling fine, I am just slow."  He looked at his phone and replied, "Your splits are very even, so go ahead and we'll see you in a couple of hours. We'll still be here cleaning up."

I felt really strong the final loop and really pushed it the final couple of kilometres, which were totally downhill.  

"The last horse in the barn had the most fun on the trail." 
Photo credit: my Dad.
Heather and I celebrated with taper cake from Wegmans, of course.
Then Heather sent me out on a 12K recovery run the next morning.  When I saw this on the schedule, I seriously did not think I could do it.  But she hooked me up with a group from STRC, and people ran with me, my legs felt quite decent, I kept up and even ran a bit faster than my usual easy road pace!

Chemung River, Corning NY.

12 days until Sulphur 100K.