Monday, 23 October 2017

The Bad Thing 50K

I've carried the flavour memory of the delicious cream puffs for an entire year.  I was given a couple after volunteering to sweep and pick up flags at The Bad Thing and they were so unbelievably amazing.  

The race registration opened at midnight back in February and sold out by noon the next day, I was lucky to get a spot!  Drove out to Goderich in horrible Friday afternoon traffic, sucked down carbs and beer with Bogdan and Shaun and settled in for the night.

The Burlies went with a new company for the fall gear sale, and when I saw they had skirts, I HAD to get one and received it on Friday night.  Since I like to live dangerously, I wore it for the race. I had my trusty 2Toms, what could possibly go wrong?  Except that when I was rummaging in my drop box o' ultra gear...I had forgotten to bring it! So I put a piece of industrial strength medical tape on each thigh and hoped for the best.

I drove to the finish in Auburn, and we boarded a bus to the surprise start location, which turned out to be the Huron Historic Gaol.  We ran down the steps of the jail, and about 1K of road before reaching the Maitland Trail.

Stuck in the slammer.
Shaun and I were going to run together, but he was way ahead by the time I got to the bottom of the stairs at the start of the trail.  Soon, I let a group of about 5 people pass me, and I was alone.

sunrise along the Maitland River
The Bad Thing is not recommended for novice trail runners, and the point to point format is a reason why.  Although there are flags marking the entire route, there are long sections with fewer flags and participants are expected to follow blazes.  I went off course 3 separate times during the race, and fortunately I never had to backtrack more than about 200 metres.  

There was about 1 cm of bare skin between the bottom of the shorts attached to the skirt and my medical tape, and it started to chafe.  At the second aid station, we were allowed to drop our headlamps, but they had no lube, but the volunteers said they would call ahead to the next aid station to have some for me.  I understand this would be much more difficult to manage logistically, but I really wish we would have been allowed drop bags.  

Inner thighs still burning, I ran on and at 15K came the namesake hill, The Bad Thing, which we had to run up and back down.  I honestly didn't think the hill was that bad, I felt Martin Rd at Sulphur was much more soul-sucking.

Running down The Bad Thing. 
It looks like I shat myself, but it's just mud.  Really!

A big reason why I chose The Bad Thing as my A race was because of the generous 10 hour cutoff.  There were also cutoffs for each aid station, but I didn't pay very close attention to those.  So I was pretty shocked to see the RD running towards me at around 17K. "You're NOT shutting me down for missing cutoffs after 17K?!" Turns out he came to save me with tape and Glide! 

There were definitely some rooty technical sections in the first half, but I was surprised by how much of it was flat and very runnable.  There also was a bit of road, which I wish wasn't there, but when the race is E2E on a trail, some road is inevitable.  

At 31K, I passed someone.  I talked to him a bit, he said he was walking the entire thing, and I took off as fast as I could when it was runnable, because I was not going to finish behind a walker!  I find 35-40K the most difficult in marathons and 50Ks, and this part of the race had a lot of short but steep technical climbs/descents, numerous water crossings.  I saw a girl in the distance, walking very slowly through the technical parts, but her running pace was very fast.  I assured her that I wasn't last, and she admitted that the climbs were hurting her knees and let me pass.

I had run the last 8K last year, so it was very comforting for me to reach the part that I was familiar with.  There's a lot of dirt road, and less scenic than the first half, but it was great knowing what was coming up. I pride myself on having a good memory of trail landmarks, and it came in handy when I saw apple trees that I remembered, heavy with big ripe sweet and crunchy apples, delicious trail snacks to carry me the last 6K to the finish.

Even though the weather was much warmer than last year, the water crossing with 1K left was much colder than I remembered.  Also, the current was very fast and after I started making my way across, I panicked a bit.  Although there were volunteers on both sides of the river, I would have appreciated a rope to aid with the crossing.  We were also given the option to skip the crossing and take the bridge across, but who wants to run farther than necessary? 

Once the river was crossed, we had to pick our way through a field of medium sized boulders under the bridge.  I saw someone just ahead of me and recognized him as James, who pretty much saved my ass when I bonked at Dirty Girls in 2016.  I know he's a speedy pants so I was surprised to see him.  Turns out he had stomach issues.  Well, I knew it was time to return the good karma - "James, you helped me at DG so I will finish the race with you." 800 metres to the finish, on road, and with a big uphill.  We walked, and then he said we'd run strong to the finish.

Then beers and cream puffs with Bogdan and Shaun.
photo credit: Bogdan
creeeeeeeeam puuuuuuuufffffff
OMG, I loved this race.  Amazing volunteers, great swag, beautiful challenging course.  I thought I was barely going to make the cutoff, and would have been sub 8:30 (one of my faster 50K times) if it weren't for the slow plod across the river.  I'm going to have to put this on my schedule for next year again.

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