Monday, 25 May 2015

Sulphur Springs 50K race report

I got pretty sick of being asked, "are you excited?" leading up to the race.  The answer was NO.  If I let myself get excited, that would lead to nerves and downward spiral from there.

My only goal for the race was FINISH.  Peter was sick/injured and when he decided to go, Nicole convinced him to start slowly with me.  I was going to hitch a ride to Dundas Valley with Henro, but he was sick and wasn't sure he was going to go.  So I got a ride with Steve, whom I have met once at the Avon Thru Run.

Even though the morning forecast called for cool temps, I stuck with my tank + skirt but also had a throwaway jacket.  Except that Steve texted that he was early and already in my driveway, so I ran around, grabbing things and forgot the jacket.

Got out of the car at DVCA, and damn it's cold! I got my bib and shirt, I could have put on the shirt to keep warm but I wasn't going to jinx myself by wearing the shirt before finishing.  Found Henro and Peter.  Saw Steven and Rhonda. It's kind of amazing how many ultra/trail people I know already!

I have a Garmin 210, and from the Avon run, I knew that the battery would be close to death around 7 hours, so I didn't turn it on until the last possible second.  But then the race started and I still didn't have satellites.  I didn't get satellites until at least 10 minutes in.

The first "lollipop" loop on Headwaters was great, if a bit crowded, especially in the beginning when we were running with the 25K-ers, and then on the downhill when the 10K-ers were starting their race.  But I saw Beth!

Back up Martin Rd. for the first time and said hi to Clay, who was heading downhill, and then Peter and I heard someone saying something about the HoJo and it was Robin!  We didn't need anything so onto the first 20K loop.  The pace still felt great, the temperature was absolutely perfect, no wind, no humidity and there was not a single mosquito in sight.  

My nutrition plan, thanks to Alissa, was to eat every hour.  I think the first 2 hours I had gels, and then the 3rd hour coincided with an aid station, so I had some oranges and a ginger ale.  There was cantaloupe at the aid stations, of all the foods. *gak*

Peter went into the race with shin splints and he said the pain was tolerable, but being sick from the flu was making him woozy.  I ran on ahead and talked a bit to a lady (Agnes) who had said, "I'm sure we'll be passing each other many times today." I broke one of my rules and called Greg just past the halfway point (showed 25K on my Garmin) to tell him I was still on pace for 7 hours and people who overheard my conversation laughed, probably at the absurdity of someone talking on the phone while in the woods during a race.  Peter said he was going to drop out back at the start, we saw Clay and Robin again going down while we were heading up.  Also Jamie from IG.  I had felt a little hot spot on my big toe, so I put BodyGlide on it and said bye to Peter.  Two seconds after I started running, I felt the telltale scrape of a chafe starting on my pit, so I doubled back, slapped on more BodyGlide and off I went for real.  My Garmin showed 26K at the start of the 2nd loop.

Robin had (jokingly?) said I'd probably catch her but the longer stop made it impossible.  It really was amazing how spread out everyone was.  Pre-race, I was really worried about navigating the steep, narrow and technical downhill connection from Monarch to Sulphur Creek Trails in a crowd, but I was pretty much alone, sometimes with Agnes and behind one other dude, Burgundy Shirt in Road Shoes.  Occasionally a speed demon in the relay blew by us, and Jeff Rowthorn, looking cheerful.  

I've always heard that trail runners are the friendliest people around, and the support of the other competitors was amazing.  Literally every runner I saw said "great job!" or "looking good!" with a big smile and I had a big smile on my face in return.

Alissa had said in her wise words of pre-race wisdom that I should count steps: 50 running/25 walking to keep myself from trudging.  I did walk a lot in the 2nd loop, but I never felt like I was doing a death march.  Sometimes I would catch myself walking pretty flat/downhill sections and when I forced myself to run and count steps, it never felt like my legs were going to fall off and I definitely never felt so bad that I had to wait 10 minutes for things to change.  The old cliche Relentless. Forward. Motion. kept me going and I didn't really need motivation to not quit (unlike pretty much every other race EVER!) but I remembered that I already ordered the 50K car sticker so... :)

The final time on Headwaters, Agnes directed me the wrong way and I ran about 5 metres before everyone at the aid station yelled for me to come back. "I want my 5 metres back!" But then she gave me great news, I was thinking that there was still 10-15K to go and it was actually less than 10, as her watch was showing 38K - mine was showing about 35 - and that Headwaters is a lot shorter than the advertised 10K. Also that we were on pace for sub 7 hours. Right before tackling the Three Bitches for the final time, I gave Greg another call, "I HAVE LESS THAN 10K TO GO, GET YOUR ASS TO THE FINISH!", made the turnaround and enjoyed that final extended downhill.  My thought was, I have done this crazy race.  All I have to do is not fucking trip and hurt myself! 

At the bottom of Martin Road, Robin was waiting for me, which was SO SO wonderful of her!  I kinda wish I could have run some of that hill, but walking would get me to the finish just as well.  My Garmin beeped low battery as I was climbing the hill. I did run the final stretch into the chute.  Greg didn't get there in time to see me finish.

So I have finally done what I swore I would never do: run an ultra and on trails, no less!  And now I want to do more!  But most of the ultras around here are in the summer, and I haaaaaaaaaaate heat, humidity and most of all, mosquitoes.  I was looking at a 50K in the fall but training would have to start NEXT WEEK and I can't deal with that...but there will be more ultras in my future, there is no doubt about it.

Official chip time: 6:54:12
Pace: 8:18/km
Field Placement: 83/127 (65.4%)
Gender Placement: 41/50 (82%)

The celebratory burger and poutine from Chuck's was delicious!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Mississauga Marathon 2015

I've been wanting to pace a marathon, but thought if I was going to put myself through a marathon training cycle that I would want to race.  Enter Sulphur Springs 50K, and pacing a marathon as my last long run made perfect sense.

My assignment was 4:30 run/walk, and I prepared with an 8 day mini-taper.  If I didn't have the time goal, I wouldn't have tapered and run by feel.  

The whole thing seemed incredibly surreal, picking up my pacer gear, pinning on the MARATHON bib, getting on the shuttle to the start, I still couldn't wrap my head around, "hey I have to run a marathon today."

Amy, Emma, Robin, Jana, me, pre-race.
A totally normal occurence pre-race is that various people see my ears and sign and say, "oh I'll be running with you today!"  A girl, Malgorzata, found me before the race, followed me to the porta-potty, chatted to Robin and Jana and trailed me to the corral. It was her first marathon and she was obviously nervous.  

photo by Malgorzata.

Sam and Nicole passed by, and I grabbed them for a quick picture.  As I was fishing my phone out of my belt, I asked Nicole to hold my sign, but she held it high up in the air and yelled to the crowd, "have fun running with this girl! she's a pro!"

My race plan was a small positive split, since the first half is the one with the extended downhills.  It was mostly overcast, which kept things comfortably cool.  Ran the Mississauga Rd. hill easy-peasy, thankfully we hit a walk break about a minute after the crest of the hill.  An older gentleman, Don, complimented me on perfectly pacing the effort of that hill.  Shortly afterwards, I felt a gurgle in my stomach.  My brain started going on overdrive.  Is there a bush or tree up ahead? would it be better go to during a run or walk interval? Unfortunately, we were running through a residential neighbourhood, and the closest bunch of useable trees was in someone's front yard, behind a high stone step.  I would not have time to go behind the trees, so I handed my sign to Malgorzata, squatted as low as I could and pulled a Paula Radcliffe, ignoring the participants saying, "OMG! look at the pacer!" I don't think I took more than 30 seconds, but having to sprint back to the sign felt like the longest run ever and I prayed the extra effort wouldn't come back to haunt me later.

Made the turn onto Indian Rd. and it was clear there was a group closely following me.  "THIS IS WHERE THE SHIT GETS REAL!" I yelled.  I got rid of the sign at this point. "You can find me by now, right? Pink hair, crazy socks, bunny ears, pink skirt?!"  In the group was Malgorzata, Don, Anna, Linda, Lesley, and a guy in green plaid shorts that I'll call The Belcher.

What a difference from last year.  There was pretty much no wind at all.  We all talked a bit.  It was Anna's 2nd marathon and she had run close to 5 hours at Scotia last fall.  Linda was doing the marathon for her 60th birthday, which was upcoming.  Don was also doing the marathon (his 40th!!!) to celebrate HIS 60th birthday.  The Belcher punctuated the conversation with urps.

Went through the half in 2:13:30, exactly as planned.  Even the wind tunnel heading west on Lakeshore towards Oakville was only a slight breeze.  Suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I saw Kim's car with the vanity license plate slowly driving by.  "KIM! KIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIM!!!" I screamed, she rolled down the window and snapped a picture of me.  Very shortly after that, I saw Steve (whom I had met at the Avon Thru Run).

I look happy (I felt happy?!) but really, I was just screaming for Kim.
Took one little "unauthorized walk break" (as I called it) at the crest of the hill on Meadow Wood.  The sun was out and it was getting really hot.  A lot of people find the big rolling hills on Lakeshore to be killer, but I find the downhill really helps to break it up. I took another unauthorized walk break and the whole group walked with me.  "GOOOOOOOOOO!!! gogogogo you guys! DON'T MAKE ME SCREAM AT YOU AGAIN, I'M TOO TIRED!" I felt a teeny, tiny bit of a "wobble" - blood sugar dropping.  I remembered to bring 5 gels this year! downed the final gel and perked up.  I didn't have any more brain power to check with my pace band to see if we were on pace, the later kms were on the far side of my wrist and what? I needed to turn the band to the top of my wrist?  too much work. Even if I was off pace, I was still pretty damn close.  At the lighthouse, a spectator asked if I was on pace.  "yes!" I replied testily.  "really?" he asked.  Did I look horribly off pace? 

Despite the slow pace, the marathon went by surprisingly fast.  Before I knew it, we were at 40K.   Those goddamn bugs and pedestrians were everywhere.  The main group was still with me, Anna was right beside me, I wonder if the poor girl got a decent race picture?  I knew I was slightly off pace, and walked about 30 secs of the final walk break, jogged for the other 30 and then turned it up for the final km.

I felt like running along the chute and across the finish line upright and smiling was the joyful celebration that I missed out on last year.

Anna and I, seeing the finish.

Marathon #10.  A success!
Official chip time: 4:31:15
Field placement: 439/738
AG: 30-39
AG placement: 42/82
Gender placement: 144/281

At the finish, Don came up and again remarked on how great my even splits were.  Linda said, "I knew you were dying, but you kept it together enough to get us in on time."

2 days post-race, and my legs are actually feeling decent.  The countdown to Sulphur is on!