I've been dealing with an irritable patellar tendon for more than a year, so needless to say, my training hasn't been ideal. I'm at the point now where I'm able to run pain free as long as I don't push the pace, so I've been doing okay at getting long runs in, but I haven't run with any intensity in a long time. Like, a really long time.
So why not sign up for a ridiculously hard trail race?
The Quebec Mega Trail Skyrace is a 48km race held at Mont St Anne, just outside Quebec City. It's a 2 loop course, starting out with a 25km loop that climbs up and around the side of the mountain, gaining 915m along the way, and then a 23km second loop that goes straight up the face of the mountain on one of the black diamond ski runs, gaining 1100m (most of it in the first 2.5km climb).
The first loop was pretty uneventful. There were a few spots where the trees would open up and we'd have great vistas, and the trails were great- mostly double track, with a bit of dirt road, and some sections of really twisty and rooty single track (which I really liked). I just concentrated on taking it easy, and not trying to catch people or keep up with anyone who passed me. I hit the end of the loop after about 2:40, which seemed pretty good to me.
Right away after hitting the 25km checkpoint at the end of the first loop, the course headed straight up the mountain- no switchbacks, just straight up. It was a long slog, and it tool me almost an hour to do that 2km climb, but nobody was moving fast on that section. As I was going up that section I was really wishing that I had decided to use trekking poles for this race. They would have been a huge help.
From the aid station, we bombed straight down another ski run (just in case our legs weren't trashed from the climb up!) and rejoined the route that we'd done on the first loop. From about 30km to 35km things started to go downhill (figuratively) for me. Even though the trail was relatively easy and mostly downhill for that section, I was struggling. My stomach was turning a bit, and I was just not feeling the love. This has happened to me before in races, and one of the real keys for me is to make a conscious effort to get my head back in it, and stop focusing on the negative thoughts (like how much I hated running right then). By about 35km my outlook changed, and my energy picked up, and I felt great. For the past few km I'd been with a group of about 10 people, and I left them all behind and passed a few others along the way. That held up until about 42km, and then I started to hit the wall again. I was trying to stay positive, but the stomach issues were starting again, and my calves were starting to cramp. I slowed the pace down, and just concentrated on moving forward. In the last 5km I really slowed down, and was passed by a lot of people, but any time I tried to pick up the pace, my calves would start to seize, so I just needed to manage that and keep moving. With about 2km to go, we had 2 river crossings, and man, did that ever feel good. I was so tempted to just stay there in the water, but I rested for a few moments, dunked my head, splashed the cold water over the rest of me, and carried on. The cold water seemed to revive me a bit and was able to run more strongly for the last bit into the finish line, finishing in 6:16.
All things considered I'm pretty happy with my race. I wasn't in great race shape, so I couldn't really expect to run fast. All I really could hope for was to cover the distance and enjoy the day, which I did pretty well. One thing for sure though- I need to get in more hill training if I'm going to do more events like this!
Shoes- Altra Lone Peak 2.5
Socks- DeFeet Merino crew
Shorts- Salomon Twinskin
Shirt- Altra Team T
Pack- Salomon S Lab Sense Set
Watch- Suunto Ambit 3