I didn’t have the greatest lead up to this race. Since spring of 2015, I’ve been dealing with a bit of an issue where my patellar tendon connects to the tibia, on both legs. I’ve had lots of sessions with my chiropractor (Ben Osborne at http://www.bihc.ca/), had innumerable acupuncture needles stuck in to my legs, and taken lots of time off to try to let them heal. I’m at the point now where I can run comfortably, but I always feel like I’m on that thin edge of pushing it just a little too hard, and going back on the injured list. Because of that, I’ve been training at a much lower volume and intensity than I would have liked to in prep for this race. And also, I’ve been feeling lazy about this whole training thing………
To race weekend now. This was setting up to be a fun weekend. A lot of friends would be at the race, and I was really looking forward to chilling out in the campground before and after the race, catching up, sharing stories- you know, all that fun stuff that goes on around the pain and suffering of actually running the race. The stuff that makes these events so fun. I headed up there on Friday afternoon with my friend Ben, who I met at a snowshoe race this past winter. He’s from France, but is living in Kingston at the moment as he’s there working on his post doc. We got up there mid afternoon, got the tents set up right by the start/ finish line, and then had a nice relaxing afternoon.
From then on, the campground was nice and quiet (other than the odd cough, tent zipper, wolves howling etc) and I heard everyone one of those noises. ALL NIGHT LONG! During the afternoon I could barely keep my eyes open while sitting in the sun in my lawn chair, but during the night I couldn’t fall asleep. I tossed and turned and sort of dozed until 3:45, and then realized there was no way I was falling asleep again, so I laid there (not wanting to be that guy who starts making noise and wakes everyone else up) until about 4:15, then when I started to hear a few other people stirring I got up to get ready for running. The early morning sky was spectacular. The race started at 6am, so we walked over to the cookhouse for a bagel and coffee under a sky so full of stars that you couldn’t help but walk with your eyes pointed upward.
Around this point I settled in behind a group of runners, made up of some doing the 50K, and others the 50 Mile and 100 Mile. They were talking about their training and what their longest training runs had been. A couple of the 50K runners were saying they were worried about their long runs only being 52-55km. When I heard that I dropped back by a couple of steps as I didn’t want anyone to ask me about my longest runs (a bunch of 30km runs, and a 48km race 8 weeks earlier). Remember how I mentioned about the injury earlier? And the laziness? This was more about laziness…….. I kept meaning to do longer runs, but the summer kinda got away from me and before I know it, it was race day and I still hadn’t done any super long runs. Oh well.
The course is a 25 mile out and back, and on the way out, even though I was feeling strong, I tried really hard to just keep it feeling easy. That meant that most of the time I ran by myself. A couple of times I would fall in beside someone and chat for a few minutes, but if it felt at all like they were going faster than I wanted, I would drop back and just run the pace I wanted to.
The course is a mix of campground road, logging road, and rocky/ rooty single track. I’m not sure of the exact mix, but I’d guess maybe 60/40 trail to road. And hilly. Very hilly. This is Ontario, so nothing super long, and nothing super steep, but there is very little flat. Unfortunately my watch battery died 2km from the finish line, so I’m not sure what the elevation gain is (and I haven’t been able to find it with any of my google searches). It’s also very pretty. There are a few times when you get an open view across lakes, but mostly you’re just running through the forest of the Canadian Shield. It’s not the breathtaking views that you get in the mountains, but the rugged beauty of that part of Ontario will always hit me.
When I hit the turn around, it felt so good to know that I was headed for home. I got a bit of a psychological boost from thinking about that, but over the next few km, leading up to about 60km, I started to slide into that low point that you know is going to come sooner or later whenever you are running an ultra marathon distance. I slowly started to slip into survival mode, and started to have those thoughts of “I just want this to end” and “I’m never running a long race again” – the sorts of thoughts that anyone who has done a long race has experienced. I never completely threw my pace out the window, so I managed to keep doing what at least sort of looked like running (as opposed to the barely moving trudge/walk of someone who has truly given up). Around the 60km mark I started doing some mental math and realized that if I kept a half decent pace I would be able to break 10 hours (my previous 50 Mile race took 10:29). I started with the mantra “20 f’ing km in two and a half hours.” I kept saying that to myself from about 60 to 65km, and managed to get my head back in the race enough to start pushing my pace again. I transitioned out of survival mode into “go as fast as I can without red lining” mode. For the next 15km I feel like I was in a pretty good place. I was in loads of pain (again, refer back to the “no long runs” thing from earlier) but I was able to push and keep moving forward at a not ridiculously slow pace. With about 10km to go I started with the mental math again, and started the “how slow can I run and still break 10 hours” calculations. For the next few km that number kept dropping, to the point where I had about 5 km from the finish and about 45 minutes to cover that distance, so I knew it was in the bag- as long as I kept it under 8 minutes/ km, which I was going much faster than at that point.
Before I knew it, I came over the last hill and could see the finish line about 1km down the road. I pushed through to the end and finished in 9:45, which was good enough for 10th overall and 2nd in my age group. I didn’t really have any emotion at the finish line other than “Thank God that’s over.” After sitting down for a few minutes, getting some food (and a beer) into myself it started to sink in. I had beaten my previous 50 Mile time by 45 minutes, and I had only run about 40 minutes slower in the 2nd half than the first (as opposed to my other 50 Miler, in which I ran (death marched) the 2nd half 1.5 hours slower than the first half). It felt great to sit by the finish line, savour my victory, and cheer for the other runners as they came in. It felt even better to go back to my tent, sleep for 12 hours, and then get up and cheer for the 100 milers coming in the next morning.
All things considered, I’m very happy with how this race went. Even though my preparation was not great, I think I ran a pretty decent time for that course, and more importantly, ran smart, and managed to keep my head in a good place for the most part. I’m sure I’ll be back at Haliburton again. It’s a great event, run by great people, in a beautiful place.
And to finish off- a list of my gear that I used:
Shoes- Altra Olympus 2.0. My feet had no issues at all- not even a hot spot
Socks- Farm to Feet Merino Crew. Even though my feet were wet for most of the second half, they were great- no foot issues at all.
Shorts- Salomon Twin Skin
Shirt- Altra team shirt
Hat- Nuun team trucker hat
Pack- Salomon S Lab Sense race vest