Schadenfreude

The night before the race was long.  We stayed at a motel called Canada’s Best Value Inn, never stay there.  The folks above us were tweaking all night playing music, banging about and being obnoxious.  That experience seemed like a bad omen.  I played it cool by chalking up the reason I couldn’t sleep to being anxious.

Dragan  and I got to Camp Wetaskiwin around 4:30 am, sat down in the dinner hall and waited for directions.  I tried putting my head down, but the effort was futile.  What would I get out of 5 or 10 minutes of rest?  A little before the racers started towards the start line where were some Red Coats, which I found a little strange.  The cannon went off to mark the start of the race and then it all made sense to me, the race’s name is the Laura Secord Memorial.

Just as soon as the canon sent us running and it started to hail.  It was pitch black with a bunch of bobbing headlamps.  At one point we were running alongside a lake when I looked back and was wondering what the hell was going on, only to remember that they were other fellow racers.  Sometimes I wonder about myself.

This year my training has been more structured and focused on performance and, as noted previously, under the guidance of a coach.  I have been feeling stronger and as though I was making improvements.  Early on in the race I could see these improvements – There was a half km descent where I was able to break free from the pack that I was running with. 10 km later, somewhere between kilometer 20 and 21, there was a gentle hill and another pack of people.  Most people in trail running walk the hills because it is more economical than running up the hill.  Here I was able to power up the hill and leave the other runners behind me (no dust metaphors, there was none, just mud).

Near the end of KM 27 we passed by some runners returning.

“1st place, no way!” I said.

“No, we went the wrong way.” The incorrectly assumed 1st place guy replied.

I saw another runner and finally I stopped one more runner “How did this happen?”

He explained that they took a wrong turn and they had to backtrack 9 km only to run it again.  I turned to my buddy, “How many people did you count? 8 or so?”

I couldn’t help but think, this *has* to put us in the contention for the top.  Forgetting that there were some 70 km yet to cover, I picked up the pace at the risk of of possibly getting ahead of myself.  Seriously, there were still another 70 km to cover.

After we passed the Rockway aid station and were running down Ninth line, I took a quick look at the race plan: 10 mins ahead of my target time. Sweet! It appeared that things were falling into place.  Though, I knew that the next number of kilometers were going to be tough, I just didn’t realize how tough.  The previous weekend , I was out with Dragan and we covered this section trail.  At that time the trail was mostly mud covered, cavernous ice, most of which was not strong enough to support my weight.  All that ice melted and left us with mud that swallowed your foot ankle deep with each arduous step.

I escaped the mud and I popped out of the Louth Conservation area and made it out to the aid station by the Staff Estate Winery.  I grabbed some sour keys and kept on.  The next little stretch was paved and it served as an opportunity to transition to an easy speed with minimal effort.  Oh look at that, I can see the skyline of Toronto, neat.

We finished the stretch of road and headed for the trails.  It couldn’t have come a moment sooner.  As soon as we entered the woods I had to pee.  As I relieved myself, I made a startling discovery – clear urine – a sure sign of over hydration.  This meant that my 16 oz of water and Hammer Perpetuem mix per hour was still too much for me.  I was worried but I wasn’t going to let it bother me. I skipped my drip for the next four intervals I had set on my Garmin, that combined with a handful of regular chips helped me solve that problem.  Having said that, my goal is not to have to eat conventional food during an Ultra. Clearly, I still have work on balancing my hydration.

Between Mountain Rd and Mountainview Rd aid station I started chatting with a guy from Montreal; let’s call him Montreal Guy.  This was his first Ultra and it was his first trail run. I was really surprised, as it turns out he was in the top 10 and that’s really impressive.  I guess running up Mont-Royal through the frigid Montreal weather really helps. He noticed that at each stream I was soaking my feet, and I gave it up that I like to do that as I think it helps numb my feet and keep them from swelling.  Should have asked for his name; who knows, I’ll probably see him on a trail somewhere and it would be nicer to greet people with “hey {insert name here}, how are you?” rather than “hey man, nice to see you again, how did you do, what’s your name?”

In the section of forest leading up to the Mountainview Rd aid station, we were on top of the escarpment and the weather seemed cooler than below the escarpment.  Easily observed by running over the ice-covered path and falling on your ass.  Well that’s just a part of the game – you fall and you pick yourself up, then you keep moving.  Assess the damage while you run and push all pain to low priority.

“Hey man, looking good” I said to the racer ranked number 1.  Montreal guy and I were impressed with him.  Friendly and looking like he had just started.  This was encouraging, it meant that the turnaround was near.  It also meant that we could now figure out where we ranked; this is a race, so yeah, your ranking matters.  I counted, two, then three.  We got to the Mountainview Rd aid station where Montreal guy took a repos (french for a rest).  I swapped my bottles and continued to the turning point.  As I ran up the hilly trail I counted 4, then 5.  I finally made it to the  turnaround point where one of the wonderful volunteer was sitting auditing the racers to make sure we actually ran to the pylon then turned around.

“So am I number 6?”

“No, you are the 7th I have counted” she replied.

No way, clearly she made a mistake. I only saw 5 people running back to the finish, how can this be?  Well whatever, before this race started, finishing in around 17 hours was a realistic goal.  Here I found myself running ranking 7th; pretty sweet.

As I was returning to Mountain Rd I saw, let’s call him 5th Place Guy even though he was 6th Place Guy (Yes, foreshadowing at it’s worst).  I ran beside 5th place guy and asked him how he was doing.

“I’ve resigned myself to just finishing” he said sounding a little defeated.

“Ah man, that sucks, why’s that?”

“I’ve had some knee injuries and this is the longest I have run.  Just not sure I can keep up the pace.”

Not that I was happy for his resignation, but I was selfishly thinking that I was I was golden to be 6th place guy. Obviously 1st place is the best rank, but I am a novice on all accounts and top 10 for me is amazing.  So yeah, I was thinking “Fuck yeah, I’m killing it!”  Well, I don’t know what happened, call it what you want, but all of a sudden 5th Place Guy found a second wind and I never saw him again.  Amazing, simply amazing. Ok so I am 7th Place Guy…

Approaching Staff Ave. aid station. Headed to the finish line.

Approaching Staff Ave. aid station. Headed to the finish line.

7th Place Guy until I got back to the Staff Aid station, that is!  I did my bottle swap and moved on, but not without noticing that one of the top 6 (and not 5th Place Guy) was sitting down with whom I presumed to be his wife.  Ok this is it! press on!

Not sure where this fits in to the whole flow of this post, but somewhere around 70 km  in I was thinking “ok I have 30 km to go, I can do that”.  Then I got to 15km to go and I remember thinking to myself “I can run with my eyes closed, but after 85km… well I can do that, maybe I need to keep my eyes open though”. That said, I kept looking over my shoulder, no 7th place guy.

From the turnaround point I greeted each runner with a “Hey man, how’s it going?” or something along those lines.  Each time I got “You’re looking good! Keep it up” or something along those lines anyhow.  The soldiers that were tending the aid stations were simply amazing.  They always wanted to make sure we got what we needed, you know food and such.  Mind you, I’ve learned an ultra runner doesn’t really eat food.  That aside, these men and women were all so helpful and encouraging and they were amazed that we would be out running 100k.  That’s understandable, many people wonder why I am doing this stuff as well.  With that said, what I find more amazing is that these people are helping all Canadians at a moments notice and whenever they are called upon.  I just hope our soldiers realize that all Canadians appreciate what they do for all us and how amazing it is what they do for us.

Anyway, I was finally at kilometer 2 and running along a river with some wonderful waterfalls but really feeling the 98 km that I had just been running.  I came up to the turn where I figure the ten or so runners may have taken a wrong turn where there was an Amry Reservist standing patiently directing racers in the correct direction.

“1.5 clicks to go, and it’s all mud” he mentions nonchalantly.

“Great, just what I needed to hear!” I replied to him sarcastically.

I finally got out of the mud and onto the road, took the last left turn and kicked it into an all out sprint.  Don’t know why, it isn’t like anybody was running beside me; I had been running alone for almost 30 km.  I came flying down the road and crossed the finish line.  Although it didn’t really seem like there was a finish line, so I kept going.  The crowd by the actual finish line called out to me: “You can stop now!”

“Thank goodness!”

 

Interesting Links

Garmin recording

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