Never Give Up

Since my experience at the Haliburton 100 mile trail race I have been trying to find a way to say: I failed. In a year where you experience so many personal successes, it’s a hard pill to swallow. The question at the end of it all is: can you be proud of putting forth the effort but not succeeding?

I think about the Canadian boys and girls, the ones that come together as a team and represent Canada in many different international hockey tournaments. They are expecting to win gold, so too is everyone in Canada. Hockey is our game, and nobody else belongs on top other than Canada.

On the morbid side, a nation doesn’t go to war with aspirations to loose. Whatever the nonsensical ‘reason’ to risk you life, the goal isn’t to go and die.   Lucky for me running isn’t really a life or death matter. The only thing I think I risk by entering a race is perhaps a damaged ego.

Running isn’t a matter of ego for me. Though I am proud to run, and if you know me, you probably wish I’d shut up about it. But it’s deeper than that for me. That is why I surprised myself.

Before the Hali 100, you’d hear me say, I’d crawl it in if I had to. Nothing short of death is going to stop me from making it to the finish line. The last 10 km of my race was filled with, I guess you’d say, soul searching. I came to realize that the painful step forward was in fact, much too slow. I had been trying to muster up a shuffle in an effort to keep up a pace. But I couldn’t hold it.

The thought had entered my mind before I made it to 50 miles – Maybe I should pull the plug. My whole chain from my low back straight through my knee and shins was pretty adamant at each step that I was in for some serious pain. I found that side stepping down the hills would calm the aggravation. Since there was a massage therapist at aid station 2 (AS2), I focused my thoughts on making it there and shut out any thought of calling it quits.

When I got there, she had been out for a run, so I made my way around Norwac trail with a new friend, David. On my return to AS2, I stopped in to have my leg loosened up. Rhonda noticed that I was in bad shape and actually applied dynamic tape (a version of KT tape) hoping that it would help take some of the tension of my IT band (what I thought was the problem). Even after spending 30 minutes (and possibly more) hanging around AS2 I still managed to complete 50 miles in 9 hours 45 minutes and I was holding on to 6th place.

During the introspective hours in between aid stations on my way to the 75-mile marker, a thought pattern started to develop. I would ask myself what it would mean to me if I stopped. As I sit hear a write, I think back onto the several failures I dealt with throughout my life. To me they feel like they were expected failures. They were a result of a half-assed effort at something that I had no desire to succeed at. When I want something, I obsess over it. Practice and practice, learn, develop, succeed. Having let the doubt enter my mind, I squash any thought of pulling the plug as quickly as possible.

It wasn’t until I was hobbling along my last 10 km of my race that I let the thoughts of pulling the plug manifest. I finally came to terms with the fact that I was in no shape to make it to 75 miles, let alone making it another 25 miles back to the finish.

“Are you ok?” A fellow runner asked as he was running past.

“No.” Admission is the first step to recovery.

“Do you want me to send for someone when I get to the aid station?”

“Sure, but I don’t think they will be able to make it back here.”   I was in the wilderness on single and there was no way even 4-wheeler was making its way back here. Thankfully, with about 1 or 2 km to AS7 I turned a corner and I was back on a road, and then a small mercy was offered to me. Greg pulled up, got out of the car and confirmed with me.

“Is it over?”

I had never been happier than at that moment to get in my car.   Greg drove us back to AS7 where there was a campfire going and I sat around it with volunteers and runners for another hour or so before we headed back to Base Camp, cleaned up and went to sleep.

In the morning (4 hours later) I got up and helped myself to some food. I made my way over the finish line and hung around as people continued to cross the finish line. It was actually very moving to see people come across the finish and burst with emotion. “I fucking did it” I figured they were thinking to themselves. Some cried the thought; others expressed it with excitement and enthusiasm.

I saw Real whom I was running with as we made our way out from AS5 to the turnaround.   It was his first 100 miler and he had a sprint finish to keep his 6th place finish, something I haven’t heard of in a 100 mile race.

The brunch and award ceremony had been delayed. Gerg and I decided to head back home since it was getting close to 2 pm. Though it would have been pretty amazing to see this fella make his way in. An older guy, had been there year over year trying finish the 100 mile race. This year on his tenth attempt, he finished it.

Never give up.

Running to the 25 mile mark. That’s Real behind me. It was leap frog with some great conversation. Props to him for holding steady and taking 6th place on his first 100 miler.
Running to the 25 mile mark. That’s Real behind me. It was leap frog with some great conversation. Props to him for holding steady and taking 6th place on his first 100 miler.


Change of heart

I finally got down to business.   I had some anxiety about this 100 miler that I signed up for.  I don’t really have anything to forecast performance except to look at racers and to extrapolate based on their results.  As I’m learning, a good way to turn doubt and fear into motivation is to create a plan.

Step 1: Develop general plan – communicate it to pacer/crew

(if you are sensitive to offensive language – don’t read this part)

from: Byron Guptill 
to: Greg
date: Sat, Aug 30, 2014 at 10:48 PM
subject: Haliburton 100
Hey Greg  –

First off – thank you so very much for agreeing to pace me.  Truthfully, I don’t think I would be able to finish without your help.  Over the summer, I have asked many folks about the hali 100 and they all have recommended that the first time you SHOULD have a pacer.  Also, seeing as this is a first for me, I am grateful for your sacrifice (of time, ears, etc..).
So here is how the weekend will go (more or less)…
  • Let’s leave Waterloo at 12:00 pm sharp.  We should get to Base Camp around 3:30, maybe 5:00 at the latest. We’ll head the back way avoiding any possible lock ups on the 400 series highways…. damned 401 AND 400
  • setup tent and stuff (I am paying for the camping)
  • before 6:00 pm I will register for the race, and we will then check-in our stuff (drop bags – I have never used drop bags, but, have one for yourself (extra shoes and socks, etc)
  • 6:00 pm there is a mandatory dinner (I am picking up the bill for this) which includes the pre race meeting.
  • 9:00 pm lights out
  • 5:00 am wake the fuck up
  • 6:00 am race is on!
  • 8:00 pm I am allowed a pacer
  • @ who the fuck knows when I make it to the Turnaround the SECOND time, please join me on this crazy journey!
The “loop” is as such (in m) and the more I look at this I am convinced (realize) that it is 25 miles out, then 25 miles back:
Start – AS2 2090
AS2 – AS3 3807
AS3 – AS2 5858
AS2 – AS4 4094
AS4 – AS5 7511
AS5 – AS6 6121
AS6 – AS7 9998
AS7 – Dutton Rd 98
Dutton Rd – Turnaround 700
Distance 40277
We can have drop bags at any of the AS# except the Start/Finish, though it seems that we can use at most two aid stations.
I am thinking of having mine at AS2 and AS7.
In my drop bag,  I am considering having  a pair of shoes and socks just in case.
In my hydration vest:
  • carry my gel packs (I just bought a box)
    • split into 4 groups of 5 gels.
    • at AS2 1 group of 5
    • at AS7 2 groups of 5
  • carry my carb drink powder (split into single serve) (20 servings)
    • though I am thinking that to reduce weight I will split them in to a couple sets of single serve.
  • I plan to take 1 salt pill every hour,
    • Need 24 salt pills worst case
  • I plan to take 1 BCAA pill every 2 hours.
    • Need 12 BCAA pills worst case.
The ABSOLUTE WORST CASE with nutrition is that I fall back on food from aid stations, of which there appears that there will be plenty!
Time Goal
I am basing my time goal on the results from last year.  Steven Parke is a runner that I think I match up to pretty equally at a 50km.  I am thinking I will set my target at what he accomplished last year.
21:50:00 – though I think that is long time, fuck.
My avg pace at CDR was 8:27 min/km.
That puts me at 22:40:08.  Shit…
That’s a long fucking time.
I’d rather come in around 19 or 20 hours, so a 7:00 to 7:30 min/km avg pace.  Seems fast though – ah fuck – race is on!
So I am PLANNING for 22 hrs, though my target 19 hrs.
From historical perspective, Laura Secord was an 8:00 min/km run -> if I kept that pace, I would come in around 21:30 hrs.
Other things to note
You will likely be hungry during the day.  If there is anything you will need, I’d certainly like to make sure you have it. Send me a grocery list?  I have a cooler to stuff food and beer in.

 Step 2: Actually put together a plan

I found this to be very difficult and time consuming.  Second guessing my estimates as part of not having any experience on the course.  I settled on a pace a little slower than the pace I had at Limberlost (which was 6:33 min/km).

As part of my research trying and my effort to rationalize my estimates, I found the GPX track of the course on the Facebook page.  This is helpful since it helped put elevation in perspective.

  • 40 km stretch of Haliburton is a 821 m gain.
  • 100km recorded at Larua Secord is 2064 m.
  • 85 km recorded at CDR is 3639 m.

Link to spreadsheet plan since formatting for WordPress is gonna take too much time.

Step 3: Let it sink in

Now that I have a plan, I let it sink in.  I think about whether I have been too ambitious.  Having never run 100 miles, I have no historical evidence to prove or dis-prove how optimistic I am being.  Here I am writing the blog, letting it sink in. Editing, then reviewing the empirical data, then ….

Step 4: Get scared again

Ok – I know when Greg will join me on the course.  Once I hit Publish, I will start thinking that I have over committed. I won’t back down though, I will use fear of failure motivate me.

Step 5: Big picture

Why am I running this race?  Once I finish the Hali 100 I will qualify to pre-register for the Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc 2015.

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