Hey. My name is Lizzy Hughes. I’m just a normal kid from Waterloo who likes to run. This past summer I decided to attempt to run one of these ultramarathon things I’ve heard so much about. I started with a 50 mile race, which suddenly turned into a 24 hour race two months later…which suddenly turned into me signing up for my first 100 mile race, only 3.5 months after running just 50 miles. Despite this I was feeling pretty good about it. Until about a week and a half out. I started noticing some pain in my heel, only to find out that I had a bruised bone in my heel. Okay okay I can deal. Keep running, baby my foot. Do some barefoot running at cross country practice…and shit. Stepped on a nice sharp piece of glass that went straight up into my big toe. Okay that hurts a lot. Go to my RMT. Find out that I have a minor tear in my hamstring- that apparently could potentially put me out of running for 3 months. Baby the leg, baby the foot, super glue the toe. Let’s go race weekend!
Come Friday, I went to class and then was picked up by my good friend Kim. We drove up to Haliburton- Kim, Richard, their friend Ruta, and myself. We got there just as dinner was starting so Kim (fellow 100 mile runner) and I went straight for food as Richard (50 km) and Ruta (12 km) unpacked the car (God bless their souls). That night I glued my toe together again and had Mama Kim tape up my toe as well, then half cried myself to sleep knowing what would come the next day.
Okay okay I’ll get to the race. Started at 6 am. I just stuck with the crowds for the first section. The route was a 25 mile out and back, starting with a 10 km loop, then going out to 40 km, turning around and coming back. I stuck with people on and off, talking sporadically but in general sticking to myself. I remember the route being so bright and beautiful. My perspective changed as the race went on.
My first fun event was getting a wasp sting right on my ankle along the sock line. Turns out the stinging turned into a sprain feel. I discovered at this point my angry side- letting every rude word I could think be said.
I ended arriving at the turn around in 6 hours and 8 minutes. I was feeling pretty good about myself with this. I had been hoping to get the first 50 miles done in 12 hours, allowing myself a good 18 hours to finish the next 50 miles. Things OBVIOUSLY didn’t go as planned, because that just wouldn’t be right. This next section was odd. During the run back to the start, I had my only incredibly evident “down”. Turns out, when I get tired in a race, I turn into a weepy wimp. I went from singing and dancing to crying at the frogs, that were probably lonely and without a family- I can only assume. While running to the start/finish line, getting ready to start the second half of the race, every thought that came to my head made me want to cry. From wondering if I could finish to picturing my finish, I displayed my least favourite side of myself- my annoying teenage pathetic girl side. I ended up arriving at the turnaround at 13 hours and 8 minutes. Putting me an hour or so behind my intended goal. Triggering my wimpy side.
Thankfully, I didn’t have long until my pacer, Steve, would arrive. I had been anticipating his arrival practically from the start of the race. While going into the beginning loop, he wasn’t at the aid station yet, so I set off alone with my headlamp. The loop started with roads and ended on a trail, with an aid station in between. When I got to the aid station it had gotten fairly dark. I learned something else about myself at this point. Apparently, I don’t like going into dark forests that are inhabited by bears all alone. A very eager saviour came to my rescue. Chris, who had run the same race the year before in 26 hours, VERY eagerly offered to run back to the aid station with me. I accepted and attempted to absorb his enthusiasm. He was the first to “convince” me that I would finish the race. Through that 5 kms, we ran every section we could, and during the walks I would continually hear Chris yelling “IT’S BUCKLE TIME!” in between our conversations about life.
When we arrived at the aid station, Steve was eagerly waiting for me with his watch ready to switch out for my dead Garmin. I decided to change my clothes at this point considering the dropping temperature and put on my compression socks. I ate something quickly, had my toes insulted, and set off into the night with Steve.
Steve had this great idea. He brought along a portable music player and decided to play my music out loud for me. Turns out I have the most embarrassing music a person could have. Every song that came on had me apologizing. As we hiked through the forest, we came upon many different people. We were passed by the first place runner coming the opposite way (much to my dismay…) as well as a fellow rookie struggling with tummy issues. I gave my ginger pills, salt pills and traumeel pills and moved on.
At this point my “run” turned more into a hike. I could feel Steve trying to push me forward, as well as my entire body and soul trying to hold me back. Finally, we got to aid station 6. This was at the 30 km point and the last aid station before the turn around (aid station 7 was right at the turn around). I was having some pain on my back and was quick to discover that my sports bra was playing this fun game called “Cut Lizzy’s Entire Back Open”. On the plus side, this gave Gary, an aid station volunteer, a new experience to deal with that he was evidently uncomfortable with. I was taped up with gauze and medical tape, drank a cup of coffee (which I don’t do much) and sent on my way.
Immediately after we began walking, one of the rudest, most offensive songs to be made began to play on my ipod, which in turn began to blare in the forests for all to hear. I continually asked Steve if we could skip and he insisted that he isn’t easily offended and it would be fine. From here I had to apologize and attempt to explain how it was my awful friends that put this song on my ipod as the lyrics got more offensive. Steve actually stayed with me though- surprisingly.
Our music died almost directly after I offended the forest. This happened just in time for my coffee to kick in. Poor Steve. I don’t think I stopped talking for 30 minutes straight. Anything that came to my little mind came right out of my mouth.
At this point we were verging on 2 am and the rain started. It was almost refreshing at first. Then, as my steps began to slow and the rain continued to thicken, the refreshing rain turned to cold rain. We finally got to the turn around where I added pants and a hat to my clothing. I had a cup of soup as well as another cup of coffee. Poor Steve.
This next section felt like years. The hills were all uphills. And obviously, this is the point where we go off course and add a couple more hills into our workout. Cause why not. Sounds like fun.
We trudged on and I kept changing clothes because of the rain. Every section that I had planned on running turned into ankle deep mud, meaning that I walked everything.
At this point my 28 hour goal was out the window and my revised goal was to finish before the 30 hour cutoff.
And then the longest section of the race came up. That section between aid station 4 and aid station 5 was only 7.5 km, but I could have thought it was 40 km if I hadn’t have known. At this point the sun was coming up, and regardless of the bright new day, the only words coming out of Steve and my mouth were “I think I see the aid station. Never mind.”, “Where the fuck is that aid station?”, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me there’s another hill.”. (This is the point in the race where I started swearing a lot more…)
Oh did I mention that the entire time Steve was with me he continually asked me about my pee? From frequency to colour (I don’t know how he thought I’d figure that one out at 3 in the morning…). Every time I would take a piss he would practically clap for me. Yaaaayy kidneys! It was like being house trained.
We FINALLY got to the fourth aid station, which-thank the lord- quickly turned into the 2nd aid station. At this point it was 9:30am on Sunday, with about 12 km left to go. I decided at this point to ditch half my gear and clothes and try to push it. I dropped my outer pants, handhelds and outer jacket. I don’t know where the energy came from but Steve and I decided to play in the woods for awhile. I still had to walk the hills but stretching the legs felt surprisingly nice.
It took about 90 min (give or take…more give) to get through the hill loop (10 km) before getting back to aid station 2, the final aid station. Weeks back I had met one of the aid station volunteers, Don, and he had asked me what I would like the most to see at an aid station. Thinking I’m funny (which I am), I said a good couple tequila shots. Obviously, Don provided. I had told Don from the start that I would take my shot at the last aid station. Throughout the race Steve had said that he wouldn’t take a shot due to tummy issues, but when approaching that station Steve decided he was in. What was a silly joke was suddenly turned into the entire aid station shooting some tequila at 11 am on a Sunday. Seems about right.
We walked/jogged into the finish line, 2 km away. I ended up passing the finish line in 29 hours, 30 minutes. I was obviously met with the best cheer squad a girl could want. Huge thanks to the Haliburton crew!