Haliburton 50-miler

Hey, my name is Lucy and this past weekend, I ran my first 50 mile race at Haliburton.

I started running a bit more seriously last year and did a couple of half marathons before I started running Ultras this year. I was at Fat Dog pacing my great friend and coach Byron Guptill this August and the experience was incredible. It required enough mental strength and resilience that I thought this 50 miler would be a piece of cake after the British Columbia mountains and mean-ass weather.

My goal for this race was to finish under 12 hours.

I got to Haliburton on Friday, picked up my race kit and left for the place I would stay overnight. I slept with one eye open, making sure my alarm was still on – you know, just in case.

Got up in the morning, got to the restaurant to try and get a bit of food in me but I was such a nervous wreck that I just tried to distract myself with the conversations flowing around me. Byron came in, ready to start his day/night to support all the runners. It was so great to see a familiar face of which I know can lean on for support, or at least a good smack in the back – “you’ll be fine, it’s all good”.

The start line was busy, and it was so dark outside. All there was to see was hundreds of headlamps but you could feel the excitement and the hype. As I said moved towards the start, I said goodbye to my honey and stood there for minute before the “gun” went off. I was so afraid, I actually cried. Then I thought to myself, “if you’re crying now, you’ll be wailing later, Bergeron. Suck it up pussy”.

Bam! It’s time to go! We start running, getting a feel for my surroundings, getting a feel of my gait, my breath, settling into a comfortable pace – the coach said to take it easy on the way to the turning point (40KM). As I look around and listen to the conversations, I hear a familiar voice: Jim Morrison! God, it was it nice to see this guy. Those who know me will understand the respect I have for him and how much I look up to him.

The sun started to rise and I was feeling good, I had what felt like a good pace going and I was hyper as hell, but respectful of how things could turn around ever so quickly (lesson learned at Fat Dog!).

I passed Aid Station 2 where my coach was, and I was happy to see his face, left my coat and other layers and got on my merry way listening to his instructions: “eat food, drink more, hurry get the hell out of here!”.

As I am getting familiar with the trails and my feet are feeling agile and quick, I tried to look around me and enjoy the incredible space I am in.

Around KM 16, I started thinking to myself as I went forward, “what the fuck were you thinking? You still have 64KM to go. 64! Are you going to be able to maintain this pace? How the hell are you going to deal with the pain?” This lasted over a period of about 10KM.

As I was leaving another Aid Station, shimmying along, running by the water and checking things out, I kicked a rock that felt like a boulder, which ricocheted between both my ankles, leading me to yell louder than I thought I did “FUCK!” Someone was standing there and looked kind of uncomfortable as I apologized to her without really meaning it…

After that, I thought to myself “come on Bergeron, are you really gonna keep up this shit talk for 54KM?” I then decided that it was a great time to trick my mind, which apparently is an easy thing to do. I thought that if I was then at KM 26, I only had about 14KM to the turnaround point. After that 40KM turnaround, I’m coming back towards the finish line, getting closer and closer rather than further and further. That was all I needed – I picked it right back up and took advantage of the downhill’s and running the roads rather hard (against the coaches’ advice (I know, I know!)) as my breathing felt great. I felt on track for a good split.

BAM – it’s here already, the 40KM turnaround, YES! The amazing people at Aid Station 7 filled my bottles back up, I put an assortment of food in my Ziploc back and on I go; or I thought I would.

The simple motion of stopping my feet seemed to have triggered all the joints to say “Hell no, you’re not doing this to us twice!” My body was hurting so much and I knew I still had 40KM to go, not just 10KM more as a 50KM would have normally been.

I went to the dark place again despite my will; I couldn’t shake those negative thoughts. I said to myself as I was looking at the ground, “If I bail and hit my head on this rock and pass out, no one is going to give me shit. No one is going to tell me I failed and they will just come get me.” As this idea seemed more and more appealing, I realized what I was thinking and shook myself and though “Come on, you’re no fucking pussy, you can do this, you’re prepared for this, you’ve ran in a storm that a ton of people quit in. Come on, Bergeron, let’s go.” I then did an overall of my body:  Ankles – they feel like shit. Knees – they’re fine! Hips – meh, sore but no biggie. Breath – All good, A1. “Alright,” I thought, “then pick up your feet and let’s do this shit, give ‘er!

Again, I was able to push harder and take advantage of the downhill’s and easier terrain at times.  I made a new friend, Neil, who was doing his first 50M as well and had spent 3KM before he realized he was going the wrong way. Our conversations kept us busy and we kept on moving through the Aid Stations, barely stopping.

My next “happiness goal” was the excitement to see Byron again – a familiar face, I thought, someone who will give me the strength for the final stretch. I soon realized that I was closer than I thought to Aid Station 2. When I realized how close I was, I just went for it and saw Byron and went “HEY! I’M HERE, I made it this far!” We hugged and he kicked me outta there and on I went for the last 10KM stretch. I was hanging on to the thought that I would see that familiar face again soon enough and then, it would almost be over. I could almost taste the finish line.

Off the road and into the trail we go again. Neil and I had caught up to each other again and were trying to keep each other going. Another strong wave of pain hit me but this time, it was hard, it felt excruciating. My body felt like it was shutting down, and fast. I could barely eat anything.

These few KM’s of trail felt like 80 years.

Neil was aware of his surroundings and knew what stations were coming up and was trying to explain them to me. I was getting grumpy AND loopy – I had no idea WTF he was talking about. I kept asking him if he was sure ‘cause I sure as hell wasn’t going to do an extra 3KM.

Sure enough, he was right – we made it through and looped back to Aid Station 2. I was looking for that green hoodie, but I couldn’t find Guptill anywhere. I was puzzled. A girl said to me “Hurry, Byron’s waiting for you at the finish line!” Well, that was all I needed to give me one last bit of push. I felt like I was going to fall to the ground my ankles were so sore. I could barely pick my feet back up to get momentum to start shuffling again.

And go – all road until the end – THANK GOD. Rolling hills were on the menu. My watch had just died at the last Aid Station, which I was relying on so much to help push me and guide my effort (good note to self, not to do that during a race). I was walking the climbs for the first bit. Although the watch was dead, I could still read the time: 5:25PM. I had worked way to hard not to finish under 12 hours as planned. I was gonna make that time if my damn life depended on it.  Neil had caught up again. “Come on Neil, let’s give her, let’s get this done”, I said. We kept on going and going. I consider myself quite a positive person in general, however, at that time, I was the most annoying whiney baby there might’ve been on that whole course. “When the fuck are those hills gonna end!?”

And finally, there it was! No figment of my imagination (as one might’ve thought), the finish line, I could see it. It was almost over! I ran with what little power was left in me, but all of it, ran as hard as I could and crossed that line. This was the most relief, happiness, pride and so many other feelings I’ve felt at once. I screamed “I’m never doing a fucking 100-miler!” as I hugged my coach (holding back my tears with all my pride) who was laughing hysterically at me. I hugged my honey and his familiar arms had to pretty much hold my whole weight as my feet couldn`t bear my weight for one more second.

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Byron pointed at the clock and here it was, that time I had hoped to see during this entire journey: 11:49:31. I had done it, the feeling of crossing the line was great but seeing my time, that I was able to achieve this goal the first time around, that I had the strength and the resilience not to give up even when it hurt more than I thought I could handle, that in itself was the greatest feeling of accomplishment, ever.

Lesson of this race: you are stronger than you think. Be resilient. Be your best you, even when you think you’re your worst you.

Thank you Coach for always pushing me but trusting me, showing me what I can do and having faith in me. I can’t wait to cross the finish line of my next big challenge (with my mandatory crew, of course) – La Harricana, perhaps?

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