|Nelson, Sharon and me 10 minutes before the race|
|Approaching the start line|
I was so excited three months ago when one of my best friends Sharon said that she was going to run the 6 hour race at Dirty girls. I loved that idea. All of a sudden I had another person who would listen to me talk about ultra running...I have gotten used to the idea that there really aren't many people who are that interested in talking about ultras. But Sharon learned as much as she could and steadily increased her weekly milege to prepare for her first ultra. She even convinced her boyfriend Nelson to run it as well. With Sharon and Nelson registered, Andrew decided to give the 32k race a try, and Greg thought - "I'm going to be there anyway, might as well run the 32k too". For both Andrew and Greg, it would be their longest race to date. So there was 5 of us ready to have some fun on the trails around Mansfield, Ontario.
On the morning of July 25, the 5 of us met at my house at 5am and piled into our car. The car was packed with clear plastic race boxes, duffle bags, fold-up chairs, a large tent and 2 coolers -that turned out to be mostly filled with beer - or post race celebration supplies:) We drove north to Mansfield and arrived just before 7am. There is a big open field on the race course where you can literally "camp out". We set up our tent and placed the race boxes where they could be easily accessed as we ran past. I had my lap bags organized with the materials I would need every 4k. They were all ready for me to grab and go in a few seconds as I passed. I had pre-mixed a few of my race beverages, and Greg was going to mix the rest as the race went on.
I love the atmosphere at these ultra events. I have had the opportunity to get to know many of the regulars who race ultras, so with every race it's a little reunion of friendly people. We were all getting ready to tackle to challenging course and for the ultra events (6, 12, or 24 hours), we were ready to see how many laps of the 8k trail course we could do. The course is hilly, with lots of ups and downs, there are some rooty sections, but it's very runable. I enjoy the course quite a lot. I love running up and down little rollers, flying down large hills, and even the large climbs up hill were spaced-out well and a good place to rest and walk and take in some fuel.
As the race went on, the heat went up. I'm not sure of the exact temperature, but it felt as though the air was not moving in the woods. It reminded me of the feeling in a hot yoga class where it's just so incredibly hot all around you. I told myself, that I can tolerate the heat in hot yoga, just relax and you'll be fine. At about 40k, the heat started messing with my ability to tolerate solid foods, and when I attempted to eat a PB & J wrap, I immediately felt nauseous. I was then feeling dizzy and like I was going to be sick. I got to the 44k aid station, and stayed there for a few minutes and drank the cool water - I must have had 6 glasses. I walked a bit until I felt more steady, then started to run again. From that point on, I increased my salts and took an additional tablet every lap. I didn't have another problem with food, but I didn't attempt to eat solid food again throughout the race. I relied on my gels, my race beverage, coke and applesauce/fruit puree, to keep me going. It worked, I was OK.
I was lucky enough to see Sharon as she was approaching the end of her 6 hour race. She was coming up to the 6k cut off, and as soon as I saw her I yelled something like - "you're almost done Sharon! This hill is the last one! You ran for 6 HOURS!!!" and there was a lot of hooting and random noises too. I gave her a hug when I caught up to her at the top of the hill. She looked great, and she was so proud that she was done her race. I'm glad I was in the right spot to see that. Sharon's race experience is written in an excellent blog post here:https://eatingmyownadvice.wordpress.com/ and http://www.sharonrutledgend.com/blog
I felt good for most of the race (other than that 44k hiccup). I was cruising along, enjoying the course and passing a lot of people from behind. I got used to saying, "passing on your left", then "thank you". Everyone was very gracious and allowed me to slide-by, usually with an encouraging comment as I passed. At around 7 hours in, I noticed that I didn't see anyone else for most of the lap. I started to wonder if they had closed the course and stopped the race, and they just forgot to tell me. It turns out that it was 3pm on a hot day, and many people were taking a break. Crazy me, was out there trotting along listening to my ipod and trying to squeeze more kilometers in. I was aiming for around 100, and I knew that my pace had slowed, so I was unsure if I was going to get near my goal.
I started to figure out that I will get at least 96k (or 12 laps) in before running out of time. I was so happy about that. The last full lap I ran, I enjoyed it, knowing that I'm almost done and there's a cold beer waiting for me in the cooler. I approached the start/finish area, that would give me my 96k distance, and I saw that I had about half an hour until the end of the race. Greg, Sharon, Nelson, and Andrew all cheered as I ran through, I dropped off all my handheld bottle and my lap bag, and told Greg that I'll be at the 2k check point. I ran that last 2k a bit quicker than the previous k's. I was really excited with my performance, and I was very anxious to know how I placed in the field. I made my way through the winding trails (which seemed much longer than 2k) and saw Henry at the 2k checkpoint. I was happy to stop there at 11:45 logging a total of 98k. I chatted with Henry for a bit, and then started to walk back to the start/finish area. As soon as I had stopped my legs started stiffening-up and walking back was tough. It was my turn to move aside for the remaining 24 hour runners on the course.
I had a bit of an emotional moment on the course by myself - usually I will have a breakdown when I go out way to hard, and suffer with a bad pacing decision. That didn't happen at this race. My coach Derrick told me to start out much slower than I think I should go, and to enjoy the race. I did that. I had a lot of energy for most of the race, and I carried out my race plan without too much difficulty. I was just so happy that I was able to run a race like this, and I knew that this race was good training for the events that are coming up. I ran almost 100k in the heat, on a challenging course - this is only going to do positive things for my confidence. Races this year just keep getting better and better.
Greg met me on my walk back with water and we had a nice walk together. I thanked him for his help when I would come through the start area. I was so curious to know how I did in the race. I asked if he knew, and he said that I was first female but he was unsure where I placed overall. I didn't have a clue and would just have to wait to see the results.
There was a cold beer and a comfy chair waiting for me when I returned to the start. I asked Greg to save me a Shocktop Raspberry wheat ale. It felt like the best tasting beer ever. Charlotte came over to join us, and we chatted about the day's events as we waited for the awards to be handed out. In the 6 hour race, Sharon ran 38k, Nelson ran 32k. In the 32k race Greg finished in 8th overall in 3:07, and Andrew was 14th overall in 3:44.
At the awards ceremony, I learned that I was first overall, the first place male runner ran 88k. That's a first. I have never won outright before. I couldn't believe it. My buddy Charlotte ended up second female in the race. The photo below shows us posing with our awards. I was given a cookbook called "Feedzone Portables" by Biju Thomas and Allen Lim as my overall female prize. Thanks Diane for that! It's about recipes for foods that can be easily eaten while running. I was planning on ordering this book in the next few weeks. Love how that worked out.
Thanks so much to the race director Diane for a great race. It was well-organized, and had lots of personal touches that made the experience unique and fun. Thanks for all the effort you put into that day. Loved your race! We'll be back.
Link to Results