It may be news to those that don't live in Toronto that I've started running. I know, sacrilege! But Toronto is a terrible city to live in for bike racing training; also, I've shifted my focus to work and running is a more efficient workout. So starting at the end of last year's cycling race season, I've been running sporadically. Mostly 3km from the train station to home, but a couple of weeks back I did a trail run with Amanda that was supposed to be 5km and through poor map-reading, turned into 20+.
Then Noah convinced me to join his team for the OxFam Trailwalker 100km (4-person teams, everyone does the whole thing and must cross the finish together). We decided it would be prudent to do something to give ourselves SOME experience at long distance running (Dustin greatly encouraged it, partly because we were talking about aiming to complete in 10 hours...yes, somewhat delusional, especially given it was only two months away). So we signed up for the Seaton Mud Puppies 50km trail race which was happening in two weeks. I got in another 17km trail run, then the boys and I knocked off 30km on the road, and after a 10km this week, game time!
Let me start by saying the lack of training was not the best. Noah and Geoff, on a similar training regimen, DNF-ed after 40 (and a half!) kilometres. I hurt like hell doing the run, and avoided injury only through luck. But I'm committed to being more job-focused this year, and although running around in a forest would be fun it wouldn't help me do that.
So this morning we left at 5-something am for the 7am start. Ouch! It was cold enough that most started in long sleeves; I did, too, partly to have somewhere to put my Clif bars...I must still be a cycling geek, wearing cycling clothing at non-cycling events! Or maybe just unfashionable...
A quick note on my gear: I opted for no CamelBak (trying nothing new was possibly the most intelligent thing I did that day) and instead drank two cups of water at every aid station. Fairly quickly I started overheating in the long-sleeve, and became concerned that sweating buckets was not helping my low-water-intake game plan. Fortunately I'd pinned my number on my shorts, which worked in my favour when I decided I had to leave my shirt at an aid station half-way through the race and run the second half shirtless, clutching a handful of Clif bars.
There were about 40 of us gathered at the start line. After a few words from the organizer and the mayor of Picking (are long distance runners considered swing voters? haha) we all trotted off across the dewy grass of the school oval and onto Seaton Trail. There was a knee-deep river crossing 2km in, and I followed the lead of the gent in front by taking my shoes off to wade across. Turned out we were out in front by ourselves, and it wasn't until I started putting them on on the other bank that the next group charged across - no wasting time with shoe-taking-off for them! By the time I was ready to go, I'd probably dropped to 20th, so I was eager to catch back up. I took off, but after a couple of hundred metres, noticed the lack of flags. Crap. Back to the river...oh, it was a right turn. Haste makes waste! Off I go again.
Reeled in a bunch of people before the first aid station, but saw numerous cups in the trash. On! On! Some really pleasant running for the next while, alongside the river, up hills and down dales. Over and over. I had already started to wonder how much more I could handle, before reaching the 11km aid station. Not a good indication of appropriate pacing. I foolishly passed up the opportunity of a porta-potty break, at news that there were only two runners ahead, 2 and 4 minutes respectively. There wasn't a loo at the turn-around. On the return, I ended up doing some pretty serious waddling for a while, until I realized I wasn't making it back to the aid station, and dove into the shrubbery for a quick pit-stop. Ok, nature taken care of - good to go!
Shortly thereafter I sailed past the guy in second. He passed me again while I was putting my shoes back on at the river. I think he must have said something to the guys at the turn-around/start-finish (we were doing two out-and-backs) because when I came in, they asked me about it. I said I was avoiding soggy shoes and blisters. His reply was "But you're just doing the 50 k, aren't you? Don't need to worry about blisters for that!". haha Yep, just the 50. Ego back in check. I promised I'd consider not taking them off on the second out-and-back.
And I did. Splash splash, and then squish squish on the other side. Wasn't so bad, partly owing to the minimalist "barefoot" shoes I had. The mercury was also on the rise, so they only took a few kilometres to be damp-dry. By which point I'd moved back into second place.
I really struggled on the downhills. Again, probably the uncushioned shoes came into play, since they wouldn't allow me an unrestrained lope downhill. Upping the cadence was brutal on the quads, so I took it fairly slow. At the end of the long downhill about 5km into the second lap, another guy was coming up behind me. Since I'd been lolly-gagging a bit on the downhill, I had some energy to burn, so I picked up the pace, but was now aware I had two guys hot on my tail.
By now I was hurting a LOT. Inch-high roots became major hurdles to be overcome, and anything other than perfectly level path became a tremendous balancing act for each stride. I made it out to the second aid station and while getting my water, was asked if I was doing the 50 mile. "Hell, no!" and I headed off north. A minute later they come after me, yelling, this is the 52km turn-around! Crap, back I go. Maybe the fact that there was a 29km and not 26km short race should have clued me in. Now back in third place. I claw back to second, but the guy refuses to give up the chase. With 5km to go, I felt my legs starting to cramp, and bam! The guy blows past me and out of sight. I tried to keep it together, but started walking more of the uphills. Through the river one last time. See the second place runner (or a guy doing the 29km, also wearing a white shirt?) a few hundred meters away as I climb to the finish. Done. 5 hours and 30-or-40-something minutes.
Many thanks to the organizers and volunteers, and my heart goes out to anyone still on the trail, doing the hard yards on the 50 mile race!