Well – it has been a while since I put up a blog post – mostly because I haven’t really been doing anything particularly exciting or productive on the running side of things.
I will do a bit of a catch up post in a while but I want to get up a race report for the Spruce Woods Ultra-marathon 50k race while everything was still fresh in my brain! But as a bit of a spoiler for that post – my running has really tanked in the past several months and that was a factor weighing on my brain going into the race.
Basically I was not ready to run this race in the manner it deserves, and I thought long and hard about pulling my race registration and signing up as a volunteer instead. But in the end I decided I needed to go out and try and hopefully grab some inspiration from the other runners to get my head straight to get back to training properly.
Before I made this decision, I wanted to make sure that I could actually finish – my biggest concern was not being able to finish and costing the race resources because of my own silliness. That also meant I didn’t want to come in last place – because that would mean I most likely wouldn’t have if I had trained better and again this would have been costing the race resources.
So that was weighing pretty heavily on my mind before the race but I did the 2 hour early morning drive to get out there and sign in and catch the pre-race brief.
The race is put on by Trail Run Manitoba and the race director Dwayne – they always do a fantastic job making a runner’s race and ensuring everyone feels welcome and included and excited to be there. Dwayne’s pre-race briefs are always entertaining.
It came out during the brief that there were several runners who had never done a full marathon there and were there to do the 50k. Ballsy and awesome!
I made sure to put on bug spray to help chase off any ticks that might decide they wanted to make me a snack (especially important with Lyme disease making it into the area)…but I forgot to put on sunscreen. Still paying a bit for that mistake.
So at about 8:30 am the about 100 or so 50k runners were off (100 mile, 100k and 50 mile runners had already been at it for quite some time by this point) with a cut-off of 8 pm we had 11.5 hours to complete the race. I was still pretty concerned I was going to need all of it.
The morning was gorgeous – beautiful blue sky, just slightly cool and some wind, but not too bad.
About 2 miles in we hit the first real trail running type obstacle – a bridge across a creek had been washed out in earlier spring flooding but Park personnel had been able to build a make-shift crossing from a culvert and some larger rocks. We had been warned about it and apparently water levels had been fluctuating so there was a bit of a risk of getting wet. In the end it wasn’t too bad but it took a bit of time to cross as runners backed up to give everyone time to get across safely.
The first couple hours of running were great – I felt better running than I had in a long time despite the constantly rolling terrain and some decent hills. In fact I felt really good right up until just near the end of mile 13 when I hit one wicked ass hill. I really don’t know how long a climb it was or how high an elevation change it was but by the end I was tempted to crawl that sucker.
After that, I just couldn’t maintain the same speeds that I was able to before – I could still run but it was a slower run. This meant I lost sight of a small group of folks that I had been running with and had some time to run with just my own mind. Which felt pretty good. I was still good company at that point.
Between miles 15 and 16 there was a pit stop where they had (along with other stuff) quesadillas, tacos and beer shots…if they had salsa I would probably still be there.
At this point, I was still thinking that I had half a shot to get near 7 hours to finish, 8 at the most. Weird, I still had optimism?
After that things got a bit odd – I actually felt better running than walking but the terrain was such that I couldn’t really run – if there had been some more flat ground then I might have been able to settle into an ok run at that point. But this was a hilly trail race and there weren’t many flat parts!
I was definitely making sure to hydrate heavily with both my backpack (with flat coke) and my hand held (with either water or electrolyte drink depending on the pit stop) and was staying pretty coherent but I was definitely feeling things in my legs. One big bonus was that my achilles tendon that has been causing issues since last fall did not give me any grief this race!
The course is one big loop with an out an back section for the 50k and 100k runners to follow which is also extended out further for the 100 milers. The point where the 50k and 100k folks need to turn around is marked clearly but people were getting pretty burnt out at this point and I did see some confusion. I didn’t see anyone make a mistake though – just some second guessing before they caught what needed to be done.
Part way through the out and back there was an nice example of native Manitoba wildlife in its natural habitat.
I was definitely getting wobbly going down hills by about the 26 mile mark and almost took a tumble a couple times just before the last full pit stop at around mile 27 and change. At that pit stop I made sure to drink a bunch extra since there was over 5 miles to go yet (you’ll notice that adds up to more than 31 miles that are in a 50k – yay trail math!) and there would only be a small un-manned water stop before the end from there.
I made sure to refill my handheld and checked to see how full my backpack seemed – it still seemed pretty heavy so I didn’t get anything added to it.
That was a mistake – about a mile later I went to take a drink from it and all I got was air. Crap.
It had gotten quite warm and had been very sunny for most of the race (yay sunburn!) so dehydration was a concern – especially for a guy my size. Plus it was dehydration that had caused me a DNF at this race last year – I got pretty nervous about this point.
All I could do was walk at this point so that meant what I had in my handheld was going to have to last quite a bit of time – so I started rationing and watching to see if I ever stopped sweating.
I talked a bit with some others out there at that point and they were asking how much longer? By my math at this point based on what the folks at the last rest stop had told me was that we had 3 miles to go yet. When I mentioned that I got the reply “What are they trying to do? Kill us?”. All I could do is was agree that I thought that was the plan.
Finally I got to the same creek crossing again from earlier in the morning – what seemed so easy hours before was now pretty damned serious – I don’t know how the 100 milers managed to cross that thing 6 times. In my first 3 steps to try to cross I almost fell in twice. At this point I just said screw it and moved fast and hoped momentum would get me across. Surprisingly it did!
Just after that was the unmanned water stop! Whoohoo – I only had a couple ounces of water left…and almost all the water was gone…crap – I got just enough to top up my 8 ounce hand held and started the final trudge.
At this point my mood got pretty dark – I was past the 50k mark, almost out of water and had stopped sweating with almost 2 miles to go. Well, it was an adventure.
What really got me was that I knew I was close but I couldn’t see the finish to drive me on – the rolling hills hid everything from view until the last half mile or so.
In the end I crossed the line in under 9 hours, got my great wooden medal (woodle as the Trail Run Manitoba folks call it) and headed out to the truck to try to get cleaned up, look for ticks and get some liquids. I didn’t stop at the finish line tent as I wasn’t sure what would happen if I stopped.
I got to the truck, popped the tail gate down, sat and grabbed a sandwich out of my cooler and took a bite…and had to spit it out immediately otherwise I was going to be sick. And if I got sick, I wasn’t sure I could maintain control of the rest of my bodily functions.
I ended up having to lay down in a ball on the tail gate and once I felt like that was helping I moved some stuff over and pulled myself into the bed of the truck under the tonneau cover out of the wind and stretched out and sipped on some coke and water.
After about 20 minutes or so I was feeling a lot better so I pulled myself out of the bed of the truck and started the slow process of having a parking lot shower and getting changed. It took quite some time as I had to keep sitting down and taking a break.
But by the time I was fully dressed in normal clothes, I was feeling pretty good. I wandered over to use the facilities and had a look at the post race barbecue but my stomach wasn’t settle enough to have any of the smokies they were grilling up. Looked great though!
So instead I walked back out to the truck, moved my cooler into the passenger seat and headed towards home. I had my first sandwich done before I hit a main highway. After that I concentrated on hydrating some more.
I also had a chat with myself about the race on my phone that I have loaded up to youtube – have a look if you are interested in what might come out of my mouth.
After about 45 minutes on the road I came up on a road side drive in restaurant and figured I would treat myself to an easy to digest ice cream. As soon as I saw their menu though I was suddenly starving so I got a burger instead – the burger was good but at the time it was the best thing ever!
Then the drive home in time to see the kids off to bed.
Definitely an adventure!
So some thoughts…
Many, many, many thanks to all the volunteers out there – Dwayne indicated there were over a hundred out – just amazing! You guys were great and really helped me to get through this thing.
Thanks to Dwayne and the Trail Run Manitoba team – another great event. So well organized and inclusive of runners from so many levels. Fantastic event!
Running hills sucks when you aren’t in the proper shape – which I am not. I am at a point now though that I need to retrain to properly do half and full marathons in general. That is going to have to be my focus and if I can get that back then maybe in a few years I can look at Spruce Woods as a runner again.
I expect to still do Lemming Loop again this fall…because it doesn’t have hills…
Seriously – I have essentially done three 50 milers and I think this 50k was the hardest race I have ever done.
At least it looks like I did no serious damage, a few blisters and some sun burn. I will take it!