First off I want to say how well organized the race was! Trail Run Manitoba put it on and you could tell the passion the race director (and volunteers) put into the race. I was very impressed. I knew the race was small going into it and I had never done an event like this before so I had no idea what to expect. But everything was well organized and everybody had a smile on their face and wanted to help the runners in anyway that they could. Fantastic. That helped the time pass quickly!
As a bit of a disclaimer – I am writing this without knowing what my final mileage was for the run – I believe I either did 49.27 or 50.88 miles (update – official numbers came back as 79.306 km or 49.2785 miles). My Garmin died just before the 10 hour mark and the online tracking tool is mismatched with what the tracking board at the race was saying. I understand the race director is in the process of verifying all the runners’ laps so hopefully before long I will know which one of the 2 tools is the correct one. Full disclosure being that I utterly lost track. I will update once I know my actual distance.
They had to move the race from its normal venue this year which makes how well organized everything was even more impressive.
Their normal venue at Beaudry Park near Winnipeg was flooded out this year but their alternate venue at the Living Prairie Museum in Winnipeg ended up being a very good location. With an actual heated structure with washroom facilities it made pit stops and clothing changes a heck of a lot more pleasant than it could have been otherwise.
The event is a trail loop run and at the new venue the laps were shorter than at the usual location – this was actually a bonus for me and my inexperience. It meant I didn’t have to spend as much time figuring out what to carry with me – if I ran out of something or made a mistake it wouldn’t be long before I was back at the staging area where I could sort things out.
So the event has 4 options – 24, 12, 6 and 3 hours – with each group of runners having different start and stop times. This was nice as it allowed each group of runners time to settle in and find their group before the next group of fresh legs came out on the trails.
I have to say this about the runners there – everyone seemed friendly and courteous. In half and full races I always seem to run into someone that pisses me off or causes grief for other runners. I never ran into that at all with this race. There were times where I was passing folks and times (many times) where I was being passed and I never once felt any anger or animosity toward or from another runner. That was extremely refreshing.
OK – now for me and how I did. I will start with a bit about why I decided to do this race (because I haven’t really talked about my thought process about that on the blog) and then I will get into the race itself and how I did. I will mention things I did right and things I think (or know) I did wrong.
The tracking they were doing was interesting – as you would come along to finish a lap you would call out your number and one of the volunteers would mark it down on a clipboard, another on the large tracking board and it looked like a third put it into an iPhone (I believe this was the online tracking portion). At around hour 8 there was a bit of a squall go through just as I finished a lap so this could be where the discrepancy between the online tool and the major board occurred. And I’m not ruling out that I misread the board!
So anyway – why did I do the race? Well I had been looking at it since the Manitoba Marathon finished back in June. I wanted something to help drive my training through the summer but I also didn’t want to do a fall marathon and wreck my 10th full marathon falling into the Dopey Challenge in January. That meant if I wanted to do a longer run it had to be more than a full.
The Beaudy Lemming Loop appealed to me because of the loops making it easier to handle the logistics – I would be going in as a newby and I wouldn’t have wanted to get 15 miles into the bush and realize I had forgotten something significant out of ignorance.
With that in mind I through in several 3 hour long runs over the summer and one 4 hour run to try out different fueling strategies and just see how things went and to help me decide if I wanted to do it or not. I realized through these runs that a 50K was doable – probably at less than 5:30 on pavement.
In the end though I decided I wasn’t going to do it – I had a half marathon 2 weeks before the race date and one 2 weeks after. I didn’t want to maybe get injured and not be able to do that second half marathon (as it sets me up to have my 15th half marathon be part of the Dopey Challenge…1st Dopey Challenge, 5th Goofy Challenge, 10th full, 15th half all part of the 10th anniversary Goofy Challenge in 2015….many 5s)).
So I kind of put the race out of my head…but then found out that they had to move the race to the other venue with a heated support building, shorter laps and a bit less wooded trail. In my mind this made it safer for me to try with less risk to my other goals. So I talked to the wife and she supported me signing up.
This meant I had to decide which of the 4 options I wanted…3 hours didn’t make sense if I wanted to break over 26.2. The 24 hour was out because I wasn’t going to do that for my first ultra attempt – I’m goofy not crazy. So that left the 6 and the 12. It looked from training that I should be able to do a 50K in under 6 hours but depending on terrain and weather it might not happen – I felt if I was going to do this I wanted to hit at least 50k. And to be perfectly honest – 6 hours just didn’t scare me – I have had marathons take me longer…
This left the 12 hour run…yeah that scared me plenty.
I signed up less than a week out and started to prep my gear and my brain.
One of the things I decided to do was get some Hoka One Ones – Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) had some of the new Cliftons at a price I felt I could experiment with. I did some testing with them and was pleased so they became part of my plan for the run.
I packed a lot of stuff – I think I had more snacks and stuff packed than most but I didn’t know what to expect from the refreshment crew at the race so I brought a bunch of my own stuff. Chocolate bars, sesame snaps, different types of candy and some cookies. And lots of Coke – pre-flattened so I could carry it with me on the laps.
Had lots of nerves coming into the race but I had a plan in my head that I wanted to hit 50k well and then anything beyond that would be a bonus – this plan seemed to take a bit of the pressure off. I also had a secondary hope to maybe hit 50 miles but that was all it was – a hope. I didn’t really think that would happen.
The weather forecast going into the start of the event got pretty grim and it started to look like the trail would be getting pretty wet and muddy. And cold. And windy. Wasn’t looking forward to that and it made me make sure I had more pairs of socks and shoes with me that I would have brought with me otherwise. I also packed up some additional sweaters.
I also decided that I would start out the race in an older pair of Nike Pegasus 30s that probably had 20-30 miles left – I would use these to check out the course and switch to the Hoka Cliftons once I knew the course and knew how to avoid the worst of the mud.
I loaded my van the night before the race – got about 5-6 hours sleep then got up and had a quick breakfast (bacon and toast sandwich – very different than my marathon morning ritual). I had a 20 minute drive to the race location. When I got there I double checked the forecast and the rain forecast had passed without much rain at all. It was still right around the freezing mark with the wind but not wet.
This made me change a few plans – I decided to wear the Hoka’s right from the start instead and I left a couple pairs of shoes in the van with a couple of the extra sweaters. I figured if I needed them I would grab them from the van.
I loaded my stuff into building about a half hour before the 12 hour folks were set to begin at 6 am. The 24 hour guys had been going since 5pm the night before and we tried to be quiet to let some of them continue with their naps.
We got a quick briefing in the building, I loaded up some snacks in my pockets and then headed outside to wait for the start about 10 minutes to kick off. I checked out the tracking board and was impressed with how far the 24 hour folks had already gone. Gotta say I was a bit intimidated at that point.
We lined up and were off…I got to say running in the woods in the dark is a new experience for me – combine that with the nervous energy and I went out way too fast. I was in 3rd after the first lap – spent the whole lap telling myself to slow down.
Luckily after the first lap I found one of my shoe laces was untied so I pulled off to one side to tie it and let the leaders go – that way I wasn’t chasing them anymore and maybe I could slow down a bit.
The first lap showed me about half was in wooded areas with roots hidden by falling leaves and the rest was trails on relatively flat grassland.
Now I am used to running on pavement or a treadmill. This means I am used looking 5-10 paces ahead…this becomes important in second…hold on
Unfortunately I was still going too fast for a 12 hour run but probably not too horrible for a solid 50k time (or at least that what I kept telling myself).
Now combine the speed and looking 5-10 paces ahead added up to face plant in the second lap. Luckily no damage but that could ended the race pretty damned quick. Running in the dark wasn’t helping but the issue was more about not looking where my feet were being planted.
I forced myself to look down more but still did another face plant about an hour later shortly after passing another runner. Him “Holy crap! Are you ok?!” Me “Yeah, only the second time this morning. I’m good.” and off I went again.
After that I was able to force myself look down at where my feet were going…
It took about an hour and half before it was light enough to turn off the headlamp.
I ran solid and felt good making sure to stick to 5 min running to 1 min walking cycles. I had a couple stops for fuel and the use of the heated bathroom.
In the end I hit the 50K mark right around the 6 hour mark. Mission accomplished!
At this point I could tell I was slowing down and wind was starting to get biting – it wasn’t raining but my gear was soaked through and I was starting to get cold. Time for a clothes change!
So took a bit of break in the warm building to change my full set of layers on my upper body – thermal undershirt, long sleeve tech shirt and jacket. Also toque and gloves were soaked. Ate some bacon and grabbed some more liquid and off I went again. I had switched to some lighter gloves and a cap – after one lap I put on a balaclava instead and some warmer gloves.
Surprisingly at about this point it looked like I was in either 4th or 5th position – crazy – also not sustainable.
I ran fairly well for another hour or so before I decided to walk a full lap. At this point solid food really wasn’t working for me. Running too hard caused headaches – looking back I probably needed more salt. That was definitely a hole in my fueling plan.
At about hour 8 my wife and kids showed up to cheer me on…and at about this point a bit of a squall came through getting things good and wet – got colder too. We went in the building and I had a bit of a sit and snack while I waited for the rain to stop. After about a 20 minute break I headed out again.
During this squall the race team had to move their set up for the tracking board – I assume at this point that this is where the discrepancy came up in my lap counts.
The rain made some areas a bit slick so they became a walking spot each lap from there on. After a little while I realized sustained running was done and walking was going to get more and more prevalent.
So at this point I knew it was about keeping my brain occupied and keep it from going dark. So I threw an audio book on the media player to distract myself. Stephen Fry reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy…that’ll work!
A mix of running and walking from there on out with more of an emphasis on walking and just staying coherent and moving. The time passed surprisingly well.
At around 9:50 my Garmin died – so I had to grab my watch from my drop bag, strap it to my bib belt and out I go again.
Watching the tracking board I could tell it was getting close to hitting the 50 mile mark right around the 12 hours. This helped me pick things up a bit more and I was able to do a bit more running (but still more walking than running).
At about 15 minutes to go I finished my last long lap and got directed to the short trail to keep going. For a moment I thought about just stopping the board said I had hit 50 miles but I made myself keep going.
The short lap had markers every 200 meters and with about 3 minutes left to go after one short lap I headed out again. I made it 400 meters before the whistle blew – did that at the closest thing I could do as a sprint at that point.
The problem then being walking back those 400 meters…
Done – 12 hours done. And I stayed coherent! Cooool!
The big question is how far did I actually go in those 12 hours…well it depends on which of the tracking tools is correct – I either did 49.27 miles or 50.88 miles. I’m hoping for 50.88 obviously but either way I think this race was a major victory (looks like 8th place). It is also nice to know that I walked off healthy and if it was an actual 50 mile run I could have completed the remaining mileage if I did get to 49.27.
Got my medal, had a small snack, packed up my gear and dragged it out to my vehicle and managed to drive home.
After I got home I weighed myself and I was down 2 pounds from my weight in the morning – I’m kind of proud of that – fueling plan was a bit off but I stayed nicely hydrated. Awesome!
Long hot shower to stop the shivering and then to stare at a hot sandwich my wife made…I had one bite but solid food was not going down right.
So I lay down on the couch for an hour nap and then I was able to get up and eat that sandwich. That felt better.
In the end the damage was minimal all things considered – 4 minor blisters on my toes, legs felt awesome and my nagging knee issue did not come up at all. I ended up doing the whole race in the Hoka Cliftons and they can probably take some credit for how good a condition my legs are in.
The worst pain was actually across my shoulders behind my neck and I had to do some thinking to figure out how come that hurt. Basically it was all the looking down to make sure of my footing – not used to that posture and I basically held it for around 12 hours. That will cause some aches.
No longer term effects either at this point. I was able to get up the next morning and took the wife and kids out for breakfast without any problems and now another day later all aches and pains seem to be gone. Man I recover quick!
Thanks to Trail Run Manitoba for an awesome race and to the volunteers who were so helpful and cheerful!