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2016 Fargo Marathon race report. Slowest marathon in quite some time…but lovely course and fantastic volunteers

Time for a quick race recap for the Fargo Marathon. My apologies if things are a bit disorganized below – rushing this one out.

There were a huge number of volunteers and they were all very friendly and helpful. There was a huge number of spectators watching and cheering from their driveways and lawns – it was impressive to see how the whole community seemed to be behind the race. And I have to say I found the whole area to be beautiful – when I have been in Fargo before I have always been in the business/shopping areas and that didn’t prepare me for the feel of the neighborhoods and parks – fantastic big shade trees, well maintained and clean, and just lovely.

I was damned impressed with the whole experience.

With the marathon scheduled for the Saturday morning I drove down to Fargo from Winnipeg on Friday afternoon and after an extra 45 minute delay at the US/Canada border I made it to the Fargo Dome at around 5 pm. I was able to grab my race kit very quickly and did a short tour of the expo before heading out in order to beat the crowd that was gathering for the 5k race that was to start at around 6:30.

I was in and out quickly and back in the truck to try and figure out where the heck my hotel was. I booked my room a little late and wasn’t able to book into any of the hotels that I had stayed at before and since I was not willing to drop big dollars on the room for one night I ended up in a no frills traveller’s hotel.

Luckily I was able to find it quickly and book in around 6 before heading out to find supper and do some light shopping.

I did a light supper which is what I normally do before a race but by 9 I was getting really hungry and then I realized with the extra time at the border I hadn’t eaten a decent lunch so now I was getting hungry and unless I wanted to try to fill the hole with chips and sugar I needed to find something.

I ended up settling on grabbing a small cheeseburger from a fast food chain across the parking lot from the hotel hoping that it wouldn’t cause any issues.

Then to bed and up before 5 am to grab a shower, get dressed and reload the truck before grabbing a bite of a bagel and some juice. The hotel also had goodie bags for the runners which was a nice touch. And then back to the Fargo Dome to have a bit of a sit and wait for the signal to start the line up for the start.

I took the time to put on some sunscreen as the forecast was for quite a bit of sun and heat.

For a bit of a neat start the starting line and finishing line are inside the Fargo Dome – definitely something different!

And then it was time to line up – I got in line with the 4:30 pace bunny figuring that I would give that a try and back off as needed since I really had no idea where I would be pace wise.

Since there were so many Canadians down for the race they did both national anthems before the kick off. It was a nice touch.


Then we were off and I was making sure to watch my pace but before we even got out of the parking lot another runner tapped me on the shoulder and told me that he thought I had dropped a key back a little ways. I checked my belt pouch and a zipper had popped open….crap. So for the second time in my running career I ran backwards against the crowd…double crap.

I got back to the spot where the helpful runner had indicated but no key – asked some bystanders and they thought they had seen someone pick something up. Hopefully they drop it off at lost and found after…

Now I am literally at the back of the pack – no other runners behind me…not a place I want to be!

I looked down at my Garmin watch to see how much mileage I had wasted and it told me I was at 588 miles or so…ok…

At least after that initial glitch it watched my pace well but I had to sigh as that is now 2 races in a row that it has done something odd.

So…the smart thing to do at this point would be to set myself at my hoped for pace and slowly regain a spot in the middle of the pack. But the adrenaline spike said no way.

I was hoping for maybe a 6 mph pace – I hit well over 7 for a couple miles. It felt really good…like a lot of dumb things. I hadn’t felt that good running since the 2015 Dopey Challenge and I didn’t want the feeling to stop.

So I caught up to the 4:30 pace bunny…and then the 4:15 pace bunny and was probably a couple minutes ahead of that group at the hour mark while having done at least an extra half mile.

At this point the adrenaline is starting to wear off as I remember I clipped a second key to my truck in my backpack and I will still be able to make it home…

So I start to slow down and regulate my pace to where it should be, allowing the 4:15 pace group to go past. A co-worker passed me at this point and after a quick “Hey!” he was off.

I kept on at a decent steady pace and hit a decent 2:10 for the half way point (plus half a mile) and I kept on going…but now my stomach is starting to act up…I suspect the late cheeseburger…

The heat is really starting to kick in at this point. I was making sure to hydrate every 10 minutes from my hydration pack (having learned my lesson from Spruce Woods Ultra) and as I started to slow down I also started having extra water at each of the plentiful water stops. I also put a cooling cloth under my had and made sure to keep wetting it to keep my head cool.

First port-a-pottie stop was between mile 16 and 17 and I hit around 17.25 miles at the 3 hour mark. Then 2 more pit stops before mile 23 – very slow through this period as I hit around 21 miles at the 4 hour mark and continued slow until about mile 23. Then I must have had all the toxins out of my system and I was able to start pushing again. I haven’t had to use a port-a-pottie during a race in quite some time – was not impressed that I had to this time.

I was back up over 5 mph for the 24th mile and when I pushed I felt ok but at this point lack of mental conditioning was starting to come into play. I have mentioned in previous posts that I didn’t think I had done my run streak in a proper way to train for the longer races. My body was willing and capable at this point but I was not mentally able to make it do all that it could.

Anyway – around mile 24 I saw a runner sit down hard on a curb and when I tried asking her if she was ok I didn’t get much of a response but as I looked around 2 of the awesome volunteers were already running up to help out. I continued on my way knowing she was going to be looked after.

I kept on going doing run / walk cycles and finished the last quarter mile back into the Fargo Dome at a solid pace.

It did seem weird to come through the finish line and not immediately get a medal – I crossed the line and looked around and saw nothing and nobody said anything until I made eye contact with one of the volunteers who said “everything is up around the corner”. Oh.

So around the corner, got the big cool medal and a bottle of water before heading into the pit area to eat a banana and grab some chocolate milk. I decided to skip the pizza they had even though it looked pretty good.

I wandered toward the beer tent but stopped a volunteer along the way to ask if there was a lost and found – she directed me to guest services desk – I thanked her and continued my march to the beer. I was one of the last 3 to get a can!

I then had a sit and a drink before wandering over to see if my key had been turned in. Whoohoo! It was there – thank you anonymous runner! I then walked out the wrong door of the Fargo Dome and then back in and back out the correct side to get to my truck…

I wandered out to the truck and grabbed a bunch of water and towels I had in the back to wash off the sweat and sunscreen (was not doing 3-4 hour drive home being that grimy in the nice new truck). I did a quick change and headed out to start the drive home.

On the drive I had a lot of time to think about the race and about my performance and did come to some conclusions:

  1. I hydrated well – no headaches, no scary rapid heartbeats, no desire to quit – I’m not a tiny runner and I need to hydrate early and often. Between the Spruce Woods Ultra and this race that statement has been proven again.
    2. Having that fast food burger less than 10 hours before a marathon was not a good idea
    3. This is the big one actually – I did not train properly to build up my mental stamina – my body was strong and capable (if still too heavy) but I didn’t have the mental stamina to drive it properly to the limits. I need to do more high intensity training and more long slow runs to rebuild that. Basically there were mistakes on the run but I think I was physically capable of being faster than I was and that means my brain didn’t do its job. It is also possible that I was a bit spooked by my crash out of Spruce Woods and wanted to hold something in reserve just in case.

So I have more work to do to rebuild and that means getting back to basics. 5 days a week working up to 50 mile weeks. Once I am back there then I build further again.

Running motivation regained!

Recap of the past little while, including my race report for my first DNF – Sprucewoods Ultra 50k

Hang on, this is going to be a long one…

So where to start?

It has been quite a while since I have had a chance to post and I have run a few races in that time and there are definitely some stories to tell!

I think I will start with the Winnipeg Police Service Half Marathon on May 1st. This is the event I set my half marathon PR at back in 2014 (1:46:00) and I was a fair bit slower this year. I definitely hadn’t been training for speed work for the half distance and it showed. I still hit 1:59:55 so a sub 2 hour half was quite respectable.

My wife ran this one too and did great!

It was a really great day to run too – sunny and just a little cool. Since I knew I wasn’t trying to kill any PRs, I was able to take it easy and just enjoy myself and the run.

Thanks to all the organizers and volunteers for this race!

Next race was 2 weeks later – the Sprucewoods Ultra 50k, my first real trail ultra. Before I get into that one I want to go back a few weeks and set the stage…

On April 16th (2 weeks before the WSP Half) the organizer of the race (Dwayne from Trail Run Manitoba – www.trailrunmanitoba.com) had set up an event out at the race venue to help familiarize people with the trails and route of the race.

The event is at the Sprucewoods Provinicial Park a few hours outside the city. I haven’t been out there since high school and I figured hitting the familiarization event would be a good idea. The park is fairly unique – it is home to some real hills, not mountains but definitely some pretty steep slopes and unique terrain.

The meet up was to start at 8:30 out at the trail head – the same time the 50k was scheduled to start on race day so I thought that was pretty cool as I could use the drive out to judge how much time I would need on race day as well.

The weather was interesting as well – windy (although not too bad in the forest) and chillly (hovering just under freezing). There were also weather watches out indicating that some rain that was coming could turn into a major snowfall. So I dressed warm and dry!

The organizer had plans for 2 running groups – one doing the full trail once at around 25 miles and a shorter run at about 10-11 miles. I planned to do the shorter one as a test of some of my equipment and then head home. So that is what I brought liquid and fuel for.

…but I ended up starting out with a group that headed out a few minutes early and found out part way in that they were planning to do the full 25 mile loop. So I figured I would head out with them for a bit and then turn around and head back to around a half marathon distance.

I was doing fairly well and feeling pretty good so I decided to keep going with the group for longer than I expected and I eventually got to the point where it was shorter to keep going instead of turning around and heading back. So I texted my wife to say I was going to be later than expected and kept going. (unfortunately absolutely no cell service out there so she didn’t get that text until much later in the day)

Definitely some pretty interesting terrain – some lovely hills, some great cliffs to look out over and at least one tree across the path that we had to get around.

So about 13 miles in it started to rain with ice pellets (which were fun) and it rained, and rained and rained. Even though I was wearing some decent water resistant gear I got damned soaked. The rain started to mess with the trails near the end too – slick and slippery. There is a lot of sand in the area and when it was all wet it got a bit messy here and there.

About 15 miles in I was out of solid fuel though and running low on liquids and I started to slow down. The rest of the crew continued on as I took my time and started to conserve my energy in case I hit the wall. As I slowed down, I got wetter and wetter. I got to the point I would regularly squeeze my fists and force a huge amount of water out of my gloves to lighten the load a bit – this unfortunately had the effect of pushing out the water that my body heat had already warmed up and my hands would get instantly cold for a while. At about mile 20 I put on my second set of gloves while I was in a cabin along the route trying to warm up a bit.

With the rest of the crew off on their own I had to find my way back on my own – luckily I was using a GPS running app on my phone (and a battery bank with my so I had lots of juice) that I would stop and check every 10-15 minutes and at any trail intersections to make sure I was still heading toward the trail head and my truck. (oh yeah – I got a new truck replacing my 8 year old van a few weeks before this run)

So I made it back to the trail head in the end – a bit slow, quite wet and a bit cold. But in the end with some turn arounds and detours I ended up accidently doing a trail marathon in the freezing rain fuelled by 2 bottles of 0 calorie electrolyte drink, 4 oatmeal cookies and a small bag of M&Ms. OK…so definitely fairly confident at that point that I could do the 50k without any issues, especially if it was decent weather that day.

The stage is now set – feeling strong and healthy and confident that the 50k should be doable. I have done two 12 hour Lemming Loop events before and hit 50k in each of those at the 6 hour and the 6 hour 25 min mark respectively while still conserving energy to pull out another 18-19 miles over the next 6ish hours. So I figured balancing with the hills I should be able to hit near the 7 hour mark which I figured would be more than respectable.

I spent quite a bit of time in the days leading up to the race making sure my plan was solid and I had my gear all sorted out. I was especially certain that I had a method of cleaning up after the race as I didn’t bring 50k of trail dust and sweat into my new truck!

I had my hydration backpack ready with 2 litres of liquid and lots of solid food and a belt pack that holds 2 bottles ready to go with another 1.5 litres of liquid that would also hold my phone for my gps app as well as a second device for taking pictures.

The 50k race was set to be a 25 mile loop that takes a detour at about mile 19 that is 3 miles out and another 3 miles back to bring the runners up to the full 50k once they finish the loop. The race also has options for 100 miles, 100k (starting at midnight! Way to go Anthony!) and a 50 miles. They also have a trail half marathon event and 10 mile plus 10k kind of challenge – the one occurs at night and the other the next morning.

It is a fantastically organized event!

Now, since this was a trail event the weather did have to play a factor even though it was forecast to be nice out. Since the rain during the trail test event, there had been rain at all at the Park and with how sandy the terrain is the risk of fire was pretty big. Manitoba Conservation (the government body that runs the parks) put out a fire hazard warning which meant that the organizers couldn’t take vehicles out on the grass service roads to set up the aid stations out on the trail. The warning came out on Wednesday / Thursday with the 100 milers set to start at noon on Friday.

The organizers did a mad scramble and worked with Manitoba Conservation to change up the trails and find spots where the aid stations could go. In the end instead of a 25 mile loop they changed to a 20 km loop that would have 2 aid stations. The first leg would be about 7.5 miles through some of the original trails and then on some gravel roads – then more roads and back on the trails before hitting the 2nd aid station at about 10.5 miles and then another 2ish miles to get back to the start.

The 50k runners would do 2 laps and then after the 2nd lap run back along the trail for 5k to a marker and then turn around and head back to the finish.

Phenomenal that the organizers managed to pull this together as fast as they did – especially as they had already started moving their race headquarters out to the trailhead (with extremely limited cell and internet service) when the fire ban came up. Again – major kudos to these folks!

Ok – now race day. Like I said, I was feeling confident, I had my gear ready, weather was set to be great and I was ready to go. I literally had no race day jitters which is so strange for me.

I got out to the race – checked in at the race tent and got my timing chip, chatted with some folks (ironically about hydration – but I will get to that in a minute) including Dwayne the main organizer who recognized me from the Lemming Loop races, had a last bio break and we were off at 8:30.

Very sunny morning and just great to be out there. The runners spread out fairy early on and if you were wanting to run with no distractions from others it was possible very early on.

On my 2 previous 12 hours I used run/walk cycles of 5 min / 1 min to conserve energy but I couldn’t do that here – so my plan was to walk the hills and run the rest of the time and the hills were frequent enough that there were plenty of walking breaks.

It was a bit warm in the sheltered areas but in the open it was a touch cool with the wind but mostly I was happy with my gear choices.

I was feeling great – having a few snacks and at about an hour and 15 minutes in I hit the detour from the original trail onto the gravel road – it was fairly sandy and loose but it was mostly downhill (at least at the beginning) and I was able to really feel like I was moving – it felt great! I looked down at my Garmin watch to see how fast I was going and saw that it said I was only doing 3.4 mph…huh? Damned thing locked up during one of my walk breaks and now it wouldn’t even power off so I could reset it. Damn…I eventually pulled out my headphones and put one ear in so I could listen to the pacing info from my GPS running app.

Made it to the first aid station feeling really good. I had a quick drink of water and some chips (phenomenally well stocked aid stations – just amazing) and kept on moving. I would occasionally pass some of the 100k and 100 milers still out there pushing – just amazing as well.

After a mile or so more of gravel road (and a wickedly awful hill) we eventually got back on trail and into the woods. And I just kept pushing to get to the second aid station which was just as well stocked as the first.

Then more trail with a lot more hills, they weren’t long hills but maybe undulating would be the best word to describe it – up, down, up, flat, down, up, up…etc

The near the end of the first lap I came around a corner, heard a horn and saw a crap load of speedy runners barrelling towards me – the 10k trail race had begun hammering down the trail towards me.

I kept to the one side and kept moving but made sure they had room to pass. I cheered them on and got a lot of encouragement from them as they went past.

That was interesting.

Finished the first lap (at about 2:25 in or so), had a snack and small drink and then headed out for my 2nd lap figuring I would break out the camera on this lap, take it a bit easier and just settle in to it.

I did take some shots of a bridge over a creek (which apparently on the race in previous years used to be an old beaver dam you had to ford) but they didn’t turn out very well when I looked later so I won’t bother to post them here.

On the hills I was starting to feel my heart race a bit but I figured I just needed to be a bit more careful and slow down more to make sure I wasn’t pushing too hard.

At this point I did settle in comfortably, I could hear runners behind me chatting but they didn’t seem to be overtaking me and there was a runner ahead of me that I had swapped positions with a few times that I was starting to slowly gain on again. I was still confident and felt decent in my legs so I wasn’t feeling particularly concerned at this point.

Then I hit this long slow hill with a sharper incline at the end and my heart was racing pretty decent and it started to get dark…I started breathing a bit deeper and frankly got a bit spooked…then realized that it was just a cloud going over the sun and not me getting to pass out…phew.

At this point I did take a bit of extra time walking though and let some chatting runners get by and then did a bit more running but my hydration backpack was starting to feel pretty heavy and I was looking forward to ditching it once I got done this lap…it never occurred to me to wonder why it felt heavy though…

I ended up walking some more and having some more snacks. I popped some english mint candies as well which seemed to clear my head and I did a bit more running and resolved to walk a bit more until I got to the detour onto the gravel road again and then I would push and get myself sorted again.

I got to the detour and the gravel road and tried to run…and did not have it. I tried a few times but I couldn’t make it happen. Ok, walk some more until get to the aid station, have some more to drink and then get moving again.

Got to the aid station and then kept moving – even the aid stop didn’t do too much for me. Still way too much walking and not enough running.

At this point I started taking big gulps out of my hydration backpack hoping to recover but no dice. By the time I got to the 2nd aid station I was averaging under 3 mph and realized I was done, there was no way to recover. But I was determined to finish out the 2nd lap so I kept walking – at this point it was getting really tough. Heart kept racing even on small hills, legs would cramp if I walked too fast and a headache kept coming and going. I was also damned close to throwing up several times. I have never felt that awful on a run – even on the 2 12 hour runs.

My mood was not helped at this point seeing many of the other 50k runners now coming back down the trail at me as they were on their last 10k leg. An extremely encouraging bunch of runners though – everyone was saying good job to each other and encouraging one another. Fantastic to see.

Some of the runners were pretty funny too – shortly before I hit the second aid station one of them came running around a corner saw me, looked excited for a second and then yelled “F***….sorry dude I thought you were the turn around sign!”, I ensured him it was just around the corner behind me.

I started drinking fairly heavily out of one of the electrolyte drink bottles I had on my belt…again it never occurred to me to wonder why it was mostly full…

I got done the lap and one of the volunteers held up the 50k finishing medal for me, I thanked him and said that I was only at the 40k mark. I then wandered over to my drop bag, took off my backpack (again noticing how heavy it felt but not understanding why), and contemplated sitting down to rest and figure things out. But at this point I was feeling really awful and I needed to just get to my vehicle and sit and rest.

So I wandered over to the check in tent – lifted my leg to take off the timing chip and they lady there said they could take it off for me if I needed. I assured her that my legs were fine – took off the chip handed it in and thanked them for the race.

Dwayne the main organizer congratulated me but I had to tell him that I didn’t finish and I didn’t think it was healthy for me to continue. Hopefully I thanked him at this point. If I didn’t, I apologize! I appreciate all the work that went into the event and that someone is doing that so that crazy ass runners have these events to go to.

My first Did Not Finish – I’m not sure what I thought about that at that point but all I knew was that I needed to go get somewhere where I could sit.

I walked back over to my dropped gear, walked the quarter mile of hell to my truck, popped the tail gate and sat down for a minute and drank a coke.

Once I thought I could stand again, I got my stuff out of the truck and cleaned myself off with bottles of water that I had stashed in the truck for that purpose. I did a full cleaning and full change into non-running clothes and finished my packing up.

I then grabbed a beer and a sandwich I had in my cooler and sat on the tailgate for a while admiring the view. After I finished the sandwich and the beer and I sorted myself out, got in the truck and drove home doing some deep thinking.

I could not figure out what the issue was and what took me down. I thought it could be hydration as it was warmer than I expected but I had a crap load of liquid with me so how could I get dehydrated?

Before the race, when I was talking with one of the other runners, I mentioned that with my size I needed to drink early and drink often otherwise dehydration would take me down and there would be no way I could rehydrate fast enough to recover. Turns out that was a prophetic statement.

I got home around supper time and made sure to drink lots and lots. When I got up the next morning I was still 5 pounds down from what I was the morning before even though I drank a lot the night before. Definitely dehydrated.

Now I go out to the truck to get my junk out of the back and once again I am surprised at how heavy the hydration pack was. It should have been empty – in marathons it lasts me until about mile 25 which is about where I got before I crashed out…

It was over half full still even though I was hitting it hard near the end…and it all clicked…I hadn’t been drinking out of it for the first 2-3 hours of the run….what the hell? I essentially did the first half marathon distance dry…why?

I have a system that gets me through these long races without getting taken down by dehydration – I have a big gulp every mile or 10 minutes depending on how fast I am going and how warm it is outside. I did not follow the system and to make it worse it never even occurred to me that I wasn’t doing so.

On the half marathon race the weekend before I had drank more liquid on a cooler day doing less distance over way easier terrain. Something was not working right in my brain on race day, that’s for sure.

On the positive side, there were really no ill effects once I was re-hydrated. The day after the race I ran around on a steep hill with the pups with no problems at all.

So pretty dumb move on my part and I still can’t quite figure out where my brain was since my hydration ritual is ingrained in my brain, or at least I thought it was.

Every runner makes mistakes, it is just unfortunate that this mistake was a fairly basic one that delivered me my first DNF.

In the end though I am trying not to beat myself up too much about it since I came out healthy and I know that walking off in the state I was in was the smart choice. I am also still confident that I could have finished if it weren’t for that mistake so that says I am still pretty damned strong. Which helps since the Fargo Marathon is in a week…

Well – that was a long story but hopefully it was at least partially entertaining and can serve as a warning to others! Drink you bastards!


PS – thanks again to Dwayne and all the volunteers – fantastic event under tough circumstances!

Time for my recap of the 2015 12 hour Lemming Loop…or at least what I can remember of it.

First up – awesomely run race again. Well organized and you can tell it is all about giving the runners the opportunity to do their best. Great management, nice course and fantastic volunteers! Thanks folks!

Now about my run and personal experience…

I was going in fairly undertrained. This time last year I had over 30% more mileage on my legs than I do this year. I had a few 200 mile months last year and this year I have been struggling to get over 100 most months. I did have a few longer runs in recently but, being honest with myself, I wouldn’t say I was actually ready.

Then the day before the race, I got knocked on my ass by a cold – headache, runny nose and wicked sneezing. I ended up taking the afternoon off of work the day before to hit the cold meds and crash on the couch for a while. Amazingly the meds seemed to work…and didn’t make me drowsy…that meant I could run on the meds. Ok…that means I am go for the race.

I finished packing up my stuff after taking the kids to swimming lessons, pre-loaded my vehicle and set out my breakfast and hit the sack by 10pm (after taking another set of cold meds).

Up with the alarm at 4:30 – showered, dressed, took more cold meds and out the door by 5 am without waking the dogs (first win of the day). I ate my breakfast on the drive and wandered up to the staging area as the orientation was occurring – missed it but I had read about the changes to the course on the trailrunmanitoba.com website and remembered enough of the rules from last year that I felt comfortable anyway.

There was the choice of dropping your gear in the outside tents or inside (where there was limited room) – I saw an open spot near the bathroom and went with that for my gear location. I had brought a few changes of clothes in-case I need to make a gear swap due to weather changes and I figured being close to the bathroom for the changes would be a good thing.

Strangely, I was feeling very confident – I had no real reason to be but I was. Maybe it was the cold meds I took when I got up?

I wandered outside to look at the tally board to see how a friend was doing on the 24 hour run – saw that he was up well over 50 miles (13 hours in for the 24 hour folks at that point) and it looked like he was going strong for the 100 he was shooting for. Cool.

I got in with the small pack getting ready to get started and lined myself up somewhere in the middle – I wasn’t going to make the mistake I made last year where I went out too fast.

I fired up my gps tracking app on my phone as well as a run/walk timer app. I knew I was going to probably ignore the interval app for the first while but I wanted it running so that when I got to the point that I wanted to use it, it would already be going. Plus it speaks off the number of intervals completed giving me an idea of how much time had passed without necessarily having to look at my Garmin watch.

Speaking of my Garmin watch – it died on me at about 10 hours in last year and I wanted to make it last as long as possible for this run so I didn’t turn it on until right before the race started – every minute I could make it last would be needed. It was extra important as when I got to the race I found that the backup watch I had brought had stopped keeping time. I would still have my phone but I didn’t want to have to keep popping it out of the holster to check the time.

Ok – then we are off – headlamp is on and off we go – I held back and didn’t push. I just wanted to get comfortable with the course changes and watch for areas where roots and rocks were going to be a problem – the worst areas I logged in my brain so that I would know when to snap back into focus and pay attention to what my feet were doing.

About 3 laps in I had to take a bio break. At this point I had noticed my headlamp was starting to dim but luckily it was starting to get bright enough I didn’t really need it anymore.  I did my restroom stop and grabbed a bottle of electrolyte drink from my gear and dropped off my headlamp. The drink I was using comes in tablet form that you drop in a bottle of water – it is made by Gu and is 0 calorie, so flavored salt, but tasty. I was quite impressed at how well it worked for me (besides a side issue with it that I talk about below)

The electrolyte drink is a new thing for me – I can’t handle Gatorade (I get major swamp gut after a couple hours on a race if I drink it). So I usually drink flat Coke on long runs and it works very well for me – however on the 12 hour race last year I tanked about half way through and I realized it was because I was low on electrolytes (I could walk but running gave me headaches). My goal for this race was to do a bottle of electrolyte drink followed by a bottle of coke and keep alternating. I would also take in a gulp of water every lap as well as some chips that they had out at the great snack table. Through the day I also had some cookies, some chocolate bars and some grapes. Extremely good selection of things to try – I even saw chocolate covered bacon but didn’t want to risk potential impacts to my system.

I noticed at this point that my friend’s (who was doing the 24 hour) lap counter didn’t seem to be moving up. Oh oh.

I continued on and about half way through the next lap I ended up with some deep dark stomach gurgles and cold sweats. Not good. Surprisingly the feeling past and I was good for hours after that. Not sure what that was but it could have been baaaaad.

Not much drama after that for a while – I just kept fairly steady pace and would do a bit of walking as I finished every lap but I wasn’t doing the true run / walk cycles yet.

On the 8th or 9th lap (about 17 miles in – I had ditched my toque and jacket by this point) I was walking and finishing off a grilled cheese sandwich when a runner trotted past and I heard “that looked like a Ted…was that a Ted?” I replied “it is a Ted, is that a Pete?” Indeed. It was my friend doing the 24 hour – I trotted after him and we chatted a bit. He had crashed pretty hard through the night apparently and had a lap take him over an hour. He ended up getting some sleep and then woke up and ate a whack of carbs and got some caffeine. And now he was moving again. That is perseverance.

I did a lap with him – the only reason I could keep up was because he was taking it easy (he is quite out of my league – a just over 3 hour marathoner) and it was still my fastest lap of the race.

His strategy was to rest a bit after each lap so when we finished that lap he stopped for a bit and I kept going (he still lapped me several times after that).

After about 5 hours I got into the true run/walk intervals to start resting the legs (5 min run and 1 min walk per cycle).

I hit the marathon distance at about 5:10 or so and was right around 28.5-29 miles at the 6 hour point. Going slow but still feeling pretty good.

At about here my wife and daughter showed up to cheer me on (son came too but he had just gotten sick and stayed in the vehicle – I think the poor bugger was fighting the same cold I was) but didn’t stay long so that they could go get out the boy home and cleaned up. My daughter did help herself to some of the food on the runner table before we could stop her – luckily there was plenty

Was able to stay pretty steady (if a bit slower) for a few more hours and it was looking like I had a shot at 52.4 – double marathon. Everything would have to run absolutely perfect for that to happen from there on out but it is good to dream.

Just before the 10 hour mark I stopped for another bio break and figured the double marathon was probably gone but there shouldn’t be an issue hitting 50 miles if I kept steady. After I got running again I figured I could do 3 x 30 minute laps and then do 1 short lap to hit 50 easily and probably have a 10-15 minute buffer. I was feeling good and was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel – time to push.

I got through the first of the 3 laps on time and grabbed another bottle of electrolyte drink and pushed. I got about half way though this lap and crashed hard. I started to feel tingly and a bit light headed. Oh crap…

I couldn’t run and I walked as hard as I could but I was feeling pretty awful. It took everything I had to finish that lap and I was concerned that I might be done and could maybe pass out. What was supposed to be a half hour lap took over 40 minutes. At this point the 24 hour folks had just finished so I kind of quietly went over to where my gear was and grabbed a coke and chugged half a bottle and tried to think.

What I realized was that my blood sugar had tanked. The electrolyte drink I had been drinking was 0 calorie and I wasn’t replacing those calories that my body was expecting from the Coke I usually drank. If I was right, it meant it was something I could fix. I needed fast calories, now! After a minute or 2 I was able to stand up and move – I wandered out and grabbed a handful of cookies and started chowing down and slamming more Coke.

I ran into my friend Pete at this point and he had made his 100 miles – Awesome! (edit – looks like he hit second place! Amazing recovery!) He was excited and wanted to chat – but I had to keep moving though because if I sat down to chat I wasn’t going to get moving again. I congratulated him and slowly continued.

So I started walking again – I didn’t want to risk the long lap – if it took me too long I wouldn’t get credit for a partial one if I ran out of time…plus it was going to be deserted and I wasn’t sure anyone would find me if I took a header.

So I walked a short lap and made sure to let the time keepers know that it was a short one and not long like they had originally marked.

I was starting to feel better at this point and the math was that if I could hammer out 3 more short laps I maybe, just maybe would hit the 50 mile point…

I didn’t know for sure how long the short laps were – I vaguely recalled them being like 0.8 or 0.85 miles from last year but wasn’t sure. I figured 3 more would do it but I couldn’t afford anymore stopping – I had to get those 3 done as fast as I could at this point. (which really wasn’t what you would call fast…)

Pushed through the first – ok. And then the 2nd – still doing ok. Started the 3rd and my Garmin started saying low battery. I had 10 minutes to go and I needed to keep looking at the watch to see where I was and how much time I had left – it kept up the urgency and that was what I needed to try and get the 50 miles.

Finished out the 3rd with 2 minutes to go – and started pushing down the stretch again to hit the 100 meter markers (on your last short lap they have markers every 100 meters and you add the last one you hit to your tally). My friend who did the 24 hour run was still there and when he saw me keep going he yelled “You’re still going?” – he didn’t realize how close I was to 50 miles and I needed every step to just make sure.

So I hit the 100 meter mark and it was going to be tight to the 200 meter point but dug as deep as I could and got to there. At that point the Garmin said I had less than 5 seconds to go so I stopped and the air horn went to say we were done.  Good timing. I hit stop on the Garmin and it shut off. Hope it saved the run…

I walked back to the start line and gave them my 200 meter number and asked the organizers what the distance was for the short loop. 1250 meters. Before doing anything else I sat down with my phone with Google and the calculator app.

1250 meters = approx. 0.77 miles times 4 = 3.08 miles

200 meters = approx. 0.124 miles

23 full laps at 2.05 miles per lap = 47.15

So all totaled to 50.35 miles – I fricking did it.

(Update – official numbers posted and confirmed at 50.33 miles. Yeehaw!)

My phone app said just over 51 but it was reading high most of the day and my Garmin said 49.6 but it had been reading low most of the day as well.

I still have to wait for the official word but right now I would say I made my 50 miles – and did a mile more than I pulled off last year. Add in that I am probably 15 pounds heavier this year over last and that I was fighting a cold this year makes for a really unlikely scenario…but I did it. Wild.

I sat down for a minute and chatted with my friend and he headed home and I went to gather my stuff and grab a slice of pizza. The pizza was great (by Pappa Murphy’s here in Winnipeg) but I only got through about a half slice before my stomach rebelled. Apparently my stomach wasn’t up to solid food at that point – but man it was tasty.

At that point I grabbed my gear and wandered out to my van – fired up the heat and put a blanket around my shoulders and started the drive home.

Amazingly when I got home I was able to get out of the van and walk into the house and up the stairs. Even managed to take the dogs out and feed them.

At this point I was starting to shiver so I managed to climb even more stairs, have a shower and get warm and clean. I then sat my ass on the couch and didn’t move for a while…

In the end, I came through relatively undamaged – my left ankle is tight and doesn’t want to give full range of movement without some pain but I can tell it isn’t permanently damaged, only sore. Other than that some scrapes on the feet where things stuck through the shoes but nothing major – yay Hoka Cliftons – legs feel amazing for what I just did.

So that is the long story of the run or at least what I can remember – hope you enjoyed the story.

Again, thanks to all the volunteers and the organizers – another great race this year!


edit – Oct 5 – I should mention that I did not use music at all during the run – I put one ear bud in my right ear to catch pacing information from the gps running app as well as get alerts from the run/walk app. The other ear bud I tucked into my shirt to keep it out of the way. This worked surprisingly well especially since most runners were passing on the left so I was always able to hear when someone was coming up behind me and calling for a pass. I might have to do more of that on outdoor runs where I am not looking for speed.

WPS Half Marathon – 1:55:15 official – all things considered I can accept that and will now focus on getting back to where I was.

Ok – so let’s start off with a big thanks to the organizers and volunteers – the WPS Half marathon is consistently well run and the volunteers are always great. I have done 4 in total (last 3 in a row) and each time I have been impressed. Thanks again!

So how did the event and run go for me?

The day definitely started out different for me than most race days. This is the first real race I have done since we got the pups and I didn’t factor in time to get them out before I headed out so I was a bit rushed. But I gave myself plenty of time to get to the race and get parked and settled so it wasn’t an issue but did require some juggling that I will need to remember for future races!

The race this year had a different start location than previous years – still in the same park but in a different area of the park. Parking ended up being further away from the start line than before so more walking was definitely required but being used to the long walks needed for runDisney Disney World races the walking didn’t bug me. I did give directions to one runner though who didn’t know the park well – the start line is not visible from most of the parking so more signage might have been helpful there.

Weather was beautiful – definitely shorts and short sleeves weather for us northern runners. Sun was up and the sky was clear.

I got in the start corral, absorbed the sunlight and tried to figure out what my game plan was. Anyone reading the blog probably realizes I was quite ill for most of the first part of April and my training plan fell apart quite significantly. I have been able to put in some decent shorter runs in the 5 mile range since then but I haven’t done double digit mileage runs since March. So I knew I was going to have issues with the speed + endurance combined that is needed for a half marathon. I knew that my PR of 1:46 was not going to fall today and I figured I needed to be under 2 hours for my own piece of mind. The 2 hour mark has a weird mental power for me – it represents the mark where I was finally able to tell myself that I had managed to get back into running again properly. I broke back under 2 hours at the 2013 WPS Half marathon and haven’t raced a half slower than 2 hours since and it would have been a tough hit mentally if I had that happen today.

But I still couldn’t figure out what my pace should be.

On top of the illness my right knee (which I have had trouble with off and on since high school) was aching pretty fierce on Friday. It was fine yesterday and didn’t give me any issues running with the family in the Run at the Ridge 2k but it was worrisome enough that I was tempted to wear my knee brace to be safe. In the end I left the brace at home but it was something I knew I needed to be conscious of.

While I was contemplating, I fired out a tweet about my indecision and got some encouragement back from Bill from Florida (@rilla6969 on twitter and blogging over at rillaruns.wordpress.com). I met up with Bill a couple times back at the Dopey Challenge in January and he is always ready to give encouragement. Encouragement…shove…whatever you want to call it.

So with the clock ticking down before the start, I decided I would see what happened on the first mile and then try a solid push and try to stay over 7 mph for as long as I could and if it fell apart then at least I would have a buffer to make sure I was under 2 hours.

And we were off! Accompanied by a flyover from a Canadian Forces hercules (I think)!

A bit congested at the start but nothing to rival Disney so I was able to cope. First mile finished in 8:28 and I felt not too bad – definitely took longer to get my breathing right but I settled in decently enough to try a little faster.

Mile 2 – much faster and less congested – 8:09

Mile 3 – shin splints in my left leg? What the hell? I haven’t had shin splints in years – I was pissed about that! The anger must have changed my form a bit because they disappeared after a few steps and never came back the rest of the race. Decent pace for the mile – 8:12

Mile 4 – this mile includes a 180 that you have to slow down for – not too bad but something to watch for. 8:15

Mile 5 – right knee made its presence known. Not bad but it let me know it didn’t like the steep incline up to a bridge over a river. This became a common theme for the knee – it was fine except on inclines. And it never really hurt, just an ache and a reminder if I did anything stupid it would call me on it.

During mile 5 I stopped for my first fuel break and walked a bit but still got 8:52 for the mile so not awful.

Mile 6 – 8:27 – slowing down a bit but still ok – 8:27

These first 6 miles included a lot of me repeating to myself “these are only mental barriers, they are not physical barriers. Keep pushing”. Starting around mile 7 I was starting to hit actual physical barriers though.

Mile 7 – 8:48 – definitely slowing down. Endurance was just not there for the speeds I had in the first half of the race. I hit the half way point of the race at around the 55 minute mark so I knew sub 2 hour should be there, which was a relief but I could tell even at this point it was not going to be easy, I was going to have to work for it. Wind seemed to pick up a bit along this stretch as well and the area is pretty exposed, and of course we were running right into it! That sapped a bit of energy as did the rolling inclines of the road in this area. Neither the wind or the inclines were really that bad but I was hitting the limits of my recent training runs and felt them harder than I should have.

Mile 8 – 8:48 – steady at least. Still feeling pretty strong.

Mile 9 – 9:01 but including my 2nd fuel stop / walk – so pace was pretty solid still. Lots of corners to slow you down on this mile though (2 180s and 2 90s).

Mile 10 – 9:28 – now back on the same road as mile 7 and the wind was maybe even stronger. Either that or I was sucking wind pretty bad (could be both actually).

Mile 11 – 9:22 – again slower than the first half of the race but feeling a bit stronger again since we weren’t so exposed any more.  We were also heading back toward the finish line now and into the sun – that always helps the mental attitude.

Mile 12 – 9:35 – 3rd and final fueling walk – so my pace was actually picking back up.

Mile 13 – 8:59 – stronger pace again – back in the park with cheering crowds and good scenery.

And finished the last 0.1 miles in 0:49 – a solid, strong push to the finish line avoiding the desire to sprint and maybe hurt myself.

Final time 1:55:15. Sub-2hours achieved and my mental state saved!

Got my medal and this year’s gift – finisher socks! Kind of unique. The WPS Half always gives out some kind of finisher gift – I have previously gotten a sling bag, a bib belt and running beanie. Both the belt and beanie get used quite frequently. I’m not sure about the socks but I will give them a go and see how they work for me.

I hung out around the finish line for a bit and went to wander back to find my vehicle when I got stopped by someone calling my name. It was Trevor, a gentleman who works for the same company I do and in the same building. We had a quick chat and he mentioned that he found my blog a while back and that he had been reading along. Cool! My readership isn’t very big and I didn’t think anyone local followed along – nice to know that there is someone – it help keep me honest! It did come as a bit of a shock because I didn’t think anyone around the office knew about the blog but still very cool!

Trevor – congrats again on strong sub-2 hour! Awesome work!

So after a quick chat, I continued my wander back to the vehicle and headed on home.

Now that I have had a bit of time to think and review how I did, I have come up with some thoughts on how to get my mojo back:

  1. Get the mileage back up – that one sounds simple but my mileage was decimated in early April and I am going to have to focus to get my running back and to rebuild my endurance. No slacking.
  2. Mid-week medium long runs – these are my 8-10 mile runs usually done on the treadmill on Wednesday nights. I don’t do speed work on these runs but I do push strong, even paces…kind of like you need for half marathons? Even before the illness, I was missing an unusual number of these runs because we have 2 different activities for the kids those nights and I have to start running pretty late to get the miles in. So these runs ended up being easy to ditch. No more! I have realized these runs are crucial to keep sustained speed up past about the hour mark – you can see me crashing out around the 8-9 mile mark and missing these runs is one of the reasons!
  3. Sign up for the Manitoba Marathon – 7 weeks away – my intention was to wait to see how close I got to PR today and if I was really close I would train speed like a demon and make the PR happen at the half during the Manitoba Marathon event. After the run today, I believe I need the pressure of a full coming up to drive me to put in the miles properly. Basically I will train to get my miles back up and try for a good showing in June at the full and then train hard through the summer. In the fall there are several good half marathons in the city and I will make a PR attempt again then. I also have the 12 hour Lemming Loop coming up at the beginning of October so I need to start rebuilding my base now.
  4. Sort out my diet and weight – to put it simply I have gained about 5 pounds in the past couple months. Some of that could be contributed to being ill but the big part of it was I have been eating to run 50+ miles a week, and I haven’t been anywhere near that. So time to focus hard on that again. Goal – back down to 215 for the Manitoba Marathon.
  5. Use the pool wisely – we have our backyard pool open now and I am going to have to use it for additional endurance training and resistance exercises. This will help the weight loss but also help rebuild endurance. Still have to decide how best to do this but I will come up with a plan in the next few days.
  6. My right knee – my bloody right knee, it keeps coming back to haunt me. I need to strengthen it again. The additional miles will help, as long as I ramp those miles up in a smart way. But I think I also need to do some resistance exercises to – so squats and lunges need to come in and hopefully I can figure out something in the pool too.

Those mostly sound like negatives so I throw in a positive too – I was able to drive myself mentally – I pushed through some crap and kept going. That hasn’t been lost. Good!

So that looks like way more words than necessary to describe 2 hours of running, but there you go.

Once again, thanks to the coordinators and volunteers today! The work is appreciated.

WFPS Half Marathon 2014 race report – 1:47:51 – 177 overall. Slower than a month ago? What happened?

Gotta start with saying the WPFS Half Marathon was fantastically run – very clean and organized. Fantastic volunteers – overall just great.

It was a changed course this year as one of the parks decided not to let the run go through this year. This took some of the scenic aspects out of the course and put the first several miles on pretty bland city streets. Nothing too exciting there but about half way through the course got a lot more scenic which was nice.

Weather was perfect too – cool but not too cold and no wind. Great conditions with a nice sunrise.

So what happened? Why was I slower? Well – probably a few reasons but I will get to that.

I went into the race not really sure how hard I wanted to push and thought about lining up around the 2 hour mark and taking it easy – I certainly wasn’t out to prove anything this race. In the end though I saw the 1:45 pacer and figured I would line up near him and if I had to back off I would and still maybe be close to my 1:46 PR. I wasn’t training lately to go extra fast so I didn’t think a PR was likely but stranger things have happened.

So I followed the 1:45 pacer and felt strong and was able to keep up nicely. Around mile 6 or so I was actually ahead of him for a bit and still feeling good. He did end up passing and around mile 8 I had to stop for a quick walk. I was able to push the speed and had him well in sight until mile 10ish when I stopped for a second quick walk.

Then around mile 11 I was going strong and still well on track for around 1:46 and then I accidentally pulled my earphones out and couldn’t get them back in without walking again.

Got going again but didn’t have a lot more speed left – steady but no burst power.

Coming up near the end I was still going strong and passing a few here and there and also being passed – but still good. Got around mile 12.5 and saw some guy was trying to race me – kept looking around to make sure I was still behind him and I could tell he was struggling – weird. I could have blasted past him – was feeling damn strong but that isn’t my game and I didn’t want to risk tripping or causing a problem. Just stayed nice and tight and let him have his finish. My PR wasn’t there so there was no point in going crazy.

No tummy troubles or equipment issues at all – was comfortable the whole race.

So I’m not entire sure why I was slower than my race a month ago but I think there are a few reasons:

  • to start with I wasn’t hungry for it – didn’t put any pressure on myself
  • I haven’t done any real speed work in a month (not since the Fort Garry Half Marathon 4 weeks ago) – everything since then has been about endurance and running on tired legs.
  • That being said the legs are probably a bit tired too – especially after running a 12 hour damned near 50 mile run 2 weeks previous
  • I haven’t been as focused on speed training since I set my half PR back in May so I have probably been slowly training myself to be a bit slower all summer (especially since I was looking at that 12 hour run)

So lots of reasons why I wasn’t faster – but still I ran a strong half and felt comfortable enough to contemplate a run later that night. I have trained and locked in endurance and quick recovery – just what I need for the Dopey Challenge in January.

Now that tells me my training plan is working and I will be ready for Dopey – that being said I will most likely make sure that I push my speed work harder over the next couple months!

Again – a great race! Half marathon #14 in the bag.