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.