The Sulphur Springs Trail Run is an Ultra race in Ancaster, about an hour south of Toronto. You have a choice of running 10k, 25k, 50k, 50 mi or 100 mi. There's also a 100 mi relay. I ran the 25k this morning. I had a better race than expected. I finished in 2:17:52, 41st out of 150 entrants, 36th out of 88 males, 22/41 in males 40-49.
I got up at 4:30am because I wanted to be there in time to see the 6am start of the 50 and 100 milers. I got up, made an expresso, ate a Promax energy bar, got dressed and I was out of there in my rental car. We live downtown and we only have one car. I decided that we would rent one any time we need two cars. This was one such time. The rental had Sirius satellite radio. I have this perverse need to listen to Country music when I drive by myself. I don't know why. I don't really like country. Anyway I picked one of the many stations and drove off. Commercial free is nice.
I got there with a few minutes to spare before the 6am start. My start was at 7:30 so I had plenty of time. I snapped a few picture of the 50-100 miler start, yelled a few encouragements and then went inside to get my bag. It's hard to get excited because half the people just start walking. They don't seem to be in a hurry. The temperature was a bit chilly, I would say around 50F, so I wasn't sure if I was going to run with long or short sleeves. I pinned my number to the front of my tri shorts so I wouldn't have to worry about it at the last second. I had an hour and a half to kill. Luckily, I actually saw two people I had met a few weeks before trying to stay warm in a Starbucks before a 10k race. One of them is doing triathlons so we chatted about our race plans for the summer. About 7am, I put a couple of gels in my tri short's side mini-pockets, bodyglide my nipples and other friction points (see "Chafing in the junk" thread) and switch to my Karhu M2 running shoes. Those shoes are lightweight and low to the ground. I'm a bit afraid to twist an ankle, specially motoring down some of the hills. I eat a 2X caffeine Expresso gel and drink some water. I'm a bit worried because I noticed that all my gels have caffeine and I tend to get nautious when I have too much in my system. I replace one of the gels in my pocket with a Banana flavored one I found in my race kit.
Five minutes to start and sure enough, I decide to change my shirt to the short sleeve one. We gather at the start line and we're off. This is the start of the 25km and 50km races so there are about 300 of us rushing down the first hill. The couse consists of a 5k loop, followed by a 20k loop. The race starts with a fairly long downhill so we're all flying down the course. The course is well marked with orange ribbons. I will never get lost for the entire race. Around km 3, there's a long, steep, single file hill and everyone is walking. Still a hard hill. Then we finish the 5k loop, step on the mat and we're off for the 20km loop. My 5k time is 26:31 for which I have no frame of reference, this being my first race longer than 10k and my first trail race. All I know is that this is a bit faster than my target pace of 5:30/km. What can I say about the next 20km? My Garmin 305 was doing a fairly good job despite the trees, but my pace was all over the place because of the hills. I was afraid of going too fast and bonk at the end. I didn't want to look at my HR although I was wearing the strap. I have never looked at my HR during a race. I mostly past others. I can't remember being past after the first few km but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. I stopped to pee in the bushes at least three times. There are long sections where I can't see anybody around. It's hard to keep a fast pace when you don't see a rabbit in front of you. There are aid stations every 3 to 5 km, well stocked in water, energy drinks and food. Actually, I've never see station so well stocked. There are fruits, cookies and other tempting snacks. I stick to my plan, so after the first hours I gulp down one of my gels as soon as I see the aid station. At the station, I stop briefly to pick up a glass of water, gulp it down, throw the cup in a garbage can and I'm off. We can't take the cups with us to prevent littering. I took the caffeinated gel and I can feel my heart racing a bit. Is it the gel? I keep going and I fall back into my groove. I almost do a face plant looking at my Garmin. You really want to keep your eyes on the ground. There are a lot of roots and rocks. I'm happy I chose to wear my clear glasses instead of the tinted ones. Wearing clear glasses is something that Brett mentioned in "Zen...", you see clearly and your eyes are protected. The sun rarely reaches the trail and I might not see the trail as clealy with the tinted lenses.
At km 18 or 19, I can see this girl a few dozen meters in front of me. I slowly catch up and finally pass her in a horrible uphill section. Every time you get near the top, you see that there's another uphill right after. We keep passing each other, me during uphills and her going downhill. She's tiny and she's just flying down those hills. My quads are destroyed by now and I'm afraid my legs will just give out while running all out down a rocky hill. I try to chat with her and she's wearing a friggin iPod. What the ...? Trail race with an iPod? Anyway during one of the flat sections, I decide to up the pace a bit and get rid of her. My energy level is still good even though my quads are shot. I decide not to take the banana gel, which I've never tried. I run thru the last aid station about 2 km from the finish. I feel ok, it's still nice and cool. I'm just so goddam tired. Here's that single file uphill we hit in the 5km loop again, so we're all walking single file. The walking streches the calf muscles and it feels as if they are going to snap. They are on fire. I decide I'm going to pass the two people in font of me, a man and a woman, before the finish. I'm having trouble catching up on the flat section but as we get close to the finish and the trail starts going uphill, I pass the guyand then decide to sprint the last 100 meters and pass the girl about 50 meters from the finish. I almost feel bad, but hey, it's a race. I finish in 2:17 and change. Better than my target of 2:30. I feel good for 5 minutes and then I wonder how fast I can run this next year.
They take the chip off and give me a bag with a banana, a granola bar, a bottle of water and some jelly beans. I eat all of it. I go to my bag, change my shoes and shirt and take my HR strap off.
Once at home (more Country music), I download my Garmin data and looked at my data. Warning: I'm a math geak, so now I will analyze my data. My Garmin shows 24.5km instead of 25km. That's the biggest error margin I've seen, but I guess it's pretty good considering the tree cover and the hills. I can tell from my HR that I could have done better. My average HR was at 81% of maxHR (168 bpm for me), comfortably in zone 4. I did not go into zone 5 until the final sprint. I should be able to run at about 88% of maxHR for that period of time. I did feel that I could run faster during the race, but I wasn't sure if I should because of my lack of experience in longer distances and in trails. When I run another half-marathon type distance, I will definitely ramp up the pace, specially on the flat sections. I don't know that I could have run faster in the down hill portions without breaking an ankle. I might push a bit harder in the uphills. I would like to see my HR in the upper range of zone 4, with a few incursions in zone 5, just to show that I tried.
I'm happy with the gels I used although I think I will tone down the caffeine. My hydration was ok for the distance I ran. I drank water at all but one aid station. I need to figure out if I should alternate water and gatorade. I'm not sure how much water is needed to digest the gel. All I know is that you can't have gels and only Gatorade. Still some work to do on nutrition.
Next year I will probably go for the 50k, maybe even the 50 miler depending on training. My wife did say that all those people (50 and 100 milers) were "f#$ng crazy" and tried to make me promise never to do something like that, but then again she said that about marathons and I'm running one in September!!!