Finally, the first race of the season, the Seaton Trail Mud Puppies! I have to say, I like that race. It's the second time I run this race and I had forgotten how hard the course is. It's weird, because this year the OUS Spring Warmup was pretty much run on the same course but I think we just happened to miss the best parts!
Oblivious to common sense, I offered a ride to someone I met over the Internet, on Runningmania.com. His handle is Killerz. I picked him up downtown, near where I live and we got to the start in time to see the 50 miler start.
The weather was harsh. About 3C (38F) and pretty windy. Occasional snow. I changed into my full length Sugoi tights and a light merino base top. I also wore light gloves, a hat and yellow sunglasses. Finally, I wore my trusty Injinji toesocks and my brand new La Sportiva Crosslites that I just bought last weekend. They are half a size larger than my previous pair to prevent my toes from crashing into the front of the toebox when going downhill. This new pair feels a bit tight on top and I might have to cut part of the integrated gaitor. I wear gaitors anyway, so that's no problem.
For hydration, I went for my Nathan HPL-020 hydration vest. I just hate running with a bottle and I love the storage. I can have a bit of sunscreen, a first-aid kit, some bug spray and all the food I need. One of my goal in this race was to spend very little time at the aid stations. I'm a sucker for aid stations, especially when I get tired so this year I would basically run right through. I brought an extra bladder so after the first loop, instead of refilling the bladder, I would just switch for the full one.
The course had changed a bit from last year, going around some of the stairs and was a bit longer so that 3 loops would be 50 miles (80.5km) instead of 78km. According to my Garmin readings after the race, the "52km" course is really a shade over 54. I might be wrong, but some of the hills that went around those stairs were huge. I mean HUGE.
It was really nice to see the usual crowd. I had seen a few in Creemore this Winter at Pierre's impromptue training run at his house,but some of them I had not seen in a while.
We started right on time. My plan was vague: run a good race. Not all out, but not a jog either. I started the race with Ron at a fairly sedate pace, then Kinga and Adi. On signature feature of this race is that there's a river crossing only a couple of km from the start. I'm not sure how, but after a while I ended up by myself. I pressed a bit harder. I walked (crawled) the hills but ran the rest. I ate a gel and drank water every 30 minutes, stopping at the aid stations only to down a quick cup of Heed and maybe grab a handful of chips. The course was harsh, muddy in a few places but the shoe sucking swamp section was detoured, replace by a deep, runny mud section and an ankle busting rocky hill.
I got to the turnaround in about 1h40min. According to my Garmin, the outbound leg is a net uphill of about 235 feet. I don't really trust the altimeter,but it's definitely an uphill. On the way back, against my better judgement, I pushed pretty hard. I finished the back leg in 1h30min for a 3h10min loop. There would be a price for that. At basecamp (a camp chair with my stuff stacked on it) I quickly switched water bladders, replaced my gel flask with a full one, popped two Excedrins (my Achilles was feeling the uphills), took off my gloves and stuffed them in my bag and took off.
I still felt good but my pace was definitely slowing. Mentally, that leg is difficult because there's no end in sight and you're starting to feel the burn. The hills had grown taller and steeper. The wind felt colder. I was having a hard time warming up my hands. That leg was the slowest with a time of 1h46min. That turnaround felt like it had been moved about 2km further down the trail. I felt like my legs were completely out of juice. Going up the steep hills, I could feel the burn. Once I got up the top, I couldn't immediately start running. I needed a few steps before going again, huffin' and puffin'. I finally made it to the last river crossing and then finally to the finish with a total time of 6:40:05.
I pretty happy with my race. I think that I might have overdone the second leg a little but it's hard to say by how much. 50km going up and down trails is a long way and obviously, one is tired after a while. Because of the steepness of the hills, I can't imagine running even splits on that course. Going up the hills, you can feel the energy just evaporating from your muscles. Once it's gone, it's gone until you stop and recover so you have to run that last leg on some less energetic fuel. It gets the job done, but it's a more involved, more painfull effort.
My nutrition went well, I never truely bonked although I did get slower but that's ok. The cold was a factor, but not a big one for me. My merino top kept me from getting cold without being hot. My fitness is ok, but not outstanding. I still have some time before Sulphur, but not tons of it so I might have to rethink some of my goals for that race. Mentally, things went well. I ran most of the race by myself and I never went to the dark side, except maybe before I got to the turnaround on the second loop. It felt like it would never come.
If you're looking for a challenging 50km on trails, you should consider Seaton next year.
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