Monday, July 5, 2010

Creemore Vertical Challenge 2010

I’ve had a couple of days to ponder Creemore. I shook my Eightball and it says: Signs Point to Nutrition. It’s probably right, but I feel like I was doing pretty good until the wheels fell off. I can deny, cry and whine but the fact remains: I have been judged and found wanting.

I read my SportsTrack entry for CVS (Creemore Vertical Challenge) last year (2009) and it said: “My best ultra race ever.” Same with my blog entry: “Most intelligent trail race yet”. Wow, what a difference a few degrees make.

I drove up to Creemore with Chris and Kim. They got a Zip car, picked me up at 5:30am and we got there with time to spare. The weather was already warm. I wasn’t worried. I had a plan, I knew the course and finally, it was only 50k: how bad could it get? Right...

There’s nothing to say about the first loop. It was warm but not horrible. I ran with my pal Steve and we had a conservative pace. Toward the end he took off to catch up to someone he knows but that was fine. I stuck to the plan: easy pace, eat and drink every 30 minutes. The one thing that did happen is that I got a side stitch on the right side after going down a long, steep hill. We went down fairly fast, but what can you do? It was steep. The stitch faded but never completely. I didn’t know it at the time but my fate was sealed.

I finished my first loop in exactly 3 hours and I was really happy with that. I replaced my nearly empty gel bottle (5 gels) with a new one, refilled my bladder and got going. I still felt good although I did feel like I was going a bit slower. Then, someone passed me. Then I heard voices behind me and got passed again. And then again. Every time I tried to increase the pace, my stitch would come back. In the never ending uphill section, I was still in good spirit but I was starting to get worried about that stitch. WTF? I never get stitches at a slow pace.

It was hot. It was damn hot. The was little or no shade. At the 35k mark I saw Chris coming the other way, looking like someone wondering what the hell he’s doing there. It actually made me feel a bit better. I though he would be much further ahead. Misery likes company. I was craving ice cold beverages. then, with the next aid station in view, a thought popped into my head: “why don’t I just ask for a ride”? What’s the point of finishing this pain-fest? Then, as I was finishing a cup of water and ice, I saw Kinga coming into the aid station. I figure I’ll try running with her to the next aid station around 40k and see what happens.

I became Kinga’s project. I’ll never know if I would have quit. I don’t think I would have but that’s beside the point. Every time I talked about it, Kinga would freak out. Personally, I don’t have a big issue with dnf’s, given the right reasons. I was trying to discuss those conditions with Kinga, but basically, for her, there is no such thing outside of a broken limb below the belly button. And even then, I remember her telling me about her thoughts on duct taping a broken ankle, at last Winter’s training run in Creemore. This should give you an idea of what I was dealing with.

I was starting to feel bad for her, because truth be told, if I decided that I should quit, then I would and I was starting to worry that she would be mad at me. The point is, if I was going to quit, 35k was the place to do it because after that you only have 10k to go so what’s the point of even quitting? They’d probably ask me to walk back anyway.

So we walked the uphills, some of the flats. By then it wasn’t just the stitch. I had been out there for longer than expected. I was experiencing an honest to god bonk. I was still forcing myself to eat and drink, but probably less than I should. I was worried that I wasn’t drinking enough to digest my salt pills, which I had been taking fairly regularly although probably not enough.

Did I mention the heat? I was just unbelievable. There was no shade to speak of. here and there, you could catch 10 seconds of shade but that was it. There was some wind in some places but mostly, it was just damn hot. Running in the tall grass, with rising humidity from the ground and no air was oppressive.

After the last aid station, I started to feel quite nauseous after hard efforts. There are two extremely steep ditches where you actually have to pull yourself out using a rope and at the top of both of them I thought that was it. But then, you start hearing the people at the finish line and you know it’s over. We jogged to the bridge and then the finish and it was all over.

Laying down in that river a few minutes later was just pure bliss. It was just unbelievable. Someone mentioned that that race had the best “after-race” setup and it’s so true. Talking to other runners, I could tell that I wasn’t the only one who had a tough time.

I’ve had hard races. My 50 miler at Haliburton last year was extremely hard for me but I eventually recovered somewhat in the last 10k. This race was harder. The stitch, the bonk and the heat together made this close to the limit of what I’m willing to endure for “fun”. One thing Kinga said made sense: “the reason we run ultras it to experience extremes. Well, experience it!”. In other words, be careful what you wish for.

After all this, it’s funny to think that I’ll be there next year asking for more.


West Grey Runner said...

JD “I became Kinga’s project”…you were doomed for success!

It was nice hanging out in the river comparing notes. Ultra Running is a never ending challenge, that what we come back for. Bring it on!

Anonymous said...

JD, I'm so glad you didn't quit and even ran with me at times! You would have missed an important experience that you absolutely need in your future ultras when things go wrong at, oh, 40-50 km. Weren't you curious to see what's beyond that strong desire to quit at 35k? (Hint: Resilience and a few building blocks for your next ultras.) You're stronger than you think. Don't sweat the small stuff.

Sara Montgomery said...

Kinga, I'm thinking JD knows plenty about resiliance, having run a 100 miler in Alaska. On snow, in the dead of winter. :)