It's weird to talk about redemption after taking over 8h 35min to run 56 km, but what can I say? This was my best run ever. It wasn't my best RACE ever because quite frankly, racing is not exactly what I did on Saturday, but before TLC, I cannot remember running with such "effortlessness". Even after running 56km, I still had that feeling that you have at around 15k when you feel like you could run forever.
I didn't get much sleep on Friday night. My 16 year old daughter had picked that night to go to a party and after some negotiations, we agreed that if I woke up after midnight and there wasn't a text message on my phone that she was in a taxi and on her way, I would shame her by going to that party, actually go inside and take her home, spelling the end of her social life. I set my alarm clock for 3:50AM, went to bed at 11:30, got woken up by said daughter at 12:30, started thinking about the race, finally fell asleep and then woke up at 3:30 and couldn't get back to sleep. After my morning ritual, I jumped in the car and picked up Kim and Chris out in the West end. My Garmin GPS took us for a 20 minute detour in some small roads somewhere near Limberlost. I have NO idea what that was all about, but we lost 20 minutes driving aimlessly around, following directions. Weird.
We got there with plenty of time, setup base camp, covered myself with bug repellent, got my bib and proceeded to shoot the shit with the usual suspects. This race made me nervous. This season has not been kind to me. I feel like I'm in a bit of a funk. All my races have hit me pretty hard, even when I tried to go easy like at Seaton and PYP. Even going at what should have been a fairly easy pace, I finished those races exhausted. Sulphur was a mental disaster and Creemore was a physical one. Things felt like they were falling apart, getting worse instead of better, making me wonder if going for 100 miles at Haliburton was realistic.
I decided to run from the back and hook up with Adie and Steve, who often use that strategy. Steve is a stronger runner than me and Adie usually has a pace similar to mine although she kicked my butt at Creemore. At around 9am, someone started talking in a microphone and eventually the race started. There were a lot of people there, with the 14k, 28k and 56k runners all starting together. We started toward the back and the first few km were more walking than running. There were a few traffic jams to go over small bridges or single file uphills. Eventually though, people spread out and we settled into an easy pace.
The course was beautiful, probably the nicest course of any race I've done. You run near lakes, the trail has a soft feel under your feet (especially when sinking up to your knee in mud!), it's challenging, what can I say? It was just great. The weather wasn't hot yet but it was quite humid. The course was well marked, with markers every km, which was nice because the course was curiously slow and covering a km took way longer than one expected. The course has no ridiculous climbs or difficulty, but there's always a little somethin'-somethin' to prevent you from keeping a steady pace. The aid stations were well placed at 3.9 and 8.8 km, extremely well stocked (they still had ice even in the 4th loop) serving the usual ultra fare. They even had Nature Valley bars, a personal favorite.
We finished the first loop about 2h 4min, which is an unbelievably long time but we never got passed, at least not while running. One of my goal during that race was to test other hydration systems. I have a feeling that I don't drink enough using my hydration vest because it's difficult to estimate how much is left. For the first loop, I had decided to try my brand-new never-used Camelback "Delaney Race" waist bottle holder. It has a nice pouch in the front where I can stash my Advils and Salt pills and two flask holders for gel bottles. Once it settled on my waist, it was fantastic. The water stayed nice and cool and I barely felt it. After the first loop I decided to stick with it. Once we all refilled our bottles and ate a bit, we took off for the second loop.
I was feeling fantastic. I was drinking more than usual and eating regularly. It was on the warm side, but the trails were well covered and the sun rarely reached us. I had decided to run without a cap on that loop and immediately regretted it when the sweat started to pour into my eyes. Damn. We settled into our pace, taking turn at the front pulling the group forward. At some point we stopped at a small beach and washed the salt off our face in the lake water. Bliss. Running in a pack like this gives you a weird sense of power, especially once you start overtaking people which we started doing late on the second loop. To be frank, that's also when we got lapped by the two leaders. I'm not sure if they were running the 28k or the 56k, but they were ripping it. We finished the second loop in about the same time at about 2h 10min.
For the 3rd loop, I decided to switch to two handheld bottles, even though I still thought that hte belt was the cat's meow. I wanted to try other options, so it was time to switch. I put my hat back on, put one of my gel flasks into a small belt, grabbed the two 20oz handhelds and took off with what was now "the Mod Squad".We walked a bit going up the road, polishing off our melon and Nature Vally bars. Eventually, Steve said something like "are we going to run?" and we broke into what was now our group pace.
I was still feeling extremely good after 30km. I had been monitoring how I felt for a while, remembering how the wheels had fallen off suddenly at around 25km at Creemore. No sign of weakness. I had a big decision to make. Adie was very happy with the pace and Steve was racing with her. Should I push on or stick with "the Mod Squad"? What did "Redemption" mean to me? Why was I there? What did I need? Why did I decide to come, after telling everyone that I wouldn't do this race? I decided that what I needed was a race where after putting a solid effort, I still felt strong. Speed had no meaning, here. We were picking off other runners regularly, noone was passing us. The pack feeling was a bit intoxicating, if to be honest. We would see movement up ahead. The leader would tell the other two and you could feel the pace just pick up a bit. Sometimes it would take 30 minutes to reel someone in. They would hear us come from behind and some would try to pick it up but we never saw anyone we didn't catch up to. So I decided to stick with "the Squad". The 3rd loop was the slowest one, I'm not quite sure why and I'm not quite sure by how much, probably something like 2:15.
Back at home base (aka my chair), I dumped the hand held and went back to the belt. I found that the water got warm too fast and I wasn't used to running with them. I heard Steve yelling my name and I went back out. Even after 3 loops and more than 6 hours of running, I was feeling great. I had a huge smile across my face and when people told me "only one loop to go", I didn't want to punch them in the face.
After a couple of km, Adie told us she was having a bit of a hard time. Steve told me to ignore her. We lined up behind her to make sure we weren't going faster than she was comfortable and kept going. We we going to finish together. We still passed a couple of people. All of a sudden, about 5km into the loop (can't be sure exactly), a girl comes from behind and passes us! When she passes Adie, she says something about smelling the finish line. You would have thought that she had spit in Adie's face. Not 300 meters later, we're passing her back and we never saw her again. Adie had picked up the pace quite a bit and it's not going down. We're passing people we know were well ahead of us and it's a good feeling. With only a few km to go, I'm still feeling great. I'm drining, I'm eating, I'm taking in some salt. The humidity has come down a bit and my clothes aren't as wet as in the second loop. The wind is really nice. We pass one last girl and shortly after that we get to the road for the final stretch. We finish in something like 8h 35min, which seems like an unbelievably long time for 56km but even though we weren't going really fast, we weren't going that slow either. The thing is, I felt like I could go for another loop.
After the finish, we immediately jumped in the lake and it was the perfect end to a great race.
I probably could have run this race significantly faster. Probably. But I would have missed out on something that up until now I had only experienced during Susitna: the feeling that I could run forever. I needed to experience that feeling again before Haliburton. Thank you Adie and Steve for letting me run with you and helping me remember what it feels like to run forever.
Hynerview Challenge 50K Race Report
11 months ago