Tuesday, September 14, 2010

2010 Haliburton Forest 100 miler Race Report

I Ran All Day. Then I Ran All Night. And then I ran some more.

I’m waiting for the nurse to take my vitals at the Haliburton Forest 100 registration desk. The nurse in question has her finger on the guy’s wrist. “76”, she say. “That’s high”. The guy is shattered. “But my rest HR is 50! That’s impossible!”. I feel my heart rate go up as I try to slow it down. She pinches him on the top of the hand. “Your dehydrated. You have to drink lots of fluids tonight.” Then he steps on the small IKEA scale and whatever the number is, he’s not happy with that either. He walks out, dejected. Pretty much the same scenario plays for me and then Chris.
...
I’m sitting with Kim, Chris and Steve. After we finish our pasta at the 100 miler dinner, a paramedic explains how we will surely either die or, if we’re lucky, end up on a stretcher in the Emergency. Then, we hear that we should expect ridiculous amounts of water on the course thanks to mother nature and also a beaver, whose house I will run by many times. Basically, we should expect our feet to be wet at all time. He wasn’t kidding.
...
4:00am Saturday morning. Thanks to cell phones all holding the exact time, I can hear 3 alarm clocks ringing their different chimes at the same time. It is time. We tape nipples, lubricate feet, ass and balls. I remind myself again never to borrow someone else’s Bodyglide stick. I drink some coffee and eat breakfast. It’s fairly quiet in the cabin. Everyone is thinking about the race. It’s about 3 degrees Celsius so we congratulate ourselves on our smart decision of going for the nice heated cabin. Getting dressed in a cold, humid tent would not be as much fun. The coffee is nice and hot.
...
Walking to the start line, I hear my name. I turn and here’s Derrick, my coach, who’s not supposed to be there. I have a quick thought about how hard it must be to be wearing “civilian” clothes right now. We chat a bit, other people join in. Then, Helen says the prayer and we’re off. I start way in the back, making sure I’m not sucked into a fast pace. I’ve learned my lesson at Sulphur Springs. I have a vague outline for a 27 hour finish. First 50 miles in 12 hours, then 15 hours for the next one. Death by spreadsheet.
...
Some people run without lamps. That just plain blows my mind. Why risk 6 or 8 months of training for a 20 dollar lamp? I’m wearing my small Petzl Zipka Plus, who saved another runner’s bacon at Susitna. I always have it on me if darkness is possible. I will have to loan to two other people before the night is over. It’s getting warmer. When I get back to station 2 after the Normac loop, I take off my arm warmers and put them in my drop bag. I go out toward station 4.
...

Aid Station 4. I feel great, I’m in a good place but the trail was kind of harsh. My feet are thoroughly soaked and caked with mud. I forget how many times my feet sank in the mud passed my ankle. I pick up my second hand held from my drop bag. Up until now the aid stations were pretty close together so one bottle was fine. The next step is about 10k and I don’t want to take a chance. I saw someone who ran out of liquids last year and he was not a happy camper. Derrick is there: “What do you need, JD?”.
.
I’m getting closer to the turnaround. I’ve been running for 5 hours now, yet I’ve just started. Thinking about time in a 100 miler has no meaning. All I know is that I’m at leat halfway to Aid Station 7, the turnaround. The past few hours are a blur of never-ending uphills and downhills, as well as mud and water. The weather is nice, not too hot. I run mostly alone. I remember how great I felt last year. Then, I didn’t. This year, I’m drinking fine. I’m taking in a fair amount of calories, probably over 200, definitely under 400. How many calories in a burrito? I see a group of runner, Johnny MacA is in there. I ask how the trail is and he pouts a little makes a face and says there are hard sections. Half an hour to go. A bit later, I see a bunch of people I know coming the other way, Steve, Kinga, Stephen, Iris and finally Chris.
...
The extra spur at AS7 is a pain in the ass. I wonder how much more I’m going to hate it tonight. I don’t have a drop bag here, so I refill and I get back out. 25 miles in the bank. 5 hours and 30 minutes. Right on target. I wonder if that’s good?
...
I enter AS4. “42”, I yell. “What do you need JD?” Someone grabs my bottle to refill it. I look at the food and pick something. I try to eat at least one substantial item at every AS. I hear a noise behind me and here comes my new pal Josh. Unbelievable. This guy has not run a step since AS7, 25km back and he has kept up with me. He says he can’t run anymore. He walks ridiculously fast, especially uphill. Since most flat sections are effectively pools of mud, I can barely run at all so he effectively walks as fast as I can run.




I’m entering AS2 after my Normac loop. I barely have 2km to go for my first 50 miles. I won’t make 12 hours, but I won’t be much more than that. I really don’t like the Normac. I keep thinking about Derrick’s story about the guy who dropped from the 100 miler with 10k to go because he couldn’t bear the thought of running the loop one more time. I understand. I look around and see Jean, one of my pacers. Jean and his wife Hélène drove 10 hours from Quebec City to pace me. Unbelievable. We chat a bit and then they leave to drive to the various aid stations to make sure they know where they are going. We agree to meet at AS4, around 8:30pm or later.
...
I get out and about halfway there I see Chris. He can’t be much more than 20 minutes ahead of me. We exchange a few words, without really stopping. Wonder what’s going on? As I get close to the line, I get a bit choked up. I don’t know why, since I’m not finishing. Going back out is not going to be as hard as I thought. People are cheering. I step over the line, thank the people and turn around.
...
Entering AS2, aka Margaritaville, I decide to get ready for the night. I see Kinga with her shoes off, with someone working on her feet. We have a quick chat and I go hide behind a tent to change my shorts. Bending my legs is a bit of a challenge. 50 miles will do that to you. The new shorts are nice and dry, and keep my “package” a bit tighter. I was starting to get worried about chafing down there. I change my shirt. I sit down and finally take one shoe off then the sock which is caked in mud. I’m pleasantly surprised. Nothing too horrible to report. I put on a fresh pain of Injinji socks and finally decide to also switch to my 1/2 a point larger Crosslites. My other foot looks just as good. I’m really relieved because there are some nasty looking feet around here. Marika is rubbing some kind of white paste on her feet and they look a bit harsh. Someone comes in and says he just saw a bear on the Normac and the bear wouldn’t move and growled at him. Fucking Normac. By the time I’ve changed my shirt and setup my lights, a couple of other runners are ready to go. We leave as a group for our outbound Normac loop. I’ve spent 35 minutes at the aid station, but I figure it’s time well spent.
...
We’re on the Normac and we haven’t seen a bear yet. Is pretty much dark and the guy I’m running with didn’t pick up his lamp at AS2. We try running with him in front, then with me. Christy is about 50m behind, but she’s looking strong. We meet a guy coming the other way, by himself, with no light. How the fuck is he going to find his way out? About 5 minutes later, I remember my spare Zipka lamp, which I have in my pocket. I give it to my companion and things get better fast. We can run a bit now. The mud pools look bigger with more light though.

I finally enter AS4, an hour later than expected. Running in the dark is not for sissies. Plus, there was that extra time at AS2. I kept going with the same group. We even picked up a few extra runners. Jean is waiting for me and he is so ready to go. He looks so clean and fresh, surrounded by dirty, exhausted runners. His shoes are so white.
...
Jean starts to run. Boom, boom, boom. He is running with a slow, powerful stride, full of energy. He pulls me ahead and I follow. Tap, tap, tap. Fast, short stride, my feet barely lifting above the ground. We’re alone and we push ahead into the darkness. I have no idea what time it is. My watch is on “chrono” and all I know is that I’ve been running for what seems forever. Kim, Chris’ wife, told me that Steve dropped at 50 miles. I have a vision of him sitting on the couch, having a beer. This image will be a siren song that will make the rest of my race very difficult. I’m so tired.
...
Hélène is doing great. She’s ahead of me, running with a nice easy stride. She doesn’t pull as hard as Jean, but I don’t mind. I think that I need the rest. I think she’s surprised by the amount of water on the trail. I actually talk more with her than with him. I barely know her so it’s an easy conversation. With Jean, we tend to talk about work and neither of us wants to do that.
...
I see someone ahead. Jean is back on the clock. We’re getting close to AS7. We catch up and this is Chris, running as if someone had emptied a box of nails in his shoes. He says he doesn’t think he can finish in time. I tell him that he can finish for sure, there’s plenty of time and he’s moving really well. When we’re sure he’s out of range, Jean and I agreed that there’s no way he is finishing this.


I’m running with Hélène again, on our way to AS6. As I left AS7, someone said “75% done!”. Somehow, I found it depressing. I am so fucking tired. I feel 95% empty, but apparently I’ve only done 75% of the work. I see that couch. The beer. All I had to do is scratch. I could have driven back with Hélène and Jean and been done. It was 2:30AM when we left AS7 well behind schedule but with plenty of time to finish. Chris was right behind us. Now, even though I remember this section as very runnable, I can’t summon the strength to run much. In the light of our headlamps, everything looks like an uphill. My quads are on fire. The bottom of my feet radiate pain every time they hit the ground. There’s a hot spot on the back of both my heel but nothing on earth is going to make me take those shoes off now.
...
Oh look, another fucking lake of mud. I follow the others on the right edge, getting my feet wet anyway. At the very end, I see a good spot and I put my left foot there. I sink in the mud up to my thigh, and I fall sideways into the mud. This is so much fun. The others try not to laugh.
...
I get in the aid station. I’m not sure which one. Derrick is there. I tell him I heard that Christy was in trouble. I’m telling him how tired I am. I’m such a whiner when I get tired. This is the bottom of the barrel. I’m still eating. I’m drinking plenty of eLoad/Heed. My mood is just nasty. Couch. Beer. I know never to think about that in a race, but for the 100th time tonight, I’m certain that I will never run a 100 miler again.
...
I finally turn my lights off. It’s fucking daylight. This means that the end is nigh. As long as it was dark, it couldn’t end because it could only end in daylight. Now it is, so the end becomes possible. If only I didn’t have to shit so bad. Jean is back pacing me. I did a section without pacer because of logistics. The plan now is for him to take me to AS4 and then I pick him up at AS3 after my Normac loop and he takes me to the finish.


I’m by myself. Two guys have taken off. Marika and her pacer are somewhere behind and I left Jean at the last AS. Chris, against all odds, is probably not far behind Marika. I don't understand how he can still be running. I try to ignore the stirring in my gut but there’s no way. For the first time ever, I’m going to have to take a dump in the bush during a race. How far are the girls, I wonder. Thank god I have some baby wipes. I find a good spot and do what I have to do. Bending my legs to get the proper angle is just pure agony. I should have leaned on a tree or something.
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I’m looking at the flat rock on the ground, with a series of parallel scratches made by fucking bear claws. I’m not really afraid, but that rock looks scratch resistant to me. I can’t believe I’m doing  this fucking loop (yes, I’m on the Normac) yet again. I’m by myself and I’m pushing a bit. There’s a part of me that’s waking up. Distances are now numbers that make sense. I’m less than 10k from the finish, the the trail is trying to hold me back. The mud pools are getting bigger and muddier, more difficult to cross. I finally get to one where I look in disbelief. I actually yell “HAVE YOU NO SHAME???”. I don’t remember this! Did someone come with a fucking shovel and dig this? Did the bear do it? Holy fuck! I walk straight through it.
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I see a turn ahead. No!? It can’t be! YES. Here it is, the gravel road that marks the end of the Normac trail. I turn back, flip my middle finger and yell “FUCK YOU NORMAC!”. This is effectively the end of my torment. There are not a single steep uphill or mud pool between me and the finish. Jesus Christ. I’m going to finish this.
...
I’m running on the dirt road with Jean. He was hoping that I had hooked up with someone and that he wouldn’t have to run with me. I told him he didn’t have to come but he insisted so here we are. I’m going to blow through AS2.


I blew through AS2 although I did take the time to say hi to Derrick and thanks the volunteers. I am running like a crazy person. I dropped my pacer because he couldn’t keep up. I had to walk a bit on the hill but now I’m actually running. I feel no pain. I feel like I’m running a 10k. I see the line. Yikes, it’s far. I can hear them. I get a bit choked up. I’m so happy this is over. The course was just too hard. I cross the line. I’m done. An angel goes to the cabin and hands me a handheld filled with beer. Where’s the couch? I tell Helen she's crazy to make us run that course. I finished in 28 50min.


I knew from the start that this second 100 miler would be difficult. I had one in the bag, so I had nothing to prove. The terrain was just nasty compared to the flat Susitna river valley. The intensity of running the distance under 30 hours compared to the 37 hours last Winter. Which one was harder? I truly don’t know. They were the same, but different.
...
Again, I slipped into the dark side for a while. This is a side of me that sometimes shows its ugly face. I was able to rein it back a bit, but I felt it loose all night inside my head. This race truly tested me. I’m happy I finished. Again, I was able to live hard, to turn up the contrast and experience life with an intensity that is painful but also beautiful, like looking directly at the sun. After the race, most of it disappears and all that is left is an after image that slowly fades way. Then, I guess, you have to race again.

12 comments:

Derrick said...

Amazing race JD! Congrats again. You should be very proud of perservering in such difficult conditions. Great report. Enjoy your down time!

David said...

Damn you are a tough Son of a Bitch. Loved your report, never hold anything back. I am very proud of you and really hope sometime we can run a race together and share a couple of beers after on a comfy couch. Congratulations on an gutsy and brave performance.

Sara said...

Congratulations, JD!!!! Loved your report, as always. You have a way with words, and outdid yourself this time with your poetry and...er, vivid descriptions. ;)

Enjoy some good feet-up time this week!!

Hone said...

Awesome report. Good job hanging in there and finishing that bastard up.

EJ said...

Congratulations again JD. Thanks for sharing "THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY". Loved the Body Glide bit.

Johnny said...

I was pouting??? Anyway, congrats on your finish. Way to persevere out there in the mud.

JD said...

Johnny: Ah, ah! My English might have failed me a bit but you definitely made a face. Grimaced, maybe?

Doonst said...

Very riveting report, it's like I was there. Loved that part at the last mud pool. Congrats.

chris mcpeake said...

I knew you were lying to me out there but it was much appreciated neverless. Thanks for dragging me along over that tough 20km.
Great race JD, well done

Anonymous said...

Awesome report JD. It was great running with you during the night. Sorry -- but I don't think I even tried not laugh when you slipped in the mud. If for no other reason, you have to keep running 100 milers so we can read your hilarious reports ;)


Maryka

UltraQueenga said...

Well done, JD, you're a tough guy! Congrats on your second 100 and here's to many more! They only get tougher. ;-)
Loved your report. I know that big puddle you're talking about. I think it was getting deeper from all the F bombs people dropped there.
Rest up and see you on the trails.

Holly Vipond said...

Great report, and congrats on your second 100! It definitely sounds like a tough one... almost enough to scare a person off, lol!