I was a bit nervous about this race. I had to go to the well at Bear Mountain, so I was wondering how I was going to do since I wanted to run it reasonably hard. I hadn't run a 50k since Pick Your Poison 2011 and I mean run, not race. Can't even remember last time I actually started a 50k with the intention of running hard. That's the thing with training for 100 milers, it takes the fun out of everything else. All the other races end of leaving a bit of a sour taste in your mouth because you know you could have done better.
Not this time. My plan was to run my best trail 50k ever. My fastest 50k will always be Niagara, which was on road. I will never beat that time (4h46) because I will never run a 50k on road again. Of all my other races of that distance, my best time was at Creemore in 2009 with a 5h45. Sulphur is an arguably easier course so beating that time should not be an issue, especially if the weather cooperates.
The mental aspect of my running is not going great this year. I'm working hard at my job and it's hard to be 100% commited to both. You have to cut the apple somewhere and this year, the working piece is bigger than the running one. It's especially hard when you see your friends pulling 50 or 60 mile weeks. So I have to be reasonable and I will only run one 100 miler this year so Sulphur had to be a shorter distance. By the time I decided to run Sulphur at all, the 50 miler was full so I decided I would run a solid 50k.
All week I dreaded the race, even though it looked like the weather would be perfect for racing. I didn't even look at the web site for the start time until Friday afternoon. I got up at 4:30AM, got dressed and drove off to Ancaster. A huge full moon hung just above the road. I got there too fast. I really didn't feel like running. It was freezing but I had dressed warmly. It was weird. Even though I didn't want the race to start, there was no way I was going to run easy. A few people mentioned I should just go easy and enjoy the race, if I didn't feel like racing. It somehow felt wrong. If I started, I wanted to give it a good effort. Talking with Chris H, who was running his second 50k, he mentioned that he'd be happy with a 6 hour time. I told him that my plan was more something under 5:30. I knew that anything under 5:00 was basically not realistic. Under 6:00 should not be an issue. I wouldn't be unhappy with 5:30.
I hadn't raced since the new location and I didn't know that the start was not at the finish line, so I almost missed the start. I rushed to the small road with maybe a minute to space. Quite frankly, the race went almost perfectly, so I don't remember much. The first short 10k loop went by really quick. By the time I got back to the start/finish, I was hot as hell so I left my long sleeve shirt at my chair and kept only my cinglet on. I raced with my hydration vest but only filled it half way with water/Nuun. It was so cool that I didn't need to drink too much. I ate a gel every 30 minutes. Those 30 minute chunks give me a nice feeling of time moving forward. Eating a gel become kind of disgusting so knowing you have to eat another one in 30 minutes somehow makes 30 minutes feel shorter so time passes faster. Some people run aid station to aid station, I run gel to gel. I didn't stop at a single aid station except one to talk to Russell B., who was volunteering there.
Second loop, I can't remember a thing. I ran a solid pace. Power walked the bigger hills. Swore internally when relay people blew by me. There's something depressing about those guys being so fresh as the race goes on. After the second loop, I have 30k in. I drop my vest, take two Excedrins because my right foot is barking pretty hard. I start running and just as I start going down the big hill I notice that I forgot my hand held. Fuck. I consider fuelling at the aid stations but decide to turn around and grab my bottle.
That last loop is identical to the previous one, except more painful and a bit slower. Still, I know I'm doing well. I pass Chris and Morgan, who are doing the 100 miler. They looked good. I get to the lollipop, up to the field, down the long hill. I see Chris and Morgan again. I'm on the home stretch now with about 4 km to go. I see Chris H. and he seems a bit tired. He still has almost the full lollipop ahead of him. I'm so happy not to be him. Yes, I admit it. I took pleasure in the misfortunes of others. I'm not proud of it but still, whatever works! I feel energized and get a burst of energy for the finish ... until I get to the big ass hill about 500m from the finish. I power-walk that.
As soon as the incline becomes reasonable, I sprint to the line and I'm done. Time on the clock is 5h20m, well at the top of my expectations. I'm spent but I feel great. I remember thinking that I couldn't have gone much faster. Sure, maybe I shouldn't have slowed down to chat with a few friends, or stopped at the aid station to talk to Russel, or maybe I shouldn't have forgot my damn bottle, but as a rule, I ran as fast as I dared in the first 30k and as fast as I could stand in the last 20. I've had very memorable blow-ups in 50k races (CVC 2010 and Seneca Creek 2009) and I know shit can happen in shorter distances too.
So a most excellent race. It's nice to to be completely thrashed after a race. I have to admit that I still have some reservations about whether I can actually finish Leadville. I was very tempted to sign up for a 100 miler before Leadville, just to make sure I can still do it. A stupid idea, to be sure, akin to the "in order to save the village, we had to destroy it" logic. I'm happy I resisted. I won't run anything longer than 50-ish km until August. Then, I'm going to give her all I got.