Sunday, April 17, 2011

Seaton Mud Puppies 52Km

I could lie to you and say that I didn't enjoy yesterday's race. Sure, it was 4C (40F), with howling winds bringing down branches and trees on the course, sideways pissin' rain, mud everywhere except in the ice cold lakes and rivers that grew at every laps, sucking the life out of our feet. Still, I found myself enjoying the race.

All week I'd been looking at the long range forecasts. When I first saw that they called for 25mm of rain on Saturday, I wasn't worried. It'll shift to Sunday, I told myself. Poor stupid bastard. All that changed was the probability of rain, moving from 80% to 100%, the amount of rain going up to 40mm and finally the wind speeds kept creeping up. When I went to bed on Friday, the windows in my bedroom were shaking and I knew the race would be interesting.

Kim and Chris picked me up at 5:45 AM and we got there with plenty of time. It was exciting to see all the people we hadn't seen since last year. Derrick and Sarah were there also, as well as David. We didn't have much time to talk but it was nice to see them. The rain started as we got our bibs. The wind was already blowing. I look around and I see people looking ridiculously under-dressed. I guess they plan to run hard. Still, it's friggin' freezin' out there.

We all huddled under trees near the start. A bit after 7AM, after some words that I missed completely, someone said GO and we started running. My race plan was simple: go slow. My time last year was around 6:40 and I wanted to go slower than that (that turned out not to be a problem). I felt like I was barely ready to tackle a 50k race. I just haven't built up much mileage yet other than last weekend's 2 loops at Sulphur and that might actually play against me because I just finished my biggest week of training yet this year. My legs are a bit tired. So this is a training run for me.

I start running with Adi and Steve at a pretty conservative pace. Immediately, we're too hot and we're questioning our clothing selections. The trails are in fair shape. It's raining, but not too hard. We get our feet a bit wet before the river crossing but not too much. The river is about 25 meters, I would say. The current is pretty strong, with lot's of rounds rocks and the footing is questionable. I would be surprised if it's temperature was much above 5C. By the time I got to the other side, my feet were in pain! Holy shit! I wouldn't want to fall in that!

The first aid station is pretty far, almost an hour of running. By the time we get there, the rain is really coming down and I'm definitely not too hot anymore. I could find my wind-breaker gloves last night and now my liner gloves are just soaked. My hands are a bit cold. I'm wearing a merino wool base and a waterproof shell. I'm not warm but somehow my base is totally wet. I grab a potato wedge and we go. I'm feeling pretty damn good for some reason.

Before I can even think about it, we're at the next aid station.  I'm trying to remember that section but it seems like nothing. The rain was really coming down. Adi was running a bit behind with Diane and Steve is starting to get worried that he's falling too far behind. He's running the 50 miles and the way things are going, this first loop is going to take us close to 4 hours. The time limit is 12 hours so that's a bit close. Me, I know I can't keep up with him but I could pick it up a bit. The rain is still falling sideways, hard, specially when you get to the more exposed portions of the course.

We get to the turnaround, 14.5km really quick. The rain seems to stop for a while but it doesn't last. A few minutes later, Steve picks it up and disappears. I slowly pull ahead of the girls. The course seems totally changed. There's water and mud everywhere. On the way out, I remember battling the rain and wind but now the course is just a mess. Sections that were dry are now rivers and lakes. Uphills and downhills are covered in mud. Anyone in road shoes must be planning their trail shoe purchase right now. The run back is a blur. At some point I start meeting the 29K runners, who started at 9AM. They didn't get to enjoy any of the dryer course. I'm running by myself and I'm enjoying the run.

As I get closer to the big river crossing, there are a number times where you have to cross major water features that freeze your feet to the bone, so when I get to the river, my feet are already frozen. The river seems awful high now, and you can't see the bottom at all. I start crossing, almost trip but recover and just as I think my feet are about to fall off I reach the other side. The pain increases for a few seconds, I swear like a trucker, and then it subsides and I start running.

The conditions are now bordering on ridiculous. My hands are a bit of an issue. Should I change my gloves? They're in the car so that means 5 or 10 minutes and how long are they going to stay dry really? Despite the gaiters, finer particles of mud accumulate on the insole of my shoes and create little uncomfortable bumps under my feet. Should I attempt to clean my feet? How long is that going to last?  I get to the start/finish and it's a sad sight. People are dropping like flies. I consider it but other than being a bit cold I don't really have a reason to drop so I refill, take a piece of banana and get out of there before I change my mind.

29 km done, 23 to go. I turned around at exactly 4 hours. Holy shit, this is going to be a long one. I press the "lap" button on my watch but actually that was the "stop" button but I don't notice.  Jeez my hands are cold. I have a handheld bottle, so I start keeping the other hand inside my sleeve to keep it out of the wind. It works well, but the hand holding the bottle gets cold really fast. I loosen the strap as much as I can, pull my sleeve over my hand and stuff the whole thing into the hand slot. That's better. Not perfect but better. I get to the river. Is it my imagination or it's even bigger? I cross. Fuck it's cold. A few minutes from there, as I get to the bottom of a switchback turn, I see Hans jumping over the logs that were put there to prevent people from taking a wrong turn and start running down on the wrong trail. What's his name??? "BUDDY, HEY BUDDY!!!" He stops and sees me. I tell him he's going the wrong way and he gets back on the trail. I hear he's not the only one who made that mistake.

I now have a sharp pain somewhere in my pelvic area. It makes my running a bit painful. I'm also experiencing a bit of a low point. Despite the apparent impossibility, the course keeps getting worse. Doesn't the water drain anywhere? Wait, yes, it drains on the friggin' course! The trail is completely trashed. Thank God, on this loop I only need to go up to aid station 2. At the speed I'm going, that shorter loop is going to take me 4 hours as well!

My ass (aka pelvic area) is killing me. That's now all I can think about. That and my freezing hands. Do I have a stress fracture of the pelvis? The pain doesn't seem to be on the foot strike. I the sensory deprived bubble in which I run, all I can think of is my ass (well, the pain), my hands, the mud build up under my toes and the water and mud that keeps accumulating on the course. Why didn't I bring some Tylenol? After what seems like forever, I reach aid station 1. I tried to look at the time but noticed I had stopped the timer instead of lapping it. I grab a cup of e-load to save what I have in my bottle and scoot.

On the first loop, this section passed so fast that I can't even remember it. This time, it's taking forever. St least, my pelvic fracture seems to be on the mend. Now I'm just tired. After a while, I see Kim who's on the return leg of her 29K. I ask her how far the aid station is and she says about 10-15 minutes. Gulp, I thought it was closer. I'm still enjoying the race, but the conditions are indeed a bit harsh and I can't say that I'll be sorry to be done. I get to the aid station and I'm a bit surprised that I haven't seen any of the guys coming back from the 50M turnaround. Given that I'm thinking I will finish in 8 hours total, I don't see how any of them plan on finishing the 50 miles in less than 12 hours.

At the aid station, I get a cup of warm chicken broth and it feels fantastic. I refill for the last time and get out of Dodge. Let's get this done. Two hours to go. I'm running better now. The pain in my ass is all but gone. That's good because even though it sees impossible, the course if even worse. I don't even want to talk about it anymore. I run by myself although chick number 129 is hanging back somewhere and sometimes gets close enough for us to exchange a few words. I get in a zone where all that exists is my cold hands, my painful feet, my shrunken dick and the ridiculous course. Except for a few exceptionally nasty lakes, I run straight through. A few times, it takes longer to get your feet our of the water than to cross the river. And then there's another one just as large. I really hurt.

After a unknown amount of time, I get at the river at the same time as chick 129 and some other runner. There's nobody minding the crossing so we wait until everyone is safely across before moving on. The river is huge now and I wouldn't want to do the crossing by myself. I'm feeling pretty good so I decide to push on to the finish. I get into a good pace and lose the two other runners. I pass a couple of people and eventually I see the power lines. Alleluhia! I see the grass, I RUN up the fucking hill, run around the track and I'm done!

The shower feels SO hot I'm wondering if I'm going to get blisters. Fantastic! My feet are fine. NO blister or anything. I grab some food and wait for the others. I'm pretty sure they're going to drop because there's no way they can finish in time. That's what happens. We shoot the shit for an hour or so and head home.

This was one for the books.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ramping Up

After what felt like a slow start, I’m finally starting to feel like a runner again. My training is going according to plan and that plan has me peaking just in time for Mohican. This means that all other races before that will need to be sacrificed and run as training run. This includes Mud Puppies  (52k) this coming weekend, Pick Your Poison (50k) two weeks later and I’m considering running the 50k at Sulphur Springs, although it might be a bit too close to Mohican. Ideally, I would like to find something in early May. I’m on the waiting list for the Bear Mountain 50 Miler, after waiting one day too long to sign up.

Muddy Trails at Sulphur Springs
Last weekend, I drove up to Ancaster with Chris and we did a couple of loop of what we think is the new Sulphur Springs course, although we seem to be missing a couple of km. The hill at the start/finish is just ridiculous, basically impossible to run up by mere mortals. Give it a few loops, and it might also be difficult to run down! What a quad buster! The course was really wet and muddy but we had a good time. There was a lot of horse tracks (and horse shit). They really tore up the trails. That Saturday was the nicest day yet this Spring and we really took advantage of it. According to my Garmin, we ran somewhere around 36km in about 5h15min. All numbers are approximate because of operator errors at various points during the day.

This week is going well, my legs are feeling good. My fitness seems fine. My right ankle/Achilles are holding up. The only clouds on the horizon are (literally) the Saturday forecast, with really nasty weather being predicted. Mud Puppies will hold up to its name. I just hope that the river can be crossed without getting my balls frozen by the frigid water. That should be fun.

This brings me to my closing topic. Fun. For the last 10 days, I’ve really been enjoying my running. If I’m truly honest, last year was difficult for me. I don’t know why, but after Susitna I had a hard time getting back into my training. I went through the motions, I had some good days, but with the exception of Limberlost, I didn’t have much fun. Some of them were good, but few were great. Lately, I’ve been feeling a difference when I train. I feel more connected to my running. I feel like I’m flowing better. An hour run feels like a short run again, not something to get over with.

If only it could get warmer out there...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Racing Season!

Last weekend was the OUS Spring Warmup run up near Creemore. Pierre did a great job of organizing the run. The course was very snowy and hilly but who cares? The racing season is here! Of course, everyone else is in great shape and I’m just plugging along trying to ramp up, wondering how on earth I’m going to run 52K at Seaton in less than two weeks but still it was great to see everyone else and plan the next season. I ended up running a bit less than I’d hoped, only a bit over 25k, but it took me about 3h30. What can I say? It was really hard! My ankle was really burning so I decided to stop after the second loop. No point in overdoing it.Last thing I need right now is to be forced to take a break.

Of course, one gets a little over-excited discussing the summer with other unbalanced runners, with the result that I am now signed up for the Burning River 100 miler on July 30th with Chris Mcpeake, Steve Beach and possibly others. That’s only 6 weeks after Mohican. What have I done? The logic behind it is that we want to run R2R2R in early October so I don’t think I should be running the 100 miler at Haliburton.  With Burning River in my pocket, that shouldn’t be an issue. Plus, as Chris mentioned, between Mohican and Burning River we have plenty of points for UTMB... Not that I’m going to do anything about it. Well, then again...

So Mud Puppies 52K on the 16th, followed by Pick your Poison 50k on the 30th. April is going to be se-weet!