Sulphur Springs Race Report: May 25 2013
I have been inspired by reading other runner's race reports and blogs for quite some time and this past weekend I achieved a huge goal of running my first 50 miler so I thought I would share my experience. This is my first blog and writing is generally not my strong suit, so some patience and understanding is much appreciated!
I completed my first half marathon in 2008 at the Toronto Waterfront marathon and since then I have been hooked on running and hooked on attempting a new challenge each year. In 2009 I ran my first and fastest marathon ever and qualified for Boston. In 2010 I also made the lottery for New York Marathon. While training for Boston and New York I found myself spending most of my time training on the trail and not the road. That same year I raced in the 5 peaks enduro series and loved the experience of running on trails loved the vibe at the trail races. After I finished New York I decided I had had enough of racing on roads and in 2011 I took it easy and didn't worry about following a training plan and just ran trails. That was the first year I went to OUS event, I ran 28k at Limberlost and 30k at Dirty Girls. There I learned that runner's ran crazy distances like 50k, 50 miles and 100miles. I hoped I could one day run those distances but didn't think I would anytime soon. In 2012 I made some lifestyle changes and again found a passion for running and decided I would attempt the 50k distance. I decided to make it a destination race and picked the Brookvale 50k in PEI so I could run with my friend Nikki that I had run her first 50k there in 2011. I was really nervous about attempting that distance and had no idea how my body would handle it. It was a hot day and hilly challenging course but Nikki stayed with me and I finished in just over 6:36. I was so happy and hooked and quickly signed up for 50k at Haliburton September 2012. Again I had weather to contend with but this time it was the rain and mud. I camped the night before and had next to no sleep, but again Nikki ran with me and I had a blast. I loved the course and the mud and we finished strong in 6:19. After completing Haliburton I decided to take on the challenge of running 50 miles.
I found the book "Relentless Forward Progress" http://www.irunfar.com/rfp and decided to follow the 50mile a week training program for running 40-60miles. I started off strong in mid-December but got waylayed a bit with travelling to Costa Rica for Christmas and then working extra shifts over the remainder of the Christmas holiday. I managed to stick pretty close to the training plan through the winter. Joining a fellow runner's "February Challenge" helped keep me accountable during snowy February. During the winter I found myself running most of my long runs on hilly country roads as I would get frustrated running the trails by myself in the snow. By mid March I was running mostly on trails and feeling pretty good other than a nagging right hip flexor that has bothered ever since I thought it was a good idea to run two road marathons in 6 weeks in 2010.
In April I joined Nikki for a 50k race in Ohio "Forget the PR" that was suppose to be a training run. Again we had weather to contend with, this time it was cold, rainy and muddy. I started off the race in a really low mood and everything felt hard. That lasted for about an hour and then my spirits started to pick up. The course had some steep climbs, more double than single track, lots of river crossings, plenty of mud and in the latter half there was a little more single track and some nice waterfalls and finished with almost 8 k along the river. I felt myself getting stronger as the race went on and finished in 6:24. I was happy with my time but I was really happy that I still felt strong at the end of 50k and took this as a good sign that I was ready for 50 miles at Sulphur.
I had learnt my lesson after Haliburton and decided for my first 50 mile race that I would forgo camping and share a hotel with my two friends Nikki and Lorinda. This ended up being a very good decision as the night before the race temperatures dipped down to almost freezing. Although I didn't get much sleep in the hotel, I was warm and comfortable all night. 4:30 came early and we were up and out the door by 5:00 with a quick stop at Tim Horton's for the required bagel and coffee and at the race before 5:30. Just enough time to pick up our race kits, swag, set up our coolers and visit the outhouse. It was still really cold for the 6:00am start but I opted for T-shirt, shorts, calf sleeves and no gloves.
The race course is four 20 km loops in the Dundas Valley Conservation Area. It is a really pretty trail, well groomed, with some good climbs. Aid stations are well stocked and 4 loops means access to lots of support. Definitely a great course to try a longer distance.
First Loop 20k 2:12
Nikki and I started off together with the mantra that we were off for a nice training run. The idea that we were embarking on a 80km run was too much to think about. Within the first 20 minutes my right calf felt like I had a huge knot in it. I was pretty positive that it would work itself out but it stayed with me. Not too much longer my right hip flexor starting to feel tight. I anticipated problems with my hip but didn't expect it till much later in the race. I had experienced similar sensations in Ohio and tried to not to freak out and hoped it would work itself out. The first 20k we clicked along easily. Nikki had been away travelling so we spent the first loop chatting and catching up. A few times Nikki looked at her garmin and wondered if we were going out too fast. Nikki had just run a trail marathon the week before in Tennessee and her garmin was still in miles. We spent some time trying to do the calculations to convert to kilometres which was a good distraction. During the first loop we drank a little water at aid stations and drank our GU brew in our hydration packs and took one gel. When we arrived at the start/finish area, it was confirmed we had gone out faster than planned we came in at 2:12. Our plan was to run the 4 loops as close to 2:30 as possible. We made a fast transition. I biofreezed my leg and took two 200mg Advil and we grabbed some ginger cookies. We both saw from our hydration packs that we should be drinking more.
Second Loop 2:22
We ran the second loop together and vowed that we would stay conservative as we were both scared about what was to come later on if we kept running faster than planned. The biofreeze and Advil helped but my calf was still nagging me. During the second loop the 25 and 50 k runners were out on the course I saw my friend Lorinda a few km's from the finish of her 25k she looked strong and was going to finish in a good time and that gave me a boost as I entered that hilly part of the "lollipop" section of the course. Nearing the end of the second loop we decided that a porta potty stop was needed. At other races the bushes are a fine option but I kept joking that I felt like I had no privacy, with all the 10, 25, 50k, 50 mile, 100 mile and 100mile relay runners out there. There never seemed to be enough time to go to the bathroom without an audience. Despite our efforts to remain conservative we came into the start/finish at 4:34 (a 2:22 loop). We did a quick porta potty visit and I decided to change into my road shoes as the trail was hard packed and not technical and thought the extra cushioning would help my feet. We changed socks, re body glided, topped up hydration packs and I took Advil in my pack because my calf and hip were hurting again and wanted it available as soon as my 4 hour window was up. Lorinda had finished her race and was back at the start/finish and cheered us on for our third loop.
Third Loop 2:32
I started down the steep hill out of the start finish, after switching shoes my feet felt funny at first, but it worked itself out. After the 3k aid station (43k) mark I decided to break out the i pod. The music was a great distraction and I have never used an ipod in a race before but this helped a lot as the third loop ended up being very challenging. I kept one ear bud in and kept chatting to Nikki. But at this point I had definitely gotten a lot quieter and was focused on moving forward and really focused on breaking down the course to smaller goals (to reach the next aid station) between the 3 and 9 k aid station my stomach started acting up and I had to stop once. Between the 43-49k was probably my lowest point. My hip and calf were still really hurting and now I had stomach issues. I felt like I could manage one problem but with both I was getting a little freaked out since I still had over 30 k to go. At the 49k aid station, I made another porta potty stop and then took some more electrolyte tabs, coke and salted potatoes. I think the salt helped and I didn't have anymore stomach issues. At the aid station before entering the lollipop I took 400mg of Advil. Halfway through the lollipop my leg started to feel a bit better. We tried to have a quick transition again. I re glided my feet, re biofreezed our friends Todd and Lorinda helped get us restocked and cheered us on for our last loop.
Fourth Loop 2:25
The fourth loop started out feeling really good, except my pack now being refilled felt really heavy. My shoulder starting bugging a bit, so I actually dumped out a bit of the water from the pack and carried on. I was really surprised that I was still running on the fourth loop I had anticipated that I would be doing a lot more walking and more of a shuffle. I kept repeating to myself to relax and stay calm because the finish line was still a long way off. Nikki and I stayed together until after the 69km aid station but I had become pretty much silent and really focused on the music from my i pod. The i pod provided some comic relief for me as well since it was synced with my 11 year old sons so I was entertained by some of his musical taste as well. After the 69k aid station I just focused on moving forward. I was relieved to make it to the aid station outside the lollipop and looked at my watch and for the first time believed I could finish under 10 hours. I stayed slow and steady on the climb up to the corn field and then once I got to the top tried to push along the cornfield and back down the hill. I took one last bit of gel around the 25k turnaround and ran through the last aid station. I ran up to the bottom of the last monster hill and started walking as fast as I could when I got about 80% up I decided to run and ran to the finish in 9:31:59. Originally my A goal was: 10 hours B goal was 10:30 C goal: finish. I still can't believe I ran my first 50 miler under 10 hours. Granted the course is not that technical, there are still some good climbs and it is still 50 miles!
Post Race: Included two beers and an iced coffee from Starbucks on the way home. I wouldn't change anything about the race itself, but next time I will make sure to eat something after the race and to do some active recovery the next day. I did some active recovery and massage today and feeling much better. Hoping to get my hip flexor under control in the next couple of weeks and looking forward to the stage race in Tennessee and Iceland in July!
Nutrition: GU Brew, GU Roctane (not sure how many), Ginger cookies, Coke, Watermelon, Salted potatoes and water.
Before the start of the 50 miler at Sulphur