Friday, May 31, 2013

Sulphur Springs Trail Race - 50 Mile Recap

Admittedly, I had hoped to write this during my day at work but alas, actual work got in the way. Boo-urns. So I am attempting to recap a race while making dinner. The wonders of the multi-task. As a result, expect some rambling. I'd say fun rambling but this is me we are talking about here.

Anyways, on with the show....

Earlier this year, it was my goal to travel for some racing, particularly, trail racing. One of my aims was to do a late spring/early summer ultra that can be part of a bigger vacation. After consulting with Peg about her schedule and surveying the various options, I landed on doing one of the races at the 21st annual Sulphur Springs Trail Run in Ancaster, Ontario on May 25th. It was a perfect choice because I had a long weekend from work already for the Memorial Day holiday. And the Dundas Valley Conservation Area was an easy hour drive from downtown Toronto. Hello, Toronto vacation!!!! Our plan of attack was to leave Philadelphia on the 22nd (Wednesday) and return on the 27th (Monday) Due to the time of the race, I felt, it was worth another shot doing a 50 miler. So I signed up at that distance knowing full well it could suck my energy for a lot of the trip. And with so much time to be consumed on race day, I expected to really go to the race alone....

Fast forward a couple of months and race day was nearly upon me. The weekend before the race, I packed everything I think I would need including my fuel. My hydration strategy was to use a cocktail mix of Gatorade, No Flavor Pedialyte and Water. (That I would put together the night before the race in the hotel room.) Food wise: GU Gels, Clif Bars and PB&J Sandwiches (which is the one component, I expected at the aid stations.)

Race Day:
Woke up at 3:30 to leave the hotel around 4am for the hour drive. Peg had decided a few days prior to come along for support. I was happy to have her there. I did the driving since I am pretty use to driving to my ultras on race morning these days. And an hour is nothing compared to the 2 1/2 I have done a few times. The QEW and 403 (or was it the 405) were easy breezy. I did overshoot the race site by a half mile but all was fine. We got a great parking spot and walked my gear over to the drop bag area. By getting there when I did, I was able to have a perfect spot on the edge of a table meaning I could easily see and get to my bag. Before getting everything in order, I went to the registration table to pick up my bib number. Zang!

Once my gear was set, I hit the port-o-potty because I wanted to make sure I was as empty as possible before the race. Then just like that it was time to toe the start line. Due to the slight coolness, I opted for my blue tech shirt over my singlet with my black gloves. Shoe-wise, I was sporting my La Sportiva Vertical K's. I felt confident they would be the shoe for the day. However, I had other shoes to swap in case I needed to do so. I was rocking some pinned gels on my shorts and one in the pouch of my Quickshot Plus handheld containing my hydration blend. The 6am start was for the 50 mile, 100 mile and 100 mile relay. Later on a 10k, 25k and 50K would start for around 1000 trail users. While that sounds like a lot, never during the race did the course feel congested! As a runner in the 50 mile, I had 4 loops to do. With the blow of the horn, we were off down a very substantial downhill. A group of people just went flying down it. Not knowing if any were 50 milers, I went a bit faster than I may have otherwise but still smart enough. I didn't want to lose the race in the first 1/4 mile. Over the course of the first lap, I slowly reeled in a few of the people ahead of me and learned they all were in the 100 mile relay. Eventually, I ran alongside one of the relay runners who was going at a comfortable enough pace for me and have to say I enjoyed the company. Plus, having someone to work with meant doing less work with a faster time yield as long as it was not too crazy. Just before the very end of each lap, we go back up the hill we started down. Oh yes, climbing! It felt smooth going up. As I came into the drop bag area, I knew I was well under my objective to be conservative of 1:35 - 1:40. 1:24!!!! Wow. They announced I came through in sub 6 hour pace. As Peg would later say, people thought it was nuts and I would blow up. My stop was brief for a refill of fluid and gel restock.

Lap 2 did not allow me the same level of companionship as the first, meaning I was on my own a good bit. Okay so the whole lap. But I knew the route now which was helpful. And it was during this lap I started munching PB&J's at the aid stations. I was already drinking and downing gels. It was also during this lap that the rest of the races started. Unfortunately, I did not end up in a position to run with any of those runners as they were nowhere near me on our respective loops. This lap felt good and resulted in another surprising lap: 1:25! Once again, my stop was quick. The difference this time was rolling on some Bio-Freeze my legs.

Lap 3....more of the same. Nothing too eventful. However, I did start to have some left quad tightening towards the tail end of the loop. Slightly slower lap...1:30. After my first two laps, I was hoping for another 1:25 as I was beginning to think about sub 6. By the end of the lap, I knew I was not going to hit it or so I thought. This was verbalized to Peg who told me that I was 35 minutes up. A 1:37 was the needed pace on the last lap. This pit stop was not too smooth as I tried to find some Advil that I had but was stumbling finding the bottle. I said ' To heck with it' and just went off on my final loop.

Final loop - I worked as hard as I could to keep the pace of the prior laps but cramping began to take it's toll. The aid station I had gone though in 37 minutes prior was being passed at 40. It was true, I was slowing down finally. My next checkpoint, I hit 10 minutes behind schedule. Now it was going to be really hard to break 6 hours. I was fine with that but sad I was going to miss it. I told myself....6:10 now. Go for that. With about 3 miles to go, I started to tingle in my arms. I had to powerwalk here. It was a bit frightening of a sensation. Using the slowdown, I opted to down the last gel I had on me. Around 5 minutes later, I started to feel better and began running again. It was not as fast as early but faster than I had been going. Before I knew it, after what seemed to be a 'forever' lap, I was at the bottom of the final climb. I once again attacked the climb with a glide. The end was in sight! Well, the cones signally my final left hand turn into the finish was in view. As soon as I hit those cones, I felt so happy. I was done. I raised and pumped my arms in the air.

6:07:00! Initially, I thought I was under that but I managed to hit that perfectly. It is funny.

Not only was that a PR by 49 minutes. I broke the current course's record by over 40! And the event record by over 20! Oh yes!

As soon as I finished, I added some clothes, drank a bunch of liquid and put on my slippers to wait. With the awards scheduled for 2pm, Peg and I had to wait. However, it was a nice wait as we got to witness the atmosphere. Time flew by. Before we knew it, 2pm was there but none of the 50 mile women had finished. The awards were postponed until the top 3 women came in. I could have gotten mine and left but I wanted to wait. Very graciously, Peg encouraged the waiting. In the end, it was only an extra hour, which really meant talking to people some more and that was more than fine. I will say it did impact the rest of the night as we hit extra traffic and missed some times for our evening plans. Nothing too serious. We were on vacation so we rolled with the punches.

Amazingly, I was able to walk! It was tight and a bit sore but the rest of the time in Toronto was not a waste because we could still do vacation-y things. :)

Anyways, that is the recap of the race....and what a great one it was. There are those races that just end up being perfect, this was as close as can be. The only reason not is because I just missed 6 hours. However, cannot be upset by my effort as I just put my stamp on the distance.

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