Monday, May 25, 2009

Sulphur Springs Race Report

Saturday May 23rd was the Sulphur Springs trail race. This was my second attempt at a trail race this year (and ever) so I was "only" running the 25km version. I figure better to be safe then stuck in the woods with a sore knee whining and limping my way around the course, although I think I smell a 5okm race coming in the near future. Running buddy Steve Blackburn came out as well to run in the 10km and Kim joined us for moral support. Still haven’t been able to talk her into doing a trail race yet but don’t worry boys and girls I am pestering her relentlessly and can be a pain in the butt… right Kim. This race featured a 10k, 25k, 50k, 50 miler and 100 miler.

We arrived at the course just outside of Hamilton in Ancaster around 6:45 and picked up our race packages and timing chips. The 25k / 50k was scheduled to start at 7:30 and the 10k at 8:15. The 50 and 100 milers had already started at 6:00. Weather was excellent with no wind, dry trails and around 13 degrees.

As I got ready I was still debating on whether I should take my waterbelt with me or just use the aid stations as each has its own advantages and disadvantages. I really couldn’t make up my mind. Yeah I know, what a surprise. I decided that since the course does an out and back which brings you through the start line at the 5k point that I would just grab the belt from Kim if I needed it.

As we all lined up for the start which was in a pretty small area for around 250 runners to squeeze into I ran into fellow blogger Jayme Frank ( see his blog here). Somehow he managed to spot me in the sardine can conditions. We chatted a bit as we waited for the race to start (nice to meet you Jayme). As we waited for the gun to go off the start was delayed for 3 minutes to allow the first place runner in 50 miler to come through the start area. He ran the first 20k of his 50 miles in 1:33:00 .. WOW… and only 60k more to go.

Then we were off.

The race consists of a 5k spur out and back to the start/finish line on part of the main course and then a large 20k loop. The trails were much less technical then at Seaton (this means not as crazy hard.. LOL). My plan for this race was pretty simple. Run it very conservative in the first half and then reassess in the second half. Now those that know me understand that I am not very good at the take it easy approach so this was going to be a challenge. In order to hold back some I ignored my pacing time info and instead ran by heart rate trying to keep my average HR in my moderate intensity zone.

The first 5K of the race went pretty well. The course here and overall is very runable made up of mostly double and single track groomed trails. It’s hilly with lots of ups and downs but what do you expect its trails after all. It was crowded for the first 1k or so and then runners began to stretch out along the course. We headed out for 2.5k and then where turned back towards the start line which would be the 5k mark. Turn around was in an odd spot on single track trail with a sign that said 25k turn around and a guy telling runners to turn back if you were running the 25k. The 50k runners continued on down the trail. More about this sign later. At about the 4k mark you hit one of the two biggest hills on the course “the gulch”, very long and steep. I might have attempted to run up it but it was pretty crowded and everyone else was power walking it. By the way did I mention I really suck at power walking. I would have spent way too much effort and energy trying to get around people so I grumbled to myself and joined the marching parade. Oh ya I think I mentioned this but I suck at power walking.

At 5k you cross the start line again and head back out on the main loop. Kim was saying something to me as I ran into the turn. I was looking at her and confused until I saw the fuel belt. LOL totally forgot about that and I am sure I had this Huh look on my face as she was calling out to me. I finally got it but told her I didn't need it and continued on.

Really enjoyed running the main loop which was very good trails a bit of fire road and only one spot of paved road which was maybe 600 – 800 meters long. The course was very well supplied with 7 aid stations and generally well marked.

I managed to stick to my race plan and keep it conservative. Man did I feel like I was running slowly. I just keep reminding myself about my Seaton blow up and that I had no idea what the course might be like farther down the road. From 5 to 15k things continued to go well but I began to feel some soreness in my knee. It was around this point of the race that I had planned to crank it up to a quicker pace but my knee was an issue not a major problem but I could feel it. Push it and maybe no problem but then again maybe I crash and burn. I had an internal argument with myself about what to do. I really wanted to crank it up but I also had this stupid race plan that I said I would stick to. I debated this for at least a KM and then convinced myself to stay slower and steady and reassess again at 21k. I actually can’t believe that I didn’t choose reckless abandon; I think this is some kind of first for me. Oh by the way I always win internal arguments … okay well almost always.

Things continued to go okay from 15 to 20k with my knee holding up okay and not seeming to get any worse then mildly sore. I stayed on a pretty steady pace with only 2 people passing me. I passed 2 other runners as well and kept a group of 3 runners ahead of me in view. Second really big hill came around 18k and had to power walk it. I hate you power walking!! Two people passed me on the hill walking faster then me… What the hell. No worries though as they both stopped at the aid station at the top of the hill so I was able to quickly leave them behind.

I headed into the last 5k which had some good down hills and passed the small group of runners that I had been pacing behind for most of the last half of the race. A different group of 3 runners passed me here as well. I felt okay but legs were tiring so decided I would hold my present pace keeping close to this other group of runners until the last 2-3k and then run all out to the finish.

Oh the best laid plans of mice and men. I keep thinking that I had seen this part of the trail before and then there it was “the gulch” again. I had forgotten that I would be seeing this hill at the end of the race again. I slowly power walked it, no way was I going to be able to run it. Did I mention the sucking at power walking thing because I do and it was costly. I was right on top the group of runners ahead of me but lost ground as they walked the hill faster then me. That’s right THEY WALKED the hill faster then me. I keep thinking what the hell I can live with being out run, happens all the time but out walked…….. Gargamel!!

I came over the top of the hill and headed into the last part of the course. The runners ahead of me had opened up a 20 second lead but I could still see them up ahead of me. Sped up a little bit and thought I would close the gap slowly and then try and take them in the last 1 to 2k. Then suddenly I was at a main turn and a race marshal was saying 400 meters to the finish. DOH!!! Somehow I had misjudged the remaining distance. Hello ... McFly. I mean I had already run this part of the course just 2 hours ago and should have been well aware of how long it was from the gulch to the finish. Note to self your head can and should be used for more then just a hat rack. Cranked it up but to little too late but finished strong.

Post race
Was pretty happy with the race overall. Great course and I will definitely consider it to do my first 50 or 100 miler next year. If I lived closer to this course I would run it on a regular basis. Good race support, cool shirt but no finishers metal not a big deal but a souvenir is always appreciated.

There was also a glitch in the race which did not effect my time but maybe my placing. The person that was stationed at the turn around point during the first 5k of the race forgot to take the sign down that said 25k turn around here. This caused a number of runners to turn back at the end of the race making there race a 20k effort. No way to know who did this tho so maybe some ahead of me short turned maybe not. Just one of those weird things that can happen on a race course.

Finished 79th overall out of 178 runners gun time of 2:33:46

I could have probably run this about 10 minutes faster easily if I had been familiar with the course and didn’t stay conservative. The knee didn’t get any sorer then it was at the half way point and was fine the next day. If I could do it again I would have pushed harder in the second half but then again who is to say that I would not have blown up. I expect that as I get my trail and hill training up to speed that this will become a non issue. Only negative for me was my mental mistake in the last few KM of the race. I will schedule a lobotomy as soon as possible.

Steve ran well in the 10k finishing 62th overall out of 159 runners gun time of 56:02


  1. Hey Chris, nice to meet you as well!

    Not sure what my plans are coming up. Debating on the Creemore race...but it's 50% fire road...uggg! Maybe the 5 peaks Rattlesnake and then the Dirty Girls 30km.

    Aiming for Vulture Bait 50km at the end of the season after a few adventure races in August and September.


  2. Great job with the trail race! I love running trails whenever I can. Good luck with your future ultra training. I'm looking forward to hearing about it.

  3. Great job indeed! Goodluck on your future runs! I hope we can meet. : )

  4. Good job Chris! thanks for stopping by my blog.
    I thought about doing Sulphur Springs 50k as my first ultra but I've decided to switch my focus a little different this year, maybe next year and see you there :-)

  5. congrats Chris on a terrific run. You are a great running/training buddy.

    Steve B

  6. Really enjoyed the race report and the pics! Way to go on the pacing discipline, as it really paid off in finishing strong.

    Neat that you've done Seaton as well, have heard interesting things about this race. A couple of friends of mine are doing the Niagara 50 this month, and I keep telling them not to give me any such ideas, haha.

    What 50 or 100 miler are you thinking of for next year?

  7. Hi Chris,
    Loved reading your recap. I am doing my first 50 miler at Sulphur Spring this year.


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