Friday, September 24, 2010
2010 Haliburton 100 miler Race Report
I had been looking forward to this race for almost a year. Last year I ran the Haliburton 50 miler and really fell in love with the course. It was tough, somewhat technical but with lots of runnable sections, dry (no river crossings) and beautiful. At the end of my race last year I sat at the finish line and watched the 100 mile runners come in, turn around and head right back out to do the 50 mile course a second time. My legs were sore, I was really tired but as I sat sipping a nice cold beer I thought “I can do that” or maybe it was “I want to do that”. Either way I decided right then and there that I would be running the full Monty next time. Now race weekend was finally here.
Got to be honest here. I was really worried about this race for a number of reasons. I had been nursing a knee injury since Dirty Girls which had prevented me from doing much training. I am in okay shape but was in better shape for Sulphur Springs and this course was going to be tougher. If the knee flared back up I could be in for a very rough day.
Kim picked up our rental car Friday morning and after making a quick stop to pick up fellow runner JD we headed off from Toronto for Haliburton. The drive up went quickly although I think both JD and I were excited and nervous about the upcoming 100 miler. JD had some pacers joining him for the night running. Kim was running the 26k race on Saturday morning and then crewing me for the rest of my race. Unlike Sulphur I had no pacers for this one but was not that worried about it. Just knowing Kim would be at each aid station was a great comfort.
We got to the race site without incident and saw that lots of other runners were already checking in. We were sharing a cabin with some other runners right at the start line. This ended up working out really well as we where able to get a good night's sleep and avoid having to camp out in 6 degree weather.
Once we got settled we went and picked up our race kits. You had to get weighed in, have rested pulse checked and pinched tested for hydration. This went really bad for me. Somehow I was 5 pounds heavier then the day before (what the hell), my rested HR was 76 ( should be 50 normally) and according to the nurse I was a bit dehydrated (not according to the color of my pee). Just so we are all clear here I am fat, out of shape and dehydrated. If I wasn't worried about this race before I was now.
Then it was off for the prerace dinner followed by a course update and instructions. Dinner was good but the instructions turned out to be ….. ahhh ….. informative. Seems a beaver had built a dam and rerouted a stream so that it was now flowing down part of the course, awesome. I seem to remember the directions being something like you're going to come to a place on the course where you're going to think that this can't be right, I must be off the trail. When you get to this point you just follow the flags because your still actually on course. Crap what does that mean?! This was followed by a warning that all the rain had left the course very muddy. Man so much for dry feet.
We headed back to the cabin where I ate some chocolate chip cookies (I am fat already so what does it matter) and then went to bed. I got an excellent sleep and when I awoke to hot coffee and a warm living room I was very glad to not be in a tent. As we all got our gear ready there was a lot of talk about how fast to go out, etc. I just kept telling myself stick to the race plan don't be changing anything now. We all took our time getting dressed and then headed out to the start line. Time to get down to business.
1 - 40k Just getting it going
The race started and we all headed out in the dark. The first 6k is on gravel road and even though it's dark you can still run it without a headlamp. I hooked up with Stephan Miklos who was planning on running the same pace that I was so I decided to stick with him for a while. Soon we were off the road and into the woods. It was light out by this point and although the race had started in cold temperature (I had gloves on for gosh sakes) it was already a bit warmer and really good running weather.
As we circled the very tough section of the course know as the Normac trail it became clear early that the course conditions were going to be difficult. At many points we hit deep mud and what I can only describe as a swampish mess (ha swampish …. I just made up a new word). You did your best to dance around the crap which was semi-successful but I already was wondering how much dancing I would be doing after running for 15 hours.
The first part of the race seemed to fly by. The course was very tough and by the time we hit the beaver dam at around 20k my feet were already wet. The beaver dam pond overflow ended any thought of keeping dry at all as there was no choice but to run through the ankle deep mud and water. Yuck.
Stephan and I continued to run together and it was nice to have some trail company. I felt really good aside from being wet. I was gelling and taking my salt tabs as well as hydrating regularly so no problem there. I had not gone out too fast so that was good. Even more encouraging was that my knee was no problem so far. I had worn a brace as a precaution and it seemed to be doing the trick.
Before I knew it we were at the 40k turn around. Time to this point was 5:10 just about right on pace for a hopeful 26hr race.
40 - 80k Slight bump in road
I got some food into me, downed an ensure and then headed back in the direction I had come. Stephan had been quicker at the aid station and had headed out faster then me. I got back into running mode and headed off into the woods. I saw JD coming the other way. He was around 2k behind me and looked strong. Things seemed to be going well. Its funny how fast that can change.
I can't tell you actually when but at some point between 40 and 50k my left ankle started to bother me. Hey that's new, no history of that at all. It was annoying but manageable but I began to have another problem. For some reason I began to get a very negative narrative running in my head. I went over to the darkside. All aboard , TOOT TOOT next stop Negativeland soon to be followed by Icantdoitville. This was really strange I mean you expect to have some mental battles but not this early in the race and not when you are still feeling semi strong.
I decided the best way to deal with this was to just keep going and not worry about pace or distance at all. Just keep working it. Man I had forgotten just how hard this trail was. I got to say that it is easily the hardest trail on the OUSER race circuit. Good thing there were some very runnable sections. Oh ya did I forget to mention the mud. Much to my chagrin some of the more runnable sections were now dotted with muddy shoe sucking bogs. At one point I stepped on what looked like a semi solid place and my leg sank up to the top of the calf.
I ran this next 40k alone only occasionally being passed or passing someone. My legs were still feeling okay but I had begun to notice that my wet muddy feet were beginning to bother me somewhat. I don't often have foot issues and I might have changed my shoes if not for the fact that my spare pair were at the 40k mark and I was running in the opposite direction. My feet would become a running theme for the rest of this race.
On a lighter note I attempted to take the last salt tab that I had in my fuel belt. First I dropped it in the mud but once I picked it up and wiped it off it looked fine to me. Talk about your 5 second rule. Then in my attempt to swallow the tab it ended up going down sideways and sticking in my throat. No worries I puked that sucker right back up. Hurray something new, my first time vomiting on the trail. I am no longer a puke virgin. No I didn't pick the salt tab back up and try to take it again, lets get real. Okay maybe I did think about it for a minute but I was kind of delusional by this point in the race.
At some point during this section I came out of my mental funk but my pace was suffering. I made the 80k mark in 11:48, 30 minutes slower then planned but so it goes. Not great but not a disaster.
80-120k Second time out, the big struggle
It's just after 6 pm as I came into aid station 2 and was greeted by some familiar faces. Kim was there with hot soup waiting. Allistair M. was also there hanging out as he was pacing someone. I felt okay but my feet hurt. I grabbed my headlamp and headed back out. Kim would be moving from aid station to aid station as I moved along the course to provide support and her awesome sweet potato soup. It was so nice to see friendly faces and it picked me up for a while.
I would like to say that carried me through the night but soon I was back in the woods and the real struggle began. My ankle was a problem but my feet were deteriorating fast. It was dark, it was muddy and I was alone. I focused on just getting to the next aid station. I was making a running motion but was going very slow as my feet were screaming at me with every step. In the dark there was no way to avoid the mud and water. I began to wonder if I could make it. I was going so damn slow.
Runners began to passing me. I passed nobody. At aid station 3 Kim told me that Steve had dropped. That kind of scared me. Out of the people sharing our cabin he was easily the strongest runner. I just tried to keep going, up the hill, down the hill, through the mud, through the mud, through the mud, up the hill. Damn. I also began to hear a lot about bear sightings. It seems that many runners had some run in with bears on the trail. Nobody had been eaten yet. Not good, that meant the bear might still be out there and might still be hungry.
I was beginning to see other runners coming back the other way some looked strong while others were struggling just like I was, of course they were well ahead of me. At around 118k JD and his pacer caught up to me and passed me. I told JD that my feet were really bad and that I didn't know if I was going to have enough time to make it before the 30hr cut off. He told me that I had lots of time and not to drop that I could make it. To see what JD really thought check out his blogging about his race including our encounter here.
I spent the next 2k doing the math and rolled into the 120 mark at 20:45.
120k – 160k How much pain can you take?
Kim was waiting for me at the turnaround. I told her that I was in really bad shape and that I didn't think I could make. I knew how slow I was because of the feet and if I got any slower I would not make the cutoff. She was great and encouraged me to continue. I had some soup, considered changing shoes but honestly I figured I might not be able to get my swollen feet back into a pair of shoes. I told her that I would run until it got light out and re-assess. I though how crappy I would feel if I ran 98 miles and then missed the time cutoff. Time was going to be the overriding factor now. This was something that I never expected at all. Zombie shuffling while on the bubble is a scary proposition.
The run from the aid station 7 to aid station 6 was 10k. I ran it alone trying my best to keep some kind of faster then staggering pace. I could see a couple just ahead of me and they were walking. I was running (?? sort of ??) yet I was not making any ground on them. There was some really runnable areas in this 10k but not so much for me. I finally caught and passed the people just in front of me. He had stopped for a bathroom break, she didn't look impressed at all (note I don't think they finished). I made some kind of little joke about them walking faster then I was running. She gave me the dead pan face so I got the hell on down the trail. For a minute or 2 I almost ran fast.
I got to aid station 6 in an acceptable amount of time leaving me 7 hours to go the last 30k. Kim was waiting for me there and I was a bit snippy towards her I think. I was getting kind of grumpy. There were also another 5 runners at the aid station including JD. I chugged an ensure and then JD asked if anyone was heading out. I said me and so we started to leave but just as we did Derrick Spafford showed up so JD said he would catch up and I headed out. I didn't mind as I knew JD would be moving faster then me. Well wouldn't you know it. In my haze I ran right past the turn into the woods and ran an extra 200 meters down the road. Damn dude what the heck. I headed back and could see other runners going into the woods. I was so embarrassed that I was able to actually run fast enough to catch up to them.
Suddenly I went from a lone wolf to part of a merry band of 6 runners. This group included JD, Maryka and her pacer, Scott and Dale. We were not a very fast group but we were a very determined bunch. Somehow I was able to keep up with them as they all struggled along. Its crazy but shared misery can be very inspiring. I knew if I dropped out of this group before we made daybreak I would be toast so I just focused on staying with them. Soon we were at aid station 5 where Kim seemed very happy to see me running with other people.
A quick transition at the aid station and then we were back into one of the toughest parts of the trail. At the beaver lake / dam all attempts to avoid the mud went in vain, its not like my feet could possibly get any wetter anyway. As we neared aid station 4 the sun finally came up and we were done with the night running. Before long our little group began to break up and spread out. I came into aid station 4 just as some of the others were leaving. Kim helped me get in and out of there quickly and with 15km left I now began to actually believe that I might make it.
I made slow time to aid station 2 but now with 11km left I was almost done. The good thing was the last 6km is all road. The bad is that I still had to run the toughest part of the race, 5k on the Normac trail. I left the aid station telling Kim to meet me at aid station 3 and headed up the road and into the woods. All the people I had been running with were now out of sight and it took me forever to run the half km to the trail head.
Then something really weird happened. I got really really pissed off. I was mad at my race, mad at the trail and furious at my feet. I was actually yelling at myself out loud at one point. I think I might have gone just a bit crazy. I was yelling things at my feet like “come on you loser”, “smarten the hell up you $%*#”, etc. (insert curse words that you deem appropriate).
Then I started running really fast, faster then I had run in at least 20 hours. It was crazy stuff, I caught up to and passed Maryka and her pacer. I think they figured I had totally lost it. I just hammered up and down the hills of the Normac like some crazed rabid furry forest creature. I was picking up time and then what the hell, suddenly I had to do what bears do in the woods, immediately. Damn and I was making such good time. I ran off the trail and tried not to think about the bear sightings on the Normac. Last think you want to have to do is fight a bear with your pants down.
Then it was back on the trail and out onto the road. I was still super angry and as I passed aid station 3 I just yelled at Kim to meet me at the finish I was not stopping for anything.
The mind is one powerful and nutty thing. I was somehow running fast on the road, somewhere very close to marathon pace. Note to self remember to get angry more often. I was able to hold a quick pace for the next 5km only slowing down in the final kilometer. Final I could see the finish line. I don't think I have ever been so glad to see the finish, I actually started to get choked up. Then I was done.
Final time was 29:07:30.
Place 27 / 53
I was much slower then I expected but I really don't care. This is by far the hardest race I have ever run and even now don't know how I managed to finish. My feet were destroyed. Below is a picture of my shoes because I felt that pictures of my feet might be to much for some readers.
Morbidly curious about my feet. Go here to see the pics.
Picked up my second hundred mile belt buckle which somehow made it all seem worth while.
Once again Helen Malmberg put on an excellent race this year. I cant recommend this race enough. I have also decided that I no longer buy the beaver dam story. I am thinking maybe race organizers built the dam themselves in an effort to make this race even harder. If they didn't then I expect they may have flown the beavers in and set them about there business. I sense a dam conspiracy here.