Well it seems like it has taken me the better part of forever to finally get the race report for the Sulphur Springs 100 done, kind of like finishing the race itself. So if your so inclined and have time to kill read on.
Earlier this year I had decided that I wouldn't run 100 miles at Sulphur. Although I enjoyed running it last year I made plans to instead run the Mohican 100 on June 18th and figured that maybe running 2 different 100 milers only 3 weeks apart was pushing it. I would still run but maybe 50 miles or even 50k. Then came a really solid winter of training and like any runner who is dumb or crazy enough to entertain the thought of running these kind of distances I began to come up with ways to justify running both races.
Sulphur is hilly but not too technical, and a loop course so easy for Kim to crew. I know the course, many other runners that would be racing, and was in great shape. I was also thinking that this would be a good race to put up a solid time with the expectation that the 20km loop would be fast, pretty dry, and with any luck the weather would not be too hot.
The main goal of the race would be to run it as well as I could but more important to come out of it healthy and in decent shape to run the Mohican. As with most races I went in with 3 running goals. A goal - sub 24 (possible but not likely), B goal - sub 26 (should be very doable if I have no major issues), C goal - just finish (sometimes easier said then done).
So a week before the race the hope for a nice dry, fast course were fading fast. It was muddy and with rain in the forecast all week there was little hope that it would dry out. Not much you can do about that but I was really concerned about my feet given how very muddy conditions at Haliburton had all but destroyed them last year. I was going to need my feet for Mohican so it was time to search out some good foot care advice from more experienced runners. Luckily I knew just who to ask.
I talked with Stephan and Kinga and got some great advice. Kinga told me to apply baby diaper cream with the highest zinc content I could find to my feet twice a day during the week as a preventive measure. Yeah I know it sounds kind of weird but I am up for anything that might help. She also kindly offered to tape my feet for me before the race, sweet.
On Monday I joined them and a few others for a 23k final longish run on the Bruce Trail before the race. Kinga taped my feet so I could test out how it felt. The run went well and the tape didn't bother me at all. I was a little worried as my knee was still sore from Bear Mountain but it held up well. It's always nice running on the Bruce trail, I particularly enjoyed the part of the woods that was totally flooded out requiring us to wade through a stretch of thigh high water. Good times, good times.
Friday came up quickly and we headed out to Ancaster for the prerace dinner and to pick up our race kits. The dinner was good and it was nice to get a chance to chat with some of the other 100 mile runners. After dinner Kinga taped my feet (thanks again Kinga!) and we headed back home. I was really glad we had decided not to camp, it was cold, wet with more rain coming overnight. Sure we would have to get up earlier to drive back out but I would rather give up extra sleep time to be warm and cozy in my own bed.
Saturday morning we headed out bright and early. Okay so not bright but early. It was still dark and by the time we hit Hamilton we were seriously fogged in. Even with the fog we made good time getting to the race. I was there in plenty of time to get ready, Kim was running the 25km which didn't start for a couple more hours. Soon we were lined up and it was time to go.
Loop 1 - all systems go
Even though I had run this race last year there were some big changes to the course. The start had been moved due to increasing numbers of racers and the infamous "Gulch" had been removed. In its place was a very nasty downhill on dirt road. It was steep, winding and all around mean spirited. You get to run down it at the start of each 20km loop and then back up it at the end. For those of you counting along at home thats 8 times each way.
As we hit the bottom of the hill it was quickly into the woods where it became immediately apparent that I was going to be in for some muddy going. Splash, splash, splash, and its wet feet 5 minutes into the race. Sweet. Within the first 15 minutes or so the pack began to seperate out nicely and soon I found myself running along with Stephan M. He told me that he was expecting to run around 2:30 for the loop so I decided to stick with him for a while. Last year I had come out way to fast (running 2hr) and I really wanted to make sure I stayed at my planned paces early in the race. I had come in planning to run around 2:20 and staying comfortable so running with Stephan worked out nicely for me. Strangely enough I had run the first 25 miles of Haliburton with him last year.
We cruised along at a decent pace avoiding the mud as much as possible and I was able to use loop one to get a good read on the course conditions and changes from last year. It was muddy but not Seaton or even Haliburton muddy. Of course with 700 runners coming on to the trails for the shorter races in 2 hours the trails would be getting worse but so far it was okay.
We passed the gatehouse aid station going out at 3km and then came back through it at 9km. At some point around 7km I began to feel a hot spot on my heel. What the heck, already? I told Stephan that I might have to change my socks but less then a km later the hot spot was gone. Not sure what the heck that was about maybe just something in my shoe so in the end I didn't need to stop.
Soon we were on the second half of course. It was up the hill down the hill dodge the mud, repeat until we hit a low lying area at about 11km. This was a new part of the course which some other runners had been referring to as the blog / swap area. Well I got to say this part just sucked. It was long swamp grass and deep water and mud. No way around it you just had to plug through it and try to not hit the deepest parts if possible. Pick the wrong line and there is a good chance you would be digging out you shoe after it had been sucked right off your foot.
Once you got through this it was onto a logging road and then into the next aid station. I got a quick bottle refill and was soon back on the trail and into the lollipop loop. So far everything was great. I was fuelling properly, taking my salt tabs and felt good. We ended up making short work of the next 6km and then headed for the final hike up that stupid country road hill climb. As we got about half way up we saw the start of the 10km coming down. It was like a herd of elephants coming towards us. I also saw Kim stuck right in the middle of this pack of hundreds of runners. Although she was running the 25km she had the misfortune of finishing the first 5km spur and coming back through the start/finish at the exact moment the 10k started. As she passed us she looked like she was trying to avoid getting trampled by the faster shorter distance runners.
Then we were back through the start finish and ready for round 2.
Loop 2 - carefully keeping it in check
A quick stop to down an ensure and get a new water bottle and I was headed back down the hill. First lap came in at 2:17 so really good pacing for me. I was right where I wanted to be. So far so good. The course was not as bad as I had imagined it to be. The fog had cleared up and it was not too hot but I did find that it was very humid.
I ran the first 5 or 6k of this loop alone. I had thought that Stephan had gone back out just before me but didn't see him. At around 7km I saw Steve B. and Kinga about 100 meters ahead so I picked it up just a little to catch them and then spent the next hour or so running with them. Soon Stephan joined us, turns out he was behind me and before long we heading back up the road hill from hell again.
Once again my pacing was right on. I was expecting to run 2:30 and ran 2:28. I was well fuelled and feeling really good. I was blissfully unaware of the trouble that was waiting for me just a little ways down the trail.
Loop 3 - something wicked this way comes
Things are going really well. I am right on pace and feeling great. I run most of this loop alone. Most of the people I have been running with are now running ahead of me as I am very focused on staying on pace. The mud is a pain but has not cost me much time and not a huge amount of extra energy. That said by this time the trail has become much worse then earlier in the day. All the extra pairs of feet from the 50k, 25k and 10k races have made some parts of the trail into muddy messes.
I cruise along enjoying the midday sun and the run. I see a big ass deer in the middle of trail as I head along the side of the Orchard. It watches me approach but does not move. I begin to yell at it, "Look out, coming through". At first it ignores me but eventually it realizes I am not going away so it reluctantly walks off into the woods. As I pass it I look into the woods to see the deer looking back over its shoulder at me. It gives me a clear what the hell is your problem look as it watches me pass.
I pass the aid station at the start of the lollipop loop, right on pace. It is here that things start to go sideways. It starts with a little strange feeling in my stomach. Not a pain, just a little unsettled feeling. I think now thats kind of odd. Less then 2km later, as I climb the long steep hill that will take me out onto the ridge along the open fields, that little feeling becomes a small churning mass of trouble. I am starting to feel sick.
I spend the next 4k back to the start finish line trying to figure out what is happening. I have hydrated, fuelled, taken my salt, run my proper paces. I have done everything right up to now yet I am starting to get stomach problems. By the time I crest the evil country road hill my stomach is like a miniature butter churner.
Loop 4 - Oh dude what the hell
I manage to finish loop 3 in 2:40 minutes, 5 minutes slower then planned but most of that time was lost once my stomach started acting up. I sit and take a few extra minutes at the start finish in an attempt to deal with the issue. I get some soup into me, along with some ginger ale and pepto.
I also let Kim know I am having an issue. I just cant figure this out. I have my nutrition down pretty well at this point. I have only had stomach problems once before (oddly enough, last year at sulphur). I have never had problems this early in a race. Stomach issues at 55km, whats up with that?
I do what I can to deal with it and then head back out on the course. I keep it slow on purpose to allow my stomach a chance to settle down. At 9km at the gatehouse I get more soup from Kim. I dont know if my stomach is better or worse I just know that its not good. I am struggling yet my legs feel fresh, frustration begins to creep in. Over the next hour I see a number of other runners that are also struggling. I am coming to the realization that I most likely look as bad as they do. Oh Man not good.
Somewhere around the 17k mark (77km overall) I have my one and only bout of serious self doubt. How am I going to go another 50 miles if I am this nauseated. I slowly climb the road and hill that I have now nicknamed mount evil.
I end up finishing the loop in 3:08, about 15 minutes slower then planned.
Loop 5 - churning, churning, churning
In a planned effort to preserve my feet I change my shoes and socks. My feet are in good shape so far. I try to get some food into me but my stomach is rolling around like the Bering Sea on an episode of Deadliest Catch. JD is at the start finish (he is pacing someone later on). My shoes changed I want to get going but cant. I tell Kim and JD I am just going to sit and catch my breath. I have been sitting for more then ten minutes but my breathing is still rapid like I am still running. I put on a brave face but I am completely freaking out on the inside. I remember mentioning to JD that I cant believe how bad I feel. JD gives me some of his ginger candies. After 20 minutes I drag my ass out of the chair and stumble off down the hill.
I can remember very little about this loop. I know Kim met me at the gatehouse with some soup. I ran when my stomach would let me and walked when it wouldn't. Sometimes I would feel a little better but any major climbing would be followed by waves of nausea.
So just how bad was I? After the race both JD and Kim were thinking that by the way I looked at 80km that I would probably drop. Kim told me she was thinking up things to say to me to keep me going when I eventually told her that I was going to drop. Yikes.
This loop went slow. I was no longer thinking about paces or time. Running a decent time was all but out of the question now. I was now in put one foot in front of the other and keep going mode.
Loop 6 - All aboard the vomit express
I grabbed a seat and tried to regroup again. Any hope of bouncing back seemed lost. I felt worse at this point then at any other time of the race. The sun had just set. I wanted to eat but couldn't. Steve Blackburn had come out to pace me for the next 20km section of the race. I sat for a long time trying to get my body to a place where I might be able to eat but no way. I dont know how long I sat there but it was a long time. Finally I decided fuck it, this is not going to help me so might has well get moving. When I stood up a wave of nausea and dizziness nearly caused me to fall over (steve and someone else, JD maybe actually grabbed me before I fell). Then off we went.
I felt really bad as I began to think that my pacers may have come out for nothing. Steve and I made our decent down mount evil. Both of my calves had crapped up into small little baseballs of hatred and were not functioning. Luckily a big downhill is exactly what you need when that happens ( for those that dont get it thats called sarcasm). I told steve we would run when I could and walk when I had to.
I was still in good shape to finish as long as I kept moving even if I had to walk most of the way. Somewhere around 7km JD and his runner passed us looking good. Soon after we were into the gatehouse at 9km. I downed a couple of cokes and then I felt compelled to quickly walk away from the tented area where I proceed to put my hands on my knees and spent the next 10 minutes projectile vomiting.
Man it was nasty. Liquid coming out your nose is never much fun. This is really the first time I have cleared the decks in a 100 and I did not enjoy the experience at all. Worse of all it had to happen right next to the aid station. I guess thats just in keeping with me trying to create a spectacle where ever I go. One thing that was really clear to me by the volume of liquid that came out of my stomach was that I was not processing anything at this point. Not good at all.
I called to Steve to join me and headed back out. Someone said I should feel a lot better after that but it didnt seem that way to me. Maybe a little better but not much. Fifteen minutes and a couple more bouts of puking later we actually started to be able to run a little. At the next aid station I asked for something that would help with the stomach and the guy gave me some crackers (they did help). Also a super big thanks to some unknown runner that was at the aid station, I think he might have been in an earlier race but maybe he was in the 100. He gave me 3 ginger candies at the aid station which seemed to really help me over the next few hours so thanks man. I really need those.
We slowly finished out the loop. At one point we saw another guy lying along the side of the trail. Steve stopped to make sure he was okay. He said he was having stomach issues and was just trying to get it together. I think I might have grunt nodded to this as that was all I was really able to do at this point. Then we were back up mount evil and ready for loop 7.
Loop 7 - Go zombie Go
I once again had a long delay getting out of start finish area. I changed my muddy socks but not my shoes. I had a second pacer Ryan for the next 20km. I felt like crap but was now sure I would finish with only 40km to go. My legs were tired but not dead at all.
Down the hill and into the darkness we went. As we hit the first mud patch Ryan fell on his ass in the mud. He asked me not to tell anyone that less then one minute onto the trail he had wiped out. I told him there was no way I would mention that in my blog. Yeah right. In the guys defence he is not a trail runner and has most likely never run trail in the dark so dont feel too bad Ryan. After a little laugh we started our long oddesy around the loop.
I didnt feel good but wasnt puking so that was okay. Ryan did a great job keeping me moving and entertained when needed. I was super lucky to have such great people guiding me through the night. Before I knew it the sun was coming up and I was finishing loop 7, one more to go.
Loop 8 - The end is near
I was still a mess but I knew I would be finishing. A big thanks to Charlotte V. who all but forced me to take rice crackers from her at the aid station. I didnt want them but she would not take no for an answer. Good thing too as I think this ended up helping my stomach a lot.
I took a brief rest and then was off down the hill. Lots of time left before the cutoff. I had 6 hours to do 20km. I figured that I could manage that. My stomach had now settled just enough so that I could run consistently. Not fast but consistently. For the first time in 3 loops I was able to run all the flats, downhills and even some of the uphills. I kept it nice and slow in order to keep the barf monster at bay. No point pressing it as my goal had become just finishing a long time ago. I was also bonking really hard as I could not keep food down.
Around 4 hours later I was slowing walking up mount Evil for the final time. Then it was a quick jog around to the finish line and I was done.
I have never been so happy to finish a race in my life. I tried to drink my traditional post run beer but couldnt even get that down.
I ended up finishing in 28:14:53 much slower then I expected but thats okay.
My feet came through the race in great shape. No blisters and no water damage.
Also my legs felt solid and strong the entire race. All that volume training didnt help much in the race due to my stomach but man did it pay off in the recovery. I was walking normal in 2 days, no injuries at all. Knee was not an issue. I am in great shape for the Mohican this coming weekend.
I have no idea what happened with my nutrition. I spent a good part of last year getting it all figured out and now it seems like I am starting from scratch again. I think I am going to chalk it up to one of those things and not change much for the Mohican.
Next up Mohican 100, June 18th