If the miles behind me could be put into words before you, you would feel my efforts, my struggles, my desires. Most of all you would see my joy. Watch me from afar run the trails and hills and miles upon miles and you will see ...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Borders, Baker Lake, and Bears

It's funny how when I'm running these days I or doing a race my mind is filled with what I want to write about on the blog when I'm done. Sometimes I play it out from the beginning of the day, the beginning of the race, or at a certain point somewhere out there. Of course, when I'm done the race or back home, I forget a lot of what happened there,almost as if I wasn't supposed to remember every detail, that the overall feeling is sufficient to re-live the race. If I was at the three hour mark of the Baker Lake 50km race right now I'd be thinking, "Christ I wish I wasn't over an hour from the end still!!"

Judie Wilson, an accomplished runner, ultrarunner, and Ironman, and I headed out to cross the border around 5:30am on Saturday to get to the race start about 130km away. We got to Peach Arch crossing and saw the line-ups at 5:45 and were shocked and amazed at the line-ups going south. A quick listen to the radio indicated up to an hour wait at that border and the Truck Crossing. We made the decision to head over to Sumas where the wait shouldn't be as long.

We only waited twenty minutes there but the slower backroads didn't spit us out to the I-5 at Bellingham until about 7:10. I said to Judie that I was pretty sure we weren't going to make the start in time as we had roughly 80km to go still. I almost pulled the pin and suggested we just go to Chuckanut and do a few hours through those trails. After some discussion we figured we'd might as well keep going and whatever happened, happened.

On the smaller roads off the highway there was a car right on our tail even as we approached extremely ticketable speeds on those backroads. We laughed as we figured it was another car of Canadians held up at the border and we were right. As it turned out we arrived, shouting "The Canadians are here!!", only twenty minutes past the start line. After just barely catching the race director heading up to the turnaround to give him our extra bottles, we quickly got dressed, lubed up and band-aided up (okay, I did), we headed out only thirty-one minutes behind the leaders. I've had bad dreams like this before where you arrive late or something holds you up and can't start a race but this is the very first time I've ever missed a start. I've come oh so close in the past but always been there when the gun sounded.

Judie and I started together on the 2km or so of roadways but she sent me off on my own once we hit the trailhead. Of course the weather was ugly, not quite as ugly as the race two years ago, with socked-in clouds and a bit of drizzle.

It took thirty-six minutes to catch the first runners, which turned out to be a pair of ladies on the trail, one of which heard me coming and quickly stood, pulling her shorts up after her pit stop. I covered my eyes and said, "I see nothing", and "we're all trail runners here". The next few bunches of people commented either we had started slow or started the race late. In the few seconds of passing it was relayed that, yes, four of us started late, we were on Canadian time after all!!

About 4km from the turnaround the land flattens so I decided I needed to make up some time and booked it. At the turn I quickly exchanged bottles and flew again (too fast as it turned out) the other way. Time at the half - 2:07.

It was fun seeing the same people on the way back as they all had comments to add and everyone could spare at least a "hello". At around the spot where I knew I had 1:30 to go to the end the energy started to dwindle. I think I forgot how much running in the trail takes out of me and didn't bring enough CarboPro 1200. Had to ration it too thin. The hills on the way back were reduced to me climbing them with baby steps, just waiting to hear the footsteps behind me of those who had raced smart and not blown everything on the flats. It was eerily similar to how I felt in the race in '05. Not much energy, looking at my watch every couple minutes not to see when to drink, but to calculate how much suffering there was still to be had. Crazy enough, though, I passed four guys on this last hour or so of the run.

Finally the trail ended and I got onto the forest road again. Of course I would have been more than happy to slog my way to the finish, but no, there was someone at the trailhead who had to tell me that the second place guy was a minute and a half ahead of me. Second place?!?! I didn't really keep track of my placing at the turn or on the way back so was surprised to learn I was that close to the front having started late. I was a little (okay a lot) disappointed the was the race had gone so far because I really wanted a shot at the prize the winners of the open and masters divisions get - a cool stuffed "Baker Bear". Two years ago I missed out on it by a few minutes and it killed me that the second place guy might be in my age group and I'd come up seconds short to my bear. As it was I saw him close to the finish but could only put a minute into him before I crossed the line in third. After a congratulations I asked him his age which was 47. Then I found the first place finisher and it turned out he was 43!! Whoohoo I won my division and so received the coveted Baker Bear for my troubles.

It was so nice of Don the race director to explain to me, even though I totally understood, that it would be unfair to take away the title from the first place finisher even though my time was seventeen minutes faster overall than his. Unless they had timing chips they had to go by the clock time. It's such a great race and a fun trail to run on that I didn't mind at all. As it was, Judie would have been the second place woman and won her division as well if it weren't for those holiday shoppers heading south. I hope to come back next year.

Baker Lake 50 km Trail Run

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