As you can see in the video it was a dark and stormy night when we started. Okay it was dark, but only slightly drizzling and technically it was morning. It was still pretty chilly and the number of shorts-wearing runners was shocking. I was decked out in toque, gloves, rain jacket, pants and I was still cold. I guess a few of us were colder than others and in a hurry to warm up because the pace set in the first few legs was pretty scorching. All four men from Holland were present: Darren Froese, Rick Webb, Bruce Barteaux and myself. Darren was a bit late to start the race but blew past the group after two kilometres to take the lead. A newcomer to the 100k was Hassan Lofti-Pour who won the Stormy 50 mile went with Darren and shadowed him for quite a while. I could see them off in the distance as Darren had a reflective vest on and Hassan had a flashing light on the back of his toque. I knew we were going too quick and said that to Carrie and Tracey, a.k.a. The Crew, after an hour of running at this pace. My goal was to run a steady 7:30 per mile pace all race and whatever happened, happened. It was dumb of me to keep these guys in sight as it's a long day and you definitely slow down later on. To what extent is never known until it happens. For me it's around the start of the sixth leg. We were doing sub-7:15 for the first three legs.
I was trying to slow down but I was nervous about being too far behind in the latter portions of the race. I never wanted to "race" after running 70 or more kilometres so I kept the guys within about a km ahead of me. Hassan's crew vehicle was taking time splits on me quite often so I knew he wasn't too far ahead even though I couldn't see him. I took it easy on the hills, keeping my breathing under control and not going anaerobic, knowing my legs would be better for it later on. Saying this, it was on a hilly leg 3 that I made up some ground on Darren, who had been passed by Hassan about thirty minutes prior. He stopped for some aid from his wife, uber-crewer Kandise, and I went by him.
The three of us maintained this order until just after the start of the fourth leg when Hassan mistook an H2H marker indicating go straight as one telling him to go left. Sure it was dark and drizzly but I went by the same sign and I would swear it said go straight. There was even a cul-de-sac sign at the beginning of the side-road he took but obviously didn't see and lost about five minutes going out and then coming back to the route. In this time myself and Darren had passed him. This must have demoralized him as Carrie and Tracey saw him trying very hard to make up this time lost and I think it cost him overall in the energy expenditure. It was reminiscent of 2005 when three of us turned right instead of a left and lost about ten minutes once we turned around and got back on course.
I felt crappy last year halfway through leg 4 but this year I felt great until the start of leg 6. It was wild how we didn't see daylight until around 8am this year because of the time change being after the race instead before. Leg 4 which is usually in daylight was so shrouded in fog and darkness that I had to run on the center line just to make sure I didn't go off the road. I was worried about making a wrong turn because you couldn't see more than maybe twenty feet in front. I had the girls drive about that far in front of me and I just followed the van's taillights.
From this point on the course was pretty flat and uneventful and I was glad to get rid of the headlamp as it finally got light enough to not need it. Darren's Kandise was also looking after another runner and we were kind of checking on him periodically to make sure all was well with him. Halfway through leg five the girls went back and saw him and were back up to me pretty quick. I asked how far behind he was and Carrie said about five minutes.
*Author's note: I love Carrie very much and in no way do I mean any disrespect but it has to be known that she is not the best at judging time and/or distance. More on this later. Just remember Darren was "five minutes" behind me.*
So I'm thinking five is not very many minutes at this point in the race and fatigue was setting in. I had to still push it though to maintain the lead and try and pull ahead a bit. Around here as well I felt some discomfort in my left big toe. I've lost both nails on the big toes so I knew what this feeling meant. I think it happened on some steep downhills on leg 4 when I was in poor form and jammed the toe to the front and top of my shoe. I could feel something wasn't right. Of course, on leg 5 I didn't want to stop and lose time because it wasn't really hurting. I made up my mind to change to a larger-sized shoe on leg 7 just before the long 11% downhill because it was here in '05 that I ruined this same toenail the first time.
Right at the end of leg 6 was where I saw Steve and Jean King by the side of the road. This is what Steve does when he calls this race: He leaves Penticton around 4am and arrives at this point in the race to greet the first place runner (me for the past three years) and it's a carrot for me because I know he is going to check the time splits on the runners behind me. He always is inspiring in his words so I look forward every year to seeing him around this point. Off he went down the route behind me and as much as I love seeing him, the longer it takes him to come back, the farther anyone is behind me. He came up after a while in his van and reported that I had a twenty-seven minute lead on Hassan with Darren two minutes behind him and looking strong. I breathed a sigh of relief that I could back off my pace some as I had some room with the time difference between us. I asked Carrie after the race if, back on leg 5 when they checked on Darren's position, the "five minute" lead I had was a "running" five minutes or a "driving" five minutes. She confessed that it was indeed a driving five minutes and we had a little chuckle.
At the top of the fog-laden hill leading down to the flats of leg 7 and the start of leg 8 I stopped and changed shoes with my frozen fingers and descended at a brisk walk for one kilometre.
After the flats started it was pretty uneventful and definitely not pretty. I struggled to maintain the pace I wanted but knew that I was close enough I didn't have to totally kill myself (thankfully). Near the finish Carrie and Tracey parked the van and we all ran hand-in-hand through the finish chute, celebrating the great job that they did looking after me all day.
Darren followed in second, Hassan in third and Rick in fourth. Congratulations to all the finishers.
Once again I had intentions of hitting the party afterwards but 9pm equals a 20-hour day for all of us and we just weren't into it. Thankfully the ultra awards are at 4:45pm and we can go crash after that. I can't express enough thanks to my crew and to all the crews out there who cheer us on in the pitch blackness for hours and hours and do such good jobs to insure we cross the line.
My toe was indeed trashed at the end of the race like I knew it would be. A trip to the doctor on Sunday confirmed that it was getting infected so I'm on a cycle of the anti-biotics once again. As I sit here writing this my foot is up on the desk to relieve some of the swelling that has been occurring over today. I'm sure it will be fine for Texas in four weeks........
Haney to Harrison 100 km Ultra