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, December 11, 2007

The Air Was Heavy

The Sunmart 50 mile Endurance Run came as a bit of a surprise as Canada's Ultra Team Manager, Armand Leblanc, invited a few of us with only about six weeks to the go until the race. I wondered what kind of shape I'd be in after Haney to Harrison the month before this race but when am I ever going to go to Texas other than to do a race? I figured as well a month of recovery was good and the fact that it was ONLY 50 miles and that it was a trail race and not a road event made it more appealing and hopefully doable.
The weather leading up to the race was in the mid to high 20s with no rain which would mean a good, dry surface to run on. When I got off the plane it was like landing in Hawaii - hot and humid. The air was heavy is how I would describe it. Although it was a change from the zero-degree BC weather I left, it definitely wasn't the type of temperatures I was desiring to run in. It's hard to get used to a 25 degree difference in two days. It was great to see team manager Armand and fellow World 100km teammate and uber-runner Jenn again. I also met for the first time the third member of our 50 mile team Glen Redpath, an extrememly accomplished ultra-runner with many 100 mile races (including sixth place at Western States last year)under his belt, and Nadeem Khan, the new assistant team manager.
We got to the hotel via shuttle bus and realized we would need to rent a car as there was absloutely nothing around the hotel but freeways. On Friday we did just that and went to the Johnson Space Center and saw tons of history about the training the astonauts do and have done here.

On Saturday for the race there was no change in the weather, the air was still heavy. It was 23 degrees at start time with more humidity than I care to watch tv in, let alone run. Glen, with all his expertise, suggested we start rally easy for two laps and pick it up on the last of the four 12.5 mile loops. He and I figured that most everyone in the IAU division, seven women and about twenty-one men, wouldn't be used to the conditions. He also knew a lot of the competitors and that they were road, not trail, specialists.

Loop 1 - A Bullet From a Gun

As usual the first few miles felt really easy and there was a pack of around twelve of us staying together on the single track. Glen later said no one wanted to take the lead so there he was, leading the thing about fifty feet ahead. I even enjoyed being in third place at one point but knew there was no way that would continue with a field such as this. It was nice to say I was in the money if only for a few minutes. On the out and back we saw Jenn who was looking strong and scarily not far behind!! This first lap felt great other than the sweat running off everyone like rain. I went with carrying only one bottle the first lap thinking when it got warmer I'd grab two for each lap thereafter. I should have taken two at the start because I was empy after only eight miles so I used the aid stations more than I normally do. About three miles to go was where the approximately 700 50k runners, who started thirty minutes after us, merged with the 50 mile course and hundreds of us tried to get along the single track back to the start/finish turnaround. The 50k runners also used that same turnaround and the congestion both ways was thick. Sort of like fifteen people trying to swim in one lane of a 25m pool - you're going to have contact. The start/finish was where Armand and Nadeem had set up our aid table. Besides doing an awesome job crewing for the three of us, they were also supporting two Irish and two Australian athletes. Loop 1 split - 1:34

Loop 2 - Not going to do what I want to do

I thought I'd be able to this course in around six hours. That equates to about a seven minute mile. Boy, was I ever off the mark. I've never started running out of gas so soon in a race but on this trip I started feeling sluggish after halfway through. I got ahead of Glen and hoped I wasn't going too hard too soon. It surely didn't feel like it. At the end of this lap I sincerely wondered (more serious and worried than any other race) how I was going to finish another two laps. There weren't any long gruelling hills to climb but what there was seemed to get longer and steeper every time. There was also a section of the trail, about two miles, that was mostly sand which felt deeper and deeper every time I went through it. Lap 2 split - 1:38

Loop 3 - #$@% ME!!

1 mile into lap three I crashed for the first time. I managed to save my knees but my forearm broke my fall right on a root or rock causing it to swell nicely but only bleed a little. I managed to smash the big toe on the right foot, the one still with the nail, in the process. Looks like I'll have matching big toes soon. Due to a request for "no more toe pictures", I will abstain from showing the graphic photos at this time. Throughout the race after this I must have tripped eight more times (each one hammering that same toe) and went down one more time giving one knee a nice raspberry. Halfway through this loop I caught up with Irishman Martin Rea. He and his wife, Helena, are amazing ultrarunners. Martin and I stuck together for this lap and half of the fourth. Martin didn't want Helena to beat him and he had cause for concern because she was catching up to us. I didn't want to do another 12.5 metres, let alone 12.5 miles at this point. Lap 3 split - 1:46

Loop 4 - Don't wanna go on no more

I hadn't seen Jenn or Glen for some time and at my last time seeing him before the finish, Nadeem reported Glen was suffering and that, "guys ahead of me were dropping like crazy". I was pretty sure Jenn would make it. I think I was in the top ten around now although the care level of that fact was very low and all I wanted to do was finish. I didn't ever walk except the aid stations on this leg. My quads had that old cramping feeling so I was even taking on Gatorade in an attempt to get more sodium in me. Martin carried me through to about the forty-three mile mark when I told him to go ahead. And go he did. He disappeared in a couple minutes through some winding sections. I was so tired I just kept looking at my Garmin to see how many miles there were to go. The numbers were ticking off so slowly. The bracelet I was wearing that the kids made me for Ironman Canada reading "Go Dad Go" and with a tiny bell on it reminded me of another reason I had to finish. The end of the 12.5 mile loop consisted of a ninety degree turn then a straightaway of grass followed by some pavement to the finish line. The whole distance isn't more than 400 metres. As I came around the corner, there was Martin lying flat on his back being tended to by the corner marshal. I called his name and he raised his head a bit and that was all. As there was nothing I could do to help (only course marshals or paramedics can aid people on the course outside the aid stations) I continued on to the finish. Before we could go see how he was, an ambulance that had picked him up came by. We saw him the next day and he said he remembered nothing about what happened. He received five IV bags and was literally paralysed for hours after he dropped. Thankfully he felt good the next day. As it turned out his wife had a tough last lap as well and even after spending time with Martin where he collapsed she went on to finish as the second female. Jenn finished as fifth female overall, first in her age group. Glen also finished but would have been faster had it not been for the twenty minute break he took lying on a picnic table on the last lap!! I talked to other runners after and everyone said the conditions made for slower times. It was the warmest it had been in the last eighteen years. Of the approximately 225 50 mile racers, around fifty dropped out. The attrition for the 50k was about 250 of the nearly 700 on the starters list. Loop 4 split - 1:56.

Overall 6:55, 8th place, 1st in age group

Me, Armand, Jenn, Glen & Nadeem

Results for Sunmart 50 Miler

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