Kim and I arrived at the Base Camp around 3:00pm Friday and got our tent and gear set up fairly quickly and settle in for a glass of wine and some snacks. It was our first time camping in more than 15 years.
Race morning arrived early (4:30), but we had slept reasonably well and felt ready to tackle the day. Pre-Race seemed a little rushed, but we made it for the walk to the start line right on time. Just as we started walking, we were asked if this was the way to the start line by a surprise guest - Derrick - who even though was not running had driven up to cheer, coach, crew, and pace. NOW I knew it was going to be a great day.
The Race (course map)
Start -> Normac Loop -> AS#2 (0-11)
This is really just a warmup. You start in the dark so most people are running with some sort of lamp. This is the most social part of the race as people shake out their legs and get into the groove for the day. From the start I was on top of my nutrition taking my first Gel at just 20min, and continuing to consume calories every 20min, and drinking, this was the plan for the day and I was determined to stay on schedule no mater how or where I was. I controlled my pace well and settled in to what I felt would be the rhythm for the day.
Coming into AS#2 I was met by the smiling faces of Derrick and Kim (my crew, support, paparazzi) for the day.
Swtiched my Nathan Speed 2 Belt for my UD Handheld, restocked with a couple of Gels and headed onward
AS#2 - AS#3 (11-15)
I find on the way out Normac Trail is really just a warmup, not too technical and tough, just gets you into the groove. Poachers trail is where the fun really begins. This really is my favourite part of the course. Deep woods, nice climbs, and technical enough to be challenging without being stupid. Not much to say about this section. There was some nice mud, but after Wakely I was ready for anything muddy and wet.
Kim was ready for me as AS#3 (as she was the whole day at every station-she rocked!) and I switched back to my Speed belt and chowed down some PB and J
AS#4 - AS#5 (15-24)
Both heading out and on the return this is the toughest section. It is a long way to the next aid station and there are some nasty climbs and technical sections you have to negotiate. Add to that the endless mud and beaver created stream and you have a challenging 9km run. I did negotiate Bens and Krista trail fairly uneventfully but as it always does it took a little wind out of my sail. I kept up with nutrition and hydration, and actually took an extra S!Cap just to be sure. It felt good to get to AS#5 and know that I had 16km left till the turn.
AS#5 - AS#6 (24-30)
Started heading into new territory now, trails I had never run (well in the light at least), so it was all new fun. After 25km and almost 3 hours of running I wouldn't say I was feeling fresh, but I was getting into the Ultra Groove. The first half of this section turned out to be quite technical with a couple of good little climbs then the "corduroy road" (buried logs) followed by a nice run out on a dirt/logging road. It was here that I finally caught up to and ran with Johnny into AS#6 (it was great to have company).
At AS#6 I had my only drop bag. In it I had a shirt change and my Nathan Hydration Pack. Thinking was that if Kim had difficulty finding either this or AS#7 at the turn, I would have enough water and nutrition to get me to the turn and back. I took a little time at AS#6 to change and have some sweet potato with yummy salt before heading out.
AS#6 - AS#7 (30-40)
Johnny had been quicker out of AS#6 and as such I was running by myself again. This section began with a nice trail section for a couple of kms before coming out onto sandy road. To be honest at this point I was starting to tire a bit. 20 miles done and another 30 to go. My achilles felt stiff, but nothing to serious and I had a strange stiffness on the outside of my right knee, aside from that I was ticking along. I was feeling the extra weight of the 1.5litres of water I had just strapped to my back and was starting to wonder the decision to switch. After a while I could see Johnny in ahead of me, and by the time we came off East Road on onto King James I had finally caught him again. This last 5kms to the turn was tough. Long climbs and descents, rollers and some pretty nasty mud. John and I chatted and cursed together. It was great to finally run into runners returning as it meant we were getting nearer to the turn. Both my hips were starting to ache a bit and I decided that if Kim had made it to AS#7 I was dropping the hydration pack and going back to my waist pack. Strange that I have trained with the Hydration pack all summer, but I was just not feeling it on the day. Kim was there, so off came the pack
After arriving at the AS#7 we still had a .5km out (to the turn) and back spur to do. Without my pack I felt light as air and it wasn't as mentally painful as it could have been. Returning back to AS#7 my wonderful Crew (aka Kim) had everything ready.
Hitting the turn +.5km coming back to AS#7 was a huge mental lift for me. True I had run almost a marathon, and still had almost a marathon to run, but I was on the return and from here I could count down to the finish. I knew the trails, I new the aid stations, and now it was just a matter of doing the work. It was starting to warm up so I opted at this point to loose my shirt, the less I had annoying me the better.
AS#7 - AS#6 (40-50)
Johnny had headed out again before me, but it didn't take long for me catch him. We slugged it out through the muck and hills until I pulled ahead and never ran with him again. I felt a little bad when I realized he was no longer with me, but everyone needs to run their own race and I knew he was dealing with what he needed to. I was really starting to feel the downhills as my hip flexors started to bark at me, so I was running the downhills a little cautiously and was quite happy to be back on the sand road. Here I started to try and open up the pace a bit and run a little faster. I was tired, but stretching the legs with a little longer turnover felt great. Off the sand road, back onto a short trail section and out to AS#6. Yeah! 50km done, the countdown had begun
AS#6 - AS#5 (50-56)
Okay, so this I had run last year when I paced Derrick. It was nice to run on the logging road again for a short while to stretch out the legs some more, hit the trail and kept focused on looking for the turn-around sign for the 50km folks. Once at the sign I knew I would have just 25km to the finish. Finally I came across the sign and my watch said I had been running for 6:20, 10 minutes ahead of where I had hoped to be. Out of the woods and another km into AS#5, at exactly 6:30.
AS#5 - AS#4 (56-65)
Well I can't say the wheels fell off at this point, but damn it took a long time to get to AS#4. I didn't feel that tired, walked the uphills, but still ran most of the flats and slow jogged the downs, but I think it ended up taking me almost 1:30 to cover the 9km. I is one of the best feelings to come out of Bens and do that little jog downhill to AS#4. Both Kim and Derrick were there smiling and as tired as I was at this point it was a huge lift to see them and know I had survived the toughest section and only had 15km to go.
AS#4 - AS#2 (65-69)
Back on to my favourite trail. Seemed a lot tougher heading back for some reason, more because of some of the wicked steep downhills than anything else. This section ends with a run across some planks of wood, so once you hit them you know you're almost out of the woods (in more ways than one).
AS#2 - AS#3 (69-74.5)
This is one toughest sections mentally on the course, whether you are doing the 50km, 50m, or 100m having to run up the road and turn on to Normac for the final loop, rather than to the finish is always hard. I adopted the suck-it-up attitude and when I had to make the turn said out loud - "okay let's get it done!" Normac was as it always is, a slug fest. One day I'll run this trail on a return, but not today. It was a run-walk-run-walk and push to that last ugly downhill to when you finally come out on to the road for the final 6.5km run to the finish. I still had my mental on and was looking forward to the road to see of I could actually run the rest of the way to the finish. My last 2, 50km races here this has always totally beaten me up, but today I was feeling like I had the power to run it home. I climbed the first little hill and then started running. Not fast but the turnover was there. I had decided a while before that running was faster than walking and if I could, no matter what I would will myself to run and get this finished as quickly as possible. Once again seeing AS#3 and Kim waiting for me was such a great feeling. The end was soon in sight and the job would be done.
AS#3 - AS#2 (74.5-78)
My plan was to run with my handheld until AS#2 and then drop it and push to the finish, but first I had 3.5km of nasty road to get through. Kim pulled up beside me in the car to cheer me and I told her when I get to the finish I wanted my Northface Fleece, Gatorade(lesson from Wakely), and two Tylenol, I was hurting. I managed to run the whole distance, except for one hill that I just HAD to walk up. Drank almost my full bottle of water before AS#2.
AS#2 - AS#1(finish) (78-80)
So this was it 9:46 into the race, just under 2km to go and I now had a goal - break 10 hours. Before this I refused to set a goal other than to finish, but now I figured I really couldn't screw too much up, one thing stood in my way, the hill coming up to the final turn. Anyone who has run this race knows how tough this hill is especially after running up it the first time to loop into Normac. I refused to walk any of it. I focused on form and tempo and remembered those up hill repeats and just climbed the bastard; made it to the top turned the corner for home and there is a one little climb left - damn you! Still made it to the top, running, and then it was the final stretch home. I picked up the pace as best I could, and hammered. I have no idea how fast I was running, but it felt like I was flying, problem was the finish line didn't seem to get any closer for a long time. 9:53 - come on, come on. There is the finish line - run HARD. Cross the line screaming feeling amazingly good. In my last 2 50kms I have felt like I crawled over this finish line, today after 50miles I flew over it. What a great feeling.
Post race and conclusion
I ran this race smarter than any I have ever run. I ate/consumed calories every 20mins (Gels, Bars, PB+J, Chia/Honey, AS food) drank nothing but water (but a lot), S!caps every hour + 1. Never pushed the pace until the end. Ran in my LaSportiva Raptors and had zero foot issued, even with the mud and water. It was a perfect race, and I loved the distance. Plan now is to run a few more 50mile races maybe 100km over the next two years and then come back to Haliburton in 2012 to take on the 100mile (looking for pacers already).
Special thanks and love to Kimberley who did an amazing job at not only crewing and supporting me perfectly through the day, but also took all the pictures, so I would have a wonderful photo diary of the day. Also, Derrick who trained me, coached me, listened to my whines, and then made the trek to show his support to all the runners. You both were critical in the way the day turned out.