-- Eamonn Coughlan
After the hilly and repetitive Stage 3, we were given a morning off to rest before Stage 4. It started at 6:00pm, the only evening run of the stages. On paper, a 10 mile (16km) run doesn't sound all that bad after 25km. But the devil is in the details, and the elevation map. (Literally... someone actually drew the devil's face in the map!)
The run takes place mainly on a dirt road called Wilmot Line. There is a small piece of it that is along a paved road. The hills on this run are... enormous and continuous. One after another. When you hit the turnaround, you go back and experience them the other way. After almost 80km of running, this one is going to hurt. Another wonderful feature of the run is that it starts, and ends, on an uphill. And not just a little uphill. A BIG HONKING uphill.
I spent my morning off sleeping in, and hanging out in the residence. My legs were very sore after the last stage, and I figured rest was in order. I took some Advil, and put them up. Alas, it was not enough.
The start line was at Camp Heidelberg, where ironically I'd been a month or so ago for a VW Beetle show (The Canadian Bug Show). We all gathered around, getting ready, trying to relax. Speaking for myself, I was nervous. I really didn't know what to expect. I'd hear a lot from Duff and Steve and others about this stage, but until you actually experience it, it's hard to know what you're in for.
At 5:45pm Lloyd marched us down to the bottom and half way up the hill from the Camp. Some last minute instructions, and we were off. My plan for this one was to try and maintain a 5:30min/km pace, same as I did for the last stage. With my first step, my legs protested mightily, and I knew it was going to be bad. The paved road part was, for the most part, alright. Once we turned on to the dirt road, at about the 3rd km, I was in some serious pain. The hills were relentless; it seemed like I was climbing into the sky. For those of you who run with me in Pickering, if you want an idea of what it was like, picture Valley Farm, followed immediately by Puke Hill, then Valley Farm again, then another Puke Hill, then 3rd Concession to Church, but without any flat parts. Multiply that out to 16km, and you have this route.
At the 8km mark, I was really starting to have some serious pain, so I started power walking up the hills. I brought a camera with me to take pictures, and used that as an excuse to walk a bit. I also walked all the water stations. The heat and humidity were also a factor; I was sweating like a pig (which I normally don't do), so I needed to keep hydrated.
One interesting moment was when I reached "Horror Hill". We went up this monster on the way out, so now I was on the way down it's slope. Braking while running was killing my quads, so I decided to open up my stride and just "fall with style" down the hill, as fast as I could go. At one point, my Garmin read 3:21min/km pace! Just like when I ride a roller coaster, I put my arms up in the air and shouted "Woooo Hooooo!" (there wasn't anyone else around). It felt good to burn it down that hill. Gotta love gravity!
Finally, I was back on the paved road, with the finish line in the distance. Only problem was it was at the top of a HUGE hill! I vowed that I would not walk this one; the paparazzi was perched at the top, as well as all the elites who'd finished earlier. They were cheering for me and clapping, no way I was gonna walk! I pumped my arms, ran steadily up... up... up... and crossed the finish in 1:28 and change. Immediately I was descended on by the volunteers with sponges, spray bottles, and Gatorade.
This was my worst stage. I was broken going in, and it showed. But, no damage done, and after some mighty feasting, it was off to Toronto to see the family for a well deserved day off. Stage 6 commences Friday morning, and will be the true test. It involves running a 5km loop up and down Chicopee Ski Hill... 5 times. YIKES!
Total Distance: 10 miles (16km)
Total Time: 1:28:07
Pictures are available for your viewing pleasure here: