I race in order to dig deep within myself and see what I'm really made of
-- Maggie, runner from Idaho
Monday. Traditionally bad-mouthed the world over, as it is the first day of the work week, and many people are probably still mentally wishing that the weekend was still in effect. Nobody likes Monday, especially me. However, this Monday was different, and I liked it. Today was Stage 2 of the ENDURrun, and, after a ton of sleep the following afternoon and evening, coupled with some liberal doses of cough and cold syrup, I was actually feeling quite normal, and not hacking up a lung.
This stage, for those not in the know, is a 15km run, partially on roads, and partially on trails. It has one massively steep hill in the first kilometre, then it pretty much levels out for the rest. Compared to yesterday's hilly 21.1km half marathon, a piece of cake, right? WRONG. There are two aspects of this run that make it very challenging. First, you're doing the 15km on top of tired and possibly sore legs. Secondly, not everyone starts running together, as in normal races. Each person starts running by themselves, 1 minute apart. The order is determined by the previous stage's results, but it is reversed. So the last person to cross the finish line yesterday, is the first person off the line today. This has some very interesting effects. Firstly, each person in the run has the chance to feel what it's like to be running ahead of everyone else. Secondly, for those that are more competitive, it allows you to see your competition clearly.
Start time was at 8am, and we made it to Riverside Park in great time. As the other participants arrived, you could really see people relaxing, becoming familiar and friendly with each other. We were all in it for the long haul, and it's nice to get to know the others there with you. Everyone was still looking happy, and from the conversations I had before the start, having a great time.
Finally it was time to start. Based on reverse order from yesterday, I was starting 5th. Soon it was my turn. At the start line I shot the breeze with Lloyd the race director and man with the stopwatch. With a 3-2-1-GO, and a hefty cheer from the crowd, I was off!
The plan today was to just run comfortably. I wasn't even wearing my Garmin, just a regular stop watch to figure out how long I've been out here, and to use to calculate my approximate pace. The first kilometre was on a dirt road that went around the park. My legs felt pretty good considering the beating they took yesterday, but I could feel some soreness. I resolved to walk the steep hill climb at the beginning, then run nice and easy the rest of the way, and enjoy it as much as possible.
The hill climb was tough, even power-walking it. I managed to walk the bulk of it, then ran over the bridge that crossed Hwy 401. On the other side, the course continued along the paved road, and due to the heavy traffic I was alternating running on the shoulder and the paved edge. Did I mention it was Monday? I could most definitely feel the soreness in my legs at each upward incline.
At the first water station, I broke into a walk and grabbed a cup of Gatorade and water. During yesterday's run I found I was unusually parched; perhaps this was the humidity playing tricks with me, plus the remnants of my cold and sore throat. I was also sweating a lot because of it, so better be safe than sorry. I had to make sure not to drink too much and upset my stomach, but the cold water tasted wonderful. Thankfully the water stations were 3km apart, so I didn't have to wait long for another gulp of some liquid.
The road sections of the course were very tough. Each was long, and appeared to stretch for miles into the distance. It also felt like I was running by myself (well, I was) due to the staggered start. But I managed to catch up to and pass all the people in front of me by the 6km mark. Now I was in the lead! How weird is THAT?
The course went back north, and dipped into the trail portion. This part was, by far, my best and favourite part. It was so humid and steamy in the trails that it felt like I was running in a fog. It was also very quiet, just the sound of my rhythmic breathing and the pat pat of my shoes hitting the loose dirt. At the turnaround, I now could see the runners behind me, and it was great to cheer them on, and hand slap them. The trail section was 4km and I stayed in the lead for most of it. Only when I hit the water station at 12km and walked a bit did the runner behind me pass by.
Once out of the trail, it was along a paved road straight to the finish. Again, my legs started to feel fatigued. Perhaps it's the difference between the pavement and the trails? Who knows. All I know is that I was almost done, so I dug in and ran it out to the end. I was the second person to finish the course, but more would be coming up fast behind. I high-fived Matthew, the guy who finished in front, and quickly got in line for a massage and some reflexology.
My unofficial (watch) time was 1:25:54, about 11 minutes slower than last year. I was very happy with that, considering how I felt yesterday after the half marathon. My cold appears to be on the way out, and hopefully I can continue to improve and feel better as each stage progresses.
After the results were read out and everyone had eaten their fill of the fabulous spread provided, we all headed over to "Grampa's" house for a pool party. This is a tradition of the ENDURrun, and it was fantastic that so many people came out this year! I don't think the pool has ever held that many people before! We all hung out, chatted, and had some very tasty beverages and snacks. Who knew ENDURrunners also had great taste in beer?
NEXT STAGE: One of the toughest ones, the 30km Trail Race. It consists of a 5km trail loop, that is run 6 times consecutively, and features 8 major hills per loop. A very challenging stage not only physically, but mentally as well.
(P.S. I'd also like to thank you all now for reading about my little adventure, and for the kind words and support you've given me. I read all the replies and comments, and they help when the stages get tough. You all ROCK!)