We runners are all a little nutty, but we're good people who just want to enjoy our healthy, primitive challenge. Others may not understand running, but we do, and we cherish it. That's our only message.
-- John J. Kelley
I awoke Tuesday to find the sky overcast and dark, and the pavement outside looking quite wet. Seeing as this is a trail race, and trails are typically made up of dirt (with some wood chips and maybe gravel thrown in here and there for good measure), I envisioned the race being a wet, icky, soupy mess. Normally I have nothing against a muddy run. Quite the contrary; the muddier I get, the more I like it. It's like a badge of honour. It also shows that you've been outside doing something, no matter what the weather is like. But at this particular stage of the ENDURrun, I was hoping for drier weather. I didn't need anything else to worry about.
The part that makes this particular stage my most feared is the loops. The course consists of 5km of trails, with a little paved road, gravel road, and grass on the ends. There are hills, and most of them are short and steep. If you count them, there are 9 of them in the 5km loop. And we were running 6 of them. That makes 54 hills. (gulp)
Last year this stage was on a hot and humid day, and I totally crashed. By the 4th loop, I was walking a lot, and by the 6th loop, pretty much the whole thing. It mentally and physically kicked my ass. Now I was again faced with this stage, and it was raining. No, it was POURING. Great.
When I got to Bechtel Park, everyone was either huddled under the 2 or 3 gazebo tents that were set up, or camped out in their cars. The rain was coming down, and it was cool out (around 20 degrees). No one wanted to be standing out there until the last possible second. I popped the back hatch of my car, and sat in the back waiting for the start. The steady downpour of rain also meant that I would have to leave the MP3 player behind. It's not waterproof, and it was surely going to get wet. I'd be running without my musical "crutch". Things were not starting off well.
My goal for this race was, as with the others, consistency. I figured if I could maintain a 6min/km, I was golden. That would put me in at about 3 hours or so. Anything better than 3:30 I'd be happy with. I was also secretly thinking about Duff and our friendly rivalry. He was up on me by a minute or two, and I was wondering if I'd be able to catch up and maybe beat him on this stage.
Finally Lloyd called us all out from under the tents and from our cars, did a quick roll call, and started us off on our quest to finish the stage. I fell into a 5:30min/km pace, fixed my gaze at the ground about 5 metres in front of me, and settled in.
I wish I could tell you that the first 3 loops were eventful, that I wiped out on a muddy slope and fell into the raging river, or was run over by some herd of deer or a crazy racoon. But honestly, the first 3 stages were noneventful. WHICH WAS EXCELLENT! I managed to keep the pace I set for all 3, plus run up every hill, and not take any walk breaks outside of the water stations. I pushed the negative thoughts away, and just let my mind wander, and those first 3 loops were finished before I knew it.
Loop 4 is when I began to feel the fatigue, and the 36km I'd run the 2 days before. I still managed to run up all the hills, but I had to sneak a quick 20 second walk break at the top of the hill, just to get my heart rate down and settle my mind. At the 4km mark in the loop (16km of the stage) we go down a very steep trail into a banked curve. The rain had made it very slick, and I slipped and fell and slid down on my butt to the bottom. Nothing was hurt, but it was tough getting back up and running after that. Each hill got more and more difficult, and there were more walk breaks happening at the top of the hills. I also started to feel a bit queasy in the stomach, perhaps due to the gels and Gatorade I was ingesting on the run.
It was great cheering on the faster runners, who were now lapping me. A definite advantage of running a looping course is that you do get to see the leaders and wish them well. They all returned the well wishes, we were all together in battle against Bechtel.
Loop 5 was much the same, but I was getting slower in the running. Still running up the hills (all except the long slow gravel one between 3 and 4km), but feeling very tired. I kept my walk breaks short because I knew Duff was hot on my tail somewhere. I hadn't seen him since Loop 3, where he was about 1-2 minutes behind me. I knew he was lurking, and was probably plotting to make his move.
Finally Loop 6. It was like an episode of Groundhog Day; seeing the same volunteers cheer you on for the sixth time. My legs were screaming in agony now; they'd be okay at the start of the hill, but close to the top they started to give out. But I soldiered on, almost robot-like. There was no one around me anymore; all the leaders had finished by the time I was going through my last lap.
At last, the final long upward grass hill towards the finish line. I plodded on, and to the cheers of those that had already finished, I was DONE! A minute or so later, Duff finished. The stage I so worried over was over, and it was now time to refuel.
The rain persisted steadily through the entire stage, only letting up at around 12pm, once most people were finished. The course ended up being pretty good; not nearly as muddy as I'd feared. The temperature was perfect; not too warm, but a bit on the humid side. The rain actually felt good on my face during the run.
Timex Ironman Statistics: http://tpks.ws/sjPfTNW7
DEDICATION: Today's stage is dedicated to the Flying Fartleks, my group of running buddies in Scarborough and Pickering. Originally coming together through various clinics in the Pickering Running Room, we've become a close group of friends, always interested in each other's endeavours and ready to be supportive in any way possible. Thanks guys!
NEXT UP: The beginning of the "Mountain" stages; the 10 Miler. This stage is a 16.1km run on paved and gravel roads through some extremely hilly countryside. The elevation map looks like an ECG. It's the only race I've ever done which starts, and ends, on a steep uphill.