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Saturday, 17 August 2013

ENDURrun Sport Stage 1: The 25.6km Alpine Run

Running, much like life, has it's hills and valleys. On any given run, and particularly in most marathons, we come across easy stretches and seemingly impossible challenges. I have learned to just keep going. The tough moments never last, and the easy stretches are always a joy. The same is clearly true in life, if we just keep going we'll get to that finish line with water, massages, and bananas!
-- Will Starr, RW Challenger

It's mid-August, so it's time once again, for me to participate in the ENDURrun, the best running event on the PLANET! (in my opinion). I've run the Ultimate 4 times, and you can read my race reports on it here on the blog. This year, due to family commitments I decided to do the Sport, which is the last 3 of 7 stages.

I am coming into this race very unprepared. My training plans for the year did not happen; I could blame a lot of things, but in short I was either short on time to put in the proper work, or was too tired or lazy. I wanted so bad for this year to be different, as last year was much the same. I know how hard the stages are, and that it will be a suffer-fest. That aside, I knew that I could slog through it. I am tough, and very determined. I just hope that I don't injure myself; there are 2 more stages after this one!

The day started very early; to make it to Waterloo by 7am (an hour before race time) I needed to leave by 5:30am. That leaves me with a decent buffer of time to take any stoppages on the highway into account. Luckily there weren't any, but with Toronto traffic, you never really know. I organized everything the night before so I just had to grab it and go. My brain doesn't work well in the morning, so it has to be foolproof. The drive was uneventful, and I got to the Chicopee Ski Center just before 7am.

It was great to be back; I really missed running the Ultimate this year. If you've read my other race reports, you'll know how passionate I am about this event. The organizers are excellent, the food is first class, the volunteers amazing, and the course challenging. If you are a runner, and you want to challenge yourself in an environment which treats you like an elite, you MUST DO THIS EVENT! Don't let the mileage scare you off; if I can make it through, so can you. All week I've been following the Ultimate competitors, and it's amazing how many of them are getting personal bests on the course. This is after running EVERY DAY. But enough of that, back to the race.

The race is basically five loops of 5.12km around the ski hills and through the surrounding trails. The ascents and decents are pretty severe. The trails are typical, although this year the course had a number of changes to it. More technical trails, and a different start/finish area. Every year I've run it it's been slightly different, but such is the nature of this stage.

My plan was to run 45 minute loops. I figured that I should be able to do that, if everything holds together. I was not gunning for any kind of PB, although coming in close to last year's time (03:28) would be nice. 

Loop 1 was, from my calculations, around 41 minutes; not bad. I actually ran up the first ascent the whole way, a first for me. The trail sections were very technical; much more so than last year. The second ascent was, as it always is, a killer. No running here for me. You can see a pic of what it's like here:

That's me in red slogging up the hill.
The new sections of the course were tough but I actually liked them. The trails provided nice shade from the sun. I got whacked in the face by branches a few times, and kicked a root and almost tumbled into the bushes, but nothing else really bad. 

Loop 2 was much like the first; a little more walking, and a bit slower time, but I think I kept it to 45 minutes. Halfway through loop 3 is when the problems started. All of a sudden, my right calf seized up with a cramp. OW!! I had to stop and massage it out for a minute. As I progressed through the loop, the other calf decided it felt left out and also started to cramp up. Lovely. I walked a lot more in this stage, mostly trying to give my legs time to recover before pushing them again. Any slight turn or steep uphill trail would set them off. No way this loop was 45 minutes!

Loop 4 was misery. I think I walked almost the whole thing. Both legs were just awful, and my right hamstring decided to join the cramp party. I ended up run/walk/lurching along with another runner, an Ultimate competitor, that took pity on my by giving me some Gummi bears and Pepsi, which, while doing nothing for the cramps, was a nice relief. I decided to run down the descents, and walk the ascents as much as possible. Where I could, I'd try running a bit. I finished this stage in around an hour. In hindsight, I should have taken some salt coming through the start/finish area; it's helped me before when I've had cramps, but I just forgot. I'd been downing Gatorade and water at each water stop (1 cup of each) but I guess it wasn't enough.

Loop 5 was, from what I can tell, better. I was mostly on my own through this stage, so I did more of the same thing. Ran the flats and downs, walked the steep ups, and kept moving forward. Finally the finish line was there, and I was DONE! My time? A terrible 3:58. But, given my lack of training and physical condition, I was just happy to have finished it. Time for some of that excellent food, water, a recovery smoothie, and rest before tomorrow's 10km time trial.

My Timex stats are here, for those interested: 



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