I needed a race to kick start my fitness for the big year ahead, and this one seemed to offer the right type of run at a good time of year.
The training went fairly well, but I often don’t feel the results until I actually do a race. Looking back at it now, I see that I put in a lot of long hours, and they would really pay off come race day.
The way down, and Pre-Race evening preparation
I took Friday off, and drove down to White River Junction, a small town with plenty of hotels and meal options.
Clothes, Equipment, and Fuel
Deciding what to wear was pretty easy. I had run The Around The Bay 30k two weeks prior, and it was a cool and blustery day. So as the forecast was for slightly cooler and windier, I wore the exact same stuff, but added a light toque. There were a few times where I was actually cold, but on the whole I was dressed well for the day.
With my Ultra Aspire running vest, I carried with 2x750ml bottles, which started with Gatorade, and then switched to water with Nuun tabs when needed. I also packed 3 Kashi bars, and 3 Lara bars. I would end up eating one Kashi , 1.5 Lara , and a few handfuls of Bits & Bytes at an aid station. (For those keeping score, I ate about 800 calories, and drank about 2 litres of water). There were plenty of opportunities to stock up on water had it been a warmer day.
The plan was to drink every 5k, and to try and consume around 200 calories per hour.
Runners get Ready
I got to the start at around 7:45, signed in, went to the loo, and then listened to Jon the Race Director give a short pre-race announcement.
And we are off!
I seeded myself at the back of the pack, as I didn’t really know what to expect. The 100 or so of us took off down Stage Road, and within a few minutes the field started to spread out. There was a slight incline on the paved road, but after about 5k, we turned onto Lime Pond Road, which was not paved. Additionally, it started to get more hilly.
There was some pavement, but it was over 40km of dirt roads, which were fairly smooth. My decision to wear road shoes was the correct choice. The only thing that varied was the degree of dampness. It was muddy in parts, frozen and icy in others, bone dry and hard in others, but vast stretches were just perfect. A little soft, so that you had a bit of an spongy surface to run on. I’m certain that the sponginess helped keep my legs relatively fresh throughout the long day.
And yes, there were hills, and lots of them. There were 6, 1 km segments with climbs of 68 meters or more. Those were the hills that you don’t even try to run. The only game I played was to look at someone ahead of me, see where they started walking, and try to run just a few feet further. And then when they started running again, I’d try to start a little bit sooner. I’m not sure it made a difference, but it helped to keep focus on these hard stretches.
On the flip side, I made very good time on descents. I had been experimenting on training runs in flying downhills to try and simulate the conditions for this race. Turns out, it was a good idea. I was able to handle sustained descents with no apparent stress on my quads. In total, there was 1000 meters of ascent, and thus 1000 meters of descent.
I’ve basically alluded to it already: “Walk when hard, run when easy”. That was one of my mantras that just came to me during the race. My other bit of strategy was, as I mentioned already, to stop every 5k for water. I didn’t follow that rule because I was in a great groove of a descent at various 5k intervals. In fact the “run when easy” mantra spun off another rule which was to “not ever walk on a downhill, no matter what”. There was a 7km interval between 12km and 18km that saw a 204 metre drop (670 feet), and I told myself to “embrace the downhill” (which was another catch phrase of the day).
I only had two slower downhills, and that was basically due to some stiff headwinds. My Garmin report says it was 2 Celsius with 19km winds from the north west. There were spots of intense wind, especially on top of some of the more open hills. It also snowed a little bit too.
“Let’s Go Canada!”
I find that people are really nice and laid back on these types of races, and I had the opportunity to talk to a lot of people throughout the day. One guy dubbed me “Canada”. It was fun. Him and his friend were ahead of me most of the day, and every once in awhile when they’d pull away, he’d shout out stuff like “C’mon Canada, you can do it”. It was really helpful actually..
There was another stretch that was an “out and back” and so you could give encouragement to those running in the opposite direction.
Halfway Report Card
My goal was to reach 25k in decent shape, so that I could tail off if need be. But as luck would have it, 25km-27km saw a drop of 165 metres (540 feet). So my 25km reward, was actually a lovely break from climbs. I covered 26-27k (2 kms) in 10 minutes flat, which was quite satisfying.
I still didn’t have a firm grasp on my finishing time. I wasn’t intimately aware of where the hills were, and I wasn’t sure if my legs would hold up for 50km.
However, once I got to 30k in 3 hours 20 minutes, I started to think finishing in 6 hours was realistic.
A Wondering Mind
I was having a great run, and I think I was in “the zone” for a great deal of it. All I can say about “the zone” is that it’s a place where things don’t bother you. Like I remember taking a walk break and thinking “hmm, that’s a weird sensation in my quad”. (Yeah, more like a burning tightness, which may have affected me on a different day).
I also had a thought that “endurance is all mental” . That maybe you only ever train your brain. (I know now that’s partially true actually).
Other random phrases that popped up were “Be better”, and “Turns out I’m pretty awesome at running.”
The Home Stretch
The last 10km was the same route as the first, which meant I knew that it was pretty much all downhill. In fact, it was a net drop of 200 meters, most of it on a gentle slope. Although I was desperately tired, I invoked the “Horse to the Barn” strategy of running, and ran it in 55 minutes!
And across the line in a time of 5 hours, 31 minutes!
I was so happy that I finished 🙂 It was weird though, just how much everything hurt once I stopped running. After walking for a few minutes cool down, I got my finisher prizes: a sticker, a pin, and some socks 🙂 And a warm handshake from the Race Director.
I didn’t stick around too long. I changed in the parking lot, and headed to Saint Albans, where I’d be spending the night. Apart from a bake sale at a service center, (and a Big Mac break), all I remember of the drive is thinking how tired I was. When I finally got to the hotel (at around 4), I basically did nothing the rest of day. I didn’t even have a shower 🙂 Standing was not an option.
Final Impressions, and Lessons Learned.
I loved this race. It was well organized, and had everything I needed.
It was also a day where it all came together, and I was able to run my “A” race. My legs held up perfectly, and I was able to finish ridiculously strong. I really did feel like I “Crushed that 50k”
A bit of recovery 🙂