Sunday, September 9, 2012

"Helluvamudbath" aka Haliburton Forest Trail Runs

Ever since last fall when I ran 26K at the Haliburton Forest Trail Runs, I've been dreaming about completing the 50K this year. I have no idea why other than as soon as I sat down with my kids and friends last year after the run, I decided that 50K was attainable. Which in retrospect is quite amusing considering I hurt my IT Band and hadn't trained very much. But the weather last year, oh the weather, was absolutely perfect.

365 days later.....

I was so pumped up for this year's 50K race at Haliburton. I'm not sure what it is about this race but regardless of my personal ups and downs or doubts or questions around my training, I got really excited about this race. I achieved 56K last month in a timed-event and was ecstatic about that. This race, however, was a 50K event; I had a specific distance to achieve.

Although I certainly didn't train as hard as I did for Dirty Girls, I had a base to work with and some long runs under my belt since I completed 56K. Physically I felt great - my runner's knee was almost gone, my endurance was amazing finally, and I had been eating well. Just like Dirty Girls though, my mental preparedness was weak and I really need to work on that. Funny how you go through so much physical training but tend to skip out on the mental training. And its one of the aspects of ultras that seasoned veterans will instill on you. At some point during a race or even a long run, you are talking to yourself about why you shouldn't stop, how to keep moving, and not to give up. Ok, I do anyway! The other part of that equation is that life is going to throw unexpected hurdles at your everyday stress levels regardless so its best to be as mentally prepared for getting through those too.

We woke on Saturday morning to pouring rain and cool temperatures. Luckily, I had prepared my running clothes in advance and felt confident in what I had chosen to wear; running capris, long shirt, rain jacket, and my Saucony Progrid Razors which have an attached, zipped gator. In retrospect, it didn't matter what shoes anyone wore. Our collective feet were going to get wet and muddy FAST. The one item I didn't have was a hat because hats force me to overheat and I rarely even wear one in the winter. This meant that the torrential downpours and high-wind water sheer was hitting my face or dripping down from my head most of the day!

I also wore my first hydration pack for this race and I can honestly say that I can't believe I waited this long to get one! I've run with a waist pack and with handhelds but a hydration pack for me works the best. I still have difficulty running and drinking from a handheld at the same time. I'm just not that coordinated! But the hydration pack allows for easy sips and my new pack has lots of very handy compartments within easy reach.

The pre-race line up begins with being "piped-in" to the start line...a very cool tradition and after hearing it last year from a trailer, it was pretty neat to be actually following the Bagpiper this year for the 6 a.m. start. The first 12-15kms I got through with a later time than I wanted but still within reason. Considering the weather and the MUD (I'm still not 100% sure it was mud but a dirt equivalent to sludge), I was happy with my time. After that though, I slugged through the course with soaking wet clothes, wet feet, and wet shoes. The mud was runny and slippery and it was the downhills that became dangerous (again at least for me) in some spots. I was thrilled to hit the 50km turnaround and then sheer dread set in. I had to run the same distance back.

Not long before I hit Aid Station #4 (about 34 km) on my return, I was once again contemplating not finishing. I was feeling exhausted, my ankles were starting to bother me from dodging around pools of water, mud, and oh yes, those downhills. Again, the mental factor kicked in. I kept telling myself that my kids were expecting me to text them that I'd met my goal. That once I finished I could crawl into dry clothes and sleep. Anything to keep me going! Once I got to the Aid Station though, a whole crowd of smiling, supportive faces met me and they urged me that 16 kms really wasn't that bad in the grand scheme of things; I could certainly walk it. So I sucked it up and kept going!

By the time I hit the next aid station, I was starving and this has never happened to me before. I had run out of food that I stashed in my pack. The fact is I hadn't counted on aid stations being so far apart. I simply didn't make good calculations about what I needed. I pigged out at the aid station and grabbed hot water. I still had 12 kms to go and most of that was around a lake. Between the previous aid stations, the sun had actually made a brief appearance and I was drying out. I started to speed-walk and got into a comfortable rhythm. And then the skies opened up again, the wind picked up, and the temps dropped. It was worse than the morning had been! At this point in the run though there is only one way to get back to the start/finish line - so DNFing really isn't an option.

Two more aid stations and I grabbed salty beef broth and more hot water. I was soaking wet and I heard someone mention the words "drowned rat". I kept smiling though and wondered aloud if the medal should have the customary wolf or perhaps a duck on it this year. At least my mood wasn't completely low!

By the 2K mark to the finish I got my usual burst of "almost done" energy. I have no idea where this energy comes from or how to harness it, but it exists. By the time I got to 800m from the finish line I was in a full out sprint. Which in hindsight probably just looked like a faster-than-fast walk but it felt like a sprint!

As soon as my medal went around my neck I knew what I was going to do first. I texted my kids from my car right away - Mom finished what she set out to do!