Be warned…. This is a long one, but when you run for a day and a half there is a lot to say!
There are two ways to approach a goal, you can wait until everything is perfect, or you can accept the cards that you have been dealt and give it a go anyways. Sometimes you may just surprise yourself.
The course stats. 166k with approximately 3800 m of vert.
To add some context to the race we have to go back in time a few months ago to May when I ran the Fredericton Marathon. 10 k into this race it felt like my hamstring was being torn apart. Having just listened to the David Goggins’ book: Cant Hurt Me on the way to the race there was no way I was going to let that stop me. If he could run on broken legs I could finish this race… and I did. It hurt a lot but I finished just shy of the time I ran last year 3:06:xx.
I was not really recovering well from this race, but had signed up for the Cabot trail relay. I ended up running this race harder than I should have. A week later the quad pain started. My knee just locked up on an easy morning run and I could not put weight on it. It went away and I just chalked it up to a fluke. Over the next week things seemed fine so I toed the line at the Wascally Wabbit 50 miler. I pulled the plug on this race 55k in with really bad quad pain. I limped it in.
I took the next two weeks off running concentrated on rehab and went on a hiking trip to the Adirondack Mountains with Amanda. When we retuned and I resumed training my knee continued to lock up regularly.
In all of the remaining weeks leading up to the Capes 100 I went to multiple Physio and Chiropractic appointments and it was found out that there was an adhesion between two of my quad muscles causing premature muscle fatigue (my knee locking up). About four weeks out from the race things started turn around. I was slowly able to run longer distances getting up to running 60 – 75 mins at a time. A lot shorter than 160k that’s for sure. The week ended in a run where my knee had a really sharp pain when I stepped back up into my van. I’m told this was the adhesion in my quads letting go. Then I took a bit of a leap of faith and tried a 4.5 hr trail run at a really slow pace. It went ok, but things still didn’t right and I ended up limping around after the run was over. At this point I was starting to lose faith in my ability to pull this off, or even being able to line up for the Capes 100. I didn’t want to be liability out there. The race traverses remote trails where if my knee locked up I would not be able to be retrieved easily and I didn’t want to put any of the volunteers at risk to do so. At this point I also checked in with my pacer Wilco and told him I wasn’t confident that I would be able to make it to 100k. He said just worry about getting to the start line and we’d worry about the rest later. If I didn’t make it to 100k he would pace someone else in need.
My last big trial run was the Brookvale 25k. I met one of my athletes Mike for a 5k warm up and then went on to run the 25k. This run was going great … until it wasn’t. Around 20k the sharp pains in my quad began. It was different the before though. Instead of locking up it was a really sharp pain, Id walk it off and then I could shuffle run really slowly. I was able to finish the 25 k but needless to say it was not exactly confidence inspiring. I had a bit of a self-pity party after this run a really considered dropping from the 100 and volunteering instead.
I spent the remaining two weeks cramming in as many appointments as possible, a ton of foam rolling, self-massage and stretching. I knew if I could just get my quad to the point where it would work somewhat reliably I was capable of covering the distance but there was no guarantees… after all I had not really been training since the Fredericton Marathon in May. That week I had a phone call with my coach Corrine. She believed in me and that was just the little extra confidence boost I needed to believe that I might just be able to pull this thing off.
We headed down to Spencer’s Island on Thursday morning, picking Tim up from the airport on the way. I really need a day or two to get my head straight. The stress of work and trying to rehab my quad was getting to me. Hanging out on the beach there was just what the doctor ordered. I really enjoyed the laid back day on Thursday and catching up with Tim by the beach. I also got to meet Frozen Ed, such a badass. If you don’t know who this is, look him up. Legend and a super nice guy.
I still had a deep ache in my quad that was not going away and it was really starting to worry me that I had had a relapse. I was really happy to get to see my friends Laurie Currie, Jodi and Karine before the race, I know they had their hands full getting everything ready for us, but it was really nice to catch up for a few minutes amongst all the pre-race activities. I also organized a New Leaf Group Shake out run, where we met at the lighthouse and went for a super chill 30 min run pre race, we had some fun, shared some stories and laughs before the pre-race meeting. After the mandatory pre race meeting, I spent the remainder of the night on Friday doing some really aggressive trigger point on the quad and I actually seemed to get it to release a lot more than it had in the past.
In typical Rick fashion I was up before 4 am. I’m a stickler for having enough time for making my pre-race pancakes and enjoying a tea before the race. I actually slept pretty good, when I first started running ultras I barley slept at all I was so nervous, but it seems as time goes on, I am getting better at getting a good nights sleep pre-race.
I had pre-packed and organized all of my gear night before, so I just had to get changed and lube up (little did I know no amount of lube was going to save me from what this day had in store).
Amanda dropped me off at the farm around 5:30 am, and she was off to volunteer at Cape d-Or at the aid station.
It was nice standing around talking with everyone before the gun went off. Strangely enough I was really calm, I had given into the fact that I had done all I could to get my body ready and now all that was left to do was line up and run.
I found Chalmers close to the start time and we had decided to start the race out together. 6 am sharp the shotgun sounded and we were off. It was borderline dark enough to wear the headlamp but I knew the sun would be coming up fast so I didn’t bother. The race started off pretty slow as we bottlenecked down the first section of trail where people were a little too concerned about getting their feet wet on the first few river crossings. I didn’t care though; I was just out for a party.
I had warned many people not to underestimate the beach, the loose gravel made progress tough early on and Chalmers and I made sure we took it easy. Funny enough not too much longer down the beach and we were at a river crossing where you had to get your feet wet! We caught up and chatted with Frozen Ed for a bit as we crossed the river. Then we quickly reached the Spencer’s Island lighthouse and we had a brief reprieve from the beach. Up the first small climb of the day and down a lovely country dirt road. It was pretty short lived then back out on to the beach… but now we were greeted with a beautiful view of Spencer’s Island wrapped in a veil of fog waking up with the sunrise. Spectacular!
A few k’s later and we were back on the trail and on our way to the Cape d’Or aid station. This section of trail is pretty runnable atv trail, with a few muddy patches. Early on the k’s were clicking by effortlessly. I was sticking to the game plan of keeping things super chill as I knew in the back of my mind that my quad could blow at any minute and that would be the end of my day… so no hero moves today!
The ATV double track opened up on to a dirt logging road momentarily and the we veered back on the ATV trail and up a bit of a rocky climb. This section of ATV trail has a few bridges and some of the nicest forest I’ve seen in the province. Things defiantly got muddy at points but we soon popped out on the gravel road to lead us down to Cape d’Or. This road was a pretty easy cruise down to the aid station, but a mental note was made that this nice long downhill was going to be a slog later on with 86+k on the legs on the way back!
It was nice to roll into the aid station and see both of my crew volunteering there! The Altra team also grabbed a quick team photo op.
14k in and things were feeling great, no quad pain at all. We filled our bottles, ate some watermelon and pretzels. Up to this point I had fuelled on homemade energy gels and salted potatoes.
We left Cape d’Or in good spirits, I wasn’t going to see my crew again until this point again later at 86k, but Chalmers’ wife and crew Mark were going to be waiting for us at the ADDA campground at 20k. Again this section of trail is primarily runnable ATV trail, early on it popped out of the tress and showed us a picturesque view of the Advocate harbour and Cape Chignecto…. Oh wait yup that right we are going to run all the way down there, circle around the back and run back this way again. That view puts the enormity of the days undertaking into perspective, but I had to push that out of my head. I still did not have any expectations on how far I was going to make it. The end of the ATV trail goes down a fairly steep long rocky decent and eventually pops out on a gravel road. This road is where we get our first glimpse of the 50k front runners. It’s always a moral booster to cheer other runners on who are on there way back! We then scooted across the highway and on some more ATV trail to make our way to the ADDA aid station. Up to this point it had been a real treat getting to share miles with many of my athletes like Lauren and Liz who were running their first 50k. As a coach it was awesome to get to share this experience with them and to see them crushing it! It was also a ton of fun getting to know some of my Altra teammates Eric and Daniel (The Goat… we will get to that later)
At the camp it was great to see friends Jeff and Mark. I got refilled on water, stuffed my face with oranges and pretzels and waited for Chalmers. I joked that he must have been fixing his makeup and some questioned why I was still waiting around, but I wanted to continue on with him and it was not worth it to me to go on a head. Again I was not out here racing I felt like I was on borrowed time at this point with a ticking time bomb waiting to go off in my quad.
We left the campground, at this point if you look us up in the stats we were dead last in the 100 mile race… yup DFL haha (that would change later). We have a saying that we borrowed from David Goggins. “Chalmers, later on we are going to reel in the carnage and take peoples souls!” We didn’t actually wish anyone one of our fellow runners ill, but it was out way of keeping things easy with the idea to start reeling people in when we hit the park.
To be continued…. Part 2