Continues from Part 1
The next section of ATV trail went by quick, again very runnable and we popped out onto the road doubled back a bit and then we were out on the flat dyke section. We used a lot of will power to keep our pace reserved here. It was a real treat to be greeted by Ray Williams who was out on the dykes running with many of the runners to lift spirits, and we also chatted with his Cathy who said he’d been out there doing that all day! He’s a legend by the way, he’s been running Boston so many times and has knocked of some ultras like the Leadville 100 too!
We made good progress to the next aid station at Reid’s place where I had my drop bag. I made sure to utilize this point with the drop bag as there is no crew access for such a large portion of this section of the course. I grabbed some banana bread, stuffed my face with bananas, watermelon, and pretzels and we were on our way. 30 k in and we were now exceeding my longest run since injuring my quad. Yup that’s right…. And I only got up there once at the Brookvale 25k and if you remember from the prologue it didn’t go great. So here we go in to the most remote part of the course… and I still have zero confidence and that at any moment I might not be able to put weight on my leg. Best just not to think about it too much and keep going haha.
We turn on the Eatonville road and head up the steady long gravel road climb… this one is a grinder that’s for sure, I think it is around 3k of an uphill section here, thee biggest climb so far and just a hint of what’s to come. I had run this section before… but it was in November with Chalmers in shin deep snow as we were trying to pull the eject button on a failed loop attempt (way to much deadfall, ice and snow), but it seemed way less ominous now in the light of day without the ice and snow. It seemed like we made good time on our way to the Eatonville aid station, We were leap frogging with some Steve and Andrew and it was a lot of fun.
One thing which was a real treat about this race being in my hometown province is that I knew someone at every aid station. It was always a surprise but very uplifting to see them. I’m not going to name them all for fear that I will forget someone… but if by chance you are reading this and have made it this far in, than know that I thank you for being out there! This was the point in the race where we had been warned if we had doubts in our abilities we should drop here… because recuse essentially wasn’t coming on the remote trails ahead. Good thing I had full confidence in my quad now…. Wait nope, but it had been cooperating so far. Chalmers was a bit anxious to leave here, and I obliged and we got our first taste of some of the park single track. It was short lived, but this is where we started passing some more of the runners. In this section I started experiencing a weird pain in my top knuckle while griping my pole. It was becoming a bit uncomfortable, so I stop using the poles as much and tried to stretch it out on the go which seemed to help when I tried to re-grip the poles later.
The next section down the gravel road to Big Bald cabin was a slog. We had been pretty lucky all morning, it had been overcast a relatively cool but our luck had run out. On the nice and wide exposed gravel road the oven got turned on and things got hot. Chalmers, Daniel and I were still working well together and we were continuing to reel in and pass other groups of runners who were struggling in the heat.The heat also had another unwelcomed side effect for me… my “undercarriage” was beginning to really get chaffed, to the point that it was really starting to worry me. It was going to be another 30k before I could get to my drop bag and my stash of lube and another MARATHON before I could get the sweet relief of a pair of dry shorts (If I could get a hold of someone to meet me at the ADDA station as the plan was to meet at Cape d’or), well guess I better just push that out of the mind for now, nothing I can do to fix that for another 4 or 5 hrs.In this section of the trail we stumbled upon a marked site for a witches circle. It was super creepy, and the source of much amusement for the three of us. I later found out the when volunteers were originally camping out to build the trails for the park they came back one day to find their camp moved and a witches circle in its place. Some volunteers refused to go back to work… super creepy!
The cabin was a welcome site! Fully stocked I dove into some watermelon and more pretzels and filled up the water bottles. We were told the story by the volunteers of how the front runner for the 100k had come blazing through here in 5hrs! Yikes we were now 8.5 hrs in… that guy was flying!
Now the fun part begins as we make our was onto the “20k of sweet single track”, I’ve run here lots before and it is beautiful trail… and even though its not the toughest part of the park loop (Jodi was nice enough to leave most of the “torture chamber” out of the course) I knew what we were getting into and given we were 50k into the race I don’t think too many people would disagree with replacing the word sweet with gruelling. From Big bald to refugee cove the trail is very technical. Lots of roots and rocks which makes it hard to get in much of a running rhythm. Its something you really need to experience to fully understand, but it is relentless. When running the park loop I always breath a sigh of relief when round the cape, as I know the trail get less technical from there on. Its not a free ride though, the climbs and descents to Refugee and Mill brook are no joke, and everyone always seems to forget that there is another pretty big one to climb out of the park too! But at least the views are spectacular and the footing is better. We caught up to one of my athletes Tanya here. She was running her first 100k and in great spirits. I was very happy to see her doing so well.
At this point Daniel had started earning his new nickname. He would fall back from us for a while and we’d think we left him behind and then he would come bounding down the trail happy as could be… like a goat. So Chalmers named him the goat. This is also where we met “Downhill Derek” this guy would fly by us on very steep descents, I cringed for his quads, and then we’d catch him and pass him later on. We continued this game with Downhill Derek for a very long time… we were always looking over our shoulder on every downhill and sure enough most of the time he’d come flying by.
Coming out of refugee Chalmers started doing some trail math. Kids it’s never a good idea to do trail math. I’m guessing of your reading this you probably know what I am talking about but just in case… trail math is where you start trying to add up the distance you’ve covered and try to determine how far you think you are from the next aid station and how long it will take you to get there. More often than not when deep into an ultra you just cant do math and you always mess it up. Yes we know the “distance” between aid station to aid station… but as Jodi says this is a trail race and you know there is some +/- with that. Our math was giving us a big +… and were starting to worry about running out of water. For some reason in my wisdom I had though about pulling water from a river…. but didn’t do it. Anyway, for as many times as I’ve run this trail I couldn’t remember where arch gulch was… was it on the other side of mill brook? No was the general consensus, but we slowed our pace to conserve water. The climb out of refugee as I eluded to earlier is steep and long… but at least it’s a steady non-technical gravel climb. After reaching the top, then you treated to some of that sweet single track. This section of trail is smooth, and runnable and a ton of fun! Then like an oasis on a hot day Arch Gulch appeared more like 13k ish instead of 10k ish… but that’s all part of the fun.
After Arch gulch the remainder of the park miles seemed to go by pretty slow, the climb out of mill brook is steeper than refugee but shorter. I was starting to feel the lack of fitness really kicking in on those big climbs. I wasn’t even climbing hard, but I was getting really winded and working harder up the hills seemed to in turn make my stomach a bit nauseas. Good thing a little bout of nausea isn’t on my list of reasons to drop this race right! Ginger chew down the hatch and we move on.
I’m ready to skip on out of the park… but like I warned you earlier there is one more big climb and if I braise over it I’m not doing it justice… so here is your reminder, remember the third climb after mill brook. Leaving the park and on running on the asphalt my feet were beginning to really hurt, so I tried to get a bit of relief running on the shoulder.
Coming into Reid’s again we were getting by the nicest volunteer’s. One of the little girls put on a real good pitch to get my to have some veggie broth, I originally declined but she persisted and it was delicious! Now I tried to go around the corner out of site of the young girls before I proceeded to lube my bits, hopefully I succeeded. Such sweet relief! I also changed my singlet here for a dry t-shirt as the air temp was really cooling down and I was getting a bit of a chill at the aid station.
Seeing how this section of the course is an out and back I’ll graze over the course description a bit faster. With freshly lubed bits, veggie broth and banana bread in my stomach I felt like a new man! Running the dyke section we had our first encounter with “Team Ontario” I don’t remember their names but they were a lively group of three runners and we slowed and chatted to them a bit. We would now leap frog and see this group regularly until we reached the farm at 100k. I turned my phone on to let my crew know my progress and Amanda had asked me if I wanted anything at ADDA…. YES DRY SHORTS!!!! This was still to be a pretty quick station turn around but I really needed those shorts… my extra lube was failing me.
It was really great to get to se my crew again now at 80k into the race hadn’t not seen them since 14k at Cape d’or (they volunteered there not crewed me). I changed shorts, but kept the same shoes and socks for now. The details around what I ate here are a bit fuzzy, but I know I got my veggie broth! It was starting to get dark out now so we put our head lamps on as we left the camp ground.
The section of trail/road from the camp ground to lead up back to ATV trail to cape d’Or we ran strong, probably the strongest running we’d done all day to that point. We had lost the goat somewhere in the transition at the aid station. We made go time until we reached the ATV trail to take us to cape d’or. That rocky atv climb was soul crushing. It had just gotten full dark, my stomach was f’d and this climb just plain old sucked. We got it done though. Chalmers was struggling at his point to. For most of the day our lows seemed to offset one another, but not this one… we didn’t talk much other than a few acknowledgements of the suffering. Enter the goat! We heard someone bounding down the trail behind us. Chalmers yells out “Goat is that you?” Needless to say Daniel lifted our spirits as we completed the death march to the next aid station. As we neared the aid station we caught back up to team Ontario and Downhill Derek! The whole crew was back together.
Coming through Cape d’Or we were now a little over 16hrs into the race and somewhere between 86 and 90k? done? Who knows really all our watches said different distances on them at this point. I like to say I was winning because I was 2k ahead of Chalmers at this point. He pointed out that I gained that extra 2k when I entered the witch’s circle back in the park. Ray and Cathy were working this aid station! It was great to seem them again, and I am very thankful for those volunteerswho were out there all hours of the night for us.
Leaving this station moral got a short lived boost. The gravel road climb out of here was a slog. I knew it was coming and had made a mental note of it… but at least there was a large group of us together now talking and laughing so it wasn’t that bad. Things to a dark turn for me when we got back onto the ATV trail, my stomach was still not right, and I really just didn’t want to be out there any more. We continued trudging head. It seemed that the beach was just never coming. I knew that was going to be a slow slog too but at least it was another mental milestone. Where is the beach?? We did eventually get there and made the slow march back to spencer’s island. The slower pace on this section seemed to help settle my stomach, but I think I just generally have a rougher time digesting things at night. I was definitely still in a low because the short road section after we got to the lighthouse to take us to the farm seemed to go on forever! My feet were screaming at me on the asphalt. During this time Chalmers and I agreed we were going to take 25 minutes to get ourselves back on track.
Finally we reached the farm, this is huge milestone for me. As crappy as I felt I promised myself before I started this race that if I made it to the farm I was going to finish this thing. My only excuse for not continuing would have been not being able to put weight on my leg because of my quad and miraculously too this point it was fine! I finally accepted that it was likely going to hold up and let me finish the race. I got to the van. “What do you need?” Amanda asked. “I need to lay down and close my eyes for bit.” I said. “Overall I’m doing pretty well considering, I just need a few minutes to try and settle my stomach”. She tells me later that I didn’t pass on the 25 min plan, but being the great crew chief that she is she goes and tracks Mark, Chalmers’ pacer down to figure out time lines and comes back to wake me up 20 mins later. I didn’t really get any sleep during this time, but it felt really good to go horizontal and close my eyes for a few minutes.
“Time to get up.” She said, “Do you want some of the veggie burrito I made you?” “My stomach is feeling a bit better so I’ll try it I said.” I began to eat it as we walked towards Chalmers, Mark and Wilco. The Motley crew I’d be spending the night with. The burrito tasted so good when I started eating it I started scarfing it down, “Careful” Amanda warned, “You’ll upset your stomach again if you eat to much of that, do you want to take more for the road?” I didn’t fee like squishing burrito into my pack so I declined. I hadn’t crossed the timing mat when I arrived so I had to make sure to cross it when we left. The 4 of us headed out on the trail we were 18 hrs in, it was past 2AM and we had 60k more to go. The thought of running another 60k at this point was way to much for my head, it seemed pretty impossible. I could only think in terms of aid station to aid station. Even that seemed too large of a distance at times.
To be continued…. again…. Part 3