Capes 100 (2019): It doesn’t have to be perfect to succeed - Part 3

Continued from Part 2

Leaving the farm with a full belly and the new energy of our pacers moral got a much needed boost. It didn’t last long before the darkness of the night and nausea which returned started getting to me. I was legging behind. “Don’t get dropped Rick, you have to keep up.” My head was really starting to think too far into the future as I was really dreading how long it was going to take us to get to Baisly’s. A lot of the details of the course in this last 60k are a little fuzzy to me but I’ll try and fill them in as best as I can. Leaving the farm we climbed up a hill which we were surprised was pretty soggy after how dry it had been. I found the footing over the next 5k or so pretty challenging, as it was fresh cut trail and I wasn’t lifting my feet up very high and was often catching the cut tress with my toes. We hiked our way out of this section and out onto some gravel road where we continued to climb. At one point Wilco tried to give us a bit of a pep talk to speed us up a bit “Do you guys want to try and catch some of the people in front of us?” I don’t even think I responded at all… I was just thinking about how miserable I was and just trying to keep up as it was. I really hoped they didn’t pick it up.

I was extremely thirsty, but I had been drinking a ton of water and also had been using the bathroom a lot. I wasn’t quite sure what the problem was but had decided to experiment without taking in any salt for a while to see if that fixed things. Over the course of the next few hours I didn’t think things had improved much so I tried another salt pill and within minutes my mouth was super dry and I was beyond thirsty. That was it, I had too much salt in my system that’s for sure. So no more salt for me for a while until my body sorts this out. There is a lot more that can co wrong in ultra running than getting dehydrated. You body needs to stay as close to equilibrium with water and electrolytes and if either one of those or both go out of whack in either direction (too much or too little) it can mess you up pretty bad.

The next aid station was just not showing up at all it was supposed to be at 10k +/- 2 ish km but reaching 12k my sprits were getting pretty low. It just felt like time was standing still and we were not making any progress at all. Wilco said I was probably just feeling down because we hadn’t reached the aid station yet and he was right… but it didn’t help. When we did finally get there and found the tikki touches lighting the way down to the aid station… it was a pretty big relief. The 7 or 8k to the next aid station seemed impossibly far away.

Arriving at Peter’s Place we were warned of a new freshly cut steep slippery connector trail which would take us down to an ATV trail and advised to take it slow so we didn’t end up getting hurt. This lived up to the warning. The trail was indeed quite steep and super soft and mossy. It made planting the poles in difficult as they would just sink really far into the soft trail. This section was indeed slow going but it didn’t last long. We then popped out onto another ATV trail, which too was pretty muddy, and slick. The details of this section through the night I don’t remember much of, I remember that we just kept moving. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fast, but the progress was steady. My stomach was nauseas and every time it took some gel the heartburn was immediate and intense. The interesting thing being that I couldn’t bear the thought of chewing anything, so every half hour, then hour I sipped on more gel. Just as the heartburn receded the cycle would repeat.

The monotony of the night running was really taking its toll and the hours were really starting to blend together as we found ourselves climbing a never ending hill on a super wide dirt road. Chalmers turned to me and we started plotting how much of a sleep we were going to take at Baisly’s turnaround, and I was so on board with this plan, as I was currently not enjoying myself at all. I was also starting to keep my eyes peeled to try and spot Mike (an athlete that I coach) in the runners that were making there way back. We ran into Derek and Jean-Marc who were crushing it, but I was getting a little worried that I hadn’t seen Mike. That being said I had no perspective on when I should actually see him it was just something my mind drifted to worry about other than the running. Not much later we did see him and he was looking strong. Seeing the runners on the return trip was lifting our spirits for sure. This is probably a good point to discuss Wilco’s and Mark’s effective pacing technique. They were the carrot consistently dangling in front of us, and I later came to know that there system was to keep one of the two of us in good spirits and moving. If one of us was moving, the other was not going to be left behind. At this point though they had left us for a bit to wallow in our self-pity and plot our glorious sleep. “Man we are not even close to the cut offs, we could sleep for over an hour!” one of us said, I truly don’t know if it was me or him… but it was said and it sounded like a great idea.

The crew came back to run with us and this is where things got a little weird. I had stopped to relieve myself briefly and the sleep monster caught up with me big time. I also just happened to shining my headlamp on what looked like the most plush, pillowy patch of moss that I had ever seen and I was seriously for the first time contemplating a trail nap and it sounded like Chalmers was ready to hop in and spoon. The pacing crew eventually talked me out of it telling me that the moss was filled with sharp things like nails and it really wouldn’t be as comfortable as I thought. Not 10 minutes later did we stumble upon another runner who had succumbed to the sweet pillowiy temptress of the moss. His pacer was standing next to him arms crossed and said he was ok… but just needed a few minutes. It was very clear to me that if we didn’t have Wilco and Mark in our corner… that would have been us and there’s no telling how long we would have passed out for.

When I thought about the end of the race it still seemed so far away and unobtainable. My mind could not even think that it was possible to go and run back to the far the same way that we had come… I really just needed to not think about it, because anytime I did I went to a very negative headspace.  Luckily things were about to turn. The sun was coming up! It took a little while but slowly our pace began to quicken and I actually got the urge to run. Something I hadn’t done for quite sometime. It literally was like waking up from a bad dream. My stomach was ok again, and my will go finish was renewed. Shortly after we made it to Colin’s Camp I got a real boost. There were north end runner friends there and I actually felt like eating solid food. I sat down for a few minutes and mowed down on Banana Bread, aka “Rick’s rocket fuel” and I was now ready for business. On my 7thor 8thwind things were looking up.

From that aid station to the turnaround at Baisly’s it was primarily downhill and that 7k went by nice and steady on the gravel road. It was great to roll into the aid and see Amanda again. Thoughts of taking a 2hr nap had vanished and I was on a mission again. I applied lots of lube downstairs as things still felt like they were on fire and continuing to get worse. Amanda handed Wilco and I veggie burritos and I swapped out my t-shit for a singlet as the sun was out and things were starting to warm up…little did I know what was gong to be in store over the next 6 hours. I was taking bit long and Chalmers and Mark took off a head by a few minutes. Wilco and I were not that far behind and we left soon after. On the way out I saw my friend Corrine who I had not seen since earlier this morning at the start of the run on the beach. She did not look like she was in a good spot, I tried to offer some words of encouragement and asked if she wanted to run with us, but she wasn’t quite ready to leave yet.

Leaving this aid station was an uphill slog, that nice downhill (pretty steep at times) we now needed to climb our way back up it to get back to Colin’s camp. Progress was steady and spirits were relatively good and this section was pretty uneventful. It started to rain a bit, off and on it but it still seemed like it was going to be a primarily sunny day. By the time we had made it to Colin’s the rain had become a bit more steady and we had all put on our water proof coats (very thankful to have had this item in my pack!). When we reached the aid station I felt like I just needed a few minutes to get some of the weight of my legs so I sat for a few minutes and ate the remainder of my banana bread.

The banana bread had the same side effect as before and I quickly regained moral and took off back down the trail. I was pretty quick to catch back up to Mark and Chalmers. We ran this next section primarily down hill on the gravel road really strong and we once again began to catch and pass some people. The rain seemed to mostly stop and I was considering to take my jacket back off but just as we were getting back onto the atv trail the sky opened up! The warm air quickly gave way to buckets of cool rain and progress was slowed on the now extremely slippery muddy trail. As we had slowed our pace I know longer had the internal furnace burning as hot and I started to get a chill. I shouted up to Wilco “Don’t let me stop, I’ve got a bit of a chill, if I stop for too long it could end my race.”  “Don’t worry” he said, “I won’t let that happen.” The two of us continued to trudge along, we had out a bit of distance between us and Chalmers and Mark as they stopped for a bathroom break. I was getting pretty miserable at this point, literally just focused on moving forward with very little comprehension of how far was left to go to get to the next aid station.

Time seemed to be standing still again and I was stuck in this state of being uncomfortably cold and it was really wearing on me. Not that I was really looking forward to it, in fact I was kind of dreading it but we were taking what seemed like forever to reach that steep mossy section of trail. At one point Wilco told me we were still about 4k from the aid station and I felt like punching him. Not really of course but he essentially just crushed my soul. 4k seemed like it was an eternity away. We did eventually make it to that mossy section, and in reality it was nowhere near as bad as I had built it up to be in my head. The tree cover had prevented much of the heavy rainfall from making this section of trail too slippery.  There was one section that stands out which was a really steep river bank which seemed to require skills I no longer possessed to make it down it and across. I basically just through myself at a tree and grabbed on and hoped for the best. I picked the right tree because the one next to the one I picked fell over. That could have been bad. We made our way up the hill to Peter’s Place, Wilco filled my bottles and we were in and out really quick. I really wanted to sit down, but I was still cold and it was still pouring rain so we continued on. Chalmers and Mark had caught back up and we were off again. We also caught up with Al here and he joined us for a while.

The rain continued to pour down and I was still pretty cold. Progress was slow still due to the slippery muddy ATV trail. We eventually caught up to Jason and shared some miles with him. Like me Jason had been injured leading up to Capes and he was still out here hunting down his finish! The slog continued, and then something unexpected happened after we got out of the mud and I got my 15thwind. I looked and Chalmers and said “Its time to take some souls!” “I’m having some pretty serious foot issues but I’ll try and keep up.” He replied.  It wasn’t long before I was running sub six-minute k’s down the trail probably the fastest I had run all race. I had no idea where this surge came from. Wilco with his ace technique kept just far enough a head to keep me chasing him down. We caught and passed a lot of people in this stretch. But then we missed a turn. We had been so focused on our progress that we ran by a turn. Wilco caught it pretty quick, but that was the end of my energy surge. That little defeat was enough to take the wind out of my sails.  

I was pleasantly surprised that by the time we got back on track Chalmers and Mark were now just a head of us. We up to them and it was clear both Chalmers and I ware back in a low place again. Having slowed my pace to a crawl, the adrenalin rush that had removed all pain from my feet and legs from my surge not that long ago had faded and I was in a world of hurt. The worst part of it was my feet, every step was extremely painful… but you don’t run 100 miles because it makes your feet feel good. Credit to our paces they still tried to motivate us to close things down faster and we did begin to once again shuffle. I’ll admit at first I just ignored them and thought they would eventually leave me alone, but then Chalmers started running and that was enough to get me going again.

In the freshly cut trails that lead back to the farm I was again having trouble with my footing. When I was trying to run I was dragging my feet too low and I was kicking all sorts of freshly cut sticks and roots. It seemed like every time we asked for a progress update Mark would yell 5k to go. We’d ask again in what must have been an hour later and his answer remained the same… 5k. This was really messing with my head. We were never going to finish this thing. This was some cruel trick left from my time in the witch’s circle we ran by back in the park. The witch’s had cursed us to run a never-ending race!

With all the moaning aside we still kept moving forward and we did eventually reach the car in the woods which signalled that this was the last major turn and we were on the trail that would take us to the finish. Shortly after this we ran in to a woman coming in the opposite direction. She said “Great job your almost there…. You have about 20 more minutes and you will be done!” 20 more minutes! That was soul crushing I thought we more like 5 minutes away. We trudged on knowing that the trees would eventually give way to the farm field.

Finally reaching the field Chalmers and I ran towards the arch, there were a lot of people out cheering and I started to tear up a bit. It had been such a battle to get to this point even before I even got to the start line and here I was against all odds about to finish my first 100 miler. Yes the emotions flooded through, I couldn’t help it and I didn’t care. Chalmers and I crossed the finish line together and I ran into the arms of Jodi and he gave me a hug. I’m pretty sure I saw a tear or two in his eyes too. Karine was right there too and so was Amanda! What a rollercoaster of an adventure that I will not soon forget.

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We sat around the finish line for a while and Amanda was nice enough to go and grab my sandals and a beer for me. It was time to celebrate! But I was not moving anytime soon. I even got to cheer “Downhill Derek” and “Team Ontario” in. The beer was delicious but I only managed to drink about half before my stomach decided that was enough.  I then had to gather the strength to get up and walk over to pick out my belt buckle. Three years in the making since my first 100 miler attempt and I finally got to go home with one of these hand made buckles. There was even one with leafs on it similar to the New Leaf logo so I knew which one to grab right away.

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The residual pain from the chafing was unreal, my feet were hamburger meat but I was so happy. We’ll until Amanda informed me that I would need to shower before I was allowed in our bed in the van haha! I passed out on the couch the for a while and the she was nice enough to wake me up so I could go and cheer the last few runners in. Then it was time to attempt this shower, it wasn’t going to be pretty, and it was going to sting a lot. It got down though. Then we left and go a few orders of fries from the Wild Caraway. I don’t know what it is about long distance running and cruchy salty potatoes which go so well together but I just have to have my fix post race haha!

Gear list

·     Altra Timps for first 100k

·     Altra Lone Peaks last 66k

·     Black Diamond Trekking poles

·     Petzle tikka head lamp and back up battery

·     Suunto Barro 9 watch (battery lasted the entire 31 hrs!)

·     Outdoor research helium II waterproof jacket

·     Altra signlet x2

·     Wascally t- shirt

·     Altra buff x2 +NSTR Buff

·     Altra Hat

·     Solomon shorts, brooks shorts

·     Injini trail socks x 2

·     Solomon 12 L advanced skin hydration pack

·     Nuun wrist sweatband

·     Mec dry back

·     Goal zero pocket charger

·     First aid kit etc. from the recommended gear list

Food 

during the day I would say I was around 250 cal/hr, at night intake slowed to probably half that

·     Homemade gels (dates, agave syrup, coconut oil, hemp protein powder, cocoa

·     Homemade energy bars (dates, apples, nuts, hemp seeds, flax seeds, cinnamon)

·     Amanda’s Banana bread

·     Boiled salted potatoes

·     Cinnamon Bun

·     Pretzles

·     Watermelon

·     Oranges

·     Veggie Broth

·     Veggie Burritos

·     Buckwheat Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes 

·     Apple Cider Vinegar Shot

·     Salt stick salt pills

This was such an amazing experience. Completing my first 100 miler in my home trails, running with or seeing all my athletes out there, seeing so many of my friends running or volunteering and just being a part of the first 100 mile race in the Maritimes hosted by more of my friends. It just doesn’t get any more special than that.

if your still here and you’ve made it through this short novel of a race report thanks for hanging in there!

Thank you to my wife Amanda for crewing and supporting this journey. Thanks To Wilco (and Mark although technically he was Chalmer’s pacer)for crewing and running with me. Thanks to my coach Corrine Malcolm for believing in me and being with me with me on this journey over the past few years. Thanks to Nova Physio and Active Approach for getting me to the start line and the support along the way! Thanks to Altra for having me on the team (it was so much fun meeting more of my teammates at this race!). And last but not least THANK YOU to Jodi, Karine, Currie Family and all the volunteers that put this event together. You guys knocked this one out of the park!

Photos are a collection from various sources including Tim McDonough, Devon Peavoy, NSTR and Maritime Runner.