Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Frosty Trail 3-hour - Saturday, January 18th, 2014

Butter churning and ankle turning.

I'll try to keep this one short (ha!), as there isn't a whole lot to say. I did try a different race day breakfast, mainly because I was out of meal replacement shakes & wanted to try something completely dairy free. Had a cinnamon raisin bagel with dairy-free cream cheese on half and raw almond butter with honey on the other half, plus a tiny bowl (maybe 1/4 cup) of cereal with almond milk. Topped it off with the usual Tim Hortons CafĂ© Mocha on the way up to Camp Heidelberg, hoping it would help me wake up a bit after another night (week/month) of too-little sleep.

We were the first ones to arrive bar the race director, so picking up race kit was a breeze. Weather was to stay at around -7c/19f all day with some wind and blowing/drifting snow. I hit the washroom, lubed up, dressed, threw a windproof wrap skirt over my tights, and then wrestled with my idiot brain as I tried to remember to put my gaiters on before my shoes. I told myself to do this, then forgot and had to remove the first shoe (fortunately I hadn't tied it). I then promptly did exactly the same thing with the other shoe, 'cause I'm awesome like that.

Wonder dork powers ACTIVATE!

Room full of badass ultrarunners...and me.

I wasn't happy with the static cling I was getting from the skirt, so I ditched it and re-pinned my number to my tights before getting down on the one bit of carpet in the room and making a total fool of myself by repeatedly humping the air and doing some other strange-looking things that have become part of my warmup routine as I continue to take special care of my damaged hamstring. A minute or two after the appointed start time of 9am, we were all lined up in the cold outside the Rehkopf building as the horn sounded to start the day.

25 runners total.
It's nice to know there are other people as weird as you.


Starting toward the back. I know my place.

Around the parking lot and into the woods to start the first loop of the 2.1km course, it became immediately apparent that this was going to be what we technically refer to in the business as a "shit show". There was a crust of ice under the top layer of snow, then more snow under the crust - which sometimes did and sometimes didn't support the weight of the runners - and then choppy, footprinted, ankle-turning ice on the bottom. The initial conga line through the Western woods section moved slowly, but not slowly enough for me to keep up; within two minutes of the start I had dropped to a walk and was gasping for breath.

"Trail" into the Western woods loop.

I managed to persuade myself to run down the snow-covered grassy hill from the Western woods to the gravel driveway, but only just barely made it upright - the combination of the choppy ice and soft, sand-like snow made us all lurch and stagger like a pack of drunks. Hitting the driveway was like bliss, as it has been plowed...until you got down toward the bottom, where slick ice awaited under the top skiff of snow. Many people were running with screw shoes or traction devices (YakTrax or Microspikes), but I was relying on the Vibram soles of my NB WT1010s to keep me on my feet as I'd done most of my dicey winter running in them (when I hadn't stuck with my beloved Brooks Launch) and there were some clench moments.

Deep, soft and uneven - a trio of terrors.

The Eastern woods proved no better than the initial loop. It was tough sledding no matter how you approached it - took me something like 10k effort to run at all through the sections where it was possible, and almost half marathon effort just to walk through the really horrible spots. I wondered if I'd be able to keep it up as I watched the 1-hour runners go flying past me, and figured my goal of trying to get in at least 20k had gone right out the window.

What will the next step bring? Who knows?

I was nearly through my 3rd lap as the horn sounded again to signal the end of the 1-hour race - I'd only done 6k in that time, but then again the 1-hour winner only managed a bit more than 10km, and the 1st place woman only did 4.2km. It was a tough day, made no easier by my broken toe complaining about the uneven terrain. Fortunately its whining was severely blunted by the fact I was essentially icing it the entire time I was out there, since my feet were usually buried in snow.

This was literally as good as it got.

I decided I'd need some calories if I was going to keep working at this kind of effort level, so grabbed a swig of EFS Liquid Shot from my flask and washed it down with a sip or two of water. I wasn't drinking enough, but that was mainly because opportunity was hard to come by: even while walking in either woods section, I was stumbling around so badly I'd nearly fall if I tried to drink at the same time. The only place that was really clear to drink while moving was on the driveway, and half the time I spent on it was going uphill - once I reached the (flat, salted) parking lot, I was still trying to catch my breath in order to plunge back into the suck in the Western woods section. I grabbed little sips here and there, and started pausing at the foot of the big f-off hill in the Eastern woods to get a good sip before walking up. Oddly enough, that treacherous hill proved one of the most navigable parts of the course: the choppy ice under the snow formed almost natural steps, providing good traction. Still tough on the legs, though, as it's like doing a stair climb in the middle of the course.

Still beats running through this.

As the day progressed and myriad feet trampled the snow and ice, some sections that had been nigh impassable first thing in the morning became runnable. Unfortunately, some parts that had been runnable were now deathtraps at anything over a walk! At least, so it appeared to my clumsy arse, though I certainly wasn't the only one having issues staying upright. I chatted with other runners along the way who likened it to your legs being drunk while your upper body was sober, often finding your shoulders had swayed a half meter to one side or other of the single-track trail while your feet scrambled for purchase on the ever-changing surface. The most poignant comparison of the day was made by Jack, a seriously studly runner who won the 3-hour by a large margin and super nice fellow - he said he felt like he'd been churning butter with his legs for the entire time he'd been on course. 

If you go out in the woods today..

My totally-not-pulling-it-out-of-my-butt math told me I'd probably be able to make about 8.5 laps of the course in the 3 hours, so I'm guessing it must've been past the two hour mark as I finished lap number 6. A bit of a tumble into a (fortunately quite soft) snowbank on the side of the trail and a mildly wrenched left ankle told me I was getting sloppy and could probably use some calories, so I took one more swig off the EFS Liquid Shot flask to see me through. I rather needed to use the washroom, but the only options there were: 

a) go into the Rehkopf building and up a set of stairs to the indoor ladies' room

b) try the possibly locked, possibly frozen solid portajohn down at the end of the driveway.

Neither of the above sounded enticing, so since it wasn't urgent I just kept plugging away. Clearly the dairy free pre-race breakfast strategy was paying off, because every other time I'd had any inkling of needing a bathroom at Camp Heidelberg in the past it certainly hadn't been optional. Note to self: continue with bagel experimentation. Bagelsperimentation. Bagelness. Yeah, that.


With my gaiters packed full of snow, a baggie of macaroni in my pocket and a couple of very sore feet, I finished loop number 8 (16.8km/10.4 miles) with around 15mins left to go. Nothing to hold back for now, I threw whatever I had left into it , but still had to walk a great deal - almost all of the Western woods loop was trudging only, and the only place I could really get a sustained run on was the section that takes you from about halfway out to Kressler Road on the driveway into Camp Heidelberg back to near the bottom of the driveway, via a really steep downhill that makes me nervous even in good conditions. I actually made it all the way through that part and was running back up the driveway to the start/finish line when the horn sounded once more to end the 3-hour race. I dropped my bag of macaroni right behind the Rehkopf building and walked the last hundred-or-so metres to the end, though I was only credited with 1.8km for my last loop for a total of 18.6k/11.5 miles.

Still alive & kicking.

I grabbed the camera from Tanker and walked a bit of the Western woods portion to get some of the photos above, then headed inside to get changed out of my soaking wet gear. The temperature had dropped a bit in the last hour or so, such that my fingertips started to get cold while running, but overall I felt I'd dressed pretty well for the day. My legs also felt really good throughout, though my ankles were a bit worse for wear; my limiter had been my lungs as I tried to power through the mush. Even the supporting muscles (adductors & abductors) and my healing hamstring felt ok at the end, which is a testament to the strength and rehab work I've done. Air humping works, people!

Yeah, it was exactly like that.

I later discovered, however, that I'd actually done some damage to my feet - and even my shoes! I'm guessing that I must have stepped on the edge of an icy footprint and had the medial side of my foot scrape against the other edge, tearing the outer mesh uppers of my shoes and leaving me with a very sore spot where my right big toe meets the ball of my foot. As I sit here now, 3 days later, it's still pretty unhappy.

Just about exactly where the tear on the right shoe is.

So while I was still in the ladies' room wrestling my wet feet into my compression socks, I heard my name called. I finally got myself sorted out in dry clothing and emerged to discover I'd got 1st female in the 3-hour! Of course, it wasn't until long after I'd collected my prize (a $25 gift certificate to Runner's Choice, my favourite local running store) that I found out there were only 2 women in the 3-hour race.

The other of whom decided to drop out after 3 laps because she had fallen.

And she was pregnant.

Still, a win is a win, right?

I takes what I can gets.


Regardless, it was a fun day out in the woods - I shared a course with great, friendly people and had amazing support from the volunteers. Big shout-out to my sweetheart Tanker for taking care of my every need and helping out at the aid station, too! You're awesome, baby!

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