Not because I'm done with this endurance business. Nope, I'm still trying to plan out my 2016 season and there are a ton of events I'd like to try.
I may, however, not survive long enough to do so.
When I heard that Frosty Trail was cancelled this year, I was disappointed because it's always a good time...but the same day held news of a new race, being put on by the as-wonderful-as-she-is-badass ultrarunner Rhonda Avery.
The Oracle Trail boasts 5k, 15k or 25k options. It seemed like a no-brainer to sign up for the 25k, as that's around the same 3 hours of running I'm used to doing at Frosty Trail.
Ok, I've never actually made it quite that far, but it should be no problem...right?
Well, I did register even after knowing I was injured for Horror Trail last Halloween. I didn't run much in November (74.4km) as I tried to rehab the damage done at Vulture Bait, but started to get into a groove in December, logging 155.4km. I might not have been running long distances, but I was back to a consistent 5- and then 6 days per week of getting out for no less than a half hour/5km. At the end of the month I even put in a bit of a streak to close out the year and begin 2016 on the right foot, despite the weather turning to crap.
All through January I build mileage weekly, knowing I'd have to get a couple of good long runs under my belt before Oracle Trail to avoid injuring myself again. I totted up 230.1km of running for the month, pushing my long run up to 21.6km by the 29th. With another 20.5k of hills done last Saturday, I figured I was as ready as I'd get and have been tapering with easy 5-6k runs all this week.
Fitness isn't the problem.
The first major issue I'm staring at is the course: I don't know anything about the Durham Forest except that it is loosely in the vicinity of the Oak Ridges Moraine, which was the location of the Tour de King mountain bike race back in 2012. There was a lot of up. Add to that the nasty rumour that the whole trail is ice covered and I've never actually run in the traction device I had to buy (partly because it's mandatory equipment, partly because I'm allergic to falling on my face), and those hills see see touch more daunting. Hell, I don't even know if I'm looking at rooty, rocky singletrack under the reported ice and the snow that WON'T STOP FREAKIN' FALLING this week, or smooth walking path. This could be way more challenging than Frosty Trail ever has been, or potentially smoother sailing. I won't know until I get out there.
None of this, however, is really a major problem.
While it had turned uncharacteristically mild for a bit there - I ran 8km last Sunday on bare, slightly muddy trail in knickers and a long sleeve shirt with no jacket - we've been thrown back in the freezer this week. I've been running the last few evenings in -10c or below, but -22c for the high? That's beyond "cold" and into the "ridiculous".
I can dress to keep myself warm and work hard to keep my core temperature up. However, there's no way I'll get through a 25k race even in perfect trail conditions without hydration, and trying to keep water from freezing in tomorrow's temperatures is going to be damn near impossible.
The last time I ran with my hand bottle in this kind of cold, the mouthpiece froze up on me after 6km. The first aid station is 8km out from the start. I do have a race vest with bottle holsters on my chest, but I don't think I could get my jacket done up overtop of it. I'm also concerned about the strap from the bottle compressing the insulating airspace in my mittens and chilling my hand.
The other option is my hydration pack, which does have an insulated drinking tube...but the replacement bladder I had to put in (after the original sustained some damage that led to a leak) has a narrower tube and different valve than the original, both of which make it more prone to freezing up while the valve is virtually impossible to get flowing again once it ices up.
I actually lean toward using the bottle, as at least I can stop and take the lid off to get a sip if the bite valve freezes - the hydration pack doesn't have that option. It also means less extra weight to carry than the pack even if it ices up and becomes completely useless. I just really hope the aid stations have some kind of solution to keep the fluids on offer flowing, because I'll at least need a few sips to wash down some gel along the way.
I'm pretty happy I'm a bit of a camel when I run - I've only been drinking about 500ml / 1 pint per hour on recent long training runs - but there's still no way I'll manage without at least a bit of hydration on the trail.
|Not an action shot - I'm frozen in place.|
So off I'll traipse into the woods tomorrow morning, hoping to emerge out the other side with a tale to tell of endurance in adverse conditions. If, however, you don't hear from me next week, SEND HALP PLZ.
At least it's supposed to be sunny..