Friday, June 10, 2016

Is it something personal?

Oracle Trail was ridiculously cold. It was the one truly arctic day we had out of the entire winter.

Seaton Soaker was rainy, muddy and windy...but just for the morning while I was running. It came up absolutely gorgeous in the afternoon when Tanker and I went for a hike.

Now, after a few days of unseasonably cool weather, this is the forecast for the Conquer the Canuck 50k tomorrow:

Do I die from a lightning strike, a tree falling on me, or just heat stroke?

I'd always known that this "race" was going to be more about putting in time on my feet for the Dirty Girls 12hr next month, but I had no idea it was likely to take me right up until the 8-hour cutoff time to crawl my sorry arse in to the line.

I figure things should start out ok, with cooler temperatures and the course not too muddied up yet.

Lap 1: "Hey, I can do this!"

But since I've never run an ultra where the high for the day was over 17c/63f, I wonder about my endurance when it's really horrendously hot out. My longest training day was 2 weeks ago - 4.25hrs in high heat and humidity - but I only covered 29km (of admittedly much more technical and hilly trail) during that time. That extrapolates out to about a 7h36m finish for 50k, without allowance for pace decay past 4h15m.

Lap 2: "At least the rain is helping keep things a bit cooler.."

The rain and wind should assist a bit with temperature regulation, but the 35kph/22mph wind with 53kph/33mph gusts are going to be hard to deal with in the more open areas on the trail.

Not to mention, you know, lightning and potentially falling branches...or trees.

Lap 3: "YIKES!"

I don't know the exact route that Conquer the Canuck uses, but I've mountain biked, cross-country skied and run the trails at Shade's Mills Conservation Area before. They're not technical, but there are a couple of steep little hills that will get tougher and tougher as the day goes on, plus a couple of places that I know will degenerate into quagmires of ankle-deep mud if we get the rain they're predicting.


The scenery will undoubtedly be lovely, but with the route being an 8.33km/5.18mi loop, I'm sure its novelty will have worn off long before my 6th and final lap. I'm sure I'll have plenty of time to inspect every inch of the course, too, since the pacing strategy I'm going to try to employ will be the old ultrarunning axiom "go out easy, then back off". I strongly suspect that my breakdown at Vulture Bait last year was party due to poor pacing: I ran for almost a solid hour at the beginning when things still felt good, just because the course made it easy to do so. Had I employed some walking breaks earlier on in the race, I might not have had that gluteus issue that cascaded down my leg almost immobilizing my left knee (and making it painful to walk, let alone run). Tomorrow, I'll try to be a little smarter - I'll probably walk all of the uphills right from the start, because I almost assuredly won't be running them toward the end. This will be more of a hike with occasional running intervals than anything I could call a "race".

Lap 5: "You assume I'm running at all by this point.."

Of course, moving slowly on a course that borders a lake and has a stream running through it in mid-June leaves me wide open to a peril about which the race director informed us this week:


This time I'll try to actually get some bug spray on me, and hope that the rain doesn't wash it all off.

I'm sure as the day goes on my aid station stops will get longer and longer, as I'm also going to use it as a demo day for fueling strategies for Dirty Girls - I just don't think I can go a full 12 hours on gels and cookies (because I still insist the only reason to run for more than 4hrs is because you can eat cookies on course), so tomorrow I'm going to try some salted cashews and even a couple of bites of a turkey and mustard wrap. I'll also be doing my second ever run with S!caps for electrolyte replacement, in an effort to keep my hands from swelling to their usual elephantine proportions.

Me, every time I run over 2 hours.

Really, I'm just hoping that everything comes out ok, and I can finish upright, un-injured and before the 8-hour course cutoff. Thanks to Vulture Bait last year, I know I can limp in a sub-6.25hr 50k even when badly damaged, but I'd really rather it not come to that.

Lap 6: *sniffle* "..I don't wanna run a 12-hour anymore.." *sob*

I know I've got the training in that should see me safely through, and I did even taper a bit this week - I've only run 56-ish kilometers/35mi since Saturday instead of 70+km, and I've got a little bit of extra sleep (6-7hrs per night Wednesday & Thursday instead of my ususal 5). I am, however, a bit messed up over the idea that a 50k is "no big deal" compared to what I'll be attempting at Dirty Girls - a 50k is still a big bloody deal to my ultra-poseur arse, and as much as I try to tell myself it's just a long, supported training day I'm still firmly in the grip of pre-race nerves.

Only one thing is fairly assured - tomorrow's 50k is going to be like drunk sex. It'll be hot, wet, messy, exhausting and almost certainly go on far longer than something that isn't quite as fun as you'd expected should.

Then you'll wake up in the morning wondering what the hell happened to you.

As for the rest...well, I'll find out tomorrow, won't I?

Good luck to all those racing the Cambridge Classic Mile this evening! I'd love to join you, but I think barfing up a lung the night before a 50k is a little too ill advised even for me..


  1. I can see your pre-race jitters in between the lines, in the lines, over the lines and underneath too.
    You're going to make it, I have no doubt about it. It's going to be hard, sure, but it's an ultramarathon...they wouldn't call it ultra if it was easy. Look at it as an opportunity not an obligation, an opportunity to show to the world and to yourself that you can thrive in any weather, that you are harder to kill than you even dared think. You rock girl, keep rocking!

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words! Fortunately the thunderstorms were a no-show, though admittedly I'd have taken a solid rain to help cool off the very hot afternoon.
      I made it through, and even had some fun doing it - full race report to come this Friday.
      Thanks for reading and offering such wonderful support & encouragement!


Go on, have at me!