Every New Year's Day a local running club hosts a 50km ultra marathon run in Vancouver. www.clubfatass.com
Once again this year, the race sold out with 100 participants. A bit of re-routing had to be done due to all the downed trees in Stanley Park, and as is to be expected, it was rainy and windy. Hey I grew up in Newfoundland, I am still amazed that we can run at all on New Years Day!
The course is an out and back 25km route along the Vancouver Sea Wall, and consists of about 70% road and 30% trail, with a moderate amount of elevation gain and loss.
The race starts at 9am and many participants including myself end up racing on very little to no sleep. More than anything it is a low key event to kick off the new year on the right foot...or the left foot, whichever you prefer.
This is my third year participating in the event. In 2005 it took me 6hr37m hours to make it to the finish line. It was my first ever 50km run. In 2006 I bettered that time by a full 90 minutes at 5hr5m, finishing 6th overall. My goal for 2007 was to break the 5hr barrier and hopefully hang with the leaders for the entire run. As I mentioned, it is a low key, fun event and although it is not super competitive, there are always a few people out there to push themselves to their limits. Over the years it has attracted everyone from the beginner runner to Canadian National Team 100k runners.
Ean Jackson, the founder of CFA shouted "GO" and immediately 7 of us ran to the front of the pack and were off. It took about 5 minutes for the rain to soak all the way through and a further 30 minutes for my body to fully adjust and start to keep me warm.
Prior to the race you are able to pass along a 'drop bag' which is then transported to the 25km turnaround point for you to access. I dropped all my necessary food, fluids and even a change of shirt, jacket, gloves and hat for the return journey...I was feeling pretty damn prepared for everything and pretty darn impressed that after just 3hr of sleep I had not forgotten anything. I was half way to Whistler for last year's Yeti snowshoe race before I realized that my snowshoes were still in my garage. Not forgetting anything was an accomplishment in itself for me.
We reached the 25km turnaround in 2h5m. It was a good pace, and although faster than I had originally figured on I was still feeling really strong.
I looked at Gottfried, who was manning the aid station.
"Hey Gottfried, where are the drop bags?"
"I dunno, not here."
"Well that ain't good."
I guess the people in the drop bag van had friends in the race, and well those friends weren't running with us, hence we did not see our gear at all.
Thankfully they did have water, oranges and some gels at the turnaround. I was able to top up my bottle, albeit without any calories, and did suck back two gels and some oranges. There were still upwards of 90 people coming to this aid station, and as much as I wanted to grab some fuel for the road, I knew it was not right. We stopped for about 3-4 minutes before heading back, now in a group of just three.
If you don't know an ultra runner or endurance athlete, you would probably not fully understand how precise we try to be with carrying supplies and how vital my carefully planned, now missing, 600 calories were to the rest of my race.
By the time we hit 35km I knew I would suffer heavily to the finish line.
One of the guys I was running with, Chris Benn, was kind enough to offer up his last bit of food. I have recently discovered that I have Celiac Disease, or as it more commonly known, an intolerance to Gluten (wheat, barley, numerous other grains...basically the ingredients to all of your favorite foods). I intend to talk more in depth about this in a future blog. I have to mention it here, because although Chris was offering me food, it was not food that my body could properly digest. It could actually make things worse for me than they already were, and I kindly denied his offer.
By the time we hit the 40k point of the run I was literally looking at the ground for discarded items of food that I might be able to consume. My body was starting to shut down, my stomach felt like it would punch me right in the face if it got half a chance, and I just generally started hating life. I kept my feet moving, I kept on suffering...I'll be the first to admit it, I do like to suffer in races and as much as I may have complained at the time, I was secretly enjoying the whole experience. I promised myself that I would only stop running if my legs cramped thereby forcing me to walk.
Chris and Tim were kind enough to point out that if I slowed my pace I would bring my body back into it's fat burning stage instead of the glycogen burning stage, and I would fare much better. Of course I realized this, but to do that meant letting the leaders slip away from me. We were less than 10km from food. I had already run 40km. I was not about to slow down now.
Amazingly at kilometer 45 I started to perk up a bit. My body had accepted it's fate and knew that the faster it let me run, the sooner this would all be over for me. Tim, Chris and I had run the entire event together. We all had times on the course where we felt the strongest of the three and the weakest of the three. We agreed that for such a low key event, it did not make sense to battle it out to the finish. Besides, I was much happier to have three of us finishing first, rather than just myself!!
After 4h19m we were there, 50km done, the first ultra run of 2007 completed...
although, both Chris and Tim did back out on the polar bear swim. Can anyone tell me when this shrinkage is supposed to subside?