Vulture Bait. It's a trail run around Fanshawe Lake near London, ON. The main distance is a 50k ultra race, I opted for the far more modest 25k.
This was my first trail race, so was looking forward to the experience! It was going to be a "B" race for me, but by mid-week I'd pretty much decided it was closer to a "C"... I've been sick for a week with a chest cough, and it stuck around for race day. Grumble.
Results: 2:33:00, 85/171 overall, 44/61 Men under 49.
C-c-cold! Just below zero at the start.
I'm not used to running in the cold yet for 2009, so I made the classic mistake of over-dressing. I wore a long-sleeved technical shirt and a wind breaker jacket, which was just too much, one or the other would have been plenty.
3 - 2 - 1 - GO?
The start was certainly different from most races I'd seen... everyone was lined up, and suddenly they started going! No gun, no whistle, nobody on a loudspeaker saying "3, 2, 1, GO!". I assume someone officially told everyone to start, but I have no way of knowing for sure.
The course started out on fairly easy flat trails. They seem well trod and straight, a nice warm-up. I was trying to control my effort on heart rate, so would back off any time it spiked over 170bpm.
At some point, we turned into some single-track section which had more stumps, rocks and sharp little climbs. Despite my relative lack of experience, I was able to keep pace with those around me.
The aid stations were odd... I'm used to having a row of volunteers dangling cups out and not breaking stride! But here there were far fewer people, and I had to come to a complete stop to grab my two cups of Heed.
By about 5k my lungs were burning from the cold air and my chest cold. My sincere apologies to the people around me for the snot-rockets (I was careful not to hit anyone but it's still gross!!!). I was a bit of a mess.
The one thing I hadn't practiced that threw me off was running across hills, ie. the hill goes down right to left. I actually slipped a little on one section like this, just wasn't used to it.
Halfway, time to race!
By halfway I was still feeling pretty good, so instead of sticking to a near-LSD pace I decided to pick it up. My heart rate got into the 170's more consistently now, and I would only back off it it were over 180. I started passing people one by one, and I don't recall anyone passing me from the halfway point to the end. I'm sure some of them were doing 50k, so while I was revving up for my finish, they were still in the first 1/2 of their race.
The one thing I did very poorly was nutrition... I went in without a plan, other than to drink whatever they had. I also had a bottle of my own to supplement between aid stations (they were about 5k apart). I also didn't realize they'd be using Heed, which I've never tried... and I ended up using some gel they handed out in the goodie bag. Very amateur-hour of me, I should have taken better care on a race of this length, I didn't get the calories I probably should have.
There were more technical sections in the second half, lots of loose rocks and several steep up and downs. Even one creek crossing across slippery rocks - the lady in front of me slipped and ended up with a shoe full of ice cold water! Oops.
With about 3km to go, I started feeling a bit light-headed. I briefly considered backing off, but I heard someone coming up behind me so my animal instinct to go faster kicked in! I put in a good finishing kick, passing one last person on the way to the finish.
A Whole New Respect for Ultra-folks
I guess it never really clicked for me just how hard 50k would be... but 50k on trails? Wow. Brutal. Even the 25k beat me up pretty good, my ankles and knees were quite tender by the end. It's less impact than running on roads, but you're also using a lot of muscles that normally get a vacation.
I'm not entirely sure it's my thing... I enjoy the trail running, but I found the race lacking something that road races or triathlons have. It was almost TOO friendly, like nobody was actually competing with each other! They were just out for a run on some trails. It was a really nice fall run, though, so maybe it will be something I do annually to close out my season. We'll see, I'm undecided.