Pick Your Poison 50k Race Recap
Don’t worry, you weren’t alone in thinking I may have taken on too much with this race. You see, even I didn’t know if I could handle the training for an ultra, in winter, with 2 children and a full time job. I also totally understand that when I got the flu and was off work for a week and didn’t train for 2 more, you thought I might not make it. I didn’t think I had enough training either. However, good thing for me that I’m too busy to worry about what’s getting me down. It wasn’t until taper that all of my doubts would surface and I’d question if I could run that far. Thankfully, I have some amazing supporters and you all encouraging me here.
It was due to some last minute worries about gear that I woke up pretty tired but super excited. The jitters were gone but the weather forecast had changed so I had some new concerns. It was now going to be hot (spring standards) with +15 and full sun so I had to make some last minute changes to my kit. I made two major gambles by choosing a skirt I’d never worn on a longrun and a hydration pack that was brand new. No worries, I had body glide just in case!
The race began at 9 am and I met my uncle Carl at the startline. He would be running the first 2 loops and leaving me to do the last 2 solo. It was a mass start of 350 runners of which 91 were tackling the 50k and the others were doing either 12.5k or 25k. There were no timing chips so the start was a little hectic. The horn sounded and we were off on a logging road which allowed the pack to disperse but not nearly enough. It was tight and at about 1.5k the single track began and it slowed to a walking pace. There was another 1.5k of flats and all was fine until I caught my foot and took a rolling tumble in the dirt. Thankfully, no injuries and I was happy that I now looked the part of a dirty trail runner. The next few kms were mainly uphill with mud traverses and an aid station at the top of the ski hill. We skipped this one as both of us had water and fuel on us. Our first downhill started and it was beautiful. Around km 7 we hit our first technical uphill. It was super steep, long and washed out. Watching our footing was key. This was ok the first loop but it would be my most challenging part of the course as the day went on. Surprisingly, I had to walk the flats for a minute to regulate my breathing, which was a hard pill to swallow. I was now loosing my goal pace and it was only the first lap. This course was way more difficult than I thought and from the comments of those returning from previous years, the new single track sections were lengthening their times too (It turned out that the top female would be almost 40 mins behind last years’). The loop continued on to be even more hilly and technical. It was painfully beautiful and totally amazing. It ended with a long, steep downhill and I felt super strong. I ditched my long sleeve and my uncle had a quick break. 3 laps to go.
Losing the 12.5k crew was helpful. We were able to run the second lap without slowing on the single track. I felt good but had a hard time on that same hill. I reminded myself of a quote @gosskristy sent me earlier. “Don’t look back, you’re not going there.” Despite the desire look behind me I just kept pushing up. I didn’t need to see what was behind me. I didn’t need to congratulate myself on how far I’d come. What if it wasn’t enough. What if looking back made me see how far I had to go? I just kept moving up. At the top I realized that after this lap there would be even less runners. I turned to my uncle and said it was going to be lonely without him! We talked about how different the two laps were and carried on. At the next aid station we stopped and in conversation with the volunteers he said he wasn’t stopping this lap. He was going to stay with me! I was totally blown away. I mean, who in their right mind would want to run another 25k when the finish line was in sight?!? He would, because that’s how amazing he is! At 21k we had a laugh about how this was the distance that started our running journey together. How fun it was that it just seems like hardly anything today but was huge back then. That’s how it is with running. Crush one goal and on to the next.
As we finished lap 2 he went to check in at base and I reapplied body glide and grabbed some chips. 25 kms and half way done. It was at this point that I noticed some swelling and realized I needed salt.
Lap 3 was hard. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. We spent too long at base before starting again (maybe 5-8 mins) and I was dehydrated. My head hurt, my vision blurred and I didn’t feel good. The sun was hot and I slowed way down. I felt bad because I needed breaks. I pushed the thoughts aside that told me to keep running, keep pushing. I gave into to my softer side and walked a little bit. You see, this distance is serious. You have to run smart. I couldn’t keep stressing and expect to just get over it. I had to wait. Wait for my hydration tab to work. Wait for the salt to absorb. Wait for the sign that I could start pushing it again. The second wind that is always there when you’ve taken your body to that place that’s so close to too far. We carried on running slower. In one of the downhills I jabbed my foot on a stick and it lifted my toenail. I had some pain but I didn’t realize I’d torn my sock and it was bleeding until after the race. The technical uphills were turning into impossible mountains. I did more walking this loop than in the entire race. My uncle started having muscle contractions in his leg. As we descended the final hill the tears hit. All I wanted was my husband. I needed his encouragement. He’d had a super busy day and hoped to meet me to send me out on my final lap. I was really hoping he made it. I didn’t see him until I rounded the corner and it was the best feeling. Our youngest daughter was with him and I can’t say how much this changed my race. All of a sudden there were these little eyes looking up at me telling me she’d come to see me run. That was all I needed. I was so pumped to run then. So excited to make them proud. Unfortunately, my uncle was feeling the race and was having a hard time. His legs were twitching and he was fearing a charley horse. We stopped for a while at the aid station. The soup that my uncle ate didn’t stay down. It was time to go but he wasn’t ready. We stood and rested. I didn’t want to ask but I was mentally preparing to run the last loop alone. It was what I’d planned right? But I didn’t have to worry, he wanted to keep going. 37.5kms down and 12.5 to go. I was at the farthest distance I’d ever run. It was all uncharted territory now for me.
Lap 4 started slow but got faster. I was feeling better and knew we needed to make up the time we’d stayed at the base. We easily ran past a section that we had to walk the last lap and from then on I knew I was back. My uncle was fading but I thought if I set the pace he’d follow. He’s strong like that and we needed to get this done. Plus, his stride is long and his fast walk is my slow run 😂 We hit 42k and I realized I was at marathon distance. We were just under 6 hours at this point and I cringed a little. My finish time was not what I hoped but I reminded myself that this wasn’t a road race. It’s a tough course. 1613 metres of elevation (5292 feet) on mostly single track. It wasn’t supposed to be easy. We made our way through the forest to my epic hill. This time, even it didn’t seem so bad. Somehow not as gruelling, not breaking. I turned to my uncle at the top and said “That’s it! Last time for this hill.” From that point I knew it was just a fast stroll in the park. We spent the last 6km flying through the trails only walking what was necessary for safety. I ran sections I walked for the last 2 laps. I was feeling good. However, there were others that were feeling the hills and heat of the day. By this point we had been out for almost 7 hours. I came to the last section of single track switchbacks. The runner in front of me was fading. At the top the forest leads out to a treeless ski trail and our final uphill. I had resolved to run this last section to make up some time. I looked over as I passed him and he asked me for help. “Could you take my arm?” and that is how we walked to the top. My new friend Hans was 78 and running his 2nd 50k race in 2 weeks. He told me he’d taken on too much today. I told him I hoped I’d still be running at 78. My uncle caught up to us near the top and we all carried on together. I didn’t want to leave Hans on the downhill to the finish but he insisted he was fine. We picked up the pace and my uncle and I crossed the finish at 7:14. I took 12th place of 30 women. The race officials moved my uncle to the 50k roster and his time was good for 42nd of 61 men. Hans was 43rd.
What an amazing race day. I am so impressed with my uncle’s determination and in awe with the spirit of this trail race. I am so proud to be an ultra runner. I can’t wait for what comes next because right now I feel like I can do anything .