Niagara Ultra 2012 100km Race Report
July 4, 2012 2 Comments
One reason I continue writing these reports as a sort of diary to myself, to look back upon and help remind me of the little things that you learn with each one. I don’t really expect people to be super excited and anxious to read them so I don’t post them to quickly following the race, as I once did. For this race, so many people are intrigued by the Ultra distance of 100k, and have been asking so much about it, I guess I have to get on this before it all slips my mind.
Before I continue, let it be known, that this race is dedicated to my sister, Jane, who is battling something much harder than an ultra marathon. She is fighting the nastiest word I know. Cancer. She is a strong woman, and each kilometre of this race held a part of her withing. Whenever it got tough out there, I thought of how is it was compared to what she is going through.
We left Friday for our rental place in Niagara which turned out to be charming, and very likeable. A big pool, deck, decent kitchen and spacious bedrooms. Perfect for the 10 of us (4 couples, 1 single and Cam). Friday was spent being pampered by Anita who is the most supportive running partner ever, hands down. All I had to do was focus, relax and try to rest up. This didn’t stop me from doing a bit of swimming and playing some baseball with Nir and Cam though. 10pm came quickly and we all headed to bed. As it turned out, our friends Anne and Sari had, last minute, decided to switch from the half-marathon to the 50k! What troopers!
I slept terribly, dreaming weirdness and nonsensical and waking about 4 times to urinate after hydrating like mad all week and the day before. But I awoke at 4:30, feeling lively ready to go. We all got up together as those not running wanted to catch the start of the 100, and the 50k runners wanted to be up and eating and ready for their race which started at 7am, one hour after the 100.
That 90 minute whizzed by and it was time to go. No anthem, no gun, no horn, just the race director at the start line, dishing out a few rules and instructions, and a simple, ok, GO! And that we did. 79 runners taking off on the short grassy start heading out at a pace that would appear more like we are warming up for something else. I made a concerted effort to hold back, and found a big pack of runners that were going around 5’45” per kilometre. This was very comfortable and it is hard to run slower than that when feeling so fresh. As easy as this was, I was feeling uncertain it would last for much longer than 50k and was already thinking about how I was going to handle that when the time came.
I hit the first aid station at 5k in about 29 minutes. I had a still almost full handheld bottle of Hammer Endurlyte with me so I scurried by. Aid Stations were well manned and plentiful, with sports beverages, water, coke, ginger ale, ice, orange slices, banana portions, crackers, ju-jubes, cookies and pretzels. They were right at every 5km point and this initial one would be the only aid station I would skip.
5k – 27:58
10k – 59:20
By the time I got to 10k, I was ready to start strategically consuming what they had. Here I took in some water and topped up my handheld with some of their sports beverage. It was different at each station so i can’t remember what it was. 10k was around 59 minutes so I was a bit ahead and was trying to focus on slowing it down a bit. The big hill that followed, which was 2km of constant climb, with 1km in the middle being a fairly substantial incline. That hill brought me back to a 6 min/km average pace.
I was thoroughly enjoying the race, running on my own with a vague awareness of the similar pacing runners around me to keep me in check. The weather to this point was perfect, about 20 degrees and a light breeze & bright sun not yet above the tree line so we had a lot of shade for the first quarter of the race. I passed by the 15k and 20k aid stations with short walk breaks and a restocking of my handheld and I started eating bits of oranges and bananas. As for the other stuff, when I am running, dry goods like crackers and cookies and pretzels are hard to get down.
15k – 1:30
20k – 1:58 (Half Marathon Pace at 21.2k = 2:07)
I strolled into the Niagara Falls area and was met with a nice open road and barely any tourists about, making the venture to the 25k turnaround at Horseshoe Falls a fairly smooth one. The leaders were more than 5km ahead of me at this point; 3 men followed by a woman. I got to the checkpoint in just over 2″48′. Apparently the decent into the Falls area had me, further ahead of schedule again. it was time to consider slowing a bit.
25k – 2:48
Anita, Cam, Mary and Julie were waiting for me at 25k turnaround and I was able to grab a couple of gels from them as well as wipe my face dry and grab my ‘cooling towel’. This towel proved to be a huge factor as the day heated up. The towel, when damp, is a whole lot cooler that the air and when worn around the neck really does help you feel cooler. Scientific wonders!
The way back was smooth as it is more downhill on the return route. At each aid station I was able to get in some more bananas and oranges and top up my handheld. Occasionally I would consume one of my Honey Stinger gels. So far so good as far as stomach distress goes. I was feeling much better as each km was clipped, noting mentally that this was the strongest I had felt in a while. A decent taper and relaxed pace will do this for you. I continued to run alone, speaking to other runners only briefly as I passed them or they passed me. We were also seeing a lot of runners in the 100 who had not made it to half way yet as well as the 50k runners, and then the marathoners making their way out. This was a great portion of the race as passing all of these runners, including our friends Anne, Sari and Duff who were running the 50k, was motivating and a few high fives and hello were shared by most of the runners. Those who were not yet struggling anyway.
30k – 2:58
35k – 3:27
40k – 3:58 – (picked up a lot of time on the 2km downhill)
45k – 4:29 (Marathon Time at 42.2 = 4:07)
Compared to my long training runs, I felt so much better at 45k that it was delighting me and making me excited to head into new distance categories. Nir had come out and was riding with me from time to time. The time was actually passing fairly quickly and my body was holding up nicely. Still no stomach issues. I was stoked. I strolled into the grass terrain of the finishing area and was greeted by a lot of spectators who were still waiting for their runners, and a few of them said ‘almost done’ – um, no, only half way I chirped…’oh sorry!’ was their reply. Then I saw my crew and did the loop around the finish and plopped down on the nicely laid out pit stop they had for me. I choose not to change my shirt, but got a new hat and switched shoes. I grabbed a new handheld and another gel and was on my way.The pit stop cost me 3 minutes but it was worth it.
50k – 5:01
The shoe change was a mistake as the change in feel was too much between my Saucony Kinvaras and the Brooks Pure Connects. I looked back at the gang hoping someone could see me in distress. It didn’t look like it so I continued on. As it turns out, they noticed and Cam biked out to see if I was ok. I had him ride back and bring my Kinvaras back to me. I was very thankful that this worked out.
I made my way out passing 55k feeling good, and then saw our friends returning from their races. There were a bunch! Sari, Diane, James, Dave (Crowe), Duff and Anne returning from their 50k race, all smiling and encouraging and Bear (Neil) returning from his marathon. It was nice to see familiar faces and I wish there were more.
55k – 5:37
60k – 6:12
I was feeling the fatigue at 60k and we were about to head into the 2km stretch of uphills. I noticed the runner ahead of me, Jeff Cooper, ultra runner extraordinaire, started walking up the first bit of the hill. I ran until I was even with him and we chatted while walking up the entire 2kms of uphill. We made our way to the 65km aid station and we both topped up on ice. Anything cold at this point was so good.
65k – 6:53
Jeff and I ran together for a few more kilometres and I let him go ahead because I stopped to see Anita who was waiting for me with some good stuff. Ice tea, popsicles and more ice. Like an Oasis! As much as I wanted to stop longer I kept going. I saw the first place runner come by, it was a woman. The 3 men that were leading earlier were nowhere to be seen. As it turns out, 2 of them dropped out and 1 fell back and finished just ahead of me!
Anita met me again briefly at 73k for a top up of ice and another popsicle. Then she ran with me until the 75k turnaround point at the Horseshoe Falls. This was one of the most challenging parts of the race. Niagara Falls was packed with tourists on this hot and sunny day, more than I have ever seen actually, and there was no room on the sidewalks to run. We struggled to move past all the people and I risked the traffic by dashing onto the road when ever it was clear. Aside from colliding with a Mennonite woman, who did her
best worst to make room, I got to the checkpoint relatively unscathed.
70k – 7:32
75k – 8:11
After refueling with ‘some of each’ from the aid station and I was incredibly happy that at 75k, I still had no stomach distress. One Zantac (antacid tablet) the night before a race and one in the morning of, seems to be helping this year. At this point, the running was becoming a chore and some minor aches were setting in. My feet were getting sore, in more of a tired kind of way, like after a day in the theme park type of pain. My quads were starting to ache, especially on any sort of hill. The small hill leaving the Niagara falls area was big enough to force a walk. All of the runners were walking the hills at this point. The benefits of not using energy to run up the hills seem to outweigh the time saved. Unless of course you are the first place woman :) Anita kept up the fabulous crew work and met me again at 78k for a new ice tea and another popsicle.
80k – 8:51
After the 80 and 85k aid stations, we get to run the 2km downhill section. I was looking forward to this. As I descended, I was able to coast down as it were but not really make up any time. My quads were too sore to let gravity do the work and I actually had to hold back a bit. At least I got the benefits of running a decent pace without too much effort. Anita was waiting at the bottom of the hill for me and I got a fresh batch of ice for my bottle. I didn’t need much else at this point. The aid stations were providing me with bananas and oranges so I wasn’t hungry. I was just looking to get this thing done. As soon as I saw the 90k aid station I thought about how close I was. It didn’t really hit me until this point that I had run 90kms! This helped me finish on a positive note. Instead of dwelling on the fact I had 9km to go, I rejoiced in the fact I had completed 91!
85k – 9:25
90k – 10:08 (extra walk breaks – slowing down considerably here)
At 92, I saw Anita for the last time but was delighted to have Nir join me to run for the last 8k. I felt bad that I was making him run at such a snail’s pace but he seemed fine with that. Every tiny incline now seemed like a massive hill. My insides were bruised and aching from all the bouncing around. Particularly my kidneys, which had worried me for a while but I was assured as a fellow ultra-runner told me this was not unusual. Not that he was a doctor or anything. I was actually feeling well enough to run a decent pace if not for the pain when I ran. This gives me that bug to train harder and do this again.
95k – 10:55
With 5k to go I was starting to feel the joy of completing the distance. Another friend, Dave, joined us for the final 2k. It was nice to have company. We plodded on and each step was becoming increasingly difficult but not so much that I had to beg to the running gods to let me make it all the way. I never once felt like throwing in the towel. I never once regretted taking this challenge. I finished stronger than I have in many a marathon. I don;t have any spectacular stories of how I had to reach deep inside for that last bit of will power to get me through. Again, if I though things were tough for me, I would remind myself of my sister, and just how easy this race is n comparison to battling cancer!
100k – 11:39:38
20th overall (79 started the race)
3rd of 7 in the 40-44 age group
At last, the final kilometre was here. I had run 99k and was savouring the final one. As expected, Cam had come out to meet me for the final few hundred metres, Nir and Dave split off and left us to run the final 100 metres through the field together. I stopped bent down and pretended I couldn’t go any further which i knew would get a chuckle, then continued and Cam sent me in alone. I ran past my crew and friends for some high fives and pushed on to the finish line. I crossed the finish feeling like I could go further, until I sat down and let go, and realized I was spent and had to fight through a few minutes of the post race wind down and wait for my blood pressure to get back to normal. Cam had my post race beer ready but it took a few minutes before it appealed to me. If there was an ice bath ready to, I’d have jumped right in! Finally, I had to get up and get moving and this pleased the people as they had been waiting for a long time for me come in and were ready to head back to the house for some party time. I was eager to go too, it was just not that easy – the legs were like rubber!
We made it back and spent the rest of the day lazing about, enjoying the sun. Many times I heard “I can’t believe you ran a hundred k!” – well neither could I. It took a few days to sink in.
Thanks to everyone there for their support, I was able to finish this race. Congratulations go out to Sari, Anne, Diane and Duff for their excellent efforts with the 50k, especially since it was Sari and Anne’s first time at that distance. And of course well done to Bear for taking on the marathon and Rob and Fred for their half marathon finishes, all of these gents were either running on fumes or fighting injuries so glasses up to them!
Special thanks to Jacqueline and Ed for driving down just to cheer us in – very touching!
And another huge thanks to Anita for her endless support through this race, these past few months…and years! I owe her too much!
After running the 50k twice made me officially and Ultra Marathoner, but it was this event, this day, where I truly felt I had done something special. I can say now, with no asterisks, I am an Ultra Marathoner.
If you read this far, surely you can handle a few photos. Enjoy!