Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Kingston 6 Hour Race report

Okay, here we go.  Uncharted territory.  If I'm being honest with myself (and this does happen on occasion.  Think of Maple Leafs winning the Stanley Cup) there has been a twinge of envy when talking to one of those runners who can crank out an ultra every 3 days, with ease.  I talked to Kim Van Delst during the Kingston 6 hour race.  She had her usual smile, but perhaps her pace was not the effortless stride for which she is known.  Then I remembered that she ran 100 miles at Sulphur.  Here I was, struggling after only 1 hour, because my legs had not recovered from 50K at Sulphur...  Kim covered 161K and although not striding at speed, still lapping me!

Nevertheless, 2 ultras separated by 2 weeks is not my norm.  Here's where it gets interesting.  I have Niagara 50K, 2 weeks after Kingston!  3 ultras in 4 weeks is new territory for me.  Something my back and knees have vetoed in the past.  I have been running since 1973, but I have no idea what to plan or expect at Niagara!  The evil little gremlin in the back of my mind is urging my to run it at my 10K pace...

A timed race is also difficult to peg.  The concept is pure simplicity.  Run for 6 hours.  Start at a comfortable pace, pick up speed gradually, then stave off the decay.  However, 6 hours is a long enough run that nutrition maintenance plays a big role.  Kingston (this year, due to construction) is a 1.1K loop.  You are never more than 7 minutes from an aid station or your drop bag.  It sounds so simple!  Hydrate when you want, eat when you want and pop a salt tab on occasion.  The tricky part is that even though you are looping past the treats every 7 minutes, you have to constantly monitor the last time you had sports drink, food, salt, Advil, gel, electrolyte, calcium and something else...  Hmm.  Oh yes, water!  For fun, here is what I derived as a "nutrition plan" for the race:

Water/electrolyte:  Drink when thirsty (I had a water belt to avoid numerous drinking stops).
Advil:  200 mg at 1 hour and 200 mg at 3 hours
Gel:  Every 45 minutes
Salt tab:  One at 45 minutes, then 1:30, 2:30, 3:20, 4:15 and 5:00
Calcium:  At 3 hours
Food:  When I could stomach something...

If you attempt to figure out my stops, given the above schedule, you are in for a logistic nightmare.  Factor in the effect of running for 3, 4 and 5 hours, on the brain, and it spells trouble.  Notice I did not mention bathroom breaks, GI issues and "running" problems (sore feet, tired legs, cramping,...).  There is a tremendous amount of cerebral processing needed simply to keep the running machine on track.

The Kingston 6 hour race is an incredible event.  I watched Hans Maier break the Canadian 6 hour record, for male 75-79.  It was incredible to see someone who is 76 push hard for 6 hours!  This race is also quirky because my bib number was "Pierre".  My laps were recorded by a gentlemen (of course, I have forgotten his name...  Damn you synapses!) with whom I made eye contact and greeted every 7 minutes.  This race is so far beyond the Toronto marathons, you have to run it to understand.  I keep thinking that this is how races must have been organised 100 years ago.

The Race

I was quite concerned about the impact of going out too fast, 2 weeks after running 50K in 5:42.  I needn't have worried.  My pace started slow and after only 1 hour, I was tired.  This was to be expected, but frustrating nonetheless as I was in a RACE!  I had fervently hoped that my legs had magically healed during the 2 days I had not run.  In retrospect, I should have anticipated that I would experience fatigue 2 weeks after racing, but as with all ultra runners, optimism usually clouds realism...

So, 1 hour into the race I am tired and slowing down from a not-fast pace.  As there was nothing I could do (except DNF), I simply attempted to avoid any mistakes that would reduce my pace further.  I experienced a fairly significant low spot from 1 to 3 hours, after which, I hit an equilibrium, allowing me to steadily cover the miles.  I consciously tried to avoid any unnecessary walking breaks and make the most of the few short breaks I had to take.  My A goal was to push hard for 3 hours, then try and hold on until the end.  What with slowing after only 1 hour, I realized early on that passing 55K was out of the question.  My "other" A goal was to run 50K in less time than at Sulphur.  Although Sulphur is a trail run (Kingston is flat and on paved and dirt roads), it would be tough to beat 5:42 on tired legs.  At 44K, I started walking 40 meters every 2 laps, but skipped the break at 49K, which allowed me to hit 50K in 5:40.

The end of Kingston is an exciting time.  Everyone gets a small bag of sand with their name and continues to run.  When the 4 cars on the course sound their horns, you drop the bag.  Someone with a wheel then figures out how far you ran, down to the meter!  I was 14 meters from the start/finish line on my 47th lap, so I covered 52.786K.  This happens to be the furthest I have ever run, beating the 51K I ran during the Haliburton 50K, after getting lost for about 1K!

Lee Anne had an excellent race and was on the leader board for the second half!  She lapped me a few times and made it past 56K for first in her age category.  The Kingston race keeps going!  After packing up the timing area, the amazing volunteers pull a wonderful meal out of nowhere.  Most runners stayed for the meal and awards, enjoying a pleasant day in the sun.

Niagara 50K is next.  I posted my PB at this race, back when the Earth was cooling.  Although my days of running a 4:23 are long gone, my secret A goal is to finish somewhere near 5 hours.  To break 5 hours would be fantastic, but realistically, not in the cards yet.



  1. Nice work out there! See you in Niagara.

  2. I have a feeling we will be seeing allot of each other in Niagara! After reading your report Kingston is a must do! Congratulations on yet another fine performance.