Sunday, June 5, 2016

Kingston 6 Hour Race Report

It is very strange how far we can stray from our race goals.  I think this is a result of having very simple race goals, which do not necessarily fit into the complexities that develop, once the race begins.

My "A" goal for the Sri Chinmoy Self-transcendence 6 Hour race in Kingston was to run 42.3K.  This is mainly due to a lackluster training program, which was due to a late maple syrup season, contracting the flu and lousy running weather in March and April.  Contributing factors were the ice storm, tractor repairs and difficulty with altitude, but I won't go into detail...

So, how hard could it be, to run a minuscule distance above a marathon?  I had forgotten about what happens during a race.  In the tone of the Deer Hunter:  "The complexities, the complexities".  Although a bit warm (people who ran Sulphur are laughing about now), a cool breeze off Lake Ontario provided some relief every lap.  The Kingston course is run around the old Fort  Henry and beside the beautifully restored Royal Military College buildings.  The 1.1K loop is paved, with about 500 meters along the shore of Lake Ontario.  Think beautiful old building and sailboats.

A good friend Elizabeth Hurdman was also running the race and since Elizabeth has very little eyesight, Lee Anne, Stephan Miklos and I would pace her, around and around the 1.1K loop.  I was very concerned that I would not be able to keep up with the Kingston Trio.  I had of course, forgotten about the complexities that evolve during a race.  I did have difficulty with the initial pace.  It was slow, but little of my training was even at that pace, and not very much on pavement.  Within the first hour, my back was complaining.  So, with 5 hours to go, I was already struggling.  However, I was not the only one who incurred early-race issues.  Elizabeth's legs started to cramp just 2 hours into the race.  The heat was a factor and perhaps we were enjoying the conversation too much to focus on proper nutrition?  For the next 2 hours, Elizabeth struggled and needed a few walking breaks.  The breaks and some Ibuprofen helped right my back, and I was able to keep up with Stephan and Elizabeth.  Since there was little point in having 4 of us run in a group, which caused a bit of a road block for the faster runners, Lee Anne went ahead.  Stephan performed the lion's share of pacing Elizabeth.  Stephan never once flagged, which is amazing considering that he ran 50 miles at Sulphur the previous Saturday!  At 5 hours into the race, I asked him if he was feeling even a bit tired.  The answer:  Nope.  I was very annoyed...

Kingston is very different than the average race, even trail races.  "Timing" involved running past the start/finish, making eye contact with one of 12 people who are manually recording the time of the every runners' loop, and saying "hello" to your timer!  This gives Kingston a very personal touch, lacking at most other races.  You need to experience it once, to understand.  The aid station is well stocked.  They had small bags of ice, sponges, seaweed, watermelon and the usual ultra fare.  Hydration consisted of water, sea salt water, HEED and a clear electrolyte drink whose name escapes me.

At about the 4 hour mark, I was no longer able to keep up with the group.  This was quite good, as I had expected to start lagging behind the group after 2 hours.  The strange part was that although I lagged behind, I seemed to catch up almost every loop.  The group was taking walking breaks, which did not coincide with my walking breaks, but allowed me to get back in range.

Was I on pace to reach my A goal?  Part of the reason I wanted to stop at 42.3K, was because I have the Niagara 50K race in 2 weeks.  I was hoping to get a technical ultra (technically, more than a marathon) in about 5 hours, then stopped, to save the legs.  From 4 to 5 hours, I was running "alone", although friends would lap me (and I would lap a few) every so often, so there was always someone with encouragement or with whom to briefly chat.  I hit the marathon lap (lap 39 covers from 41.8K to 42.9K) shortly after 5 hours.  I was still "catching up" to the group on almost every lap.  I decided to get my keys on the next lap and grab a bottle of maple syrup for Hladini, the race director.  I forgot my keys!  By this time, I figured I might as well catch up to the group and finish the 6 hours together.  With about 15 minutes to go, every runner is given a small bag of sand with their name.  Along the race course are 3 or 4 cars.  When the 6 hour time limit is reached, the cars all sound their horn.  Runners drop their bag.  Someone with a measuring wheel then walks the course and the distance of your last lap is recorded.  Lee Anne ran 3 more laps than the rest of us, however Elizabeth, Stephan and I covered 45.755K.  Yes, manual timing, but at exactly 6 hours, they provide your distance down to the meter!

So, my "A" goal went right out the window, although I completed my first ultra in 2016.  Hopefully I will not pay too dearly at Niagara for my exuberance.  Pacing Elizabeth was surprisingly enjoyable.  It helped take my mind off the drudgery of running a 1.1K course over and over again.  It was instrumental in exceeding my A goal.  It was also the first time I have run with Stephan, who is also a good friend.  Stephan typically runs the longer distances and at a faster pace.  I see him at the end of the race, so it was great to share a few hours on the course.

This morning, I am stiff and sore.  One drawback to a 6 hour race in Kingston is that it makes for a long day.  6 hours of running and 7 hours of driving.  We missed a fabulous meal that Kingston dishes up after the race during the award ceremony as we had to make the long drive back to Creemore.  In future years, we will sample the impressive B&B's located in Kingston.

Both Lee Anne and Elizabeth made it to the leader board.  This is a board set up near the S/F line and is regularly (manually) updated with the top 7 male and female runners.  A hearty thanks to all the volunteers, who gave up a fine Saturday in order to attend to the runners' needs.  Hladini puts on a top notch race.  I am always surprised that this race has not been discovered by the trail, road and ultra hoards.  Of course, if sign-up reached 500+ runners, it would change the character of the race.  Manual timing would have to be replaced by chip timing, etc.


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