Monday, June 12, 2017

Conquer the Canuck 50K Race Report

I was going to add some witty addendum to the post title, such as "Though Shalt Not Runneth 3 Ultras in 2 Weeks", as the reality for me is I need longer than 6 days to recover before a 50K.  Period.  I don't know how certain people can run 50K or much longer and are ready to go the following weekend.  I could name a few, but as I'm intimating they are freaks, let's let  this one slide.  Just out of curiosity, how is the hole in your shoulder, Stephen?

This was my first time at Conquer the Canuck, so called because the highlight race is a 50K on Saturday and a marathon on Sunday.  To avoid confusion, it was decided not to include the "stage race" as part of the Ontario ultra series, so only the 50K is in the series.  The marathon is not an ultra, so it was anticipated that some of the runners would question why it was in the ultra series.

The Canuck course is a well maintained gravel or grass broadpath, with a few gentle rolling hills.  If you enjoy extremely technical surface, this race is not for you.  But if you are looking for a fast trail race (please don't look up my results just now...) or your first effort off the pavement, you are in for a treat.  With several starts and ample room to pass, there is no bunching at the beginning.  The lack of technical footing is a bonus as the race progresses and the legs tire.  There is a small navigational component, as the course meanders through forest and field.  It was well marked, but you needed to pay attention to signage to stay on the correct path.  I took one wrong turn at a T intersection, where (obviously) the arrow indicating turn right meant that I should turn left.  I had seen the arrow, but decided it indicated turn left, before I was close enough to focus on it...  Fortunately I gave it one last glance, as the runner behind me shouted that I was off course.  An interesting component of the marking was yellow tape at about 8 feet above ground on trails that were not part of the course.  Yes, there was one above me when I took a wrong turn.  Normally trail marking is at ground level, as runners are looking down.  Unfortunately, low signage blocking a trail tends to be "repositioned" by people who are not part of the race.  This has caused me a few worried moments during other races.  At Canuck, the yellow tape remains in place, unless someone deliberately tampers with it.

Conquer the Canuck Race Report

Let's nickname this race Dante's Inferno, as there was little positive while my race descended into the pits of hell.  Let me be clear that the race itself is excellent.  The race kit included a beach towel (I was sad, as I am down to my last 148 race T-shirts) and finishing included a unique medal AND a bottle of wine.  I'm going back!  Yes, I did finish, although the only reason I started the fifth loop was because I am striving for the Norm Patenaude award (you need to complete 8 ultras in the OUTRace series) and I can't make it to some of the races.

The course is 8.33K, or 6 loops for the 50K.  I was hoping to clock near 1 hour for each of the first 4 loops, then introduce walking breaks during the last 2 loops.  Did I mention I had run 2 other ultras in the previous 2 weeks?  The Sulphur Springs and Kingston 6 hour races caught up to me in fine fashion.  Having some inkling that my race was going to be less than ideal, I started at a conservative pace and walked all the gentle hills.  The legs were tired even at the start, so I was hoping they would improve after the warm-up.  First lap was clocked in 59:16 which although slow, was on pace.  The marginal recovery anticipated during the second loop never happened.  I remained tired and my stomach started to act up.  Oh-oh.  Loop 2 chimed in at 1:01, but by loop 3 I was struggling.  No power or speed and I was starting to have trouble taking in enough fluids.  The day was getting hot.  Many runners have difficulty during the first hot race of the year.  I think this was a factor in my stomach problems.  I was taking in salt, gel, calcium and I had electrolyte in my water bottle.  Loop 3 was completed in 1:04, then the wheels fell off.

I've talked before about causal relationships during a race.  20 years ago, approaching my 40's, my problem was with my back and knees.  At that time, I only had surgery on my left knee, so I would favour it.  Over the course of hours, this slight limp would inflame my back, which would result in some spectacular pain and discomfort.  If this happened early enough in a race, I would inevitably see the 3 letters DNF beside my name in the results.  Loop 4 was carnage.  I was no longer able to ingest fluids aside from a small sip here and there.  This led to cramping of my (again!) left hamstrings.  Only 28K into the race and I could not run.  The word frustrating does not truly describe how I felt.  As mentioned above, I would have packed it in after 4 loops if it wasn't for that albatross called Norm P strapped to my genitals...

Loop 4 was comprised of a slow run during the gentle downhills.  I would immediately cramp if I tried running the steeper downhills, flats or uphills.  My time was 1:18 for 8.33K of gentle broadpath.  The 2 aid stations were at 700 meters after the start, about 3K, and nearing 7K (aid station 1, again).  AS1 had an outdoor tap which emitted a fine spray.  I used this at every occasion and it definitely helped, which suggested I was experiencing some heat issues.

One reason I decided to start loop 5 was that I kept hoping I would recover sufficiently to start running again.  My legs were very tired, but it was the cramping that was forcing me to walk, not over-exerted legs.  To run, I first needed to settle my stomach, so that I could increase my fluid intake.  However, the racing gods were asleep at the wheel, because nothing I tried resulted in the slightest improvement.  I didn't know it at the time, but it would be late Saturday night before my stomach finally settled.  Loop 5 was a study in triage that left me wondering if I would ever run again.  Nothing worked, I could not drink, I could not run.  I don't think heat was a main factor, as other runners were moving steadily, if not at their normal pace.  The combination of starting a 50K on spent legs and a severely restricted fluid intake did the damage.  Loop 5 clocked in at 1:30.  Almost 6 hours for less than a marathon.  Not my day!

I started loop 6 because I had enough time to finish under the 8 hour cut-off.  No other reason.  It was a repeat of loop 5, although I had resigned myself to walking the 8.33K.  I was tired and had an occasional dizzy spell due to being dehydrated.  I kept up a very positive attitude when speaking to people (as I normally do) to avoid having someone ask me about how I truly felt.  The loop 6 death march finished in 1:33.

After completing 4 ultras in the previous 6 weeks, I had been hoping to run well during a gentle 50K trail race.  Nothing spectacular, but somewhere slightly over 6 hours.  I did not expect it to take me 7:27:00 to complete.  It seems like there has been no improvement since the beginning of the racing season.  I don't mean this is some depressing fatalistic viewpoint, but that for me, running 3 ultras in 2 weeks is not a good idea!  So I will only ever do this again if someone pays me 1 billion dollars or more.  I won't even consider it for a mere 100 million...

An interesting post-race departure for me was that I got a massage.  I think the fact that I couldn't eat and there was nobody at the massage tables played a part.  I needed to hydrate before I could drive back to Creemore, so why not?  I'll tell you why not.  My first (and last, before Canuck) massage was at the Damn Tuff Ruff Bluff Run in Owen Sound, staged by a good friend Doug Barber.  I had never had a massage, but how bad could it be?  The therapist said she provided "deep tissue" massages.  Having no idea that it was a euphemism for TORTURE, I lay down on the table.  It took me 2 weeks to recover from the massage.

With more than a little trepidation, I lay down on the massage table.  Since it was not busy, 2 therapist went to work on my calves, which were twitching.  They had some fancy name for what was happening (let me guess:  It is related to dehydration?) but they had never seen it quite so pronounced.  This happens after almost every long run, so to me it was nothing new.   The massage actually felt quite good and did not leave me in a coma.

The ride back to Creemore was interesting, especially when trying to work a clutch during heavy traffic while my legs were cramping.  I had eaten very little during the race (see stomach, above) but forced myself to eat some supper when I got home.

Well, I am most pleased to announce that I will not be posting a RR for the next 4 weeks!  I'm looking forward to running less than 25K next weekend on legs that have somewhat recovered.  I need to recover before Limberlost, as the 56K will take me close to 10 hours to complete.  TLC has a beautifully scenic course through forest near Huntsville.  The course is technical, although not overly so, but it constantly changes direction and pitch, so there is never a chance of reaching race pace.

Hope to see you there!

1 comment:

  1. i should not be laughing, but I am. Maybe this is a sneaky way of getting me to cut all of the grass...... love it though. this is Lee Anne, aka wife.

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