Haliburton Forest 100 miler 2012Sorry, it's a long one....
The week leading up to the race, I was fairly slow at work and therefore had a lot of time to pack, strategize and think about the upcoming race. "Worrying" is a built-in part of ultras and coping with that is a huge part of being successful. By Thursday, my drop bags were packed and all I needed to put together were my shower bag and my post-race food. It was also at this point that the weather reports had started to change from chance of rain to "yes, it's gonna rain!" So it was time to throw in some rain and winter gear too.
Friday 1pm, We started the drive up to the forest in beautiful sunny conditions, praying that the rain would at least hold off until we're there and set-up. Felt the overwhelming urge to stop in Coboconk for a large fries and gravy. By 4pm we got to the Forest, Checked in and solved the greatest mystery of the week leading up to the run: the hoodie colour was ORANGE!
A safety feature of the HF100 is the "Weight n Rate" check by the race Medic, Corey. It established a base line in case we ran into trouble on the trail. Most racers take it as a little bit of added stress to the pre-race, but if you're prepared, it shouldn't be an issue.
6:30pm, Pre-race meeting and huge Pasta dinner at the cookhouse. This meal is one of the huge parts of the Haliburton experience. It was a wonderful meal in a very homelike and intimate atmosphere. It was bit of a squeeze but it was really nice to meet new participants as well as catch up with old, familiar faces. The excitement was building as the race director, Helen, and her lieutenants, Gary and Don, went over the race briefing for us while we munched on giant butter tarts. We were done by 8 and settled down to bed by 9:30 for what some might call sleep.
4:40am wake up. (pouring rain) Climbed out of the sleeping bag and car to get the camp-stove fired up and some water boiled for Via's and instant oatmeal/Chia. Thought about how UTMB gets postponed for weather...and wondered if Helen would consider this.
5:50am gathering time. (still pouring rain) All set to go, gathering in the darkness with all the 50k, 50M, and 100M runners. Very mystical and private time, you could really only make out those people you came with because of the dark and all the clothes that everyone is wearing. Soon enough it was time to say our farewells and good lucks...the bagpiper was starting and time to walk to the start line. Just after the start line, I passed my car and threw my umbrella under it. Off we went up the road and into the darkness.
Now the Haliburton course is a modified out and back of 50 miles. There is a 10 km loop at the beginning and end of every 25 miles. There are 13 manned aid stations per loop plus the turnaround at base camp which has nothing but your own car. The longest stretch between aid stations is 10km. It is a variety of singletrack trail, double track/snowmobile trail, and country gravel road.
The race began at 6am and the sun wasn't due to rise until 6:40am, so it was dark running down the road. The first 7km of the run is road, so normally it is light by the time we hit the singletrack on North Macdonald Lake trail (NorMac). Unfortunately, with the rain clouds being so low, you needed a headlamp for this section today. I tucked in behind Laura P and her gang at this point and was treated to some really fun conversation and banter about the day to come. Soon enough, we were out of the loop and heading into the #2 aid station.
My drop bag strategy for the 100 miler was 2 drop bags. One at AS2 and one at AS6. I was to carry one handheld for the first 11k, 2 handhelds (1 water, 1 Clip2) from 12k to 30k, and 1 handheld (water) from 31k-50k and then repeat the whole process. I was taking Vega gels throughout the race every hour or so. The reasoning was to take in a high amount of nutrition in the middle/slower part of the course and be free to run a little faster on the road sections on the top and bottom of the course. The final Plan was to switch to a hydration pack for the final 30km to free my hands for a handlight and grabbing trees in the night.
The next sections of the course were Poacher's, The Pass, Redstone/Ben's, Krista and Lookout. These were all trail portions with short sections of road where the AS 4 and 5 were. The trail basically ended about a mile from AS6 and from this point became dry and runnable.
Heading out onto Poacher's, the trail was in good shape. The mud wasn't stirred up yet and the running was easy considering how wet it was. Had some great company with Laura and Corey for a ways, and then met up with Derrick. We ended up running together and yoyo'n for the next 50km. Unfortunately, Derrick finally succumbed to his cold and dropped in order to run another day.
I tried to focus on being conservative for the first 25 miles. A method that I had read about recently was to breath only through my nose and keep the effort level low so I wouldn't push myself early on. Every time I caught up to Derrick after an AS, I tried to keep back and slow my breathing. It's really hard not to chase someone who you know that you're going to finish behind. At AS6, I dropped my food bottle and looked at my hands, they were gray and pruned from holding the handhelds in all that wet, it was time to loosen my grip and dry out my hands if I could. It was still raining off and on, but staying warm meant keeping running.
At the 25 mile turnaround there is a long stretch of road to see who is within 3km ahead of you and behind you. I felt pretty good at the turn even though it was hard to tell who was ahead in the 100miler and who was racing in the 50M. Only recognized John and Dale ahead, wasn't sure if I had seen Pablo ahead, but all sorts of things go through your head at a point like this. Saw some guys on the way out then and realized that I was ahead of where I wanted to be at this point. Oh well, no changing it then.
The return trip was a little bit more muddy and trampled. The trail, in many spots, had gone from a single trail to a wide muddy bed of footprints and wrong-ways to step. It had stopped raining but my feet were soaked already and probably pretty pruned as well. Passed Derrick at AS4 and waited for him to catch up at the top of the first hill on Poacher's, then continued on believing that he would pop up and scare the crap out of me again at some point.
At the end of NorMac trail I continued onto the road return to AS3&2, it was here that I caught up to Dale and we compared stories of whose legs hurt worse and who wants to run hills less. It was also at this point that it started to pour again and this time I didn't have the energy to run faster to stay warm. It was also at this point that we saw John M going back out and running as strong as he was at the 25 mile point. He was 4 miles ahead of us at this point.
Running through the Base turnaround, I stopped to put on more Body Glide and grab my goretex jacket. Heading back out, I ran into my friend, Lesa, finishing her 50 miler. She said she was freezing and dying to be done but looked to still be in really great shape and holding down the 2nd place overall female spot (YAH!). Dale and I ran together until the end of NorMac again where he decided that he was going to walk more and conserve his energy. So I was back to running alone. I also ran into friends, Todd and Stephen, both were calling it a day at 50 miles so as not to risk any more injury. Now, with the thought of John at least an hour ahead of me and Dale walking behind me, I decided to drop my pace and go back to the minimal effort pace so that I could keep running through to the end. It was nice to stop at aid stations and talk to the volunteers, I saw lots of friendly faces and heard loads of stories and profanity about the trail conditions and hardships.
My favourite aid station was Gary's B&B at AS6. I decided that even though it wasn't dark yet, I would stop and change my socks and pick up my Salomon hydration pack and my good lights and warm up with a little soup broth. My friend Alan was gracious enough to help me do my changeover there, poor guy had 20 instructions shouted at him at once, with the first one being, "Can you switch my watch from my handheld to my hydration pack?". Unfortunately, my watch made it's way into Al's pocket and he didn't notice until my food alarm went off 20 mins later. I noticed about 400m from the AS but figured I'd be back in 20km, so no big deal.
Approaching the final turn around I was waiting anxiously to see John coming the other way. The closer I got to the turnaround the more nervous I was getting that I would be close to catching him and therefore had to run. I was relieved when he passed me with more than 2 miles to go still to the turnaround. I greeted him in the dark and congratulated him on running a great race. The worry was over, time to enjoy myself.
When I got to the AS7, who was waiting for me? Alan from AS6 with my watch. I was happy to have my watch back and I also sat down and had a full can of coke, some chips and a banana. It was time to refuel and get moving. So off I went.
In another km, who do I see coming up the trail? DALE! Haha, time to run again. So I put it into steady gear and tried to keep moving forward as long as I could maintain. I wasn't moving very fast, but I kept moving forward all the time. It was not exactly a race, more of a "relentless forward motion" exercise. I did stop and talk to quite a few runners in the following sections of trail. I was moving, but if Dale were to catch me, more power to him.
Worst section of trail was on the way back through Ben's trail. I choose the wrong way and ended up with two shoes full of mud. I had to stop at AS4 to dump out my shoes, so I had a coke and chatted with Ken and Ken, they were very supportive. And funny enough, I was actually looking forward to the final run on NorMac. Probably because it meant that I was nearly done.
As I left AS2, after seeing some familiar faces and dropping my coat to head into the last 11k, I could see a light on the road up ahead turning for home which I'm pretty sure was John. That is a pretty good run and I kinda wished that I could have at least been able to talk to him at the AS before he left.
The last 1.5hrs went fairly quickly, just moving forward and occasionally wondering if Dale was going to pop up on the road or trail behind me. I passed a lone runner from the 50 miler just after passing the #3 aid station. He was in very rough shape and literally dragging one foot. I believe that they sent a truck out to get him before I got to Margaritaville for the last time. All the volunteers were busy in the medical tent when I went through the aid station the last time. I just called out my number and made sure they knew that I wasn't stopping for nobody.
The finish line was bright and welcoming as I came down the final stretch of road. I finished in 21:10 and was happy to be done. This was a milestone for me, my tenth 100 miler, marking off 1000 miles of racing and a total time of 216:24. Here's to the next 1000 miles!
Highlights of the run and things that I will take home from it:
-Stopping on Normac at 89km and sitting down on the picnic bench overlook of Macdonald Lake.
-Laying down with my lights off in the huge clearing at 132km to take in the horizon to horizon stars that filled the sky.
-Coming into AS2 with 11km to go and having my friends call out to me that they knew it was me coming in. Great to see some familiar faces. Thank you so much for waiting up for me, it meant the world to me.
-That first cup of coffee after waking up and waiting until 7:30 for the cookhouse to open was a GodSend.
Thanks so much to Helen, Don, Gary and all the other great volunteers who made this weekend a success even with the harsh conditions.