Remaining consistent with training, my day started the day before the race. Sharon dropped me off at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary at sunrise. The temp was a cool 2 degrees and the wind blew hard from the west. I took the first of my 90,000 steps onto Highway 1 hoping to get to Canmore before dinner time. The first hour I spent daydreaming about how it’ll feel to run on this same highway next summer during my XCanada4Rare Trans Canadian speed record attempt. I’ll be at this same location, just headed the other way in Calgary on Canada Day July 1st.
By the time I got to Calaway Park the wind really picked up and mentally I started to shutter. This was gonna be a hell of a long day. My friends Lisa and Al met up with me alongside the road just after the Petro Canada about 25 km into the day, they had a dozen donuts, sandwiches, candies, a meat and cheese platter, and a decorative bat balloon blowing in the wind. Beaten down by headwinds this changed my mood immediately. We hugged, I grabbed two donuts and left smiling. I saw them every 5-10 km the remainder of the day’s run. Thank you Al and Lisa, your friendship and kindness are truly astonishing.
Al ran with me on and off throughout the day (in a wetsuit, you’ll have to ask him the story). We yelled back and forth to be heard through the wind, took turns running in front, and kept one another company. Every time I’d look ahead and see a slight bend in the road or a hill that may possibly break the wind long enough to regroup, but rather the gusty wind seemed to pick up. Angrily I would stomp my feet and curse as that was the only outlet I had. Al and Lisa continued being incredible supporters counting down the kilometres remaining. With 7 km remaining Lisa, Al and friends Brayden and Julia saw me at my worst where I lied in the ditch for a few minutes. With a ham sandwich that Al made me, I fuelled with Coke, embraced the love of my friends, and the burning desire for A&W onion rings I ran the rest of the way into Canmore alongside Al and Brayden.
That day ended with 90kms, 5:15 min/km, 8 donuts, 1/2 burger, ham sandwich, 10 fig newtons, 1 chocolate bar and a bag of A&W onion rings.
The next morning I awoke with muscle spasms in my core and my hip flexors were tighter than guitar strings. This day’s 50km trail race is gonna suck big time! After eating breakfast Sharon and I made our way to the Canmore Nordic Centre for the start of the Grizzly Ultra Marathon. I’m normally relaxed before races but that day I was very quiet; I knew the hurt was gonna be ugly and I was worried how my body would hold up. After presenting alongside race director Tony Smith and friend Blaine Penny atop the stage I hugged and greeted friends at the start line. The gun sounded and I soon fell into a comfortable non-taxing pace, luckily this was the same pace my friend Jay Kinsela was running. For the next 2 hours, we caught up like good friends do. Thanks Jay for the great company!! At the end of leg two (around 24 km) my friend Arielle FitzAwesomeness ran off course; she was running a relay with Joanna Ford. I told her I’d pace her fast into the transition. This was the first time of many where I felt my core spasm. “What the flecknog!” was what I thought. Leg three was full of beautiful, rooty single track with many short climbs. On any other day, this would have been a rad run but my hip flexors and core were tormenting me by giving me little kicks in the nards. At the end of leg 3, I saw Sharon, Julia, Sam, and Adele. I hugged and kissed them and told them that I was having SOOO MUCH FUN. Hahahaha, Sharon sees right through my lies. When leaving the stadium I saw friends Duncan, Sarah, Blaine and Evan. I stopped to chat about Duncan’s recent 2:27 marathon finish. They sensed that I didn’t want to leave the comfort of friends but politely urged me to get back onto the course. Duncan has been trying to break the 2:30 mark since he started marathoning in his 20’s and now in his early 40’s with three children has crushed that mark! With a 4 minute negative split!
Leg 4 everything started to unravel starting with my hip flexors. The climb early in the leg right around the 40km mark brought lock down cramps in the tops of my thighs. I was now power hiking and using my arms to press on the thighs as much as I can. The flats and downhill brought some reprieve but I found myself not running tall anymore but best mirrored an image of Gollum from Lord of the Rings.
Now I may be a lot of things but I’m no quitter. I was really happy how I grinded in the last hour of the race. My body was shutting down but I still gave it my all. I crossed the line at 4hrs 39min and in 8th place.
A huge lesson was learnt! I can no longer get away with neglecting my core strengthening work, even if I hate it more than the cartoon Caillou. The 90kms of intense headwind suffered the day before was too much for my weak and feeble hip flexors and core. Along the 66 days across Canada next year there’ll be many days with significant headwinds and this is something I must be prepared for. Simply, better I learn this lesson now than mid run next year in Manitoba.