Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Amazing and Awful

We haven't told you yet about how our little trail adventure at the North Face Endurance Challenge went.  In short it was amazing, and awful, and painful, and incredible.  They were not kidding around when they said it was "the most pronounced elevation gain trail race in Ontario."

We started out on Saturday volunteering for the Marathon (relay), 50K, and 50 Mile races.  We arrived early for our assigned shift, collected t-shirts, and lunch and were escorted to 'our' aid station at the 40.7km mark for the ultra distances, which was also near the start and finish of the marathon.  Things were a bit slow getting started, but we were soon busy filling bottles and hydration packs, dumping water on the heads of tired and overheating runners (my specialty), and offering a variety of snacks.  We offered seats in the shade and encouragement to to runners who were ready to quit.  We watched a young man stumble into the aid station glassy eyed and disoriented (my nurse and mom alarms were blaring).  We sat him down in the shade, gave him a steady stream of water and electrolyte drink, and some snacks.  I counted his respirations when he laid of the ground to "rest" before heading out to finish.  He headed out, and I wondered how he would fare.  A short time later he cruised by on his way to the finish line.  We were inspired, and I informed Leigh that I would be running the 50 miler next year.  He looked alarmed.
We camped at a nearby campground Saturday night, where we were able to set up the tent without the poles being used as swords by two little boys who will remain unnamed.  Around midnight it started to rain, and it rained and rained and rained and was still raining when we got up at 6.  It was then that we knew we were in for it.  You see a trail race with profound elevation gain and loss is one thing.  A trail race with profound elevation gain and loss on mud, and wet rocks and roots is another thing. 
We got to the start in plenty of time where we were warned about the slippery conditions before heading off on our adventure.  Being primarily a road racer I had a few moments of frustration at the beginning of the race.  We were stuck in a pack on a trail that was mostly a single track (meaning only one person can fit width wise on the trail), It was slow going with very few opportunities to pass and get into a comfortable pace.  Feeling a bit claustrophobic, I snuck by people when there was space, but given the very limited time available for passing, Leigh was sometimes not able to follow and we ended up getting separated.  After some big climbs, a big down hill, and some more rain we came upon the first aid station.  Leigh and I reconnected, hydrated, and headed out. 
The course continued to be very challenging.  Trail running sure has the ability to make you humble.  We slowed our 'normal' half marathon pace drastically, we walked (yes WALKED?!?) on the uphills, ran where we could, climbed over slippery wet rocks, and through streams, and up and down stairs (I am not kidding).  The course was very well marked, keeping even me from getting lost. Our only complaint was the vast distance between the second and third aid stations.  We didn't carry our own water so it was sort of our own fault (rookie mistake?).  We had decided to rely on the aid stations alone, without enough aid stations we were mighty thirsty and not feeling very good. Once we arrived at the third aid station and chugged as much water and electrolyte drink as we could stomach we knew we could make the short descent to the finish.  
Proof that I walked...And I'm happy about it and everything :)
It took three hours which is around one hour and fifteen minutes slower then my half marathon PR from 2 years ago.  We learned that the slow pace did not make this challenge any easier.  Immediately we felt very beat up.  We sat in the post-race area with very little motivation to get up...That is until Leigh got a massive cramp in his leg that ripped him out of his chair in pain and sent me scurrying to find electrolytes...Any electrolytes.  Eventually we moseyed off to our car and headed to Thornbury beach.  The unseasonably cool weather we have been  having made the water the perfect temperature for a post race ice bath.  We waded in up to our hips and suffered through it for 10 minutes.  

Then came the real recovery.  I had to work a 12 hour night shift that night.  Part way through my shift I started to hurt.  From my hips down, everything was sore. I figured it was just fatigue, not enough rest post race, and that it would clear up once I got some sleep. It was just a half marathon after all, and a slow one at that.  I was wrong, and also dumb.  Leigh and I both felt that we were more sore then we were both post-marathon, and post-50K.  Walking down stairs, sitting down, and standing up, and crouching down to help the boys was pure torture.  I mean, it was that good sort of muscle pain where  you know you worked your body really hard, but it still hurt like no muscle soreness I have ever experienced and continued on until the next Friday. Because I am in the middle of a training cycle I continued on as scheduled.  I must have been quite a sight to behold trying to run down hills with my quads feeling the way they did.  It took some time, but everything went back to normal.  No injuries, no lingering pain, so I call it a resounding success.  

Maybe not the 50 miler next year though...We'll just stick with the 50K :)

***And just a note****

On my last post about our amazing raffle prizes for Saturday's Pancake Breakfast I neglected to include an AMAZING prize that came to us from Crossbones Crossfit!
You have the opportunity to win 10 Personal Training Sessions WORTH $400!!!  This can be used for their Crossfit ramp up.

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