Thursday, September 15, 2011

Haliburton Forest Trail Ultra 50 Mile Report

Wow, what a fantastic race.  I was blown away by the organization, the aid stations and the trails!  Being only my second 50 mile race, I thought I ran a much stronger race than previously in May.  Although I knew I was under-trained by a few weeks going in to that one.

The race was 25% logging roads and 75% trails.  It was nice to start and finish on the logging roads since it was dark when we started and allowed a quicker pace to finish.  I ran with a headlamp for the first time in my life for the first 40 minutes of the race. 

Another runner from the East Coast and new pal Jacko Kelly and I started out together, however we quickly separated as he was running a little faster and I was chit chatting away with other runners and meeting new people - I think if I had of done less of this I would have broke 10 hours - however, I really enjoyed this aspect of the race and learned a lot.  I am always amazed at the difference between someone's will and their physical appearance.  I noticed an older runner that had an odd stride (almost a loping walk), I asked him how he made it look effortless to maintain the pace he was moving when it looked like I was putting in so much effort.  Turns out he has finished 25 100 milers :)  Goes to show how much of ultra running is mental and nutrition based.

The first few miles on the road passed quickly as I was chatting and it was dark.  The pack began to separate when we hit the single track.  Every section of single track I ran, I thought it couldn't get much prettier, then the next section of trail would be even nicer.  I caught up to Jacko and a group he was running with on the first trail, however I was fumbling with my pack and lost him again - that was the last I would see Jack till the turnaround at the halfway mark.

For much of the next few trails, I chatted with several runners and met a bunch of new people, many who seemed to be running their first 50 miler.  It was really nice to chat, but I started to realize I was getting a little behind on my time to so I picked up the pace a bit and seemed to run for quite a while alone. 

My first 50 miler, I did not use salt tablets.  I took one per hour this race and I think it was a major contributor to not feeling low or nauseated at any point during this race.  Another factor was the race was stocked with eLoad.  I had used only Gatorade till this, what a difference there as well.  Much easier to stomach for the entire day.  So much for me to learn:) 

I tried to eat something substantial at each aid station - as well as text my family at home who were anxiously awaiting updates.  The race was quite remote, so sometimes the texts wouldn't go through for quite a while until service was available.  Either way, I felt strong all day up till the last 10 miles.

On the way out to the turnaround I met up with a female runner with a unique name:  Kinga Mikolos.  She was running her 3rd 100 miler this year, had completed 5 the previous year and 10 in total.  I picked her brain as we ran till the turnaround.  She reminded me much of our friend Jodi Isenor from NS.  She made bobbing around the trails look easy and effortless - and she was full of information. 

At the turnaround, I see Jacko who does not look very good.  I gotta admit, I was concerned for him since I was running a pretty good pace and I had not caught up to him in 4 hrs of running.  He said he had fallen a few times and was banged up and tight.  He really looked bad.  I tried to pump him up as best as I could, but in all honesty I did not expect him to finish the race.

I was feeling very good at this point and was also pumped by the fact that every step from here was closer to the finish and I had already seen the terrain.  I met a few more people on the way back, but for the most part I think I ran about 2-3 hours alone again.  I bumped into Kinga again around mile 35.  I tried to keep pace with  her and for the most part could keep up.  Things were starting to get tough around mile 40.  This was the first point in the day where I felt I was exerting myself.  Kinga did a fantastic job keeping me moving and ensuring I was going to do the best I could do and leave nothing left in my legs.  Amazingly I did not take any spills as I stumbled about 6 times on rocks or roots.  I  hit the last aid station with Kinga who was going to do this course all over again after I finished, she told me to go ahead and burn what I had left.  I ended up going pretty hard the last few kilometers with a sprint to the finish. 

Of course, I wanted to call my family right away after crossing the line.  I was on the phone with them and realized Kinga had turned around and gone back out.  I never did get a chance to thank her for teaching me so much and for keeping me moving for that last 10 miles.  If you happen to read this Kinga, you were truly an inspiration I thank you so much for making this a great race for me. Oh and congrats on winning the 100 miler! :) 

I was pretty low after finishing for a bit since I thought Jack was not going to make it, I decided to drive back to the city and stay the night in a hotel since I had to have the rental back by noon anyway.  I would have liked to have stayed and watched some of the hundred milers come in throughout the night as we were camped at the start/finish, but some folks mentioned traffic from cottage country back to the city was pretty thick Sunday AM.

Just as I was packing up, Jacko Kelly rose from the dead and was sprinting to the finish.  I think I was happier for him than I was for me to have finished...well done Jacko!  You are one tough dude!

In the end I improved my time from 10:31 to 10:09 on a more difficult course and my buddy Jacko completed  his first 50 miler.  We also met Stephen Bradshaw and Stephanie Mahallati who both completed their first 50 milers as well...congrats guys.  I hope our trails cross again.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Blair, Jacko here. Your scoop on the Haliburton Hills Trail Run is an excellent account of an event I won't soon forget. You were very supportive of me before, during and after the race and it met a lot to me. You're a great guy my new trail blazer friend and I looking forward to many more runs ahead. Yes, I do agree with you when you saw me at the half way point and I was pretty spent. I couldn't believe how in controlled and cheerful you looked. You patted me on the back, wished me well and took to the trail. That action my friend, gave me a lift, ( even if it wasn't apparent. ) I managed to gather what juices I had left ( along with salt and potatoes wedges ) and started back out on the trails, renewed. So a big thank you Blair for your awesome support. We'll see out there again as soon as my hamstring gets better. Happy trails buddy. Jacko