5 weeks ago I was hobbling back down the Moose Mountain fire road in the fading light, slowed to a walk by IT band pain, shirtless, freezing cold, and defeated. I had battled IT band problems back in the fall, and it had decided to rear it's ugly head again at the most inopportune of times, 22km into my 31km long run. In the 9km walk back to the car, I angrily went through my options and hastily made up my mind that I was going to give up on racing at both Blackfoot and Sinister 7. It was simply too much too soon, after not running much all winter.
After taking a day to settle down and think about it, I decided to give myself a week. I would do everything in my power to shake the knee pain, and then make the call about the rest of my season. I started stretching and rolling 2-3 times per day, working to loosen up my tight lower body. I spent at least 30 mins every night becoming best friends with my wobble board and therabands. I only ran once that week, but did a fair amount of biking, and spent 21 hours on skis over three days that weekend. When Monday rolled around, I was hadn't felt anything in my knee for a few days, and was ready to test it out. I ended up running a slow 30km up Prairie view, and along Barrier lake, and finished up with some tightness, but no pain! What a difference a week of dedicated injury prevention can make!
Fast forward 4 weeks, 3 long runs, and 2 massive ski days, and I was standing on the start line of my first ever 100k - Canadian Championships at the Blackfoot Ultra. Heading into the race, I had thought a lot about my race plan, and how best to break up the four 25km loops. I wasn't too concerned about placing or time, as I was using this more as a "training race" and chance for me to test out my gear for the upcoming Sinister 7, my big goal for the year. A couple days before, race day I was doing my last speed workout on the track, and in a moment of brilliance realized "Blackfoot is just like racing a mile on a slightly longer, hilly track!" With that, my race plan fell into place, and I decided to race each lap like I would if I was on the track. Lap 1: run strong and somewhat near the leaders, establish a comfortable pace Lap 2: Hold the pace as much as possible, settle into a rhythm, Lap 3: the hardest lap, try and stay focused, Lap 4: Race!
|Run pretty slow and don't just turn left - It's basically the same as a track!|
Right from the gun, Dave and Andy took off like they were possessed. I ran on their heels for the first 500m, but after realizing that they intended to hold onto the 3:30-4:00/km pace, I let them go and settled into a slightly more comfortable 4:30/km pace (still way faster than the 5:30 pace I had intended to run). I finished off the first loop feeling great still carried along by the adrenalin of racing and feeling fresh after my taper.
About 2 km into lap 2 I started to notice some inflammation in the dorsiflexor tendons on the top of my foot. I ran with it for a couple of minutes trying to figure out what was causing it, then stopped to loosen my shoe, which took some of the pressure off. The rest of this lap is somewhat a blur, and all I focused on was changing shoes when I hit the 50k mark. Despite the sore foot, I was feeling optimistic and quite good coming in to the start finish after lap 2. I was halfway!
Coming through 50km, my high turned for the worse, when I realized that I was only halfway through, and the suffering had already begun. Funny how your emotions can change in such a short period of time while thinking about the exact same thing. Just like running a mile on the track, the 3rd lap was the toughest. My foot was really acting up at this point, and I was forced to walk up hills for most of the rest of the race. It was mentally draining constantly having to change paces while switching from walking to running. I ran a large chunk of lap 3 with Eric who was running the 50 mile. It was great to have someone to chat with at this point, and really helped to take my mind off how awful I felt.
I started lap 4 with some spring in my step, and focused on passing runners who were racing the shorter distances. At this point in the day it was really hot, so before every aid station, I would dump the rest of my water on myself before refilling my bottles and continuing on. After the unmanned water station with 15km to go I was fading and starting to slow down, I was passed by Mike and I realized that I needed to go with him or fade into oblivion. After that kick in the butt, I felt much better, and was able to maintain a better pace, and even run a few hills. The closer I got to the line, the better I felt and I was able to pull away from him and finish strong running a 4:30 last km to hold off a couple of other runners close behind me.
|My Pain Cave for the day - Photo from trailrunner.ca|
I still need to work on my pacing, because I always start way too fast. Those faster 4:00-5:00 paces feel so comfortable because they were where I ran a lot when I was racing on the track. I just need to get used to watching my suunto watch more closely and feeling like I'm plodding right from the getgo, and I think that will pay off in the latter stages of my racing.
Ultimate Direction AK Race pack
Saucony Peregrine (first 50k)
Hoka Rapa Nui Trail (last 50k)
Salomon shorts, shirt and hat
Injinji trail socks
Banana Walnut Sticky Bites (Feed Zone Portables)
Oatmeal Saskatoon Pancakes
Honey Cinnamon Waffles
Baked Pasta (Feed Zone Portables)
Thanks to everyone who helped me out this weekend, I couldn't have done it without you!
Steve and Kelsey for the accommodation before and after the race, Dave's wife Sharon for filling my bottles at the start/finish line, whoever brought the Gummy Spiders to aid station 1, and most of all the volunteers out on course! The positive energy out on there was infectious and made the race much easier!