Lady MacDonald

Lady MacDonald

Monday, 14 July 2014

How a Slurpee saved my life: Sinister 7 race report

Well it's official, despite repeatedly cursing myself for signing up for Sinister 7 during the race and swearing I'd never do this again, I'm already looking forward to my next 100 miler! As tough as it is to condense 22.5 hours of running into something that is actually readable, here is my race report from Sinister 7

Standing on the start line of your first 100 miler is quite a feeling. A mixture of excitement and panic tumbled around in my head as I stood there like a deer in the headlights. My mind was full of doubts, how can you do this when your ankle is only 85 percent? Think about how much you hurt after Blackfoot, can you really run 60km farther than that? Can someone actually run for over 20 hours? I worked hard to push those thoughts away and focus on running one leg at a time. I knew going into the race that it would go out fast, and wanting to avoid a blowup like Blackfoot, I had decided to take a very conservative start. I also find that I don't do well in the heat, and with forecasts predicting temperatures between 25 and 30, I knew if I survived the heat and my ankle was feeling alright, I could pick up the pace and make up some ground after it got dark.

Organized chaos at the start line -Raven Eye Photography
Looking like I might throw up -Photo: Joan Brown
At the start line, I made a conscious effort to start a few rows back from the line so I wouldn't get caught up in the excitement and go out too fast. Shortly after the gun, everything bottlenecked and we ran in a long line for a few km. When it opened up again, I looked up and found myself running with Mike Kirby and Ben Rempel, both of whom I finished close to at Blackfoot, so I knew I was in a good spot. I made a point of chatting with people for the first big climb to make sure I wasn't pushing too hard. After blowing through TA1 with just a quick stop to fill a bottle, Mike and I headed out on the big climb to start leg 2. We matched each others pace quite well with a mixture of power hiking and running and topped out together. Mike sped ahead on the downhill quickly disappearing out of sight, and I realized that with my limited time in the mountains over the past 4 weeks while rehabbing my ankle that I wasn't as sharp as I had hoped to be.
Tiptoeing through the tulips on Leg 1 -Raven Eye Photography
I rolled into the aid station at T2 just after 10:30 in the morning, and it was already feeling hot out. I stopped briefly to grab new bottles, and restock on food. Then with a bandanna full of ice, headed unknowingly out into what turned out to be an absolute sufferfest - Leg 3, affectionately known as "Satan's Sack". These were the first steps into what turned into an 82km suffer session.
Looks are deceiving, I'm not having fun here -Raven Eye Photography
Everyone always says to respect "Satan's sack" (good mental imagery here), and I'd gone in expecting the worst. Wow did I underestimate it still. It's all become a bit of a blur in my mind, and I spent a large amount of it zoned out in zombie mode out putting one foot in front of the other. After the big initial climb the trees thinned out, and the sun was beating down in full force. At this point my stomach started to turn against me, and I was having trouble eating in the heat. I knew that I needed to slow my pace and try to cool down as best as I could so I could keep the calories flowing, but no matter what I did I just couldn't force myself to keep any food down. When leg 3 was said and done, I'd managed to take in just over 300 calories, not great for almost 5 hours of running. I was pretty crushed when I got into T3, but was happy to see my Mom, Brydon and his mom, and Mike Zimmerman there to help me out. I spent some time sitting on the grass eating Popsicles and pickles with a big bag of ice on my neck. I had spent a lot of the last 5 hours thinking about dropping out, and feeling pretty miserable, but the brief cool down stop and some calories helped me feel a little better so I figured I'd head out on leg 4 to continue the fun. I asked my mom to pick up a Slurpee and have it waiting for me at T4, so I'd have a little motivation to get there. Best idea I've ever had.
Getting revived after leg 3 -Photo: Brydon Hnatiuk
Leg 4 is a bit of a blur, and all I was focused on was finishing as fast as possible so that Slurpee wouldn't melt. It seemed like it would never end, with endless rolling hills that you could see off into the distance. A couple Km before the end, I ran into Mike Fitzpatrick, a runner from Canmore, and he was having a tough time and contemplating a DNF. I walked with him for a bit and told him to stick with it because the worst was over with. I carried on, and finally the trail turned towards the highway and dropped down some switchbacks into the aid station. I don't think I've ever been that relieved to see an aid station in my life. I bombed down the hill, and then it was Slurpee time! At the aid station, I was surprised to see Dave Proctor, expecting him to be hours up the trail, but he had dropped after leg 2 with ankle problems. He offered some encouragement and told me I was looking great (highly doubtful), which I believed.
Stoked for Slurpees -Raven Eye Photography
The beginning of leg 5 was where I started to really entertain thoughts of dropping. Everything hurt, despite it being 7:00 at night, it was really hot, and I still had about 75km to go. Like leg 4, I ended up walking a lot and generally feeling pretty terrible, but figured I might as well keep moving forward while drinking my Slurpee. The Slurpee ran out when I got to the first section in the trees, but at that point I was feeling a little better because the trees offered a bit of shade and it was cooler as the sun dropped towards the horizon.
I bumped up the pace a bit, and ended up running the next few km with a relay runner. Chatting with her helped take my mind off things and made me run a few sections I wouldn't have otherwise. About halfway through, I slowed yet again, and was caught by Mike Fitzpatrick, who I'd seen on the previous leg. He had decided to keep going, was feeling way better, and urged me to run with him. Again the distraction of companionship helped me to tick of the miles and we ran the rest of that leg together.

Trying to pretend I'm not dying. Success? -Raven Eye Photography
Leaving the aid station to head out on leg 6, someone mentioned I was in 14th place. That was a big boost to morale, because I had given up racing and been switched into survival mode for the last 80km or so and figured I was way back from the leaders. Before the race I had secret aspirations of a top 10 finish, and suddenly in my mind that was still possible. The combination of the stop at the aid station, cooler temperatures and drinking a redbull, had helped me recover, and I started to feel pretty good.
I gradually picked up the pace feeling better and better with each passing km all the way to the summit. When the trail turned downhill, I turned it up again, and blasted the descent passing relay runner after relay runner. I got into a groove where I would see a headlamp ahead, then work to catch up to it as fast as possible. On the descent, I was surprised to pull up beside Philippe Lagace, a very strong runner coming of a 2nd place at Blackfoot, who I had done some running with in the past few weeks. He had blown his quads on the descent and was having a tough time putting one foot in front of the other. I walked with him briefly while offering some encouragement, then before I lost my groove, took off into the night. When I passed Philippe, I had successfully moved myself into the top 10, now to hold on to the finish line! In my brief stop at the last aid station before T6, the volunteers told me there were a couple of solo runners between 30 and 45 minutes ahead of me. I wasn't sure if I could make up that kind of ground, but I figured I'd give it a go since I was still feeling pretty good.

Finally feeling good! -Raven Eye Photography
This time through the transition area I was a completely different person than the last time. Full of energy, I stopped only to change headlamp batteries and grab some gels before taking off for the finish. I powered up the first big climb passing more runners, moving up into 6th place. On a steeper section of the descent I lost my footing and went for a 20m tumble down the mountain, but didn't hurt anything serious and kept running while laughing out loud at myself. I kept up a good pace until hitting the streets of Coleman knowing the finish line was close. Two blocks ahead, I could see someone but had no idea if it was a solo or relay runner. I figured I should try and catch them anyways just in case, and that turned out to be a smart choice. At the edge of the parking lot, I pulled up beside Mike Kirby, who I hadn't seen since he ran away from me on the descent on leg 2. We made eye contact, and with a hearty "lets go" we took off for the line. I turned it on right at the end to narrowly edge him at the line. Who would have thought that just 2.2 seconds would separate us after 100 miles of racing. I ended up with the 2nd fastest split of all the solos for the last 2 legs, beat only by the race winner Vincent Bouchard who absolutely killed it all day (even when it was hot and sissies like me slow down).
2.2 seconds over 100 miles - most epic finish ever? -Raven Eye Photography
Overall I was really happy with my performance in my first 100 miler. 160km is a long way to be alone in your own head, and especially with almost half of that not feeling good. I really feel like my ability to mentally push through almost anything has evolved this year, and has come a long way from my DNF in Fernie at my first ultra last year. If nothing else, I'm just happy that I finished the race and got a fantastic experience, but the 5th place finish was a great bonus
Now to work on that heat adaptation so I can run fast in the middle next year. Watch out Sinister 7, I'll be back.

Thanks to my Mom for coming down and crewing for me, thanks to Brydon, and the Hnatiuks for letting me camp at their place before and after the race, thanks to the inventor of the slurpee (couldn't have done it without you), and finally a huge thank you to everyone who I ran with during the race you guys are awesome!

No comments:

Post a comment