2018 was to be a comeback year after suffering a few injuries in 2017 that forced me to take more time off running than I wanted (really anything more than a few days is more than I want…) I was also determined to learn from 2017. I was going to be stronger, and more importantly, smarter. This meant, taking days off or cross training more when I had a niggle. It also meant a focus on Strength work.
Fast forward to August. I’d run the Powderface marathon and Squamish 50k as my two longest runs of the year. In 2018 I’d had a grand total of 3 weeks with an 80k week (and that’s only if you count a 78k week as 80k #rounding). I was training smarter, but unfortunately, what my body needed was to also train less. I couldn’t help but look back on my 2016 training logs, and see weeks at over 115 kms, back to back runs of 60k and 20k, and 42k and 30k. To suggest that I felt under-prepared to run a 100k race is an understatement. Regardless, I felt strong, and *mostly* healthy. I kept reminding myself that the reason I signed up for LSU 100k in 2016 was to attempt something that I might fail at.
A year ago, my friend Dave had announced his intention to run across Canada, raise money for Rare Diseases, and break the transcontinental speed record. Dave is famous in our community for setting huge goals, ones that we all hope he succeeds at, but that there is always a good chance he may fail at. I feel like there are not many people today who willingly start a challenge that we are likely to fail at. We as humans live very comfortable lives, we are used to success, it makes us feel good. I succeeded in finishing the 100k in 2016, but with my lack of training this year, I certainly thought there was a chance of failure. I knew there was value in attempting something that I could fail at. About a week before the 2018 race we received an email letting us know that it wasn’t too late to drop down to the 50k. I knew I could finish a 50k, I’d just done it at Squamish. I decided that I didn’t want to take the easy way out, and stuck to my plan to run the 100k no matter the results.
As the days passed and Friday loomed, I was nervous and grouchy about the race. I didn’t want to talk about it. There was a live tracking link, I didn’t share it with anyone. My right foot had been a bit sore since Squamish, and I’d been babying it since. I’d run a bit, and it hadn’t gotten worse, but it also didn’t feel 100%. I did a shake out run on Weds, and it was still sore. There was nothing to do but wait and see.
Lori and I drove down to Lethbridge on Thursday afternoon, we had dinner with friends, checked into our hotel, and I got organized. It was weird, as soon as we got to town I wasn’t really nervous anymore, whatever was about to happen was out of my hands, I’d made peace with that. All I could do was execute as best as I knew how.
The 100k and 100M races both start Friday morning at 9am. It gave lots of time in the morning to eat and get organized. I decided to KT tape my right foot and arch where it had been sore the last few weeks, and hope for the best. The first leg is a 7k loop that brings you back around past the start/finish line before heading out on the main part of the course. I made a last minute call to leave my pack with friends at the Start and run the first leg with nothing, might as well save my energy.
Leg 1 – 7.0 km, 50 mins
I started with my friend Heather right in the mid pack. I wanted to take things really easy and just get into a groove. My heartrate seemed high from the start, but I ignored it, and kept my effort even and easy. There isn’t much to say, I rolled back through HQ after about 50 minutes, a minute behind Heather, and grabbed my pack.
Leg 2 – 8.4 km, 1:03
The downside to not having my pack for the first leg was that I had not been able to fuel or hydrate for the first 50 minutes. I immediately started to drink some Skratch and ate an apple sauce packet, trying to make up for the lack of fuel. My plan was to run things really easy for the first 50k, I wanted to have legs left for the second half (assuming I had the endurance to keep running after 50k?). I kept to this plan, and felt zero guilt for hiking any inclines. The single track was busy anyway and it would be wasted energy to try to pass people. I rolled into the aid station at Softball Valley, needing a restroom as my stomach was still having some morning gurgles. After my pitstop, I grabbed some cheesies and chocolate bars and headed back out, determined to not waste time in the aid stations.
Leg 3 – 9.6 km, 1:26
Leg 3 is the first of the “real” hills. We start to see some steep coulees and meander back and forth through them, climbing steeply up and then just as steeply descending. It is also where the temperature started to rise. The forecast high was 31°C (88°F), but anyone who’s run in the coulees of Lethbridge knows that the actual highs in the coulees can get much higher than the official ones. It was going to be a scorcher! I stuck to my plan, drinking Skratch like it was my job, and keeping my efforts easy. I came into Pavan, where Lori was helping Leo volunteer, and would be waiting to crew me. I handed my pack over, asking for a refill on my bladder (2L of water with 4 scoops Skratch). In the bathroom, Kara (RD for an awesome race in BC), gave me a sweet sink sponge bath, rinsing me, and getting my arm sleeves nice and wet. Before I left I also had the sleeves filled with ice to help keep my core cool. I found out here that Heather was now somewhere behind me, this surprised me, Heather is a much stronger runner than I am! I grabbed two grilled cheese (and Doritos) sandwiches and headed out on to the North Loop.
Leg 4 – 16.4 km, 2:28
Leg 4 is the most daunting of the legs. It’s a big loop that goes through private lands. It starts with a big climb up the coulees, of which I climbed at ate my sandwich. This single track spits you out onto a double track gravel road that seems to go on and on. I told myself that this was going to be a 3 hr loop, it was now officially HOT, and I had absolutely nothing to prove. Knowing I had friends behind me took the pressure off, I felt like I was pacing things well, so I gave no fucks about hiking where I wanted to hike, and running when I could. It was about mid leg that a good friend Julia, who was running the 100M, caught up to me. We joined forces for the rest of the leg, and the time flew by. We continued to hike the hills, and run the downhills. I refilled my bladder with water at the second unmanned aid station on Leg 4, and we made our way back to Pavan where Lori was waiting. She tried to scold me for not drinking enough Skratch, but I told her I’d emptied and refilled it just a few km’s ago. She added another 4 scoops of Skratch, I ate some bacon and chips, though eating was starting to feel difficult in the heat. I had my sleeves filled with ice again, grabbed my poles and headed out onto Leg 5.
Leg 5 – 6.6 km, 1:07
Leg 5 seems unassuming because it’s nice and short, but it contains the “3 Bitches”, 3 really difficult climbs one after another, that each have an equally steep hill back down after you go up. They are lung stoppers for sure! Just as I headed up towards them, I caught up to Julia again, we spent the rest of the leg running, hiking and chatting. It was a treat to have company. When we reached Softball Valley again, I got more ice in my sleeves and made a quick transition. Tony was at Softball Valley, waiting for Heather, I asked where the drop bags were, and came to the realization that, shit, they were at Pavan, not SV. I didn’t really need any supplies from my drop bag, the aid stations had plenty, but I was worried I’d need my headlamp before I got back to Pavan. I texted Lori to see if she could get it to SV before I returned again.
Leg 6 – 6.2 km, 0:58
As I left Softball, I passed my friend Tara, she was hiking, the heat was getting to her as it was many people. I’d seen Heather’s crew Tony at every Aid Station, and had been staying just ahead of her. I was flabbergasted that I was still feeling so strong, and that the heat hadn’t knocked me down like it was many other people. I am generally pretty resilient to the heat, but I was expecting my extremely low training volume to be catching up with me. All the same, I pushed on, no point in worrying about a bonk that may or may not come. It was pretty close to the hottest part of the day at this point, it was nearing 5pm and I was looking forward to evening and the sun setting. The only real “hill” in this leg is the last one that takes you out of the river valley to HQ, and it’s a pretty mean hill! I still had my poles out and they were very appreciated here. I hiked the hill, turning around halfway up, and hearing Julia yell at me from the base. She’d caught up to me again! Unfortunately we’d have to part ways again after HQ as the 100M racers repeat the first leg, and the 100k runners skip it. Once I made it to HQ, my friend Kristina was there volunteering, her amazing 100k in 2015 was part of what inspired me to sign up for the race in 2016, it was awesome to see a familiar face. I got more ice in my sleeves, and refilled my bladder with the on-course electrolyte drink (GU), which I thought would be fine… GU is a pretty main stream brand, but… ugh.
Leg 7 – 8.4 km, 1:22
The second time through this leg was slower than the first due to the heat. I was still super happy with my pace and how strong I felt. I was not concerned at all with time or pace. I was doing my own thing and felt strong. Filling my bladder with the GU drink at HQ had been a definite mistake. It was disgusting. I drank as much as I could, trying to ignore the flavor. Lori had texted earlier saying that she’d dropped my drop bag at Softball Valley, so I’d have my headlamp, and it also luckily had a bag of Skratch. I drank what I could of the GU, along with some water from my bottle. My foot that I’d taped because it had been sore… had been a 100% non-issue. I’m not sure if it was the KT tape, if it had healed, if it had been in my head, or what, but it was totally fine. I had a few spots on my feet where I’d feel like I was getting a hot spot, but then before I got to the next AS, the spot had faded or moved on, so I ignored them. My left knee was a tiny bit tight, but it often was, and it also never really caused any pain or change in gait, so I ignored it also. I got to Softball Valley again, a volunteer immediately asked me if I needed anything, I told her that I needed to get rid of the disgusting GU in my bladder. She very kindly offered to take it and dump it and replace it with water. I took a pit-stop here, happy that I was able to pee and that things looked to be a nice hydrated shade of yellow. I was doing my job with the hydrating! I also saw Tony at the AS, waiting for Heather. I grabbed my headlamp from my bin, and threw my sunglasses and hat into the bin. The sun was finally going down! Tony offered to take the bin back to Pavan where it belonged, and I needed to get back onto the trail.
Leg 8 – 9.6 km, 1:38
I was eager to get to Pavan, and get started on the North Loop for the final time. I was also eager to get to Pavan before dark. I kept up my steady pace and moved as quickly as I could. I was starting to feel better, having the sun start to drop was a welcome treat. I was still trying to drink and make sure I went into the night hydrated. I was also feeling some twinges of hunger. I’d been eating apple sauce packages in between aid stations, and had a couple of sushi rolls (omg, they were surprisingly good!) at softball, and was hoping for some tasty real food to eat once I arrived at Pavan. When I arrived in Pavan, Lori asked right away what I wanted, and I said “sushi”, HA! We always mocked Rob for eating sushi on runs, so I’m sure she thought I had completely lost it. No luck though, they didn’t have any sushi, but they did have pizza or McDoubles… I went for the McDouble. I wanted something filling and real in my stomach. It was past dinner time and I was feeling empty from mainly drinking my calories all day. I had my bladder topped up with yet more Skratch, drank some Coke (because burgers and coke…), and they kicked me out of the AS. It was still light and it was a good idea to get as many km’s of the North Loop done before dark set in.
Leg 9 – 16.4 km, 2:27
I left the AS with a mouth full of burger, eating was hard, my mouth was dry. I almost lost the burger a minute or two out, but I held it together, and worked on washing it down with Skratch. My nose was also suddenly running, probably from all the dust of the day, and as I was walking down the road with a mouth full of burger, I did a quick farmer blow to clear my sinuses, exactly at the moment when someone drove down the road, stuck their head out of their vehicle and yelled “goooo Terry!!!”, lol good timing Jen! I started to do math on my second time around the north loop. Lori, Rob and I had finished the 100k 2 years ago in 15:38 (just before midnight that year). With the race starting an hour later this year, I hadn’t thought a midnight finish was within reach, but as I started to try to math as I moved, I wondered if it might be in reach. I had around 30k left to go, most of the hills of the second loop would be done by mid way through this leg, so I decided to start to try to move faster, when I felt strong. I jogged the flats and even slight undulations up, and kept pressing. The sun was setting, and at the bottom of a long run down a rocky double track, I stopped and got my headlamp out. The last time we’d waited as long as possible to get our lights out, and then had felt dumb for waiting so long, so this time I got it out early, might as well be able to see where I’m going. I passed a girl in this section, and kept moving well, I felt strong. Once I had been alone for a while, I decided I needed something to keep my mind off the night. This was the section that I was most nervous about running alone. It feels so far from civilization and the last time we were here we heard so many coyotes howling. I put my music on my phone speaker and blasted it. Everyone was going to hear me coming, and would hopefully clear the way. I didn’t see anyone else through the leg, and just kept pressing forward. When I reached Pavan again, I had Lori grab my last 2 apple sauce pouches from my pack and just kept moving. I had enough water to last the last 13k (NOT 15 LEO), and wanted to see how close to midnight I could get this done.
Leg 10 – 6.6 km, 1:03
I ran really strong out of Pavan. Wow I felt good. There was some flat trail and then one last time up and over the 3 Bitches. I took my time, using my poles. My legs were tired now. I was extra careful on the downhills, they were steep and the cliff-side next to them dropped right into the river below. I passed a few other people along this section, but otherwise the trails were really quiet. Once I reached the flat red rock path, I jogged it out again, trying to keep my legs running instead of hiking. I still had my sights on an unlikely midnight finish, and if midnight slipped from my grasp, I was hoping to PR on the course. I was highly suspicious of Leo’s 15km estimate from Pavan, and was hoping to save a km or two off that. I rolled into Softball Valley for the last time, and basically ran right through after timing saw my bib number. I didn’t need anything for the last 6.2k.
Leg 11 – 6.2 km, 0:56
I started the last leg, hopeful that I’d be able to run a lot of it. The distance of the day was suddenly catching up with me. There were no significant hills until the final one, but the undulating trail that kept turning this way and that and going over small rises felt like it soaked up every last ounce of strength. My abs seemed have taken the brunt of the pole work through the day, they were exhausted, my legs were fine to run, but it all just felt like so much effort. I started to count my steps, up to a dozen and repeat, seeing how many dozen steps I could run before taking a break and hiking again for a bit. It went like this until I hit the final pavement just below the finish. As soon as I hit the paved bike path, I knew it was close and I started running. Running on pavement seemed to much easier at this point. I ran to the base of the final hill, and slowly climbed up it. At the top of the hill there is a crushed gravel path for a 100 m’s and then one very short dirt hill to the finish, I jogged it in, climbed up and I was done!
15:18, a 21 minute course PR.
I’m really proud of my day. I think I executed everything really well. It was hot, I’m extremely lucky that I do well in the heat, I never felt any nausea, I felt hot, but when I did, I slowed my pace or hiked for a bit. The ice from the aid stations helped a ton with the heat. I’m also a bit flabbergasted at how good my body felt, and how my legs held up. I joked to myself before the race, that this was going to be a head to head contest between my 2016 over-trained self and my 2018 under-trained one. Under-training worked, hands down, on a more difficult day. I’m really hoping that this is a lesson I can take with me. Our bodies hold onto more fitness than we think, and pushing ourselves to get in all those extra runs, and training sessions are sometimes not worth it. I also think that my work in the gym strength training, and my time on the bike was also huge in my success. I was strong, all around, and it helped my body hold up to the demands of the day.
I was really sad to be towing the line for this one solo, over the years Lori and I have done so many races together, and I go back and forth on whether I want a social race, or want to push myself and go into my head on my own effort. Not having her next to me definitely contributed to my fear as to how the race would play out, having a friend next to you makes an effort like this less overwhelming. I’m sure it was good for me to be forced out of my comfort zone and do it on my own. Having her out there on race day supporting and helping me was invaluable. It was amazing having her waiting at Pavan, ready to get me or help me in any way necessary.
Skratch – 10-12 Liters with 4 scoops per 2 liters.
Candy – One mini coffee crisp bar
Apple Sauce pouches – 5-6 I think
Cheetos – a handful
Chips – a handful
McDouble – 2/3rds of one.
Coke – 2 glass fulls
Sushi – 2 rolls
Grilled cheese w/ Cool Ranch Doritos, two halves