On Saturday, I raced the Laura Secord Memorial 100K, which follows the rugged Bruce Trail route in the Niagara Region. According to the race description, the course was supposed to be a mix of single track, double track and a bit of road. Instead, due to the heavy winter and recent rains, it was a mix of mud, ice and a bit of road.
Given that I haven’t completed a run farther than 39K or longer than 3 hours since the beginning of November, I knew I wasn’t heading into this event in race shape (or at least with any semblance of ultra endurance). Last year I trained hard all through the winter. By the time June arrived, I was burnt out and felt flat for my summer and fall races. This year I decided to take November and December off from any structured training and slowly get back into a routine in January and February. Although I’m not very fit right now, I feel relaxed and motivated and keen to keep building my speed and endurance over the next few months. Although I won’t be too sharp this spring, I should enjoy my summer and fall races more (and feel more energetic) than I did last year. I’ve come to realize that as a 40-year-old runner who works long hours and has two young children, I can’t keep pounding out 12-16 running weeks all year round. I need to take a few months where it’s OK to get out there for 6-10 hours a week and just run for the fun of it.
As the event was a joint venture with the Canadian military, we were treated to a cannon blast to start the race at 5 a.m. I settled into an easy pace with Kent Keeler as we ran together for the first 40K or so of the race. I’m not sure if it was my lack of fitness or the extra weight of the thick mud sticking to my shoes, but I started to experience cramping in both my quads. This is something that always seems to happen to me in my first race of the season. Knowing that I had 60K left to go, I started to take frequent walking breaks to let my quads settle down. I hadn’t planned to be competitive in this race anyway, so I knew I needed to focus on getting to the finish. Kent went on ahead (and managed to win) and I just settled into a consistent but manageable pace.
With the heavy mud and icy terrain, some of the descents were quite sketchy. Although I wasn’t pushing the pace, I managed to have a few nasty falls (and have the scratches to prove it). I took extra care as I just wanted to finish the race injury free. And after diving face first into a muddy bog, I stopped worrying about moving too quickly in the really muddy sections. I was tasting dirt for hours after that.
At any rate, I managed to finish third overall, so that’s a decent result given my recent training. If the race conditions had been better and I was in race mode, I would have been concerned about the following:
- Aid stations. I took a long time transitioning through. I didn’t have a crew, so I needed to take care of myself. With the military operating the aid stations, they didn’t have much experience catering to runners. As a lead runner, I had to wait while they looked for a jug of water to fill my pack or while they opened a bottle of ginger ale or coke or even to shout at them to come out of the tent and record my number. I’m sure it got easy for the runners behind me and I noticed a difference on my way back. That time adds up.
- Course markings. Much of the route used the white Bruce Trail markings on trees instead of flagging. I should have run some of the course in advance as I spent a lot of time standing around trying to figure out where to go next.
- Endurance. It was no surprise to me that I wasn’t in ultra shape. This is easily remedied, so nothing serious to worry about here.
Despite the course conditions, the race route was beautiful. Big thanks to Diane Cheslea for organizing the event. We were treated to a number of stunning waterfalls and some majestic soaring eagles on one escarpment. I had to stop a few times just to admire the scenery. I hope to get back on the Bruce and explore some of the trails when the ground dries up a bit more.
Salomon S-LAB Exo Zip Tee
Salomon Fast Wing Vest
Salomon Fast Wing Jacket
Salomon Trail Short
Salomon EXO Calf Sleeves
Salomon SpeedCross 3
Salomon S-LAB gloves and Buff
Julbo Trail sunglasses
Suunto Ambit2 watch