To start the race on Friday we had a forecasted high of 35 degrees and by noon an air quality index of 8 or 9 out of 10, which recommends staying indoors and no strenuous activity. Then Saturday had a high of 33, but my watch said my max temperature on this day was 38 degrees The course itself was incredibly dry consisting of dirt, sand, and clay. Maintaining traction almost never a challenge, except for a couple of very short steep descents.
The course consists of 3 laps of 54 km’s, where you do 6 legs that vary in length from 6.2kms to 16kms. You start at HQ and do a lap south that is 7kms, and come back to head quarters. Then you carry onto leg 2 to softball valley on a 8.4km leg, from there you continue North to Pavan on leg 3 that is 9.6km long. The next leg is leg that any runner who has ran the course dreads, it’s Leg Four affectionally known as the North Loop (or as I began to call it The soul sucking F***ing loop of death lol). Then you have two relatively easy legs back towards HQ, Leg 5 is 6.6km to softball valley and Leg 6 is 6.2kms with only one hill to climb.
My Race Day:
I got up at 6:00am in a bit of a daze, thinking, “what have I done.” This challenge seemed so much easier when I signed up for it about 7 months before, and yet the day of reckoning had come. I had gotten all of my gear ready to go on Tuesday, so the only thing I had to worry about was getting a proper breakfast, and thank god I had Alyssa on this day. I came downstairs, and a delicious egg sandwich was waiting for me.
8:30 did eventually come, no matter how many times I wished for a little more time. I got in the car and drove to the start; however, I was a little late getting there so I had to park further away than planned and missed the mandatory meeting (sorry Dean!).
9:00 rolled around and we were off on our first south loop. This is a short and easy loop with only a couple of decent climbs including a hill aptly named ‘First Hill’. Heading down Whoop Up, I noticed many runners flying past me, and momentarily thought to myself, “am I going too slow?” However, I quickly reminded myself that I needed to run my own race, which was slow and steady. I continued at the pace that had been put on the race plan.
Leg 2 and 3 were uneventful. I found a good pace and could easily maintain it while running into many runners that I had the pleasure of meeting last year. I was able to catch up a little with them. I did see many runners continue to blow by me at the paces that seemed like they would be difficult to maintain.
Once through Leg 2 and 3, I took a couple of minutes at the Pavan aid station to stock up for the 16km loop during the heat of the day from 1:00pm-4:00pm. A huge thank you to Ryan, who stocked my backpack with water and ice, and grabbed my first of many cups of ginger ale. I knew it was going to be tough, hot and long, so I decided to eat some perogies, bacon, and took a bag of salt and vinegar chips to go.
Off I went, munching on a freezie and a bag of chips. At this point, runners were continuing to pass me at a decent pace. I started the first climb of the North Loop with no troubles at all; my body was still feeling great. I continued for another hour before the ‘carnage’ began to appear. The course began to feel like a scene out of a horror movie set in the desert. There was a runner who was stumbling in the wrong direction — I checked to make sure he was ok, and said he was, so I carried on. On the first climb up the North Loop of the coulees, there was a runner on one knee vomiting. Shortly after that poor guy, I came across another runner who decided the top of the hill was a perfect place to nap. He was laying down with another runner sitting beside him. After checking up on them, and seeing if they needed any help or had called anyone, I again continued on my way. It did not take long to find another runner sitting on the course and not looking very well. I was surprised to see so many people already succumbing to the heat and smoke, but I had to continue my race. The North loop was finally coming to an end when I ran into Greg. I ran with Greg for close to 66kms last year, and was able to have a small conversation with him. He wasn’t feeling very well, so I wished him luck and ran into Pavan.
I was excited to finish the North Loop because I knew this was when Alyssa was going to be joining me on my 100 mile journey. There she was — what a sight for sore eyes! I came in and did not have to worry about anything. She had taken care of everything I needed and had a Tim Hortons Iced Coffee with espresso waiting — the first of many. Iced Coffee had never tasted as good as it did after running 42 kms in 35+ heat. After my first sock change and sitting and eating a little longer, Alyssa kicked my butt out of the aid station, and I was on my way to Softball Valley.
A couple of hours later, after conquering the locally named “Three Bitches” (three very difficult hills on the course), I came into Softball Valley, and Lori a teacher at my school was waiting. What a nice surprise that was! She was the first of many that I saw come out to support me, and it was always such a huge mental boost!
The Second Lap
I came into the second lap right on time. I ran it 9.5 hours, and came in right at 6:30pm. As I came in I also saw a bunch of friends waiting for me. What a lift of spirits this was. I was starting to get tired, and seeing all of them there really helped me re-focus. There was Karli, Adnen, Andrea, Eva, Ashely, and her daughter Avery-Grace, all waiting there to cheer me on… oh, and Alyssa also brought some chicken nuggets! Then I was off to the south loop. This is where things started to get lonely. The 100km runners only do the south loop once at the beginning of the day. At this point, there was already a high number of runners who had DNFed and quite a few of the runners left were ahead of me, so I ran this loop mostly on my own. As I finished, I noticed it was starting to get dark, so I grabbed my headlamp and was getting ready to settle into a full night of running.
Lap 2 is where I started to truly feel the affects of all the running. I was half way through at about 74kms, and was starting the climb up by Hwy 3, when I felt the back of my knee start to get a little tight. I now know this was my gastroc tendon; however, this pain would come and go and disappear while I was running, so I chose to ignore it, and was able to finish the leg in the intended time. I came into the end of this leg to see that Alyssa had a pair of socks ready for me, and I was able to address some of the blistering that was starting mangle my feet. I didn’t take long here because I knew I would need a longer break before the dreaded North Loop, so onward I marched. I made sure that Alyssa knew to bring me a Teen Burger (my favourite fuel) before I headed out for the North Loop.
Once arriving at Pavan Park, I gave a quick thank you to God for Gravol, and took two of them. At this point I am pretty sure I was well over the medical recommended amount on the box…. Opps. I was so excited for the Teen Burger that Alyssa brought, but I couldn’t keep it down. This was one of the saddest moments for me on the course. Instead, I had to force down some perogies, look after my feet, and carry on.
Leg 4 in the dark was a lot better then in the heat of the day. It was much less daunting knowing that I wouldn’t be over heating. I was feeling ok, and my leg was not hurting too bad. I got through the first half of the North Loop pretty well and I was determined to catch up on some of the time I had lost. I got a text message halfway through the leg from my lovely wife that showed me this wonderful bed that she had made in the back of the car. I got pretty excited about the thought of a quick 20 min nap, but about half way through the North Loop, the back of my leg started to become incredibly inflamed. It hurt to straighten the leg, and running was no longer relieving this pain. I have had enough injuries to my tendons that I know that as long as it is a tendon injury I can push through without doing further damage (as long as it does not snap…). I would just prolong recovery. So I decided to just shut that pain out which worked for most of the leg. I finished the leg at about 2:00am, and was excited to see Adnen and Corey waiting for me at the entrance, cheering me on, and listening to a few “what the F*ck am I doing out here”’s. I decided against a quick nap because I realized if I lied down I would not be able to get back up. I tried to eat some chips, drank some ginger ale, and ate a PB and J sandwich. Legs 5 and 6 were pretty uneventful, it was just a matter of marching and running on, continuing to ignore the pain.
At this point, I knew I was going to be in pain. I had never run this far before; however, at the start of the South Loop was my first pacer for the day, Jamie. It was such a boost to see Jamie there. I had not seen him in a very long time, and he came all the way down from Edmonton to pace me for the next three legs. Jamie distracted me from some of the pain on the South loop. We had some very good discussions about Fantasy Hockey, Fantasy Football, teaching, and relationship goals. He made the 7kms of the South loop fly by. Suddenly, we were back at HQ, never having to look back at the South Loop again.
As I came through HQ, the 50KM runners were about 30 mins from their starting time, and a bunch of my local running friends were waiting to start. It was an awesome feeling and I received my loudest cheer of the whole race. Jamie and I continued on our way, moving at what I believed to be lightning pace, until I was reminded by Jamie that he could “continue this pace forever”… I guess I wasn’t going as fast as I thought.
As we arrived at the end of Leg 2, I was starting to watch the clock and was getting very worried about being able to finish. I was 120kms in and I was still running the downs, and some of the flats. However, this point would be the last of my ability to run. Near the very end of the leg, I ran into Deb Firth. I have only had the fortune of meeting Deb a couple of times. However, she gave me an incredibly motivational speech that kick started my desire to finish.
I came into the end of leg 3 ready to crush leg 4 (at a very slow pace). I came in and Alyssa wanted to change my socks. I declined. I had decided that feet already looked and felt like they had been dragged across a cheese grater, so nothing was going to help. This is also when Jamie switched off with my other pacer, Steve. Steve came all the way from Red Deer to pace me. It was nice to see Steve, and I was ready to go. I grabbed a freezie, a bunch of ice, and a baggie of salt and vinegar chips and started the death march to the finish.
I started the leg by getting up the first hill alright, but the back of my legs were throbbing at this point, and no longer ignorable. I started walking at a very slow pace – comparable to the pace that my three old niece walks when she does not want to do something. I was starting to believe that it was not looking pretty, and this point is when I said to Steve, “I am going to quit.” He said to me, “what the hell are you thinking? You are incredibly stubborn, and if you quit now, you will just have to come back next year.” This worked for a little while, but the North loop has a 1km down hill stretch that is steep and rocky. This is when I broke — I mentally fell apart. I declared over and over and over that I was done, and I need to be picked up. I had decided to quit. This is very much not like me. I even decided to do what so many others did earlier in the race — sit down. I had momentarily decided I was happy with 130kms. I texted Alyssa and let her know that I was ready to quit. She reminded me that I had until 6:00pm to finish (I had it in my head that I only had until 5:00pm). She also texted a bunch of friends telling them to start sending encouraging messages. This is what really worked, and I got super upset at myself for even thinking about quitting. I started a profanity laced tirade never heard before about how F*cking stupid I was for wanting to quit.
I continued on ignoring my knee and started to power hike much faster. This is when I discovered that I had dropped all of my salt tablets and it was getting hot. Bob Peacock selflessly offered me all the extra he had, and I was able to continue taking the salt. I was able to get through the coulee section very sore, but still going. I knew that there were only three down hills left. I am to death march through the last of the leg and come into Pavan feeling like complete and utter shit.
Alyssa came out to meet me about 500m from the aid station, and I almost broke down into blubbering tears. I said to her, “I almost quit” and this was enough to almost set off the water works; however, I quickly composed myself, and marched on to the end of leg 4. I came in with zero desire to stop. I actually sent Steve ahead with my pack to get it filled up, so I could grab it and run. I only stopped briefly to get ice, ginger ale, and eat some chocolate. Then I started the lap. The 3 bitches awaited me for the last time. I got to the start of the 1st and to my surprise I climbed it faster than some of the 50km runners behind me. I got to the top, but they quickly passed me as I limped down the hill. I got through the next 6kms only because I kept picturing the end in my head.
I finally got to end of the leg and know that the next leg is only 6kms flat, and easy. I had left myself 2 hours and 30 mins to finish the race and I knew I could finish. I took only two minutes at Softball Valley to ice up, and eat a freezie. Then my wonderfully supportive wife paced me to the finish. I got through the first 3kms and ran into the beer angel, who gave me a very delicious celebratory shot of beer. I continued to push on through the last 3kms, with the only thing sustaining me was the thought of finishing. I was passed for the very last time by another 100 miler. I wished him well and started the final climb to the finish. I finally made it to the top of Haybail Hill and I could see the finish line. I started a very ‘fast’ march to the finish, and I see a snake. Turns out it was the stupid rubber one that other people have been posting about, and others will be happy to know I vanquished that snake with a swift kick. I climbed up to finish and was able to finally stop, feeling incredibly accomplished. As I come across the line Andrea passed me a post race beer, and I am able to enjoy it with all of the McQuaids, Karli, Alyssa, and all my other friends who were at the end. What a feeling, to run 100 miles. I did it, in 31 hours and 57 minutes, on my very first attempt