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Clay Williams Ultra Runner

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NEWSLETTER # 1

Posted by Clay Williams on July 31, 2013 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (0)

It’s a little over a week to race day!

I thought I’d send out a quick note to say: “Thanks for the support!” and to update you on the training and fundraising. If you have already made a donation, then “Thank You!” If not, there is still time, I encourage you to seriously consider making a contribution.

THE CHARITY

Water for People has a vision: “We believe everyone should expect to have safe water every day. And we want to help them in reaching that goal, for every family, every clinic and every school in the regions and districts where we work.”

THE EVENT

The event is a 48 hour trail race to be held just outside of Mansfield, Ontario on August 9th, 10th, and 11th. The race is not a charity event, but I will be dedicating my effort to raising funds and awareness for Water for People. I plan to run approximately 240km during the event, running straight through both nights. This year’s team consists of me, my son Carter, and Christine as a pace runner.

THE TRAINING

Training consisted of a weekly running schedule which started in February, and I'm pretty much done. I'm in the final stretch before the race, just tapering down my weekly mileage in preparation for race day.

THE FINANCES

My target for this fundraiser is $1,000.00. A few hundred dollars has already been donated, THANKS!

SPONSORS

Please take a serious look at this company with heart:

===Tranquil Therapeutic Solutions ===

Offering post-race massage on a summer Sunday afternoon....

Revelations during my recent race

Posted by Clay Williams on May 27, 2013 at 6:50 AM Comments comments (0)

This past weekend, I wanted to run a 50k race, but the 50k distance at the event was sold out, so I registered for 100 miles. I thought: “Maybe I’ll run 100k, see how I feel after 100 k, and maybe continue on.” Yeah, like I would be feeling ok after running 100k. I ended up leaving the race after 80 km, still with plenty of energy, I just wanted to be able to pack up my tent in daylight before everything was covered with dew. I’m not disappointed at all about running only 80 km, I think it was prudent to stop so that I can continue to train for the 48 hour race I’ll be running in August. But during the 11 hours that I was running I had a few revelations.

During my last two races, my lower back has given me some trouble, my stomach has been upset and not working properly, and my quads and shin muscles (what are those called?) are noticeably weak. It became really clear to me, during the eleven hours that I was running in this last race, that I’m in dire need of two things. I need more strength training for legs, core, and lower back. And I need to lose 20 lbs, fast. The stomach issues are potentially a combination of two things. Most of my excess weight is in my belly, so running makes it bounce around, probably causing irritation. Also, when my lower back gets sore, the muscles in the area tense up and eventually get numb, and I think that might be affecting my plumbing as well.

So this morning I’m reworking my training plan. The apartment that we moved into in February has a gym in the basement with a few universal-type machines, but I’ve kept my old gym membership and will start back there tomorrow. There’s just more of a feel of commitment when I’m not the only one working out in the morning. I’ll be working on the old routine that prepared me for last year’s 48 hour race, amped up to work in a shorter timeline.

I don’t have many hills in town for hill training, so I’ve got an old tire that I can use to drag around the high school track next to our apartment, to simulate hill running, and strengthen my core. Once a week should do it.

And I must, I WILL get my diet under control. Running is a really good appetite stimulant, and the temptation to pre-fuel with carbs and recover excessively is very strong. I’ll have to really avoid the big dinner, make lunch my bigger meal, snack wisely, and just run a lot. And walk the dog, and ride my bike.

Work has been pretty stressful and “all consuming” for the past few months, and I think I can start to put more focus on “the big run” for a few weeks. This is really really important to me.

So that’s it, then. Back to my old gym, drag the tire, run more, eat less. Pretty simple! If I was able to run 43 marathons in 2011 when I sold two houses, moved to an apartment, changed jobs, and ran a 100 mile race, then this should be a cake walk!

New Year, New training Philosophy

Posted by Clay Williams on January 3, 2013 at 8:25 AM Comments comments (0)

There's an Arnold Schwartzenegger quote that really inspires me to keep running when I'm tempted to walk near the end of my long training runs: "The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens. " And the more I think about it, the more sense it makes.

When I had a personal trainer last winter, helping me with leg strength training, I would run a mile to warm up, then he would have me doing a couple sets of 100 leg presses or leg extensions. And he would say something like: "gotta love pre-exhaustion" as I cringed from the lactic acid burn during the last few reps.

I know it has taken far too long, but I finally put it together: if I'm doing a set of 100 reps, the last 5 are the most important. If I'm on a 15 or 20 mile run, the last mile is the most important. All of the miles and reps prior to the last little bit are just warm ups, just being done to pre-exhaust me so that I am REALLY challenged to do the last little bit. The last few reps or the last couple of miles is the time when I normally start to think: "well, I've already done 95% of my workout, and I can stop now expecting 95% of the planned result." But it doesn't quite work that way. Most of the gain (strength, endurance) is the result of the last few gut wrenching reps, or the last couple rubber-legged running miles. The gains come from the time when we decide that we want the end result more than we want a brief relief from the pain of the run.

So I've got a new attitude when I'm training: I won't slow down and walk near the end of my long run. I won't walk up the hill when I'm feeling winded. I won't rush through the last few squats or presses when my legs are burning. I've got a very ambitious goal this year that is going to challenge me more than ever, so I've got to work harder and smarter than ever, and I think this is going to help. 2013 is going to be a great year, and I'm ready to work hard to make it so. What do YOU think about pushing a little harder for those last few reps or yards? Is it worth the effort?

I may have found "MY THING"

Posted by Clay Williams on December 12, 2012 at 10:05 AM Comments comments (0)

So, here I am, an “ultra runner” at 52 years old. I did a little track and field in elementary school and high school, but only at occasional track meets, not a real regular basis. I was a smoker and didn’t really have a desire to be competitive. I remember that I ran a few cross country races when I was in grade 10, and came in dead last each time. It didn’t encourage me much, but it didn’t discourage me either, I just didn’t really care very much. I did a little “fitness stuff” when I was in university, mostly because it was trendy; squash, hand ball, some “jogging”, I certainly wasn’t competitive.

Then as I joined the working world I played golf fairly regularly for a few years. I tried to improve my game, but never took it seriously enough to be good at it, and again didn’t have a competitive spirit.

Then as the years started piling up, and as I was putting on a little weight around my midsection, I thought I needed something to help me get “back in shape” (like I had ever really been IN shape). At first I started inline skating, then running with a friend. After running my first 5k race, I found that I really enjoyed the whole process of setting a target, working towards that target by educating myself and training, then “competing” against my own expectations and past performances. At times I thought it would be pretty cool to be one of those guys on the podium, but was realistic enough to know that the guys who started running when they were in their teens were going to be the podium guys.

As my race distances increased, up to marathon distance, then on to 50 km, 92 km, 162 km and farther, I could see that the things that were important for a 5 km race were not at all important for a 200 km race. Running at maximum heart rate won’t get you far in a long race. (And that’s a good thing considering the HR max at my age). Super lightweight clothing has been replaced by protective and warm clothing for running through the cold night or in the blazing sun. Stretching and warm-up before a fast 5 km race has been replaced by using as little energy as possible before the starting gun, and warming up in the first 5 km of the race. In 2011 when I ran a ton of marathons, I learned a lot about recovery, how far I can push before I break, and ways to stay motivated when everything is telling me to take a break. I’ve learned the strategies that I need in order to stay awake for a long, long time, to manage the pain, and to keep moving forward, even if it is very slowly. And I’ve learned that I can maintain a moderate level of exertion for a very, very long time.

So, maybe that’s my “thing”. Multi-day endurance runs. Not just 100 miles or 24 hours, but more than that, farther, longer, SLOWER. It’s the thing that I think I can be competitive with. It’s the thing that my body and my lifestyle have allowed me to do better than most people. The winner in my first 48 hour race ran 32 km more than me, and the second place finish was only 2 km further than my distance.

So I’ve set my sights on a podium finish in next year’s Dirty Girls 48 Hour Trail Run. Wouldn’t it be cool if I could finish in the top 3? And what a cool way to be in the top 3: In a sport where I won’t have to defeat anybody to win. A sport where all of the runners, even the podium contenders, are reaching for their own personal goals, and when they don’t finish first they know it was because someone had worked harder or avoided injury longer on that day to reach their own goals, not to defeat anyone. A sport where there is camaraderie between the fastest and the slowest runners, there’s no trash talk, only encouragement.

It has taken me almost 9 years to find this out. And it has been after years of following a compelling need to run farther. Have you found YOUR “thing”? I believe we were each put here to do something important, and that we were given the gifts and talents we need in order to do that work. What are you pretty good at? Maybe that’s the thing that you can be EXCELLENT at…

Beyond the finish line

Posted by Clay Williams on October 16, 2012 at 8:15 AM Comments comments (0)

I attended the Ontario Ultra Series awards ceremony on Saturday. It was a very informal event, but also very meaningful because of the awards that were given out. Best performances overall in the twelve race series, and in various age categories, for the men and the women, as well as some special recognition for us “Trail Warriors”, some of us who never had a podium finish, but battled through at least 8 ultra marathons in the season. I had the opportunity to chat with some of the guys that I’ve come to know over the running season, guys and gals who DO have podium finishes but still have the same struggles and joys (and injuries) as us “back of the pack” guys. It was a great time for me to reflect on the running season I had had, and to think about what’s ahead of me.

I started out this year VERY focused on preparing for the Dirty Girls 48 hour trail run. I had laid out a training plan that consisted of the usual crazy long running, including running a lot of the Ontario Ultra Series trail races as training. The training plan also consisted of a TON of strength training, with a personal trainer that I think I can now safely call my friend. (By the way, he ran his first half marathon on October 14th.) As my training progressed in January and February, I set some pretty lofty goals, so that I could stay motivated with the training. Honestly, I think it takes some pretty huge vision and expectations in order to stay motivated when you’re tired, cold, sore, and feeling alone in your struggle. I wanted to run at least 200 km at the 48 hour race, I wanted to run at least 8 ultra marathons in the season so that I could get the Norm Patenaud award, I wanted to run well enough to place in the top ten in points standings in my age group (50 to Old Codger), and I really wanted to beat Hans. (If you don’t know who Hans is, we’ll have to talk.)

In February, after some investigation into my chronic back pain, we found out that I have osteoarthritis in my lower back, hands, and feet. It’s something that’s not going away, and it took a LOT of prayer and contemplation before I was able to convince myself that it was just an inconvenience, and that there was a way I could still run the distances I wanted to. There was a really dark time for a while, and then a renewed determination that I could still reach my goals. So, although my training was set back by three or four weeks, I forged on, found new solace in ibuprofen, and was able to not only meet my goals, but make a couple of new ones and meet those.

I connected the 48 hour run with a fundraiser for a charity that my company supports, and set an initial $2,000 fundraising goal. When company representatives found out about it, they got behind me whole heartedly, paid some of my expenses for the race, and helped me raise $3600, much more than I had expected at the start. (by the way, props again to Christine, Tim, Bob, and Carter for all of the help on race weekend, I couldn't have done it without you guys, seriously). I also planned to do something together with my wife after the 48 hour run, and in mid September we started taking ballroom dancing lessons together, something we had been thinking about for a couple of decades.

As I said earlier, the Ontario Ultra series awards were a great opportunity for me to reflect on my goals and achievements for the running season, and to think about what lies ahead. I reached all of my running goals for the season, plus running a personal best 50 km race and eventually placing 6th in my age group in season points and taking home a very cool Norm Patenaud award (Norm was a race director and ultra runner who was killed a few years ago while cycling), I was one of 14 people to receive the award. And I had the opportunity to speak with Hans, to let him know how he had inspired me to keep running, and that I eventually had to run 201 km in a race to get ahead of him in the points standings.

As I look to the future, I’m not quite sure what it holds for me, but I know that I have to set some goals in order to keep myself fit and active. My wife is not likely to be interested in a competitive level of ballroom dancing, so that’s probably off the list. I can still run, and really enjoyed feeling the achievement of running 200 km in a race, but I know how much work that will take, especially with the lower back thing added to the mix, so I’m not sure I want to commit yet. And I really feel that I should be doing some sort of fundraiser, as I’ve done each year since 2005. Mix that in with a VERY hectic job, and church leadership responsibilities, and I’m really not sure where to go. But one thing I am CERTAIN of: God didn’t intend for me to lead a life of mediocrity, I’m here to do something big, something important, and I’m keeping my own expectations high.

Stories from the trail

Posted by Clay Williams on September 11, 2012 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (0)

After participating in the Haliburton forest 100 mile trail run for four years in a row as a participant, this year’s participation was as a volunteer. I let Helen, the race director, know in the summer that I would be happy to help out, and was assigned to aid station 5. A.S.5 is located about 24 km from the start/finish for the runners, but only about 14 km by road. I arrived the afternoon before the race and pitched my tent right next to the aid station. My brand new Coleman Instant Tent was very easy to set up, and “guaranteed” waterproof. I should have read the fine print. The rain started around midnight, and by the time I got up on race day, there were already a few puddles in the tent. Rain continued until mid afternoon, took a short break, and then continued until late evening. Fortunately it didn’t rain during the night and we were able to dry the wrinkles out of our hands by the fire. The temperature went down to 4°C overnight, and then the sun came out in full force on Sunday morning.

I started out the day wearing flip flops because I knew that my shoes were going to get soaked in the rain. As the rain continued, my flip flops kept getting stuck to the surface of the mud that surrounded the aid station, and I heard more than one runner say: “Who lost a shoe?” I changed to my running shoes and tied them on securely.

Unofficially, I heard that 54 runners started the 100 mile race, and only 22 finished within the cut-off time of 30 hours. There were also 50 mile, 50 km, 26 km, and 13 km races on the same weekend, same course. My aid station saw the 26km runners once, the 50 km and 50 mile runners twice, and the 100 mile runners four times. Considering that it rained for the first 6 or seven hours of the race, causing a lot of mud and chafing and foot issues, I would characterize this race as a day of victories. Anyone who was able to commit and start the race on that day had already won a victory over their own doubts and concerns. There were so many personal stories that were unfolding that weekend that I don’t think I can remember even the small amount that I was part of, but here are a few of them, just in “bullet” form. I’ve deleted a few names, because I don’t really have permission to write about them, and I’m not sure if they want their names out there, and I’ll apologize in advance for only giving you a tiny glimpse into some very powerful situations.

- - I met Jack Judge when I ran a 92km race called Conquer the Canuck on 2007. Now in his early 70’s (I think), he ran steady for 53 miles, but realized he would be too slow to meet the cut-off. Everyone who knows him was hoping and helping to make this his year, but he recorded his 7th DNF in a row at this race. My hat comes off to Jack for his steadfast perseverance. How could you not respect a man who has pursued this 100 mile belt buckle with such focus?

- - I young lady, running around the same pace as Jack also ended her race around the 50 mile mark because she knew she wouldn’t make the 30 hour cut off. Being soaked by the rain had caused a lot of unexpected and unwelcome chafing. (I’m VERY familiar with this problem after last month’s race). She told me she would almost certainly be back next year to try again.

- - Ibrahim had finished this race in 2011 in about 29 hours, just ahead of his brother. He came into Aid Station 5 looking a little disoriented and moving a little slowly. We helped him remove his shoes and socks so he could shake out the rocks, and put them back on again. It seemed clear to me as he continued on to #4 that he would not make it to the finish line before the cut-off. Don from aid station # 2 joined him for the last 10km, and he finished his second 100 mile run about 3-1/2 hours past the cut-off. No belt buckle, but certainly a victory!

- - Another 100 mile runner walked into our aid station after 85 miles, saying that his ankles were very sore, but only when he put weight on them. He sat for a while, looking very defeated, and we successfully encouraged him to get up, get out of the aid station, and continue on. About 20 minutes later he returned, and let us know his race was over. I drove him back to the base, a very somber, quiet 20 minute drive.

- - Around mid day on Saturday, the 26km runners were arriving and turning around at our aid station. One 26 km runner near the lead ran into the aid station, looked at the two tables full of water, HEED, E-load, watermelon, chips, bananas, nuts, pop, and sandwiches and said in a kind of abrupt tone: “Where’s all your stuff?” Confused, one of the aid station guys simply said: “What do you want?”. He answered “Uh, I, uh,HEED.”, Answer: “It’s right here.”, Runner: “I’ll have water.”. He grabbed a cup of water, drank it, and ran out of the aid station, leaving us a little puzzled about what he had originally been looking for.

- - Another runner, a lady, finished her race at 15 miles, overcome by asthma, very angry about her situation.

- - Another lady runner had to leave the race at 35 miles, physically beat by the mud and rain and hills, and emotionally devastated that her race was over, the dream lost for this year. Her friend consoled her and gave her a shoulder to cry on before getting a ride back to base.

- - Quite a few of the people I saw during the race said something along the lines of: “Oh, it’s Clay, I didn’t recognize you without your running gear on!”

- - Very close to the time when we knew it was going to be really hard to beat the finish time cut off, Frank walked into our aid station. His friends and family were there to support him and keep him supplied at the aid stations, but he was moving pretty slowly and it was doubtful that he would be able make the last 25km in time. Oliver, one of the guys that was taking care of the aid station with me, put on his running gear, and PROMISED to get Frank across the finish line before the cut-off. I stood at the finish line and watched, almost in tears, as Frank and Oliver approached. Oliver stopped a couple hundred feet short of the line, and Frank sprinted across, 4 minutes before the cut-off.

- - Kinga came into the aid station after 85 miles, wearing headphones and listening to tunes. It must have been loud because I shouted a hello and she didn’t respond. As we were filling up her bottles she asked if we had seen the kangaroo mice, because she had seen some on the trail. Then she looked at a table that was under our tent and said: “Is that a mouse? Yeah, THERE”S ONE THERE!! Look! See it!” She sounded a little freaked out, so I looked and sure enough saw a little brown and white Feifel-like mouse standing licking away at something on the table. We both made frantic moves to shoo it away, and it casually walked off of the table. Kinga then asked me to mix her black coffee and chicken soup into the same cup, knocked it back, and ran out of the aid station.

- - The winning runner, Jonathan, lost his brother after a lengthy illness 3 days before the race. His brother had circled the event on his calendar, knowing how important it was to John. John dedicated the run to his brother, and not only finished the 100 miles, but won the race, more than an hour ahead of the second place runner.

- - Paul was unable to finish the 100 mile run in 2010, and then was unable to start in 2011 because he had to attend his father’s funeral. At the pre-race pasta dinner, he told us that he was dedicating his run this year to his father. Part way through the race, he took a wrong turn and missed a 10 km loop around MacDonald Lake, so had to run that missed loop near the end of his run. He came into our aid station after 85 miles, looking tired and sore, and very close to the cut-off time. With family and friends to support him, he finished with 15 minutes to spare, and celebrated at the finish line with a bottle of champagne.

- - A pair of runners came into our aid station after 65 miles, and told us that there was a runner coming after them who was moving really really slowly, and gave us his race bib number. We were more than a little anxious about his safety because it was already well after sunset, and the temperature was dropping. After about 90 minutes, we saw a light approaching slowly, and it was our missing runner. He came into the aid station, happy to see someone, and told us his race was over. We wrapped him in an emergency blanket and let him sit by the fire for a while to warm up, then one of the guys drove him back to the base.

- - Scott ran his 9th 100 miler of the year. He ran into our aid station with Catherine, got a couple fluid refills, and changed batteries in his head lamp and Catherine’s hand held light, but didn’t have enough batteries for Catherine’s head lamp. I had some spares, offered them to him, and when I saw that they were both struggling with dexterity in the cold, helped them make the battery change. I found out later Catherine’s scheduled pace runner didn’t join her for the run, so Scott ran the entire distance with her, walked the last 100 feet so she could cross the finish line alone. He said he felt that he may have been able to go a little faster but had committed to stay with her for the entire run.

- - Joe had run for 24 hours at Dirty Girls, four weeks earlier. I had a chance to talk with him during that race, and was very flattered that he had read my race report from last year’s 100 mile run, and was inspired to make the attempt himself. I saw him in my aid station after 15 miles and he looked great. The next time I saw him, he was sitting at the picnic table in our aid station, explaining that his race was over after 35 miles, he just had nothing left in his legs. I tried to encourage him, but he was certain he wouldn’t go on, and humbly apologized to me for leaving the race.

I really wish I could have spent more time with each of these guys. It takes a special sort of vision and energy to commit to this sort of endeavor, and it really is contagious. Every single one of the runners who set out that day to challenge their limits is a hero to me.

Dirty Girls 48 hour race report

Posted by Clay Williams on August 14, 2012 at 7:40 AM Comments comments (1)

This was a weekend that I will never forget, even though there are parts of it that are a little foggy because it was such a long, hard weekend. After months of preparation, the time finally arrived to put out the big effort. No more bravado: “this thing will be a piece of cake” and “I won’t settle for anything less than 240km”. Because I know that my arthritis pain is gradually getting worse, and affecting my running more with each passing month, I knew that this would be my only chance ever to run this race. With fear of the unknown, the constant self-induced fear of failure, and with no small amount of performance anxiety because of the huge fundraiser connected with the run, I finished packing all of the pre-race, race-day, and post-race gear, and headed north with my son (Carter) to the race site.

As we were heading north it started to rain, this was Thursday afternoon, and the forecast called for rain for most of the duration of the race. We got to the race site around 5:30, and set up our tent and unloaded the gear in the rain. I walked over to the registration building and talked to the race director (Diane) a little about the course (sandy soil that drained well, very little mud) and gave her my race plan so that her crew would know approximately where I am most of the time. The last thing she needed was for a runner to mysteriously disappear in the woods.

Carter and I had some dinner, mine was three portions of cheese tortellini and a pint of Guinness. We had no way to heat anything so I had the tortellini cold, I should have taken the unappetizing pre-race meal as a warning that I wouldn’t be getting much joy from eating over the weekend. My boss and pace runner (Bob) showed up a little later with his camper, and we got his equipment set up and chatted for a while before heading to bed. I spent a few minutes readying my gear for the start in the morning, and ate my traditional chocolate bar before setting the alarm and hitting the pillow.

It continued to rain throughout the night. I remember after one half-asleep trip to the porta-potty, just after getting settled back into bed, a single big fat drop of water came from the top of the tent and nailed me on the side of the head. I just pulled the covers over my head and went to sleep.

My alarm went off at 6 am, and I was up, to the washroom, had a coffee and a bagel, a power drink, my morning multi-vitamin and glucosamine, and ibuprofen, and hung around near the starting line talking to the other runners after we were weighed in. Just as the rain started to get heavier, the race began, on time at 8am, and the first 8km lap was run in a torrential downpour. I wore my favorite running hat that has a really good wicking band at the front that ALWAYS soaks up sweat and lets it drip of the front of the cap. It was raining so hard the water was running past my hat and onto my face, fogging up my glasses, and just making it difficult to see. And without seeing well, I couldn’t run very fast over the roots and stumps that were everywhere. It rained fairly steadily for the entire first day, and I kept the same soaking wet clothes on for about 12 hours before changing into something a little warmer for the first night. Each lap took about 80 minutes, and it was nice to see that the start-finish line area looked different each time I came around, as other racers started to arrive for their Saturday morning races, and Tim and Christine arrived and set up their tent. At the end of each lap I would stop at our “event tent”, and Carter would replenish all of my supplies, let me know if I was not eating or drinking according to the plan, and tell me to get out and run, “Remember? It’s a race!” Because of being constantly wet, by the time I had been running for 12 hours, I was already chafing pretty badly in a few spots, and was resigned to just suffer through it. Christine joined me around 11pm, and ran with me until it got light out. She really helped me to stay focused during a time that I know (and she knows) is really hard for me. It was through that night shift that I started to have stomach trouble. I think it was the glucerna that I was drinking as a main energy source, and it was giving me terrible gas and bloating, making it, well, just difficult to run. (Christine; I’m really sorry for all the farting…) I stopped eating the glucerna, made a few trips to the toilet, and most of the bloating went away. I had to replace the glucerna with some substantial food, so I began to rely on the aid stations for solid foods, and there was quite a variety over the weekend.

I remember very clearly around the 7th or 8th lap that I was thinking about how much more difficult the course was than I had expected, and that sadly there will be no way that I can run 240 km, let alone 200 km or 160 km, but if I kept plugging away I should be able to get at least a finisher’s medallion of some sort. By the time I had run 24 hours, my glutes (yup my butt muscles) were getting sore, and I think I had run about 120 km. By that time, after having run for some time and endured a spectacular nighttime thunderstorm with Christine, I knew that I wouldn’t make 240km, but there was no way that I was going to stop before either the clock ran out or I reached 200 km.

I took a short 20 minute nap around 8am on Saturday, to get rid of some of the cobwebs that were building up in my head, had an official weigh-in (lost ½ pound) and waited a few minutes until the 24 hour and 6 hour racers started, then headed back out on the trail. The timing for the rest of this is not very clear to me, I was staying very focused on stepping and breathing and what was going on INSIDE of me, and not so aware of what was going on around me. I think I changed shoes and socks at that stop, after wearing my amazing Injinji toe socks for 24 hours. I think I also put on some dry shirts. But I know I kept running. I was walking up the hills and still running on the flats and downhills. I ran with Tim for a while, then Bob, and by late afternoon I had finished 100 miles and endured another deluge thunderstorm. By the time 36 hours were gone, I was getting really really tired. I was still running (much slower) on the downhills, and it was getting much more difficult to get enough breath on the uphills. But my quads and hamstrings were bullet proof, thanks in no small part to the training that Chris had been putting me through for the past 7 months. With 12 hours to go, I had to complete 4 more laps to win the big belt buckle. I found that having a short nap, 20 minutes or so, on every second lap made a huge difference in my muscle strength and my mental alertness. So with intermittent naps, and the knowledge that I had enough time to walk instead of running, I took it a little slower. I had occasional bursts of energy and picked up the pace when those came along, but otherwise spent most of my time just trying to keep up to my pace runners (oh, and Tim and Bob, I`m really sorry about all the farting). The hydration levels that I had put into my race plan were geared for a race on a warm day. Since it was cool, I wasn`t sweating so much, was drinking less than the plan, and still VERY WELL hydrated. Honestly I don`t remember ever peeing so much during a race.

Some time on Saturday evening, I learned that Christine had run into some poison ivy and had a really severe reaction on both legs, from her toes almost to her knees. She was treated by the race official first aid person, and when Kevin and Shannon came a little later, they brought some Benadryl for her (I`m so sorry that you had to go through that, it certainly wasn`t part of the plan). I also feel kind of bad that Shannon made these awesome marathon cookies, and I only ate two. I had been eating sweet things for more than 30 straight hours, and there just wasn`t very much at all that I could stomach anymore. By lap # 23, my calves started to tighten up and my lower back was already very sore. The soles of both feet were very sore (my right foot was duct taped earlier to fight of the early stages of a blister, unsuccessful). Early on lap # 24 I stumbled and pulled something in my left hip. And for most of lap # 25 the only way I could take a decent length of stride going uphill with my left leg was to grab the hem of my running shorts with my hand and pull my leg forward. So I was using my arm strength to lift up my leg for each step. It must have looked pretty pathetic.

But Bob and I finally rounded the corner to the home stretch around 4:15 Sunday morning. I had much earlier decided that 200 km would be the end of my race, and the hip pain just confirmed it. I grabbed my Canadian flag, and ran across the finish line with my great friends and supporters there. Dian gave me the 48 hour belt buckle that we had earned, and there were a few photos taken, I still couldn`t believe that the thing I had been so focused on for 8 months was finally in my hand. I had spent so much time visualizing it, that it just felt right, like I was meant to be standing there holding it.

We gathered around the event tent and posters with the Watermark logos and tee shirts for a few more photos, and I was still not mentally all there, it all just seemed so fantastic. I remember very distinctly at some point that Christine asked me; “So, was it worth it?” and I actually couldn’t answer, tears welled up in my eyes, and I knew I couldn’t speak without blubbering, and I was really relieved when someone else said something to divert the conversation.

What an amazing adventure this has been, and I got to share it with some great friends, my son, and a small group of uber hard core ultra runners. And to answer Christine’s question, it was absolutely worth it. The best of the long distance runners gathered for the longest race in the Canadian Ultra Series, 14 runners started the race, and only six of us took home a 200 km buckle. This team accomplished a huge huge thing when they got me to 200 km, it simply could not have happened if I had tried it on my own, and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Carter, Christine, Tim, Bob, Kevin, and Shannon.

Epilog:

During the race I consumed about 24 liters of Gatorade and heed, 45 energy gels, 6 bottles of glucerna, a bunch of various aid station food. I estimate that I burned about 25,000 calories and consumed around 11,000.

I had booked a massage on the afternoon following the race, one of the best decisions of my life; I have limited muscle pain. Most of the residual pain is knees, ankles, and toes, and most likely arthritis related.

I was starving hungry by the afternoon after the race, but could barely eat a small meal for dinner. I guess my stomach was still sensitive after the weekend’s torture.

The hip pain is almost completely gone, I have a few minor blisters that my wife has taken wonderful care of, I may lose one toenail, and I now smell like baby diaper crème after treating all of the places where I was chafing (eeeeewwwwww).

10 days to race day, still stoked!

Posted by Clay Williams on July 31, 2012 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Well, there’s no room for regrets or for changes to the plan. Seven months of training are done, 1600 km of running, 44 hours of heavy leg strength training, 7 ultra marathon races run, four pairs of shoes, a half dozen pairs of socks, and more energy gels and body glide than I can calculate. I had set some pretty high performance targets for my training, but wasn’t able to reach them all due to some overuse injuries, and the developing arthritis. However, I’m sure that I’m much stronger now than I was a year ago, and much better prepared for the grueling rough trails that I’ll be running on in a couple of weeks. And along the way, I’ve run a personal best 50km race, I’m 8th in series points in my age group, have run two consecutive weekend ultras for a special award, and should qualify for the Norm Patenaud award (8 ultra marathons in the season) by finishing my next race.

I’ve been doing an annual run for charity since 2006 when I ran the Great Wall Marathon in China, and each year the training is different and the amount of involvement of other people is different. This year has been the ultimate experience. My entire company is involved with the fundraiser, in a huge way. I’ll have a bunch of people helping me out on race day(s), and I’ve got a handful of local businesses as sponsors, supporting the effort. With so many people involved, it’s a little intimidating, but the pressure is on me in a huge way to give it all I’ve got. And I’ve learned from previous runs, that I’ve got much more than I think I’ve got. I’ve been at a mental and physical place where I was absolutely convinced that I could not go on, but with the unrelenting encouragement of friends (thanks Christine!!) was able to get up and not only walk but run 15 more miles on some brutally rough terrain.

So, all I have to do now is run for 48 hours. I’ve got my lineup of shoes picked out, I know what I’ll be wearing, eating, drinking, and spraying on. I’ve been visualizing the finish line for months, carrying the flag for the final lap. I’ve been trying to imagine what I will feel like as I run or walk or trudge through the second night. My personal trainer told me that his goal was for me to think, during the final two hours of my run, that it was less painful than doing a workout with him. I hope he’s right, and that his training has improved the strength in my quads and calves so that I don’t feel the kind of pain I felt during last year’s 100 miler.

I’ve got 10 days left of tapering. Easy shorter runs, keeping my calorie intake down because I won’t be burning as much, recovering from all the little micro injuries caused by over use, and building up much needed glycogen stores. And also getting a little jittery because I’ll be so full of energy, and nervous about somehow hurting my self just before race day, like twisting an ankle or hurting my back or something stupid. Maybe I should back down on the caffeine a little.

I’ve got a pretty light schedule this week, and a very hectic schedule starting on the weekend, and leading right into the race. The busy schedule should keep my mind occupied as I get closer to race day. My wife is actually VERY concerned about my safety during the run, something I don’t worry about too much. There is definitely the risk, a very remote risk, of death during an extreme event like this, but I have the feeling that I’ve got most of the risk factors accounted for in my race plan. Chiropractor visit two days before race day, massage therapy one day before the race, and shortly after finishing the race. Fluids, electrolytes, calories, protein, fats, pain killers, vitamins all precalculated for race day. I am so looking forward to getting that finisher’s belt buckle!!!

Limberlost Challenge Race Report

Posted by Clay Williams on July 16, 2012 at 1:10 PM Comments comments (0)

This was the toughest race since the 100 mile run in Haliburton Forest last September, in fact before the half way point I was seriously considering ways to gracefully bail out.

The race site was about a four hour drive from home, so I booked a hotel room about 30 minutes from the race (on air miles of course) and decided to ask my wife if she wanted to join me for the weekend. So around 4pm on a Friday afternoon, we headed north, away from the “city” (Toronto), just like 2 million other people. I expected the drive to take about 3-1/2 hours, but with all the stop and go traffic it took more like 4-1/2 hours before we were settled into the hotel. It was well outside my normal pre-race routine. Because we were late, I ate my “carb load” pasta in the car on the way. And because my routine was disturbed (had to take care of the dog in a hotel room) I didn’t do all of my regular preparation including properly hydrating. Also, my online order of electrolytes wasn’t shipped in time, so I was hoping there would be some at one of the aid stations.

So, we were up at 5am, at the race site by 6:30 am, and the race started at 8am. I got my race kit, which included a pound (yup a full pound) of Muskoka roasted coffee, and a pretty nice tech shirt. As I prepared myself and my gear for the run, I realized that my right shoe was missing the little piece of Velcro that holds the gater in place, so I was going to have a shoe full of dirt and sticks by the time the race was over.

It was already pretty warm by 8am, and although I was carrying a water bottle, it was empty by the time the starting gun went off, and I ran the first 5km without any water. At each aid station I got a full bottle (700ml) of HEED or water, but by the time I finished the first lap it was pretty obvious that I was moderately dehydrated. As the day wore on, it got warmer and warmer, and although we were running in the shade of the trees, I was overheating. So the dehydration and the overheating slowed down my system A LOT, and just seemed to make every little hill into a big hill. I was able to stop on each of the last two laps and soak myself down in a lake to cool off. It really helped, if only for a little while.

The course was a 14km loop, with about 1 km of country roads, and the remainder was single track forest trails. Most of the trails had been well travelled, so they were easy to follow without getting lost, but it was boreal forest with tons of rocks and roots and steep little uphills and downhills. My right knee was a little sore right from the start, I had it wrapped in a tensor bandage, but thankfully it did not get any worse during the run. My back was a little sore later in the race, but it was nothing severe. After the first 14km lap, I was getting pretty tired. During the second lap I almost bailed out but found some renewed energy and determination near the end of the lap. During the third and fourth laps, I did a lot of walking, and was determined to simply finish. I was motivated to go as fast as I thought it was safe to go, by my wife waiting patiently at the finish line, and the prospect that maybe Hans was behind me somewhere. And I was very motivated to get to the finish line within the cut-off time, so that I would qualify for the Ultra Challenge Challenge award (2 weekends, 2 ultras), as well as get ultra #7 done, so that my next race would qualify me for the Norm Patenaud (Ultra Person) award.

During the last lap, three blisters that I had developed on my right heel were slowing me down on the downhill sections (I normally go pretty fast down hills), and there were several times that I felt a super strong urge to simply sit down and rest for a half hour. But I knew that if I stopped for very long, it would be REALLY difficult to get started again.

At last I came out of the woods, and crossed the finish line carrying my Canadian flag, in a time of 9:41:00 or so. Yes, there were a few people still hanging around, and there were a few people still on the course behind me, and I cheered on each of them as they made their way across the finish line. I went to the food tent, and got the last bit of cold pulled pork from the barbecue and put it on a bun. And the Ultra Challenge Challenge award? The race director happened to see me eating and asked if I had run the Creemoe 50km race the weekend before. I told him I had, so he casually pointed to a rack with some hand-made medallions on it and said; “Take one of those, just pick any one that you want”. I was really disappointed with that. I guess I had expected a little more respect or recognition, but I guess finishing at the back of the pack doesn’t get much in the ultra world.

So, I started out without being well hydrated, got dehydrated, got overheated, got low on electrolytes, and had a shoe malfunction. BUT, I had enough gels, my body tolerated the Glucerna meal replacement that I’ll be using at the 48 hour race, my MP3 player and GPS batteries lasted as long as I needed, I didn’t fall down, and I crossed the finish line under my own power within the cut-off time.

My legs were literally caked with mud so I used some of the drinking water (that I should have drank the night before) to clean up a little before doing a quick change for the drive home. And the drive home was a really long one. I was stiff and very sore and could not find a comfortable sitting position that still allowed me to drive the car. I was hoping to stop at a decent restaurant on the way home, but because we had brought the dog we had to go for fast food. I bought a bunch because I was starving, but only ate a little because I was a little nauseous.

It is now the second day after the race and I am still a little dehydrated, there’s a huge lesson in that for me. I also learned that Hans was not at the race, so I’m hoping that I’ll get enough series points to pull ahead of him, if even by a few points.

Creemore Vertical Challenge Race Report

Posted by Clay Williams on July 9, 2012 at 7:40 AM Comments comments (0)

This was a tough race, start to finish! In past years, I have driven up to the race site the day before the race and camped overnight in the race director’s back yard. But this year I didn’t want to use the vacation time to take Friday off, and I thought it would be no fun to pack up a wet tent (forecast called for rain) after running 50km, so I decided to get up at 3am and drive up on the morning of the race.

The race was to start at 8am, so I got there around 6:30, plenty of time to get my gear organized, talk to a few runners, and get “psyched” for the run. It started raining around 7:30, the lightening started around 7:45, and the race was delayed a few minutes because of the heavy downpour. I heard later that it was the first time in the history of this race that it rained on race day.

So the 50 km runners were off and running. The course was immediately nasty. After about 100 meters of gravel road, we turned onto a slippery, muddy cart trail. It was one of those trails with two wheel tracks and a raised portion in the center. With the rain, and the fine mud, anyone who stepped on the raised center portion immediately slipped down into one of the tracks, and within a couple dozen steps everyone’s shoes were about a pound heavier with stuck-on clay. But we continued on, and so did the rain.

After about a kilometer of single track, we got onto a road and a long uphill climb. We were able to kick some of the mud off of our shoes, and the rain slowed down for a while. At about 3km we got back onto a single track trail, and went down a steep VERY slippery slope, and then had to climb up a steep VERY slippery slope. I fell flat on my face on the way up the hill, but didn’t get hurt. At around 4km we were back onto a road, and on hill #1, a long, long uphill, our first trek up the Niagara escarpment. I was able to keep a decent pace to the top of the hill, over another couple of single track sections, and then down the escarpment again at about 13km. After a short “not too hilly” section, we turned back up the hill again, on an old abandoned road that someone called O2 hill. Even at a walking pace going up this hill, my breathing was maxed out. And even though the rain had stopped it was still wet and treacherous. At the top of O2 was a section of road, a little more uphill, a quick descent into a little slippery valley, then a huge downhill road section as we came down the escarpment. In the last 2 km of single track before the finish line (25km loop), there were two really steep ravines, with ropes tied to a couple of trees to help you descend into and then climb out of them. I did ok with the ravines, although I had to climb on my hands and knees for a little.

By the time I got to the half way mark, my right knee was a little sore, and my back was getting sore, and the sun was out! So I took off my top layout tech shirt, and got back onto the course for lap # 2. My time was good, I knew Hans was behind me and that kept me going for a while, but my knee was getting more and more painful, as was my back, and I kept thinking: ”there are no performance goals for this race other than to finish within the cut-off time”. I eventually slowed to a walk to help reduce the pain, and Hans passed me at about the 37 km mark. As he went by I asked “how you doing?” and he said “just like everyone else, I’m completely exhausted” but he kept on running.

I walked and ran for about an hour, down the escarpment, up O2 hill, and by around the 45km mark I started to feel a lot better, so I picked up the pace and started running fairly solid. On the way down into the last ravine, I slipped and fell on my butt and slid down the hill. I got pretty muddy, but wasn’t hurt. The first thing I did when I got up was to look around to see if anyone was watching. (Doesn’t everyone do that if they fall?).

I was still feeling pretty good as I pulled out my Canadian flag and ran across the finish line, in fact I even heard someone say “wow, he looks really strong”. My time of 7:20 (or so) was almost 90 minutes slower than my best on that course, but was within the course cut-off so I met my target.

Epilog: Since I was soaked from the rain right from the start of the race, my feet took a beating. I ended up with three broken blisters, and one black toenail. I did the two hour drive home in bare feet, the first time I’ve ever driven in bare feet.

After the race and before getting into the car, I stood in the stream that runs by the finish line, and rinsed of all the mud. I found a couple of little bloody spots where I had been scraped by something along the way. And I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t have a beer at the finish (had to drive) and the pizza was all gone.

The knee is still sore on Monday morning, I’ll be monitoring it closely. If it doesn’t get better by Thursday I may not run next weekend’s 56km race, because I need it to be in good shape for the 48 hour run in August. It will mean losing the Ultra Challenge Challenge award and the Norm Patenaud award if I miss that race, so I’ll have a lot to consider if I don’t heal up.


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