|Posted by Clay Williams on August 15, 2013 at 11:35 AM|
Here’s a little write-up about my experience running the 2013 Dirty Girls 48 hour trail race in Mansfield, Ontario. It’s a trail race on an 8 km loop on a very hilly piece of real estate (there’s a ski hill across the road).
My preparation for this race was a lot different than for last year’s race. Last year I spent a lot of time in the gym, working on leg strength, and I think that really helped me a lot with the hills. But this year, the only training that was beyond regular running was dragging a tire around the high school track next door. But I have to admit I spent a lot of time with that tire; sprints, running backwards, carrying it while doing lunges, and a lot of 5 and 10 mile runs dragging it around. The sound of the tire scraping along the gravel track was like a sound track for exhausting workouts. I put on quite a bit of muscle and took off a lot of fat this year as well.
But I was still uncertain at the starting line if it was the right mix of training to get me past 200 km. I had set a goal in December to finish in the top three in this year’s race. My past experience had told me that I don’t run fast enough to place well in shorter races, but was able to stay awake and moving consistently for last year’s event, and I was hoping to be able to do it again, for just a little longer. However, by the time June rolled around, I lost a lot of hope of making that goal after I looked at the registration list for the race and realized that the folks I would be competing against were much quicker than me, and with proven track records. And by the time race day came around, I had only half the crew that I had last year. I’m a high maintenance guy, so this was pretty discouraging for me. But it turned out that Christine and Carter were all the help I needed, along with the race volunteers. But I’ll get into that a little later.
The weather for the weekend was great, highs in the mid 20’s and lows in the low teens. My sympathies go out to the volunteers who stood and sat around at aid stations through the cold damp nights, I know it’s tough to stay warm when you’re not moving around so much.
So, at 8am Friday morning the race started, 23 of us were starting our adventure. There were a few memorable things that happened during the first three laps. I tripped and fell twice, and stumbled more times than I can count, but fortunately didn’t get hurt at all, except for my pride. And at least three people mentioned how slim I looked. That was a huge boost for me; I had wanted to lose weight so that I didn’t have to carry so much around the track, and this was an affirmation that a lot of the belly was gone and had been replaced by muscle.
By late afternoon, I was starting to have minor stomach issues, and a major chafing issue, and they both persisted for the rest of the race. As the first night came on, I put on my head lamp and a light jacket and kept plodding along, and by the time I was half way through my first lap in the dark I realised my batteries were really low and I could hardly see the trail. Mental note for future runs: put fresh batteries in the light, period. When I got to the start/finish, Carter changed out my batteries, topped up my drink and electrolytes and rushed me out of the aid station. I can still hear his voice: “Get going!” he said it so many times.
I knew some of the other runners had planned to spend several hours sleeping during the nights, so I felt really good about continuing to plod along as they slept. Anything to give me some small advantage because I didn’t have the speed. I took my first short 30 minute nap on Saturday morning, then three 20 minute naps during the day and Saturday night. By late afternoon, Carter told me that he had spoken with the race officials and found out that there were only six serious contenders left in the race, and I was one of them. That was a HUGE boost for me. I had never been a contender before. It felt great and was a real energizer.
As I was getting really really sore on Saturday evening, Christine arrived and started to run (ok, mostly walk) with me. My quads and shin muscles were pretty sore, my chafing and stomach trouble persisted, and the bottoms of both feet felt like they were bruised. But Christine is a great encourager, and kept me focused and moving forward and kept talking about how good it was going to feel to have that podium finish.
At some time around midnight Saturday night we crossed the start/finish line to start another lap and my name was on the leader board. I really couldn’t believe it! I asked the time keepers if that was right, and they said yup, you’re in third place right now. It just seemed incredible to me, but Christine simply said “That’s why you’re here!” And she was right, and it was another huge boost to help power me through the night. But there were still 8 hours to go, and it was definitely the toughest part of the race. By the time I got to 200 km (my goal was 240), my quads and shins were super sore, making the down hills really painful. This slowed me down a lot because I had to walk up the hills, I only had enough energy to run on the down hill sections, but couldn’t because of the pain. Since I had finished 200 km more than 2 hours sooner than the previous year, we decided it was safe to take a 30 minute nap before pressing on. And I have to admit that I was seriously thinking of not getting up from that nap, the pain and nausea was more than I was willing to put up with.
But when Carter woke me from a dead sleep, most of the pain was gone from my legs, and I actually felt ready to go. We were able to finish two more laps by 6:15 am. By then I was moving really slowly, and my mind was almost dead asleep as I was walking. I remember being so sleepy, and focusing on the little patch of ground that was lit by my head lamp, that I would actually go into a dream state and not even be cognizant of where I was walking, and snap back to reality still upright and walking and on the trail. I had no idea the human brain and body could do that. So by 6:15 it didn’t look like I had time to do another full lap, I was in second place, and the runner in third place was a couple of laps behind and sleeping in his tent. So we decided that it looked like my standing was locked in and it was ok to call it quits.
I slept for about an hour while Carter packed up most of our stuff, then helped with the last bit of packing just before the official end of the race at 8 am Sunday morning. And just seconds before 8 am, I saw Jeff Ashizowa bolt across the finish line. My first thought was, “holy cow, how can he run so fast?”, then “yikes, was he able to get past me?” So right away I asked Dian if Jeff’s last lap affected my standing, and she simply said “No, you’re second dude!”
The final result: I was second male, third overall, with a distance of 216 km. My first ever podium finish! It’s still hard for me to believe.
Memorable images: Elise, the crazy megaphone lady at the 4 km aid station, hitting the siren button every time a new runner came into the aid station. Feeling nauseous for 6 solid hours, but having to eat to stay moving. During my only shoe change, seeing a giant blood blister on my big toe that I didn’t even feel. Seeing Maryka before the race with a taped knee because of a fall the week before, and then seeing that she had finished as first female, second overall ahead of me, an awesome run! And Carter and Christine never giving up on me.
I estimate that I burned somewhere around 32,000 calories on the weekend, and consumed around 9,000. I had a very welcome 90 minute massage on Sunday after the race (thanks Denae!), which really helped me to keep moving during the next couple of days. As I write this Tuesday morning, the bottoms of both feet feel like they’re bruised, my leg muscle pain is easing off, and for the chafing parts I’ve moved from diaper rash cream to bandages with polysporin. I had set a huge goal for myself, one that I wasn’t even sure I could attain. But I had set the goal, spoken it, shared it, pursued it, stayed focused on it, repeated it again and again in those moments when I felt weakest, and thought about it when I felt discouraged by all of the obstacles. Podium finish: CHECK!