Just Running and Stuff

Clay Williams Ultra Runner


Limberlost Challenge Race Report

Posted by Clay Williams on July 16, 2012 at 1:10 PM

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.

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