Monday, June 18, 2018

Epic East Gate Ultra

The final couple miles of an ultra I'm told are the longest.  The trees and forest surrounded me and seemed without end.  It was hard to imagine that somewhere soon my eyes would view the open prairie and I would run through the East Gate to the finish line just beyond.

The day began at 6 am to the singing of birds and the smell of open air.  There is such a peacefulness to camping and even the excitement and preparation for the day couldn't mare that.   Our arrival at Riding Mountain National Park the night before was late and we got the camper set up quickly with the help of a million mosquitoes.  The campground was very quiet and we slept well.

Quick shower, prepared my nutrition of NUUN with F2C glycodurance in my hydrapack.  A couple UCAN bars packed along with the other necessities- kleenex, bandaids, lip balm, advil, tum.  Breakfast was oatmeal and later an Ensure drink and some UCAN drink. We were on the road before 7 for the 45 min ish drive to the East Gate entrance.

Just parked and walking to East Gate entrance.

 Thick, morning fog impeded our drive but we had glimpses of the rolling hills, farm land and dense forest as we made our way around the south part of Riding Mountain toward the east gate.  We arrived with time to register, use the washroom and attend the race meeting before the start of the day's events.  The 50 km event start time was 8:30 and the 25 km event at 10:30.

Terry and I, Sue and Manon.

All runners were herded out of the park (toward our vehicles parked on the road) so we could run through the East Gate as our official start.

Race start

And we are off!  Terry is bringing up the rear with a wave.

The first 30-45 min was all uphill.  Serious, constant climbing.  Morning temperature was 12 C and the heavy fog/high humidity was keeping things from heating up too much, it was the perfect temperature for running.

It was also the perfect recipe for some heavy sweating.  My clohes and hair was soaked very quickly and I was hoping the liberal amount of anti-chaffing cream I applied this morning would work its magic until I was done. Others around me were commenting on how hard it was to keep their eyes clear from the steady stream of sweat pouring down their faces.  Thankfully, the hard effort of constant climbing was mostly walked.  I was sweating like crazy but not overheating.
The trail took us to a gravel road with outdoor/seasonal bathrooms.  Racers slowly started to spread out a bit now.  Most of us were all packed together on the single track trail up until this point but now had more space.  We ran along the road for about 15 min before heading onto a trail once again.  Aid Station A came soon after.
Aid Staion A

I filled up my hydrapack with NUUN and ate a couple amazing power balls.  They were soft, oozing with peanut butter and tasted fabulous.  There were also perogies (both balls and perogies were homemade by the race director's mom) as well as the usual stuff; coke, pickles, chips, candies, bars.
I was running with 2 ultra friends from another community and hubby ran with us sometimes, ahead of us at others or sometimes behind.  This part of the course seemed easier; double track, lots of talking and laughing and not as technical for awhile gave a break on concentrating on our feet and the ground.

The course was like a figure 8.  Start was at the bottom, with the first section going left and up and around to aid station A, from A heading straight down the middle to aid station B then to the right and around and up back to A then back down the middle to B and 3-4 miles out to the finish.  The middle part had 2 out and backs on it. So generally, the first section until aid station A was increasing in elevation, from A to B aid stations felt like running on an escarpment that was an elevation loss.  Aid station B back up to A was elevation gain and then back downhill.

The first out and back was more spectacular than I have words to describe.  Lots of elevation change in a very short distance but so amazing.   I have lived in Manitoba for a long time and had no idea there were views like this!  There was a hole punch/stamper that we needed to punch on our bibs so we didn't just run to the lookout but all the way along a very small escarpment to the edge.  I was very pumped and excited.  It was running on the edge of a mountain what's not to like?

The second half of the middle part was single track down hill and decently technical meaning I needed to pick up my feet or I would end up on my face.  Aid station B was a welcome sight with the same goodies as at the other aid station.  I satisfied my hunger with a couple more energy balls and refilled my hydration once again.
Sue and Manon doing a great job setting the pace.

The next section after leaving the aid station was uphill.  A lot of uphill.  There was some rocks jumping through a small stream.  A group of us (5) helped each other get across with only 1 booter.  This section I found the hardest.  It was warmer temperature wise and the uphill climbing was relentless.  The spring water runoff had carved trenches into the path so footing was tricky in spots.  You could never get into a rhythm.

Once we reached the top and headed left toward the aid station, it was flat and double track once again.  We were still in the bush but there were more open areas, some swampy spots and hotter as now the cloud cover we were lucky to have had up until this point was gone.

From aid station A, there was a short 3km out and back so we left our hydrapacks and ran naked.  Well, not quite naked but we sure felt lighter without our packs.  It was just Manon and I running together now but 2 other runners started the out and back same time as us and making new friends and chatting made the 3 kms fly by.

Hydrapack filled up once again back at the aid station along with a couple more balls and a pickle.  I put ice in my hydrapack and drinking cold NUUN for the next 45 min was heavenly.
This was the last section before the aid station B and from there, the homestretch to the finish.  It felt as though we were running this section faster than the previous time.  There was a few of us running together off and on and again, meeting and talking with new people makes the miles go by.  I could tell I was getting tired though.  My feet were hitting roots and stones more often now.
Manon's daughter was at the aid station and they shared a hug but it was a quick in and out.

The final stretch.  So exciting but very challenging mentally.  More stumbling and tripping.  Caught myself twice from falling.  Manon not so lucky.  The single track gave way to a more groomed trail with boardwalk paths, bridges and plant identification signs.  A runner behind us pointed out the poison ivy along the trail which kept me busy trying to avoid it.  She gave us instruction to not touch our legs and feet until washing off well.
And suddenly, the trees gave way to a road.  We cheered in excitement which was very premature as it was back onto the trail 30 seconds later.  Then all at once, back onto a gravel road.

If you have ran road races, the finish line is so visible.  You can see it, hear it from quite a distance away.  Not so in trail running.  It literally feels like I am in the middle of nowhere, no civilization, no finish line, nothing.

All we could see is a 1/2 to 1 mile of gravel road with a stop sign in the distance.  No finish line no indication that we were anywhere close to the end.  I felt myself somehow slipping into an emotional state where tears were threatening.  I wanted to walk, maybe have a fit or melt down,  but Manon said in her stern teacher voice, "let's go" and she wouldn't slow down or stop.  I knew she was in some discomfort as she mentioned she has back/hip troubles and I also knew she got a good jolt when she tripped.  So, I told myself to suck it up and stop being such a crybaby.  I wasn't really hurting, just tired. With new determination, I picked up my feet and picked up the pace. 

And then there it was.  The East Gate we ran through to start was right before me now again to finish.  One of the race directors (Clayton) was standing there cheering, gave a high five as I crossed the line and told me I was epic!  I was given a great looking trucker hat as well as a special finisher item for completing the Manitoba double of 2- 50 kms in May.

My husband was also there with the go pro recording my "epic" finish.  As usual, I got pretty wobbly when I stopped running so I was weaving in and out, walking for a couple minutes then plopped myself on the ground to lay down.
A cold bottle of water went down really quickly and I was anxious to go to the truck to get my shoes and socks off and drink my cold recovery shake.  A hamburger (included in the race fee) was devoured soon after.

Overall, this was an amazing event.  The terrain, views, aid station nutrition, volunteers, organization was the best.  Big thanks to Kevin and Clayton and the Hound Sports Services team for a great run.  You can find the events they organize here.

I was worried leading up to this event.  The Oxbow 50, 3 weeks ago was a nightmare for me personally and I couldn't shake my fear of the same thing happening again.  I was very adamant to do everything I could to set myself up for a better outcome.

What I did:
-a couple days after the Oxbow 50 I went to a ART specialist (Active Recovery Technique) who found that my right pelvis was rotated in and down 1 1/2 inches.  He also found significant posterior displacement of the tibia.  This accounted for the incredible pain and locking of the right hip/leg.  The beauty of the active muscle release is that as you move the body part through the range in motion, pressure placed in specific areas releases the muscle which then allows the body to regain its correct alignment.  The pressure was applied on the muscle was in 5 different locations and it wasn't painful but was uncomfortable in certain spots.  The pain in the hip ceased immediately and no longer did it hurt my knee walking down stairs.  A repeat appointment 10 days later found the pelvis in the normal spot and the knee once again a bit displaced but much better than the prior appointment.  I highly recommend ART treatment.  This was the best thing I did.
-a physiotherapist applied K tape to the IT band and knee to give it more support while running
- I kept my nutrition very simple the day before and the morning of.  No coffee this time and more liquid calories (Ensure or Boost)
-used more NUUN in my water to boost the electrolyte concentration (as opposed to taking in salt tablets which I have never tried) as I wonder if I sweat salty
-worked really hard to drink more while running.  I wanted to have my hydrapack close to empty by each aid station.

What actually happened during the race:
-very little hip/knee pain (the only time it hurt was after a lot of constant uphills where the calves worked hard and then immediate downhill sections)
-I did take advil 1 time when my knee started to hurt as mentioned above.  This was around 13 miles in.  I know advil is dehydrating so I wanted to avoid taking this if possible.
-the powerballs were very well liked by my stomach.  I am trying to get the recipe.  They were soft and would be hard to carry along in a pack but if I get the recipe, you can bet I will find a way to carry them.  I needed to eat more.  I have to work on this.
-being able to eat and drink after the event made a world of difference.  I use the F2C vanilla recovery powder.  Mix it with ice and water in a big shaker and I love it.  Hubby loves the chocolate flavour so I mix one for each of us after any long race or training session.

Air Relax Recovery Boots on in the camper

Replenishing electrolytes and figured to top up our calcium levels as well.

Recovery ride on the fat bikes the next morning beside Clear Lake

A great way to end a fabulous weekend at the White House.