Sunday, September 20, 2009

Unlucky for some

I usually insist (when people ask) that I'm "really not that much into racing". I'm going to keep telling people this, but to be honest it's starting to be a bit unconvincing. Last weekend Paul, Jacek, Marc, and I rode Whistler Bike Park, then with a slick change of bike and gear I headed over to Vancouver Island with Marc for a Cyclocross race. I wrote about that here.

This weekend was something different, new, exciting, and painful. At some point I agreed that running an ultra-marathon sounded fun. At some point after that, I entered the Frosty 50km trail race with Lina and Jacek. After that I mostly forgot about it.

On Friday afternoon Lina ad I drove over to Lightening Lakes and set up camp. We managed to do some real "car camping" for a change and brought most of the contents of the apartment with us. Luckily we have a small apartment and a big car. Our pre-race preparations involved trying to figure out who to invite to our wedding (we're going to get married), eating curry... and sitting by the lake in the sunshine. So far, I was enjoying the ultra-marathon experience.

Saturday morning arrived with the arrival of wind, rain, and Jacek... along with Gail (who took the photos. Thank you!) plus Dan and Meeko. We tried to figure out what to wear, how to stay warm, and overheard various useful sounding course discussion from some seasoned runners. Apparently the first 25km was one huge climb and descent... then the second 25km was much easier. That didn't sound so bad.

What you can't see here is that I was lucky number 13.

Nervous laughter?

An unusual German man set us off with a "ready, steady.... boogie! (?)" and off we went. The first climb was humongous. I lost sight of Jacek after about 10 seconds, and then Lina disappeared into the forest when we hit the first long drag of climbing. I settled into following a guy with long yellow socks. Stylish.

As usual (for me) I started to feel better after about an hour of running and began working my way past a few people... then eventually caught sight of Lina again! This was about 2 hours into the race. The rest of the climb to the summit of Mt Frosty was spectacular, with clouds billowing over the ridge line, steep drops, and weather beaten rock... it was windy and cold, but Lina and I kept moving quickly together to the top and welcomed the downhill. Once we were out of the steep, loose, rock the downhill was a welcome sight. A relief from the brutal climb. But, the descent went on for sooooo long. We must have run downhill for over an hour, and the pounding on our legs was pretty harsh. Although Lina and I hadn't planned to run together, we ran into the 25km aid station and things seemed to be working out so well we just carried on. Lina is faster going up, and I am faster downhill (or just more reckless?) so we're pretty even.

25 down, 25 to go.

The rumors of the second 25km being easier were a little optimistic in my opinion. Another huge climb to a ridge line, with a series of climbs and descents along the top, followed by another long descent. Ouch. My body was starting to give up as we pounded down the last long descent, but I really wanted to finish, and it couldn't be far now... right? We came to the last aid station and learned that there was 8km left to go. One of my knees felt like sharp metal things had got inside it, and I really didn't know how I was going to drag myself to the finish. Luckily Lina had stuck with me. With some great encouragement I limped my way over the line (still just about running) in around 6 hours 20 minutes. Phew.

My post-race celebration involved standing in the freezing lake until my feet went numb and eating a lot of cake. You can't argue with that. Despite the pain of the last 8km, I really enjoyed the race, travelling fast through the mountains, and the camaraderie of the whole thing. I'm hoping to get my legs better prepared and do another 50km next year. Maybe Knee Knacker would be appropriate....

It seems that bike riding uses different muscles to running as whilst neither Lina or I could really walk convincingly after the race, we managed to ride to the pub for Marg's birthday. Happy Birthday Marg! Then we went mountain biking in the sunshine on Mt Seymour with Tracy today. I can even get up the stairs in under 5 minutes now. A testament to the healing powers of standing in a lake, eating cake.