Here's an inside look at the highs and lows of Jennifer's ultra marathon.
Post-race feet: I looked cute in my new running skirt, but my feet were all business.
Held at the Mansfield Outdoor Centre in Mansfield, Ontario, the Tread Epic 6-Hour Trail Race
for solo runners like myself consisted of a 6.5K loop that I got to run over and over and over again.
My big goal was to hit 50K in six hours and at a minimum, 43K. Why 50K or 43K? 50K is generally the distance of a true ultra (versus a timed event like I competed in) and 43K is longer than a full marathon. But on race day I faced a hilly course with lots of loose sand, the heat and then a visit by Aunt Flo meant I knew that 50K wasn’t likely to happen.
(A whole other post on running and periods will follow shortly — feel free to tweet me your tips and questions to @jenpinarski to be included).
The course didn’t look hilly, but the first 2K was a steady uphill that was deceptively tough. Two steep hills in the middle and the last 1K was a fast downhill. I wouldn’t call the course technical, but there were enough exposed roots that I never really looked up often, which was a shame, because it is a gorgeous location. Another local blogger who also ran Tread on Sunday remarked that there were many uphills and never enough corresponding downhills. I followed my race plan perfectly: The first two laps I went out fast-ish and ran most of it. The middle three laps I ran the flat section, walked the hills and tried to stave off boredom. My sixth lap was a struggle mentally. I was bored out of my mind and walked most of the time and my lap mantra became “walk like you mean it”.
Surprisingly, the six hours went fast. The cut-off for starting a final lap was 3:51 p.m., and I was easily under that, starting my seventh and final lap at 3:20 p.m. There was one other solo woman I chatted with who despite having a tough run, was hard to stay ahead of. She was wonderful to chat with and placed third last year. We took turns passing each other when in the final lap I was able to pull ahead of her.
Keeping properly fed, hydrated and sunscreened was key, especially on a hot and humid race day. I had a drop bag at the start/finish line filled with jujubes, Hammer Gels, bottles of Heed, plain salted potato chips, band aids, wipes, feminine products, Body Glide and Advil (I’m a notorious over-packer). Each lap I grabbed a handful of salted chips and refilled my pocked with gels. At the aid station I drank two cups of E-load and always topped up my handheld with water. I had a Hammer Gel each lap (roughly 50 minutes) and couldn’t stomach much else. I did have half a banana and a few chunks of salted watermelon that were available at the aid station. This is the first ever running race where I saw apples offered. If you’re like me, eating a 2X4 of pressure treated lumber would be easier than eating an apple while running a long distance event. Nevertheless, apples were offered, though I can’t say I saw any athletes eating them up.
I was never nauseous during the race, but did feel very thirsty and craved salt. Normally I pee several times during a run, but not on Sunday. At one point I considered licking the salt off my skin. Yup, a little looney at times.
Post-race, I caught up with my new running friend, both of us filthy, sore, hungry and tired. Having driven to the race on my own, I wanted to get home to my family quickly but decided to watch the awards while enjoying the fantastic post-race BBQ. Imagine our surprise when we placed at the top for women! My seven laps in a little over six hours was enough to win the solo female category! I was shocked, simply shocked. Granted, it’s a small race with only three female solo runners, but it was a win I trained (kind of) hard for.
Special thanks to Running Free for the awesome prizes (I won free shoes, socks and a bag), the amazing volunteers, runners who raised $30K for the Pine River Foundation and Chico Racing for a kickass event. And of course, thank YOU for following along, cheering me on and keeping me honest.
Now I just need to decide what adventure to tackle next …