Ultra520kCanada Race Recap Day 3, 8:50:11. Overall Time 25:43:11, 4th Overall
Day two was done. I checked in at a motel, had a second dinner, and went to bed; I had a double marathon to run in the morning.
The following morning, a cool breeze swept the start of the race. 7 am approached and I reluctantly removed my warm layers. I walked to the start, ready to toe the line with the other athletes.
The race began and the runners took off. Idle conversation illuminated an otherwise empty road. After one kilometre someone joked that we only had eight-three more to go.
In order to achieve my goal time of finishing in under twenty-seven hours, I needed to run a ten hour double marathon; I was confident I could go sub nine. So the new challenge became whether or not I could maintain fourth place overall. I had done well during the cycling, however, I knew there was likely to be a few run specialists. I had a thirty minute lead over the fifth place athlete, yet a double marathon was a long way to run; anything could happen.
My race strategy was simple: run easy and relaxed for the first quarter, gradually build for the second and third quarter, and allow the mind to take over for the final quarter—easier said than done.
I ran through the half marathon mark in two hours and nine minutes; I was in seventh. The race was still in its infancy and I hoped to claw back a few minutes on those ahead of me.
To keep me entertained my brother DJ leaned out the window and did his imitation of Christian Bale’s Batman. His voice growled and his face went rigid as if he had both eaten a lemon and was constipated. I laughed as I kept running.
My body felt good, and after the first quarter, I picked up my pacer Daniel. It was wonderful to have a conversation. Each time we approached the crew for a feed Daniel ran ahead and grabbed what I needed. On one occasion I took a sip of electrolytes. I spat it out; I hated berry flavour. Berry flavour was my back up. “I WANT LIME!” I said as I dumped the electrolytes. I was yelling, but it was good natured: I was not upset; I’d get lime flavour next time.
I hit the marathon mark in four hours and sixteen minutes. I had moved into fifth. The only racer who was behind me in overall time, yet ahead of me in the race, was Ramon. But I had at least an hour on him. There is no way he can gain an hour out of me, I hoped.
After fifty kilometres I started to feel the pace. The once paved road had been replaced by a gravel one; a litany of loose rock and sand littered the course. The elevation profile showed a net loss in elevation, however, hills kept springing up like moles in Whac-A-Mole. After sixty kilometres I told Daniel that I needed a minute to walk. Daniel timed sixty seconds. Seconds passed, then Daniel spoke, “Thirty seconds left…fifteen seconds left…five seconds left.” I grudgingly started running.
The head games came in full fury. The entire run course was runnable; if I was walking, it was because I was suffering mentally. I tried to look at each hill in isolation: the hill was not part of a double marathon, it was just one hill, and I can run one hill.
I was running alone as I entered the final quarter of the race—the emotions started to swirl. The journey to the start line of Ultra520kCanada had been more challenging than the race itself: I had been stretched between training, writing, and work. In addition, I had nearly lost a young family member. Training was brutal when I knew the people closest to me were in pain. Even worse was knowing there was nothing I could do to help. At times, the physical, mental, and emotional pain was crippling. For better or worse, I often blocked the emotional pain—I would deal with it later, when I had time, once the race was over.
With ten kilometres to go the gravel ended and I moved into fourth place on the run. Ramon was still ahead of me, yet I was confident that I still had fourth place overall.
With five kilometres to go I did not care if I gave it my best; I just wanted the race to end. The physical pain was mirrored by the emotional trauma I had been living with. I thought of my family member and I had to choke back tears.
I rounded the final corner and saw the finishing line. It was bliss, for once I reached the finish, the pain would end. Let it end, please, let the pain end. I crossed the finish line in eight hours, fifty minutes, and eleven seconds. I had finished strongly in fourth place overall with a time of twenty-five hours, forty-three minutes, and eleven seconds. I crumpled to the ground, placed my forehead on the earth, and closed my eyes. I just needed a moment to myself.
I stood up, received my finishers medal, and hugged my crew. Once alone with my mom, I cried; the pain of the entire last ten months forced itself through me. The race was over. It was finally time to start the healing process.