The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy … It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed. – Jacqueline Gareau, 1980 Boston Marathon Champion
Wednesday begins the “Mountain Stage” of the ENDURrun, named after the number, and size, of the hills found in this and the next stage. Looking at the elevation map of this stage reminds one of a child’s drawing, or perhaps an ECG graph or a lie detector strip.
I awoke today feeling lousy. After Tuesday’s stage, I headed home to coach my son’s last soccer game of the season. It was nice to see the kids, and Juli, and to sleep in my own bed for a change. The legs and lower back were quite sore; I most definitely needed some more time off.
This stage started at 6pm, the only one that was an evening start. Part of the challenge for me in this race, is fuelling. I know how to fuel for races that are in the morning, but having this one basically just before my normal supper makes it difficult. When do you have lunch? When do you stop eating? Do I have a snack in the afternoon? I opted for having a late lunch, around 1:30pm before heading back to Waterloo, and that seemed to work well.
I arrived at Camp Heidelberg at 5pm, an hour before race time. I usually like to get there early, to get ready, hit the bathroom, and loosen up. Today, I was nervous, more nervous than the other stages. I think it was due to how sore my legs felt, and knowing what was in store for me on the course. There was also the 4 second lead between Duff and I; could I maintain it? The rivalry is actually quite fun, and it’s nice to have something else to think about while running. It helped a lot during Stage 3; I ended up cutting water stops shorter than normal because I knew he’d be coming up behind me.
The weather had been sketchy all day with clouds and even some rain, but come race time it clear and sunny. The temperature had dropped considerably, but it was also quite windy, and we’d be facing the headwind on the way back. Lovely.
Soon it was time to head out to the start. This is the only race I’ve ever done that has both started and ended on a sharp uphill. Another twist by the race director. We had to walk as a group 600m down the road to the start, where he gave us our last minute instructions, and off we went.
I made sure I was starting in front of Duff, and fell in to my pace. I was hoping, again, to do 6min/km pace, which would put my finishing time at about 1:36. I also had hoped to us the downhills to my advantage. Starting on the first hill, my legs were already sore and screaming, and I knew this one would be a long and painful run. I had my MP3 player this time, and spent the first 3-4kms zoned out to bad 80s tunes. Duff was still behind me somewhere, but I wasn’t going to look back to see where he was.
At the 4km mark, I saw Cathy, a running friend I know from the Running Room, taking pictures and brandishing something in her hand. As I got closer, I realized that it was a spatula, and she was waving it at me and shouting “Get going!” If you’ve seen the movie Run Fatboy Run, you’ll totally get the reference. (If you haven’t seen it, go rent it. Right now. Then come back to the blog.)
At this point, the out and back section started, and so did the major hills. A few rollers, a couple of steep ones, then the biggest one of them all, “Horror Hill”. I’d hoped to be able to run the entire way up, but I only made it half-way before falling to a power-walk. My legs were just too sore, and too fatigued for me to do it. It was tough mentally, because I’d done so well up to this point with running the hills. Now I was afraid that I’d degenerate to walking ALL the hills. Then I remembered Duff, and that he was still somewhere behind me. So I cut the walk short, and at the top, continued on to the turnaround.
Another big shock awaited me at the turnaround. The wonderful wind, which I was enjoying as it pushed me down the road, was now a headwind. As soon as I ran around the sign at the end of the road, it hit me straight in the face. Running into strong winds always takes the breath out of me, and this was no exception. Duff was perhaps a minute behind me at this point, but I was starting to not care, and to walk more and more up the hills. By the 10km point, he’d caught up. We ran together for a bit, but then he pulled ahead. The feeling of failure was strong; even though this was a fun competition between the two of us, I really wanted to be able to keep up. My legs were just so tired and sore that I couldn’t keep the pace.
At the 12km water station, I looked up and saw that Duff was probably 3-4 minutes ahead. Something came over me at that point, and I resolved that I would try and catch up, and beat him. I’d never done anything like this before in a race; usually I just compete with myself. But this time, I decided I was going to give it all I could, to catch up, and perhaps even win. So I picked up the pace. I could see him up ahead, walking a few up hills. Whenever he walked, I would run up the hill. I cut my walk breaks in half, as well as my water station breaks. Working this way, I managed to catch up to him just after the 15km marker, as we started the climb up to the finish.
At this point, I was huffing and puffing so loud it was almost obscene. I managed to get within 1 metre, but then he turned around, saw me, and put on the jets. I tried to follow, but had no energy left whatsoever. It was all I could do to keep running up the hill. I crossed the finish line gasping for air, glad that it was over. Turns out that Duff crossed 10 seconds before I did, so he now had the lead by 6 seconds.
My finishing time was 1:33:00, well within the goal I had set out for myself at the beginning of the race. What I am most proud of, is battling back from being so far behind, to almost catching and passing my opponent. That feeling of focus and determination I’ve never had in a race, and it felt good that I was able to go from being sorry for myself, to back in competition.
- Total Distance: 10 miles (16km)
- Total Time: 1:33:00
- Race Stats: TrainingPeaks
Past times (for comparison:)
- 2010: 1:42:00
- 2009: 1:28:07
DEDICATION: Today’s race is dedicated to my parents and in-laws (my second parents). They are always ready to help us out in any way they can, especially when I’m off doing some fool run somewhere. Thank you for being so supportive!
NEXT UP: Stage 5, the second Mountain stage, which takes place at Chicopee ski resort. 16 miles of trails that go up and down the ski hills.