ENDURrun Ultimate Stage 4: The Hilly 10 Miler

Stage 4 of the ENDURrun Ultimate may seem like a bit of a let down after yesterday’s epic 30km trail race, but don’t be fooled. It is full of it’s own challenges. First of all, it’s a hilly course. Not hilly like the last race, but HILLY. Here’s the topographical map of the course.

Horror Hill. It's a doozy.

The other thing about Stage 4 that makes it a bit difficult is the fact that it’s a night race, starting at 6pm. Sleeping in for the first time was nice, but it’s a little harder to fuel for. You really need to have something mid-afternoon, so that you have some fuel in the tank for the race. Lunch isn’t enough. I’ve always had a hard time with the prep for this one. This time, I just made some ham sandwiches and had them with water, at around 3pm. Hopefully that would be enough.

My legs are sore, the kind of sore you have after running a marathon, or a hard race. They’re permanently sore. I really have no idea how I’ll do on this stage, or any of the other ones for that matter. I need to save something for Stage 5, because it is the most punishing and demanding on my legs. But I also don’t want to totally wimp out on this stage. So going in, my plan is to run as much as I can, and walk the steep uphill climbs on the course. If I power walk them, my time won’t suffer too much, and I can speed up going down the hill, to make up some of the time I walk. Not a bad plan, I think. I also took an ibuprofen pill before, to take the edge off the pain in my calves. The forecast for the race was cool weather. In reality it was windy, with intermittent clouds. Tonight, that wouldn’t be a problem.

From the start of the race, I felt awful. I don’t know if I was just over-worried about them, but from the first steps they were stiff and weak. Not a great precursor to the run ahead. I vowed that I’d run at least to the first water station, which was at the 4km mark. I’m happy to say that I accomplished this. After a quick drink of water, I soldiered on. I forgot my headphones back in my room, so I didn’t have my music as a crutch. Just my laboured breathing and the sound of my shoes on the pavement, which began to sound kind of like a lumbering giant. CLOMP! CLOMP! CLOMP!

As I started my walk up Horror Hill, I was joined by Susan, another ENDURrunner who is battling it back from a bad heel injury. Her plan was similar to mine, to walk all the up hills and run everything else. We decided to do the race together, and motivate each other to finish. To be honest, it was a godsend, because my mental state for this run was bad at this point. I had all sorts of negative thoughts going on, and just really wanted to quit and go home. We’d run together 2 years ago in the ENDURrun, particularly in Stage 7 (the marathon), and had a great experience. Why not give it a go now?

We made progress in the run, finally getting to the turnaround point. Upon turning back, we were blasted by a nasty headwind. Where did THAT come from? The route back was a more direct one, albeit with lots of hills in between. It was great to see and cheer for the faster runners already turned around and heading to the finish. Finally, it was in sight. The race finishes at the top of a very steep hill, so we walked to the 16km race marker, then ran the last 100 metres or so into the finish together. A great finish for me; I felt good, my legs actually stopped throbbing so much, and I was in much better spirits. Thanks Susan for dragging my sorry butt through the stage!