Ultramarathoner

So I did something this past weekend that seemed pretty crazy to ‘outsiders’ but pretty old hat for running nutters- I ran a 50k trail race.

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On the homestretch and feeling strong. Photo by Joseph Camilleri.

Now let’s backtrack a little- I didn’t tell anyone I was training for this, except for Ian and a few friends (ok, 1 friend). It scared me more than a little, and I was worried about it. Just completing it felt like a huge task, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to do. I also didn’t want people analyzing me, or my running, or second-guessing how I was going to do. I wanted it to be personal, for me.

So…I kept it under my hat for months. I signed up for the race in December after deciding last year that if I couldn’t go faster, I would go longer. Of course, then I had an incredible race season that proved that I COULD go faster, so…Ha. But I maintained that this was my main goal- completing the race.

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At the start- the lady with the hat and walking poles is the legendary ultrarunner Ann Trason. 

The race: Prairie Inn Harriers 2:18 Run Elk/Beaver Ultras. Why Ultras? Because they offer multiple distances for the choosy runner (or crazy runner). I raced the most popular distance (50k), and they have a 40k walkers category, and a 100k and 50-miler.

The race is quite small, which surprises me because for a beginner’s ultra it is very race-friendly. Run 5 loops for the 50k- a bit repetitive due to the loops, but VERY safe, easy to stay hydrated and fueled, no need to carry nutrition or water with you, and it’s a flat course with some gravel and some roots but nothing difficult.

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Lap four and going strong! 

So, pretty doable for a first-timer ultra. The race started at 6am, I got up at 4:30am to choke down enough breakfast (hated eating, but I didn’t have a real choice) and get to the lake for the start. I was fortunate enough to have my long-suffering husband come and be my support crew (driving, handing me gels/Gu’s, electrolytes at each checkpoint to mark the laps).

Basically my brain/body was still asleep for oh, two laps or so? I ran pretty slowly and had a hard time getting with it. I felt like I didn’t really ‘warm up’ and feel like running or racing until the second lap. Which I guess, if you have 5 of them, is totally ok! I ran with another runner for the first lap (Steve) and we helped up another woman who went crash landing face-first on the ground. She was ok, but ended up dropping out after that.

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My best support crew ever! 

By the third lap, I was in the groove. I was doing it! It was a beautiful day, I had to use the washroom but nothing bad, and I felt like my fueling/water was right on target. I ate a LOT of Gu’s and gummies. The maple syrup gel I tried out was so gross I thought I was going to puke- gagging sweet. ICK!

I also ate a S’mores GU that basically slurped right down my throat because it got so warm, which was kind of gross but also…kind of ok? Ha. I really liked the Powerbar gummies, yum and great texture. The Clif Shot Bloks were harder to chew than I recalled.

I was getting tired of sweet things- yick, so many sweet things.

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Each lap I ran through the checkpoint to register my bib, and grab a few doughnut pieces to eat while I gulped down water and electrolytes. It was getting hot, my face was prickly with dried salt that abraded my nose whenever I rubbed it.

Halfway through the 4th lap (35k) my legs started howling. Wow, this was getting hard.

I struggled on and went through my last checkpoint- Ian was cheering and encouraging me, and I felt pretty good heading into the last lap. Except my right knee locked up when I started running again, and I limped for close to a kilometer until it got with the program. I was pretty concerned- was this where it ended for me? 40km? But I kept moving and motion is lotion so my knee got with the program and it was ON!

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The aftermath- not too bad actually!

My goal was to basically finish, but I was aiming for around 5 hours or under. I was right on target on my last lap, and I needed to basically pull it together for 10km more.

I felt pretty strong overall, and random older men who were unofficially manning the water stations (ersatz…water bottles left on picnic tables, haha not fancy) were impressed and told me I was looking really strong. YES! I can do this!

I ‘raced’ ok it looked like I was walking but I swear I was running so fast into the final stretch and I couldn’t believe it was over.  I ran it in 4:51 for third place in my age-group. A huge sense of relief, but also …I was expecting more? For it to feel different? For me to feel different?

I chatted with the volunteers, stood around for awhile and then we headed out for brunch- yes!! I did have a hard time scrambling out of the car (low+calves cramping up= can’t move nimbly) but otherwise, my recovery has been pretty fine. Phew!

So I did it. And I feel like if I did it, anyone can. It’s just a matter of putting your mind to a bigger, more frightening goal.

 

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Friday fun: Let’s go to the beach!

 

And swim with a good ol’ Nemo jump! kuna

Due to a new WordPress change, I am having difficulties loading any photos into my blogs, so you will just have to imagine a big inflatable Nemo, that we all jumped our horses over! Stupid WordPress! ARGH.

The awesome Nemo jump was courtesy of friend Sarah, who has a very unique eye and a talent for creating fun, crazy and freaky jumps for our ponies to play over! 

I had a lesson with my trainer Nicole yesterday and I had a GOOD TIME! Yes!! I felt like Fuck yeah!

Finally! hahah

We schooled canter circles outdoors, it felt kind of hot and god, I wanted to ‘wimp’ out, but I didn’t. I felt like, I have to start taking responsibility for my pony’s actions. I have to get him going and get him ‘angry’ ie- kind of on fire! 

No more making excuses. I can start pushing his buttons, and mine too!

So, we schooled a warmup, and then cantered over the little red panel fence. Then, we did a small round of 7 jumps, including a few lines and the Nemo jump. My goal for yesterday was to pretty much jump the Nemo jump. I’m so transparent haha. 

Went well! So well that we had to do it again! But this time, there were 12 jumps. Eeeek! I don’t think I have ever voluntarily jumped that many in a row, haha.

We jumped the flamingoes, the Nemo jump, a small two-jump combination, the red and white striped panels, the ‘road closed’ jump (and almost had a stop at it, holy..I thought he was over until he wasn’t! tricky!) and the ‘brick wall’ jump.

The entire ride, I had ‘periods of intensity’ echoing through my brain. I can do intense for this long..

And it was good! We had the 1 icky jump- the ‘road closed’ but recovered. I did get a bit left behind during the combination (couldn’t remember if it was a 1-stride or 2? Oh well!!).

So…I have to step up to the plate. For both of us.

Throwback Thursday: Sooke Saddle Club Dressage

Yes, this was us at our very first dressage show last May! 

I guess this is a sort of throwback too? Funny how we had just started dressage last year. We did W/T HCBC tests and then in the fall moved up to Training…And then hit a big speedbump (bucking) in the spring, and kind of gave up dressage after that. (Or gave up dressage shows, not sure exactly where I am with that right now).

ARGH.

Then again, I am sensing a common theme here…Going well, don’t push any buttons, and then BLAM! Buttons get pushed! It gets ugly! Back outta there!

Sigh…

The learning process continues…

Had a nice, very FORWARD ride yesterday on Oats, and then hacked in the field to cool out. I thought he was being a bit of a drama queen tossing his head with the flies, until I hopped off to get the gate, and his poor eyes were covered in flies! Oops sorry Oats! 

Lessons (hard learned)

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So, Oats had Monday off while I stewed.

Actually, I had a spectacularly grouchy day and cranked at everyone all day, and then went to the beach in the evening with my Kobo for some Zen time…and of course my Kobo was dead. Excellent.

Tuesday, I had another group lesson with Karen Brain. I almost didn’t want to…I felt stupid, frustrated, embarrassed. Falling off AGAIN at yet ANOTHER horse show? WTF? How do I tell people- who think I am a fairly decent rider- that no, I really do know what I’m doing, and at home, I am actually pretty good? 

(my coworkers think all I do is fall off my horse, by now!)

But, I sucked it up and went. It was hot, we rode in the indoor. I went in complaining. I told Karen what happened, how weird I felt, and how I knew Oats was taking advantage of me being out of it. And when I got angry, and kicked his butt, how great he responded.

And her insight was VERY helpful. I felt kind of emotional even! 

She said that my symptoms of dealing with horse show anxiety (even though I want to be there) is ‘checking out’ and the time I spent ‘checked out’ Oats responded negatively (stopping at jumps, slacking off my leg). When I was forced to ‘check in’ when I was FED UP enough, bingo! Got the results I wanted/needed.

She said I probably get in the habit of checking out with Oats because it is SO EASY to do. He lulls me along at a gentle pace, nothing too forward, doesn’t really misbehave…Until I ask for something. I don’t have enough ‘him’ to check myself in.

That is also why I find her lessons so challenging- I am made to be ‘checked in’ for a solid hour. 

Oats responds very positively to Karen.

So, she said we need to work on staying checked-in throughout a ride- building on smaller ‘stressors’ to gradually bigger ones, like a horse show.

And I need to work on staying present- bending, more leg, leg to the fence. It’s easy when a trainer is yelling at you, but in a show ring? You can yell at yourself- Go legs! Sit up! Sit Deeper! 

Honestly, none of this is new to me. The sliding, slacking ‘out of it’ feeling I have always had…I just need to hear it again, and again, and again. From multiple sources. Oats is not a horse I can ride ‘checked out’ anymore.

And have a horse show that I royally embarrass myself at. That is a good incentive too.

So, Karen set up a exercise of ‘leg leg leg!’ short gallops, checking-in at the canter, bend left/right, then cruise of a 1ft jump, then gallop, then circle, bend-counter bend-gallop…It was exhausting but good.

She said that I may not want to hear it, but the horse show was a good lesson (but a hard one) to learn. 

(Photo credit to the talented Christi Kay)