Archive for October, 2012

The Sask 50 Ultra

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat – I DID NOT run an Ultra! Thankfully for those of us who still believe ultramarathoners are a special kind of crazy, the Sask 50 Ultra has a relay team option!

This race held a lot of “firsts” for me. It was my first Ultra event, as well as my first relay event. It was also the first time I’d raced such a seemingly random distance – 16.8 km.

Several months ago my newbie running friend Morgan decided she wanted to train for a half marathon. Her training plan would set her up for a half marathon in October, but we couldn’t find one in Saskatchewan anywhere. I emailed Janaya, who I had met at the pasta dinner for the Saskatchewan Marathon back in May. I also blog stalk Janaya because I love her quest to run 12 half marathons in 2012 to raise money for cancer and to honor her friend Heather, who lost her battle with cancer. I asked Janaya which October half she had lined up and she wasn’t sure yet – there really aren’t any half marathons in Saskatchewan in October! The best either of us could come up with was the relay option of the Saskatoon Road Runners Ultra, so Janaya, Morgan and I formed a team and signed up.

The Moms On The Run kept in touch through facebook and Morgan steadily increased her long runs in preparation. I’ve mentioned her nagging knee problem before, and after we ran the Heartbeat Run together in September it was time for Morgan to admit she needed some time off from running and help from a physiotherapist. She still felt at that time that she’d be able to run her 18 km leg of our Ultra relay.

The three legs for this race were 15.2 km, 16.8 km, and 18 km. I chose the first, Janaya the second (she would continue on after the finish to make up her total half marathon distance for October), and Morgan would do the longest leg to get as close as possible to her half marathon goal.

Two days before we were to toe the start line, Morgan decided it was time to admit that she just couldn’t run yet. She had tried to run the week before and made it just one kilometer before blinding knee pain sent her home again. An October half marathon just wasn’t in the cards for her this year. Janaya rose to the challenge and took over the longest leg of the race, and also found us a sub who could run the first leg. I moved to the second leg and the Moms On The Run were back in business.

The Moms On The Run: me, Janaya and Erica

Brooks stepped up as a sponsor of this event, and we all got a lightweight Brooks running jacket in lieu of a t-shirt! I was pretty excited about this, I’ve needed another running jacket anyway. I was skeptical about this one when I got it at our package pick-up, it was extremely lightweight and actually seemed like it could rip very easily. After running in it once however, I’m a huge fan of this jacket! It doesn’t weigh you down at all, doesn’t restrict movement, and is like a little greenhouse that contains all your natural warmth. LOVE!

 

Race day was cool, damp, and overcast. It had rained the day before, but wasn’t actually raining during the race. I always have trouble deciding what to wear to run, and this decision tortures me before a race! I finally decided on tights, a long sleeved shirt, light weight gloves and my new Brooks greenhouse jacket (yes, I know, breaking the rule of not wearing anything new on race day. Oops!). I also filled my Amphipod hydration belt with water, nuun, Gu Chomps, my asthma inhaler (I never need it during a run, but makes me feel safer to have it along) and my iPod.

Janaya has a lot of friends who run (I’m jealous!), so she knew two other teams worth of runners as well. After we saw our first runners off at the start line, the remaining six of us drove almost to the first turn-around to cheer and give water to our runners if needed. This was a pretty small, basic event, and each leg of this race had just one water station that runners would pass twice, so many teams were supporting their runners along the way. Several of the crazies running the entire 50 km themselves had bike support with them the entire time.

Our Ultra Relay group – three teams

 

After our first runner, Erica, blistered past (she hadn’t run farther than 10 km since April, but was a sport and agreed to fill in for Morgan. She turned out to be one of those runners who can absolutely smoke a race with little to no training. Again, I’m jealous!), the van dropped me off at the exchange point to wait and Janaya ran out to meet a friend partway back to gain her extra 3.1 km to total a half marathon. Erica came through to the exchange earlier than I anticipated, so I hurriedly ripped off my extra jacket and threw it to the bag check guy and took off. I’ve never felt so unprepared at the start of a race!

After I settled in to my pace I immediately started to notice the differences between a relay and a regular race. It truly becomes a race against yourself. You can’t compare yourself to the other runners around you because you have no idea when they started. Maybe they started after you because your first runner was faster, but they easily catch and pass you because they’re faster than you. People who finish after you actually place ahead of you individually because they started ten minutes later. It’s a very interesting way to run a race. I also found it stressful not knowing exactly when my race would start. I underestimated Erica’s speed and didn’t feel properly prepared when I started because she came through sooner than I expected. So many variables!

I dubbed my leg “the ugly leg.” The first and third legs were mostly along the scenic Saskatoon riverbank, but our second leg spend quite a bit of time running beside the freeway on a gravel path, and then along a busy road with no sidewalk. We were told to run on the grass, beside the road, but after about 300m of dodging gopher holes I took a peek behind me and saw that everyone else was running on the side of the road. I joined them and we risked being hit by a car instead of breaking our ankles in holes (one of Janaya’s friends did fall in a hole and slid down the ditch). This stretch of the course was about a half mile long, but it slowed my pace a lot. We then turned onto another gravel/sand path through an off-leash dog park by the river (the same runner got… molested… by a dog on this part of the course! Amusing to the rest of us afterwards! She was still so super fast though, amazing).

I was glad to have my own hydration along, as a result I didn’t even stop at the water stations. I appreciate that there was a water station, but I need water more often than that. I hate carrying water when I run, but it was the best option this time.

I finished my 16.8 km leg in 1:34:00 with an average pace of 5:34/km. My goal pace had been 5:35, so I was pretty pleased with myself for sticking to the plan. I tagged Janaya, we had a quick hug, and off she went.

I waited with the other third leg runners until everyone from Janya’s group was off, then went and changed quickly into dry clothes. The Girl Guides were putting on a pancake breakfast, so I had some pancakes then jumped in my truck to go cheer on Janaya. I was able to find her a couple of times on the course and cheer for her and her other friends (who were very gracious in allowing me to tag along with them for the day!). Our team finished in 4:55:25, sixth of 11 womens’ teams. There were a total of 34 teams and 46 solo runners.

Janaya and I at the end!

Pros: It was nice to meet some other runners! I’m often isolated from the running community out here on the farm, so it was fun to make some running friends. It was fun to be able to go cheer for our teammates. The pancakes were fantastic! This was a small event and there was a strong sense of running community throughout the event. And I love the jacket!

Cons: The stretch of my leg that was along the freeway, then on uneven grass. Only the runners who ran the full ultramarathon individually got medals. I know medals usually begin at half marathon distance, and our legs were shorter than that, but it would’ve been really nice to get a medal! Our entry fees were a bit steep given the basic nature of the event, and relay runners paid the same entry fee EACH that the full ultra runners paid. We definitely felt they could’ve sprung for medals for all, since the event actually made three times the entry money from teams as they did for individuals.

All in all it was a great, unique event, and I will be back next year for sure! Next up: Day Of The Dead night trail race on November 1! Sounds spooky…

Gotta run.

GlitzBandz Winner!

Thanks to everyone who entered my GlitzBandz giveaway! A lot of you tweeted a lot about this giveaway, earning you extra entries and big thank you’s from me!

And the winner is…. Allison! Follow Allison on Twitter at @AllisonWillTri. Hooray for a fellow Saskatchewan athlete!

Allison, just check out the GlitzBandz website and email Emily with your choice for your free GlitzBandz.

Gotta Run!