The new route for the Wasskally Wrabbit had us travelling down Peggy's Cove Road until we came to a turn off. I was so nervous I barely remember getting there, but after a second port-a-potty visit I stood at the back of the pack feeling oddly calm as Jodi (one of the race directors) went over the route and any other important tidbits of information we might need to know. Then it was a simple, ready-set-GO! And the group was off. Most people had signed up for the much more reasonable 12 or 24 km distances, which meant one or two laps through the course. Me and a few other "crazies" had signed up for either the 50km or 50 mile distances, which in my case equaled out to 4 laps plus a 2 mile out and back section.
The first lap I managed to stay with the group for the first 4 km. This part of the course consisted of an old dried river bed. For the most part it was a mix of dirt and sand, but as you got closer to the 4 km mark it became more and more riddled with river stones, small boulders that required alot of quick feet to make sure you didn't go flying. The trail was scenic, with big trees lining either side and a river that ran the left side of the course. Then it was a short uphill and there stood our first turn, manned by a kind gentleman who told us that we were almost there-just this small hill to climb-HA! The trail narrowed to a single track that consisted mostly of ankle deep mud that only became deeper as the day-and the runners-went over and over it.Up, up we all went. I hit the mid point that seemed reasonably flat so I started to run, just to turn a corner and find another steep mud hill to climb. Up, up again. When I finally reached the top I was able to catch my breath and push on to a tiny section of dirt road. Then the trail started again and I went back into the mud. This section was much more rolling, lots of smaller ups and downs.
|One of the flatter sections|
At the 6 km mark (or so) I came up to a fallen tree. Since it was chest height I had no other choice but to dip under it. That worked out okay for the first 3 laps...the fourth lap however my quads were so shot that I thought I might need to crawl under it. I continued on, going up and down the hills until I reached the so-called "short-cut" which was like scaling the side of a mountain. I took a picture but it does not do the steepness of the hill justice. The rest of the single track was really beautiful; moss lined the sides of the trail that was mostly made up of pine needles and leaves. I find that kind of trail really calming and tried to appreciate the shear beauty of it all. After one last downhill I reached the dried river trail again and back to the start I went. Of course it wouldn't be a 'Jodi and Karine' (the race organizers) trail race if I didn't fall at least once during the race so I was kind of glad to get it over with early after I tripped on a rock and went flying, my handheld smashing into a river stone that would have likely broken a bone had I not had the handheld bottle on to break the impact. Bruised but not bleeding I dusted myself off and kept going, I still had over 40 km to run.
During my second lap I came across a man and his daughter trying to navigate the hillside in their ATV. He was kind enough to pull to the side for me, when I thanked him he said something about all of us runners sure picked a tough place to run. I laughed and said we have a sadistic course designer. He seemed to chuckle and I thanked him again and was back on track. I completed that lap a bit faster than I expected (I was aiming to complete each lap in about 2 hours), but having to take a bio-break and fix a developing blister ate up any extra time that I had gained.
My third lap went pretty well. My quads, arms and calves all started to complain a bit but I kept pushing to stay on pace. The hills affected me much more on that lap and by the end running downhill was starting to hurt-usually downhills are my strength so I had to really focus on relaxing my quad muscles to run properly downhill.
The fourth lap was completely about getting to the finish. I celebrated each minor milestone and pushed as hard as I could up the hills-I swear they got steeper as the day went on! By the time I was back on the 4 km river bed section I was reduced to a slow shuffle run/walk. I tried to run through the sections that weren't peppered by river stones but by then every muscle was complaining loudly. Near tears-part out of joy for completing the race and part because I was so sore-I saw the finish and heard everyone calling my name.
The "finish" was short lived as I still had a short out and back to complete before I could call this race done so I dropped my handheld, crossed the line and turned around focused to finish this race. Jodi asked if I needed anything and I said no thanks, and I think he saw that I just wanted to finish. My husband and daughter had left the car to join me for the last 2 miles and out we went. Pretty soon after we started my husband asked if I wanted to finish alone, I told him NO! I wanted nothing else than to have him and our daughter with me for this last section. I went over the day with him as I shuffle-ran, describing the highs and the lows, as with any Ultra there were plenty of both.
This 50km was technically much harder than the first 50 km because all of the elevation was packed into 4 kms rather than spread out over 15 kms as it was last year but I think I enjoyed the first three laps-or 30 kms much more than I did last year. I certainly have lessons that I've learned from this race that I will ensure I take with me to my next Ultra in August. Sure I'm sore, but in lieu of a race medal I wear my sore muscles with a sense of pride, I finished this epic adventure in one piece and will continue to attempt to better my time at this distance. In the end, even though this took longer than I ever thought it would, I finished. My first 50 km was not just a fluke, I can do this distance...now about that 50 miler....;-)