We managed to arrive with just a few minutes to spare, which was fine with me since I don't like waiting very long for a race to start, it just gives me more time to get anxious. We huddled in the shade of a barn while we listened to Jodi (one of the race organizers) give some good advice for navigating the trail. Then with a 10 second count down we were off!
This year's route would be in the opposite direction of the way we had run it last year, now we would find out which direction is more difficult! The first 3 km of this 12.89km trail race was a gentle uphill on a dried riverbed and single track that wound through the forest. Surprisingly the forest gave excellent coverage and seemed to hold the previous night's cool air close to the ground so the heat we experienced in the open field wasn't scorching us under the tree canopy. The further we went though the steeper it got. In the few exposed areas I tried to keep to the shaded areas as much as possible. I was wearing my hydration pack and was really pleased that the water was staying decently cool. Richard and I had brought a bunch of GUs (50mg of caffeine for him, 25mg for me) and we employed a solid system of taking one every 30 minutes. We both agreed later the GUs played a major part of getting us both through the race.
At about the 5 km mark we began sliding down one side of a hill to reach the river below. This part of the race is run in the river-not beside it-IN the river. It felt wonderful to jump knee-deep into the cold rushing water. I splashed and threw water over my head as I tried not to slip on the rocks on the bottom. Richard and I happened upon a nice couple who Richard chatted with as I made my way more gingerly up the 400 meters of river. I managed to get my foot stuck so I had to catch up with Richard a few meters down the river where I found him sitting on a rock with his feet in the water. Then we found the next marker and started making our way up a hill, doing a fair bit of bush whacking as we went.
"So. You wanna run up this part?" My husband said sarcastically as we looked up the side of a hill face covered in loose dirt. "I was thinking more of a hands and knees approach" I replied as I extended my hand up to him and grabbed a small tree to hoist myself up the first bit of the hill we were climbing. It was the half way point and one hour into the race. The dirt was cool and felt kind of nice as I clambered up the hill, slightly dismayed that just a few minutes earlier I had gotten cleaned up in the river below only to be covered in dirt now. Ah, the things you do for a good trail race!
I'll admit it; I wasn't having my best race. I found it really difficult to catch my breath after each steep hill climb and even though I had my hydration pack, I could have used another liter of water. So I tried to get my heart rate down as much as possible after each climb and run the downhill and flatter sections. After the steepest climb we had a wonderful kilometer long decent down some single track. By then another runner had caught up to us, he turned out to be a volunteer who was prepping for the VT100 (yeah-100 MILER race) coming up later this month in the US. So Richard and I didn't feel too out of shape when he caught us. He also gave Richard some very motivating news-we were NOT last. There were at least 6 or 7 runners behind us so Richard stood a good chance of finishing well if he kept up his pace.
Our eyes were set on the next marker-the Lookoff-at the 10 km point. From that point Richard and I both knew it was about 3 km to the finish and most of it would be downhill. Richard took off a bit ahead and then another couple passed me as I was going down another decent. I caught up to the couple at the Lookoff where they were admiring the gorgeous view of the Wentworth valley below. We stuck together for a kilometer or so before they got ahead of me. I figured that Richard had decided to make a go for the finish; he was feeling much better than I was and was having a great run so I couldn't begrudge him for that. It was then that my dehydration started to really kick in. I was thinking if I came upon another stream that I'd take some water-screw the possible parasites. Unfortunately I only came on some standing water, which I wasn't too keen on taking since that's the stuff mosquitoes like to chill in. I enjoyed the single track as much as possible while trying to keep myself upright as the trail had become really rooty. I turned one corner and thought I saw a car behind a tree. I tried to figure out of a road somehow came up the side of the mountain and boy was I grateful it was there..maybe whoever was in the car would have water! But then I ran a bit closer and realized my so-called "car" was actually a bunch of tree branches bleached in the sun. "Oh man." I said out loud as I realized my delusion and then re-focused on getting my butt to the finish as soon as possible. Clearly my dehydration was starting to affect my mind!
I recognized the trail section that laid ahead of me and knew I had only 1 kilometer left to run until the finish. I pushed as hard as I could and found myself catching up to the guy Richard had chatted with in the river. There was no sign of the woman he had been racing with and he was looking about as bad as I felt. We exchanged a few words and wished each other luck as I found one last reserve of energy to push to the finish. I ran through the last checkpoint at the train tracks and waiting there were Jodi and Micheal. Micheal had run with me and my friend Andrea for part of the Cuddly Coyote back in October-and he had completed the second only known run across Prince Edward Island last summer. Jodi cheered for me then said Richard was ahead of me. I was happy to hear Richard hadn't gotten lost but then another realization occurred to me-I had created a monster! Richard had done so well that now he thinks he actually races better if he doesn't train at all! Oh frig.
I held my pace down the last grassy section where a sweet girl was waiting and cheered me on as I ran the last few hundred meters. Then out of the bushes popped Richard who ran the last few feet to the finish with me. We congratulated each other and then frantically started to share a bottle of water between us. Richard had finished 48th out of 54 finishers. I finished 50th. And hey, this time we weren't last ;-)
|Post Race Runner's High|
After the race it was back to Tatamagouche to pick up the rest of the family and then back to the campground we were staying in for the weekend. Rum and diet coke by the fire never tasted sooo good.
|Getting ready for supper back at the camp site|
|The evening fire-time to relax after a great race!|
Will we do the Sunofa Gunofa run again? I hope so. Richard had sworn off that race last year, but after his epic come back this year he might actually consider doing it again in 2014. As for me I'd love to do it again. It's a true trail race to its core. Running it I experience every emotion out there; the highs of running well through stunning forest scenery, struggling up the steep hills laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, the lows and self-doubt that require strong mental fortitude to overcome and keep going and the camaraderie of my fellow trail runners all out there doing the same crazy thing. So...yeah I'll be back. BIG Thanks to Jodi and Karine for another epic race. You guys rock!