Thursday, August 14, 2014

Race Review! Brookvale Ultra Trail Race

This past weekend I ran the Brookvale Trail Ultra Race in Prince Edward Island. It was my first out-of-province trail race so I was nervous and excited. My family hooked up our camper-trailer and off we went for a weekend of trails and beaches. We stayed in a flat (very important for the anticipated post-race soreness) campground close to the beach, so I enjoyed some laid-back tapering prior to race day. Even with the relaxing atmosphere it was hard not to think about the hills from the elevation profile. Alot of people I talked with prior to the race didn't know that PEI had a ski hill, never mind a tough trail racing course! I got up on race morning early, ate my banana and some of my bagel and tried to relax as much as I could while getting a cranky 7 year old up and at em' at 6:30am. Soon enough though we were off and, thanks to my clever husband, we had already figured out where to go after previewing the race start area the day before. We arrived at the ski hill and I check in and chatted with the other runners as we were all eaten alive by the tiny black flies. I met one of the North Face reps for Newfoundland who told me about a 67km race (single loop) around Deer Lake that he is the RD for, it sure sounded appealing! Then I ran into Karine and Jodi, the RD for the Nova Scotia Trail running series. As up-beat as ever they were both doing the 10k version. After hearing that I was seriously reconsidering changing my 50k to a 25k race! In no time at all though it was time to go. I started off really well, keeping pace with a small group of 10kers who were very familiar with this whole trail system. One of the ladies recognizied me from the trail races in Nova Scotia so we talked for a few minutes before she surged ahead up the first of many steep mountain bike hills. Then I ran with a guy whose son was running the 50k race-at the age of 12! His son had a few marathons and a multi-day tip to tip run across PEI under his belt so his dad was confident he would do fine out on the trail. Impressive! I kept my pace conservative, not wanting to overheat. My IT band reminded me to shorten my stride at about the 4-5km mark, so I slowed down a bit and tried to resist the urge to bomb down the mountain bike trails that made up the first section. At the first aid station I was feeling pretty good. The race organizers had a few kids waiting at the aid station with super-soakers if a runner wanted to be cooled down a bit-I let them have at it. And man did they ever get me good! I grabbed a cup of water, thanked the volunteers and the kids and took off again up another section of mountain bike trails. After about 6 or 7km the 10k group headed off to the left while the 25k and 50k groups went right towards the bottom of the ski hill. This section had big rolling hills on clay roads, grassy moss and single track. It was beautiful but I found the footing challenging. My IT band was giving me constant pain at that point so I took a couple of aspirin and hoped it would settle down. My new New Balance trail shoes (WT00 v2s) performed very well in this terrain, keeping me steady through it all, although I think testing them out the week before on road might have contributed to my hip pain. After the rolling hill section I found the second aid station. Again it was well supplied and manned by cheery volunteers who asked me a few questions on how I was doing. After another cup of water and a shoe-lace adjustment I was off to the woodlot area. All I can say about this area is WOW. It was gorgeous. Each section of the twisty (but flat) trail was dedicated to a different species of tree and it made for some gorgeous scenery. I had to stop a couple of times and take pictures to remember the beauty of it all. The trail section here was really rooty so my feet were a bit banged up after only a few kilometers. I was more glad than ever to have real trail shoes on as I think I would have had a few bruises on my feet had I been wearing road shoes or my VFFs. My IT band had calmed down a bit but I could still feel its dully ache. I knew as I was coming back into the second aid station that I would only be finishing one lap of the 2 lap 50k race, making this a 25k trail race for me. I knew I didn't have anything to prove, except to myself, and I realized I didn't want to push myself so hard that I'd be laid up for weeks because I kept going through the pain. I hoped this was reasonable and not just a big excuse to go back to the campground for rum and diet coke by the pool. So I made my way back up the rolling hills to the mountain bike section, which was fun but pretty painful with all the little ups and downs. I had been out there for almost 4 hours and the heat was starting to play tricks with my eyes. At one point, at the top of a very long steep hill I was sure I could make out my husband standing there looking down the hill at me. I knew that was impossible but it was a good bit of motivation to get to the top! You have to laugh sometimes at the things your mind will do during these events. After another grassy section I was back on the mountain bike trails. I wished my hip was behaving so I could enjoy it even more, but I tried to make the best of it. By then the sun was out in full force and it was heating up. Suddenly I had an overwhelming urge for a cold fountain pop. That kept me moving through the next section until I found the first aid station again. The volunteer told me I had only about 3k left to go at that point. Those 3k lasted a loong time, especially since the way back to the start wasn't the same trail as we all took out to the turnaround so it was really hard to judge how far you had actually gone. But I made it down the mountain bike section and back onto a grassy trail for the last bit of the race. After a big turn on a grassy slope I could see the finish line and I ran as best I could to the kind cheers of the people who stayed behind. Karine and Jodi were there at the finish and gave me high fives and kind words to remind me that it was okay to drop, what's most important is that I run again another day. Karine was battling her own leg/hip issues so she got where I was coming from when I said I was done for the day. It was a beautiful course with lots of tree cover and really fun mountain bike single track to bounce up and down on. I could see why people from seven provinces had all gathered to run this one! Will I be back to Brookvale? YES! I can't wait to get back there next year, hopefully un-injured and have a blast on those hills again. The RD Shawn was fantastic and put on a great event. I highly recommend this one although don't underestimate the hills!

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