We pull up to the campground that is Baker Lake 50K start line with a good half hour to spare before the race is to begin… And so far all has gone to plan. Perhaps most importantly we’ve not gotten lost or taken any wrong turns en-route to the start line, so that itself feels like a win!
As hubby parks I grab the Bodyglide… And that’s when I see it.
A hole the size of a buttonhole in the crotch of my shorts. Skin clearly showing through. Mortified, I wonder how I’d missed this?
The answer is easy. I’d pulled these shorts out to wear for the first time this morning – I have a bad habit of buying brand new outfits for race day.
My first impulse is to jump out of the car and start asking people if they might have a needle and thread. I look to my right – a guy is walking around his campsite in bare feet. It’s cold outside… Why is he in bare feet? He probably doesn’t have a needle and thread. I mean look, he doesn’t even have shoes.
I get out of the car and turn to face hubby.
“Can you see it?”
He responds with a “Weeellllll, no one should be looking at you that close anyways”.
And a “I’m sure no one will notice”.
My mind continues to search for a solution but nothing is coming up. We’re a good half hour away from our cabin where another pair of shorts are. I have absolutely nothing else to change into. I pull my shirt down as far as I can. It just covers it. Okay, so I could run holding my shirt all the way down…
As I make my way to the portapotties, I notice there is more than 1 person inside one of them and they appear to be fishing around in it. Minutes later they come up with a set of keys hanging off a hot dog skewer they’d used to grab them out. The grateful runner jogs away and as he does the same keys bounce out of his pocket and onto the ground. Someone calls out to him maybe he should sew his keys to shorts.
What’s that now? Who has a needle and thread?
Also, my problem no longer seems quite so large – lol.
I get myself over to the start line. I crane my neck to look down at my shorts and see the stupid hole. Hubby tells me to stop looking as I’m drawing attention to the very spot I don’t want anyone to look at. I try to ignore it and pull my shirt down again. It’s go time. So me and my holey shorts start running.
I’m also wearing a long sleeved top and gloves. It’s takes less than a kilometre to realize it’s warmer than I thought and within another kilometre I pull my gloves off, holding them. The first 3km or so are run on service roads – starting by going up, then a bit down and then a steep up. I walk the up and as I do I push my sleeves up. Much warmer than I’d thought it’d be!
And then there is the trailhead! I dive in following a group of about 5 runners and follow them along the smooth narrow trail. As I do I remember hubby saying maybe stuff a glove down your shorts? I look at the thin black gloves I’m holding… And stuff one of them down my shorts. I slow and look down – sure enough, no more skin showing. It’s like a little miracle. Now that I’m no longer inappropriately flashing anyone, I can run with confidence. And truly enjoy this amazing trail I’m on.
I’ve never experienced such a runnable trail! It’s rolling, only slightly up or slightly down which means no stopping to hike up – you can just run the entire way. There’s no crazy roots or rocks to slow you down. I mean, sure, there’s a few roots and rocks here and there – and a select few sections where it got a bit rougher – but for the most part I never felt they got in my way or slowed me down.
It rained the night before so the bridges are slippery. There’s lots of short little wooden slatted bridges – and then this very cool log bridge.
But mostly it’s rolling soft dirt, mulch and leaves. I’m still behind the group of 5 runners and am quite happy to just stay with them. We’re going what I would call my ‘happy pace’ – the truth is I’m not actually here to race (kinda to my relief) as this is a training run in prep for my 100-miler in exactly one months time. So don’t want to run myself into the ground.
We’re at about 6km in when I hear one of the guys ahead of me yelp. And then another one cry out. Some start swearing. They are being stung by bees – or hornets or wasps or something. Our line starts moving faster and everyone is jumping around. The girl directly in front of me cries out. I panic and do a little scream. The guy behind me yells. We run out of the bee stinging area. But I made it through untouched. I didn’t get stung – I guess I only cried out from fear, which makes me feel silly now.
I remembered the race director saying something about a chance of getting stung at the pre-race briefing. I remember thinking, oh no big deal – I got stung 4 times at Mountain Lakes, nothing to be afraid of. But the truth is I’ll always be a bit afraid of getting stung.
We continue running along this gloriously runnable single track trail. It’s maybe 8km in now. And then it happens. People start asking to pass. I move aside. More ask. I move aside. A bunch of people pass – I see a train of about 20 coming along and think nope no way, not all you too and jump back in. I’ll just speed up.
I’m following a guy in an orange coat who’s following a girl, and there’s a guy in a blue shirt behind me. Blue shirt guy asks if anyone else has ever done this course before? We all say no, first time. There’s a lot of first-timers here today. One of the guys I was following earlier is from Arizona and this is his first time trail running! Blue shirt guy goes on to say it’s his first ultra – he’s never run farther than 18 miles which I try to translate into km and guess 18 miles is 30k (close – it’s 29k). Wow – I wish him luck.
We all continue along in silence and I’m noticing more hills. I like to charge the downhills but I can’t do that right now in the train I’m in. But when we hit the uphill parts I can’t imagine going faster so I stay.
Then blue shirt guy says, “Mind if I squeeze by you?” and so of course I let him but part of me knows I should follow.
A few minutes later I do. Mentioning to those I’m choosing to pass I might regret it, I get by them all and pick up the pace. I’m about 14km in now and really, there’s so much of the race left. I zoom down the downhills and before I know it I’ve come upon blue shirt guy. I follow him for a bit before he pulls over and motions me on ahead. I thank him and fly along down the hill.
There’s at least 2 good downhills I take advantage of and on the second one I pass 2 ladies running the race together. One is further along waiting for the other. As I fly by her, she says, “Great job!” and “How do you run downhill so fast?!”.
And in a way I find it ironic, because I can still distinctly remember asking a guy at Squamish 50 the exact same question. I can fly down downhills when they aren’t too technical – my quads and knees seem to be able to absorb the impact with ease. But throw some rocks and roots and mini cliffs in there, and I’m slowed right up watching others fly down by me. We all have our strengths.
I’m pushing now, but I’m in a good groove. I also don’t want anyone I’ve passed to pass me back so I try my best to keep it up. The frontrunners just passed me going the other way (it’s an out and back course), so I feel like the turn around point must be getting close. My watch tell me otherwise – still a good 3km or so to go.
I pass the early starters going the same direction as me and more frontrunners come towards me passing me. I do my best to step off the trail for each frontrunner as they go by – at points the trail is very narrow.
Finally the trail widens it’s so much easier for all the runners to get around each other. I cross a few bridges, and then I cross a very cool suspension bridge. Only another km or so along a nice wide flat path and finally, there is the turnaround point.
As I come in, a lovely volunteer asks me if I need anything, and I hand her my water bottle to be refilled. I grab a piece of banana and eat it. My full water bottle gets handed back to me and just like that I shove it back into my pack and I’m off again. I pass a few runners who are walking out of the aid station. I feel like I’m going a good pace. I pass a few more runners. The hills I flew down come along and now I must climb them. I pull out my ginger and fruit drops and eat half the bag as I climb.
I pull my phone out and take pictures of the trail and the views. Unlike the majority of the way to the turnaround, the way back I’m all on my own. I pass a runner here and there, but they become few and far between – and it eventually feels like it’s just me out here.
As I run along a big black bug comes along and flies itself right into my eye. Ahh. Ew. I come to a full stop, blinking my eyes furiously. It feels huge. I pull my phone out and flip it to selfie mode so I can see my eye. Oh gross, it is huge. I carefully work the stupid bug out of my eye… And then take a selfie 😉
My left foot hurts. It’s been hurting a while now, probably since about 20km in. It’s been getting more intense – pain in the ball of my foot. I’ve felt this before – the first time was in Iron Knee 25km trail race back in May. Doctor Google tells me it’s Morton’s Neuroma. In June I bought a metatarsal pad for my shoe and ran Tenderfoot Boogie 50-miler with zero pain. As was pointed out to me later, it’s highly likely I’ve worn the pad out. The pain is now excruciating.
I stop and take the pressure off my foot for a moment. The pain lessens slightly but I must move forward still. So I try to distract myself with my thoughts, thinking about anything other than the pain, and continue on. Pain pain pain.
Somewhere between km 35 and 40 I stop noticing it.
Maybe because it started raining. It had begun misting when I hit the turnaround point, but now, here at about 35km, it’s full on begun raining. I’m in the trees, so of course it’s not like it’s pelting me directly. But still, I’m getting quite wet and a bit chilly. I pull my sleeves back down and for a time pull the sleeves right over my hands. I begin questioning why I’m out here. The kilometres seem to now be clicking over very slowly. Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy to be out here and this is still the best trail ever. I’m just a bit tired and my foot hurts and I wish the rain would stop.
But really, look at this amazing runnable trail. I keep bringing myself back around to how lucky I am to be running this most fantastic route. And it helps. Having such a lovely course to do this 50km training run on – I literally couldn’t ask for anything better.
I come upon a spot on the trail where there’s about 25 x 4-litre water jugs sitting under a sign. There’s another sign pointing to “Toilet”. I stop and fill up one of my water bottles. I also want to go use the “Toilet” but I’m pretty sure I’m just looking for any excuse to take a break, so make myself immediately set back out on the trail. I’m at 40km now.
Knowing that the turnaround point came up just before 25km, and that the last 3km or so is on road, I calculate I’ve got about 6km or so of trail left. Ohhhh man… I definitely love this trail – but I’m also ready to be done with it haha.
I keep pushing forward, trying not to land directly in the many puddles forming on the path. Some parts are good and muddy now. I come upon the area I’m pretty sure is where everyone got stung and I’m worried. But maybe all the bees have tucked themselves away from the rain – I’m safe again for today.
I know I’m walking inclines that could definitely be run up. But I make a point to ensure I start running again the minute I’ve reached the top. I’ve slowed a bit overall but I swear to you I’m still pushing. I see a girl in the distance ahead of me. I’ve seen her a couple times – sometimes you can see ahead of you for a few hundred metres. I think I’m stronger on the downhills while she’s stronger on the uphills. Maybe I can pass her! But there’s more ups than downs and I don’t see her anymore.
And then… There it is. I’m climbing and I can see the trailhead is up ahead of me – so I run… And pop out of the trail. In front of me now is a steep downhill gravel road. I fly. I fly past the girl, and then past a guy. I run the uphill bit of the road. I run faster on the next downhill part and with a few hundred metres to the finish pass another guy. I’m so close I can see the finish line! And then I see hubby sitting in the car to my right and I’m so happy and run as hard as I can across the finish line.
Yesssss! Final official time of 6 hours, 14 minutes and 41 seconds. That was everything I’d hoped it would be – and more.
Just one thing… Next race I won’t wear brand new shorts 😛
Run… Be it faster or farther, for freedom or fun… Just run…