Tuesday, October 18, 2016

2016 Run for the Toad


Race kit pick up
Another year, another 50k and although, this was my slowest to date; it was also the most memorable for many reasons.  This was the 15th anniversary and also my 5th time running the Fifty. Year after year, I return to the trails and the hills, only to learn to walk gracefully again the next day. There was no sun to be seen, but, you were surrounded by plenty of warmth.  First off, Peggy and George are always improving on this event.  It was an 'A' race years ago, but, their thoughts are of the runners and how they can improve on the experience for us, so they keep trying.  Its obvious, they love everything about this time of year.  We may be planning and getting everything just right for race day, but, they are doing their own ultra of sorts.  The amount of time and dedication that goes into this race is almost insurmountable,but, it always comes out perfect.

Kingston in true competitive form
Another eventful point was having my daughter Mindy and my grandson Kingston toeing the line for the 1 km Toad Pals.  This was Kingston`s second race and he was pumped.  For only being 4 years old, he has quite the competitive streak already.  He tried his best and did amazing.  We also got to watch Mindy try to catch him as he sprinted the entire way.  You really have to push to catch this kid when he goes out of the gate.  He`s got legs.  All the children received a full size medal and the events they had planned post race were incredible: movies, reptiles and more.  My daughter absolutely hates running and post Toad she commented about wanting to run another 5 km race again.  You know that the energy and impetus was flowing that day for her to be so inspired.  Such an incredible feeling.

The other momentous account was that Cornel was running his first Ultra.  He had signed up after meeting Peggy and George post race at the Boxing Day 10 Miler.  His longest distance prior to this race was 25 km and although we were going in under-trained, we both knew that a finish was all that was required.  He would be covering his first marathon and ultra distance in a single race.  It was being used as a training race for next weekends Chicago marathon.  Slow and steady was the strategy.

All started out,  anything but well.  The socks I had worn had already slipped under my heel on my right foot.  As the race would be running past the first water stop where I had placed my bag, I decided to wait and change my socks after the race had begun.  Cornel stayed with me, but, I`m sure he must have been feeling anxious.  Then, at only 4 km in, I had already determined that I had overdressed for this.  It seemed to be warmer than last weekends Tour de Hans; we were just absent of any sun.  Thankfully, it was not raining though.  I ducked into a public washroom (another great feature of this course is not having to use the bushes) and shed my base layer.  I suggested that Cornel keep running and I would catch up.  Well, that never happened.

My first two loops were  enjoyable.  I felt good.  There is something about that course. Its just so innervate and tranquil.  At about the 15 km point, I met up with Susie and Maxine and ran with them to their finish.  These were passionate ladies that had a zest for running, family and life in general.  This is one of the benefits I have found in trail races; you meet some incredible people.  I think trail running cultivates not only a sense of resilience, but of conversation among fellow runners.  Sharing experiences and personal details.  The pace, the environment, competing with one self and giving back to the community seems to have a calming affect whilst bringing us all closer to nature.  Appreciating what we have around us, out on the trail and at home. Speaking of which, Mindy and Kingston were waiting for me to loop and we walked to their car; Kingston beating me up the hill.

Now, for the third loop, which is always my slowest.  My nemesis.  The loop where the mental and physical struggles attack in full force.  I know many times over, that I just have to get through this and I'll be golden.  The last loop always produces faster turnover with the idea of finishing and sitting down to that gourmet meal at the end. I could feel the second toe on my left foot, it was creating a problem, but, I was too lazy to do anything about it.  I know, having to run another 25 km really doesn't justify the term lazy at least to some people, but right now, it was more of an apathetic feeling.  Its a loop that I ran alone with only my thoughts and one major thought at that......where is Cornel?  I have seen him on the course, during some cross overs, so, I know he is just 3 km ahead of me.  I thought for sure that I would catch him on this loop. At this point, I'm feeling like I should pick up the pace, but, I can't as its the dreaded 3; like the witches in MacBeth. "Double, double, toil & trouble.  When shall we meet.  When the hurly-burly's done. When the battle is lost and won".  There was some other language I was citing, but, we won't get into that right now.  Then, before you know it, I'm approaching the 9 km marker and I know I'm just 15 km's from finishing this thing.  I see Rhonda whom I met at Sulphur Springs and she is there merely to cheer us on.  The timing couldn't be more impeccable.

All is good.  I think to myself, it wasn't that bad really.  The loops seem to be getting shorter each year I run it.  I pick up the pace a bit.  It wasn't near as fast as I thought.  Really just a slow increment. As I see from my splits post race, but, it was something.  I start to pass a few on the course and I think that I may just be able to catch Cornel at this point.  He has to be struggling, right?  There is a light misting of rain and it feels refreshing. I lavish in glorification now as I know the end is near.   I approach Skeleton Hill and my 4th loop is the only time I run up that thing.  Its just me and that hill as all the volunteer supporters have left at this point.  I have the internal struggle with myself and I think this year I'll just walk it, however, I recall telling Cornel that the fourth loop is the only time that matters, so now I'm forced to fire up it with all I have.  Victory at the top and then a walk to bring my heart rate back down and I'm off and running again.  Just another km until the finish.  Its about 300 m when I spot Cornel.  He has finished about 15 minutes ahead of me and has come back to run me in.  I have my selfish moment and tell him that I just want to run it out solo and I'll see him at the finish.  

Another great year for the Toad and I have so much adoration for Cornel for finishing his first marathon and ultra distance that day.  He really has that mental fortitude.  Don't mention it though as we wouldn't want it going to his head.  For me, not my best Toad race, but, I figure that will happen next year.  We both had some purple toenails and some chafing and blistering, but, we had success and a great time overall.

Next stop, Chicago.

Happy Trails my Friends!