Before the gravitas of the race, the buildup. On friday, I took part in the Forerunner panel at the expo. The photo makes us look like a choir, and we do all sing a great tune.
That evening was the VIP party. Rich was hosting a visiting athlete, Benny, for the race weekend. I surprised him with a word of Swahili I remembered from Reid Coolsaet's blog. Reid was there, though I was a little shy speaking to any of the other elites.
Saturday, and I showed up for the friendship run for my first time. It's a fun way of getting in a pre-race shakedown and building positive vibes for the race. Cool with a light drizzle.
Looking ahead to the race, the hourly forecast showed a big temperature increase by 10am. A heavy sweater, 17 degrees and rising by the end of my first 50k Ultra was a concern. The day would require mental fortitude.
The start line vibe was, as usual, palpably all positive.
It felt like good running weather, though I knew it would be getting warm, and quickly. I had also forgotten the sunblock, facepalm.
Picture perfect start.
Just before the halfway mark, reached in 2:02, I felt a familiar hamstring twinge. This was my warning to take a walk break within 5k or grind to a long halt with severe cramping.
At the 30k aid station, I took a walk break. Being a slightly less exciting stretch of road, I had the camera off to save on battery power when the low point came.
My hastily devised plan was to take a walk break every 5k. Coming off the Crowchild overpass and approaching the 32 km sign, my right leg turned to concrete. Painful, unyielding concrete. Don't let the knee bend, stretch it out and start walking I told myself. I tried this more than 3 times, each time my leg tried to fold.
"Hey, what's happening?" A couple of medics had shown up. "I dehydrate a lot, leg's locked up." I explained how it had happened to me before. My responses were lucid enough that in hindsight I think I was starting to bore them.
"What do you want to do now?" "Wait for this to pass, get walking, and carefully manage things. I can finish." Writing this now, it's a bit surprising I didn't have to have a motivating chat with myself to psyche myself up. I merely issued that statement as if it were as bland as something one says in small claims court, and got moving.
The Voyage Home
With around 5k remaining, I caught up to Ashley, whom together with Rich I've done a couple of relays with (and is also a spin instructor). Moving along at 5:30 pace after the 2nd last aid station, we took a walk break through the final aid station. After taking one of everything (cup of water, energy drink, and sponge), we got moving again.
Approaching the underpass for the 3rd and final time, Ashley noticed everyone running on the sidewalk instead of the road, so we did the same. What a great idea.
Next was a guy who stepped off the sidewalk. The 10cm drop was enough by now to produce a wobble, which was then turned into a controlled fall. "Damn cramp" he said.
The 49k sign was metres after him. I told Ashley if she wanted to go on ahead for the finish, she could. She pulled ahead, though after a couple hundred metres slowed to a walk. A tap on the arm and she took off again. She ended up winning her age group, and so did Rich.
2nd from last corner, now within crawling distance. At the very last corner, there was loud cheering from a few people I know which spurred me on. I am most grateful to them and all those who encouraged me, many by name, others spotting my camera or noticing my Canada singlet. It all helps, especially in the last half of a hot race.