Thursday, 8 February 2018

Flight of Sun and Moon - Landmannalaugar, Iceland - 55KM Trail Ultra - July 15, 2017

January, 26, 2017

It's now been half a year since I ran this race. Nightly, I dreamt visions of this trail 3 weeks afterwords and I still find myself daydreaming of its smell, touch and taste. This race was across the most breathtaking landscapes my eyes have ever gazed upon. 

On a particularly long training run that may be dragging on, I mentally project myself back to the various stages of this run and it gets me through the monotony of day to day, non exotic location training. Except in the summer and fall because, wow. I am blessed with a breathtaking back yard. I'll show you more later....

8 Years ago I ran a half marathon. Not much since. 

Gained a bunch of weight for no reason.

3 years ago started running again, then as fate would have it work brought me to an area where it fell head over heels for trail running. Which I had never done in my life. The rest is, kinda, becoming history.

I chose this race with the feeling I wanted to accomplish something I always dreamt impossible for me. Like Doc Brown says regarding the DeLorean "The way I see it, if you're going to build a car into a time machine, why not do it with some style" 

Let's run my first marathon in Iceland. Make it an Ultra. 

I read a review from a young woman who said that this trail was "Running Nirvana". She was 100% dead on. This has to be in the debate for the most beautiful place that exists on our planet. If money was no issue, I would be entering this race every year for the rest of my life. 

Truly a sabbatical from earth. It is truly like running on the Moon, Mars, Pluto, Kashiik, Hoth and Tatooine. All rolled into one.

Also anyone reading this should know it was worth 3 UTMB PTS after the fact. Heck ya! Didn't even know it was s qualifier. Check with organizer if 2018 is as well.

So I brought a crappy little knockoff Go Pro for video, some pics from new found race friends and put together a very shaky and non quality windows movie maker video which I leave you the link for at the end if you make it there. Please excuse the quality. I'm an absolute amateur. Also a terrible runner just trying to survive this beast so my main focus was on one foot in front of the next.

I also in the following days of bumming around Reykjavik, took my time writing some point form notes about the highlights I remember from this journey. Of course over some very delicious Icelandic, Beer at Skuuli craft beer bar. Recommend for sure!

For anyone who can limp their way through this rudimentary account of my day on trail, I hope that you carry on to the the half hour video despite its flaws if you are serious about rocking this race in July. Side note - my friends band let me use their tunes for the video and as they were on my headphones most of the way, it takes me right back there every time. 

I hope this account provides a little advice for anyone attempting this race for the first time.

Sorry it's long winded and the video is not 4k, HD, 10ADP or whatever you may have been expecting from a reputable filmmaker. I was truly way more terrified about hitting cutoffs than getting any video on trail. Again, I bought a $20 snap video camera before leaving, making it much easier to deal with if I lost it. 

Even with this camera though, I managed to get 4 of my favourite pics I have ever taken in my 39 years. All by accident. 



Flight of Sun and Moon,

Well I've never seen that before.

One side of the plane, out the window was the moon. Pristine. White. Against a canvas of blue sky and fluffy white clouds.

On the other side was the sun setting. The most brilliant orange and pinks I've ever seen in my life. I was about 4 hours into my late night, oddly timed evening flight from Toronto to Reykjavik. 

We descend into Keflavik airport, the guys behind me, had been drinking all flight but still managed to point to a small commotion outside the window. We may have been the only window seaters to notice the fact, there were humpback whales jumping into the air and almost immediately colliding with the cold North Atlantic Ocean water. A sight, that due to lack of sleep and being an animal lover almost moved me to tears at the beauty. So cool. Best trip ever. Already.

*Renting a car is so expensive but I couldn't afford one so, I went with the bus into town. Easy peasey. Pre purchase a Flybus ticket online or when you pick up your baggage. It will take you basically anywhere you need to go in Reykjavik and it essentially runs non stop in Half hour intervals. It's really not that big of a city. I ran it later that afternoon, 3 beers deep and still know it like the back of my hand today. I've been there once. I got off at the Bus Station which is VERY central and easy to find / run to now that I know what I am doing there, however I took a cab to my Airbnb. Also, everyone speaks English. I tried to learn a few things in Icelandic but they just humour you and start talking in English. They are all much smarter than I.  

-I arrive at the Airbnb with zero hassle Cab ride was 6 min. Again. Too easy. My apartment is a 11 min run at a fat guy (my) pace to downtown. Heck ya. Also staring directly at some serious Icelandic Mountains to taunt me once again. See Bryce Canyon writeup.

Basically everything is accessible if you give yourself a 10 min cab ride and thats end to end of Reykjavik. It's a beautiful city. So vibrant and alive. Reminds me kind of like the Cobblestone of old Montreal, QC. 

Did some Exploring, Whalewatching, watched most of "FRIENDS" on Netflix, grocery shopping  (go to Bonus if you are cheap, Haagkaup if you want to shop for "top shelf" groceries) but mainly tried to rest and get ready for the race.

*Race pack pickup / Drop Bag Deposit - Show up to the arena during any of their scheduled times and pick up your pack. Be sure to buy yourself a RACE BUS TICKET to the event unless you want to take a bus a day early and camp over. I HIGHLY suggest buying a meal ticket for the Buffet Dinner at the end of the race. SO GOOD. Chicken, pasta, beef, potatoes, hellz ya. 

NO Jean Paul, Seinfeld issues. I woke up ON time for my wake up call on marathon day. 2am and it's still light out in Reykjavik. Not quite mid day light but definitely early evening type light. 

Big day. I've been training for this day for almost a year. I have no idea if I will hit the (in my mind) very aggressive cutoff times not knowing the terrain. I read blogs of a lot of people who finished the race but also some who didn't make it. That scared the hell out of me. Not finishing in the allocated cutoff times. I had studied that elevation gain chart almost every day for 12 months. Now it's time to tackle it in real life.

I may finish in time but I have to also know I may not. I'm ok with knowing that just attempting this ill conceived venture is madness. Nothing ventured nothing gained. 

I get to the arena for race buses as the second runner. The arena isn't even open. Possibly a tad early but time for hyperventilating, bathroom breaks, snacks, story swapping with other runners. Some lady named Bobbi from Washington scared the hell out of a group of us first timers as she regaled us tales of last years run where she didn't hit the cutoff times and went home without a finisher medial. SHE TERRIFIED ME. Feeding the fuel of my doubt in myself. I should have spoke to nobody. A cute young couple from New York struggled with flight delays and NO sleep leading into the arrival at race bus. They would try to get some sleep on the bus ride as their last resort. THAT scared me. I felt so bad for them. NO idea if they finished or not.

*They bus you in race groups so pay special attention to your bib colour. Get on the bus with your color. Don't forget, a couple weeks before you the race you have to submit your estimated finishing time. Thats how they stagger the start groups. There is a tight bottleneck at the beginning of the race. Get to the front of your pack before the start if you intented to set your own pace. Otherwise, you risk being at the pace of the person in front of you. Especially on the climbs which are prevalent immediately.  

Bus out to Landmannalaugar is indescribable. The scenery is other planetary. I wanted to focus and mentally prepare for what was coming but found myself in full-on tourist mode. I had to take so many pictures. After the breakfast stop (and delay as one of the other buses blew a tire) I really tried to focus on music and meditation but the entire bus was just in awe. All of us chatted jovially about the landscape and I found myself getting more relaxed chatting with the OPTIMISTIC runners from Iceland, USA, Canada and Germany.

No offence Bobbi.You were terrifying with your 2016 DNF story.

On the racebus.. 

-One of the other buses blew a tire
-The bus convoy got lost
-We went off-road with 4 buses who struggled with being off-road
-Several people for some reason smelled like Holiday Inn Express breakfast sausage in close quarters

I didn't buy the breakfast meal based on a few recommendations from other bloggers. I am happy with my decision. My seat mate Siggy lost his meal ticket and had to beg for them to feed him as he had no cash with him. It WORKED! Its very cramped in the line inside the restaurant. I brought food in my finish line drop bag and was so happy I did. I quickly ate. Used the bathroom. Took some pics and relaxed with my tunes.

I kept looking around the bus wondering what everyone was thinking. I knew this was the most adventurous thing I have ever done in my life. Anyone else? Or just another race, country or road trip with buddies? 

As we arrived at the start, it impossible not to have your mouth dropped wide open in awe of the landscapes. Strewn amongst these dream like views were all the tents of campers who stayed the night previous, so they could wake up at the start line. There was something in the air (and not just the sulphur smell-get ready for that by the way) it was a vibe. A communal feeling that we were all about to experience something transcendent, This race would not disappoint.

The bus ride out will take you about 3 hours with one stop on the way so be sure to make use of the bathrooms before your departure, at the breakfast stop and get in line quickly for the portable toilets at the race start line. Those poor toilets took a beating before the start gun.

One by one we all lined up according to our start colours. Yellow, 
Red, Green, Blue. All according to our estimated finish times. I was in the blue group predicting a 9 hour finish, IF I was to finish, so I was at the back obviously. I would almost immediately regret taking such a meek approach in being at the back of the blue group as well. I would / WILL do things differently next time.

They herd you a narrow walkway like cattle and as we all were in position the rain started. Nothing major, just enough to have everyone put up their hoods. 

THE GUN GOES OFF. Yellow group away. We all shuffle up. 5 minutes later, Red group is off. Then Green. Now the countdown to the Blue. 

I've been training for this moment for a year and here I am, 5 minutes away from this getting started. 

I can't stop thinking.......MAN, this place smells like egg farts. 

Apparently the geo thermal activity smells like sulphur. So basically, lets run on a volcano and hope it doesn't blow up? Which if it does, good luck claiming life insurance. We chose to do this.

Also, the hot water in your shower at your apartment or hotel will reek as they are 100% green with their energy use. The hot water is essentially glacial hot springs harnessed for the country for pretty much free. Yes. The HOT water stinks like sulphur and it IS normal folks. YOU don't stink after a shower though. Weird eh? I drank bottled water just to be safe though. Water almost feels kind of slimy but apparently that's the minerals. Anyway...

Almost time.....

Lots of excitement. Feeling somewhat alone being there by myself and none of my friends from the Detroit Wolf Pack with me but this was always meant to be my pilgrimage. I was the one who logged all the time on trail back home and I was 60% sure I was ready to hit my cutoffs. 100% certain I had done everything I could to be ready for this race. Even if I fail, I've won just being here.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1......GO!!!!!!!

I really wanted to get moving. I was so jacked with adrenaline but I could not get around anyone as we were all jammed in like a sardine can. At a terribly slow pace I saw everyone ahead of me funnel gradually into the bottleneck, with several people missing the right rock to tippy toe over a tiny stream right at the beginning. I watched about 4 people completely soak their shoes less than 2 minutes into this race. Maybe it was good I was at the back? I definitely learned which rocks to step on to remain dry for the first climb which happens immediately. 

Single track, black rock and mud, all gain. Your pace is at the mercy of the person in front of you. This was driving me insane. I needed to get moving. In my head all I was thinking was, CUTOFF CUTOFF CUTOFF. I chose not to wear headphones at the start so this was all I kept hearing in my head. I said to myself that the music would be my reward if I hit my first cutoff at 22km and 4hrs. 

Again, immediate climb to start the trail. Nasty and definitely use your hands on knee technique. It was so pretty l going up the bottleneck and from some of the drone footage I had an idea of what was waiting for us at the top but in reality, I can't even describe the beauty of the top of the hill as we emptied out onto that rolling terrain. Absolutely breathtaking to absorb all the majesty of this frozen land. Be sure to take some pics but unless you are elite, be very careful about lingering too long. CUTOFFS ARE COMING...

Despite this reprieve from climbing and the picturesque Icelandic Highlands, my legs felt dead. No spring whatsoever. I was worried I hadn't had enough protein by 5 km in. Not physically a confident start.

I was power hiking the hills where possible as it was so steep and footing was terrible.
The flats were manageable but the overwhelming sulphur smell was giving me a headache. 

The sites are incredible at this stinky portion though. Blue mountains? Come on. So pretty. Apparently it's the copper rising out of the ground that gives it the blue green tinge.

Second hill a lady was struggling to take off her jacket as it was quite warm. I helped her do it so she didn't need to take off her run vest. She was very appreciative. She should have left it on with what was coming very soon. As soon as we hit a flat I got by her and a ton of people catching their breaths after the second big climb.

Weather would be an issue all day. Too hot, too cold. No wind. TONS of wind. Rain, Sleet, Snow, Hail, Cats and Dogs rained down at one point. I couldn't believe some people just wore shorts and a tank. No running vest either. Check out the winner. Dude is badass and wins every year for past 4 I believe. Talk about a home field advantage. He goes on to finish #5 at UTMB CCC later in the summer. BEAST.

Got to top of the third higest incline and then the weather hit. The nastiest wind, sleet, snow, and ice pellets. Oh ya, this was the running in slushy snow portion.

An odd thing happened. My 7 months of running in snow training paid off. Im from a town in Ontario where the snow comes off the lake from October, through April. If you want to be a runner here, this is life. I started picking off runners as they half of them were walking the snow sections as if they were steep hills, even on the flats? I decided to run them. No big deal to me. I do this all the time. 7 months of the year in the back home. 

The ones who were running the snow were doing it on the pre blazed hiking trail. This however was a terrible choice as it was the slushiest route. It took me about 5 steps to figure this out and immediately moved over 4 feet to the fresh snow patched with zero footprints. The snow only had minimal give even with all the rain and was able to support my weight without sinking to my knees. I was able to fly on this section. Each snow stretch would be met with intermittent soaking wet black volcanic rock portions where if not careful you could really hurt yourself. I tripped several times but recovered before
A nasty fall could ruin my day. Dear god people, be careful on these wet black rocks. Terrifying.

At 10k aid station I had a banana and took a whiz (actual bathrooms) and headed back out into the slop.
More snow, more hills, for 5k some of which had massive holes in the snow with no bottom in sight. Well that's scary now isn't it?

Snow looking like it could collapse in on itself with even the slightest footstep on it . I avoided these holes like the plague. Who knows how deep they were.

Then the hills changed to some foreign type of sand /snow/ mud/ clayish type hybrid which was not easy to get a footing on. This went on for another 4 km until we finally hit the top peak of the race.

All of a sudden I was face to face with the most beautiful view I have ever laid eyes on.
Lake Alftavan.It honestly looked like it was a postcard taken by the most talented photographer in the world but it was real life. All of a sudden the snowy rain quit and it was sun. The trail became lined with hikers who take 3 days to complete this trek, all of them stopped to let us go by. Each of them clicking their hiking poles and high fiving us as we passed them getting ready for a huge downhill.

I could see it up ahead. A gravel / clay downhill. Massive downhill which felt like 2k. Probably 1. I absolutely torched it. For me anyway. Hammering down I again passed tons of very skittish tippy toers. I turned on my fat guy jets remembering all of the times I tore down Robertson Cliffs as fast as I could getting ready for this race. This hill finally came out into a flat for 2-4k to the next aid station / first cutoff at 22km. I've never seen a view like that in my life. Actually took my breath away and drew tears to my eyes. Be sure to get a selfie of this view. You won't regret taking the 10 seconds.

At the bottom of the hill, my legs again were scaring me. Hammy issues, calf tightness and I had NO energy. Emptying out onto that flat ground I felt like I could barely move. Terrain was easy and so flat but my legs were stone? Did i hammer too hard down that hill?

I rolled in to the 4 hr cutoff at 2:45 VERY happy to have given myself and extra hour and 15 min to get to Emstrur 38k cutoff at 6 hrs.

Time for some tunes at 22km after re-fueling on bananas, mini cinnamon buns, pretzels and flatter than flat Coca Cola. I made a special playlist on my IPOD for speed. This would now kick my stone legs ass into gear. 

Again there are actual bathrooms at this stop too if you need to make a deposit either way.

We crossed our first river soaker shortly after 22km. Shoes soaked. No way around it. You will have to get wet. As you read this. Make a decision now. Will you or won't you change your shoes and socks at the drop bag station. My suggestion? Do not even bother. You may get a limited amount of time with dry shoes after the drop bags but it WILL happen again. Several times in fact. Your wet shoes will dry. Save yourself the time at drop bags and just keep going after re-fueling on your own pre packed snacks. I switched out beanies as my first one was soaked from the rain and it as this point I WISHED I had packed a scarf, or bandana / buff. I didn't and would regret it later. 

From 22km-38km was awful for me. First 8 was fine with lush green views and my tunes blasting drinking in the scenery. 

After listening to one of my favourite band for almost 15 years, it was truly amazing that hearing Sigur Ros in their own country can really get you even more intimate with the music. Their songs have never been more beautiful to the background of those lush rolling mountains. 

Finally some down hills on this section and Then we come to our first river crossings where a ROPE and volunteers help are necessary. Ice cold water up to the balls and at the end of the crossing the guy in full snowsuit holds out his hand and I grab it. He yanks me out and I pat him on the shoulder. He pats me so hard on the back it said to me, NOW GO GET THIS BEAST OVER WITH and then said something encouraging in Icelandic.

Just after drop bags I got some puppy love from the softest dog I've ever pet. One of the campers was taking it for a walk off leash. Came right up to me as if to give me a boost as well. No idea what kind of dog it was but wow, was she ever soft. Camper was a cutie too. She laughed as I took 10 second off my time to pet her puppy.

Then what I have now named ........................ The Pluto fields. 

This section was like running on jacks in a game of marbles. Every foot strike needed to be perfectly accurate. Take your eyes off the ground to look at scenery and u will have a broken ankle.

This section has trail dust whipping as so bad my eyes were filled with black sand. I forgot my Canada handkerchief which I could have used as a face shield over my mouth so I wasn't inhaling all that dust but live and learn. Won't forget next time. BRING A BUFF!! Sunglasses and or clear lens sport glasses as well. That wind is whipping black sand into every oriface on you melon.

This section was the hardest for me all day. Mentally and physically not to mention technically. I wanted to be able to look at the landscape but every time I did I tripped. I needed every mental faculty to attend to this most difficult part of the trail. 

The flat spots were black sand. The hard parts were jagged boulders. I swear I was on Pluto or the moon. All of it seemed to be a gradual 40 degree incline for 10k. All with sand whipping in your face. 

This was the most draining part of the race. I was asking myself a lot of questions over this stretch. Still feeling like I had zero energy. Did I eat enough protein, did I carb load too much. Should I have had those 5 beers Wednesday nite with my new friend Richard from the plane? Why was I so drained. Looking back now I could have reflected on friends and family supporting me but it I felt all too selfish on this stretch. Me me me. I, I, I messed up. I didn't train properly. I went too hard on the hills up to the 10k mark. I went too hard on the down hills to 22k. Me me me. It was also draining with my own negativity. It honestly felt like 50 miles for that 10k stretch.

Even though this was so draining I had built up enough of a time buffer that I was 90 percent sure i could walk this 10k and still hit my cutoff but that wasn't the point. It was all the doubt. I felt my day was slipping away and I would be a weak ass combination of walking and slow jogging for the rest of the day. Quit didn't enter my mind but worry certainly did. Worry about how shitty I was going to feel for the last 17 k. I had lost the anxiety over my cutoffs but now created a new anxiety about how awful the rest if my race would be to the finish. Let's do a current physical check -

Feet-wet but no blisters. Toes pre treated with moleskin bandaids and liquid bandage were holding up nicely.
Ankles- fine
Calves- a little right but nothing major.
Knees- IT on left if not an issue and bruising on right not an issue. Thank you Jason and Patti for getting me ready with treatments prior.
Hammys - right one is a bit of a mess. Pulled for sure
Stomache-pre treated tummy issues as usual with immodium. All good with no tissue issues. Thank god. If you have to evacuate on trail, the rule states you need to poo in a Ziploc bag then carry it to next aid station. I brought one and tp just incase as it's illegal to crap on trail. I don't want to go to Icelandic jail for shitting on their country.  Anyway. No shitssues. Tummy good.
Lower back all good
Lungs finally clear after a month removed from a Utah 50 Miler's trail dust. Thanks Russ.
Arms fine
Neck fine
Head- having issues focusing on positives but no headaches which I started the race with.

Again. Thank heavens for the hikers that were everywhere. Their spirit was infectious. It was a HUGE part of the day for me.  They would kindly step aside on trail and cheer us all on by clicking their poles. A massive boost when feeling low.

I kept jockeying back and forth with this one guy over this stretch and didn't really even think about it except every time he came back and passed me. I finally got so pissed at seeing him pass me, I started hammering my uphills to get him off my back. He did finally fall back and I never saw him again. He was the last blue race bib I would see all day. More on that in a bit.....

I showed up at the water station at a place called Sandar and I certainly know why. Every glass of water they had out, had a full layer of black sand at the bottom. As they filled my bottles I looked forward to a nice refreshing drink of sandy water. As if being in my lungs and nostrils weren't enough. I was basically grinding sand in my teeth and spitting for the last hour anyway. Now I had to drink it as I was on empty. Awesome.

Another 3 km of the black sand and then green hills started appearing again after this other planetary excursion. I could faintly hear some commotion from beyond the upcoming hill. When I finally ascended this hill I could see the 38 km aid station. I looked at my watch and knew I was well within time for the 38 km cutoff. It was a 6 hr max before getting tossed and I rolled in at 4:45. Thank you baby Jesus. I could walk the rest if the way if needed. You can't toss me now!!

There was some commotion between aid station helpers as I rolled in so I took off my headphones and they were saying something frantically in Icelandic. I used my very basic grasp of the language and said Enska? Enska? Meaning English please!!!

The commotion apparently was that I was the first blue group runner to arrive. HELLZ YA! We started in waves of yellow, red, green then us slowpokes in blue. Our predicted finished times were the slowest. But still. They finally told me in Enska and I was overwhelmed with goosebumps and astonishment. Wtf? 

I've passed every runner in blue group after starting essentially as the last runner in the race. I am first in my group? I've never been more electrified. Except for maybe when I saw this aid station had a giant tub of bite size snickers, Powerade and again pre poured flat coca cola. Also pretzels and mini cinnamon buns. 

Did I ever demolish the food at that station. Quickly though. As other blue guy I was jockeying with just rolled in too. One of the best aid station workers ever filled my bottles for me and packed them in my vest for me too as I ate. I had to do nothing except eat snickers and cinnamon buns as she was pit crewing me. It was fantastic. I owe here a huge thank you, whoever you were!!

From this point on, I was shot out of a cannon. A new lease on my race. I was first in my group. This stuff doesn't happen to me. I run to finish these races only. Not to compete. I'm not and never will claim to be a great runner but now I was filled with some very old school competitive spirit from back in the day when I was 18 (I'm 38 at the time I ran this race). 

It was go time. If I got this far first in my group all I need to do is hold off the rest of them and I can put this very tiny and insignificant feather in my cap. Significant to me though. Back of the packer 4 life.

I record a short video just after the first km out of aid station and did a massive Ric Flair whoooooo. The lady in front of me came back half a km to assist as if I needed help. I explained to her I was just jacked at making the cutoff. Then passed her too lol

The down hills kept coming fast and furious. I again, was hammering them. Some of these were so steep they have chains bolted to the boulders so that you may safely traverse down without incident. I think i only used one as I felt like I was floating.

I kept noticing my gains. Was it the tunes? The boost of confidence if being first in my group? or had I just trained hard, studied my race plan and put all of it together with proper pace, hydration and nutrition? I didn't care what it was. I was feeling great. Flying up hills and hammering down. My flat ground pace was faster than it had been all day. 5:20 per k. Nobody had passed me since the last aid station and we are coming up to the 42k Mark. I was now passing some of the yellow red and green group runners now.

The first guy i met that morning at the bus pickup was a guy named. Robert. 

Speaking with him before anyone else arrived I just noted this cocky swagger he had. I didn't like him from the get go but politely let him ramble on about his accomplishments he was boasting of. 

He was probably In his early 50s and as we discussed race strategy and plan he was telling me he purposely put himself into the 3rd fastest group so that he could pass lots of people along the way. It makes him feel faster. Also said that all he trains on were hills back home so today he would be making all of his gains running UP the hills, not hiking them. It wouldn't be a problem apparently for him as he is more at home on 50 miler races he said. This was more of a training run for him. Ho hum. No big deal.

Back on trail...

I start to reel in this struggling salt an pepper haired gentleman walking up a very manageable hill which I was running up I notice it's him. Robert. From the green group. Now he was getting passed by a very humble back of the pack blue group runner.

I pat him on the shoulder as I went by him and said "hey bud, good job" with what I know he received as genuine sentiment from me but in my head all I could think was, you cocky SOB. Never saw him again for the rest of the trail. I think he finished 26 min behind me. Be humble dude. These ultra distances are not to be underestimated. No matter what the race or distance it may be.

I saw him again in the change tent afterwords and avoided him. Did the same thing when I saw him on my bus to the airport to catch my return flight as well. No thanks.

Passing Robert was a massive boost again. Not just him but I kept reeling in green and red runners who looked to be struggling significantly.

My mentor has a mantra which works for him and imparted to me. "Envision yourself as a rabid dog on a chain. The chain has to contain you at first. But at the right time it will break and you will be free to run" I'm very certain I held back at at the right points to reserve myself for that chain to break. 38k the chains were off and I was on the move.

So enthused by my current successes I was singing out loud to the songs on my iPod. I was beaming with a giddy childish grin for the rest of the race. One of my favourite songs came on by City and Color, a fantastic Canadian band called - THE GIRL. A great tune in general but always reminds me a beautiful day I spent watching two dear friends get married. Zee and Mandy you were with me at that moment. You and the wheat.

As I am belting out the words to this song going up a hill, I pass another another green bib, an then a group of hikers couldn't stop laughing at my singing as they clicked their hiking poles in approval. I'm also a terrible singer. I can't even imaging how bad I sounded outside my full blast headphones.

I may have got too "in the zone" with my tunes at this point. Twist my arm by the Tragically Hip came on and I was so jacked I missed a turn on trail. A group of French ladies hiking were frantically screaming at me in French which I actually heard over my headphones. Waving and pointing me in the right direction they were a god send. I understood a bit of the French "arret, arret!!!" having won the French award in gr 9 but it was mainly the pointing that helped. Thank God for those ladies. I woulda been screwed. A la Traverse City again. (Zoned out and went 3k off trail before noticing)

Now back on track I could only see about 3 runners up ahead of me and it seemed that we were all going the same pace. This was not the case. Again. I didn't notice it at first but I was ever so slowly reeling them in as well. After getting past them i couldn't see another soul.

More unbelievable views in the distance lead me to the last aid station at 48k. Omg more snickers!!! Go time. Some dude tried to start talking to me about my water bottles and whether or not they were light? I felt pretty rude just saying yep and getting the hell out of there as fast as I could but, oh well. I was on a mission. Finish as the first blue bibber.

The last 3 real climbs of the day were now ahead of me and I knew that's basically all I had left for climbing. The rest would essentially be downhill with a little gain here and there. I looked over my shoulder and about a km back I saw a blue bib. This guy was my only competition for first in our group.

Trying to hold this guy off I pushed harder on the hills the I ever have. Passed more people and extended the gap almost 3 k away from the other guy. He walked the hills.

Then the reward for all my hard work on these last 3 hills. 3 very steep down hills which I was able to muster up enough quad strength to blast down. This came out into a beautiful site. A very rocky flat stretch that lead to the final assisted river crossing of the day.

After the last rope river crossing it all turned to trail that looked exactly like my route at home.

From here on out the final 5k was lined with spectators and hikers alike. The best parts were the little kids. It's like they had all got together to decide they were going to hi five all the runners as we got closer and closer to the finish. Again. This was a massive adrenaline boost. The final few hills felt like nothing. I was still floating at this point knowing I would finish way beyond my predicted time. First in my group.

Johnny Cash's version of HURT by Nine Inch Nails came on. It drove me harder.

Kids hi fiving. Hikers clicking poles. Spectators clapping.

Joel Plasketts "A Million Dollars" came on next. From one of my all time favourite movies "One Week". This was one of the movies that inspired me to do this race.

I was flying.

Again, I stopped to pet a beautiful golden retriever with 2k left. The family was laughing their asses off at me as I got some more puppy love. I kept going.

The trail was so familiar to me as I turned the last corner. It looked exactly like home.

Then I see it. The finish. I pulled out my small camera to record my crossing. Tears filled my eyes as I finished in 6:hr 45 min.

The race staff immediately dressed me with the medal i'd been dreaming of for a year. They exclaimed in Icelandic that I was first in my group!! Then in English. Then the warmest wool blanket I'd ever felt was draped over me as a woman looked me directly in the eyes and said. WELL DONE. REALLY. WELL DONE CANADA.

From here it was to the post race food tent for so many more snickers, cinnamon buns and oranges.

Then to the men's change tent. So many Euros with units blasting and not a care in the world. Tunes rocking, Whiskey, Brennevin and vodka being drank straight form 40 pounders. Beer cans crashed together and spewed like a stone cold Steve Austin match. It was paradise. Save for all the male nudity.

The post race showers provided were a magnificent touch and I was able to clean up and get changed into more comfy clothes that should never be allowed in public. I was hideous and essentially dressed like Ralphies little brother in a Christmas story.

I grabbed my gear and headed to the finish line to cheer on the other runners with my 2 THULE beer I brought from home.

It was all so surreal and still is as I write this today.

Significant song boosts for me during the race. Check them out if you need to shake up your playlist.

North-Sunparlour Players
Wake up-Arcade Fire
Sigur Ros-NY Batteri / Song 8
Eddie Vedder-Hard Sun
Alexisonfire-No Transitory
Eddie and the Cruisers-Running through the fire
QOTSA-No one knows

The Tragically Hip-Fully Completely / Twist My Arm

I even forgot I had a ticket to the buffet that I had pre purchased. So after dummying 2 plates of Icelandic chicken potatoes and pasta. It was time to catch the bus back to Reykjavik for a night on the town to celebrate. 

This city is electric even at 3am. You have to get here at least once in your life. 

Skuuli Craft Beer Bar is the BEST.

This race was a testament to the human spirit, will and determination. 

Got a dream? I had one. It was to run this race. It was not an easy process. Which makes it all so much sweeter.

In studying the race plan for a year I anticipated my time to be roughly around 9 hours if I hit my cutoffs at 22 and 38km.

I never could have dreamt I would finish in 6:45. 1st in the blue group. 1st male Canadian. The first Canadian overall was top female. 

I was 30th for my age group. 120th out of 488 who finished.

Go get your dream. It's all possible.

Time is not money. Time is life. That's all we have. Spend it wisely people. This life we live is too short to waste.

I'll be back. See you in 2019 Laugavegur. I'll be dreaming of you until then.

Peace and love.

Again, very shotty race video but please understand my concerns were on CUTOFFS not videography. 

Best band ever scores the entire video. My boys, the Sunparlour Players.

Entire race video here

The leisurely side of Iceland  - Trip Video here

Follow my UTMB CCC journey here!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Beast in Bromont - Bromont, Quebec - 50 Mile (80km) Trail Ultra - October 8, 2017

This quaint little town has a big big secret. The course for this Ultra Marathon loves to inflict pain and lots of it.  

At 22k into the race, I texted my friend to tell her "This course is a beast" she replied with "So are you". That was a huge motivator to keep me pushing forward in what would be the hardest day I've ever spent on trail.

My other friend Mike says the only way to attack a bear is with its own medicine. A bear hug. That's how I would choose to attack this thing. Beast on beast.


Over the last 30 days leading up to this race, on training runs I sprained my right ankle twice and my left once. I thought everything had healed well enough to be back on trail and full speed training with 2 weeks to go to Bromont and indeed it was ok. Until registering for 10k “Trail Trot” at the Hiawatha trials here in Sault Ste. Marie. 4km in to the race, on an aggressive downhill, I felt my ankle go again. This time felt real bad. I limped my way back to the finish line and for the first time ever, had to drop out of a race. Either way, I was getting demolished by what seemed to be a field of jackrabbits on the hottest day a Soo September has ever produced. 32 + at race time. If the ankle didn't stop me the heat may have.

2 WEEKS TILL RACEDAY. I rested the ankle after the Trail Trot for 8 days, trying to preserve the minuscule chance I may be able to still run the race. No running. I went to the gym, elliptical, bike and swim. Massage therapy and Chiropractor several times leading up as well. On Monday October 2, My chiropractor recommended I sit this one out. The ankle wasn’t healing as much as he would have liked and didn’t want me to chance it with the pounding it was about to take over 80km and the potential for re injury was just too risky. Fair enough. It wasn’t stable at all. I figured though, if I’m dropping out of this race it better be for good reason. I needed to test it at least one time to make sure I was tapping out for the right reasons. Since I was told it's not strong enough I should DEFINITELY sprain the ankle again if I run my hills route tonight right? That will ensure I drop for with 100% certainty. Something happened though. On that run in the dark with my headlamp and poles, I didn’t hurt myself. I totally should have but didn’t. As I rolled in to my jeep after an hour of hills in the dark, I made a decision. I would rest my ankle the rest of the week but would at least TRY to run the race this weekend.

Friday - Porter Air from the Soo through Toronto and on my way to Montreal. Drive to St Jean Sur Richileau.
Saturday - Race registration, eat a big lunch, pack running bag. Tell everyone ill be asleep by 4pm (with a 12am wakeup for a 3:30am start) Benny proceeds to text pictures of Grandfadder carving a cooked but still raw turkey what seemed like every hour. I finally deleted the messenger app just to get some sleep. Thanks Benny
Sunday-Up at Midnight to get ready by 1am, drive the 1 hour to Bromont and chill for an hour and a half till race starts.

Cody (Who was pacing me from 65km to "finish") would be getting up at 5am to drive to the hotel first then the race. From what I later learned, he was pretty early so decided to take a nap. Which he felt guilty about at least, with me having started running several hours before.

A lot ran through my mind on that drive to the race. How would the ankle hold up? If it doesn't should I tell Cody to just turn around and not waste his Thanksgiving? What if I didn't make the cutoff? I need this race to qualify for France. How bad will my lack of running hurt me?

What ifs and a "non present" mindset crept in. Until I got to the race. Then everything turned to excitement. Hope. Possibility.

There was wind and it was somewhat chilly at 3am in Bromont.
Forecast calling for major rain and lightening between 7-11am and I was prepared for any weather situation but decided to start with a super soft breathable T-Shirt and put on my rain proof jacket.

Race director gathered us all under the tent to give us the final race instructions. Not one word of English.
I'm at this point hoping there wasn't anything major that I was supposed to know about during that announcement. 

As we strode to the start line and the headlamps started turning on, it got real. Fast.

Then anti climactically slow as "Les Directuers" shouted into the mic tres, deux, un DEPTARTES!

Just before the start of the race I saw this couple in front of me kiss and hug, as they felt the anticipation building for their long journey. Reminded me of the Moore's. Good vibes.

Within 25 steps after the start, I knew the jacket had to come off. What a pain in the ass this day already is. Ughhhh after I perfectly positioned everything. I would have to de-bag and put my jacket away. I debated the best time to do this for the kilometre and finally pulled over to an "ankle safe" spot to change.

Rejuvenated with a mid race (1km) wardrobe change, I was free to focus on my feet and where they were striking. Using a fresh set of batteries for the headlamp was effortless lighting my path but, difficult still to determine if a leaf is a rock or a rock is a hole, is the leaf a tree root or is that squirrel a bear? Difficult to make out anything even with the light of 15-20 bunched up headlamps. Man did that crisp autumn air feel wonderful with just the t-shirt though.

This would be my first time ever using trekking poles in a race. The Moore's said they were a must with my ankle. My friend Mir said I wouldn't need them. He DID the course last year so he would know right? Again, heavy debate with myself as to should I shouldn't I carry the extra weight, will it just annoy me when its in my pack, making me feel like I have to carry them ? Ahhhhhhhhh. I surveyed the rest of the field in this race before the start and it was over 70% poles. I had to bring them and thank fack I did.

After the first 2km we ascend a hill that was pretty aggressive single track run / hiking only to get back to the bottom and have to start going up the massive ski hill that welcomes you, essentially right after turning off the highway. Even scarier seeing it this time driving in at night. Very intimidating. This was where we were heading.

The hike up, was almost a road so we all had plenty of room to spread out. This climb was not shy about punching us all in the guts right off the bat. It was so long and steep but at least...........great footing!

I was definitely feeling some lack of training at this point as I wheezed up the first trek up the hill. At was at this time I realized how much I had let my French lapse over the years as everyone was chattering away aux Francis and I had no idea what was going on. More English on trail in Iceland. Finally to the top which I am sure was an epic view in the day time but not much to see at night. Yesss, the downhill. New problems of course. Mentally, I could not get past the fast that my latest ankle sprain was on a downhill, so I ended up carefully tippy toeing down most on the downhills at the start. Also, I had forgot to WASH my new toe socks before wearing them and now my feet like like they were sliding around in butter with all the sweat. The shoe actually felt like it was 2 sizes too big for me the way those buttery toes were slathering around in there.

Now at the bottom of the hill, the course then dictated we go right back up the one we just climbed but, let's go the back way this time. The way that if your not careful you can slip, fall and there would be some definite questions about whether you will survive the fall. So much so, that during this section of jagged, mossy, wet and slippery rock they give you courtesy ropes with pre tied loops to assist yourself up the mountain. In the dark.

This was one of the toughest climbs I have ever done. Even being well trained, on two good ankles and in the daylight this thing would have been dangerous.

TOP again.

Here, there is a little stretch of gentle single track of about 250m as it connects back to the trail for the very aggressive "root laden" decent to come.

Here, is where I sprained my ankle.

The LEFT one.

Right one was still very questionable and NOT stable but holding up after it's long 2 week rest.

The left. Come on. Are you kidding me. As soon as it happened, I knew it was the EXACT same sprain I did to the right 2 weeks earlier. What was going on.

The pain / shock of it passed up my legs, into my lower back until I felt it all the way up to my neck as it felt like an electric shock all the way up.

Should I call Cody now and tell him the day is over? I was only at 8km but he may have not even left yet? I should call. There's no way I can do this. The universe is trying to tell me, this was just not your day son.

The universe. In the grand scheme of things, what will it matter. I drop out, sprained my ankle(s), it's a valid excuse to quit. What's my excuse to not quit? The fact I've been debating when I will drop out with myself for 5 minutes as I continue to put one foot in front of another. That's when it hit me.

Just do it.

Ya your ankle hurts. Go until you can't take one more step. This was the end of the race season for me. I know there was a backup race I could enter in December but I could neither afford another trip financially or mentally. My brain could not handle going through the training for another 50 mile race this year. This was it for me. Season over.  This is my first year in racing. I didn't even know what an Ultra Marathon was until July last year. Here I am with a chance to throw my name in the hat for an epic race I never even knew existed. I noticed it hadn't hurt for a few minutes as I am thinking all this.

Keep going. See how far you can go.

I didn't call Cody.
I didn't quit.
I kept tippy toeing down that single track, tree rooted, slippery assed rock monster and began to chip away at my kms.

At 18k I did text Cody. "First Hills Insane-Alive at 18"
At 22k I texted Sarah as she wanted to know whats going on. "Course is a beast-22km"
                                                                                                    "So are you"

Really felt like I had 2 pacers with me at this point. I would try to stay in touch with everyone when I could but could not risk not paying attention to my feel unless it was on a few of the road running segments. That's where I tried to stay in touch.

There was this NO HEADPHONES rule I read in the race guide and even thought about ignoring it as I go like to run with headphones most of the time or at least parts of these long runs but I have no doubt. I would not have even reached for them this track was so scary. Especially for me with now two bum ankles, I needed to be laser focused on every step of the journey. Good rule Bromont. Definitely no headphones.

Around 24-26 km we started weaving through trails that are actually on residents private property. Easy enough terrain with some questionable trail markings.

After I reeled in 2 very chatty Quebecois and passed them with a traditional trail salutation of "good job" I would soon be regretting not learning that term in French.

At a fork in the road I didn't even look right. I saw the pink flag to the left first and that's where I started heading. Still gaining ground on the two gents I just passed. after about a km and a half I realized there were no more pink flags and I had gone the wrong way. Much to the delight of the two I just passed and essentially advertised that I don't speak French. They saw me go the wrong way, I wasn't that far ahead of them. They let it happen. With what I can only assume, the most childish joy in screwing over someone who only speaks English.

Lesson learned. Know "Good job" in the native tongue (s) of the country the race is in.
I lost 3 km finding my way back on trail. Almost wished I hadn't found my way if I knew what was coming. More climbing. Only this time the climbing would be done in the most back woods, recently trimmed, single track, ankle breaking terrain I would see all day. There was not a flat step to be found for the next 4km and all of it was up hill and soaking wet as the downpour had begun.

If I hadn't brought my poles I may have tapped out. They saved me during this section as I poked an prodded my route, gingerly stepping to what looked like the flattest spots of the trail. Going so slowly up this stretch, I noticed there were all of these little signs marking the pre existing trail system (not our race route). Each sign had a persons name on it I got some comfort as I approached a sign that said BEN. Should have got a picture for my brother. It was like he put his hand on my shoulder at that point. I kept moving and was aggressively pulling myself up some very steps hills with my trekking poles. The rain was relentless but it was so humid outside it was almost a welcome element.

Got to a peak finally and met with "Orange Shirt Guy". Very French but at least willing to open up to me. 'I'm done friend"
I said no way man, you are killing it. He was too. He had been resting at the summit for a few minutes and I hadn't seen him in from of me for 10 minutes so I knew he was tired.

He said his quads were done and his head wasn't into it. "not my day" he said. I encouraged him to get to the drop bags at 32km and see how he felt after some food.  We bumped fists and he took off again. He was out of my sight again with 2 minutes as he floated down the trail and I daintily picked my way.

This final downhill opened up to 1km of road running as we arrive at the main aid station on course at 32km.

Chez Bob.
Bobs House.

And it was just that.

In the middle of all this trail it brings us to Chez Bob where he opens up his driveway and garage to be the 32km aid station. It was so nice to get inside that garage and out of the rain for minute but I had to be fast. Even in full health I would still be shitting my pants about a 14 hour cutoff for 80km.

Quick towel down and shirt change I could now drop off my headlamp and extra batteries. Not a thought in the world about dropping my poles. Decided to put jacket back on with this rain still coming down hard. Had some food and re filled my water bottles and got the heck outta there in 5 minutes.

Kept everyone posted via text and had already taken my jacket back off after 5 minutes. The rain had stopped and I was overheating again. I had to stop to complete this task but there was a bearded man from Gatineau that was smiling as he completed the smoothest - jacket off and into the pack manoeuvre I have ever seen. He never stopped running! He reminded me of Borat as he ran and smiled. He was a beacon of positive thinking. A super nice guy, I wish I got his name as I passed him when his knees started to go out on him 2 km down the road. Not sure if he made it or not.

I have to thank the race directors for throwing in some stretches of road running which I usually despise. It was the only time I could actually find a rhythm with my running as all up hills and downhills today on trail we painstakingly spent trying to not further injure these ankles.

With the road, at least I could somewhat zone out on my feet and just focus on gaining some ground. Now there weren't many stretched of these during the day but when they appeared it was certainly a slight reprieve from the trail. It was a weird feeling to love road running.

Now running down an old back road with fields and farms as far as the eye could see, I only had one runner ahead of me in sight.

I was catching him and ended up following him down a driveway lined with pink flags.

Again, we were foiled by the flags. Wrong direction. We most likely just wasted another 1km going up and down that farmers driveway. Awesome.

Back on road and I managed to again start making some gains (for my pace anyway). Reeled in 3 or 4 runners that I never saw again for the rest of the day. Thank you ROADS!

As I rolled into the water station at 41 km, there was one lady just frantically givn'er on a cow bell. Signalling us to all turn into the little parking lot to re fuel. The rain was so heavy at this point she needed it or we could have missed her.

This would be super fast as all I needed was one bottle of water and a quick pee. Again, having major luck shine on me with no #2 bathroom breaks in any race this year.

Coming out of the portable toilet was a man I could not have missed at the start of the race. Dude was what looked to be 7 feet tall. Not an ounce of fat on him. I remembered him chatting with an older man who was jacked and had grey dreads and tattoos at the pre race meeting. Which was in French, remember?

I thought to myself, this sport is so awesome. It brings all shapes and sizes who want to push their limits.

So here he was. The 7 footer. Grabbing some water. We were both just over halfway through this monster.

He asked, "where ya from" in English and much was appreciated. He actually knew the Soo. Travels to Sudbury on business occaisionally. He was telling me that not all French are assholes, just some of them, like anywhere. Also told me he ran this race last year and had some tips on what to expect moving forward.

"Fuck man, we haven't seen anything yet. We have to go back up that ski hill one more time and this is where shit gets real" as he showed me a massive road rash he suffered earlier.

His name was David. I think he said he was only 6'9 bit what a pain in the ass to run trail being that tall.

He wished me good luck and was on his way. Those long lanky strides which looked to cover almost a kilometreper per step. He was gone.

Another stretch of uphill road to get us back into the trails and the rain was right in my face. I did not bother with the jacket again the rest of the day as the rain continued to come and go as predicted. I couldn't afford the time to keep switching back and forth.

Now on very muddy, single track hiking trail climbing up the foothills of Mont Brome, I started knocking off kms as if it was a downhill. Nobody around.

Ankles swollen so much that they were essentially bracing themselves but I was able to forget about that pain as I was dealing with the back of my right calf. This pain actually started the night before not getting a great sleep in the hotel. For some reason I woke up cramping Saturday am. I tried to stretch it our all day before heading to bed but nothing was able to get the "knot" out.

This calf thing wasn't really an issue until getting down from the first 2 climbs. At 25 k it entered my mind as the thing that could most likely end my day on trail and never left that position. At each mental check point from then on, it ranked ...

1. Calf pain.
2. Left ankle sprain
3. Right ankle sprain (re injured at 12k and 18k)

The rankings never shifted for the rest of the day but as the ankle issues pretty much stayed the same, the calf continued to get worse with each passing hour. No matter how much I hydrated and did some on the spot stretching and massage this calf was my biggest obstacle.

So much so that just before the aid station at 46km I asked my Mother in heaven if there was any way she could  give me a little relief from this pain. 5 minutes. 10 would be even better. I found myself praying out lout to hope the tactic more effective.

I rolled into the aid station at the bottom of the ski hill. This was a good one. Had tons of food but this time mini sandwiches!! I sampled my usual everything I could and don't I bump into David again as he was departing.

He said "your holding your own man, keep up the great work"

Nice confidence booster from Trail Runnings Tallest man!

The aid station at this point stopped me as I was getting ready to leave and asked me if I was ok to continue. They saw how bad I was limping now not being in my stride and double/triple checked, I would be ok to keep going. I guess I was convincing enough as they eventually let me get on my way.

Back up the hill. What a grind this MONT BROME is. Would be beautiful for a day of skiing with chairlifts getting you up and down but today, for us, this thing was just laughing at us.

At the top of the hill it empties up back into the dangerous single track trails which were kicking my ass all day.

The next stretch was to be between 46 km and 63 km to the next official aid station. However on the race package they said their would be a mystery station somewhere in-between but who knew where? Could be at 50k could be at 58k, nobody knew, I I believe this was a new feature for 2017 as that 17km is a long stretch to have no aid.

I didn't know it but at the last station I had not screwed on the tops of my bottles correctly and I had been leaking water all the way. I was at 52km running steep cliff facing muddy single track and realized I have about 3 sips of water left. Also, WHERE WILL THE MYSTERY STATION BE?

I tried to ration accordingly but the canopy in the forest was now creating a humidity that required serious hydration levels to maintain your fluids. So desperate in fact that I asked a group resting at the top. If they had any water to spare? Unfortunately they didn't but offered me the view they were perched on as an alternative.

I wasn't going to stop as I just needed to get to that next aid station as fast as possible but they convinced me. "why else would we  climb all the way up here if not to admire the view". I took a Chevy Chase type snapshot of the Grand Canyon in my head and rolled on.

The mystery station turnout out to be only a couple kms away. AND THEY HAD MR. NOODLES! The besssssst. Thank you Chez Chantal.

Another couple of kms on road lead us back to trail to take us to the aid station at 63km.

Not going to lie, I had some pretty dark moments in this 6km stretch. Injury and general fatigue from the race and being up at midnight was starting to get to me. I couldn't even stomach the thought of eating a cliff bar but knew I had to get something into me as I was getting dizzy going up some of these hills with rope again. Not nearly as aggressive as the initial hills but this late in the race they get just as tough.

I choked down some calories and could almost immediately feel the boost. What I wouldn't have given for a turkey sandwich instead.

At one point I was with a man for a bit before he passed me and he told me in some broken English. "Now the big guy is gone, its time to reach down deep for the little guy, the one you only ever see when you get to this distance" I believe he meant something to the tune of "now all your ego is stripped away, dig deep and find out who you really are"

I did my internal status check and noticed, I hadn't really felt my calf problems for about an hour. Thank you Mom!
The pain came back shortly after noticing but I was still thrilled to have had the break from the pain.

My next source of motivation lied with the aid station at 63km coming up and then 65km where I would see my good friend Cody (AKA the Pacemasta) to take me the rest of the way.

At 61km I decided to finish off both my water bottles knowing I had only 2km to go before I could refill.

As I pulled in to the aid station on empty, there was David and his family loading up on their own personal stash of Gatorade as the station had run dry of water. Also nobody was manning it? Just an empty bucket.

I thank David and his family for generously filling my bottles with their own Gatorade. This was such a kind gesture I was almost brought to tears. I felt like a family member at that point as I would have been empty for the next 2 km with out their generosity. Thank you to "the Droppert's. You guys rock!!

David and I hung together for the next half km but eventually he took off again, just killing this course.

My only focus from here was Cody at 65km. If I could just get to him, I could re-set mentally. I could convince myself I would be starting a brand new 15km race with my friend.

That last km felt like 10 but I finally arrived at 65km and the Pacemasta.

Like a shining beacon there he was. Cheering me on. So jacked to see me as i was to see him. 
Immediately he went into caretaker mode.

"Do you have enough water, did you eat enough, what hurts, use the bathroom because we got some work to do son."

The aid station barely let me leave again with my limp. At this point it was all issues with my calf. I couldn't feel my ankles anymore as they were so swollen.

What a friend Cody is. Just 2k into our run the calf was unbearable. He made me stop and gave me a roadside standing massage on the back of my calf. Legend.

Even when i started noticing how bad my ball bag was chaffing, he said he would offer to wipe some Vaseline off his own balls and give it to me if it wasn't the grossest thing ever. My damage was already done so I said  lets just get this thing done." Chaffed Balls and all.

From there he kept my mind off of the pain. Picked the best footing routes for me and my ankles. Quoted Seinfeld to make me laugh. Talked sports and continued to kept motivate. "Your a beast. You got this. Plenty of time. Keep killin it. Guys a monster." It was a whole new race for me once i got Cody on my side.

We caught up to David again as he told us his IT band was acting up now. He gave us the details of the remaining 10k to go. There would be 2k road stretch which i was pumped for again. A little grassy stretch leading to the last aid station then 1 k of equestrian trail leading to 4k of forest trail again, then the final 1k stretch on flat equestrian trail.

Thank god we ran into David for this info. Now we knew what to expect and it was all manageable. I started to feel like knew i could do this 14 hr cutoff.

We passed David for the last time but only because of his injury or otherwise he was smoking us.

We rolled into the last aid station knowing we had 90 minutes to cover 6k. What a tease that last aid station was. Its at the GD finish line. Then they send you back out for final 6km. Great food selections though and they had some deep cold gel which was generously slathered on the back of my right calf. There was a massage table with a lineup but we didn't have time. Needed to get moving.

On the final stretch i was electrified. Ignored all pain and reached down as deep as i possibly could. As the broken English man told me, I I HAD FOUND THAT LITTLE GUY inside. Passed 4 people i was going back and forth with all day and that felt real good. Especially passing that arsewipe who didn't even respond every time i said good job when i went by him or he went by me. But i said it every time. Dick.

Ive never been so happy to get out of the forest trail than i was when we crossed a plateau to see the final 1.5 km trail to the finish line. All flat fine gravel track lined with hundreds of spectators looking for their friends and family. My family was right beside me. Wheeler. Killing it on his longest run ever too.

As we got 150 m away from finish line i went into another gear. Kicking up dust as fast as i could. 
As i crossed that finish line I've never been more elated. I lost my shit as if i won the world series. All that was riding on this race and i was able to do it while overcoming several obstacles. Those 4 pts are mine. I'm in the lotto. Cody and i hugged and went back to the final stretch to cheer for my new friend David as he came down the line. With him being a giant it was easy to spot him a km away. His son was pacing him as i teared up again at this display of strength and perseverance. Man is a legend.

I finished this race on two shot ankles and a calf pain I wouldn't wish on the two guys who let me get lost earlier in the day. I bested my previous time in Utah by 1 hour and 43 minutes and crossed the finish line under the 14 hour cutoff at 13 hours and 17 minutes.

As I write this, I have two ankles the size of thanksgiving hams. Spent the night at the emergency room last night waiting for x-rays as something felt very off. Thank god I've only been diagnosed with 2 severely sprained ankles and a case of bullheadedness but I've never felt more overjoyed. My first season of trail racing and I've somehow managed to worm my way into a lottery for one of the most prestigious 100km races in the world next Labour Day in Chamonix, France. Fingers crossed for January 11th, 2018 when they send out congratulations to all selected.

A huge thank you to everyone who helped get me through that race and the season itself.

It's been a wild ride.


Race video can be found here

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