I would like to start by saying: THANK YOU to my client & good friend Marysol for pushing and reminding me every week to write about my last post. Because of her I was able to write and share about my defeat in Haliburton September 2011, and mostly today, to accept it.
Thursday the 22nd of March at 1pm my pops and I left for an 11hrs drive to The Wintergreen Mountain Resort in the State of Virginia ; and was it ever a long day. I woke up at 5am in the morning headed to the gym and trained 6 clients. I was picked up by my dad afterwards, and thanks to him, made it to our location just past midnight.
Friday felt like a vacation; we had a breakfast of champions and we ate like kings all day. We went for a little 30min jog in the trails and drove to every checkpoint to familiarize ourselves with the course.
SATURDAY, RACE DAY. 50 MILE/80KMS TO GO!!!
The race start was at 730am. I woke up at 5am. It was pouring rain and about 5-6 degrees Celsius. I have been fighting a pretty severe cold for the past week but I was committed to the race. We packed up the equipment and drove to the starting line. 110 runners/warriors took the challenge that morning to run through those wet and vicious mountains of South Virginia.
I felt AWESOME for the first 21kms. Standing in 4th position, the course had a lot of ups and downs, some single trails, gravel roads and pavements. Met my dad at the 21k mark, 2h15min in and I only took enough time to give him a “high-five” then kept on going as the race was pretty tight from 1st to 10th place.
At the 3hrs mark I started to have stomach problems again. My body was failing on me again, I knew what was coming. I started to have very severe cramps, from my abdomen to my tiptoes. I was 10kms to the next checkpoint so the only thing I had to do was to keep moving forward and hope for the best. I walked for 90mins mostly up-hills fighting those cramps. To be honest at that point I did give up on myself. I told myself to make it to the next checkpoint and then call it a day. I was done; I was in pain, it was still pouring rain, my feet were wet for the last 4hrs and my hands were freezing cold. It was the first time ever, during a race, that I mentally QUIT. In that 90mins, I went through a lot of emotions. Some I have never felt before and I can’t explain today. Questioning myself over and over again, why am I doing this? It seemed that every Ultras I have been having those problems and just couldn’t figure it out.
Reminding myself why I was really doing this over and over again and how many friends, clients and family members were behind me, I managed to run the last 2kms and made it to the half way mark (40kms), where my Pops was waiting for me.
I took a good 30min at that checkpoint. I had to readjust my goals and regroup. I haven’t admitted this until now but, seeing my dad waiting for me at that checkpoint was the reason I was able to finish that race. It made me realise how lucky I was to have him as a dad. He drove 11hrs to Virginia, woke up at 5am on a Saturday morning stayed in the pouring rain for hours waiting for me, unable to do anything but hope for the best. MY POPS gave me the strength to keep on going that day. I will always remember that moment.
I went back on the course as strong as I ever was that day for the last 40kms. I felt like I could run forever after that point. Running at a quick pace, still pouring rain, I was catching up to the top 7 runners.
THE SECON HALF 40k TO GO
The second half course started with a massive climb. It was very long but runnable. I went uphill for a great hour before I reach the next checkpoint. I was pumped at that point because I knew the next 5-6kms were going to be a gradual downhill. As I flew down the mountains it finally stopped raining and I reached the 62kms mark where my Pops was waiting for me with fresh clothes. I started to feel some cramps in my quads and hamstring again. My friend/client/doctor texted me the day before saying that my potassium was low according to the blood test I did the prior Monday. So I tried to eat as many bananas as possible.
Heading back to the course I ran 8kms on pavement to the next checkpoint, I ran at a fairly good pace on a good rolling course.
8kms to go!!! Feeling strong and catching up to the 6-7th place I knew I had to give everything I had to be able to try and get a top 5 finish. We did a quick transition and I left for the last 8kms, telling my dad to expect me in 45-50min. The first 5kms were all pavement followed by a 2kms descent -wow my quads were killing me- and then by a ridiculous steep climb of 3kms. Finally I got back into the trails.
I GOT LOST!?
To this day, I don’t understand how, but I got lost. Being so in the zone and exhausted, it took me a while to realised I had been running for more than 9hrs and I had taken a wrong turn. I kept going on that trail second guessing myself for about 1hour. I sat down 10min to see if someone was coming behind me. NO ONE! I knew at that point that I was lost and very very far from the trail and the finish line. I spotted a cottage just up the mountain. An old couple was sitting outside enjoying a cocktail. I came out of nowhere and ask them if they knew where the Greenmountain Resort –the finish line- was. They directed me and they told me I was about 3miles to the finish line.
THE FINISH LINE & AN EXTRA 7-8MILES!
2h15min after leaving the last check point I got to the finish line. Poor dad, he must have been so worried!!! I was a bit mad at myself for getting lost but I was also very satisfied to reach the finish line. I came in 14th out of 110 racers, 2nd in my age group 20-29 and running an extra 7-8 miles for a total of 57-58miles/91-93km in 11h15min.
I didn’t reach my original goal of winning that race or finishing top 3. I did understand and learn that support is a key to success. My dad felt bad after the race as he felt he forgot technical details at the checkpoints. I can say today, that if it wouldn’t have been for him, I was quitting at half point. THANKS DAD! Furthermore, getting lost also taught me that even if you train for a specific distance (e.g a 50 miler), your body is still capable of continuing past your initial expectations when desire, will and lack of other choices comes into play.
Again, the human mind and body is magical and proof of that can only transpire when one pushes their limits.