The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K Edition
Longest. Race. Ever. (For now...) , at least mission accomplished - FIRST EVER ULTRAMARATHON NOW IN THE BOOKS!
But just like how life is about the journey and not the destination, the same can be said for the running train ups leading up to the big day
Respect the distance. Respect the elevation. Everything looks easy when looking at other people's Strava GPS log and observing their metrics until you have to conquer the dexterity yourself first hand. I was pleased with this year's performance for the most part but of course, there are much more things that can be done for next year's improvements.
Trail Running Versus Road Running
I personally tend to consider myself more of a road runner than a trail runner. For competition, I am more bias towards road whereas for trails, I tend to personally enjoy myself with the nature, scenery and surroundings.
Road running is more paved, predictable and highly accessible for runners living in the downtown core or suburban uptown residential areas. If speed-work is necessary, you don't have to go too far off to do so - perhaps a school track field or an indoor treadmill will do the trick.
Trail running is easier on the feet, with softer landing surfaces compared to the hard asphalt. It is the perfect escape from the hectic surroundings of the concrete jungle and the 9-5 office environment. However based on weather conditions, the running conditions can get very tactical. In this particular case with the race, the mud was more so in a clay like condition. Footwork and cadence that you're used to with road running will no longer be as effective with trails. Especially since you also have to be mindful of the surface conditions such as tree uproots, rocks, uneven grounds, bridge crossings - all while trying not to get hurt along the way.
Start time to the 50K was at 7:00 am. In order for me to be well-prepared, I woke up at 4:30 am, get changed, apply necessary anti-chaffing ointments / bug sprays, fill up hydration bag and grab a quick Timmies drive-thru run for my coffee. As mentioned previously, always stick to your own preferred race food procedures. For me, it is a whole banana and strawberry yogurt and a large double double for good measures. I left a whole hour around 6 am solely for the washroom routine so that there won't be any washroom related issues during the race.
Prior to the start of the race, I left another 45 minutes before gun time just to get moving / walking / jogging to kickstart a transitional heart rate raise without spiking it from a lack of warm up. Mental-wise, I feel much more prepared than the half-marathon one that I did exactly one year ago. I still recall getting caught up in the opening hype and over pushed myself the first 2 km into that race. I corrected that rookie mistake this time around and instead of being in the middle of the starting wave, I waited for the start three quarters into the start line.
I was instantly discouraged by the sights of the wet puddly mud pits in the first few steps right after the start line. "Oh fuck," I thought to myself, "this is going to be an extra shitshow of a run..." It was that moment where I decided to ease back on my already slow pace so that I can hopefully still have some reserve energy and willpower in me to finish in the final few miles. In my mind, I was solely focused on tackling the first 10 kilometres as they would be one of the most intensive obstacles throughout the run. This was based on other runner's Strava data for this very race and they proved to be beneficial going into this race. After the first 10K and a bit, those clay like mud pits were everywhere as I was going uphill. You simply had to slow down and in some cases, side step on the moss or grab a side tree branch to boost yourself upwards. Technical, challenging but fun I suppose. And then of course the uphills. Lots of them... unless you are an elite runner that has trained up to beat up your quads, it is best to just walk up those hills (or at least power stride your way up anyways) Second half was a bit more forgiving with the trail way for the most part. For me, I had a relatively steady running pace to get a momentum going for several kilometres before those mud pits make their return visit with a vengeance just when you're beginning to feel fatigued. I also recall having to do two river crossings, good for clearing out some mud but bad for getting your feet wet if it hasn't already been like that yet.
When everything was all said and done, the official completion time was registered at 7 hours 57 minutes and 6 seconds.
Three things that stood out during the race was (1) having ice filled into my hydration pack whenever I get the chance at the aid stations (2) dropping ice down into my running jersey as a physical "air conditioning" from overheating, and (3) the importance of bringing ibuprofen if in the case of headaches and temporary pain relief [as this was proved helpful to my brother who was also running along side with me]
The aid stations were plentiful throughout the race, resourceful with adequate liquid and solid fuel as well as medical team readily available for assistance. Another bonus was seeing fellow Team Running Free members providing support simply by being out there (whether volunteering or also racing in various races during the race weekend). Nonetheless, very humbled.
Will I do it again for future editions of this race? Certainly! The amount of future trainings will dictate whether I stay at the 50K distance or further challenge myself to the flagship 50 miles.
Race gear: Salomon SpeedCross 3, CEP compression socks, Ciele FSTcap, Team Running Free triathlon jersey, moist towelette (if necessary)
Playlist: note - for safety reasons, no music was brought so that I have the senses to be mindful of any obstacles and hazards around my surroundings, instead the soundtracks below were played driving up to the Blue Mountain Village and departing from.
Opening & Closing Soundtracks
Looks like weather will be heating up this week, so I will most likely resume recovery running Tuesday and onwards. If not, then back to some indoor recovery on the treadmill. As most websites suggest, we all need some down time for rest and bodily maintenance. So, I will be taking the remaining July and August slightly more on the easier side and not get too caught up with racking too much mileage. Next upcoming race won't happen until late September with the Oasis Zoo Run and hopefully smash the last record set in 2015!
CHEERS! - MW