Here is my 100km trail run report. i2P, you have educated, inspired and empowered me all over again!
It’s saturday evening and 20 runners gather at the Ark for a pre-race meal and motivation talks by Ultra legends. We are about to run 100km in the Gatineau Park and I am scared. Not nervous, not excited, full on scared. This will be my longest run ever, covering half of the distance in the night with experienced ultra runners and I feel completely inadequate.
10pm, the race starts and after 5 steps, I am not scared anymore. I feel like I am exactly where I need to be. All I have to do is run. Guided by my head lamp, I can only see a few meters in front of me, thinking of nothing other than putting one foot in front of the other, staying in the moment and not letting the thought of the gigantic task at hand enter my mind. After what felt like 30minutes of very easy running, I look at my watch and realize I have been running for 2 hours. Great! Then I realize I am running with the three lead guys and panic mode kicks in. ‘’I am going way too fast! I am never going to be able to hold on to this pace! I’m not running 50k, I’m running 100k!’’
I can’t decide if I should keep pushing, stay with the guys and have a longer rest before starting the second 50k at 8am or pull back, save some energy and give myself a better chance for the second 50k. This decision didn’t linger in my mind for too long because I couldn’t imagine facing alone the silence of the night interrupted by crackling branches and unknown animal sounds that made my imagination run wild. Staring into the woods and seeing the shining eyes of racoons and squirrels was bearable with three grown men by my side, but not all by myself, even though one of the support crew members joked about the guys needing my protection in the event of a bear encounter.
And so I pushed on, inspired by the pure beauty of the environment surrounding us; the majestic trees standing tall and straight on both sides of the trail, leaving a stripe of sky filled with stars so bright that my existence felt trivial in their presence.
At 4:15am, I reached Breton beach where I had left my car the day before and where the second 50k would start at 8am. I ate a cup-a-soup, changed into sweat pants, put a tuque on and laid my sleeping bag on the beach. I was all set to catch a quick nap under a blanket of stars but my legs had a different plan. Their intention was to keep me awake with lightning bolts shooting up and down my quads, hamstrings and calves for as long as they could outlast fatigue. I slowly drifted into a state of depression, second guessing my decision to hang on to the lead guys. With my alarm set at 6:45am, it was going to be a long night.
“Tomorrow the sun will also rise to the occasion of another day with equal grandeur. Such is the nature of that morrow which today has already seen, yet it greets us each time afresh with the morning dew of wonder in its eyes.” –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
As the night sky slowly surrendered to the warm orange of the morning sun rising on the other side of the lake, my mind slipped back into a state of production. Runners were gathering on the beach preparing to start their adventure and I got busy preparing for the second half of the journey. After putting on a new pair of Skechers GoRunUltra’s and eating a breakfast consisting of boiled potatoes and Nutella, I was ready to go.
8am, the second 50k starts as Ray sends us off with words of encouragement and inspiration. This second half of the race was a tale of facing demons and overcoming physical boundaries. My legs hurt. That wasn’t going away, but it was probably going to get worst. Unless I stopped, but then I would be so disappointed in myself. It was a loose loose situation.
I eventually completed the first 23km loop after what seemed like years.
At this point, I was struggling with running, but could not mentally entertain the thought of walking on the flats. I was running a race after all, not walking it. So no matter how much it hurt, after walking an uphill, I would start running again as soon as I finished singing the words ‘’I can’t stop it, no I can’t control it, can you feel it ‘’Oh Baloney’’ from the song Overload of Life Of Dillon. (I don’t know why, but whenever I listen to this song, I hear ‘’Oh Baloney’’ instead of ‘’Overloading’’).
Encouraged by my family, I set off for a very emotional 15km loop. My chin and lower lip kept shaking uncontrollably. I tried to blink away the emotions that blurred my vison but drops kept streaming down my cheeks. I still don’t know exactly what I was feeling. Happiness, sadness, pain, joy? Or just a lack of glucose? Probably a mix of everything.
The beach was now lively, full of spectators and victorious athletes who had already completed their 23k or 38k distances. They greeted me with great jubilance. After a quick pitstop, I moved slowly down the promenade and made my way onto trail #53 for one last out-and-back. As I reached the turn around point and squared up with the last 8km, the sheer magnitude of the task at hand hit me. I was in bad shape physically and even though I was so close to the finish, I could not sake the idea that I was not going to finish. I kept moving forward, but felt like I was dragging the broken carcass of a fat hippo along with me. Much of this last section was a blur, but I remember seeing my parents about 1km from the beach and only then realizing that I was finally there. I was going to finish this majestic endeavour and I would have done it running.
After crossing the finish line, I realize it wasn’t a loose loose situation. Being hurt and struggling mentally made this experience that more interesting. I have learned great things about myself and the strength of my mind. I think I can now honestly say I am most confortable outside of my confort zone. 100km outside of it.