On this most recent Saturday morning I completed my first ever trail race. The 30k distance, which I competed in, was the smallest distance with the other choices being Ultra Races at 50km, 80km, and 100km distances. The 30k was more than enough considering I’ve only ever done one other half-marathon back in February and hadn’t really devoted a lot of distance work and time to preparing for this race which I signed up for on a whim back in March.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from myself in the race. I think the largest ran I’d done before this was back in February at about 23km and was at a really slow pace. The other factor was that I’d never completed a trail race before so running with a ton of elevation change was not something I was used too. I also hadn’t really devoted a whole lot of training for this race. Since the summer has started I’ve been consistently doing long runs on Monday nights of about 18-20km’s with lots of trails and maintaining an average pace of about 5:00min/km and then trying to do at least one other 10km run during the weeks at closer to my 10k race pace. For that reason I assumed that the max cut off for my day being a failure was running anything over 3 hours (6:00min/km pace) and set my top end goal for 2 hours and 30 minutes(5:00min/km).
The race was held at Gold Bar Park here in Edmonton and was a blast to run. It had rained earlier in the week but despite many close calls held off from raining for the last 2 days before the race making the trails soft but not at all muddy. Because some people were attempting to do a 100km’s, there was a mass start for all distances at 7am which was really damn early. It was a little bit intimidating with all of the hard core people dressed to the 9’s with their hard core trail runners, compression socks, camelbak’s and all of that other trail running gear. Soon enough the gun went off and we all went trudging along. The different distance packs all split up pretty quickly and before I knew it, Keegan, myself, and the eventual 30km winner had all moved to the front and were out leading the pack.
I hadn’t pre-run the course or even been to Gold Bar before so I held back a bit on the first lap until I got more of a feel for the course and the elevation. After about 6km’s two other runners started lessen the gap between me and themselves so I decided to take off from Keegan, who was going for 50km, and just run at a comfortable threshold pace. I specifically set my garmin to not show heart rate, set my laps to 10km and only showed average lap pace so as not to worry about pacing other than that I was not completely falling short of the speed I wanted over the course of the lap.
The first half of the course was extremely hilly, right off the bat we hit Esso hill which was a nasty, long steep beast which was okay the first two times through but really sucked the third time. From about kilometre 6 and on the course really flattened out and I was able to step on it. After the first lap my legs were feeling really good so I upped my pace a bit and was able to float around 4:41/km for the lap. By the time the third lap came around I was really starting to feel it. However there was $20 worth of beer on the line for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers so I had to push hard. By the 26th or so kilometre I was starting to feel pretty spent and went from pushing to be fast to pushing just so I could be done with running for the day. My pace gradually dropped from 4:45 down to 4:55 at which point I really focused on maintaining that speed. There were a couple of points where I got really light headed and shivery, and felt like I was starting to bonk but backed off just long enough that it would go away. At another point I developed chest pain that started on one side and worked its way across my body to cover the whole front and a bit of my back. I figured I was going to be that 1/1000 person who died from a heart attack in a race and that I should really push so that when it finally struck me it would be a swift and painless death. I survived that, the knee pain, small back spasms, and all of the other interesting ways that your body starts to scream at you once you get over about 20 kilometres and the finish line came soon enough. It felt so awesome to be done, finishing second in my distance and first in my age group.
Overall I was really happy with my performance, my pacing, and the race in general. Obviously more training would have helped but I went into this race more just to try the longer distance out in preparation for a marathon in the next year and as something different to try out. The only real critiques were that I should have maybe eaten another gel or 2 on the race as I only managed to get 1.5 down. And perhaps drinking more water would have helped. The aid station people missed me twice so I only ended up drinking 3 small cups throughout the race. That being said the Ultra distance is more of a self-serve aid station set up and I shouldn’t have really expected the volunteers to have water ready for me as I was going by.
Total Time: 2:25:03
Split 1 – 48:00
Split 2 – 47:17
Split 3 – 49:46
Race Website: http://ultra.fasttraxskishop.com/trail_info.php