Well, I did it! Finished my first 50 km ultra marathon, and placed 4th overall. It was a fun race, although I got pretty baked by the end of it.
This was the first year for the Grizzly 50 km Ultra Marathon, and you can either do it as a 5-person relay, or solo. There were over 800 runners participating.
The lengths of the 5 stages are, in order, 14, 12, 12, 7 and 5 kilometres. I really like the fact that as a solo runner, you come back to the race start/finish area after each stage. That way, you don’t have to bring so much nutrition along for the run, since you load up each time you finish a stage.
The race was hard for me, but still okay. I knew I hadn’t done enough longer trail runs, so I tried to pace myself accordingly.
Leg 1. Some relay team runners took off very fast. I stuck with a group of guys that looked older and slower, haha! It was VERY easy to run in the beginning. This leg was fairly flat and non-technical. Wide and open ski trails, and some asphalt bike paths too. I probably should have run slower on it, but you how hard that is when the legs are fresh. I was 4th overall on this leg. Oh, and I had to stop to pee…
I grabbed a banana at the finish area, and some gatorade and headed out on leg 2, feeling good.
Leg 2. This one was harder, but I still felt strong. More climbing from the start, and then a bit easier running for a while. Mostly all of it on wide ski trails. I caught up to the eventual 2nd place finisher, and we ran together until the water station. At that point, a number of steep climbs appeared, and now I was noticing it was getting a bit harder. I had to immediately slow down, and tried to take it easy until the end of this leg. I ate more food at the finish area, and awaited to see what leg 3 would be all about. I was 4th on this leg.
Leg 3. I almost missed the entry to this one. I had to really look for the leg 3 signs, because I was getting tired and not paying attention. I soon spotted the signs and headed over to the trail. It turned out to be a very technical course. No ski trails for the most part, just single track mountain bike trails and quite rough footing. So after descending on this technical terrain for a good while, my legs started to feel quite beat up. Constant turning and twisting, and steep downhills and roots, etc – I kept bashing my big toe into roots and boulders, and the toenail was hurting badly. Ok, we had to come back up this descent after a while, and oh yeah, some serious climbs there was. Some relay runners passed me, and one guy said he thought the terrain was ridiculous. There was a place on the course where you have get up this HUGE slope. It was slippery and extremely steep. I stopped for a bit, thinking about how to even get up that thing, when I heard a runner behind me. I watched in amazement as he literally bounced up this wall in front of me, just a like mountain goat would do. I think he was actually half goat, half human. Unreal. I eventually got up these steep climbs, but it was taking its toll on my legs – they were fading. So I shuffled back, very slowly, toward the finish area and loaded up with nutrition bars and more fluids. By the way, my wife and daughter did a great job supporting me throughout the race. I wished 50 km would have been here, but I had 2 more stages to run. I still was 4th on this leg, surprisingly enough.
Leg 4. Now I was officially VERY tired. As I headed out, I think the speaker had mentioned the technical difficulties of this leg, and my wife told me as I got going, “this one is very hard”… not exactly the words I was hoping for at this point in the race! I was really, really tired, and it was very difficult. Not as demanding as leg 3, but more single track, with lots of roots, which I kept bumping my painful toe nail into. There was also lots of climbing, but thankfully nothing extremely steep like on leg 3. Back and forth on single track, and it was frost and ice on the ground as well, which made the track very slippery. More relay runners passed me, and I just tried to stay on my feet and keep my head up for course markers. I didn’t have any running speed left now, it was just shuffling. I got to a point where I saw 2 paths to take, and one course marker that didn’t indicate which one to take. I followed my instinct and went left. There seemed to be paths joining in here and there, and I suspect I may have taken the wrong path at some point. My Garmin showed an extra 500 meters and I noticed later that I was only 9th place on this leg. I had to stop and pee a second time, but I shuffled down to the finish area, feeling very tired in my legs, but the food my wife gave me had actually brought back some energy into my system.
Leg 5. Only 5 km something left – come on, I can do this! It was a short bit left, but boy it felt long! There were actually plenty of steep hills on this leg 5 – I had hoped it would be flatter! I was unable to run at good pace, because my legs were shot. Overall, I felt not too bad, but my legs were to beat up to keep any kind of decent running pace going. I did the best I could of the situation, and as I got close to the finish area, I could hear the speaker mentioning the 3rd place finisher coming in. Turns out I was only 2 minutes something behind 3rd place. I FINALLY was getting this thing done, and I was so happy to stop… my time was 4:30:48. DONE! I can finally say I did an Ultra Marathon – how cool I am! Haha!
Will I do another one? Who knows. Maybe, if I think I have the time it takes to train for one. I do think it was fun and interesting, especially learning how your body reacts to the effort, and how fluids, nutrition, hills + time affects you.
My Leg Results
Leg one Leg 2 Leg 3 Leg 4 Leg 5 4th, 1:00:54 4th, 57:13 4th, 1:09:47 9th, 48:55 4th, 34:01 Total: 4:30:48
Complete race results available here.
Overall, the race is highly recommended. They organizers did a good job. The only issue was it was a very confusing start, and it was delayed 15 minutes for no apparent reason. No biggie though. Course markings for the most page were good, and it was great to have water stations on the first 3 legs (I didn’t see any on leg 4, and 5 was too short for having one). Great atmosphere, great weather, great trails, great mountains!
Check out this race GrizzlyUltra.ca.
Thanks to all volunteers and organizers!