The Really Tough Stuff
There was supposed to be a group breakfast at 5 am. The restaurant forgot. We went off in search of coffee while that was sorted out. Breakfast was pulled together surprisingly quickly and we stayed pretty much on track.
I was surprised at how energetic I felt because I had never felt that good after a long bike ride during my training! (Kudos to my coach for the well planned taper.) Some athletes were looking fatigued but we were all excited for the last day! Our run started about 8 km outside of Princeton on a quiet back-road to Summerland.
Running is my favourite of the three disciplines of Triathlon. I mentioned this to a woman from Japan and she agreed that it was her favourite too (and she wasn’t kidding: she set a new run record and completed the double marathon in under 7 hours!).
As with the bike portion, I knew what average pace I hoped to keep and what the slowest was that I would have
to maintain in order to finish within the mandatory cut-off of 12 hours. Despite feeling really good at the beginning, anything can happen during a long day.
Throughout the first marathon, I felt great. With crews leapfrogging their athletes every 2km or so, athletes were cheered on by multiple other crews doing whatever it took to keep things upbeat: music, dancing, even bouquets of wildflowers presented by one fellow who had also tucked flowers behind his ear. Steve King, legendary triathlon announcer, was at the 21k and 42k marks, announcing us to the cows in the fields.
The second half got tough. The road became gravel, much of it washboard, and lots of climbing. I had changed shoes because the pair I started with were rubbing and the second pair were light-weight. The tradeoff was that they offered no protection from stubbing my toes on rocks. The uphill was irritating the osteoarthritis in my knee; it was hot, and dusty; and smokey and hard. By now Lindy and Roxy were taking turns running beside me. I needed Advil. And ice; and salt; and inhalers; and sunscreen; and electrolytes…and more ice. They sprayed me with super soakers to keep me cool. When I got cramps in my hamstring, they gave me Hot Shots ( a mixture of electrolytes, cinnamon, and capsicum designed to work at a neurological level to stop muscle cramps – it seemed to help but gave me hiccups and heartburn). By the time we reached the ¾ way mark I thought we would start descending. There was still almost 9 more km of climbing on gravel.
Reaching pavement was a mental boost but the downhills proved to be as painful as the climbs. I had changed my shoes, yet again, but my toes on both feet were feeling like I was about to lose the nails. On top of that, my knee was getting worse. I had to walk down the steeper sections, although it was so painful to start running again that I hated to walk. With only 5 km to go, I started to suffer stomach issues. This led to a rather extended trip into the bush and a (TMI warning!) change of clothes (ewww!) My crew switched me to just coke and water.
With only 2 km left, I was getting pretty wobbly on my legs, so Roxy stayed with me while Lindy went on alone to park the truck and ran back to meet us. Mere blocks from the finish, my legs made the decision that they were done. I had to put a hand on each of their shoulders to keep going. As we reached the grassy finish chute and I could hear Steve King announcing our arrival, there was a final brief surge of energy to finish, complete with a super soaker water fight. To top it off, I was greeted by long time friends who had driven out from to celebrate with us. AMAZING!
Final time: 10:34:58 for the run.
Total time over 3 days: 31:18:00 – a new age group record.
The Aftermath: I’m going to lose at least two toenails; I developed a hematoma in my right calf and likely have injured tendons and/or ligaments in my right knee.
Was it worth it? YES! The injuries will heal. Knowing that I gave my darndest to meet a big challenge will last forever. It was an incredible experience that will colour the lives of everyone involved for years to come. We made so many new and inspiring friends, and I have signed up to be a crew member next year ☺
This is not a race, but a journey with friends.
“We meet as strangers, we race as friends, and we depart as family”
Link to Carol’s mapped run: https://www.relive.cc/view/g13411328008
Thank you, Carol for sharing your experience with us. It’s truly amazing what you’ve accomplished. You’re an example and inspiration to anyone!
I think it’s also important to note that although doing an Ultra was Carol’s goal, it doesn’t have to be yours. It may be training for a 1/2 marathon or going on your first hike. It doesn’t matter what the goal is, it’s simply about trying an not giving up.