When it comes to running, finding a 5km, 10km, or even a half marathon race nearby is easy. Unfortunately, finding a local ultra-marathon is difficult. Fortunately for me, there is an ultra running event that takes place every year, one hour from my house. The Burlington Runners Club (http://www.burlingtonrunners.com/ ) host multiple running events throughout the year. The Sulphur Springs Race in Ancaster, Ontario being my favourite. This was their 21st year running this event and the number of registered runners has grown significantly. This year, there were 1200 runners that took part in this trail race, ranging in distances from 10 km to 100 miles. There is even a 100 mile relay race.
I really enjoy the Sulphur Springs course and train there whenever I get the chance. There is always an abundance of wildlife and I usually come across a runner or two that I have met before. Even though the course is situated within the Bruce trail, which is around 800km long, the actual course is only a 20km loop. This allows me to do a lap and get back to my car to replenish my fluids and pick up some more food before beginning again. This year was no different. I was able to get out to the course 3 times for 60km training runs prior to race day.
Check-in for the 100 mile runners is before a mandatory dinner. This occurs at 5pm the Friday before the race. The weather was great, but the temperatures were on their way down. I put up a tent to sleep in, but decided to sleep in my car to stay warmer. The temperatures reached close to 0 degrees, and with the turn of a key, I had heat within minutes. A pillow, a blanket and the driver’s seat of my car was what I had to get me the best sleep I could.
I usually get up 60-90 minutes before the race, so that I can slowly eat and prepare myself for my long day ahead. I had a few minutes to spare, which gave me a little time to chat with runners that I have gotten to know over the years, and new runners I met the night before. Six a.m. came and the runners took off!
Even though it rained for a few days during the week before the race, the course was mostly dry, with only a couple of small sections of mud (nothing that would slow down your pace). The hard part of any race is trying to run your own race, while not getting influence by someone else’s pace. At the Sulphur Springs race, the 50 mile, 100 mile and 100 mile relay teams all start at the same time. With so many categories, knowing who to run with is difficult. Thankfully, the race director made sure that bib numbers were different colours for each race distance. However, it is still easy to get caught up talking to someone for too long, not knowing that their race is almost done, while you still have hours left on the trails. This was the case for me when I was running with 50 mile runners. If it wasn’t for the run/walk pattern I was following this could have hurt me. Luckily, I had a walk break to let those runners get ahead of me.
My plan was to put my Badwater strategy to the test and complete a run/walk pattern for the first 4 laps. My training must have been going well because I completed the 4 laps with no problems at all in a time of 8:03. This is now my personal best for 50 miles.
After 100 km of running, I started to get a blister on my right foot, as well as some stomach pains. These two things would slow me down even more over the last 3 laps. Tom Wronecki joined me on lap 6 and 7, kept me company and helped me at each aid station. We talked about everything! Well, he was doing most of the talking. During this time I was just trying the keep running while trying to ignore my stomach. I was also fortunate to have my sister, Stacey, pace me for my last lap. She drove almost 2 hours to come run a 20km lap with me and then drive home once I finished. Both Tom and Stacey helped me to break my personal record in the 100 mile distance. I finished the Sulphur Springs 100 mile race in 20 hours and 29 minutes. More then 2 hours off my personal best. Thank you Tom and Stacey, I could not have done it without your help!
The temperature dipped a bit at night, but as long as I kept moving I stayed warm. It wasn’t until after the race when we finally stopped moving that I felt how cold it really was outside. Overall, the weather and course conditions couldn’t have been better. The course was also very well marked and the volunteers at the aid stations were always helpful.
Due to the great race conditions, almost every race category at this event had new course records. Dale Draaistra now has the course record for the 100 mile race with a time of 15:37:24 and Laura Perry has the female course record at 18:57:59. Congratulations to both of them!
While making new running friends and breaking my personal best was great, training for the Badwater Ultramarathon is now the only thing on my mind. After a couple of days of recovery, I plan to be back running by Wednesday.
Lastly, thank you everyone for following my blog this far. It was amazing to meet new people at this race that I had never met before, but recognized me from my blog. This is an amazing journey that I am happy to share with you, and I am so thankful for all of the support that I have received.