For reasons I can’t really explain I decided it was time to try running an Ultra, must be the pandemic living affecting my brain…
I started by doing the Rideau Trail Association 50k challenge. This was 25K out and 25K back on the Rideau Trail starting in Perth. It was designed for hikers, but trail runners were welcome too. The course was a little short by my Garmin and I had an argument with a rock at 15 km. The rock won and I went from the finish line to emergency, where I got 5 stitches in my forehead.
Who needs a T-shirt when you can get stitches for free? Oddly enough I enjoyed it, so I decided to sign-up for a “real” Trail Ultra.
I have always liked the name, so I signed up for the Fat Ass Trail Run in Batawa. When I told Harold I was running the 50K he signed up for the 10K. Fat Ass is known for it’s T-shirts. They are different every year and you don’t know in advance what the shirt will say. Even though I have so many run shirts I don’t know what to do with them I paid extra for the shirt. It did not disappoint!
The weather forecast on Friday looked bad. Just above freezing and pouring rain. In my humble opinion running when its’ raining but not quite cold enough to snow is as bad as it gets. I ran the 2018 Boston Marathon in those conditions . The weather that day caught us all unprepared and I was basically hypothermic by the time I finished. I was determined not to let that happen again and I have lots of gear, I just packed it all! I brought the rubber boots but I left the wetsuit behind!
We drove to Batawa on Saturday and stopped by the Batawa Ski Hill to check out the course. It was a really nice fall day and we found the start and finish area but even with a Strava map we could not really figure out where we were running. Neither of us planned to be in the lead so we figured we could probably just follow the person in front of us and hope for the best. As it turns out the course was really well marked.
On race morning we checked the weather and were pleasantly surprised to see that the rain was now forecast to hold off until at least 11:00 am. The course is 5 x a 10K loop so in theory you could leave clothes at the start/finish and pick them up as you run by. There is also an aid station with friendly helpful volunteers that you pass at about 4K and again at about 9K I am sure you can leave clothes there too. There was water and snacks at the aid station but they asked that you bring your own water bottle.
Taking all of this into account I removed the bladder from my Ultimate Direction hydration pack (which I love BTW), because I did not need to carry that much water, put a very light rain jacket and waterproof gloves in the pack, loaded up the front with Endurance Tap Gels and one of the soft bottles for water and brought a phone. I know from experience that if I get too cold, I can not warm up. The phone was my back-up. If the weather turned bad. I would call Harold and he would meet me at the start /finish with more clothes dry from the car as needed.
I dressed in tights, compression socks, a lifa shirt and a light Gore jacket with a hat and gloves to start. Put body glide between my toes and hoped for the best.
The 50K started at 8:00 and the 10K did not start until noon so Harold drove me to the start and then went back to the hotel for breakfast. He did offer to stay but 4 hours standing in the rain is a bit much before running a 10K!
The big event at Fat Ass is the 6 Hour Bad Ass which is a 7.5 km loop you do as many times as you can in 6 hours. They started at 7:30 am and we watched them set-up tents, chairs and belongings. We watched the start up the ski hill which was quite amusing. No one was really in a big hurry. There was at least one shirtless runner? It was just above freezing!
The 50K started at 8:00 so we ambled over.
Here is a brief description of the course:
The 1st km of the course was pretty runnable, a dirt track through a field which was double track so passing was possible.
The 2nd km was the same sort of path but it was flooded in several places. The hardcore runners went straight through, running in water up to their knees. I got wet and muddy but I picked my way around the edges. It was slower but I really did not want to get that wet with 50 km to run.
The 3rd km had a hill which was big enough that most people, including me, walked up it.
The 4th km was a nice path through the woods with lots of deep mud and water. The water was not as deep as the second km but the mud was deeper. I picked around what I could but I still got wet and muddy. As you can imagine it got worse with each lap as more people went through it. I wish I had pictures the mud was impressive.
The 5th km included about 300m on a road, the aid station and the biggest hill on the course which I also walked up.
The 6th km was primarily downhill, twisty, turny, steep and single track so passing was basically impossible unless someone in front of you got off the path to let you go by.
The 7th and 8th km were rolling and quite runnable. There were hills but they were smaller. I ran them for the first few laps but I walked some of them on the last couple of laps.
The 9th km included the aid station again and was also pretty runnable.
After the first lap I settled down into a rhythm. I ran to the flooded part of the course then I got a break of sorts as I tried to stay out of the worst of the water. The hills became my favorite part of the course because that’s when I got to walk! Though all 5 laps I only walked up the hills but, I am pretty sure my definition of when the hills started and finished changed as the laps went on. I was slow going down the big hill too. I was more concerned about not falling than I was about going fast. One set of stitches is enough for a year of running! The hardest part of the course was actually the flatter rolling sections because I had no good excuse not to keep running!
There was a guy whose name I never got who would pass me on the flooded section of the course on every loop. He went straight through everything! I would catch him on the runnable part of the course and then he would go flying by through a puddle. I passed him at the end of the 4th lap and did not see him on the 5th.
The rain actually held off for the first 3 laps. We got rain and some rainy, snowy stuff after that. It was not too bad in the woods and I was never overly cold. Looking back on it the first 4 laps were not too bad. The 5th lap was tough and I was very happy to be done! Harold’s 10K was one loop of the same course and although we did not actually pass each other Harold saw me from a distance and called out. I was on lap 5 at the time so although I heard him he did not get much of a response!
There were post race festivities but because of COVID-19 we had to stay outside. I was wet and getting cold so I found my way back to the car and striped down to my underwear to put on dry clothes. The underwear was pretty dull and boring and I pretty sure no one even noticed. Lucky for me Harold was back from running the 10K so he pulled the compression socks off for me. Left to my own devices I think I would still have them on!
We stopped in briefly but we were both cold so we hopped in the car, turned up the heat and headed home.
I did not see the actual results until the next day. The winner was almost 30 minutes ahead of the next runner. He ran just under 4 hours for 50 km. That’s about 4:45 min/km pace through mud, hills and puddles. Almost more remarkable were the 6 runners that were out for over 9 hours in the cold and wet. Now that’s dedication! I finished in 5:42:05 making me 6th women overall and more importantly. No stiches and no trip to emergency!
This is a great event. Its got that labour of love home grown feeling. The volunteers were amazing out there in the cold. Would I do it again? Maybe but if I did I think I would do the Bad Ass. What’s another 18 minutes of running when you have already been out for 5 plus hours? The hoodies looked pretty cool, I might need one of those!
Congratulations to Harold on his first trail 10K 1:11:29 and thanks as always for the support.