Mud, Mud and more Mud, that would be the story of the day at the Seaton Trail Races today Saturday April 16th.
The forecast hadn't looked good all week and for once, unfortunately the weather man got it right. I was up at 4 am as we had to drive to Pickering for the 7 am start. So it started with me picking up Chris Battaglia at the car pool at 5 and to Tims for the usual, and then on to the highway. It was dry at this time of the morning, but as we drove through Toronto the rain was starting. We got to the Pine Ridge high School to pick up our bibs and racekits (a mud puppy t-shirt and Seaton Trail Runners toque! While waiting in line in walked Neil "the Bastard" and Deb Lancia, Deb was doing the 52k like us, but Neil was only there for support and said Sherry Edwards and Gary were coming to do the 29k as well.
After getting ourselves ready it was time to go the starting line where the brave souls all huddled under the protection of a few trees from the rain while we tryed in vain to listen to the Race Directors instructions. In hind site this would have been vaulable information for later, I couldn't hear anything. The race got going about 8 minutes late and off we went into a steady light rain and wind in our face. I started at the back and was surprised at how slow a lot of the runners were going. I was intent on keeping it slow and steady today, walk the hills and whenever I felt like it, but as slow as I was running I was passing many runners from the start until I fell in behind a group of about 5 runners as we hit the single track trails. We ran at a nice easy pace and things felt good, but my left calf was already feelign a little twinge here and there, that would be something to worry about and take note of as the race continued on. At about 2.5k into the race there is the river crossing. It's about 10 metres and about knee deep, but christ its cold. Everyone hesitates before going in, but I didn't and left the group that was with me behind. you get out of the water and your legs are numb. It is hard getting through the river as it is a very rocky bottom and uneven, but as long as your careful...
I ran steadily for a while after the river and was surprised that noone was behind me at this point, at least until the first climb. A tough long sinlge track trail up to the top of the ravine. I had a couple of people pass me as I walked it. At the top the wind was blowing stronger and the mud was a little stickier and deeper. The course had changed a little up here as you ran a long the top of the ravine a bit further and avoided the usual way back down, which was a tough very muddy uneven section. A new path had been cut into the woods to comeback around to the trail, butthis was already becoming a little slick. One positive change was changing the course to avoid the hill that you almost have to climb on hands and knees. You went to the top of the ravine again and through soem very thick mud to an old road which you ran for about half a k to the first aid station 7k in. I didn't stop here as myhandheld was still fairly full and I wasn't at all in need of food. Into some more rolling single track under a bridge and across a field into another ravine. Things weren't so bad here so far. After we passed the last aid station it was over a bridge in a little village and back into the trails ont he other side of the river. It was after we started passing past turn around points that a I started to wonder about how far was this race going to be. After a long stretch on a a gravle path we finally came to the turn around, AT 15k, that would mean we would be doing a 60k race if everyting want as I though. I completed this first leg in 1:10, surprising myself, a little quicker than I was expecting, but I felt good. I had to stop here for a bathroom break as it was the first porta pottie I had seen in a while. Time to spare so take the time. Although a few runners passed me in the time I was "indisposed" once I got going again it was quite a while before I saw another runner going the opposite direction (my competitive mind figuring out how much time between me and the next runner behind, lots).
I quickly found that the footing going back had changed, the more runners that passed the worse the conditions got and the rain had become heavier. we were also now running into the wind. What was once nice and dry or at least a slightly slippery spot would become a quagmire. Some spots were now rivers and others ankle deep mud. My gloves were wet which made my hands cold, sometimes I felt my torso feeling cold too. I had felt good up until about 25 -27k when I started to tire, the mud was sapping my energy and the cold and wet was not hepling either. I walked up the hil to the finish are and found that they had changed it too, now we had to run around a track at the school to the tents on the other side. I had done the first out and back in 3 hours and 22 minutes, I had to look at my Garmin twice! What? 3:22 WTF. I walked the whole way round, made sure they had my number and then went to the car and grabbed my jacket to put over the two wet shirts and vest I was already wearing, not sure whether this was going to help or not. I took off my gloves (two pair) and found the X country ski gloves I have and tried to put them on. I struggled with frozen fingers to get them into the gloves and was worried that this wasn't going to work. I got going again with seeds of doubts growing in my mind, I could get hypothermia, how am I going to finish another 30 k, my fingers are so cold. I walked for a bit to start and took advantage of the downhills I was even walking a lot of the flat parts. I got to the river crossing again and trudged through, now you couldn't see the bottom as the river was white from all the silt washing downstream. This made it tricky to know where you were putting your feet, but I got through and off I went run, walk, walk, run. The mud and water levels getting ever higher, there were rivers of water coming down fromt he sides of the ravine, so that not wading through water was a rarity at times. I passed Chris at about 33k and he wasn't doing well at all. I got to about 34 k thinking that how am I going to get to the turn around and back, I felt like I was going in slow motion as it was, I'd be lucky to finish in 8 hours. 34 to 35k seemed to take an hour, time was almost going backwards. It was moments like this where I would try to think of really good things to occupy my mind and take away the pain etc,
At 40k I ran into Gary and Sherry and talked for a minute about the conditions etc, misery loves company! I was seriously thinking of turning back here, but decided to continue at least to the last aid station. On my way there I ran into another runner coming back who hadn't passed me to long ago, what? Is it possible that they have another turn around earlier thatn I expected. My hope got up and I ran for a long stretch, but I was extremely hungry, very unusual for me in a run of any kind. I got to the aid station and was told, yes, this is the turn around. 42k and 12k to go, I devoured 2 P&B sandwiches and don't like Peanut butter. a couple of potatoes dipped in salt and grabbed some choclate chip cookies for the road. Meanwhile Stefan Kinglos came into the aid station, I had been expecting him to pass me for the last 10k, but he hadn't until now as he left quiclkly. Topped up my water bottle and off I went.
The change in turnaround and a belly somewhat full of food set me off with renewed vigor and quickly caught and passed Stefan. We talked briefly and just kept at it. I knew hed catch me again, he doesn't stop much where I run faster, but walk more frequently. Sure enough he caught up to me again on a walk and I passed him again shirtly there after. At the aid station with 7k to go I walked up the hill after it after I grabbed more chocolate chip cookies a cup of coke and somemore potatoes. I had put some ground between me and Stefan, but as walked up the long hill after the aid station I saw Stefan closing in, not that I was at all worried about him passing. He ran the whole hill to catch up to me and I followed him into the muddddddy farmers field before passing the trash pile going into the woods, yeah nice! This was shoe sucking over your ankles mud.Gradually Stefan left me behind, I knew that I would finish at this point, but it wouldn't be pretty. Back through the river and I hadn't seen Chris again, so assumed he had DNF'd. On my way back I passed a runner going back out to do his third loop on the 50 miler, he looked strong though. Another gent was walking back out too, alon ways to go for him on his "second" loop. THat last 2.5k takes forever, but I finished in about 6:47 and Stefan was only on the other side of the track finishing when I came onto the track so I was happy that I kept him that close. I ran the last leg coming back probably faster than the previous 2 legs so that was good to finish strong. I quickly gathered my stuff and went to the showers. Chris had DNF'd, it wasn't his day and that says a lot for someone like him to dnf it must be bad. A quick Lasagna lunch and off we went. Didn;t hang arund long because I had a massage scheduled for 4 and it was already 2:35. I though I gave my self lots of time to get back to Barrie, but wasn't expecting such a dificult race.
It was dificult and tough, the conditions like I've never experienced in a race before, but I was very happy with the finish and completing this another experince to get me to the end of Burning River in July!!
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