Monday, March 12, 2007

Polar Bear race report

It's proving difficult not to focus on the pain in my legs this morning. My knees feel so vulnerable going downstairs and when heading back up my quadriceps are barely up to the task. I could go on at length. :D It's all much better if I just keep moving!

I ate up all of the four hours scheduled and came in with about two minutes to spare. Others slogged on much longer. Some speedsters were done in 3:20! I think our Pam did very well.

The run began for me over a decent pint of ale with maniacs as many good things do. I'm a reluctant goal setter and if it weren't for my local maniacs, I would never have signed up for this. They are all tired of me underselling my abilities and show great confidence in me. I'm grateful to have them show me the way. I missed Jill's shining smile though. She's often the biggest promoter of optimism and she's hurt just now after being hit by a car. Hopefully she'll be back in our ranks soon.

At the smorg style lunch after the run, we all signed a shirt to be sent to the fellow in hostpital after being chased and eventually hit by some of the lunatic fringe driving a stolen car last week in Winnipeg.

I'm a reader and love to study and learn. That reading is at the root of why I always head into this type of adventure with such trepidation. The long and short of it is that according to every plan I look at, I'm hopelessly under trained. I have issues with my immune system that seem to keep me away from a lot of high mileage work. I read one of Jack Daniel's principles of training shortly before leaving for the cottage on Saturday that was helpful in remaining confident. He suggests running no farther or faster than you have to in training. I suppose that's what I have been relying on and it's working so far.

Eight weeks was what I had to play with to prepare for this and I set to work to make a workable plan. I figured that the largest shortcoming would likely be my leg strength and this morning I'm here to tell you that it's an issue. :P I ramped up my standard runs immediately and began to push my weekend runs to much longer distances. My longest run was 12 miles in a fierce windchill four weeks from race day. I took two weeks of tapering that involved some sore throat and congestion time and a lot less running that I wanted to do to serve the training needs.

Pierrette joined me, and Cheryl and Dennis put us up at their cottage for the night. We had a very short drive to the race start because of their generosity. Thank-you very much Cheryl and Dennis! Cheryl is an energetic sort. I had planned to take them out for dinner, but Cheryl did an end run around that and provided a good meal without much fuss. Pierrette and I enjoyed the lively conversation and then we headed off for an early bed time.

If there was ever a year to do this run, this was the year. On awakening, the temperature was about -10C with no wind. The day before had been mild and we were all hoping the trail was crusted up nicely for some solid footing. The first little bit of the race was enough to sober ones thoughts about footing though. We began on a track that was not part of the primary crossing route. It was very unstable.

I love my sunglasses and was so grateful to have them yesterday. For many years I've used "glacier" glasses from MEC. They are 17% neutral grey and provide me with just what I'm looking for in sunglasses. I can't wear them unless it's very bright because they are just too dark for casual use, but in the bright light they are wonderful. That said, the sun never shone yesterday and I was grateful it didn't, but the contrast was very very low and the glasses seemed to help with that. By the end the clouds were threatening rain and it was too dark to wear them. These glasses have the added benefit of not changing any of the colours. I like that a lot.

The quality of light, especially through the middle part of the run was extraordinary. There were times where the snow on the ground and sky blended perfectly. The sensation of being without a horizon was disorienting. It made for some strange sensations and some spectacularly subtle colour variations. It was a beautiful day for a run.

I had my Camelbak with 1.5l of Gatorade and four gels. Having never run as far as 30km I was hoping my guesses were correct. As it turned out, I was bang on. Dennis ferried gear, fluid and nutrients up and down the trail all day, but although I brought more Gatorade, I didn't need it. Having Dennis as support was wonderful. His smiling face was an important boost in the closing miles. Did I mention this was tough? I took a gel every 45 minutes and that worked well.

The footing was variable. The big old Bombardier tore up what decent footing there was on the track. One minute you'd be running on something similar to a hard packed beach and the next you might have one or both feet skidding off that surface and down into ankle deep tiny ball bearing like snow pellets. Brutal! It was very demanding to have to pull myself out of that bogged down state and back to the task of creating some forward motion.

Now I suppose it's time to get my head around what might be a reasonable projected time goal for the Manitoba marathon. Ah... life!

Moments after finishing


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