Race Report: 2012 Niagara Ultra 50km

My second 50km ultra marathon…this despite the fact that I a) said I wouldn’t run a marathon again for a while, and b) said I wouldn’t run another ultra. I have a problem…I admit it.

Training…a good idea

Compared to last year, I did a bunch more training for this race. After the BMO Vancouver Marathon, I kept things up during the week and got in a few longer runs between the marathon and ultra day. I had intended to run a full marathon as a training run, but a head cold got in the way. That said, I managed 37km at the Whitby International Marathon on May 27th before I dropped out. The decision to quit that race that day was easy when I thought about the real goal.

I came back strong after that DNF and ran 25km and 26km on the Sundays that followed. I kept up the weekly mileage with the same schedule I used for the marathon. 5-6km tempo runs on Tuesdays, longer runs on Thursdays and a short run on Saturday in addition to the Sunday LSD runs.

The first 20km – Time flies when you’re having fun

Race day arrived without much fanfare. I wasn’t nervous or even really excited. There was a bit of dread, considering my experience last year. But I had a feeling it would be easier considering the additional training I did this time around.

IMG_1304-300x225We set off at 7:00am and the kilometers just started clicking off. I stopped to snap a pic of the Niagara River around 8km – it was a calm and peaceful morning. Before I knew it 10km had come and gone and the big hill up the Beck generating station had begun. Steady running brought me all the way to the top. I walked for a minute (scheduled 10 and one) but other than that it was a great hill for me and I thought back to the run up through Pacific Spirit Park in Vancouver and how strong I felt then too.

20km to 30km – To the Falls!

More running and all of a sudden the 20km aid station was there. Seriously, it was the easiest 20km I’ve ever run. Time was flying by and the kilometers were just clicking off. I hit the marathon turnaround (21.1km) in 2:01:01 and was feeling quite excellent.

IMG_1306-300x225It’s a bit of a downhill run towards the Falls from there and I ran down into the tourist area and through the cooling mist of the Horseshoe Falls to the 25km turnaround. I made it to the halfway point in 2:23:00 and made sure I was signed in. As usual, there was a buffet at every aid station. The 25km turnaround was no exception. I spent a couple of minutes eating some oranges, a bit of banana and thanking the volunteers for helping out.

Then it was time to set out again to make the 25km trip back to Niagara on the Lake.

I ran back through the crowds by the falls, taking to the road now and then when the tourists were too thick to stick to the sidewalks. Ginny and the girls pulled up beside me in the car around the Rainbow Bridge and said hi. They left me to go down the course a bit and I guessed they would be out around the border crossing at the Whirlpool Bridge.

30km to 40km – To the wall and through it

I ran in to there (about 29km) and stopped for a very quick chat before setting off again. 30km clicked by and I had a quick break at the aid station for some more water and oranges. I can’t say enough how great the aid stations are – lots of energy sources to choose from.

From there things got tough for a bit. I hit the wall around 32km and stopped at 33km or so at the south side of the Whirlpool area near the Spanish Aero Car where the kids and Ginny were waiting. I mentioned that things were hurting, but that I was okay and feeling pretty strong compared to last year.

AwFkIthCQAAqIf2-jpg-large-225x30033km through about 37km were the worst part of the run. My left foot was really bugging me, especially on sections where the path sloped off to the left side. I stopped at the portapottie on the top of the Beck Generating Station and noted my hydration was good. My gut was sloshing a bit and I reminded myself to drink a bit less water until that feeling passed.

Down the long hill was nice and much better than up, although I was hurting a bit and the downhill takes a toll on the legs. I ran well all the way through the wooded section and down to where we crossed the road at about 38km. Ginny was there again in the car (surprise!) and I quickly stopped and took two Tylenol which turned out to be a fantastic idea. The foot and lower leg pain went away quickly and my ability to run well returned. They were waiting again at the 40km aid station and I could officially say that I was past the wall and having a blast.

40km to the finish – Feeling good, finishing strong

One more aid station to go at 45km and I was able to run straight 10 and ones – a huge improvement from last year when I was walking more than I was running at this point in the race.

Throught 42.2km I noted my time – 4:18:35. Not my best marathon, but pretty darn good considering I had to run 7.8km more. I was 12 minutes up on my time from 2011 and still running. A huge PB was within reach. 45km was done in 4:40:00 or so and I was still running really well. Ginny and the kids were at the 45km aid station and I told them to expect me to take about 40 minutes for the last 5km.

From 40km on I was often looking down at my watch and seeing I had three or four minutes until the next walk and thinking, “I can do that, easy.” Last year I couldn’t run for two minutes. What a difference!

I started thinking 5:20:00 was within reach. Still running well, I spotted the road crossing ahead that marked one mile to go. I had taken my last walk break and had just 1.6km left to run. I ran along the trail behind Fort George and briefly considered walking. I cursed myself for even thinking about it. I didn’t need to walk – I could easily finish it up from here.

AwFmDF0CIAAW-I2-jpg-large-225x300I ran across the parking lot, was cheered by a volunteer who told me I looked strong (and I agreed) and then it was just one more road crossing before I turned off onto the open field and headed towards the finish. I could see the line and I glanced at my Garmin and knew I’d easily beat 5:20:00. My cowbell crew and Miguel were there to cheer me home – what a feeling it was to be running strong at 50km. Amazing.

5:17:32. Got my medal and a cup of flat Coke and walked over to see the kids, Ginny, Miguel and Maria. Smiling!

Best Race Ever

I am still stoked from the race. I didn’t think I could run that well for 42.2km, let alone 50km.

The BMO Vancouver Marathon was a bit of a letdown for me. I didn’t run well after 35km, but this made my year and gave me such an emotional boost. It was a great race – my best ever.