I left off in my last post having just seen my amazing friends all dressed up and cheering like crazy under a train trestle somewhere around the 27 km mark of my Run for Water ultra marathon…
For each of the past 3 years, the Run for Water ultra marathon route has varied. Last year, the course was changed last minute due to flooding and we ended up running quite a bit of the route on long, straight country roads. I love roads so it didn’t bother me but this year sure was beautiful in comparison.
We ran much more of the distance on gravel dykes and along sloughs and rivers. The road sections we ran in the middle 20 km of the run were also a lot more scenic, taking us up against the mountains and along the US border. We were able to stop in a few more parks and got to run through a few little communities as well. The whole thing was beautiful and interesting, the perfect setting for such a unique run.
By this time I was also noticing a big difference in the atmosphere of the run. Actually, the atmosphere was probably the same last year, I just didn’t know about it because I had been struggling so much by this point of the run. I was well behind the group for a good portion of last year’s run and I was so enjoying the camaraderie of being in the group and getting more chance to chat.
It made the km feel like they were just melting away. Between hitting our rest stops and coming across my intrepid cheering squad, there was always something fun or restful happening it seemed.
We were just about to head out for a 6 km out and back section along another dyke when my friend Jen decided to tag along for a bit. It really couldn’t have been better timing. For as good as I’d been feeling up until then, I was admittedly feeling tired at this point. I’m not sure what the difference was, we were only at 34 km in but I really just wanted to walk for awhile. I guess the rest stops every 10 km was starting to catch up with me and my feet were missing the more frequent walk breaks. Jen was great for chatting me up and it helped me keep my feet moving.
After Jen departed to run back to her crew, we came off the dyke and ran a short distance over to Cole Road Park. I remember stopping here last year because I had been crying, whining and panicking about being able to finish. I was struggling for each breath and didn’t talk to anyone at this stop because I was so upset. This park ended up being the turning point however, because I pulled it together and carried on to enjoy the rest of the run.
This year, we cruised into the park and although I was tired I was feeling so awesome. I honestly don’t think I’d stopped smiling the entire way so far and it felt so great to be back at this park to see my family and friends in good spirits like I should have been last year. As we left, I approached Mike, the other runner from my run club and asked if he wanted to start doing 10:1’s for awhile because I knew he was finding the spacing of the breaks a bit more challenging too.
When we finally came out of the dykes I knew we were somewhere around the 40 km mark. Just a ‘short’ 12 km to go and we were done. I just couldn’t believe how much had changed in a year that somehow I had just run most of an ultra marathon and barely noticed the epic distance ticking by. We got some encouragement from family as we carried on…
I knew we were only about a km away from the rest stop I’d been dreaming of this whole journey – the Birchwood Dairy. Last year, I happened to sneak a lick of Solana’s ice cream cone from the dairy and this year I told all my friends and family that someone had better buy me an ice cream cone of my own. I could see the dairy in the distance as we approached and of course, could hear all the cheering, horns and noise makers too. This rest stop was packed with family and friends and it was awesome.
Some of our ultra teammates from last year even came to meet up with us at this stop and the energy of the group was just awesome. Luckily this was one of our longer pit stops so we had the chance to visit with everyone and of course, enjoy that amazing cookies and creme ice cream cone!
After this rest stop I buckled down and ran along with some of the runners in the back of our group. By this time last year I was feeling much better but still way far back from the group and I was so thankful when other runners spent a bit of time ‘sweeping’ the course with me. This year, I was happy to run along with some of those I hadn’t yet had the chance to visit with much and enjoyed setting a nice easy pace for the next 5 km or so.
And having my ‘support team’ trail me through this section helped pass some of the time as well…
We cruised into that final rest stop to an equally large gathering of family and friends. And of course, Buffy the Trail Slayer (our awesome furry friend from the 5 Peaks Trail Running Series) was there too…
Knowing this would be the last stop we took a bit of extra time to refuel, change our clothes and recharge for the final push.
I honestly didn’t plan for this race report to get so long but with so many fantastic pictures and a whole ultra full of feeling good and fun times, I guess there’s lots to say… Next up, the conclusion!