2001 Haliburthon Forest 100 Mile
"One needs to experience the fatigue, and develop the resolve to run on in spite of it, learning that by relaxing and concentrating on form, you can keep moving forward when any sensible person would have stopped."
Karl King, well-known ultra-runner and developer of Succeed Ultra buffered salt caps
Where do I start? A one hundred-mile race doesn’t begin at the start line. Like any other long endurance event it requires more than just the ability to stay on your feet for a long period of time. It requires the consent and support of people close to you. Without Glendon and my housemate, Joanne, I wouldn’t have even considered trying it.
Consider it I did. For two weeks before Haliburton I thought it might be possible. I was signed up for the 50 Miler, but my speed wasn’t as good as I would have liked for this distance.
Attempt it I would. A couple days before the race, I decided I would head out on the 50 Miler to see how it would go and, if my legs felt good, I would try to break 9 hours for the 50 and, if not, I would slow down and do the 100. Jo and Glendon agreed to run with me for parts of the last 25 miles through the night and early morning when the 100 milers were allowed to have pacers. I chatted with Helen Malmberg, the Race Director, the day before the race and she was very supportive of my decision.
Just as we did last year, Joanne and I started out together and ran until 25km when Jo turn around for the 50K “supersprint event”. We were much more subdued this year than last. Thoughts of our friend Catherine, who had been seriously injured in a car accident earlier that week, were never far from our minds. We appreciated and were thankful for our ability to simply run, let alone finish our respective races. Many times during the 100 miles I thought of Catherine and it fortified my determination to continue.
Within the first 10 miles I knew a fast 50 was out of the question. While I was a few minutes ahead of last year’s pace of 9:19:09, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to pick up my speed enough to break 9 hours. Jo, on the other hand, chomped at the bit through the first 25k and then hammered back the last half of her 50km and took 20 minutes off last year’s time, finishing in 5:28:00. This is no easy feat as it’s a net uphill on the way back!
Just before Jo went back, I stepped sideways on a slippery rock and rolled my right ankle and then managed to strain my left knee when I tried to keep from falling. Neither strain would become a major issue for many hours.
Throughout the day, I met up with several Ottawa area runners. I ran with Brian Maggee for nearly 20 miles after Jo headed back. He was running the 50 miler and had a good day finishing in just over 10 hours. I ran and chatted with Peter Suomela from time to time who also did the 100, finishing in just over 28 hours. Peter gave me some great tips for how to handle the last 25 miles. Carole Gauthier ran her first 50 miler, smiling and happy the whole way, in 13:58:00.
I made the turn at 25 miles in 4:45:00 and headed back. I was feeling strong and my legs were turning over well. My left knee was a little stiff and my right Achilles tendon was starting to ache. I was drinking plenty and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the aid stations every 5 miles.
Throughout the day and night I relied on the aid stations for most of my food – peanut butter and jelly, turkey, and tuna sandwiches, boiled potatoes, peanuts, chicken noodle soup. Glendon met me at most of the aid stations and refilled my handheld water bottle with Succeed Ultra Electrolyte drink during the day. At night I used a Camel back waist pouch with a 1.4 litre bladder and carried Succeed caplets (sodium, zinc and potassium) and Ibuprofen.
I was very fortunate to be caught by Gord England and Jim Morrison just before the 40 mile aid station. Gord had attempted the 100 mile distance before, but he was looking for his first finish and Jim had finished his first 100M earlier this summer. We soon fell into a comfortable rhythm. Each of us took turns leading the group as we went through peaks and valleys of energy. I must confess I would have tried my damnedest to keep up with them if they were going faster or slowed to a crawl just to have their company through the dark, cold night when it was difficult to maneuver through the trails.
Haliburton’s course is similar to running in the Gatineau Hills – technical, single track trails; short, steep and frequent hills, and some very desolate, lonely stretches of logging road. It is a 25 mile course - double out and back for the 100 miles. When you get back to 50 miles at the Start/Finish, which is only 30 metres from our cabin, it’s tough to turn around and go back out. You prepare mentally to ignore the luring comfort of a warm shower and a soft bed and just come in, grab a sandwich, refill your water bottle and head back out, barely stopping for more than a minute.
We continued to make good time from 50 - 65 miles while it was still light out. Our legs were starting to protest however and we had started to do 5 minute run/1 minute walk on the few flat sections. We had walked the hills all day and at this point we were still happy to come to a hill as it meant a bit of rest for certain muscles, but this wouldn’t last for much longer. We were still running the downhills and this also was becoming more painful each time.
At 65miles, as we entered Osprey Trail, one of the most difficult trail sections, we switched on our head lamps. We were still strong and decided to run as much of this section as we were capable. We did a very commendable job. No trips, falls or muddy feet – not bad considering we could barely see 10 feet in front of us! Even though there was a full moon it didn’t help with visibility inside the heavy forest.
After Osprey Trail we slowed considerably. It was after 9 o’clock at night now and we’d been out there for over 15 hours. The sun was long gone and it was becoming very cold. My change of clothes – long tights, mits, long sleeve cool max, winter weight dryfit jacket – were waiting for me at Deiter’s Deli otherwise known as the 75 Mile turn around.
The volunteers in the race are the most wonderful people. They sit outside, in the middle of the forest, some for more than 24 hours, waiting for us to show up periodically so that they can ply us with food or whatever we needed. Regretfully, the beer station was not set up this year, but Deiter Scholtz had set up his annual feast at the 25/75 mile turn around point. Name a dish and Dieter’s Deli has it – lasagna, sandwiches, soup, drinks, munchies…I think I may go back next year just for the food!
Glendon and Jo were waiting expectantly for us at Deiter’s Deli. Jo was prepared to go with me for the next 10 miles or so. I gave her the good news that I didn’t need her company as Gord, Jim and I decided to stick it out together to the end. Needless to say, both Glendon and Jo were quite relieved to be able return to the warm camp fire and stay to chat with the friendly group staffing the aid station.
In all good conscience, I couldn’t have asked them to run with me at that point. I hadn’t realized just how hard it would be running at night on the trails. It was awful out there in the dark, tripping over the roots and rocks, trying to stay warm. Yes, trying to stay warm. I was well dressed for running, but not for the amount of walking we had to do after we made the turn for home. My legs had stiffened up in the cold and I was only able to imitate a running motion with jerky, uncoordinated steps. Power hiking was a much more efficient option.
The last 25 miles were about energy and pain management. I was eating whatever anyone put in my hand. My ankle and Achilles tendon ached something fierce and each uphill put more strain on it. However, once there were fewer miles to get through than we had already traveled, I felt the finish line beckoning and I was driven to get to the end no matter what.
How fast were we going? Here’s an interesting break down…I ran the first 25 miles (4:45:00) faster than the last 25 kilometres (4:55:00)! I simply put one foot in front of the other. The last few hours tested our determination, drive, and focus and showed just how stubborn a human being can be!
Krista Trail from 91 to 95 miles was the most agonizing stretch of hills I have ever had to climb. Up and up we’d go, then a short downhill or flat section, then up and up again. I’ve climbed longer and I’ve climbed steeper, but the emotional and mental fatigue was wearing on me. My legs were long dead, my knee and ankle were in constant, stabbing pain. It was then that we heard the first wolf howl. Thankfully it was only one lone wolf, but it was enough to make us pause, bringing us back from the individual, internal concentration and fatigued mindsets to the reality of the dark, cold forest.
Little things throughout the night had spooked me – sometimes seeing a set of eyes peering back from the trees, a sudden movement in the woods nearby, a lone loon calling out on a still lake. My mind played tricks on me, seeing a strange object out of focus that looked like a wolf or small animal, but in better light was actually a tree, a small shrub or a rock. The wolf howl reminded me of the close encounter one of the runners had with a bear last year and it made me want to get to the finish even more!
At the end of Krista Trail we could taste the finish. We didn’t even stop at the 95 Mile Aid Station. I could barely stagger in a straight line down the logging road. Thankfully there were no vehicles about yet. The last three miles was the most difficult part of the journey. I tried to savour the triumph, but I was too tired, too pained, too mentally and emotionally whipped to think of anything but ending this ordeal.
My running mates surprised me with their boundless energy at this point and did some short spurts of running while I slowly dragged my heavy legs along. Of course I couldn’t let them show me up, and I ran a whole 10 feet just to prove to myself that I could do it!
I had hoped to: 1) finish and 2) finish under 24 hours. One for two isn’t bad on a journey where I saw the sun rise, set and rise again. Gord, Jim and I finished together at 24:55:00. Glendon was there as always ready to hold me up as I leaned on him for support. I dropped into a chair by the fire, propped my feet up and was promptly handed a Guiness by Gord’s wife. Aww…Breakfast of Champions!! It had been a long day and 55 minutes at the office to earn my coveted 100 Mile belt buckle!
Will I do it again? With my track record, it’s not out of the question! I’m always looking to test myself in a new way, but right now I’m happy to savour my victory and look forward to some shorter, normal races like the Philly Marathon. As I mentioned, support from our nearest and dearest is essential to reaching lofty goals. I may put the miles on my legs, but Glendon has been my backbone through all my significant runs over the last few years. He’s been tireless and unwavering in his support and I can’t thank him and Joanne enough for helping get me to the finish line of the Haliburton 100 Miler.