The Goal: 12 buckles in 12 months in 2012 - to celebrate the milestone of my 50th year!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Buckle No. 5 - Sulphur Springs 100 Miler

Once again, to little to late, I have no idea on how to get better at sitting down and writing this stuff. There has to be a better way. Any feedback or suggestions are always welcome and appreciated.

Sulphur Springs started out as a race I was really looking forward to. It was the second hundred miler this year that I had done in the past and had a comfort level knowing the terrain, the style of the race, most of the people involved and thanks to facebook, I was looking forward to meeting some of the new Ultra friends I had met at my first Ontario race.

As usual my boss was nice enough to grant me the day off before the race. This has become something of a tradition to help me organize, pack and of course, leave my food container either on the steps or the front porch. Good thing I've built in time to go back and get stuff.

Friday morning came and went pretty well, I was packed up Thursday night, all the laundry was done, clothes pretty much packed and my excel spreadsheet check list was printed and sitting on the kitchen table, full of notes, check marks and items still to pack clearly identified. Thanks to Michelle, the check list is getting a bit more detailed every race and I continue to add stuff to it in hopes of making each of these trips just that much easier. I know that so far this hasn't always been the case but I'm a work in progress so have a little patience with me here will yeah?

I am happy to say that I purhased a new table at Canadian Tire before Sulphur this year and without sounding like a marketing "tool" I think the table / storage container will certainly aid in my ability to not forget stuff in the future (ok so i'm being a bit of an optimist). It's a good plan :)

Back to the race, preparation and other important stuff.

I decided on Thursday that maybe a pacer would be a good idea. Instead of leaving the laundry and food to the last minute I thought this was a small detail I have overlooked to date. Thankfully a quick email on the Yahoo user group and I was lucky enough to get a responce from two members of the Burlington Runners Club and both offered to help for one loop each. I knew going into the event that I would be running with Lisa Van Wolde for the first four loops and now with the help of two pacers this meant the loops 5 and 6 would be spent by myelf and loop 7 and 8 would be covered with some new Ultra buddies. I'd like to say a very special thank you to Vikki Baylis and Eric Cameron (some of you may know Eric as the ITT race director). You both made the last two loops much easier and way more fun than being alone, thank you both very much for your time, your patience and listening to my very bad stories.

We arrived at the race site late Friday afternoon, just after the polite police officer let us into the parking lot of the event, then we set up our tent next door to Catherine Harding and just up the street from our good buddy Pat Cambell. Of course Patty's weekend estate is much bigger than mine :). The dinner this year was really good and we got all of our pre-race information, bids and it was time to head back to the motel for a beer, some pretzels and good sleep.

Race morning I felt pretty good and ready to go, I felt the limited training I had done since Pottawatomi might be a bit of a concern and my only worry was that the blisters and new skin on the bottom of my feet would hold up long enough to get the race under my belt. This would turn out to be a bit bigger problem than I may have anticpated.

My strategy was to keep up with Lisa for the first 50 miles (4 loops). This would serve two purposes, the first it would push me a bit to get the first have done in or around 9:15 and secondly, it would ensure Lisa didn't go out to fast and not have any gas left for her second 50. Well at 50 miles we were pretty much on schedule, we had made the time goal and Lisa was feeling pretty fresh as she started her second half of the race. For me however it was a bit of a different story. I had developed some hot spots on the bottom of both of my feet and I knew it was only a matter of time before I would be struggling with blisters again.

Loop no. 5 statted in the heat of the day and I decided I was going to walk in any parts of the course that where in the sun and I would run only the well shaded sections. As the loop progressed it turned out to be more of a walking hike than a trail run and true to form the blisters were back and seemed to hurt more than ever. With the lack of rain in the area over the last month or so, the course seemed very had to me, the clay surfaces were hot, hard and seemed to be taking their toll on the bottom's of my feet.

Did I fail to mention I didn't forget my food at home this time? Pretty good eh?

Loop 6 meant a sock and shoe change, some pizza, salt, advil and off to get my last loop alone done. My sixth loop started around 6:00 pm if memory serves me correctly and the heat of the day had gone so I decided I would run a bit more on this loop than the previous loop. Good plan until about 5 kms in, after that, back to the old strategy, just walk and then you can run much more on the next loop.

Loop 7 and 8 I was lucky enough to have Vikki and Eric along for the walk and jog. Their trail knowledge is first rate and was a big difference over last years race without a pacer. I went into the event looking to be under 21 hours however with only three weeks of rest between Potti and Sulphur it wasn't the first goal and starting loop 7 about 30 minutes behind schedule it was tough for me to dig in and make up some time, especially with really sore and tired feet. By this point the blisters and sore toes made any sustained running out of the question. Both Vikki and Eric did a great job getting me to run in certain sections however I think they both knew my tank was vertually on empty and I was so glad they didn't push to hard. I've only paced once before but you could tell both of these great runners knew exactly how to handle me, I learned a lot from both of them and I'm very grateful for their efforts and ongoing support.

Loop 8 of Sulphur Springs ended at 3:32 am, 22:32:48. Not quite the goal time I had established going into the day but still over an hour quicker than my time from last year. I still managed to finish 21st overall and got to see some fantastic people on the course and I have some fantastic memories of Sulphur Springs 2012. The first that comes to mind is seeing Stephen Parke pass me on the final loop, it was so good to see Steven looking so strong and altough I was way to far behind to see him cross the finish line I could hear the cheers for him as he completed his first 100 miler. Way to Go Stephen, great job. One of the other things that I always enjoy and will remember for a very long time is seeing Monica Sholtz at Sulpur and she didn't dissapoint this year. On my 7th loop I was coming up the last of the three sisters and with an upset stomach and feeling very tired Monica was at the top of the hill, like the great athlete and person she is she must have known I was in some trouble. She walked down the hill to meet me, asked me what was wrong and offered up mints and ginger ale. The combination of having the mints, ginger ale and getting aid from Monica made my day. In what other sport can you say that one of the all time greats has been out on the course to help you out and show geniune concern for your well being. Monica, you may not know who I am but will always remember who you are, thank you very much.

Of course Lisa Van Wolde finished the race strong and one good leg and one injured leg, never the less, she is a tower of strength and an inpsiration. She made the first four loops so much fun that they passed as quickly as possible, thanks Lisa.

And last but never least, Michelle did another great job of being an amazing crew member. Always there when I needed her too, changing shoes, filling water bottles, telling me I look great, being a solid liar when she needs to be :) and just being there to support me, take care of me and listen to the never ending bitching, whining and complaining while the whole time biting her lip and not telling me how much of a baby I am being. Thanks Mich, as you know, there is no way I do any of this without your unending support, strength and dedication to my goal. I owe you large !

Ok, I think that is it for now folks. As always your thoughts and comments are welcome and appreciated.

Scott Garrett
12 buckles, 1 goal.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Buckle No. 4 - Potawatomi 100 Miler

Good evening to everyone. I know it is very long overdue and thank you to all of you who have tried to keep me accountable to keep this more up to date. On my to do list is certainly an effort to be better at sitting here and getting my race reports to you much quicker.
My goal tonight is to get all the events from Potti and Sulphur here in my blog. Thanks for your patience

So back a month to Potawatomi (pronounced " I Want My Mommy"):
So the weekend started out much like the weekend of New Jersey. I met up with Catherine Harding and Lisa Van Wolde at Catherines house. I had just purchased a rack for the rear of my car and after an hour of assembly on the front yard it was time to pack the car and the new rack and start the road trip to Illinois. So lets double check, luggage, check, shoes, check, sleeping bag, check. Good to go!

We pull away and luckily Catherine looks back on her front porch and you'll never guess what is on the concrete stoop....................YEP, my box of food. What the heck is up with that container? For the second time in as many races I almost forgot it. Thanks to Cath for noticing, well, laugh no. 1 and the road trip isn't even a block old.

The drive was about 12 or 13 hours and we had already decided to split the trip into two days. The first day was from Barrie to Kalamazoo and then the last five or six hours Friday morning. We made it to Kalamazoo Thursday night around 10:00 at night and it wasn't long before the three of us had a beer and were off to sleep. The next day we were up early and on the road after a good breakfast at the hotel.

We arrived at the race site shortly after 1:00 pm and got a chance to check out the race site and just in time to hook up with Ken Moon and Mary Lou who was out on the course already in quest of her first 150 miler. The weather was good and it looked like the weather reports of rain and thunderstorms was a long way off.

After heading over to the local airport and picking up Michelle, my crew was complete and it was time to check into the hotel and get to theApplebees for a good pre-race meal and a good nights sleep.

4:30 am, a good night sleep and Lisa and I started to get ready for our 100 miler.  We had a bit of breakfast at the hotel and arrived at the race site around 5:30. I felt really good and was happy we split the drive into two days as I was rested and ready to go. The sky was clear and no rain in site.......oops, spoke to soon.

The race started and Lisa and I had a plan and a time for each of the loops. My goal was to stay with Lisa for the first 50 miles. We finished the first loop and we were pretty much on time. The pace felt fast for me but I figured it was just because it was the first loop and I was a bit stiff. Did I mention that between New Jersey and Pottawatomi was 3 weeks and a total of 21 training miles. Yep, 21 miles in three weeks leading up to the hardest 100 miler of the year to date. Am I freakin' crazy?

Well loop no. 2 started out similar to number 1. Trying to keep up to Lisa on technical single track, 13 or 14 hills that make Creemore look welcoming. Then rain, no, not rain, thunderstorms. Straight down, hard driving rain. Great, just what I needed, hills, mud and then some more mud and trying to keep up to Lisa. It was pretty clear that I was holding her back and the intense training plan that I had in the weeks leading up to Potti wasn't helping either of us right now. Luckily Lisa was very patient with me and time and time again she would stop and wait for me, if I could have just convinced her to help me up the muddy hills and down the slippery slopes.

The rain stopped in the middle of the third loop but the damage was done. The mud was two or three inches deep in the valley areas and the creek crossing on the first loop became a welcome site on loop two through loop no. 10 as it provided a good opputunity to wash the mud off of my shoes and socks. What was a quick step and long jump on loop one became a slow crossing to wash off mud and cool down the feet.

On loop no. 3 I started to get hot spots on both of my feet and my sock my left foot started to roll under my toes, by the time I got back to the start finish I could feel the blister already well under way on the ball of my left foot. I had to stop and change my shoes and socks. I knew my feet would be wet again real soon but with the sock rolling under my toes the blisters would only get worse. I sat at our start finish area and changed. Hoping the short rest would deliver some new energy to keep up to Lisa and reduce the pain in my left foot. The first five minutes out of the aid station didn't go so well. My feet hurt and as it turned out I was holding Lisa back. She went on ahead and I was on my own. Somewhat bitter sweet knowing I was about to do the last 35 miles on my own until I got to 70 miles when Catherine was going to pace me.

The wet course, 16,600 feet of elevation gain and loss, sore feet, 21 miles of training in the last three weeks certainly were teaching me a lesson and a lesson the hard way.

The next three loops went by without much memory of how they went, I got into a zone and ran when I could and walked when I had to. The thing I found about this type of course was that at not time outside of the first mile could you get into a rhythm, there were no sections a mile long that you could pick up the pace or set into a comfortable pace. I could run for a minute then climb a big hill, catch my breath and then down a slippery slope or up another hill. This race was lot tougher than I expected and my lack of training was dissapointing me as well. I knew early in the race that I needed to work harder before Sulphur in five weeks.

When I got to 70 miles Catherine was ready to go with me, it was around midnight and I was tired and pretty sore. I knew that running any time over the next two loops would be a real stretch. Michelle had been doing a great job of keeping me in supplies, dry clothes, and lots of encouragement. After a couple of Advil I was off on loop no. 7. Catherine and I had already decided she would do two loops and the last loop I would complete on my own. What made these loops so good was the good company and the deer. We must have seen 6 or 7 deers on each of the two loops.

On my eighth loop (Catherines second with me) it was much of the same pace, walking most of it and running only for short periods of time. About half way through the loop we heard what may have been a large cat (not your ordinary house cat either) in the woods and he was hungry and it sounded like he had caught his next meal. My reliable pacer, Ms. Harding decided it was a good idea to stop on the trail and tell me about it. I remember saying Catherine, I didn't hear anything, lets keep going. Catherine, move, walk, Catherine, lets keep going......Oh No, let's just stand on the trail and make it that much easier for Mr. Cat to catch us, eat us for desert and clean up the mess before the next crazy person comes along. Finally for the third time I asked Cath if we could please continue to move forward. Ahhh, finally, she was moving again.

The race ended for me after 100 miles, 27 hours and 45 minutes, my feet were beaten up very badly, my lack of training meant I was in a significant amount of pain, I was cold, wet and angry with myself for thinking I could just show up and get the buckle. Lesson learned!

On a positive note, I would say if anyone is looking for the race that all races should measure up to, this would be the one. The course is very difficult, easily the hardest one I've done to date but having said that, the race director, Richard and his family and volunteers are the nicest group of people I've ever met at a race. The aid stations are without a doubt the best ever. The selection of food was second to none, the treatment and knowledge level of the aid station workers was fantastic. The swag was top notch as well. All of the participants received a long sleeve and a short sleeve technical shirt, a jacket, and a technical running hat. Oh, and a buckle, no. 4 in my collection.

The ride home wasn't great. Lisa and I shared the backseat, both uncomfortable, both kicking each other out of the way, trying to find a comfortable place to get a bit of sleep and having to work Monday morning back at our jobs meant Catherine and Michelle had to drive the entire way home in one shot.

I am happy to say that we are all still friends today and we look back on the trip, smile and can't wait to do it again.

Thanks again to those who are reading this, keep the emails with your comments coming. Makes me smile.

12 buckles, 1 goal.