Monday, December 10, 2007

Stewart Mountain 16k - Dec. 8, 2007

This race started with an email I received from my buddy, Dave Milne. In the message, he said that he had a jacket waiting for me at Peninsula Runners. Of course I was excited, so I jogged down to the store and picked the jacket up. I was very thankful, and as I was about to leave, he said "I want you to run tomorrow....". Having just received a gift from my sponsor, there was no way I could say no. So I said yes. I jogged back to my office and immediately signed up for the 10 Mile Stewart Mountain Run, which was happening the next day.
This race was on my radar, but I hadn't signed up for it because I imagined December being a month off from racing and doing any sort of heavy running. Having said that, this run was exactly my style of run. Trails, hills, mud, rivers and long. Perfect. Time to pull out my Brooks Cascadias.

I was dropped off at Thetis Lake in ample time. I wandered around and said hello to a few of my running buddies. It is funny...this time last year, I knew nobody in the running world. Now I was showing up for a run, and figured I could just bum a ride home with someone.

It looked like it was going to be a good event. Only the passionate runner-type would sign up for such an event. In true Harrier fashion, the race course was set up very well, and very officially.

I started my warm-up. The warm-up consistend of running for 3 minutes into the bush, taking a pee, and then running back to the start area, where I pretended to stretch. I knew the distance could get to me, as I really haven't covered anything bigger than about 13k in over a month.

I positioned myself near the front of the pack at the start line. I didn't really have a game plan with this run, except to try and finish reasonably well. I knew this meant starting strong, but not too fast. I certainly didn't want to go crazy in the beginning, as I would be toast later. I also didn't want to be too conservative, as it is easy to get caught too far back in any cross-country trail event.

The race started, and I quickly found myself in the secondary pack. This was good, as Gary Duncan was in the same group. I knew if I could finish near him, I'd be in great shape. I also saw the fast girls in the same grouping, so again, I was where I wanted to be. The trails were in good shape, but perhaps a little wetter than the previous time I had been out there. This was going to be a weird race for me, as I was following the pack, and really had little idea where I was actually going.

The race meandered away from the main trail. The trail also got a hell of a lot wetter. I found myself running in water; the trail was a creekbed of sorts. As I looked ahead, I saw a river. I quickly saw the runners going right through it. Cool. I went through as well. Very cool.

At about the 3-4k mark, I saw a pool of water up ahead. I then saw a girl (Canada's Kristin Sweetland) bail and superman slide right into the pool. She went in, fully. She bounced up right in front of me, laughed, and continued on. Within minutes, she was back up ahead of me.

I was doing well so far, I even had passed Gary Duncan. I was concerned as it was still early in the race, but so far so good.

Damn. My shoelace came undone. How did that happen? I double-knotted them. This had never happened before during a race. Idiot. I tried to forget about it, and did so. Then Gary says from behind me, "Jeff, you're shoelace it undone". I replied, "Wanna stop and tie it up for me?"

I knew I was gonna have to tie it up. I took my gloves off, and then stopped to tie up the shoe. After a 10 second stop, my shoe was done up, but a group of about 4 runners had passed me. I was actually pretty pleased. The pit stop was one that Alain Prost would have been proud of.

I stayed at the same pace, and in the same spot until the mountain started. The Stewart Mountain Climb was crazy steep. It also went on and on. I looked ahead and saw some poeple walking now. What a good idea. I joined in the parade. It was actually even hard walking it was so steep. As I looked up, I saw Gary running still. He was barely going any faster than me, and I was walking. Near the top of the hill, I jogged past Mark Ritchie. He was exhausted. So was I. The terrain was now frost and ice. Not quite so wet up here.

I then go to the summit, and I was very relieved. At this point, you always know that the rest of the rest is definitely more downhill than uphill. Cool.

As I sped down the hill, I searched for anyone infront of me. Nobody in sight. I knew my downhill running was not my forte, so I guess I was on my own. It felt like I was on my own.

I then sped past a girl who had clearly injured herself. She was doing a very slow jog, and I asked "are you ok"? She said "yeah, I just pulled my quad". I carried on. I knew if I could keep a good pace, that all these 10k runners would eventually peter out.

After another few minutes, I saw Gary. And, I was gaining on him. I eventually passed him, and again, I was thrilled. A course marshall had just told us that we were 11th and 12th place. I kept waiting for my body to give in to the elements, but it didn't. I kept thundering ahead, and by the time I saw Thetis Lake again, I had passed another 3 runners. I knew there was now only about 2 km. to go. But, not so easy. I knew there must have been runners right behind me, waiting to pounce on any room I was going to give. But, I didn't let up. I maintained my solid pace until the last beach seciton, and by this point, I knew there was nobody immediately behind me.

I finished in a time of 1:15:22. I had done the claculation and thought I finished in 9th place. As it turned out, I finished in 10th place overall (out of 225 registrations, 184 finishers). Quite an acheivement for someone who just registered the day before.

I was thrilled and went back to the finish line to watch Gary Duncan and all the other Harriers to finish. I then chatted with people, attempting to bum a ride home.

At the award ceremony, I was presented with a 4th place ribbon, as that is where I had finished in my age group. This marked only the second time that I had received something tangible for my efforts.

Now, there really are no races until January. Time for some 2008 run goals.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bear Mountain 10k - Nov. 18, 2007

It was a chilly Sunday morning and once again, for some reason, I decided to punish myself by signing up for this race. This is one of those races where you really don't know how hard it is unless you actually try it.
The Bear Mountain course is a measured 10k course on pavement. It follows the complete golf cart path around the 18 hole golf course. The path is about 5 feet wide, and has curbs on either side. However, it is the elevation that makes this course difficult. No part of the 10k course is flat. It is a 10k continuous hill training run, with no rest.
I had run this race the year before. I ran well, by my standard, and came in at 44:16. I finished in 27th place, out of about 150.
It was for this reason, I felt excited and concerned.
I was excited because this would mark the first time that I would actually be able to compare my speed now versus last year. I felt like I was faster, but who really knew.
I was concerned, however, that becasue I ran pretty well last year, that I had to go even harder this year. To make matters worse, I really hadn't been training much the 2 weeks prior to the race. I think the week of the race, I had only logged like 20 km. This is brutal, by anyone's standard.
I got to the race in ample time. Janelle and Teagan came to watch my race and cheer me on. Fantastic. The weather was clear, but cold. I didn't see any sign of frost on the course, but it must have been close to frost. I walked over to the hotel and picked up my race pack. I could tell right away that there were far more competitors than the previous year, and there were way more hot-shot runners as well. Olympians, national team members, running shoe store owners...they were all there, and I knew most of 'em. What a difference a year makes. I actually feel like I am one of the running circuit members now.
After a pretty good warm-up, I started the race very well. My plan going into the race was to start slow and try not to be too excited. This is actually always my goal, but rarely takes place. However, this day would be different. After the first kilometre, I found myself in a small pack of about 4 people. I knew these four people were sub-40 runners, so I felt alright with where I was.
Then it was time for the Papa Bear hill. This daddy-of-a-hill is close to 2 km in length, and the hill is simply deadly. Anyone who does not know the course eventually walks up it, because they would not know that it goes up forever. I did well up the hill. It was difficult, but I still remained in the same small pack.
Now it was time for some downhill running. Perhaps the weakest part of my running is my downhill ability to fly down the hills. In my younger days, I would tear down the hills...but now, I just tried to keep good form running down them. I had actually practiced alot of downhill running technique over the past couple of months, so one of my goals was to focus on my angle going down the hills. Overall, I seemed to do well, but the pack slowly left me.
At about the 5.5 km mark, we rounded the water station corner and I saw Janelle and Teagan cheer for me. Teagan was yelling "Go daddy, go!". The spectators around her smiled and thought how cute it was.
After the corner, I struggled. The hills were relentless, and the next 1.5 km were pretty much up. Included in this section was the Mama Bear Hill, which is shorter in distance than the Papa Bear one, but much steeper. I actually walked up this hill last year in the race, so when I slugged up it, I was proud of myself.
I saw the 7 km mark. All was good. The majority of the course was now downhill, so making it in decent time was definitely going to happen. However, downhill meant people passing me. A young Asain guy flew by me on the downhill. Soon thereafter, Rob Reid passed me on another downhill. Damn. This sucked. I wanted to beat him badly. One of my goals was to beat him. But he is simply too good of a runner. After all, he doesnt own Frontrunners for nothing!
I was still holding a good pace. As I rounded the 9 km marker, I saw Janelle and Teagan one final time. I wasn't smiling so much this time though. I knew one final hill was coming up. I remembered this from last year. This hill surprised me last year, because the common thought at this point of the race is just to hammer to the finish line. Not this time. I held my pace and prepared myself for the Baby Bear Hill. I kept a pretty good pace through it, and one I hit the top, it was over. A flying downhill finish to the hotel was all that was left. I now hammered up my pace and gave the crowd something to cheer about, as I flew it right at 42:00.
Wow. Definitely exciting. I accomplished so many goals with this run.
1) I improved...significantly
2) I didn't walk.
3) I ran the downhills much better.
4) I beat Nancy Fedoruk.
Overall, I came in 20th place. Sweet showing for me. 251 entries.
I wonder if I can improve next year?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Royal Victoria Marathon - Oct. 7, 2007

After having 2 weeks of recovery from my 77k WCT run, I really wasn't sure how my body was going to respond to doing another long run. In that recovery period, it took a few days for sure for me to find my legs again - I also hadn't done anything longer than a 10k run.
Nevertheless, I was excited to be doing another marathon. The night before the marathon was definitely rough. Griffin had been up much of the night, and I think I was operating on about 4 hours sleep. I was also very excited about Janelle who, was doing her half marathon (as it turns out, she had an awesome race!).
I drove Janelle to her race first. Her race started 1 hour before mine, so there was no real chance for me to support her during her race. After I dropped her off downtown, I went back to the grandparent's house to drop off the kids. It is at these points in life that I always think how lucky we are to have such a great family and support system in place. Every good runner has support. Every good runner, who is also a parent, must have help somewhere. I don't care who they are, this is just a fact.
So I headed down to my race. Parking is always an issue on these things, as there were about 10,000 registered runners for the events that day. As I got downtown, I quickly realized I really had little hope to find a parking spot anywhere. In addition, the half marathon runners had already started, so the roads all around town were blocked. I did my best, and managed to find a spot in Fairfield. As it turns out, I was about 2.5 km from the start line. This was not good, as now the marathon distance was now going to be the usual 42.2 km. + 5 km of getting to and from my car.
As I got to the starting area, I waited in the short line to go pee and then deposited my gear in the bag check. I was calm at this point, as I had enough time to do all that I needed to do. I also felt calm by the fact like this was not a first for me. I had done a marathon before (in June), and I was familiar with the RVM setup (from doing the half in 2006).
I lined myself at the start line. I placed myself with the 3 hour guys, knowing that if this were to actually happen, that I would be a stud. I mainly did this because in these events, there are always people in front of you who do not even realize that you are supposed to line yourself in terms of estimated finishing time. Dodos.
I looked up, and the weather was fantastic. The forecast was for heavy rain, but there was harly a cloud in the sky. What luck. I knew this couln't last forever, after all this was Victoria.
The race started, and I covered the first km. in 4:10. Perfect. I still felt great and relaxed. Over the first 10k, I still felt very good and I made a split time of 42:30. Still great. I was on pace to do what I needed to do. Shortly after this point though, I felt a small tightness in my left calf. This changed my mind-set completely as I knew that anything felt physically so early in the race was going to kill me later. However, I carried on and did very well to make the half split time of 1:31. This was great - I still had hope of finishing under 3:10 and qualifying for the Boston Marathon. But I definitely had concerns.
It was in the next few km. that I knew I was slowing down. I wasn't monitoring my split times, but I knew I was slowing drastically. I felt a general tightening of my legs and in particular behind my knees. At about km. 28 (and with my final gel), I kept telling myself to just to get to km. 32, and then I knew I would be stronger than that of my Tofino marathon. It was about then that the skies opened up. It rained. No actually, it poured. Knowing that my body was protesting another long run, I slogged along until the km. 32 sign. At that point, I walked. There was a small hill at that point, and my legs were quivering. My plan at that point was to do exactly what I do in every ultra event: walk the uphills, and jog the rest. However, this proved to be difficult. From km. 32 until km. 38, it was the run-walk (with more walking) system that kept me moving.
My muscles cramped; every single one of them. Even my IT band on my right side was giving way. Many, many people were passing me at this point, and I really didn't care. At this point in a marathon, you just want it to end. I was excited and encouraged that by km. 38, I was actually able to hold onto a very slow job pattern, with no walking. Around this time, an old lady passed me and looked at me and said "c'mon, you can do it!" I thought, omg I just got passed by an old lady!
The rain thundered down as hard as I have ever seen it in my life. Cool. It reminded me of Mexico.
As I rounded the final bends, I picked up the pace toward the finish line, trying to deceive the spectators that this was all easy, and that my pace had been this fast the whole way through. Smart people, or experienced people know that this is just balony.
I finished the marathon in 3:20:41. I was just happy it was over. This time was great. It wasn't the Boston Marathon Qualifying time that I dreamed of, but hey, it was a solid time. It beat my first marathon time by 13 minutes. This time was very satisfying. I'm glad it was over.

But... it wasn't. After getting my space cape and my medal, I remembered that the car was a long, long ways aways. I got my gear from the tent, and began the slow, long walk back to my car. After 40 minutes of shivering and stumbling in the pounding rain, I finally got to my car (in retrospect, this walk was probably as hard as the marathon itself). I laid out the garbage bag over my seat and closed the door, and drove home to my family.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

West Coast Trail Run - Sept. 22, 2007

This is the story of Jeff Hunt (Victoria, BC) and Bob Wall (Campbell River, BC) who ran the 77k West Coast Trail on Sept. 22nd, 2007 in 14 hours and 25 minutes.

The morning started at 4 am, as I heard Bob’s alarm ringing. All things considered, I had a pretty good sleep that night. I got up and had a banana, a bagel and an English muffin. I tried to relax as best I could, while sitting with my legs up. I kept saying to myself, “rest now Hunt, this will be the only rest you get today”. I took a look out of the hotel window. The day before had been quite wet, but the night sky was full of stars. This was a good sign, as we had rescheduled our adventure to take place on the Saturday instead of the Sunday mainly due to the weather being the best on the Saturday.
We left our hotel at 4:40 and drove the bumpy road a short 6k to the trailhead. We headed to the official sign and took some photos. I wanted to be sure to take a photo of my watch showing our 5 am start time, just in case we happened to set a speed record. My original goal was just to finish the trail, and I knew I was going to be happy with this huge accomplishment. However, the competitive person inside me also thought it would be kinda cool to beat the 12:20 speed record, set by Gary Robbins only 6 weeks prior.
With a final gaze up into the starry sky, I reminded Bob how lucky we were with the current conditions. I was counting on no rain, but the fact that there was no fog was definitely bonus. We took out our flashlights and skirted along Pachena Bay on the beach and headed onto the trail at the 0.5k mark. The trail itself was wet. The rain the day before had definitely made the trail as wet as I had imagined. The first 10 km. to Pachena Lighthouse was relatively easy, but it was a constant start-and-stop affair, due to the quagmires and the blow-down. With every few km., I commented to Bob that the sky was slowly starting to brighten.
By the time we reached Michigan Creek at the 12 Km. point, our flashlights were off and we were guided by the waking daylight. I was occasionally watching the clock to see what kind of a pace we had going for us, and, it looked pretty good. With the final ferry in Port Renfrew leaving at 5 pm, we had forced ourselves to break the speed record, or we would simply be swimming across Gordon River at the end of the trail. As we hit this small beach section of the trail, I was excited that we were able to run the sandstone shelf through this section. Running along the shelf was quick, but it definitely soaked us running in the 2” deep water. It was at this point that I remember Mark from Frontrunners bragging how much water my “Smartwool Socks” could absorb (I think it was 1L per sock).
A little while later, we saw the buoys in the trees that indicated we needed to get back to the trail. We were now rocketing through the trail, and for a little while, I had measured our pace to be at 6min/km. I was feeling more and more confident that we were going to be at the Nitnat Ferry right at 9 am, which was the earliest time the ferry ran.
At the 20 Km. point, we were forced to get to the beach again. I didn’t mind this fact, as I was sure we could continue the quick pace along the sandstone shelf. However, this was not the case. There was no shelf in this section, so we had to slug it out on the beach. The beach in this section was pea gravel and definitely not runnable. We quickly adapted to a power-hiking mode, which was the best we could do. After a couple of K’s on the beach, I got impatient at our slow pace and I told Bob that maybe we could hit the trail for a little while. Bob agreed, and I scampered up to the beach edge to look for a trail. Looking for the trail, I stepped on a piece of driftwood and my feet completely slipped out from underneath me. I landed flat on my side and hit the ground hard. I was okay however, as I didn’t land on any logs or rocks. I thought to myself “that was lucky, boy. Don’t do that again!” Bob followed me onto the trail, and I warned him to be careful on the logs! We quickly found the trail again and it wasn’t long before we were at the first cable-car crossing at Klanawa River.
The cable car required a huge effort. Pulling the cable was strenuous on the shoulders to say the least. When we finally got across, and with my shoulders burning, I said to Bob “this will be the only cable-car we take. We will wade through the other rivers.” Bob smiled and said “good”.
The next stretch of trail started off nice enough, but by the time we passed the Tsusiat Falls access, the trail deteriorated significantly. I did not count on this. I had never hiked this section of the trail before (because the other times I did the trail I took the beach at this point), but I had assumed it was not difficult. I was wrong. It was wet, muddy, and rooty, and although we slogged through it, our pace had slowed significantly.
As we got close to the Nitnat Ferry crossing, I reached for my whistle. I wanted to be sure that the fellow operating the ferry was not going to dawdle in picking us up. I blew the whistle a few times to alert the guy on the other side. He eventually said “I’ll be there”, but certainly was in no hurry. The next few minutes were those of reflection. We had hit the ferry crossing at 9:40, about an hour slower than I had hoped for, but still definitely a respectable time. My body was still feeling quite good, except for my hamstrings, which were tight. I figured the tightness came about from all the starting and stopping with the running. Bob and I took the opportunity to drink some water, and have a Cliff Bar.
Before too long, we were on the other side and found ourselves on boardwalk. The boardwalk lasted for quite sometime and we made awesome progress on the boards. It was a little slippery, but it was definitely easier than being on roots. We then arrived at “Beaver Bog” at Km. 33. I was told the week prior by a person from my running group that this section was the wettest on the trail, and that it was extremely slow. However, Bob and I did not struggle at all really, and the fact that we didn’t really have any weight on our backs must have made this technical section a breeze. It was only around the last corner of Beaver Bog that Bob got his whole leg in mud. I soon followed suit – it was the only way through. We laughed at our muddy legs, and then sped along quickly to Cheewhat Bridge at Km. 36.
It was in this section that we noticed about 5 piles of bear scat. I was not too worried, but I was glad I had my whistle close by. We never saw any bears, but I am sure that they couldn’t be very far away.
We ran ahead and got to Dare Beach. I was excited at this point, because I did the time-planning in my head again, and we were back on track. I was also told that this section of the trail was going to be easy and fast, because the sand was hard-packed and definitely runnable. I was pissed off when I found out that this was not the case. The sand was soft, and we quickly backtracked off the beach and hit the trail again.
The next few kilometres seemed to take forever. Again, the trail deteriorated as we went along and the great trail that once was (at Cheewhat) was now a bloody mess. We not only had the mud and the roots, but now there was also quite a bit of elevation change. We would have loved the beach section through here, but the tide was way in and there was no way to go quicker on the beach.
We eventually got to Cribs Creek at Km.41, refilled our water packs, and had another Cliff Bar. Bob and I stared at each other blankly and didn’t know how we could possibly make this easier. The only thing we could do was battle on. So we did.
We slogged our way to Carmanah Lighthouse at Km. 44 and I made a phone call back to home. Unfortunately, nobody was home so I left a message. I was disappointed to relay the message back home that there was no way we were making the final 5 pm ferry. We were now 7 hours in, and the hardest part of the trail was still ahead of us. I tried to tell myself “forget about the time. Finishing the trail was my life-long dream, and I am going to finish.”
After descending some ladders, we skipped ahead and made our way to Monique’s CafĂ©. It was actually a lean-two with minor provisions, and I was surprised to see a young man operating the stand. I scanned the chocolate bars an invested in 4 Mars Bars. Not a bad deal really for $8, when you consider the fact that you really are in the middle of nowhere. Bob invested in a Diet Coke. As we were just about to leave, the fellow offered us some Sharky’s Energy Drink for free. He said it was close to the end of the season, and that we could take it. I was a little concerned by the new product, but when Bob had some of his, I followed his lead and pounded back the drink.
This next section of the trail was beach. It was 9 Km. of non-runnable beach, so we power-walked as best we could. It wasn’t long before my stomach started really cramping and I got quite a bit of pain. I actually felt like throwing up. My stomach probably didn’t know what hit it. This stomach pain last for all of the 9 Km. of beach, but eventually did go away. Bob felt fine, and he seemed to be only getting stronger as the kilometres clicked away.
We actually made very good time on the beach. The quick power-walking was effective, and in a few spots, we could get into the water and run along the shelf. We passed a couple of guys around Km. 50, and they were astounded that we were running the trail. They shouted at us “you can do it” and “way to go”, and we persevered along in the 2” deep water. I didn’t know there was shelf in this section, but by the time we hit Walbran Creek at Km. 53, I couldn’t believe our timing. I figured we had a solid shot at making the 5 pm ferry once more.
My hopes were high again. My stomach was feeling better, and my calves, which were cramping earlier, seemed to settle down. We decided to stay on the beach. This was not our original plan, but after talking to a man in Bamfield (who worked for Parks Canada repairing the trail all summer) he had convinced us that this was definitely the way to go if you didn’t have a pack. He said that there was a waterfall, and that if you had runners, you could skirt along the water’s edge and make it through no problem. Well, there was a problem. After jumping over two minor surge channels with no problem, we found ourselves with a big one in front of us, with no apparent way around it. This sucked. We had travelled 2 Km. on the beach to get to this impassable surge channel. The far side of the channel that we had to climb across was covered in a brown algae. It made the rocks just like ice. It was also about a 60 degree slope, and with the surge racing in and out, I stood there in shock. Before I knew it, Bob was trying to get across. I stood there helpless. After a couple of attempts, Bob said “it’s just about timing”. He watched the surge come in and out a few times and then picked his time. He took a few rock-climbing steps and with 3 large strides on the ice-like rocks, he made it across. It seemed to happen so quickly. But now we had a greater problem - we were now divided.
After a couple of failed attempts to get my foot into position on the rocks, I told Bob that I was going to go back the other way. He wanted nothing of this and said, “you can do it.” Easy for him to say, he was already on the other side of the channel. After a few more minutes of watching the ocean crash in and out of the channel, Bob had an idea and said, “hold on, I’ll be right back”. Then he disappeared. When he left, I knew exactly what he was doing. We had the same idea at the same time. After a few more minutes, Bob returned with a piece of driftwood that was about 10 feet in length and it appeared wide enough to do the trick. Bob attempted to wedge the piece of driftwood into the rocks, in so that I could just walk across the piece of wood. Although this idea seemed like the perfect one, it didn’t really work so well because every time Bob got the piece of wood where he wanted it, the ocean surf would just come and wash it out of place. However, after a short while, Bob got the piece of wood into place and the surge was a small one, and the piece stayed. I took the chance and put my foot half on the rock and half on the piece of driftwood. As I stepped down, the piece of wood fell from the shelf. I was fortunate that I was still standing, but it was only a small slippery rocky outcropping that was holding me up. I braced myself for the next impending wave. I knew at this point I was toast if the surge wave was a big one. I held on as tight as I could with my hands onto the brown algae rocks. As the wave came, I felt my shoes get a little wet, but that was it. I was so lucky. However, I looked at the next wave coming and it was a biggie. I knew it was now or never - so I went. I stepped onto another browny rock and it supported me. One more step up the rocks and then Bob reached out and helped me up to safety. I had made it. I was shaky, and I said to Bob “we aren’t doing that again!”
For the next little bit, we ran along the wet shelf and I was determined to find the Logan Bridge to get the hell of the beach. I was petrified of any other surge channel that may lie ahead. Fortunately, there weren’t any, and before too long we were climbing a massive set of ladders up to the trail.
At the top of the ladders, I felt dizzy. I wasn’t sure if it was the adrenaline, or a blood pressure thing, or just a calorie thing, but I felt quite dizzy. As we trodded ahead along the trail, my head was pounding and I was simply unable to run. The trail was terrible in this section. There were roots everywhere, and giant pools of mud.
We eventually made our way to Cullite Creek at Km. 58. I thought if I could just hang in there a bit longer, my head would get better. Not the case, in fact in time, my stomach began cramping again and I felt like throwing up. As we slogged through the trail, the pace was now awful. I desperately drank my water, took my salt caps, and ate my gels religiously with the hope that I could turn things around. Didn’t work. I wasn’t getting any better, but thank goodness I didn’t get any worse. I remember there were a couple of times where I actually sat down and rested for 5 mins or so. This was unheard of for me.
At around Km. 68, I remember looking up to the trees and commenting on how dark things were getting. It was only 6:30. I did not expect things to get dark this early. This was not good. If we had to get our flashlights out for the final few kilometres, we would be finishing really late. As I looked at my watch, I thought of phoning the guys at the end of the trail and notifying them that we still were coming. I knew they were there waiting, but it just seemed like too much effort to dig my phone out.
By the time we made our way down to Km. 70, we saw a sign that said “Gordon River 5k”. This was inspiring, and I knew once we got to the top of the next mountain around Km. 72, it should be a breeze to the finish.
All of a sudden, I felt strong again. My stomach was fine again, and my head felt slightly improved. We cranked it up the hill and we found some runnable sections once more. It was clearly dark now, but there was still enough light for us to make our way along the trail. I couldn’t believe how long the last few kilometres seemed. It seemed like our pace was very good, but it still seemed to take forever. Finally we hit the last kilometre and I thought this is it, we are almost there! But this was not the case. As with any long run, the hardest kilometre is the last. I was surprised to find the trail going up again, but soon enough we were headed to Gordon River, the final ferry crossing.
As we rounded the final bend, I got my whistle out and started blowing. We couldn’t see anyone yet, but we could hear voices. We then heard a voice: “Coo Loo Koo Koo, Coo Lou Koo Koo”. It was Bob's wife, and as we ran to the beach, he answered back. As he made his return call, the other side of the river erupted with cheering. We now could see them (barely) and I raised my hands into the sky. We had made it. I checked my watch: 7:25 pm. That made it 14:25 of running time. Not the greatest, but it was still respectable. I was just thrilled that it was over!
My life-long dream had just been realized.
Bob went into the water to clean his shoes and I did the same. I wondered whether we were now going to have to swim across the river, or whether there was a boat. The river was much wider than I remember, and I was glad to hear someone yell “we’ve got a boat for you”. Thank God.
A few minutes later, the ferry guy came and picked us up. Apparently, our families had bribed the ferry guy $60 to pick us up late. A short while later, we were on the other side and hugging our families. Teagan (my daughter) had made me a sign that said “Congratulations Bob and Jeff”. It was a little hard to see, because it was quite dark now. What a feeling. We dried off, ate some food, got warm and then Bob looked at me and smiled. I said, “thanks for staying with me.” His smile told me that the experience was awesome for him too, and that made me feel better as I was a little concerned that my lack of running had let him down. I shook his hand, and then we both got into our cars and went home. Not surprisingly, I fell asleep on the way home.