Sunday, June 03, 2012

Burning Boot/Great Walk 63.5 K Ultramarathon 2012

When I reached the 538 meter summit at 5:30 a.m., running in fourth place, I let out a celebratory hoot, knowing this was the highest point in the Burning Boot ultramarathon. The next ten to fifteen kilometers were down hill - some hills dangerous with 16-18% declines. We had started in darkness at 4 a.m.. At 5:30 the rising sun was still hidden by mountains, casting dim light across the cloudy skies overhead. I took special care going down the steep decline at 20kms, walking at the steepest parts while I ate a banana and a Power Gel. This was where I was injured the year before so I took it easy.

Continuing on, running down into the mist filled valley I was kind of disappointed because the amazing views I remembered from the year before were hidden. After aid station five, 25 kms or so along, I was informed that I was in tenth place. As I ran across a flat stretch of gravel road, the fog ahead parted, revealing a narrow waterfall cascading hundreds of feet down the mountainside.
The lead group of runners I was part of was making good time, reaching the halfway point of 32 kms between 7:00 - 7:30 a.m.. When I came through, the volunteer crew at the aid station were still trying to fix the "halfway point" banner up between the trees across the road. When I stopped there to change my socks and add more Vaseline to the bottoms of my feet (I was developing a blister on the ball of my left foot), the official told me we were going too fast, and that they wouldn't be able to get my drop bag to stage 9 before we would get there, so I had to take an extra set of power gels and protein bars with me in a plastic bag, carrying them by hand.

The weather improved as I came to Heart Attack Hill, near Aid Station 8. Aid Station 8 is where my first attempt at completing the Burning Boot Ultramarathon ended last year. I felt joy passing through it, refilling my drinking bottles with Gatorade and water, and grabbing a banana to go.

My first experience of Heart Attack Hill did a number on my quads. I power hiked up most of it, but running after it was a chore. Descending, I quoted the Bible verses from Isiah 40 under my breath, "Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not grow weary..." I felt like I was taken to a place outside of time, where there is just the next step, the next stride. I stayed in this place until I made it past aid station 11, eating 1/2 a protein bar and another Power Gel along the way.

The last big hill, before the final aid station, maxed out my quads. They stiffened up like watermelons and couldn't take the pounding of the descent. I was forced into a brisk walk, and watched as three guys came flying down past me. I recognized one of them as my friend from work, Russ Green. I had spotted him far behind me before aid station 8, but hadn't seen him since then.

Once I was down on the flats again I could run, and ate another Power Gel. A burst of adrenaline came over me as I rounded the corner and saw in the distance the public school gym roof next to the finish line. I ran the final kilometer into Tahsis, welcomed by the sound of Fire Fighter Sirens, cheering villagers and volunteers.

My final time was 7 hours and 40 minutes, close to what I was aiming for when I started out. The expected rains never came, and the day maintained cool temperatures, making ideal ultramarathon running conditions.

(Update) All the finishing times are now in and I ended up in 12th place, at 7 hours 40 minutes. Two groups of finishers ahead of me tied, so it brought my final finishing position up in the standings.
Big thanks goes out to all the cheerful volunteers who helped out along the way, manning the aid stations and the final First Aid centre.


Museum Strathroy-Caradoc said...

Your fifth grade teacher would be very proud, as are your parents.

FAB said...

Great job! I was a walker last year and did it in 10h 34m. - your pace was amazing! Doing that run in such a short time is an amazing feat (should I say feet?) that you should be very, very proud of!

Unknown said...

Way to go Rob!!
We are good, but not that fast....Bravo.
Gordon and Joyce Cherry (my 2nd and her 10th) at 11:07 hours

robsargeant said...

Thanks for the feedback. That was a tough course with some of the steepest hills I've ever run. Everyone who finishes is a winner in my book. My feet are finally back to their normal size this week.