at the races An Epic Run in Ancaster: Krista DuChene on Sulphur Springs

An Epic Run in Ancaster: Krista DuChene on Sulphur Springs

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On Saturday I completed my first 100K race at Sulphur Springs Trail Race in Ancaster, ON. Close to home, I was able to sleep in my own bed and was up at 3:30 a.m. to eat, pack up, and arrive in time with Tina for decent parking and a 6:00 am start. Katie was ready to “crew” us between loops—replenish our fluids and fuel, help problem solve, and offer support and encouragement. 

The first loop felt comfortable and easy. I had guessed I might be a bit over two hours and was just under. Like the first 10K of a marathon, I knew it should just be relaxed and uneventful, and it was.

Time: 1:59.

The second loop proved to be my most difficult one of the day. It started raining with thunder and lightning, I began chafing, had to somehow discover my “why” for this new type of racing, and struggled to chew and swallow my gels and chews. It was too soon, I thought, to be feeling this way. I didn’t even care if it might be cancelled due to the storm. I crossed the finish mat, saw some Bayfront Endurance friends, and headed to Katie for my restocked vest. I had never met Katie before Friday and there I was in tears, telling her that I found that second loop really difficult. I never doubted myself to complete the race but was surprisingly emotional, and felt daunted by the task of 60 more kilometres, given the fact that even the thought of solid food made me feel nauseous. Immediately she came up with ideas and grabbed what I needed from Tina’s kit—Pepto-Bismol, ginger chews, chafing cream, and a few drinks of ginger ale. I told her my race strategy was likely going to change and I was going to wait for Tina to work together as we’d done the last several months in training.

Time: 2:13.

The third loop was much better.

I had been near running friend Ricardo Oliveira, but he had to stop due to a knee injury. I had also been running a fair amount with eventual second place finisher, Meghan Duffy, but I couldn’t keep up and had to let her go.

I then started thinking about the reason I was doing it:

1. for something new and different;

2. to learn how to help coach my athletes planning to run trail ultras.

How would I tell them how to get through the rough patches? What was I learning about myself and this new experience? And this is where I learned my “why.” I started listing each of my athletes by name in my head, along with the family member for that loop as I had one loop dedicated to my husband and three kids, which helped occupy my mind. While I had originally thought the toughest loop would have been near the end, I realized I was getting it over with early on. Although it became mentally and emotionally easier, it was now much more physically challenging with mud that was so bad in some areas you had to walk or hold on to trees for balance.

And my hip flexors started to hurt. When I got back I saw Tina and Dale who, due to injury, had to drop out. We had run together for months, in anticipation of this day. This is the same Dale who finished Western States, once held the 100 mile Sulphur Springs course record, and suggested I, “Try to make it to the Olympics” and then “Try a trail ultra.” After my 54K trail race he had asked me when my 50-miler would be and this was it (well, I skipped to 100 km). So when I saw them I knew I had to do it for the three of us. They shifted to crew support and were there with Katie, Christina and Robyn to support me, and our Team Orange Paris friends April, Jeff and Mike.

Time: 2:36.

The fourth loop started with my crew’s plan for me to use a 1.5 L bladder for the final loops, instead of alternating with the two soft 500 mL flasks, allowing me to take in more fluid. I was heavily relying on and grateful for the high carb Skratch drink since I was taking in less solids. My pace got even slower due to the mucky trails, increasingly sore hip flexors and fatigue, but it allowed me to focus on just getting it done before starting the final loop. I didn’t have a time goal for the day, but didn’t want it to take forever either. The long walking stretches due to the mud seemed to get even longer, taking as long as nine minutes to accomplish even one kilometre.

Time: 3:04.

For the fifth loop I knew the finish line was next. I had great support from my friend Melissa and headed out for the final 20K. My hip flexors were so sore that my running really slowed. I could have likely walked faster in some parts, but it seemed to hurt more to walk than slow run. The rain had stopped but the thick, mucky mud remained. Some kilometres now took 10-12 minutes to complete. As I broke it down one kilometre at a time, I was in awe of the runners doing the 100 miler. The aid stations, where I was mixing water with ginger ale to drink, were now serving soup and starting to prepare potatoes. The lunch menu was switching to dinner as the 100 milers would soon be putting on headlamps, jackets, and running through the night. I continued on, taking extra caution to not fall because I wasn’t going to sprain an ankle at 90-something km. I finished the fifth and final two biggest hills, the Three Sisters and Martin Road, and smiled across that finish line.

Time: 3:21.

Finish time: 13:15:46.

The medal was around my neck and I had done 100 km, learning later I was the sixth woman, and 34th/226 finishers & 238 starters overall. And Dale and Tina were there for finish line hugs.

We did it!

It was an odd feeling to stop, and not keep running for another loop. I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I then saw my friend Adrienne who had come to cheer me on so we caught up right away, and I also chatted with some other familiar faces, including Meghan. Dale’s wife, Robyn, graciously helped me take off my socks and gave me her chair, and April (50 mile finisher) shared her potato chips with me while we stayed to watch the others come in. I also had a nice chat with Katie. We were there when the announcers happily declared the 100th finisher, officially making Sulphur Springs the first Western States Endurance Run (WSER) qualifier in Ontario! Once we cheered Mike and Jeff in, just minutes of each other, it was time to call it a day. I hobbled to the van around 10:00 pm, thankful for the short drive home where my husband met me to unpack my things, help me shuffle out, and get into the swim spa. 

Like many race nights I didn’t expect to sleep, but it was even more difficult because I seemed to have a fever. I wasn’t sure if it was because of the race, the cold I’d been battling for two weeks, or a combination of the two. Either way, the nighttime cold and flu medicine allowed me to sleep on and off, as my hip flexors woke and reminded me of what I’d accomplished that day.

I have much time to continue to reflect on this very special day and appreciate the many things that went right: There was never a point where I disliked it. It was a very positive adventure.

I didn’t have any GI issues, which is really common with ultras. 

Even though the rain made for muddy footing, I’m glad temperatures were pleasant. Heat and humidity would have been tough.

I had no injuries, and didn’t fall or get lost!

It was such an excellent event, executed wonderfully by Race Directors, Steve, Russell, and Mauro.

The volunteers were top notch. Although I didn’t chat much while on course, I was grateful for them.

I absolutely loved the ultra running community with tents, music, positivity, and a vibe that’s different from road races. Thank you for all you did and for welcoming me into your world.

I’m in awe, looking at some of the results:

Amanda Nelson 17 hours, 1st female, and 2nd overall in the 100 miler.

Julie Hamulecki 7 hours, 1st female and 1st overall by 44 minutes in the 50 miler. 

Helen Francis 11 hours, 1st female in the 100 km at age 50. 

Congratulations to you and the hundreds of others who competed this weekend.

Although it’s too soon, I know this isn’t a case of one and done. So when, to no surprise, Dale asked me just moments after finishing, “So when’s your 100 miler?”, I could only laugh, and point my finger saying, “I knew you’d ask that!”

Thank you to each and everyone of you who made this 100 km debut a wonderful experience. 

Onward!

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