Greg’s first “ultra” run
Greg’s first “ultra” run

Greg’s first “ultra” run

On Saturday September 10, I ran the Haliburton Forest 50K trail run. This is one of the many races offered, which range from 12k to 100 miles (!). The 50K (around 31 miles) was my first race beyond a marathon. Last year (2015) I ran the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October, and for many prior years ran the Fairbanks Equinox.

It was a good race. Well-organized, with many volunteers. Start time was 6:00am for the 50k, 50m and 100m runners. The other races started at 9am, and used the same trail. This led to many, many passes – head-on and from behind – during my return run. The route is an out-and-back, with a loop towards the beginning that is repeated (the site above has the map). Mostly on trails, with some time on dirt roads.

Trail conditions were excellent. A few puddles, but no significant wet areas. Some slippery rocks and logs, but mainly footing was secure. The trail was often wide enough for side-by-side runners, but often single-file – which was a hassle for all those passes, during the return trip.

Weather was also excellent. Around 55F at the start of the race, up to nearly 70, then turning to rain. Right as I finished, some strong rain came through, then stopped. Thunderstorms and more occasionally hard rain is forecast, which is bad news for the folks doing the longer races (the 100 miler racers run throughout the night, with headlamps).

There were well-stocked refreshment stations every 5 miles or so, with lots of volunteers. I did not carry any drink with me, so guzzled 3-4 cups of electrolyte beverage at each stop, to stay hydrated. Many runners carried drinks, in a Camelbak-type backpack, or belt packs, or similar, but it didn’t seem worthwhile to me with all those stops. I think it was a good decision, and meant I basically carried nothing but a small headlamp (needed for the first hour of the race, since we started before dawn), my phone (operating as my MP3 player) and headset.

I was surprised there were no washroom facilities on the route. No portable toilets or similar, including at the starting point and refreshment stations. A few facilities would have been appropriate.

My race had approximately 75 people, and we shared the trail with the 50m (75 or so) and 100m (55 or so) runners. There were a further 150 or so in the shorter races. Haliburton Forest is a private facility in Ontario, and has some super trails, nice views, lakes, and is generally a nice place to visit.

I enjoyed my first “ultra” race, and hope to do another in the future. There were no mileage markers, so the only times I know are my 1/2 way mark (3 hours) and final time (around 6h40 minutes). I am quite satisfied with those times, and managed to keep a healthy running pace for the whole race – apart from refreshment stops, and walking up some steep areas of the trails, when walking was faster than running.

I trained extensively, including two 29-mile runs in the two weeks leading up to the event, and many other long runs. One problem I had during training is with my shoes. I have been wearing Brooks GTX for years, but I found the heels were falling apart (i.e., losing bits of rubber from the soles). I switched to an ASICS GT shoe, but had the same problem. These modern running shoes have segmented soles, with lots of little bits of rubber that are glued in layers, rather than being a whole sheet of strong rubber.

It turns out that this problem happens on longer runs, when I tend to shuffle or drag my heels when I am getting tired. On a rough trail, or a road, this results in shoe damage.

I finally found ASICS Gel FujiTrabuco, which have a strong continuous sole. They are trail shoes, so have a little extra firmness, and a water vapor barrier. They did well for me in the race, and so far have not shown the wear and damage of the other models.

Thanks to Ilana for supporting my training, including waiting for me during my many long training runs. She was training, too, and hopefully will be able to do the race next year.

shoes, dirt, and medal
“After” photo of shoes, medal, and some dirt

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