Monday, 20 October 2014

Grizzly Ultra Marathon 50k

What a beautiful fall day that was in Canmore! It couldn't have been better to run a 50k. The Grizzly Ultra was one of the races I always wanted to do. Start and finish was at the Canmore Nordic Centre, which is nestled right at the foot of Mount Rundle. Sanja, Sean, Sawyer and I left Edmonton the day before and we stayed at our friends place for the night.

On Sunday morning we headed the start and it was only 5°C. It felt pretty cold but I had good hopes that it will warm up eventually. I decided to run in shorts, t-shirt and my ETA running singlet on top. I also decided to run with my running backpack to ensure I have enough water and a place to carry my bear spray. The organizers made every participant (+1300!) carry bear spray due to the higher frequency of bear encounters during the this year. The race course consists of 5 loops, which start and finish at the Nordic Centre. So it's beautiful for family and spectators.

Shortly before 9am, I went to the start line and seated myself not right at the front but within the first quarter I would say. I wasn't really convinced that I will have a good race due to the lack of running recently. Anyway, 3 - 2 - 1 - BANG and we were off. It started relatively quick, as if we are running a 5k, but a few minutes later I settled into a pace that feels comfortable. Half way through leg #1, I was so annoyed by my running back pack that I would have loved to just toss and pick it up after the race. It felt as if I was wasting so much energy. Then I decided I will drop the pack once I am back at the start and finish. Sanja and Sean were cheering me on, while Sawyer slept like a 6-week old baby sleeps :) I stopped, grabbed my bear spray, my hand-held water bottle and dropped the pack. WHAT A RELIEF!

Leg #2 was a lot of fun, mostly because I felt so much better running without the pack. During leg #3, which featured beautiful single track, I hit the first mental down point in the race, and I could also feel my hamstrings twitching. At that point cramps are usually not far and I slowed down significantly. This seemed to help but I still didn't believe in myself because I haven't been running much. I tried to push these negative thoughts out of my mind and just enjoy being in the trails no matter what comes! Just one step at a time and you will finish eventually! This strategy seemed to work and I arrived at the Nordic Centre in relatively good spirits. Leg #4 was also very nice but felt super long, while only being around 8 km. Leg #5 was physically the worst (calves were now cramping too) but the shortest overall. I had a lot of walking breaks due to cramping and things started to hurt now. But hey, the good news is that goes for everyone! I actually "race-limped" myself during leg #5 from 10th place into 9th place overall! With about 1km to go,  I checked what's going on behind me and I could see that more people started to catch up now. That was the point where I finally had to ignore the cramping legs and made sure I maintain my position, whatever that was at that point. Coming through the finish chute, my personal family cheer team was waiting, and Sean ran towards me shouting "Paaaapaaa". He jumped into my arms and we crossed the finish line together. This was the best finishing experience I have ever had. I am really thankful to my wonderful wife! She dealt with 2-year old toddler and a 6 week old baby at the same time, so that I could participate in this race! I love you!

"Paaaapaaa!"
Happy trails,
Stefan

P.S. If you want to check out the race course on Strava, click here.

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