Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Spruce Woods Ultra 2017, 50 km, Race Report

Tim and Mike at finish.
photo credit, unknown (SWU Facebook)
"Drag your own (expletive) ass across the line" barked a testy Mike to his good friend Tim.

Mike was dehydrated you see, grouchy, sun burned, and retching on all fours.  This was at 35 km and Tim, good soul that he is, kindly offered  to stay by his side for the full 50 km.

"I'll help you get to the finish line.  I'll stay by your side." he said.

Mike's reply was nasty and out of character.

Several runners stopped out of concern for Mike's wellbeing.

"Whoa, is he okay?" one said.

"Don't worry" said Tim "he's just doing his afternoon prayers".

"Say a Hail Mary for me" yelled an anonymous runner.

"Yea, and an Our Father for me" said another.

I managed a feeble thumbs up, and a drooling half-smile while looking upward  like a chained junk-yard dog.  Heat, wind, retch, endless hills, humiliation, sarcasm, exhaustion, ... all in all, a good day to be alive.

Spruce Woods Ultra Marathon is a  humbling experience and an unforgiving trail. It tests the limits of human endurance in terms of physical toughness and mental agility. The hills are endless and vary from impossibly ragged goat trails to curvaceous ribbons of unicorns and butterflies.  The scenery is Manitoba sublime; blue sky stretching across horizons, whitewater streams, placid secret lakes, bright meadows, culvert fishers, dark forest ... leave us helpless, helpless, helpless. 

The course is marked with coloured orienteering flags; orange for outbound, blue for back home, and pink for primal torture(?).  Flags that matter are always on the left. If they're on the right you're surely lost! Confidence flags are staked every kilometer or so and multiple flags, often of several different colours, are generously planted at the convergence of trails and other areas of potential confusion.  As a non-orienteering person I had little trouble staying on course, but I studied the map intensely before the race. Some runners added kilometers to their distance by falling asleep at the switch and missing key turn-around points (man, that must suck!).

I first recognized signs of dehydration on the pink trail. ("P" primal torture)  The wind was cool and suckered me into believing the temps were also cool.  Runners are fully exposed to wind and sun on the out-and-back pink trail. It's not a terribly long section, but it seemed to burn me out more so than the distance would suggest.  I became nauseous (not unusual for me) and then, more troubling, I realized water was causing discomfort.  Under the caution of too much information I  let loose several loud and very satisfying long burps which cleared up the nausea however temporarily.
Cool Shirt
photo credit Jason Enns (Facebook)
It's widely known that once one recognize the signs of dehydration it's too late. You can't catch up by glugging water. I trudged on and on, stopped and vomited, trudged, stopped, vomited ... you get the sorry picture. It was definitely not my finest race and most definitely not the prettiest.

I managed to haul my own sorry ass across the line in 7 hours 30-something minutes. It may not have been pretty, but it was sweet like a pint of Barn Hammer 7th Stab, Red Ale, more so actually (and I love 7th stab just so you know).  Someone gave me a woodle (Ultra wooden medal) as I slow danced over the line.

I was greeted by Tim.

"I was worried about you" he said.

"Worry about your own (expletive) sorry ass" I replied.

Yes, See Mike Run can be downright pesky at times, surly even, especially when he's thirsty and over heated.

With thanks to race director Dwayne Sandall and his crew of over 100 extraordinary volunteers. I owe them thanks for helping me achieve this impossible dream, this 50 km SWU Ultra. I have many more years behind me than afore and this badge means the world. I also extend thanks to the lovely woman with gorgeous full body tattoos who stayed with me, crouched down and comforted me, as I retched at 49 kilometers.  I also owe thanks to the medics who cycled on course to check on my health.  I am forever in gratitude, forever humbled.

And to Tim, thank you friend. You had my back. You made me laugh through pain. You made me see success when I saw failure.

I am humbled by the experience.

I am thankful for my strength.

I am in awe of life.

I leave you with this quote from Scott Sugimoto (AS2) that exemplifies the quality of volunteers. These are  not mere volunteers, they are angels with flat coke and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Unless you have a bone sticking out somewhere...I will personally DO WHATEVER necessary, to get you on your way down the trail!

It's a good day to be alive.


Spruce Woods Ultra Results by the numbers