Sunday, 4 October 2015

The Lemming Loop - My First Looped Course Race

Ultrarunning is always an adventure no matter where you are or which race you do.  I ventured back into the world of ultrarunning here in Manitoba this weekend.  After the Miwok 100 in May, I really haven't been running anything beyond 20K.  So after 4 weeks off in Aug and 5 weeks of training in Sep, I figured, 'what the heck?!'  Why not get back out there?  Ultra runners are not always known for being rational.

The Lemming Loop is a 2.05 mile looped course race around a prairie nature preserve in the middle of Winnipeg, Manitoba.  There are 3,6,12 and 24 hour events.  It is an event spectacularly organized by Trail Run Manitoba (RD - Dwayne Sandall).

Official results are yet to be posted, but my GPS told me I ran 52K in 6 hours, and 50K in 5:48:14.  I have never run a looped/timed course before, and definitely have never run so far on terrain so flat.  Here is my breakdown of the good and the not-so-good aspects of a looped course race and the Lemming Loop (from my perspective).

The Good

  • You don't have to carry 2L of water and your fuel on your back the whole race
  • There is an aid station every 3K.
  • There was a REAL TOILET every 3K.
  • The course offered enough variety and turns to avoid being too monotonous and mind-numbing.
  • I got to know fellow runners and witness/share their highs and lows on the course as we passed each other repeatedly.  In case it's not already obvious - trail runners are COOL people.
  • I saw first hand how a 24 hour racer looks 17-23 hours into a race - in a word - sleepy.
  • The volunteers were great - and the food even better!  Too bad I didn't partake of much of it as I prefer to eat stuff I know works for me in training.
  • The weather was PERFECT.  A sunny clear day, high of 17, enough breeze to keep me cool but not enough to significantly impact my pace.
  • My family was able to come cheer me on and be there for the last few loops of the race.  My son even ran a little with me.  That was the best part!

My kiddos at the finish
The Not-So Good

  • No elevation changes. This course was FLAT.  What does that mean?  Lack of variety in my biomechanics, other than turning corners.  Resulting in hip flexor niggles and patellofemoral knee pain that I have never experienced before.  Odd to have the knee pain when there was no downhill, but it was there.
  • Lack of epic views...but we ARE in Manitoba.
  • Hard to pass or be passed on vary narrow single track.  Hard to imagine, but it was vary narrow even on the prairie.  And with 100 runners doing 3K circles there was a LOT of passing.
  • Mentally challenging - reasons should be obvious.
  • Pacing was difficult for me.  I am used to working hard and slowing down on the climbs, then letting loose and relaxing while making up time on the descents.  There was none of that here.  Just lock in to a pace and KEEP IT.  I hate looking at my watch all the time.
  • The wind and the dry prairie air completely dried me out.  Fortunately, I had been warned and coated my lips in thick sunscreen, my face in lotion/sunscreen, and drank LOTS.  Although the weather was cool, I still needed 2-3 S-caps/hour.

Although I am new to the Manitoba trail running and race scene, I felt right at home at this race.  Trail runners really are cool people.  And ultra-trailrunners are a special breed of people (I like to think) who share the bond of salty cheeks, blistered feet and the occasional hallucination.  We are all driven by different things, but we are all driven.  I witnessed people out there who just wouldn't STOP.  Barely moving, practically sleeping on their feet, but they didn't stop.  Some would call that just plain foolish, but I know how much mental strength it takes to keep moving when every ounce of your being stays stop.  There are lessons in the pain, in the exhaustion.  The rewards aren't always tangible, but they are there or this sport wouldn't be growing so exponentially.

Thanks Dwayne for putting on a great race.  And thanks for giving me a venue to run a 50K PR!

The Race Start

Awesome race swag!

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