We’ll it’s been a while since the race and you’d think I would have gotten around quicker to posting considering the results. As many of you with kids know though, life can get super busy. Between work, little ones sports, and trying to get outside in the fantastic weather we have been having, the last thing I felt like doing was blogging 🙂 But hey considering how great of an experience Spruce Woods was it is time to get to posting.
To begin with Spruce Woods Ultra is the creation of Manitoba Trail Running’s Dwayne Sandals. It has been going on for several years in the provincial park that the race name bears. Having never been to the park prior to the event I didn’t know what to expect. I’d read many blogs about the course and how its hills surprised the many who have raced the race. Arriving at 10:30pm for a midnight start I wasn’t going to have much of an opportunity to take in the terrain prior to the race.
Arriving awhile prior to the race I decided to get my kit together early and take a little snooze in the back of the van. A little time to relax and focus prior to the race. It was a gorgeous night with the moon shining brightly in the sky and the coyotes chirping (perhaps even a wolf or two howl) letting us know that they were also out in the park. Pretty sure I only got a couple minutes of rest but it still helped as I know felt fresh and ready for a long night and good portion of the day running.
Arriving at the start line most of us were well dressed, toques and all, as the wind made it feel quite a bit cooler than it actually was. The group racing the 100k was a small group, which probably the start time played a factor. (Don’t switch it Dwayne, it was sweet running the first 40+ km’s in the dark). After a quick little speech from the race director and a little mingling between us runners, we were off.
Right off the start two brothers running the race Wilson and Trevor along with myself took off slightly in front of the others. The course was exactly what I had read about, continuous rolling hills. Nothing too big but not much flats. Initially as a group we ran everything except for the bigger “small hills”. We were doing a solid pace averaging just over 6 minute kilometers through the first hourish to the first aid station.
Although the pace seemed decent I felt that I could handle running some more of the uphills. The thing was that I had agreed with my wife that my only goal was to finish the race not try to push any pace. Well next thing you know at the 10k mark I decided to trust my strengths and my head and started running the majority of the uphills. For a little it seemed that a couple of the others seemed to be joining along with me but eventually all seemed quiet behind the trail.
The trail continued to consistently be rolling sandy trails. Probably the only issue I ran into through the 35k was that in spots the grass on the trail would conceal what appeared to be branches. I’d later notice in the daylight at least a couple of those branches might actually have been deer parts. Hmmmm
The first chance I would have to see where I was in relation to the other runners was on an out and back between the 35-42k mark. At this point I was still feeling physically good but mentally was questioning my fitness slightly. I’ve historically had hamstring issues and also had been battling an ankle issue so I’d taken a couple weeks off completely prior to the race. Well once I seen both Wilson, Trevor and fellow runner Mathieu Ludlow and that I had between 15-20 minute lead I had no choice but to continue pushing.
As the sun rose the last 10k which actually ended up being 12.5 had some ups and downs. Approaching the final aid station on loop 1 I felt great, leaving it also. Knowing that the 50 mile runners were hitting the trails also gave me a chance to know that we would be joined by others. The down, well I know better than to expect a race to be exactly the distance of the name. Turns out the 100k was actually about 104.5. So I was miserable the last 2k into the start finish. Fortunately one I arrived my attitude and mindset quickly was lifted back up by seeing a friendly face that I knew, Kim.
Kim brought some food over and helped pass me my Hoka Clifton’s for lap two. She provided some encouragement and sent me on my way onto lap two. Time to get moving again and finish this thing off. I can honestly say at this point I felt good. Probably helped having a chance to chat to a few of the 100 mile runners as they were getting ready for lap 3.
As for the next lap the highlights were finally getting to see the beauty of Spruce Woods. This was truly a great place for a race. Also this was a great chance to meet and chat to those supporting us during the race at the aid stations. I decided to make a conscious effort to push the best I could to keep the lead and also to have a chance to take in some food and a quick break at each one.
Most of this lap I ran alone till late in the lap when I saw several 50k and 50 mile runners along with the odd 100 miler who was battling it out. My mind was in a good state and I enjoyed the experience. Approaching the out and back I was looking forward to seeing where the others were in relation to myself. As I headed back from the 4.2 k section I passed Mathieu who was now in 2nd. My lead was probably sitting at 25-30 minutes at this point. Having never won any race before I was pumped. Also knowing that one rolled ankle or cramp can cost you huge time I decided to push a couple of km’s over the final 10. As I approached the 9k mark I passed the Pilgrim brothers who were also have a great time out on the trails.
With a km left in the 100k I mentally took in what the race meant to me. A little fist pump, a quick heck yeah, and time to shuffle my way into the finish. 13:49 and this race was all wrapped up. A quick note on my performance, good but not great. I made a poor decision on switching to my Hoka Clifton’s as the short hills and the shoes did not enjoy each other (the tongue of the shoe is not thick enough) and also I did not start using salt tabs early enough. Overall though very happy with how things went.
What a great well organized event. I can’t say enough about the great volunteers and the event. Food, location, runners, everything was great. Yes I will be back.