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Niagara Ultra

June 18th I ran the Niagara 50k. This is a big event for our group, as there is a companion 10k, half and Marathon and walking categories for each race. Unike most of the ultra’s around here, this one is not a trail race, but takes place mostly on paved pathways. Therefore it’s a great race for PRs and first timers.

It’s also very scenic. It starts in the village of Niagara-on-the-lake and follows the Niagara River gorge 25k to Niagara Falls and then returns.

Most of the group went up the night before, but I couldn’t due to a family commitment. So despite my efforts I didn’t make it to bed until 11PM, slept lousy and was up at 3am, with a planned departure time between 3:30-3:45. The usual Chicken Fried Rice for breakfast, finished loading up my gear and I made it out the door at 3:45. A quick stop for bathroom and coffee as per usual, but a pretty quick and uneventful trip despite all the lane closures on the highways for paving.

Arrived at the race site at 6am, with an hour to go before the start. Picked up my race kit, who gives out sweat shirts for a race in June? and spent the hour chatting with friends and members of the group until time to get ready. A couple of bathroom stops, lather down with sunscreen and last minute fuelling with a gel and some Gatorade prime and jumped into the start with less then 5 min to go. Three of the group and myself decided to run together, both the guys with me usually run about the same pace as me in both marathons and ultras and the girl, doing her first ultra usually runs a marathon around our pace.

It was expected to be warm today and aid stations were going to be 5k apart so I decided to run with my water bottle belt, which also gave me a place to carry some e-load tablets.

Much to my surprise we hit the first aid station at 3k. Apparently there would be aid stations at 3k, 6k, 10k and then every 5k after that. My pace group stopped at the first aid station, but I kept going, they caught up quickly though. At 6 we all stopped to take on water and then we all had our first gel at 9k. I again sailed through the 10k aid station and the group caught up again with me a few minutes later. At about 13k we ran into a long uphill stretch and I never do well on those and the group left me behind. For the most part I could keep them in sight, but just couldn’t catch up, even though we all walked through the aid station at 15 and a break for another gel at 18. I finally caught them as I blew through the aid station at 20k. We ran together for the next k+ until we hit the turn around for the marathon, where the one guy, having a bad day decided to turn back and just complete the marathon distance today. The three of us carried on together for another 2k when we hit another uphill stretch and I dropped back again.

The last k into the turnaround at 25k is probably the worst part of this course, as we spend it dodging and weaving, not only with the returning runners, but with the many oblivious tourists. I reached the 25k aid station just as the other 2 from my group we heading back out. I spent a little longer than I liked at this aid station taking my first e-load, as well as having some pretzels, for the salt, as I was starting to feel the heat, despite the mist from the falls in the last half k. I was out of the aid station at 2:30 elapsed time.

Took my next gels at 27, 35 and 42k

Just after I passed the turnaround point for the marathon, approx 29k, I met the girl from our pace group walking back to the turnaround, telling me she was done. I’m not sure why she chose to walk back to the turnaround, where there was only a marshal, instead of carrying on to the 30k aid station, where at least there would be fluids and a lot more volunteers.

More e-load and pretzels at 30, 40, 44 and 47k, plus much water and Gatorade.

At about 48k, I see the last of my pace group, for the first time since the half, ahead of me and catchable.

At 1 mile to go I catch him and he picks up his pace to run in with me. But I’m not done. As we approach the final k, I spot a marshal ahead, take a final drink from my belt and toss the belt to the marshal and crank up the pace. I drop my buddy for a moment, put he picks it back up and catches me as we round the final turn and the finish comes in sight. I give it another surge and my buddy pushes back. We’re getting cheers from other members of the running group who have finished their events and a few calls for me to trip my buddy, but I just haven’t got enough left to drop him and we cross the line together.

Post race food was decent, pizza and pasta salad, but more importantly cold beer.

After a second, even colder beer and some socializing, while we waited for other friends and members of the group to finish, I finally walked back out to the marshal post to get my water bottle belt. While there one of the last members of the group, doing his first ultra and struggling, came through and I came back in with him, but was unable to convince him to run, even the final stretch, as I stepped off the course. However the cheers from the rest of the group got him to pick it up and finish running, where he beat the “cutoff” by 5 minutes.

As to my race to the finish with my buddy, final results, gun time: him – 5:11:30, me – 5:11:31: chip time: him – 5:11:19, me – 5:11:18, and a 50k PR.

And the girl from our pace group, she got to the marathon turnaround, realized there was no aid there, turned around again to go to the 30k aid station and when she reached the aid station, found her second wind and continued on in to the finish, finishing less than 4 minutes behind us.

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