That Dam Hill
Tell us about pre-race (event website/info, and on the day).
Heading up to That Damn Hill in London, Ontario, my life was the usual mix of packing school lunches, seeing clients, teaching and fitting some training in where I can. And, trying to do it all with a smile and a hug – that is what moms are best at, right? I caught the vibe from the website that this race was going to have all the elements that I love about ultras: the personal connection and positivity from the athletes and volunteers, aid stations stuffed with real food, and a truly challenging 24 hour experience. Sounds good to me! I loved being part of the Trek and Run team and it was great to have breakfast with our team, talking strategy and enjoying our last hot (vegan!) meal before the race. It was so thoughtful of the organizers to send out an email warning us it was going to rain, and that we should bring our waterproof gear. And wow, were they ever right!
And how was the race itself (the course, atmosphere, marshalling, etc, best things about it, and any low points, or issues that need addressing?)?
This is a beautiful course, set in a picturesque park in London Ontario. It is essentially flat, with one small hill for interest. I enjoyed the flowers, the river, the trees and the green so much. I enjoyed looping past a real washroom every 2.25 km even more! And our athletes kept it clean, which was great to see. 2.25 km is a pretty short loop, and I might have preferred something a little longer? But, as the night wore on it was lovely to know that I would be looping back past my crew and the aid station so often. I felt completely safe and the beautiful full moon meant it was bright enough for me to see the course, even without a headlamp. Each time you loop past the finish line you see a big screen with your stats, so it is easy to see where you are in the race, and how your pacing is going. Every single time I went past the volunteers they were full of encouragement, and it warmed my heart and gave me a burst of positivity and energy. This would be a great place to try out your first ultra, because of all of the support and safety, and they not too challenging course. Many people also ran a marathon, and while that meant we had a lot more athletes on the loop for the first 4 hours or so, it never felt crowded. I loved the range of athletes participating from seasoned pros to have-a-gos!
And how was the post-race experience (medals, food, any other extras, event village, speed of results being online, etc)
I’m not much of a bling girl, so I don’t pay much attention to medals, but this one felt legit! I’m impressed that they pulled that off for a smaller event. The race kit included thoughtful extras like painkillers – which I did take advantage of during a low point, 12-hours into the race.
How would you sum up the race?
We didn’t get lucky with the weather. Rain is my kryptonite, and we had lots of it. Nine straight hours to be exact. By the time it ended, my feet and my spirits were soggy. We did get blessed though, with a beautiful sunset and a breathtaking moonrise. That raised my spirits again and gave me the energy to keep going. Honestly, I came so close to giving up at 12 hours, but I am so glad I didn’t, because I discovered new mental and physical energy reserves I didn’t know I had. Or maybe that was just the caffeine talking? During the first 12 hours I stuck to my race plan of fueling with my own, homemade energy drink made from freshly-juiced ginger, turmeric and lemons mixed with coconut water, maple syrup and a shot of hot sauce. That recipe is incredible and, along with some bagels and bananas it provided some healthy, clean fuel for my body to run on for 12 hours. I told myself that after 12 hours, I would have a coke, and man – did I need a coke! I never drink that stuff, but during an ultra there comes a time when caffeine and sugar have a place (for me, anyway). I found new reserves and a slower, but steady pace, and kept pounding out the kms into the night.
I had a minimum goal of doing 100 km and I would have loved to go beyond that, even up to 120 km, but that was not to be on the day. That is ok! My final words to my dad and my husband were ringing in my ears when I decided to pack it in after 100km and go have a sleep. I promised them not to get sick, and that I would pull out if and when I needed to. After getting pneumonia this past winter I finally realized that I do have limits, and that it is wise to respect them. I am an ultra athlete, and I am so proud of that, but first of all, I am a mama. I came home healthy, and after a good sleep, I was feeling strong again. I have noticed since I became vegan that I recover so much quicker after a hard effort. Amazing!!
Speaking of being vegan, I loved being surrounded by a vegan team. I’m so appreciative of our crew; Adam and Emrys were never short of a smile, even when they were soaked to the bone and freezing cold! Tim stopped to walk a few hills with me, full of good tips on race strategy, Jason was inspiring, the way he dug deep and finished the race so strong and Dave was truly awe-inspiring. He came there to win, for the animals, and he did it. He was so strong mentally and physically. He ran a beautiful race, and gave everything he had. I feel honoured to be on the same team as him.
I also met some new friends. Particularly Rene a big buy with a huge heart who got out there and did 94 km in 24 hours. I walked the final few hundred meters with him, and his commitment to the effort brought tears to my eyes. Rene weighs over 300 lbs and if he can be out there, any of us can. I wish him all the luck in the world at his next challenge at the Prince Edward County marathon in October, and with his ongoing journey toward better health. Eat plants Rene!!!
In summary – this is a great race, and you won’t regret doing it. I may even be back myself.
Here’s a short film made by the talented Adam Stevens about the race