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Race Report: Envision Run for Water Ultra Marathon (Part 1)

Posted Jun 01 2013 6:40pm
I always enjoy writing race reports because it gives me a chance to reflect on the event and through all the photos I get the chance to relive every moment - both good and bad.  But sometimes an event turns out to be so much more than just a race.  Those are the ones that are hard to put into words because there is so much to share and I so desperately don't want to leave anything out.

The Envision Run for Water Ultra Marathon is clearly one of those kinds of events and I'll do my best to capture all of the amazing moments, inspiring people and incredible memories I have from that day.  Here goes...

It was kind of exciting seeing the RFW
signs as I drove to the race...
Surprisingly I had a pretty good sleep on Friday night.  I think I made good use of my extra-long taper to settle all those worries about whether I'd trained enough and whether my calf was going to come back and haunt me.  All the worrying was done so when my head hit the pillow I could actually rest easy.

My morning was like any other race morning and I found it funny that it felt so normal considering my run that day would be anything but typical.  I threw my last few things into my bag and jumped in the car to head out to Abbotsford.  The day was finally here and as I chatted with my parents on the drive out, I couldn't help but get just a little bit teary-eyed.  This was it.  I was going to run my ultra.

As I drove into the parking lot it had just started to rain and everyone looked pretty bundled up.  This was the first time I'd be meeting the whole team in person and right away, everyone was super warm and friendly.  We did a quick roll call, they introduced Ray and we hopped into the bus that would take us to our starting point out on the Vedder River in Chilliwack.

Just had to take a 'before' shot with Ray...
The bus ride out was a great chance to chat and start getting to know the runners sitting near me.  I tried to drink a last bit of water and have some banana but really, I was way too excited to eat much.

As we arrived at our starting point I could see that my parents and sister were waiting along with some other runners' family members.  We piled off the bus and very quickly were ushered off to get going.  I hurriedly grabbed a shirt out of my bag and my water belt and we got our final instructions and a quick pep talk from Ray...

And here we are as a team at the start...

What a fine looking bunch of seasoned and soon-to-be ultra runners!
I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful start to our race.  The first 8km were on packed gravel trails alongside the Vedder River and it was such a relaxed and peaceful way to begin what would turn out to be such an incredible day.

A very relaxing way to settle into a rhythm at the start of the day...
Right away our pace was nice and easy, somewhere in the 6:15-6:30ish range.  Everyone was talking about taking it easy, staying together and that was a huge confidence booster for me since I'm not going to lie, keeping pace was my biggest concern of the day.

I still started out in my rightful position at the back of the pack though!

Just as we exited the trail we had our first little break and I was thankful to be able to take off my long sleeve top and gather up all the things I'd forgotten.  I could grab my Handana  and extra snacks out of the support van but realized I'd forgotten my sunglass back in my truck.  Not good.

The next 7km were on totally flat farm roads and were a good chance to settle down and just chat.  We pretty much stayed together as a group and listening to the conversations around me as everyone got to know each other was fascinating...

We'd already passed a few family members who were camped out along the way with signs and cow bells and lots of cheers and high fives.  I couldn't wait for the first time my friends or family might pop up unexpectedly along the road and it wasn't long before I could see Solana and Dianna cheering for us up ahead.  I felt great so we said hello, had a hug and carried on.

Somewhere around 15km was a formal aid stop and it was nice to run up and see everyone (the paramedics included!) waiting for us and cheering us in.

We had a few minutes to grab a drink or a snack and chat briefly with family.  My parents and sister had driven all the way back to Abbotsford to grab my sunglasses out of my truck and it was so nice to put them on.  The weather had been perfect and although overcast was just bright enough that sunglasses made it so much more comfortable.
I was a happy little soon-to-be ultra runner at this point...
Happy Nikki waiting for the potty...

This section of the run was really pretty as we ran alongside the river again.  Up until now everyone had been chatting lots and this part was no different.  At one point Ray sidled up beside me and said that he'd read a bit about my running story and he wanted me to save the whole thing for around 35km when he said he was going to need some inspiration.  It was kind of a flattering moment to find out that one of my running idols wanted to know more about little old me.

Around 21km was where my sister busted out the first of her handmade signs.  Thanks for the reminder Brandi!

Not too long after we passed my sister and her lovely sign I started to feel kind of tired.  We had only just passed the half marathon mark but suddenly the pace felt a bit fast for me.  Up until then, we had been taking breaks about every 5km and even though I usually do 10:1 run/walk intervals religiously, I was finding the 5km break pattern perfectly fine.  Around 23km (about 5km since our last break) I was really feeling like I needed to rest a bit.  I saw there was a parking lot at our turnaround up ahead and figured the support van would be waiting for us there.

Despite the fact that I was feeling kind of crappy, our talented
photographer took some really beautiful shots during this part of the run
I trudged along and was crushed when we crossed the river and everyone just keep running right through the parking lot and back into the trails on the other side.  I decided to walk for a minute or two just to take a drink and catch my breath and quickly I and another lady became the last runners.  We started running again and thankfully one of the other runners trotted back to us and ran along for a bit.  I told him I was starting to feel tired and just not as relaxed as I had been.  I tried not to worry but admittedly was kind of upset that we hadn't even hit 30km yet and I was feeling worn out.

I knew we'd be back at McDonald Park in a few kms for a rest so I tried to just suck it up and keep going.  It just kinda sucks when you don't feel strong though and I didn't really want to admit that I was feeling pooped already.  We were on a packed gravel walking trail but because my legs were feeling tired, I felt like my feet were constantly slipping and adding more resistance.  I've never liked gravel trails and this was no different.  I was mad that I didn't have any training behind me other than roads because this silly gravel trail was wearing me out!

It was a bummer to feel bummed when we were in such a pretty spot
I tried to really focus on just relaxing and getting out of my own head.  I was mostly on my own for this part and quite a ways back from the main group.  I'm okay with that but was feeling a bit sorry for myself that I wasn't keeping up.  I glanced down at my watch and my pace was around 6:12/km, a bit quick for me on such a long distance run.  Not only that but we had just run nearly 8km without a break and at that pace and that point in the day, it's really no wonder I was feeling tired.  I had kept up okay until then but that 8km stretch was just a bit too much for me I guess.  It totally threw me off.

Anyhow, I was so relieved to get back to the park but I'm pretty sure my frustration showed on my face as I ran past my family as they cheered us back in.  At this rest stop I grabbed some pretzels and a big bottle of water and plopped down in the grass to stretch my back and just try to regroup.  I was feeling a bit discouraged and didn't want that to get worse because I still had more than 20km left to go!

I'd barely had a moment on the ground when our support team was forcing us back up onto our feet, it was time to go.  I grumbled to my family that I was feeling tired and carried on down the road.

Despite feeling frustrated I was able to find a
big smile for this selfie as we left the park...
Anyhow, this post is getting pretty long with all of the photos and so much to describe.  I think I'll break it off here and continue with the second half of the run in my next post.  Thanks for sticking through it for this long already...

Update:  Part 2 of this story is now done!  Check it out here .
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