Warning: This is going to be a behemoth of a race recap. I guess that’s what happens when you run 36+ miles. 🙂 Also, in case you missed it, here is the recap for Day 1 — Blood — of the Golden Ultra!
On Saturday, for Day 2 of the Golden Ultra (which is appropriately called Sweat), I woke up just after 6 after a sleepless night. After conquering Day 1 of the Golden Ultra, my nerves felt a little bit better — for some reason, that climb made me feel like I could definitely conquer the day ahead, but I was back to panicking about bears and what would happen if I encountered one. I know, silly.
Anyways! I wasn’t yet that hungry (I’ll have a further post about nutrition and the ultra next week… it was all very bizarre and I don’t quite understand it) so I grabbed a bagel and snacked on that with some PROBAR Bolts as I chugged some water and grabbed a few last things before it was time to head to the start.
We were staying up on the mountain, and the start for the ultra is in the town of Golden at Spirit Square. We were able to park a few blocks away and walk up to the race at 7:15 a.m., in time for me to get my gear checked (we needed to have a cell phone, water, hat, gloves and jacket) and hit the port-a-potty.
And right on time (my favorite), the horn blew and we were off! I was in the middle of the pack, and we turned on to the main highway and did some road running before we headed into the woods and started the climb. I made friends with two brothers from Edmonton, and continued to trek along. I wasn’t sure I was going to need the trekking poles on this day, especially early on, but at about three miles, I pulled over to grab them and was so happy I did. It was a series of switchbacks, and a little steeper than I expected for the start.
We were bunched up at first, but by time I got around mile 4, I passed a big group and was solo — flying through the trails (or so it felt) since it was windy with some rollers… my favorite. I took a gel and some salt, and enjoyed the wooded views… I would say miles 4-8 were some of my favorites for this course because it was just beautiful, and like I said, the climb wasn’t awful.
Aid Station 1 (13km): 9:17 a.m.
At the first Aid Station, I grabbed a donut and some sugary snacks to chomp on for a bit, filling up my water and feeling pretty good about what was to come. This was about 8 miles in, and I knew the tough stuff was just about to start.
I caught back up with one of the brothers from Edmonton, and we jockeyed back and forth for a few miles… enjoying the views as we climbed up a little higher. I believe that this was around mile 11:
Absolutely gorgeous. For perspective, we ran next to the river at the bottom of the canyon when we started:
His focus on strength training obviously was pretty smart, because he pulled ahead and I went back to climbing on my own. For these next few miles, it wasn’t quite as steep as Day 1, but it was challenging and all I could do was focus on making sure each step I took was intentional. I wasn’t worried about going fast, but rather, being as efficient as I could.
Aid Station 2 (25km): 11:34 a.m.
I was a little bit behind my schedule (which I’ll share below), but I was well ahead of the cut off for this aid station, which was 1 p.m. I had enough water, so didn’t need to fill it up to get to the next aid station, and focused on taking some salt and gels. None of the snacks sounded that great, so I passed and continued to trek along. At this point, I also put on a GoPro –> I’ll share the video soon, I can’t wait to see what the views look like!
I knew that this was when things were going to get HARD. I had read Pavement Runner’s recap and knew that the mile paces slow quite a bit. I mean, we had until 3:30 to make it 5 miles to the next aid station… just 5 miles!
The first mile or so wasn’t too bad, it was like before with some climbs but weaving and winding through the woods with some amazing views. I caught up to a few people once we started the climb, and it was great to have the company and distraction to chat about life and other things. The girl had run this as part of her training, as she’s from Golden, so she was able to tell us about the false summits… there were several… and we knew that once we got to the top, we ran on a ridge, and were home free to the top of the mountain where we finished the night before.
The climb was HARD, but I focused on the ground, making my steps intentional and using my trekking poles as much as I could. I think I went at a solid enough pace where it didn’t drain my endurance or my strength too fast, so it never felt unmanageable.
And after what seemed like it was going to be a climb that lasted for several more hours, we reached the top and hit the ridge — the next aid station was in view! I was only a little bit happy:
Aid Station 3 (33km): 2:15 p.m.
Honestly, I don’t even know what happened at this aid station. I saw Brandon, and I was so happy to see him and get a break from the running. There was a contest where if you grabbed a beer at the top, and took a picture, you could win a Suunto, but for some reason, they weren’t serving beer so not quite sure what happened.
I drank some Coke at this aid station, downed a PROBAR Bite, filled up my water and after a 15-minute break, it was back to running. I knew it was the “easier” part of the race at this point, and it was time to go down.
So, remember how I was so worried about seeing bears? Well, I didn’t see any, but when Brandon when down on the gondola, they told him to watch out for some. He ended up grabbing a picture of a mama bear and her cubs hanging out 15′ off the trail!
Luckily, they were either gone or I didn’t see them because I have no idea what I would have done (I was running with bear spray).
This part of the race was supposed to be easier, or so I thought, but my quads were shot and the steep downhill was not comfortable. Luckily, I kept my trekking poles and they helped me a bit on the way down. We weaved across the grass and gravel road, and up past where our condo was, and were back in the woods.
At this point, I was on my own and I started worrying that my ad-hoc nutrition may have been backfiring on me so I made sure to have a gel and some salt, along with some RunGum. Around mile 27, I started feeling amazing — I think I found a way to embrace the pain and work through it as best as I could.
Aid Station 4 (44.5km): 4:13 p.m.
I had heard that there was pizza at this aid station and I thought for sure that this would be my jam… I love pizza, and after surviving on gels and snack foods all day, I thought I’d be ready for it. Nope. I felt a little off and for some reason, Tostitos tasted like gold. I snacked on those, along with some sweets and Coke, and grabbed a handful of Tostitos for the road.
At this point, less than 10 miles to go but my feet were killing me and it felt like it was never going to end. I was still feeling pretty okay, and ended up back behind the girl from Golden once again. Around mile 30, I decided to pick up the pace… telling myself that I had five and change to go.
The terrain was similar to early on in the race; some rolling hills, winding through the woods and I was in love. I absolutely love running on these type of trails because it’s gorgeous and you just feel so fast! I caught up with another group of runners with about three miles to go, and opted to stick behind them because I could feel the gas in the tank heading towards empty.
We hit the road with about 1.5ish miles to go, and I got a burst of confidence. Road running? I can do this! I think I ended up passing 5-6 runners, feeling so comfortable off the trails and with more energy than I thought I would have.
And then… we were turning to the left, to the right and the finish line was in front of me.
10 hours, 43 minutes, 32 seconds.
It was an amazing feeling, to know that I had just finished that race and conquered the unknown in the mountains and woods of Canada. An even better feeling? Grabbing a chair and putting my throbbing feet up while enjoying a beer in front of the fire. Perfect celebration.
So, like I alluded to, I had NO idea how this race was going to go… I had no idea what to expect, what was reasonable for my time or even what my nutrition should look like (I basically followed what I did for a marathon and I’m not sure it was the smartest, even though it got me through the race).
However, I studied the course and race recaps leading up to the race and created a race plan that estimated my time per mile with estimates for aid stations. I was off on my time by 1 hour and 40 minutes — but to me, that doesn’t matter. I finished. I conquered my first ultra!
That being said, I want to share my race plan vs. actual times:
As you can see, some of those miles were pretty tough! It was all about one foot in front of the other.
So there you have it… Day 2 — the Sweat — of the Golden Ultra, complete! Stay tuned for Day 3, plus a overall review of The Golden Ultra experience, coming your way next week!
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