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Friday, 5 September 2014

What it's Like to Run 67km

Pain.....a lot of pain and discomfort. At least the last 20km was. 

Race day for me started at 0430 in the morning. Surprisingly I was able to get a pretty good sleep, must have been the beer and the Quesadillas from Jungle Jim's. Not the best place for a pre-race meal, but hey, sometimes you need to live life on the dangerous side. I figured I'd either be puking at 3am or puking at kilometer 43. (yes folks that is foreshadowing) However Jim and his Jungle had nothing to do with it this time.

The Holiday Inn, which was the host hotel for the race, put an extra early breakfast just for the racers, so at 0500 Pete, myself and a few other runners were chowing down on bagels, bananas, and yogurt. The mood was nervous energy, but relaxed and sleepy at the same time. We talked about our training and previous races. This was when Pete realized that we were undertrained. A fact I knew all along, and Pete was either oblivious to it or happily ignored it. 

I haven't been at the start line of race in the pre-dawn hours since 2000 and my Ironman triathlon race. This time it was cold, wet, and windy. The temp was 10C with only a forecast high of 20C with rain showers and strong westerly winds forecasted. I was hoping for a nice sunny day, but in the end the weather was perfect for running.

Of the original 60 plus registered runners, only 33 of us actually showed up. I'm guessing the others were too scared, or they came to their senses and decided that running 67k on cold, wet, Sunday morning of the Labour Day weekend was.....nuts. It was better to be hungover at the cabin, or in your trailer in a gravel pit alongside the TCH. (Newfoundlanders will find the humour in this)

Braaaaappppp, the starting horn went off at 0630, and the mayor of Deer Lake sent us on our way. The first few kilometers was on the roads, and the pace was a little fast, pretty typical of a race. Pete and I slipped to the back of the back to maintain our 7min/km planned pace. I say planned, because it all fell apart at the end. But it's always good to have a plan...right.

So as they say in Le Tour de France we were the guys with the lantern rouge. The last guy in the peleton. I knew at the pace being run, we would eventually pass a couple of people later on. 

Later on was at about the 10k mark, when we passed the only poor soul to not finish the race. For the life of me, I cannot remember his name, but he bravely started this race with the flu, something I don't think I would have done. I'm not sure how far he made it, but hats off to this guy for attempting the race. 

The first aid station came at the 12k mark, and I was surprised at how little I was drinking. All of our big training runs had been in the heat and I was going thru a full water bottle in 12k. Not today. These aid stations are not like the ones in a marathon, first of all, this one was prehistoric, and everyone was dressed like the Flintstones. Hallucinations already.... There was a contest for best aid station, and these folks went all out. They won too. These aid stations look like a buffet, all kinds of fruit, gels, potatoes, fig newtons, cookies, water, Gu, Coke, etc.

We got our feet wet here at the first river crossing, and continued on the wet muddy ATV trail. Pete started to slowly pull ahead of me as he continued to jog the uphills and I followed my plan of walking them. The rain had let up, and we had enough of a sheltered course that the strong headwind didn't affect us too much. 

For the next 15k I had Pete in my sights just down the road, I'd gain on him during the downhills, and he'd pull away a bit on the uphills. Aid station 2 arrived at the 27k mark, just after the last water crossing. I decided to change into dry socks and shoes here (we had drop bags here) and Pete elected to continue on in his. This was the last time I woud see him until the finish line.

My overall pace was starting to drop to 7:22/km, which was no surprise as the stop to change shoes took some time. I was still feeling good, and continued on solo for the next aid station at kilometer 35, which is the point in the race where we start heading back to Deer Lake. 

All this time we were running on the isolated northside of Deer Lake, nothing up here except logging roads, ATV trails and the odd cabin. It was quite peaceful and a very enjoyable part of the course. As you near the head of the lake you pop out into a resort area. Humber Valley Resort in fact. Kinda weird, big fancy homes in a gated community, very out of place for Newfoundland. I guess a lot of Europeans bought homes here. Not sure why its gated, it's Newfoundland for Pete's sake, the place where people open up their homes to strangers, not keep them out.

I was back on the pavement now, and I had managed to catch up with another runner, which was nice to see after being alone for over an hour. Aid station 3 arrived at 35km, and boy were these folks a sight for sore eyes. 35km or 20 miles is the mythical WALL in marathon running. It's where the serious hurting begins, and for the marathon runner means it's only another 11km of running to the finish line. For me it was wall number one, and another 32.55km of running, jogging, walking, crying, and suffering left. I topped up my bottles again, thanked all the volunteers, who were all awesome, and pushed on up the shallow incline to the town of Pasadina for aid station 4 at 43km.

Things were starting to unravel at this point, and my lack of training was becoming glaringly real. My legs were beginning to protest each step, and my continous running had become a mix of walking and jogging. My pace was now down 7:30/km. 

Aid station 4 was in the parking lot of the Foodland grocery store in Pasadina. I hadn't eaten too much, other than a couple of bananas, and was relying mostly on Tailwind nutrition mixed in with my water bottle. I mistakenly had a piece of potatoe at this point. It tasted good as I headed out to continue on, but after 2km my stomach was protesting. I stopped to walk a bit, but that never helped. Before long I was on the side of the road with my hands on my knees emptying the contents of my stomach all over the ground in this beautiful little western Newfoundland town, Sorry Pasadina, I apologize. I tried to get as much as possible into the ditch. Hopefully the rain that was beginning to fall again washed most of it away. With my stomach feeling better it was time to push on, only 22km to go. I was still on track for a 8hr and 30min finish time.

The pavement gave way to the infamous T'railway trail. It's the now abandoned railway bed that goes thru the province. Former home of the Newfie Bullet, which is what I felt like at this point. The train was nicknamed the Newfie Bullet, not for it's speed, but for how slow it was. The railway trail made up most of the running on the southside of the lake. It was about 20km of long straight, boring stretches, with big loose stones, and two narrow tracks after years of ATV use. Basically it was 20km of hellish running. Not that I was running at this point. Wogging, and walking. I was all alone and in a very bad place in my mind. Now my calculations in my head went from finishing in 8hrs to trying to stay under 9hrs to trying to make the 10hr cutoff. Focus Burt, just make it to the next aid station remember. 

The last aid station came at 55km. No more potatoes this time, however the watermelon was sure nice, and my water bottle was topped off by the mayor of Deer Lake, how nice is that. Did I say the volunteers were awesome.

12km to go. Oh, one more thing.....the energy at the aid stations, and encouragement they give the runners, even old, slow guys who might be in last place is incredible, and you leave the aid stations with renewed energy and a spring in your step. For me the spring in my step usually pops shortly afterwards, but it is a huge mental boost.

The railway bed continues on, and I am hurting, hurting like I haven't since the marathon of the Ironman, except now I am all alone walking on this shitty stone, I can feel blisters forming on my toes, and my legs are shot. I contemplate dropping out, but it's too damn close to the finish line now, I've put in 8hrs of movement. Oh wait, now the battery in my GPS watch has died, I'm 7km from the finish with only a vague idea of my pace. Time to pull out my Timex. 

I cross the 5km to go mark. More mental calculations......they are taking a lot longer to do now. Fatigue is a wonderful thing. If I run most of the last 5k I can beat 9hrs. By running, I mean a slow jog, but after walking most of this damn railbed the 7 or 8min/km pace I am flying at now seems like running. 

I have now re-entered the Town of Deer Lake, at which point I know I'm gonna make it. The pain in my legs, and feet is bearable, and I push hard for the finish line, constantly trying to figure out if I can break the 9hr mark. Hey, look there's Jungle Jim's, man a cold pint of Rickards Red and Quesadilla would be good now. Whoa, focus Terry, it's a race remember, and you're almost done. 

I continue wogging through town with the odd car honking their horn in support, and the rest giving an odd look, "why is this guy jogging with such a pained look on his face"

I pass the 1km to go mark, which seems a lot farther than 1km for some reason. Damn this hurts. I round the last corner, and hear and see the finishline. As long as I don't get tripped by a rogue squirrel, which I probably wouldn't recover from at this point, I am golden. 

For some reason in a race this long, when the finishline comes into view the pain seems to disappear, I feel like I am now sprinting at an unbelievable 6:30 or 7:00min/km. Blistering, like my toes.

I'd like to say that crossing the finishline was euphoric, or life altering, or at least something poetic, but it was just plain relief. The pain could now stop, I could finally sit down. Damn I did it, 8 friggin' hours and 56 painful, miserable minutes. I was so friggin' happy to break 9hrs. I dug deep for that.

Pete was nowhere to be seen, I found out later he had a good day and came in 15mins ahead of me. Don't blame him for not hanging around the finishline. A warm shower trumps that anytime.

The race organizer and his wife, Lorne and Angela Reid, were there to greet me, along with all the awesome volunteers. The best part of the finishline were these awesome ice cream bars, ice cream never tasted so good. I mean it was awesome. I actually think the ice cream was better than crossing the finishline. 

After getting cleaned up and tracking down Pete, we went in search of beer and a quick snack, funny how running for 9hrs will make you hungry, maybe its the 6000 calorie defecit I was under. So a mozza burger combo from A&W and a six pack of beer later we were right as rain. 

The awards banquet was later in the evening, two free beer is all I got to say about that. Thanks Molson 67 for that sponsorship. 67 calories for 67km. Go figure. It was like the beer was named just for the race. Pizza, wings, it was a gorgefest, and boy it was good. 

Pete unfortunately ran a little too fast that day, he felt a little faint in the chow line, and bailed for his room. Poor guy almost fainted twice on the way up, and ended up with the cold sweats all night. I didn't think he looked that bad so I wasn't too worried and went back to my grub and beer.  I did get a "I'm not dying" text from him later on.

It's too bad because Lorne put on a good awards show, and presented every runner with a pewter finishers belt buckle. It was a very nice way to the end the day.

The run was very well organized, almost military like precision, thanks to Lorne and Angela's career in the Canadian Forces. The volunteers and local support is outstanding, you won't meet a better, or friendlier bunch of people anywhere. 

If you ever contemplated running an ultra in the east, and want to make it into a vacation visit Newfowndland and run the Deer Lake 67.


  1. Excellent write-up. BTW, I was the poor gut with the flu. I made it 61km before the time ran out. So close yet so far. :) Cheers and safe travels.

  2. Great view on the run , glad to be apart of it for the second time. I felt like we were all on a mission !

    Gregg Robertson

  3. Thanks for sharing your race day. It was great to meet you guys, and I am glad that you both make it.

  4. Great story! It was almost like running it again :)

  5. Thanks folks for the nice comments. Michael, I can't believe you made it that far running with the flu. Hats off to you my son. I hope you come back next year healthy and kick some butt.

  6. Another great write up Terry... almost too good. I felt like I was there. Now I'm not so sure I will have the fortitude to complete such a daunting challenge in 2015 :) This is a great accomplishment.. low maybe on training but it took a lot of perseverance to stick it out and finish! Well done and I want to see that buckle!! :)