“I won’t be staying here for long,” I said to my lone crew member, who also happened to be my beautiful wife. I was running up to the 73 km aid station, the second to last stop along my 100 km Iron Legs Ultra Trail Run journey. I was feeling exhilarated after descending Moose Mountain. Every step past the 60 km marker in my reliable Saucony Trail runners was one step further than I had ever run before — the “unknown” as I like to call it. Incredibly, I think I was still feeling a high from when my two daughters surprised me at the half way point. I didn’t expect their Baba, Papa and Uncle, who were looking after them for the weekend, to venture out to the mountains. I stole as many kisses as possible from my girls in the short time I spent at that particular aid station.
Iron Legs Ultra Trail Run: Tackling 100 km of mountain trails
I had been sitting in 3rd place for the majority of the race, but I had no prior aspirations for a podium performance. My goals were simply to: 1) Run my own race and 2) Cross the finish line. Yet, three quarters into the race I was feeling so good that a 3rd place finish was beginning to seem within reach. However, once I began warming up to the idea of making the podium, I noticed that the 4th place runner was closing on me. It was then that I started to let my ambitions get the best of me.
I hurried out of the 73 km aid station only to discover about 1 km past it that I hadn’t sealed off the water bladder in my backpack. I lost about a third of my water over this short stretch. I fixed it all up and decided I’d be fine. I pushed a bit harder. Next, I looked down to discover an untied shoe lace. In my rush to extend my lead on the 4th place runner I had not tied my shoes properly after loosening them briefly at the aid station to give my tired feet a quick break. I halted to a stop to sort them out. Now a bit flustered, I started to push even harder and…boom, I kicked a tree root and landed flat on my face.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Saucony and Strides Running Store in Calgary. Saucony’s Peregrine trail shoes have been one of his go to pairs for running Ultras over the last 4 years. These are the Peregrine 7s. He loves the minimalist design and loves the overall fit of the trail shoe.
“Okay,” I finally thought, “the trail is trying to tell me something.” I eased my pace and settled back into the rhythm that had successfully brought me through the majority of the day. Unfortunately, my brief increase in intensity seemed to have brought on some stomach problems and I hobbled into the final aid station hunched over, holding my belly and cursing myself for my recent lapse in focus.
I knew I looked rough as I sat into the camp chair that waited for me at the final aid station (88 km into the race). My wife asked me what was wrong and as I cradled my stomach in pain, she asked me the typical questions “How much water have you drank? How much food have you eaten? What colour is your pee?” At this aid station, even the ice my wife put in my hat to combat the 30 C weather didn’t give me much relief. My stomach was turning and it felt awful.
But my crew (and wife) gave me just 5 minutes before telling me to get up and finish the race. She reminded me that I would feel like crap but that I should just go ahead and finish the last 12 km now. “Embrace the suck” a veteran ultra runner had advised me just before the start. After a bit more TLC at the 7th aid station, I was on to the home stretch.
I re-focused and began to recite to myself, “I am at peace with what I’ve done today” over and over. Funny enough, this is a mantra that my wife and I sometimes use after a big adventure day with the kids. After a long hike that goes well with the kids, we often look at each other and say something like, “Today has been a great day and we are at peace with it, no matter what happens from here on.” That way, if the kids start to get rangy and difficult, we’ve sort of already signed off on the fact that it was a good day.
As I recited the mantra, my stomach pains began to work themselves out. I found I could stand up straight again and I re-discovered my prior running pace. I didn’t see another soul in those last 10 km and I just cruised along breathing in the fresh mountain air, remaining in 3rd place the whole way. After starting the day at six o clock in the morning, watching the sunrise, climbing and descending two mountains, feeling at times elated and at others dejected, and then seeing the sunset, I crossed the finish line just before 8:30 in the evening.
There was a sense of accomplishment that I felt after completing the 100 km run, but I was also just in awe of what my body could do. Nevertheless, my body definitely hurt and more specifically my stomach was in knots as I crashed on the grass just beyond the finish line. I took my Saucony’s off to give my feet the relief they deserved. I’ve logged a lot of miles in a lot of pairs of Saucony’s. This was their toughest test yet, and they passed with flying colours.
I had done it. The journey was complete. This journey was much more than those fourteen and a half hours on that specific day. In the months leading up to race day, there were of course many training runs snuck in before the kids woke up and after they fell asleep, always trying to minimize the hours taken away from my wonderful family. Yet, it wasn’t just my journey either. The sacrifices and support I received from my wife, my daughters and my family were just as much a part of journey as the run itself.
Want to read more aboutwhat it takes to run far? Check out the post Why run far? Two Friends, 4 days and 100 km of trails
Cameron Mang started running Ultra trail runs after having his first daughter in 2013. Since 2013 he has ran the 50 km Kneeknacker in Vancouver, 60 km Trailstoke in Revelstoke and now the 100 km Iron Legs in Bragg Creek.