I ran the Ultimate XC Quebec on Saturday. It was the most fun I'd had in while. It's put on by the same people who put on the Jay Ultramarathon that I love so dearly. I think i liked Quebec better b/c it lacked the brook running, which I found immensely difficult. Both were rather insane.
The race began with a decent crowd, and took off across a street. The trails immediately were up and down, roots, single-file. The energy was high and my friends and I--Cara, Crista, Shawn, Michael and Mark--shouted back and forth to each other. So fun! I ended up losing my friends rather quickly as I began a conversation with someone from NYC's Reservoir Dogs. Realizing I lost my friends on what we meant to be a training run, I held back, jogging slow, walking some of the uphills, waiting for them. They were taking a while, so I began chatting with random strangers, having fun, feeling great.
The first aid station was just liquids. I took a quick sip of Heed (I LOVE the Subtle Berry flavour) and kept going. Maybe two miles after that, Cara and Mark caught up with me. We had a reunion, screaming and hugging. I believe we also took a photo to celebrate.
Shortly after, I smacked my knee really hard into this giant boulder we were running around. We had to stop because I was screaming and in so much pain. I was holding it tightly, fighting back tears, feeling enormous amounts of pain. Finally, the pain mostly subsided, and we continued running.
We hit the swamp section. Picture grass on top of layers of water. You step, and your foot is covered. Step, ankle. Step, holy crap, water up to my knees. Shawn saw some guy who stepped in water up to his waist. It was insane and we were screaming, laughing, shocked. "This is insane." Bring it on!
At the next aid station, we gorged on salty potatoes, gummy bears. I think this may also have been the fondue one. I dipped one banana in chocolate (yes, this race had chocolate fondue at the aid station!!!) and Cara had four. I filled up with water, astounded at how much I was drinking. Drank some Heed and ran past a waterfall as it was starting to rain -- which we realized we wouldn't even mind if it did since we were mostly in the woods, covered by trees. We had the aid station attendants take a photo of us doing a pyramid. We did another in the woods. We were feeling good.
Passed another aid station about ten minutes later, barely stopping. Continued and spent some quality time with mud! Mark lost his shoe and couldn't find it -- the mud had already globbed up around the sides. We were laughing. Shortly after that I fell in a giant pile of mud and started screaming. Or rather, I didn't fall, but stepped and then fell. Yummy.
I suddenly heard, "Cher!" It was Crista and Michael. "I could hear you yelling, and I got so excited!"
We all hugged and I showed off my mud-covered legs and hands. We took photos. We exchanged stories, and began running. Crista and I took the lead, which is not a good thing as we have no sense of direction (as you'll see), catching up on our running stories, talking about our love lives, chatting. "I'm so glad to see you!" We took more photos (Mark was carrying a running camera throughout).
Soon, we approached the beaver stream. "Oh my god!"
"Grab the rope! Grab the rope!" we heard. Dan (the race director) had warned us not to drink the water. "You'll get beaver fever!" Apparently, beaver fever is giardia, which no one wants to get. So we kept Dan's wisdom in mind. After following Cara and grabbing the rope, I promptly got water in my mouth.
"Argh! I got water in my mouth! I swallowed water," I screamed.
Then I started wheezing and had an asthma attack and started panicking -- especially scary b/c I was in water. I ended up going around Cara and scrambling to the shore, where my breathing calmed down. I took some of my inhaler and began kicking off my shoes to change. The race director gave me my bag and helped attach my chip on my new shoe and help me put it on. We scrambled to wipe off beaver water, stuff our faces with salty potatoes and gummy bears and hammer energy bars. The volunteers were amazing at this station and every station -- filling our water bottles for us, chatting with us (if they spoke English, and if they didn't, their warmth and friendliness came across).
We did another pyramid (I'll post links to photos once Mark and Cara upload them) and took off. Crista and I were in the front, and I made a wrong turn. We realized a bit later when we couldn't find the markings. We found out way back to the path, and Cara and Mark had passed us and were ahead of us now. I scrambled to catch up with them, running hard. I was so focused on trying to catch up with them that I accidentally made a wrong turn down a path. I kept following the pink ribbons for a while, wondering how fast it was that Cara and Mark had sprinted ahead of me that I couldn't even see them! Finally, I saw a man walking towards me and he said, "You're going the wrong way."
"No I'm not!"
"This is the half-marathon course. You're in the full, right? You went the wrong way? I don't know the full marathon course, but I have this map..."
We're walking back in the way I just ran from. "Are you sure?" I'm on the verge of tears when I see Crista.
"We're lost, Crista."
"Now, if you look at this map..."
"I don't understand maps."
Finally, we find our way back to the trail and see how we got it wrong. The half-marathon came UP the trail we ran down, and the full should have continued straight. We continued running and I was so glad not to be running alone. The trails at points were not marked so well, and it got confusing, so it was nice to run with someone else.
We ran, walked on the insane hills, laughed, talked, gelled, complained, ate salty potatoes at aid stations, worried that there were no aids stations. It was fun -- to be on insane trails with one of my best friends, with one of my oldest running partners. We were so happy. Yes, we were in pain when our quads and calves were screaming on those hills, but this to us was fun. Sure, my stomach was hurting (no 100% success beforehand, as Cara would say), but I loved this. We were running with this guy for a while, chatting. Interesting!
There was a chalk marking the ground: 800 meters. They must have been off by at least 400 meters.
When we crossed the finish line, we were holding hands. We felt victorious. We got medals, which looked similar to dog tags. We took off our shoes shortly to examine the toes, but did not see the full extent of the black toenails until later that afternoon after swimming in the pool. I'm losing 1-2 or more; Crista is the same. Shawn probably doesn't even have any, Mark never takes his shoes off so he doesn't know what's there, Michael is probably fine, and Cara probably has 5-6 black/missing toes. It's all good!
I'll be back next year!