Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Haliburton Forest 100 miler

The Haliburton Forest 100 mile Trail Run took place on Saturday, September 6, 2008. This was my first attempt at running a 100mile race.

I was a little nervous going into this race, but felt well prepared having had a solid year of training, in addition to a strong base built from 2007. The experience of having run a couple of 50milers last year, in addition to Rock and Ice this year, helped to give me confidence. I’ve also run Haliburton twice before (50km in 2004 & 50 mile in 2007). This was a big help in knowing the trails and what to expect and plan for in the training leading up to it and on race day. Personally, I don’t think that I would have wanted to try to run my first 100 at Haliburton if I hadn’t known the trails well beforehand.

Haliburton Forest is a private wildlife preserve located on the west side of Algonquin Park. It is home to lots of deer, moose, bears and wolves as was evident by all being spotted during the race. The trails there are simply gorgeous.

On race morning, a bagpiper paraded us to the start line for the 6am start as if we were going off to battle. Nice touch. It was still quite dark, so I was happy to be using the Petzl E+lite headlamp for the first 30 minutes or so, even though we began on a sand packed road. It was great to be finally moving even though I knew it was going to be a very long day. I settled into a comfortable pace and it was really nice as Sara and I ended up running together for some of the early miles. It almost seemed like one of our weekly long runs at times because of this.

The 100 mile course was a double out and back course, so we had to run the entire route twice. It was great early on because there were many people running the 50km and 50mile race on the same route.

My number one goal for the race was to finish, so I had planned on trying to take things pretty easy early on. I was surprised to meet up with Jeff Simpkins fairly early into the race. We ran together for a few minutes before he said he wasn’t feeling well, and decided to back off a little in the hopes of feeling better later. I was also surprised when Jeff said that the only other person in the 100 miler in front of us was Jim Orr.

I have a great deal of respect for Jeff Simpkins, Jim Orr, Jim Morrison, Laurie McGrath, Theresa McGrath and Keith Peters, and all of the excellent 100mile races they have done between them. I told myself that I did not want to go out too fast and would prefer to be behind all of them in the early miles and wait to see how I felt.

Coming up to the 25 mile point turnaround, I saw Jim on his way back, so I hoped that I wasn’t too far to the turn. It was nice to get the first turn around on the day out of the way. I had placed drop bags at 12km, 25km and 40km, so got to pass them all at least twice to re-supply with extra gear and food if needed. This was in addition to the seven well stocked aid stations that were on the course.

Since 100 miles is such a long way to go, I took splits on my watch every 25 miles and just focused on that smaller period of time instead of the big picture. I found this very helpful in keeping things in perspective and being able to chip away at these smaller chunks instead of thinking about how far I still had to go.

It was around 40 miles that I ended up spotting the race leader, Jim Orr, just up ahead. I was a little reluctant to pass him at this point as I really wasn’t 100% sure about the proper pace that I should be running for my main goal of being able to finish. I was feeling comfortable though and decided to just run at my own pace for as long as I could, so passed Jim shortly after that.

The remainder of the first 50 miles was uneventful, with just the focus being on running as relaxed as possible, and doing all the small things to stay hydrated and well fueled. I felt a slight bit of temporary panic when I passed the 50mile point and turned around to head back out for the last 50. I checked my watch and was a little startled to see that my first 50 miles was done in 8:21, which was about 5 minutes faster than I did for just the 50 miler alone last year. I knew that I was in better shape this year, but it was still a little unnerving to think of what the last half had in store for me.

I was very fortunate for the last half of the race as Sara was going to be able to crew for me, which would be a big help. Sara ran, and won, the women’s 50km for the third time in a very solid race. She didn’t even stick around for her awards ceremony, but came back out onto the course to help me out. This was going to be huge for me as I was going to be getting to the point where it would be a lot more difficult to do things for myself at the aid stations.

While 80% of the course is on technical trails, the other 20% is on forest road, so Sara was able to drive out to the checkpoints and help me. My goal was to make it to the 75 mile point before it got dark. I really wanted to run the least amount of challenging trail after dark as possible.

It was a huge psychological boost to get to 75 miles and know that you were on your way home, even though it was still 25 miles. Things continued to go well, and I had to keep playing little mind games and break the race down to just lots of small races from checkpoint to checkpoint. I had picked up my headlamp at an earlier aid station and was really pleased with the way they worked. I wore the Petzl Myo XP on my head, and the Petzl Tikka XP on a belt attachment around my waist. The trail was well lit and I just needed to keep moving now.

I did find it very tough getting from 75-85 miles as I was really dreading the Black Creek Trail. This is a boggy section that has a lot of logs laid down crosswise, almost acting like a floating bridge, I expect during the wet seasons. I had broken my ankle a few years ago and was very cautious in trying to get through this part in one piece. Doing it after dark seemed like it was going to be that much more difficult. Once again, I was very happy to get through this section and make it to the 85 mile point. Sara met me here and gave me a few sips of soup broth. I didn’t think I wanted it, but it really hit the spot and was a nice change from all the gels, clif bloks and liquid fuel I had been taking.

Sara told me that I looked the most out of it at the next aid station (about 88 miles). I had just taken a couple of falls and had gone about 100meters past where I was suppose to turn, so had to backtrack a little. It wasn’t a big deal, but I was getting a little confused and was struggling the most through this section. I was happy to get to finally make it to the next checkpoint and know that I only had one loop of MacDonald Lake to go and that I was going to finish.

Pacers are allowed to run with 100 mile participants after dark for safety reasons. Even though Sara had already raced her 50km early, she was ready to run the section from 92-98 miles with me. While I knew that I could probably get around this on my own, it was very comforting to have Sara there with me. In fact, it was wonderful to share this experience with her since we have done so much of our training together. Through the final trail section of Normac, Sara got to witness another couple of finer moments of my race. First I took my worst fall of the day, and second I puked a solid stream of vomit on a tree right at shoulder height.

The end was getting much closer now and the goal was just trying to hold it together and finish in one piece. We were now back on the forest road, so finally the footing wasn’t an issue anymore.

Making it to the final aid station at about mile 98 was a great feeling. Sara stopped here to let me run the last bit in on my own. One more nasty hill to get past then a long straightaway to the finish line. The sight of Sara flashing her headlamp from the finish line was such a welcome and warming sight. I finally made it across the line.

I found it interesting when I crossed the finish line that my time of 18:42:02 didn’t really mean that much to me. It was more the fact that I had just completed a 100 mile footrace. The thoughts, memories and emotions of the day keep coming back to me and I will probably remember a ton of things that I have left out of this write-up. However, I will never forget the deep down feeling of what it’s like to run 100miles in the beautiful trails of the Haliburton Forest.

Thank you very much to Race Director Helen Malmberg and her wonderful crew of volunteers for organizing an exceptional race. Your efforts will always be remembered by those who take part in Haliburton.

Results and photos are now posted at http://ouser.org/

My time: 18:42:02
25 mile splits: 4:04:10 / 4:17:18 / 4:43:43 / 5:36:51. (Last 25miles in the dark).
My placing: First
Second Place: Jim Orr (19:32)
Course Record: 18:19:23 (Jeff Simpkins 2006)
Terrain: 80% technical trails, 20% forest road

Clif Bloks: Took 3 cubes on every hour (switched to exclusively gels between aid stations after 9 hours)
Gels: 1 gel on every half hour
Sport Drink: Mixed one scoop of Hammer Sustained Energy with one scoop of GuPowder. Drank 3-4 sips every 15 minutes past the hour and before the hour.
Endurolyte Capsules: Started taking 2-3 electrolyte capsules every hour after the first few hours, then increased to 2 capsules every 30 minutes for about the last 3 hours.
Water: Sipped water from my bottle with gels and bloks. Also drank water at aid stations.
Aid Stations: Ate small amounts of melon, bananas and drank some coke at most stations. I kept most of my fuel in liquid form as that is what I have found worked well for me in training. Had a little soup broth at the last few aid stations, which helped. Also ginger ale helped to sooth my stomach at a few aid stations.
Stomach issues: Puked at 9 hours and 18 hours. Both I felt were electrolyte issues and needed to adjust intake. Came around shortly after.

La Sportiva Crosslites: No blisters, no hotspots, no foot issues! I was impressed. I have seen some really nasty photos of peoples feet who have run 100 milers and was prepared, but these shoes are awesome! Lightweight, glove-like fit and great traction.
Wigwam Trailrunner II socks. Wonderful fitting socks with great moisture management.
Sugoi 42k Split shorts: Lightweight and breathable.
La Sportiva team shirt: Breathable t-shirt made by Sugoi (ran shirtless for about middle 50 miles because of the heat).
Petzl MyoXP Headlamp: Excellent lighting on the dark sections of trail
Petzl Tikka XP: Worn with belt attachment around my waist on the diffuser mode for extra peripheral vision.
Petzl E+lite lightweight headlamp for the first few miles.
Fuel Belt Double bottle holder with extra pocket attachment: Very comfortable double bottle belt for water and sport drink. The pocket attachment was excellent for gels, bloks, e-caps, etc…


  1. All I could think of while we were driving the 100 miles to Munster today was that our son had run that far the other day.
    The Crazy Kid!!!

  2. "Crazy Kid" does not even begin to describe this lunacy.

    Congrats Derick!


  3. Wow what a race! Congrats on your first 100 miler! What a way to debut too, by winning the race!! I'm amazed.

    Dr.S on RM

  4. Scot,

    I really appreciated the laser treatments on my foot the last few weeks. You'll be pleased to know that my foot was not an issue at all during the entire race!


    Thanks again,

  5. Derrick that is fantastic. Wow, I think it's far when I bike that ling. Good Job. Oh, and Sara too.

  6. Holy smokes!!! I can't believe you guys did this - really that anyone COULD do it!!! Amazing! Congratulations to both of you guys!!

  7. Nicely done Derrick. You weren't far off the course record and that on your first 100mile run. Not bad. Was the record in your sights for a while? I realise the last 25miles was in the dark but it looks like you were on target for the record. Perhaps next year?
    Now the real question is . . . . . did you run the next day? I am sure you did but that must have felt like hell.
    Oh yeah, if you ever have problems with shoes and blisters, my suggestion: take 'em off!

  8. Hey Clive,

    I didn't know exactly what the course record was beforehand. They changed the course in 2003 to mostly technical trails, so I had to do a little searching after. The old course was a lot of road. To be honest, I didn't want to think about any specific time or placing, especially in the early miles as that could have changed how things went for me and maybe the outcome. I did slow down on the last 25 miles quite a bit, but the trails were VERY tough after dark...and I was finding it quite tough too. I was very happy with the time and being fortunate enough to win.

    Yes, the running streak is still alive. I didn't have to run on Sunday because I ran for 42 minutes after midnight as part of the race. Good thing, as I could hardly walk on Sunday night. I ran an easy 20 mins on Monday on the grass and I think it was almost tougher than the 100 miler....very ugly. Each day I'm feeling a bit better though.

    No problems with blister or shoes...La Sportiva Crosslites are awesome! I think I'll keep the shoes on for now and just do some supplimental barefoot running to keep my feet strong....not exclusively barefoot like yourself!

    Take care,

  9. Hi Derrick. Congrats on the 100 miler. First time I've stopped by your blog. Aaron mentioned your blog in a recent blog entry on mine.

    Anyway, continued success. One day, I may do an ultra! Take care.


  10. Freakin' lunatic. It doesn't surprise me that you finished -- or even that you won! What surprises me is that there are actually other people out there who also want to run that far.


  11. Paul,
    It's all about the hallucinations. I'm sure you can relate to that ;)

  12. Congrats Derrick!
    I'm a new reader - super debut on your first 100 miler. You smoked it!

  13. Hello Derrick,

    Hello Derrick...I believe I may have run part of the Pittsfield Snowshoe marathon with you last year, I was a bit delusional during that race so I apologize if I am wrong. Anyways I just read about your 100 miler and congrats. A very impressive story/result!

  14. Hi Aliza,
    Thanks, but I thought I was the delusional one. Sorry again I didn't keep you company for that last loop.
    Congrats on a great year in 08. You've been busy. I'm constantly amazed how some people can handle more than a couple of long races per year. I focused on Rock and Ice last year, then Haliburton in the fall and I couldn't imagine doing more. What's your secret??
    All the best in '09.

  15. Hello Again,

    Certainly no secrets with me. My training consisted of me doing whatever I felt like before and inbetween races. I put together my biggest race schedule ever and my body held up fairly well. I did decide not to race my last scheduled race of the year because I was unhappy with my performance at VT 50. My time was slow for the amount of effort I felt that I expended.

    i have decided to change my strategy this season and train with more of a purpose. Time will tell!

    Great to hear from you... Are you planning on the snowshoe marathon again?

    Best Regards.

  16. Ha... My plan was to try and maybe change strategies myself and race more. I say that, but probably won't happen. I love to train.

    Would like to do Pittsfield, but just too close to Rock and Ice. Are you going back?

  17. I do have the race built into my schedule, but am apprehensive as it really drained me last year and I am planning on doing a 50 miler in April.

    I too love to train, or more like go on crazy adventures up and over mountains. I checked out your video of you pulling the groceries, very cool. You make me feel a bit more normal!

  18. Derrick,
    I love your race report of the Hali race and I am really enjoying your blog. Sara's blog is awesome too. You guys are an inspiration.

    As a fellow racer at Hali this year it was great to talk with you and it was great to enjoy such a superb event with everyone involved. I can concur about the difficulty of racing the wetter sections of the trail at night. It was quite an experience.

    Cheers and I hope to run into you again soon.

    Ken Niemimaa

  19. Hey Ken,
    Good to hear from you. I'm already looking forward to Haliburton again this year. How about you? Are you going back?
    Hope your running is going well.