Five hundred & forty six kilometers covered in eight days!!!
Before I share all the details, I want to you to understand two things; A) how stubborn my little sister can be and B)the fact that endurance/ultra-running is not as ‘crazy’ as you think.
When Virginia & Ray announced to our family that she was planning to run 890km in 2 weeks we were flabbergasted. Dad & Mom’s (Don & Margaret-Anne Cann) encouragement & uncountable parent taxi miles, played a significant role in Gin’s school athletic awards & scholarships. No one is “self made” (read Malcom Gladwell’s, Outliers). But this endeavor was over the top. They were honest & told Gin how apprehensive they were about the whole thing. There was no changing Virginia’s mind. Of course, Dad & Mom are currently home in Cape Breton cheering her on like we all are. But I know they are beside themselves with worry.
Virginia has always had a mind of her own and is driven like no one I know. When Velma & I started getting money from the Tooth fairy, three year old Virginia started prematurely wiggling and pulling on her own baby teeth. I’m sure she would have been successful if it wasn’t for the piano stool that I dropped on her foot. Ouch! After her big toenail had blackened & fallen off, Dad & Mom helped her put it under pillow her pillow. Low & behold the Toenail Fairy came and gave her a $2 bill!!! (the going rate for a tooth was 25cents). [Double take from all the marathon runners reading this –Say Whaa? There’s a Toe Nail Fairy, I could be rich!]
As I spread the news of Gin’s 890km fundraising mission, nine out of ten people respond with “She’s CRAZY!”. I myself have called her ‘crazy’ and I’m a well-educated nursing professional, sensitive to mental health stigmas. Yes, there are only 3 people (1 woman) who have completed the Bruce Trail in under 14 days. I researched this phenomenon closer and discovered that ultrarunning is not as crazy as one might think. The book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall helps you understand the science and history behind endurance running. You learn about the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico who have maintained this lost art, allowing them to run hundreds of miles nonstop to chase down their supper. He makes you realize that our bodies are capable of more than we can imagine. You are left wondering, at what point we, as a society, decided that running is ‘unnatural’? Just read the book. It’s fascinating.
Ok. Back to Day 8. As the crew texted the pictures to me, I could tell she was having a good day with a funlooking crew (Barb Campbell, Colleen Braightwaite, Chris Laughren, David Varty, Caitlin Foisy & Steve Hunter). Early afternoon trainer Cathy emailed to say that she & husband Ray were trying to line up a consultation with a medical doctor for the end of the day. It was a comforting to know that they were being cautious amidst all our cheerleading.
The end of the day video was a little unsettling.
At 9pm ER doctor, Dr. Neal (a marathoner himself) assessed her followed by a second chiropractic treatment by Dr. Julie. When she called me I knew she must be at an all time low. This was her first call to me. I knew she would call me at her lowest (she would worry Velma couldn’t bare it… again, 15 years later). She sounded mentally depleted as she shared the doctor’s recommendations. The weight gain is indicative of fluid retention. He wasn’t overly concerned but said it would be wise to have bloodwork done to assess her kidney function etc. He recommended extra rest and not to rush back on to the trail. In the end, he left it up to her to decide. Through the self-doubting she was able to joke about how pathetic she looked the last leg of the day, “…they say you should dance as if no one is watching, well I was running as if no one was watching”. I’m so glad her best friend Colleen is there with her tonight.
…I then sent a quick email to Cathy to see what page she was on and she responded;
I just am back and forth with Ray. Her health is the utmost importance right now. I think she has hit the wall and needs complete rest right now before she makes any decisions. I don’t want her making any major decisions before she is well rested and of clear mind. I would like her to call me in the morning I need to talk to her. She is getting blood work done 5 am then will rest some is what I want and hope. Cathy
Dad & Mom, Virginia is in good hands.
Tomorrow is a new day. Stay tuned….
P.S. As the intensity grows, this blog seems to be getting longer. I know there are those out there who would appreciate even more detail. Here is Captain Barb Campbell’s end of the day report to me;
Well, after a day with so many highs, I guess we were due for a few lows. But first, the highs! Virginia’s best friend Colleen Braithwaite flew in from Alberta lastnight to share trail captain duties with me before she takes over tomorrow. What a boost for Gin! I was so happy to have a partner in crime after a day of crazy multitasking – navigating over 100 km on quiet dirt roads, setting up aid stations with tight deadlines, buying food, mixing up electrolyte drink, coordinating media interviews, taking photos, shuttling pacers, answering texts, answering emails and answering the phone. All that on 3 hours of sleep, two nights in a row.
We sensed early on that Virginia would need an extra boost of energy. David Varty ran with her all day. We sent Colleen out with her for two hours and arranged for Caitlin Foisy to surprise her for an early
afternoon shift of pacing. Chris Laughren arrived after lunch with a small Hallowe’en wig collection. As he ran along, he would quietly change wigs and wait for Virginia to notice. It took him awhile to realize why passers by gave him such funny looks! Steve Hunter apparently didn’t think his all-day pacing assignment for tomorrow would be sufficient exercise so he came out after work and ran backwards along the trail until he found Virginia and her crew. Lots of support, smiles and hugs from the team today – so very much appreciated. There were low times too. When Colleen and I cheered Virginia in shortly after she passed the 500 km mark (that’s right, 500!!), she was in tears from a new pain that had flared up. In case you’re wondering, the old pains are still there – especially the tendon on the front of her right foot that makes the downhills excruciating. You know you’re a real ultrarunner when you look forward to uphills and dread the downhills!
At the end of the day, there were a few more tears as the enormity of her task briefly overwhelmed her. After eight long days on the trail, it was a good time for Virginia to take an easier day to recover a little. She started after sunrise, finished before sunset and arrived before 8 p.m. at the MacDonalds’ beautiful home in Hockley Valley, having run “only” 54 km (that’s 12 km more than a marathon!).She finished the day with house call appointments with a physician and a chiropractor before heading to bed early. Tomorrow is a new day and she will feel so refreshed after this longer rest.