The Rainbow Run Trail is found in Earl Rowe Provincial Park near the town of Alliston, Ontario. The trail is named after the fish specie called Rainbow Trout that run up the Boyne River in springtime to spawn. I believe there is a fish ladder at the river along the trail.
The Rainbow Run Trail Race is hosted by Gotta Run Racing, which is comprised of the husband and wife team of Jodi McNeill and Norman Nadon. They are both well accomplished ultrarunners. In 2019, Jodi ran the challenging 100 kilometer Javelina Jundred. Just a few weeks prior to the Rainbow Run Trail Race this year, Norman ran the iconic 100 mile Western States. Together they also host a Gotta Run Racing Podcast featuring trail and ultra running stories as told to them by average and not so average athletes. Jodi and Norman also host a Youtube channel.
I met Jodi for the very 1st time (of which I thought) on the final day of the Monarch Ultra when the route went from Wyevale and finished off in Barrie in 2021. Jodi had joined the team as race director in 2021 and was highly involved with communication with the runners for each stage in the 21 day, 1,800 kilometer relay through Southern Ontario. When I met Jodi I knew I had seen her from somewhere, but I couldn’t put a finger on it. It was only when I looked up her ultra race history for this article and saw we both ran the tough 50 mile North Face Endurance Challenge in 2017 that I then realized we actually ran a bit together during the final 10 miles. It is a small world.
Last year, since there was no races due to Covid-19, I decided to run a self supported distance of 101.47 kilometers for 63 miles on my 63rd birthday. It was along the Simcoe County Loop Trail and took me 16 hours, 9 minutes. I did have a problem of finding enough drinkable water along the route as all the water fountains were turned off due to Covid. Subsequently I had to carry a lot of weight in water. Plus there was the issue of loose dogs. But other than that it went well. Having done that distance last year, I figured I should be okay to register for the 96 kilometer distance of the Rainbow Run Trail Race on August 6th in Earl Rowe Provincial Park. The race had an extremely generous 30 hour cutoff (the same cutoff as the 168 kilometer distance). This gave me a peace of mind. Other distance options were, 12k, 24k and 48k.
On my birthday last year on July 7th it was super hot and muggy with a chance of thundershowers. So I put off my big run until the heat and humidity broke. Which was two days later. A pleasant 20C, overcast and no humidity. Races don’t have that luxury to put it off until it is cooler. Whatever the weather, whatever the conditions you have to deal with it on race day.
Extreme adventure athlete Ray Zahab is one of the most inspirational humans I have ever met. He is the director of the 150 kilometer stage race Bad Beaver Ultra. I met Ray in 2018 when I ran that ultra. Ray has a quote that reads as follows, “Do the things you aren’t sure you can finish.” When I heard the 168k distance was dropped due to a lack of registrations and the 96k cutoff time reduced to 15 hours and then heard the extremely hot weather forecast I really considered dropping my distance to the 48k. I simply had not trained in the heat like I should have, instead choosing the easier route to go running in the cooler mornings and evenings. In the end I stuck to the 96k, reassuring my wife I’ll be careful and listen to my body.
At 7:00 there were 11 runners at the start line for the 96 kilometer distance that would later have a humidity index reading reaching 40C. We were running 8 loops of 12 kilometers. I love the atmosphere of ultras. The camaraderie was amazing. It was the hope of each of us that we all would finish.
The course is very runnable with the same one big hill on each loop. I knew the heat was going to be a factor and everything must work if I were to finish this within the cutoff. The 1st couple of loops went flawless. There was the advantage of cooler morning air. The type of air I had trained in. Plus running with the other runners gave me an extra measure of energy. Then the temperature steadily got warmer. Loop 3 I threw up after downing some coke at the middle aid station (29 kilometer mark). This is not unusual for me. A kilometer later I went down hard on a fall. I was okay, but it really shook me up and rattled me. I knew I had to get my physical and mental game back.
By the 2nd half of loop 4, I was slowing down on purpose, as I tried to bring my fluid/electrolyte balances back in check and settle the gut. Throughout the race I tried to make sure I was taking in enough water, electrolytes, and salt capsules to compensate for this kind of heat. But I was not peeing at all. Which was very concerning. Plus my body was swelling up badly, particularly in my extremities such as my arms and hands. My gut feeling was that I was dealing with a low sodium level in the blood. The medical term is called Hyponatremia. It is when the sodium levels in the blood become too diluted. To compensate, as a result, water moves into body cells, causing them to swell. Loop 5 the temperature reached it’s peak for the day. I was going even slower, running for a half a kilometer, walking a half a kilometer until I finished 5 loops and 60 kilometers.
With all that extra fluid I was carrying around in my body cells, and not being able to pee the water out of me I stood true to my promise to my wife that I would listen to my body. I went right to the medics after loop 5 who immediately put ice on my wrists to cool me down. They then checked all my vitals. Oxygen saturation, pulse, temperature, blood pressure (slightly high) were all normal to acceptable and within range. Considering I just ran 60 kilometers in that extreme heat. Although they didn’t outright say “Don’t go out again”, they suggested it would be best if I call it a day. Personally I wasn’t prepared to head out anyways for my 6th loop until I had that Exercise Associated Hyponatremia (EAH) under control.
After 30 minutes with the medics I went and sat on the grass in the shade to cheer for my new runner friends when they came in after each loop. Shortly after, race director Jodi offered to cook me a sausage. My tummy was well settled by then and I said “yes please”. She came over to me with 2 jumbo sausages on a bun with lots of salty condiments. I never normally eat sausage because of their high sodium content. But this was just exactly what the body needed. Within a half an hour I was peeing again. For the next 2 hours I was making a trip to the outhouse every 15 minutes. I had never peed out that much fluid in my lifetime. And all the excess fluid I was carrying around in all the cells of my body was being miraculously excreted. It was such a huge relief (in more ways than one).
The medics were remarking how much better I was looking, saying my face had a much better colour. My runner friends were saying how good I looked when they came in from their loops on the 96k. They kept inviting me to go back out running with them. I was feeling great by then. And deep down I wanted to go back out. But having sat out for close to 3 hours, I knew I would never have been able to complete the final 3 loops comprising of 36 kilometers under the 15 hour cutoff. I knew I had made mistakes out there which cost me the race. And I was totally okay with it. We learn from our mistakes. Water is a wonderful thing. None of us could survive without it. But determining the proper fluid/electrolyte intake balance can become trickier the longer and hotter an extreme event is. It is extremely important to stay hydrated, but at the same time you don’t want fluid overload. We take in volumes of fluid. We sweat out volumes of fluid. Which can lead to electrolyte imbalances. Precision Fuel and Hydration writer Andy Blow mentioned in his article titled “Why Sodium is Crucial to Athletes Performing at Their Best” that “Any generic guidelines about sodium intake should be viewed with suspicion. It’s more than possible to lose the daily 2,300mg of sodium recommended by the existing government guidelines in just 1 hour of exercise, if you’re sweating heavily and you’re sweating out lots of sodium. Your loses during a longer period of exercise really can be massive. Some athletes lose as little as 200mg of sodium per liter of sweat to as much as 2,000mg per liter of sweat.” I find fluid and electrolyte balance is far more an individual art than a science. Other big races such as Bad Beaver Ultra I did well to stay on top of my fluid/electrolyte balances. The Rainbow Run Trail Race I did not. What works for another runner may not work for me. Particularly on the days when I am not running a long distance race or training run, I stick to a low sodium diet. With that in mind, I’m not sure how great of sodium stores I had within my soft tissue and bone that could have gotten released and activated to maintain blood sodium levels during my race. Determining the level of fluid/electrolytes during a race is really a fine art. There is just going to happen to be some unfinished business to take care of next year at the Rainbow Run Trail Race when I am 65.
Including the 4 x 50k sections I ran with the Monarch Ultra, this was my 17th ultra. My 1st DNF. There were 5 runners that completed the 96k in the brutally hot conditions. So much respect for each one of those runners. For those like myself that didn’t finish the 96k, race director Jodi asked if I would be interested in having my results posted as having completed the lower 48k distance. I wholeheartedly said yes.
The Rainbow Run Trail Race was an extremely well run event. Well marked course, beautiful scenery, great volunteers and top notch medics. I was told by the the medics I was their “best customer” in this race as they also cleaned me up and checked me over after my fall when I came in from my 3rd loop. The race had lots of great swag I am able to put to good use. My only disappointment is that is that there could have been a better turnout of runners. I asked race director Jodi if she was losing money on this particular race. She said “yes” but added “it was okay as she was expecting this would happen because of Covid-19. A lot of runners had other races already planned in August, having deferred them from 2020.” I had 3 runner friends attend when I told them about the race. They all had a good day. Hoping for a much bigger turnout in 2023.
The charity chosen for the Rainbow Run Trail Race was Procyon Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Centre, which is located only approximately 15 kilometers from the race. In 2021 they were voted “Wildlife Rehab Centre of the Year”. Funds raised from the Rainbow Run Trail Race went towards the care of orphaned, sick, or injured wildlife at Procyon Wildlife. Procyon Wildlife is a Registered Charity dedicated to working with our communities in an effort to help wild animals in need of care. Their goals are to rescue, rehabilitate and safely release these animals, and to promote public appreciation for wildlife preservation.
The day following my race I was interviewed by Craig Lewis of the Running Tales Podcast. Craig has worked over 10 years with the BBC & was so polished in his interviewing. As for myself, I was just a few hours off my big race. Being mentally and physically tired I spoke so many “umms and ahs” and mentioned this to Craig. He responded, “Any umms and ahs makes an interview real to me – don’t trust an interview without them, it will have been edited, scripted or the interviewee is being disingenuous and has pre-planned lines to get out”. So here is the interview, free of editing and scripting.
Hate you ever run an inaugural race?
Have you ever experienced fluid/electrolyte imbalances during a race?