Running the Inaugural 96k Rainbow Run Trail Race


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.

Image Source from the blog Wandering Canadians. From an article titled Hike #32: Rainbow Run Trail. In most races I have enough time ahead of the cutoff to allow for taking photos for my blog race recap articles. It didn’t happen this race. Linda, one of the authors of Wandering Canadians kindly allowed me permission to use a couple of her photos.

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.

Logo for Gotta Run Racing.

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.

Celebrating with Jodi McNeill at the finish line of the 50 mile North Face Endurance Challenge held in the Blue Mountains in 2017.

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.

Ready to begin my self supported 101 kilometer (63 mile) run last year.

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.

Ray Zahab’s quote “Do the things you aren’t sure you can finish” has always resonated with me. In 2019, Ray was awarded the RCGS Explorer-in-Residence. One of only 6 Canadians to receive this prestigious award. Here a few of his accomplishments. Image source Ray Zahab Twitter.

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.

Bridge crossing on the Rainbow Run trail. . Image source from 2020 by Wandering Canadians.

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.

Start/finish line.

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.

This photo and the following photo taken by my Twitter friend Kris. She was running the 48k, but unfortunately pulled out after 36k due to heat related issues. Kris returned the next weekend for some running and took these photos of the scenery alongside the trail.

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.

Screenshot from the Weather Office for Alliston on August 6th. At 4pm (around when I finished 60k) the temperature reached a high of 31.4C and a humidity index of 40C.

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.

I didn’t pause the watch until the medics were done checking me over. Roughly 30 minutes later.

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).

Selfie with race director Jodi McNeill while I was resting & recovering. I offered to take the photo with my 16 year old Blackberry. Manufactured before selfies became a “thing”, I turn the phone around towards me, take a guess and shoot. We opted for Jodi’s more modern phone, which takes selfies (without having to turn the phone around). Then she emailed me the photo.

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.

My new runner friends, Orlando and Patryk, 7 loops and 84 kilometers completed. One 12 kilometer loop to go. They were looking so strong. They only live 25 kilometers from where I live. Would love to go running with them again sometime.

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.

Screenshot of my race results of having completed the 48k. Pleasantly surprised I came in 6th overall and 1st in my age group.

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.

Love the bright and colourful swag given out at the Rainbow Run Trail Race.

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.

Image Source Procyon Wildlife
Podium finishers (and my new friends) who ran the 96k in brutally hot conditions. Image Gotta Run Racing Twitter.

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?

A short 1 minute 26 video by Essentia Health that explains hyponatremia.

Categories: RunningTags: , , , , , , , , ,

15 comments

  1. Carl! Love this recap so much and to think you found a photo of us at North Face!!! I think it was almost as hot that day too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s always good to listen to your body. Despite ending the race sooner than expected, you still managed to cover a lost of distance, especially in the heat. Glad to hear that you recovered quickly. That’s awesome that the race director included your results as having completed the 48k race. Congrats!! I’m not much of a runner (I’m more of a hiker), but I’ll have to look into this race for next year. Thanks for putting it on my radar. Take care. Linda

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for taking the time to read and for your kind words, Linda. Once I got my electrolyte balances back I was extremely happy how the body rebounded. And excited to have “officially” completed the 48k.
      Seeing some of the hikes you have accomplished, I think you would really enjoy it and do well in this event. I do long runs in training, but also long hikes. And there are a lot of different distances to accommodate everyone.
      Thanks again for stopping by. 😀🌳

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, what an amazing experience, Carl!
    I can’t believe how hot it was – even thinking about running 96k on a day like that sounds daunting!
    Very apt to quote Ray Zahab’s “Do the things you aren’t sure you can finish.”

    I don’t think you should count this as a DNF. After all, you did finish the 48k as 1st in your age group. Congratulations!

    It’s a great reminder of what can happen if our fluids/electrolytes are out of balance. After you threw up, I guess it was very difficult to keep that balance. It’s a miracle that you could finish those 60k!
    And so nice of you to stay on and cheer for the other runners! That’s great sportsmanship.

    I hope Jodi will get more runners in 2023. Which distance will you sign up for?

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are always so kind to read my articles, Catrina. Thank you so much.

      I’ve had several people tell me to not count this as a DNF, as having finished the 48k in the blistering heat. Of the 11 who started 5 finished, 1 dropped at 72k, 2 (including me) dropped at 60k and 3 dropped at 48k. It is nice that all the runners who started the 96k at least finished 48k.

      It really is a well run event, and am hoping for more runners next year. Not fully decided, but am considering the 168k. I know I will need to do more heat training. When I ran the North Face 50 miler and Bad Beaver Ultra I worked my warehouse job in Barrie. There was a gym 3 blocks away from work called LA Fitness where I had a membership. I cancelled the membership once I no longer worked nearby. The gym had a sauna and the weeks leading up to my race sometimes I would spend a couple hours a day in there. In for 15-20 minutes, out for a 5 minute break and back right in again. Both the North Face and Bad Beaver Ultra were very hot. I really think the sauna made a difference.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Great recap Carl. Interesting to read about the race and Hyponatremia. I do love how you talk about all of the new friends you made at the race.
    It is so important to listen to your body and I’m very glad that you did, especially in the extreme heart! Although I’m curious, would you have dropped if you hadn’t promised your wife that you would? ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for reading and for your kind words, Ashley. There’s something special about my new friends. I think I ran a bit with all the other runners except for one at certain points along the course. It was so much fun.

      That’s a great question. I am quite stubborn to run through stuff. This time it was quite a bit more concerning. Was doing calculations in my head, with the pace I was running my 5th loop I knew I wasn’t going to finish the 96k under the 15 hour cutoff. The last kilometer until I came in at 60k, I really had to force every step. Which was a big factor in me stopping. Even if I didn’t check in with the medics, I knew I had to stop and get out of the sun and get the runaway hyponatremia under control. Didn’t want it to get any worse. I had salty snacks in my drop bag (they often work better than plain salt capsules) which I was going to grab. My goal if and when things improved was to head out for another loop just to take pictures for this blogpost. Even if I didn’t finish the 96k. It is a very pretty course. Maybe 2 more loops if I had time. Had already texted my wife to tell her I pulled out and was done for the day. Didn’t want her to be worried or upset if I headed back out. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for sharing all of this Carl! I found the read very fascinating and loved your interview. You cracked me up about how many umms & ahs you had. I truly didn’t notice as to his point it makes the interview real!! Thanks for sharing all of this!! My best to you and your family!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are very welcome, Kirt. I appreciate you taking the time to read, and even listening to the podcast interview. The interview was to have been the precious weekend, but for whatever reason I couldn’t get the connection to work. Having the race so fresh on my mind, it was nice to be able to share a bit about it. Thank you, Kirt. All the best to you and your family as well! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Carl, massive kudos to you for getting that far on such a hot and humid day. I have heard of Hyponatremia before, but its always good to re-read and remember the signs to look out for. I’m going to watch the 1 minute video you posted shortly.

    It’s seriously impressive that you only have 1 DNF out of all those ultras. The race and organisers sound great. Especially for the care and attention they provide. Great stuff that you still got in on the 48k event results – and well done on those. I bet the sausages on a bun were the amazing at that point after you stopped.

    Great read as always- I thoroughly enjoyed this.

    All the best,
    Sean

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading and for such kind words, Sean. It was a great day and I have no regrets of dropping after 60k. The race and organizers really were amazing. And the care from the medics was extremely thorough. The one medic was very young, just out of of paramedic college and was just hired by this company. Although he had been doing minor stuff throughout the race such as dressing blisters and scrapes, I was what they described as their 1st “real” patient. The older medic had been doing paramedic work for many years. He just stood back and observed the new medic in action. The young man did such a marvelous job of looking after me. 😀

      Like

  7. Hi Carl – Another great read. I always enjoy your recaps. I can hear the joy in your words as you describe the experience. Super happy all work out for you – hyponatremia is no joke. As always thanks for sharing – you inspire me – stay safe, keep running and writing! Looking forward to your next article – is it snowing up there yet?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read, Susan. I want to back to try another attempt at it again next year as a 65-year-old. Had an unusually warm last week of October and first week of November. It has been snowing off and on now since Tuesday. Have a fair bit on the ground now. Hope you are well! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: