That Dam Hill 12-Hour


After having an amazing run at the inaugural running of That Dam Hill in 2013, I decided to return and fight for the Canadian title in the newly added 12 hour race category.  I had a great 100mile time in August and felt like reaching 120-130km would be a reasonable goal on a good day.  Of course, the odds of having everything in your favour, however possible, does not always happen and you have to make due with the circumstances you find yourself in.  

Since the race site is only a few minutes drive from our new home, I was much less stressed with all the logistics that normally go along with a destination race.  I was so relaxed that I was able to sleep a little longer than normal.  This led to not giving myself enough time to have a decent breakfast and may have started my day out poorly.  

Despite the lack of food in my belly, I felt good off the start, and confident in my nutritional strategy.  I had prepared some potatoes the night before and had them in a container set up on the edge of the course near Boler Road.  This way, I would have the option of food at both ends of the loop.  This started off as a sound strategy, but as the hours began to pass, I a little bit bloated and I knew I wasn't digesting my food fast enough to keep my pace up.  I decided to reduce my intake of potatoes and just ride that out a little longer.  

Around the 6-hour point, I took a bathroom break and noticed my urine was quite dark, darker than I've ever experienced before.  This was one of my biggest fears in running ultra distances and thought that I was smart enough to avoid such a mistake.  With that obvious signal that my body wasn't processing things quite as I was used to, I decided to spend a few laps just walking and drinking water, hoping to get back to some sort of balance.  I peed a second time and the colour was improving and so I started to add more running back into my pace.  

I found that throughout this race, my biggest obstacle was my attitude.  Although I wanted to be there and was happy to be running, I kept getting the feeling of just wanting to take a break or quit.  This is something I've experienced in many other races, but never quite as persistent as this one.  What kept me going was the support of my wife and some friends that decided to stop by Springbank Park to cheer me on, even if it was only for a short time.  I would like to thank Stephanie, John, Charlene, Eric and Cathy for coming out and keeping me going.  

As the remaining time to run dwindled down under a couple hours, I knew I would be way off my target of at least 120km and so I assigned myself the new goal of exceeding 100km, which is still a huge run for me.  With this new goal in my mind, I found it easier to keep myself going and feel motivated.  Steph joined me for the last couple laps as it was getting dark and after 105km I was done!  I knew that I fell short of my original goal and the Canadian Championship (I placed as the 2nd Male overall) but I was still happy with the run and what I had accomplished.  

I knew I was taking a risk by changing my entire diet in the week before the race and eliminating a lot of foods I was used to when choosing to switch to a whole-foods plant-based diet.  Whether or not my diet leading up to the race contributed to my kidney issues during the race is not clear to me.  

I spent the entire race listening to an audiobook version of Rich Roll's Finding Ultra, which was truly inspiring and led me to not only want to push the limits of my own body, but to show that it can be done on a plant powered diet.  My only disappointment I had with the race was the limited aid station options for vegans.  Of course there was fruit and potatoes, but that was about it.  That being said though, when I asked if they had any green tea when I was craving a hot beverage to get my spirits up during the run, one of the volunteers offered to go out and pick one up for me.  I declined the offer and settled for a coffee instead which helped my digestion move along.  

I know as a plant powered athlete, I can't depend on the race organizers to have a wide variety of options, but I hope as more people see the benefits of eliminating animal products, races will become more supporting of their efforts.  

Overall, I think the organization of this race was amazing and I look forward to coming back again next year.  All the volunteers and spectators were wonderful and helped make my experience a great one despite having a few issues with my nutritional plan during the race.  

© Brian Groot 2016