Nat Couture: Gaspesia 100 Race Report

August 31, 2016

I took all pressure off of myself for Gaspesia100 by completing Eastern States 100. When I signed on to ambassador the new race in Gaspe I knew it would be a tall order for me to run the 100 miler so close to ES100 so I made no promises about what distance I'd run. As it turned out, I came out of Eastern States pretty wrecked and in far worse shape than I had hoped. I wasn't sure I'd even be able to run pain free in two weeks let alone race 100 miles. Nonetheless, I had committed to being in Gaspe to help promote the new Gaspesia100 race so I told myself I would volunteer on the course if I couldn't run in the event.
Through some miracle recovery, my feet and legs healed up faster than I've ever seen before and during my second week of recovery after Eastern States I was running comfortably and felt confident that I'd be able to run at least one of the shorter distances in Gaspe. I've been running ultras for 7 years and I've never experienced recovery like this. There is no doubt in my mind taking Liv9 Balance and Energy had a positive effect on my recovery so I wanted to thank Greg and Dan for all the support I received from Liv9 during this season.  
I traveled on Friday with a NS runner named Krista whom I convinced to come with me to do what would be her longest race to date.  I picked her up in Bathurst around noon, giving us lots of time to chat, drive and prepare for the race that would start at 8am on Saturday. To be honest I still hadn't completely decided to go with the 100 mile distance but after the race briefing and talking to the race director I decided to stick to the plan and give it a go. I met the other ambassadors and some of the other runners and was looking forward to getting to chat with them on the trail. I should point out, that secretly I was also really looking forward to running a few miles with Florent Bouguin, a well known super fast runner out of Quebec.  
A few minutes before the start, the ambassadors were called out to the front of the line for the start of the race and shortly after lining up the gun went off. The first 22k were mostly single track up to some beautiful lookouts up on the ridge and back down to the beach. This was probably the nicest section of the course. Quite a large group of us missed a turn early on but JF was on top of things and got us back on track before too much damage was done. Somehow Florent, having taken off much faster than everyone else, didn't make the mistake and built up a pretty sizable lead early on. During this time I ran with a bunch of different runners, a 2015 eastern states alumni, Martin Rouillard, Xavier, Yves, Claude, and others whose names I forget. Everyone was super friendly and enjoying the incredible day. Martin and I ended up running together for an hour or two and shared our experiences at other races. A few kms after leaving the second aid station we ended right back at the aid station (Belvedere). We didn't know why off hand but after a quick chat with JF we were back on track. So once again Florent increased his lead. Not that I was overly concerned this early in the race, but I was here to race for a win and with less than 15k completed I was getting a bit worried that these mistakes were going to add up. 
At the 22.5k mark we reached "Coin du Banc" aid station which we'd see two more times in the race and was meant to be a central point of the race for crews, aid and spectators. As it happened, fellow Frederictonian Mary Rooney was there to snap some photos and cheer me on. What a boost. I was feeling awesome at this point in the race and was about to hop onto the beach for 5k on a pretty unique and amazing stretch of the course. I was about 30 minutes behind my predicted time, but my wrong turns accounted for most of that. I was still running with Martin at this point and we slowly caught up to another runner on the beach, whom I believe was Claude. I was feeling great coming off the beach and onto the pave for an 8k section and wanted to stretch out the legs. Martin dropped back at this point as he wasn't as keen on the road. I reached Vauqulin (38k) in second place, about 40 mins back of Florent. 
I was moving well and was entering what I believed would be a 25mile lolipop loop leaving this aid station. A couple kms up the road a volunteer sent me up the road in what I believed to be the wrong direction based on the course map/instructions, but I could see Florent's foot prints so I knew I was at least following the leader. At some point a volunteer in a truck came driving down the road and explained that someone had stolen all the signage on this 25mile loop and so we'd be doing a shorter out n back. I didn't get any other details and just kept running up the largest climb of the course. Eventually I crossed Florent who was on the return; we shared greetings and encouragements, and after he passed I looked at the time so I could gauge how far he was ahead. I ran well up to the turn around and back to the Vauqulin aid station to find out I had made up some time. I was now about 30-33 minutes behind and about to hop on the pave for 5-8k. We were supposed to be at about 83k at this point, but due to the shortened course we likely only had about 55k. Surely we'd be making this up somewhere else, but we just weren't sure where yet. After about 10k, I reached an X on the road ahead of me, and noticed a trail option to my left. It was the only option so I took it. I ran down a short distance and I saw Florent running back toward me. He indicated to me that he just spend 30 minutes looking for the trail and was quite sure it wasn't in that direction. I ran back to the main road with him to examine the X placement relative to the map. It appeared as though the X was on the wrong road, and going straight was the intended route, so that's what we did. We didn't remove the X as we weren't sure we were going in the right direction, but 3k down the road we started seeing markings indicating to us that we were on the correct route. We figured we'd tell the volunteer at the next station and they'd be able to correct the course. After a few hours we started wondering where the aid station was, as the course guide had indicated 15k for this section. At this point we remembered that the section was lengthened by 5k so we figured 20k. Florent and I were running about the same pace so we stuck together and figured we'd navigate this course better together. I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep up, but so far the pace seemed reasonable to me. His GPS passed 22k and we had been out of food and water for quite some time. When we hit a river crossing I couldn't wait and just drank. Florent wasn't as keen on this, but I knew if I didn't get water and salt in me I'd be in trouble later. Finally, after 25k, we reached the Aid Station, it was not were the guide had indicated. We also noticed 3 people passed us based on the log book and were now 45 minutes ahead of us. This was not possible, as some of the folks who were now ahead of us were at the Vauqulin AS with me 3 hours prior and we were definitely running quite a bit faster. Florent and I knew something wasn't right. Turns out that some of the runners that turned at the X, were clever enough to bushwack there way forward toward a point on the course near the aid station, cutting about 10k off the intended route. Purely unintentional course cutting, but frustrating for both us and them once we all found out what happened. 
Because this aid station was misplaced, we only had 6.5k back to Coin du Banc instead of 11.5, so that was nice. We ran some wicked single track on this section and even got to see an amazing cascading waterfall, and can you believe it, in the daylight. Reaching CdB AS for the second time, Florent's GPS read out 94k, about 15k shy of the original route. I figured my earlier mistakes were about the same as Florent's, so I adopted his mileage from that point on. Leaving CdB, we were getting ready for the night, (it was 6:30pm) and we were about to do a 37-40k loop on mostly single track and would be coming back to CdB for the third and final time. From there it would only be 15k to the finish. JF, suggested we needed to do the 40k loop twice, to make up for lost miles, but Florent disagreed, and figured that if we finished the planned route as is, we'd have at least 150k, which we all agreed was close enough. Leaving here, we ran on a train track for 5k, which absolutely sucked. Florent was killing it, and I was running behind him feeling nautious and staring at the wood bars under his feet as they went by only made things worse. After this horrible section we entered some pretty sweet technical singletrack. It was now dark enough for lights so we fired them up and went to work. We had 4 sections to cover as a part of this 40k loop, the first 3 would be each about 12k, and the fourth was 3-4k. We made quick work of the first two and ended up at "the old Usine" aid station, which was a bar/club on the edge of the ocean. It was a great spot for an aid station. It was now about9:30pm, We took in some broth and a few pretzels and got back on our way. Somehow we missed a marker on this 3rd section and ended up staying on a paved road rather than getting on small trail that ran parallel to the road for a short while. Through some miracle we got lucky and found a Gaspesia100 sign on the side of the paved road where a snowmobile trail intersected the road. We didn't see the normal markers, but figured this was the correct route (turns out the sign was intended for the volunteers). Eventually we came to an intersection that we'd seen earlier in the day(which was expected) however because we entered it from an unintended direction we ended up following an arrow up to Belvedere(for my 3rd visit), which was not correct according to our guide and map. Florent did figure out which direction we were supposed to head in from the intersection but things still werent' clear to us as to why we had approached the intersection from the wrong trail. 
Anyways, we now had some more bonus miles to add to the bunch, doing another 4-5k on that section. Finally, we got to "Petit Montreal" the end of the 3rd 12k section on this loop and we knew from here it was only 3-4k back to Coin du Banc and this would be all downhill and mostly on pave. We made it back to CdB around 2am, and we're still moving well, although my legs were giving me some trouble on the steep descents. This last 15k section included a really cool 3k beach section that required some technical bouldering skills(due to the high tide) and both Florent and I thought that was wicked fun and a nice change of pace. We then had a 400m climb up to the races' first aid station(Gargantuan) via a new route which included some 4 wheeler trail and some paved road. This section was about 8k and was pretty steep and slow. Once we reached the top we knew it was only 7k and mostly dowhnhill singletrack. JF met us with 3k to go and took a few photos as we made our way down to the finish line. We looked at our watches and thought we might even be under 20 hours. We missed it by 3 minutes. Florent and I crossed the finish hand in hand and hugged at the end. We'd spent the last 14 hours running side by side and had a blast doing it. Even though we were both pretty "business" when it came to the race we had a hell of a time running together and did find the time to chat about our families, training, races and work. This was one of the best racing experiences I've had to date and I'll remember this race for a long time. Not sure if you'll read this Florent, but thanks for sharing those miles with me, I really enjoyed your company and I'm glad it worked out the way it did. Hopefully we get to do it again some time.