So where did it all begin?
Why do I run now and what started me on to a lifetime of running?
It all began at school and from an early age I realised I did not really fit in and I suppose other kids noticed this. This led to me being bullied on a fairly regular basis up to high school when by some strange occurrence I was befriended by one of the toughest kids in the school.To this day I'm not sure why he befriended me, but it made high school a lot easier.
I found that bullies are bigger and not always that fit. I found out I could run reasonably fast and far. Therefore when trouble was going to strike, I decided to make a dash for it.
I found I enjoyed running even if it was to escape something in life. After school I joined Boys Brigade kind of like Scouts and so I ended up running outside of school time.
It started as sprinting and track work, then I ended up doing cross country and even some assault causes during my stint with the army. I kept my running up through adulthood, but it was not until my thirties that I decided to tackle my first marathon.
I found the training and the long runs were a great escape from adult life like running was as a kid. I suppose escape may not be the right word, but I find running clears the stress, takes the edge of the day; it's like my version of meditation.
So in my thirties I did three marathons and a whole host of other races and really enjoyed it. I joined a couple of athletic clubs and even ran a steeplechase race (never again). It was great to race and push myself and have a goal.
Turning now to the current date I will have turned 40 a couple of months before my first 50 mile race. I am having, for want of a better word, a renaissance as I head towards my forties. I have embraced trail running and I'm loving running all over again and pushing myself even further.
I had decided last week that I would go for a long run with a lot of elevation to prepare myself for my 50 mile race in August. I'm a member of a Facebook group for local runners called the Buntzen Burners and posted my plans in the group to see if anyone wanted to join me.
As it was a weekend long run and people have plans I arranged to meet Neelam and Gabriela at 7am at the first parking lot at Sasamat lake. Sunday came and I met with Neelam and Gabriela who I had not met previously but that's how it goes with trail running; you meet new people and make new friends.
I had heard about Neelam from one of the other runners I met from the group and knew she was running at the Squamish race aswell. I had tried to run with Gabriela before but the timing didn't work.
Neelam had invited along Reza whom I had run with before. He is a similar level of endurance and speed to myself but he is in his sixties so he really impresses me.
My original idea was to run a half lap of Sasamat lake and up the Sugar Mountain trail and then up and over the Diez Vista ridge to the north end of Buntzen lake. As I was not running solo, I asked the others what they preferred and Gabriela suggested, she did not want to go up Sugar Mountain and wanted to go straight up to Diez Vista via another trail.
We missed that trail and which ended up being the first wrong turn of the day. So we skipped the half lap and ended up going up Sugar Mountain anyway. We had a good run at a conversational pace and it was nice to run and chat. Getting to know other runners is all good fun.
We ended up at the dam at the back of the northern end and northern beach of Buntzen lake. The plan was to go up the Swan Falls trail and around the Lindsay lake loop and back down and back over Diez Vista.
The run would be 4-6hrs approximately... well that was the plan but things don't always go to plan. Plans can change or things can go awry and in hindsight, I'm glad I packed plenty of fluids, nutrition, a cell phone and a map.
There are a number of trails that form part of the Halvor Lunden trail system, named after a Norwegian guy who moved to BC and had a great infinity for the amazing natural wonders we have here, and put together the amazing trails around Buntzen.
So I spotted a sign for the Halvor Lunden trail and assumed it was for the Swan Falls, but it turns out we had turned too early. We ran down a service road/track and part way down I felt something wasn't right and made me recall looking at my map the night before.
Part way along this service road I mentioned to the others that I thought we had taken a wrong turn and suggested we maybe should double back. The general consensus was to keep going and try the trail, we would get to along this service road.
We came to the bottom of a trail called Dilly Dally. We started up and it was very technical, difficult and steep elevation but as ultra/trail runners, we were determined and power hiked up. I think maybe we were the first to tackle this trail for the season as there was a lot of fallen trees to get over or limbo under.
In parts there was some asphalt, tracks and even a ladder and some timber laden trails, we assumed it was perhaps once an old logging route?
Due to 3 creek crossings, limboing trees, trying to find the trail markers and the steepness of the trail it was tough going and it took us about 5 hours or so to get to roughly 900mtrs.
At that point we felt that as the trail was so tough to get up and so technical, it was worth trying to push on to the summit which was about 1250mtrs so about another 350mtrs.
Perhaps not the best plan but it was a plan and one we all agreed on. It was at this point that we spotted the first patches of snow but it was not too much of an issue at that point.
At 1000mtrs the snow was high, slippy and heavy packed. It got very tricky but we couldn't face the route back and wanted to summit the peak and head back down the trail which would be Swan Falls which was the one we should have taken in the first place.
We pushed on to about 1100mtrs and the snow got even harder packed. We didn't have gloves or crampons but being the sort of runners, we were, we wanted to push on. I went ahead to see if I could find further markers and whether the snow was covering them, but I couldn't see them.
It was make or break time; risk going up and find the other trail back down or risk being stuck up on the peak and have to contact search and rescue. We got the map out but I have to be honest, I'm not the best at map reading. We decided to try to get hold of someone at search and rescue to determine if it we could summit or best to go back down.
We ended up getting a girl at the Coquitlam RCMP who thought we were in North Vancouver and not in the Tri Cities. She said we should go back down, didn't connect us to anyone, didn't take our details and didn't seem to be all the concerned. Neelam, when we got back down, was less than impressed with the call.
We took a vote and decided to head back down, as it turned out it was tough going but not as hard as the way up and we got down quicker than we thought. As a precaution I called Randi to let her know where we where and what had happened and that we were ok.
On the way up and on the way back Reza had slipped on the same creek crossing hitting his tail bone, but he just kept going. We shared our nutrition and hydration and by the time we got to the bottom we were able to joke about the ordeal. The others had come up with some new names for the Dilly Dally trail. I also found out later from a member of the local search and rescue that it's one of the toughest trails in the area.
Our cars were still parked at Sasamat so Neelam used my cell to call her husband who picked us up at Buntzen and dropped us back at our cars. In the end its was a 9 hour hike. It was certainly an adventure and I think, we will be firm friends now.
People don't come right out and say it, but you can sense from their reactions or from what they say that they pretty much think I am crazy.
I hear things like I don't drive that far or similar, but I suppose some people don't run, others run shorter distances or perhaps don't get that I have a drive to push my limits.
So what made me decide to take on the challenge of running an ultra trail race? I think it's the fact that I have ran and competed at different race distances and felt I had achieved what I wanted to. My current personal best for the marathon is 3hrs30. I have been told I could get under 3hr30 and possibly 3 hours but maybe when I am ready I might try again.
For now I am happy with what I have managed from 5k to the marathon and I want to push the limits of what I felt my body was possible of doing.
It's surprising what you can achieve and a prime example is this past April I toed the line at the Diez Vista 50k trail race. Three weeks before the race I managed to roll my ankle whilst out training on the trails. The typical runner that I am I rolled it at 20k and thought it wasn't a bad roll and continued to run another 10k. I discovered when I got back to my car that it was pretty bad and I could not put weight on it for serval days.
I iced and applied a rub which is infused with therapeutic-grade essential oils on my ankle and after a week or so's rest, I started training again but just smaller runs. Add to that I picked up a virus two days before the race and you could say I was not in optimum shape to do any race, but me being me I decided to toe the line and drop out at an aid station if it became too much.
Well as it happened, I surprised myself as I pushed on through right to the finish line with a time of 5hrs59, a top 30 finish and my first ever ultra trail race and 50k firmly under my belt.
So I had eyed with fascination the Squamish 50 mile race before me and Randi had made the move from the UK to Canada. So in December of last year after having been in Canada for just a little over two years, I thought the time is now; I'm going to register and go for it.
I suppose another reason for heading into the ultra marathon scene is that I'm no elite athlete and I'm unlikely to get much quicker, but maybe I can go longer, further and have some fun along the way.