Now the dust has settled after my most recent and key race of the year, I thought I would try and put my thoughts into words. After a spring of disappointments with DNF’ing my 100 miler and 100k race and then DNS’ing a 10k, it really felt like 2017 was going to suck. But I did what I have always done before and I dusted myself off and kept going.
So if you do not keep on top of the events that I participate in or you are new to our blogs and website, you might be wondering what race I am referring to. The race I just completed is called the Squamish 50/50 and it’s named so because it happens in Squamish, BC and because you do back to back days of ultras or in other words 50 miles Saturday and 50 km Sunday. So why would anyone want to run 81 miles/130km over two days? That’s a good question and I guess each individual who signs up for the 50/50 may have a different answer or perhaps a similar answer to mine. It’s not really a one word answer and my reasons are as follows: Why not? Pushing myself beyond what I think is possible; getting to hang out with my trail and ultra-family; making new friends; experiencing the best trails Squamish has to offer and after the race is done eating all the food and drink all the beer lol.
Last year’s 50 miler at Squamish was my first 50 miler and was my longest race at that point. We left on the Friday to head up and got stuck in traffic which added to the pre-race anxiety. So this year I wanted to skip that so we headed up on Thursday and as we had the whole day we had a chance to take our time. We grabbed some awesome food at Fuel And Forrest café in Squamish which you should check out if you are ever in Squamish. Myself and Randi may have slipped and fell into Capra next door (awesome local run store in Squamish) which led to some purchasing of more run gear. We eventually ended up at our hotel: the Executive Suites (Squamish) and got to our room and then planned to meet with other running friends Mike & Laura.
We met up with them at Howe Sound Brewing for beer and food (good food and beer to be found there for sure) and we got on really well juts chatting away like we had known them for years. On our way out we bumped into more runners and chatted and discussed the pending weekends fun and suffering.
After a pretty chilled Thursday I was feeling quite optimistic about the weekends races, but edging on the side of caution regards whether I had trained enough and if the congestion I had from running in the smoke caused by the BC Wildfires would create any issues.
Friday came around and we followed through on making this a racecation, so we headed over to the Sea to Sky Gondola as Randi had never been and it was great just taking in the views and having more chill time before I had to race. Before we knew it, it was Friday afternoon and friends from the US had made it into town. My family had turned up as well and it was race package pick up time. I picked up my pack and grabbed a beer and mingled, hugged etc as we met various friends from the trail and ultra-community. Then a bunch of us went and grabbed food at Norman Rudys, the hotel restaurant and chit chatted before heading off to respective rooms to get packed for the morning.
I got back to our room and started to prepare my drop bags, gear to run in and run through what I needed from Randi as she would be crewing me at two of the aid stations. Then set an alarm for 4am. It’s a good job I like racing.
Next morning I lubed up with Bodyglide to prevent any chaffing, grabbed breakfast and went and got the car ready. I was picking up friends Derek and Tim. We got to the start line and I dropped off my drop bags and hung out and chatted to Tim, Derek, Alan, Eileen and Chris in between about 6 pee breaks. Did I mention I get nervous at races? To add to the tension Gary the RD had moved the start from 5:30am to 5:45am to give time for everyone to park (I found out later there was some issues with access to the parking lot). Anyway Gary gave his customary race brief including a dig at the Czechs for the hockey medal, they stole of Canada in 89 I think. He does some great race briefs and mentioned this year there were 1200 racers over the various race distances, 19 countries represented etc.
Randi had told me earlier not to go off too fast, but I’m a guy so seldom listen haha. I lined up near the front as I knew this year would be cooler and I wanted to knock time of my 50 miler, get in early to rest for the 50k etc. The first 10k is super flat and fast. The race started and I was away and 5k in had my first fall; yup I supermaned and nearly face planted and yet picked myself up and managed to get back to the same pace without hesitation. I saw Randi at the first aid station and dropped my warm gear I had at the start and picked up my handhelds. I have to thank my buddy Dustin for the idea of handhelds at the first aid station. It meant a fast light first 10k. From the first aid station it was on to the trails and hitting the first inclines and first hill of the day. I was quite surprised when I summited the first hill (Debecks) as it seemed quicker than normal when I got through.
The second aid station is at Alice Lake and by then I still had chews, gels and I had two handhelds half full so I decided to run through it and keep going and make use of my energy at this point. Alice Lake is fairly quick as there is some up and down but its not too bad; well at least this early in the race.
I then hit the next climb heading up to the Corners aid station and I used the climb and the accompanying power hike to take on some calories in the form of chews and a gel. By the time I got to the Corners aid station, I felt good and I had seen a number of friends marshalling and helping at the aid station so it was great to be racing locally and was keeping my spirits buoyed. I saw my friend Tom and asked him to fill one handheld whilst I went straight through the aid station and out to the Corners loop. You only do this loop on the 50 mile course. It’s technical and it’s not my favourite section and some parts of it are exposed so I wanted it done before mid day heat kicked in. I got it done and then stopped at the Corners aid station on the way back through and stocked up on aid station goodies before tackling the mega climb of the day which is called Galactic. I still felt pretty good and I was at Galactic before I knew it. I started up and I tried a good power hike mixed with a jog on the runnable sections. I managed to pass a few people on the way up which kept my spirits up that I was doing well. Part way up I saw the race photographer and tried to pull some silly faces as I was determined to have a fun day and try to smile where possible. Trouble struck when I started coming down Galactic as my right ITB flared up (it hurt like hell I can tell you) and coming down with an iffy ITB is not great and especially half way through the race. But I sucked it up and tried to keep going as well as I could.
I slowed a little heading towards Quest but then I saw Randi and my friend Daisy and it picked up my spirits again. Randi applied some Deep Blue rub to my leg and I changed my handhelds out for a vest and soft flasks. Both Randi and Daisy were super helpful and got me what I needed. I managed to see my family there and said my good byes and headed off. It was a PR (personal record) for the Quest aid station. Last year it was so hot, I was roasted and brain frazzled and I spent about 30 minutes there last year! Not this year!
After Quest you hit the back half of the course and the climbing and descending does not stop, but I did as last year and broke the back half down to aid stations to make it more manageable for my head to take. Before I knew it, I was at the Garibaldi Road aid station and friendly faces again as Jacquie and Don where manning this aid station. I took on loads of coke, electrolyte tablets, salty potatoes and fruit as my stomach was good and I had hoped the salt would help my cramping legs (no help for the ITB though lol).
I set off knowing that I just needed to get to the Farthest aid station and then I would have just 10k after that to the finish line. My ITB had slowed me down quite a bit on the back half and I felt as slow as molasses but I was moving and kept digging myself out of the lows and smiling. I got to Farthest aid station and knew my over optimistic goal of sub 10hrs for the 50 mile was out of the window, but I still had hope I could get under 11hrs and beat last years time.
The Farthest aid station was like an oasis with friends telling me how well I was doing, nothing like having local support. I fueled up and tried to get in and out quickly. The next 5 and a bit k is up and down and down and up. It felt like forever to get to the top of mountain of Phlegm and know that the last 4.5k was down and flat (mostly). Grimacing through the ITB pain, I threw myself down Smoke Bluffs like a man possessed (well it felt like it, I may have looked like a deranged senior). I hit the last 2k on the road and I kept willing myself to pick up the pace. I could see the time ticking and it was getting close to 11hrs.
I hit the last part of the road and saw the finish shoot and from nowhere managed to sprint and in to the finish with 4 minutes to spare at 10hrs56. I’d beaten last year’s time by about an hour and a half. It was so great to have a hug from Gary, realize my achievement and catch up with Randi, friends, other racers I’d ran with, see my family and eat a really good veggie burger and have a very satisfying beer.
We hung around the finish area for a little while as our friend Kenzie was coming into town to volunteer on the Sunday. In the meantime I was trying to keep spreading the good cheer and congratulating new and old friends. I also found time to run a sack race to win some Salomon shorts that are way too big for me haha.
Some of my friends did not make it to the start line the next day, but I did with the help of Kenzie and Randi. Gary said 90 percent of the people that get to the start line finish the 50/50, so I thought if I show up I have a good chance of being in that 90 percent. Gary gave his pre-race and I saw my buddy Mike had made it back which was good as he missed out last year and was back for redemption at the 50/50.
I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to move far with my angry ITB but I got off to a relatively good hobble and was in the mid pack for a while until the fresher runners ran past me. It was a little disheartening at first but then I came to the realization that I was lucky to be moving at any pace other than walking. Again the downhill sections began as quite difficult.
I managed to get to the Corners aid station unscathed apart from stubbing my toes a few times but then what use are toe nails haha. Saw friendly faces again at the aid station and I dug into the aid station faire and refilled my bottles and then headed off to do Galactic again. I power hiked up for a good bit and caught the end of a line of runners going at a reasonable speed of power hiking and I could conserve energy so I stayed on the back for a while, ate some chews and sipped my fluids. Once some flat bits came up I gradually passed a number of the runners in the line. I felt I was doing well taking into account my ITB and stiffness. However, on the descent I slowed down as the ITB hurt on the tight turns and rocks (later I’d find smoother downhills I could go quick if I over strided).
I eventually made it into the Quest aid station and my buddy Stuart was there and what an awesome buddy he was. He helped me out with some armpit lubing as can you believe I had armpit chaffing lol. He helped get my drop bag and get me some food and fluid. I changed shoes to lighter cushion shoes which would mean my feet and legs might get more impact but I felt good bearing in mind what I had been through and I wanted to get out and get the back half done.
After I left Quest aid station I bumped into Kristine who I know through social media and was nice to meet her in real life. I was part way up the climb trail and was feeling pretty good and was actually getting some running in. I then briefly ran with Paul that I’d met on an O run in June (orientation run). He was back for his second 50/50 and was having nausea issues. I was feeling good, so wished him well and moved on. In the back of my head I was wondering if I would hit my A goal of sub 20 hours for the two races or my B goal sub 24hrs.
I ran further up the trail and met a nice woman from Banff, also doing the 50/50 and she was hoping and calculating if she pushed it, she could hopefully get sub 8hrs 30 for the 50k. We ran for a little while and then I got a second wind and caught up with Kristine again. She can climb so well, but then she’s always up a mountain on her Instagram feed lol. Before I knew it, I was heading down to the Garabaldi aid station and got to see Don and Jacquie again which was great. I tried to get some food in but wasn’t feeling 100 percent. I left and my stomach was a little queasy and thankfully no one was directly behind me as I did some crop dusting.
On the way to the Farthest aid station I was struggling and feeling nauseous but I kept pushing and checking my watch as I was hoping I could do sub 8.30 and a sub 20hr for the weekend. I got to Bonsai, an open section and I felt so hot and sick but was still powering through and passing other runners (I don’t think I was fast and I think some had gone off too fast earlier and were fading). I then got to my friend Kenzie and she gave me a hug and that lifted my spirits and helped me push on through to the next aid station.
Again at Farthest aid station there was a whole bunch of friends including Jamie who was super encouraging and gave me a big hug and I tell you that helped. I fueled up and left for the last 10 and a bit kilometers. I pushed on and it was last 5k to mountain of Phelgm that I had to dig deep and ride the lows. I had real moments of despair. I questioned why I was there; could I really make it; should I stop and then I got out of the funk; looked at the time and told myself to sort my shit out (this was my internal voice, I didn’t want to scare the other runners lol). I caught up with my buddy Dustin and his quads were done so we talked for a brief period and then I kept going. I literally have never been so pleased to see the top of mountain of Phlegm and I literally sprinted (well fast jogged haha) down the bluffs. I hit the road with 2k to go and then there was a head wind and like what the hell, but I could see the time on my watch. If I could pick up the pace, I could get under 8hrs 20, so I went for it and crossed the line 8hrs18 minutes.
Gary gave a great hug and then swapped out my trucker for the infamous 50/50 hat and I was so proud I had not given up and that I had kept going and I had crushed my goal. Gary being the great guy he is, then gave me the mic and the opportunity to advertise our race the Puddle Jumper. I was out of breath and lost for words so I’m not sure anyone heard what I said.
I hugged Randi and my family, hugged friends and started to try and get some food back into me. We hung around waiting from Kenzie to get back in and to hopefully see Mike come in. We saw the prize giving and managed to catch up with various friends. I really do love our community ☺
I went to look for Mike as Laura thought he would be in soon. I eventually saw him and managed to find some energy and ran with him to the line and encouraged him to sprint for the line. He then ugly cried when Gary hugged him and it was so touching. I gave him a hug and agreed to see them later that evening. We headed back and I ate a large vegan Panago pizza and a yummy beer; just rewards for a race well done. We then popped down to Mike and Laura and chatted about doing a 100 miler together next year.
131 started the 50/50; 72 finished it which shows you how tough it is. Then again even the 23k race is tough as well as the 50k and the 50 miler so huge congrats to all who competed and succeed. Also big pat on the back to those who tried any of the races and didn’t make it. You got out there and tried and that’s a huge accomplishment.
I’d like to take the time to thank my sponsors:- Swiftwick socks, Huma gel, Spidertech tape, Hillsound Equipment. Also lots of thanks to a big supporter of myself, Randi and our race: Pacesetter Athletics in Gibsons. If your on the coast please visit Larry and Teresa and support this great local run store.