I was very under-trained for this race. A couple of examples: This was my first 80k+ week in two months, and my biggest volume week in a year.
So yeah, should have trained way more.
But let’s start at the beginning. Way back in 2012, at the inaugural Squamish 50 I ran the so-called 21k (which was upped to 22.5 a week before the race, and my watch ended up showing 24). Turn out this was my gateway to racing ultramarathons as the next year I did the Chuckanut 50k and returned to Squamish for the 50k. Two more ultras in ’14 and I was firmly entrenched in the lifestyle. So late last year I decided that 2015 would be the year I stepped up to the next distance, the 50 miler. I knew that this would mean a return to Squamish, but I also knew that it would be a bad idea to have Gary’s brutal course be my first time at that distance. So I signed up for the Badger Mountain Challenge with intention of racing its 50 miler in March. But an injury and other factors conspired to keep me away from that race so it looks like I’d be taking on a Gary Robbins course as my first 50 miler. Gulp.
At least I wouldn’t be alone. I would be traveling / bunking / racing with three great guys: Dave, Alan and Michael. We left Vancouver on Friday evening and had an uneventful trip to Squamish. Got to package pickup before the beer ran out and then back to our hotel to check in and touch-base with some other friends where were there to race and/or cheer (including Pargol who was taking on the extreme 50/50 [spoiler alert: she did it!]). My nerves were certainly getting the better of me. I don’t remember the last time I was this anxious before a race. A combination of knowing what the terrain would be like and my under-preparedness was causing serious turmoil. To add fuel to that fire, once all was said and done, it was probably something like 11PM before I actually got to sleep. With a 4AM wakeup call.
Breakfast was instant oatmeal and more anxiety. Soon enough we were piling into Alan’s car and heading to the start line. We parked, checked in and dropped off our drop bags while Gary was giving the pre-race briefing. Then it was time to line up, a quick countdown and we were off.
START – AS1 (Mile 6)
The first leg is pretty flat – and completing this section in about an hour was right on what I wanted. A quick bite at the aid station and off.
AS1 – AS2 (Mile 12)
Not far into this section is the first substantial climb of the day. We’d climbed this a couple of time on training runs, so I knew what to expect. A half hour along here I started my fueling plan: a gel every 30 minutes. After the climb we descend to Alice Lake, just before which I saw Alan who’d rolled his ankle and would have to drop at the lake. Into the aid station in the parking lot where there were a bunch of people I knew. Another snack and some Coke and then I was off.
AS2 – AS3 (Mile 17)
Shortly after leaving Alice Lake, I decided to get my iPod going (yes Gary, I used just one ear bud, which totally ruined Bohemian Rhapsody – thanks for that). This leg was pretty uneventful, running when I could and power-hiking when I needed to. Keeping up the gel-every-thirty-minutes plan and drinking water pretty steadily (and, of course, electrolyte tablets). It seemed almost no time at all before I was rolling into the next aid station.
AS3 – AS4 (Mile 23)
Drop bag! Change of shirt and hat. Restock my gel supply, have a bit to eat and a quick word with Michael (AS3 doubles as AS4 as from here we do a 10k loop) who had just completed the loop. Then it was off to the loop. Kinda flatish and downhill for the start, with some steady climbing later on. Finally a slow climb up a forest service road (when did we stop calling them logging roads?) and back to the aid station.
AS4 – AS5 (Mile 30)
A little more food and drink, then it was off to the big climb of the day: Galactic. I’d been up this one on a training run – and, of course, during the 50k two years ago – so I knew what I was getting myself into. But damn is this ever an unrelenting ascent. And once you’re at the top there’s not much relief because the descent is so steep and technical that large sections are unrunnable. But pretty soon I was coming into the next aid station, which was staffed with friends from the Running Room.
AS5 – AS6 (Mile 33)
It’s a pretty short trip to the next aid station, at Qwest University, so this segment went by fairly quick. Plus there was a fair amount of flat and downhill. So it seemed like no time at all until I was climbing the stairs to Qwest.
AS6 – AS7 (Mile 38)
Drop bag time again! Fresh shirt and hat. Gel restock. Spent a bit more time at the food table this time, eating lots. I knew there were two more aid stations and just under 30k to go. Not long after Qwest was another tough climb. This one involving some endless switch back in a 4-5k loop. But once that loop is done, it was pretty quick to the next aid station.
AS7 – AS8 (Mile 43)
Second last aid. A little less than 20k to go. With enough time that I knew even if I walked the rest of the way (and don’t think I wasn’t tempted) I would still be in under the cut off. Some more climbing, some more pounding torturous descents. And more and more gels. But soon enough I was rolling into the final aid station.
AS8 – Finish (Mile 50)
That’s it, last aid is done. All that stands between me and the finish line is about 10k including the horrific Mt. Phlegm. Ugh. Leading up to this ascent was some flat and nice downhill but once that climb started it just went on and on. But finally there was the course marshal, the helipad and it was all, pretty much, downhill from here. Some super-steep stairs then all of a sudden there were houses and civilization and the sheer rock faces that usually have climbers on them, but it was just starting to get dark so I guess they’d all gone home. Then it was along the river and under the bridge and along that one last stretch of road before entering the park and running into Gary’s out stretched arms. Done!
If nothing else, this race taught me that Yes, with a good training cycle, I could race 100 miles. Not on a Gary Robbins course, but something saner and less technical. So there’s that to look forward to.
Of course a huge thank you to Siobhan for her unfailing support and encouragement. The great folks at Powered By Chocolate milk have been supporting my efforts for years now. Thanks to all the amazing, awesome volunteers and crew and race organizers. The friends who were up to cheer and random passerbys. From start to finish this has been a stellar experiences.
The results: 14:52:41.7; 146th out of 190 overall; 109th out of 133 men; 33rd out of 38 in my AG.