Training leading up to Squamish had actually been ok. Well it had been lousy for so long, and things had started to improve, and my body was responding, which felt good. I ran the Powderface 44k “marathon” on June 30th. After this my left foot was a bit sore, which meant more recovery than I had wanted, but if nothing else, I’ve learned over the last year and a half to give my body whatever recovery it asks for. We went on vacation to my in-laws in July, which coincided well with recovering from Powderface. I took it easy, took a week off running, and got fat (j/k).
My body felt much better for the second week of vacation, I ran a bit more, did some hiking with the family and with Tim. It wasn’t hard core training persay, but it was good and I was moving. Once we got home, I was recovered and ready to go. A number of my friends were going to Jasper to run the Skyline trail on the first weekend I was home. I decided that running 47-8 km’s a 5 hr drive from home probably wasn’t the best of ideas, so I joined up with another group of friends and ran 33.5 kms Saturday, then I ran 20k on Sunday in Fish Creek. This was 2 weeks before Squamish. I was happy with a good back-to-back weekend 2 weeks out. I continued to feel good, and my body felt stronger through taper.
I flew into Vancouver on Friday morning, while Lori drove out with her kids. I met her just outside of Vancouver (so she could avoid traffic), and we drove together to Squamish. Her awesome cousin Kim lives in Squamish and had graciously offered us to stay at her house for the weekend. We hung out on Friday, had some beers, ate dinner, things were pretty relaxed since the 50k was on Sunday.
Saturday I woke up with a terrible headache. At first I thought I had too many beers (but I rarely get hangovers – especially from a moderate amount of alcohol), and then I threw up. Tim had been sick mid-week, so I blamed him for passing on his virus to me. Whatever the cause, it didn’t last long, I had some breakfast late morning, and by afternoon was feeling pretty ok. We hung out at a lake w/ the kids for a bit, went out for an early dinner, I had a recovery beer, and things seemed to be ok. I focused on hydrating and eating on Saturday, knowing I’d need it for Sunday.
My alarm went off on Sunday morning at 5am. I had things pretty organized, so just had to get dressed, and eat something. Lori unfortunately made the tough call to DNS on the race because of tendonitis in her ankle. She drove me to the start line where I had about half an hour to stand in an outhouse lineup. I made it through the line just in time to get to the start as they were finishing up the pre-race meeting. I assumed that nothing important or surprising had been said. I decided to take off my long sleeves before the race, and stuffed them into my pack. It wasn’t warm but I could tell that I’d be warm within a km or two of starting. I lined up somewhere mid pack, and within seconds we were off.
I didn’t really know what to expect from the race, except it was supposed to be hard, and the trails were supposed to be technical. These things are all relative though, so I had no idea. The first 14 k or so are mostly up hill, with a long 5k steady climb. The trail through this really wasn’t very technical, and was not as steep as I had expected. I power hiked most of the steeper climbs to conserve energy for the rest of the race. For a bunch of the climb I was in front of a guy, Gavin, who owns a running store in Canmore. I hadn’t met him before, but he’s friends with a bunch of people I know. It was fun to talk to him, the funny part was that we parted ways before I got a chance to turn around and look at his face, so I had to go onto facebook after the race to see what he looked like.
After the long climb up, we started to go down… and this is where the “trails are technical” came into play! Boy did it ever. Most of the downhills were steep technical mountain biking trails. I always thought I was a pretty good downhill runner… I was wrong! My fastest km split for that first downhill was 8:12 (remember this is per km, not mile!)! I was not going to be making up time on the downs in this race! It was all good though, this was a training race, and time didn’t really matter.
I was through the Aid Stations in just a few seconds. The first Aid was at around 8k, then at 17k or so. I had lots of fluid in my pack, I’d brought apple sauce pouches, so ate those, plus grabbed cookies, peanut M&M’s, chips and pretzels from the AS. The third AS was Quest, it was the biggest AS. Here as I came in a local running friend Liz shouted a hello (she’d run the 50M the day before). I saw Mikey here (he was the AS chief), but he was busy, and I wanted to roll through. I grabbed a couple cookies and made my way through.
We started climbing again after Quest. I felt really strong through this section and ran up a lot of the climb. I passed 25k right at the 4 hr mark, and thought ok, I should get sub 8 hrs. We did a loop through some pretty technical mountain bike trails (where I found out later a lot of people had seen a bear – I did not see it). The descent after this climb was once again super technical. There were a lot of sections where it was almost a cliff, with a 3-5 ft section that seemed straight down to me. My primary goal in the race was to come out uninjured, protecting my ankles was my biggest concern! I had a few slight rolls, but nothing that lingered, I scolded myself with every roll and told myself to pay attention!
I stopped briefly at AS 4 (32 kms) for a bathroom, and to get my bladder filled with water. The volunteers were amazing, I had someone take my pack and fill my bladder while I was in the bathroom to save time.
It would be easy to underestimate the back half of this course. It looks that you get most of the climbing done by 30k. And you do… but for me, the downhills were way harder than the climbs, and they got increasingly hard as my quads fatigued. I was counting off milestones at this point. I was eagerly awaiting 40k, because here I would text Lori to say I just had 10k left… and I WOULD JUST HAVE 10 K LEFT. The last 2-3 k was flat, and in town, and I was so looking forward to this. You know it’s a hard trail when you’re looking forward to the road section at the end.
I made it to 40k, texted Lori, and asked her to also bring baby wipes to the finish. I WAS SO GROSS. More than anything I wanted to wipe the grime off my hands and face. When you’re exhausted it’s these little things that get you. The last 10k looks pretty innocuous on paper, but it was tough, the climbs were ok, I was still running the smaller hills, hiking the big ones, but the downs were really tough and steep. At the final big hill I was with a group of people, I let them all go ahead of me for the downhill, and they all just took off! I didn’t have it in me, I did my best, but I was still slow on these downhills. Then as a big smack in the face – err – actually quads, right before we broke free of the trails, there was a huge downhill section on stairs! This was rough, again I went as fast as I could but man-oh-man it hurt.
We finally broke free, and were on a gravel path that was at a nice steady downhill. I was watching my watch, and knew that I was not going to be sub 8:00, but it was going to be close, so I pushed the pace as much as I could. We turned onto pavement, and had around 2k to go, I ran it in as best as my legs would allow, and was just eager to be done. I crossed the finish at 8:05 and got my Gary hug!
I was really happy with my performance. It’s not a fast 50 k by any means, but I pushed as hard as I could and ran my best race on the day. The stomach issues from the day before were totally a non-issue. It was a bit smoky, I could smell it a few times, but the air quality didn’t affect me. It was unfortunate that there were no views, but I guess that means I’ll just have to go back another year.
Here are my placement stats: