It’s hard to know where to start with this one. With a complete revamp of the old ‘Stormy’ event that promised to impress in every aspect, I went into this weekends event with high expectations, after all it was my goal race for 2012. Now 3 days later, after it has all sunk in (and I can walk again), I can easily say that it lived up to all those promises, and then some.
The fun began early Friday evening when I picked up Tom and we made the 60 minute drive north along the stunning Sea to Sky highway. I think we were both feeling the same, excited, nervous and really unsure how the following day was going to unfold. We traded stories of our game plans then scoped out the start and finishing areas before getting settled in to the Sandman, home base for the evening.
The Sandman was buzzing, lots of runners milling about, and lots more nervous excitement. The free beer at package pickup was a nice touch that I haven’t seen since the Momar in Cumberland a few years ago. McGregor joined us shortly after and we spent the rest of the evening catching up on the days Olympic events, organizing and reorganizing race gear, cracking jokes and daring each other to do stupid shit like we were kids again. We hit lights out around 11pm.
4am wake up call and the morning was all about coffee and food. With a race start of 6:15am we wanted to get away from the hotel by 5am and make sure we were down by the beach nice and early. True to plan we had plenty of time to visit facilities, eat some more, and just mill around and soak up the stunning sunrise over the mountains. Gary did a great job of the pre race debrief and before I knew it we were lined up and off and the days adventure had begun.
Stage one – fast and flat. The goal here was to warm up, take it nice and easy and run around 50 minutes into the aid station. I wanted to make sure I had drunk a whole bottle of nuun and eaten something solid. In fact my whole plan for the first 42k was to run nice and easy, eat and drink as much as possible and be mindful of keeping a pace much slower that I knew I wanted to run. I spent pretty much all of the first 10km running with Tom and Josh, yapping the k’s away.
Stage two – up, up and away. The first climb and in my mind one that I wanted to hike this early on in the race. The beginning of this leg started of with a bit of rural, into the trail head and into some sweet new (to me) single track. Still in the early stages of the race there was a small pack weaving the way through the forest and I joined in, eventually settling on pace with Tom and Bryan, an out of town runner from New York. Together we ran/hiked DeBecks hill, passed a couple of blokes up top, smiled for Glen and then enjoyed the technical descent back down to the junction. This is where we stumbled across a confused looking Dave Papineau, having missed the junction arrows first time around, we directed him to the right and he lead the 4 of us across and through to Alice Lake.
photo credit Glenn Tachiyama
Stage three – wet and wild. After taking whatever time was needed at Alice lake aid station the 4 of us met up again for the first bit of undulation at the start of this leg, but it wasn’t long before we started to get strung out and as Tom edged away on some of the downhill, I simply did not want to make the effort to keep up. Gotta save my legs. I passed some relay runners in the bit leading up to the double round to Alice Lake aid station again and I made an effort to try and get in some solid food. I had organised for my support (McGregor) to move to the next aid station at this point, so perused the aid station for some fuel. A handful of peanut butter sandwich and a few potatoes later and I was off, passing through the Alice Lake campground (how good would it have been to just be waking up at that campsite about now …) and into the trails leading to the Bob Mac Aid station. The trails here were simply stunning, easily the most beautiful part of the day for me, technical and flowing, nicely forested and lit by the early morning sun peeking through the trees. Magic – the moments we all run for.
Stage four – Trail running 101. I took a lot more time at the Bob Mac aid station. I pretty much grabbed one of everything from McGregor, knowing that this leg was a long one (14km) and that it was my last “easy” leg before I put the pressure on myself to pick up my game. I wanted to eat as much as I could stomach so I could push harder in the next legs. Little did I know that this leg could probably stand up anywhere as a challenging race all on its own. It had everything and my body responded accordingly. I was reminding myself that I had to take it easy when I first felt my calves cramping … shit … already? I tried to breathe it out (my new technique developed at the chuckant 30k), and wouldn’t you know it my calves stopped cramping and instead my abductors started up … really? Come on? Just over 30km into an 80km race … this is bad. More breathing, and some walking and it was under control, but the damage in my mind was done, I wasn’t even half way and I was in damage control, tentatively navigating the trails, trying in whatever way to move more efficiently to keep the cramps at bay.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one in suffer town early. Still on stage four, moving slowly and still a good few k’s away form the Aid station at the university, I caught a glimpse of the orange Kinetic race team shirt of Dave and slowly worked to catch up. Paps was in a similar state of struggle as me, not even half way and in a world of doubt. We ran together and shot the shit for the rest of the stage to the university, grateful for the company.
photo credit Glenn Tachiyama
Stage five – what goes up must go down. This leg should be renamed to “what goes up, keeps going up, and then up and then up and 10k of climbing is a really stupid idea because by the time you get to the top you are still miles away from the aid station and the technical single track back down is just so ridiculously flowing and fun you for sure are going to bust up your quads if you ever make it back to the university”. Seriously long, relentless soul crushing climb, followed by some seriously fun, fast and flowing single track, with a splash of exposed meadows, and side of panoramic views (Squamish 50 runners, can you see where you started today?). Add a dash of holy shit, where the hell did that come from and how the hell am I supposed to even finish this race, yet alone come in under 9 hours.
Stage six – the plunger. Sounds fun, especially if you know Squamish and are familiar with the Powerhouse plunge, a super fun fast technical mountain bike trail that on fresh legs is just asking to be bombed at full pace. But its a lie … before you plunge, you must climb and descend and then climb again. This is when the sheer magnitude of 10,000 ft of elevation gain was starting to kick in.
This course is a bear.
Now to be fair, as much as the climbing was a grind, I was able to make some good progress in this leg of the race. I almost welcomed some sections to just tune out on and work away at without the full time focus and concentration that the technicalities in other areas of the course demand. One of the highlights of this leg would have to be Mike, Ran and Gordon’s water only aid station that we passed three times on the day. Both top blokes and accomplished runners, it was nice to have the support of people out there who know exactly how you are feeling. I’m sure it was a unique vantage point to watch runners slowly breaking down as they looped round and round. After my third pass Mike happily informed me there was some downhill in the lead up to the plunge and I was given the all clear to “pass go and collect my $200″ and promptly got the hell off Garibaldi Park Rd and over to take the plunge.
photo credit Glenn Tachiyama
Stage seven – no guts, no glory. Well up to this point I had managed to keep my guts, but there was certainly no glory. I rolled into the Powerhouse aid station defeated, beat up and absolutely starving. I found shade at the aid station and proceeded to eat 1 or maybe 2 whole watermelons (my “go to” food all race). I drank some coke and had McGregor fill both my bottles with some more. This was how I planned to make it back to Squamish and to the finish, fueled by syrup. Ed helpfully reminded me that there was 9km remaining a few of which we climbing, followed by some downhill and flat. All I really heard thought was 9km remaining and set off … slowly. At this stage walking was hurting as much as running so I was running pretty much everything in the effort not to prolong the pain. The pavement that was promised in the course description was indeed pure evil and the only saving grace was the nice family who had moved their sprinkler onto the street. I numbed my mind and simply followed the traffic cones all the way back onto town, across the train tracks (secretly willing a train for a quick rest) and then before I knew it , it was all over.
10:18 – a good hour and a half slower than my anticipated time – what a beast.
Stage eight – the aftermath. Still now, 4 days later (yes, it has taken me 2 days to write this) I am still buzzing about this event. Gary and Geoff simply put on one hell of an awesome race, and tuned it into an amazing weekend filled with top competition and amazing volunteers. Pretty much everyone in the tight BC trail community was out to support in some way or another. The post race beers and BBQ we great, as were the prizes given out for any number of random reasons and silly competitions. I even scored an annual subscription for Trail Runner mag for picking up trash out on course. Round it off with immaculate trail marking, quality garments and a race medal that I am proud to display, I am confident that this event will be here for the long run and is sure to be a local favorite for years to come.