10 Aug 2009
After missing out on the Knee Knacker lottery early this year, I decided that Stormy will be my big ticket race of the summer. I was a little bit intimated by the distance when I registered, but the race was far enough away that I just put it in there, and figured that I’ll get the training in over the summer months.
Jump to last week, when I realised that this race was only days away, I was squirming in my seat, nervous and excited at the same time. It was such an innocent feeling, and looking back it was all part of making the Stormy experience as good as it turned out to be. A huge thanks goes to my friend and cycling team mate, McGregor for agreeing to crew for me and providing all the camping gear and the transport. It certainly would have been a different result without you.
I left work early on Friday to head over to McGregor’s place. We had a booking at the Klahanie camp ground and planned on camping out so we could already be in Squamish come the 5.30am check in time. When we got up to Squamish, we did a drive by before checking into the campsite and I’m glad we did as the start line was right on a camp ground. We found a site, paid the $15 and set up camp about 100m from the start/finish line. I was stoked!
Wake up, roll out of bed and run 50 miles… FUN!
It was a pretty restless sleep that night, but I wasn’t too fazed as I had had a solid sleep in my bed the night before. I knew I would be ok with just a few hours on a blow up mattress. Check in time rolled around and I was pretty nervous standing around in the early dawn light, unsure of how the day’s event would unfold. All I knew for certain is that I was going to be running for a very long time, and that at some stage it would hurt and would not stop hurting until I covered the distance.
In reality, I was being a bit of a ninny. The race started uneventfully. I made sure to start behind the relay runners as I didn’t want to get all wrapped up with the guys and gals racing right from the start. I found a nice gentle pace with a fellow in a Hawaiian shirt who seemed happy to chat and was then joined by Jackie Muir. I fell back a little bit and paced with those two for most of the first leg. We were joined by another couple whose names I didn’t catch and this became a pace group for the first few legs. Jackie mentioned she wanted to run around 9 and a half hours, I figured that sounded like a good time so just settled in with the pace.
We picked up another runner from Seattle after Aid 3 and we chatted for a bit before we found some nice single track and settled in again, to a nice and easy pace. I was very cautious with my pace in the early legs of the race. I had been told by numerous runners to conserve early and save some gas for the last couple of legs, so had to keep telling myself to hold back early on. In any case as much as I tried to hold back, my pace was slightly quicker than the group and by the time I got to Aid 4 I was running solo and passing other runners who had gone out too hard too early.
I had about 30km on my legs at this stage and was feeling pretty good. I knew that I had about 14km of running to go before I met up with McGregor at the Powerhouse Aid station and decided that I will increase my pace somewhat. Nothing to crazy, but I just wanted to run a bit stronger, knowing that when I met McGregor, he would have fresh supplies for me and I could tackle the remaining 2 legs from there.
There was a pretty decent climb in this next section and I ended up running most of it with Donna from the Y-Less wonders (who ended up the winning women’s team – congrats ladies). It was a hard slog and I ended up walking a fair bit of the climb, conscious not to tire myself out before 9 mile hill. I got passed by another 50 miler in this section who certainly looked a bit stronger than I was feeling. I let him go and ran my race.
When the climb subsided, I started to move a bit quicker on the downhill sections and passed a few of the relay runners. One of them, much to my sunrise, called out after me, ‘go Pricey’. I was a bit shocked and turned around to see who it was and low and behold it was a bloke I didn’t recognise, but said that he read my blog! I was STOKED! Unfortunately I forgot his name (my memory isn’t at its best when flying downhill after running 40km’s) but it definitely got my legs turning over a whole lot faster and to be honest my race kind of changed from here.
There was some nice fast downhill that spat me back out onto the flat service road. More wide downhill pretty much all the way to the powerhouse aid station which was for me at the time as good as the finish line. I checked my time and realised that if I make it to the powerhouse in 5 hours then I have a real shot at breaking the 9 hour mark. I upped the pace and fuelled on by the thought of breaking 9 hours I flew into the powerhouse aid station.
I actually felt so good on this section of the course that running at pace felt effortless, I was beaming, I felt a bit light headed, but I felt fast and comfortable, almost like I was floating over the ground, my legs flapping in a blur underneath me. I just felt great, it was approaching midday, I had gotten almost 50km of running out of the way and I knew most of the rest of the course. My legs felt fresh, and for me, the race was now on.
I took my time at the aid station, making sure to refuel correctly, restock my salt pills, and eat some chips and a power bar. I wanted to get here in 5 hours, I was 5 minutes quicker than that so I used that time to take care of fuelling, and fixing up a few niggles with my feet. When my watch said 5 hours, I was off to tackle 9 mile hill.
I was still buzzing from the previous section of the course and took off at a good pace. I had a quick chat to Dave Cerar who much to my delight made a comment on my ‘pointy’ beard and then decided to make my attack on 9 mile hill. I ran this 20km section of the course very well. I only hiked the steeper section of the course and made the mental effort to tough it out on the smaller inclines and just get up there. I passed the 50 miler who had passed me earlier as well as a relay runner and then flew down the other side reeling in a few other relay runners. The splits are out and I ran that section in 2 hours and 30 minutes. It was the 8th fastest time of the 50 milers that day and only 8 minutes slower than Mike Palichuk, who finished a full hour ahead of me. I was feeling fantastic.
I gave myself 1:30 to run the last leg. I had heard it was quite technical and had some climbing as well as some quick descents. I was prepared for it when I rolled into the Powerhouse aid station for the 2nd time, to meet McGregor and finish the course. I ran into Tara and Hozumi there and had a bit of a chat. I was stoked to find some blueberries at the aid station so got a little cup and then took off happily munching away on my favourite berry.
I was moving quickly and getting back into the zone when I hear McGregor yelling from behind me. I waved thinking he was just saying HI, but he was hauling it on his bike and yelling that I was going the wrong way… Ah shit… I wasn’t too upset; I turned around, checked my watch and assessed the damage. About 1 km out, I ended up losing about 10 minutes by running the wrong direction and then doubling back and finding the right trail head to take me to the finish.
The last section was, as I had been warned, quite challenging, especially with 70km on the legs, I was tired, things were starting to hurt and I was looking forward to stopping. There were some pretty steep climbs, some fun winding downhill and eventually after discovering some of Squamish’s premier climbing spots I was out in a car park, directed across the road and I knew I was close. I ran hard for the last few km, I was hurting, but I was chasing the 9 hour mark, I was so close that I was not going to miss it.
I crossed the line in 8 hours 51 minutes, and was almost disappointed that it was over. I was pretty happy to get a rest, but I had just been feeling so good all day that if someone told me that I had to keep running, I probably would have.
I did go into the race with a goal time. And I have to say it, it was 9 hours and 17 minutes… 1 minute faster than my good friend and running mentor Campbell Willis who ran this race last year. When I crossed the finish line and was congratulated by Ellie Greenwood and told that I may have ran faster than Campbell. The first words to come out of my mouth were ’27 minutes’ which is odd that at that time I was smart enough to do the calculation on the fly.
But, it was never about ‘beating’ my mate as in reality he wasn’t there to race against. It was more about measuring up; I wanted to see if I had it in me to measure up to someone who has inspired me on all levels of running. And to quote Campbell “The running gods were smiling down on me, I had a good day at the office”.
It was a good year all around for the race. Running conditions were perfect and course records were smashed by the elites, both male and female. Personally everything came together for me, I felt so good on my legs, my race plan was executed perfectly and my body held up nicely. I was well trained and then well rested.
I couldn’t be happier with my result, which was 11th overall and 6th in the open male category. I know I could have shaved off 10 minutes and gotten another place if I hadn’t made the wrong turn, but I’m not upset, it’s all part of trail racing and happens to the best of them.
My recovery is going great, a bit of muscle soreness, but I’m walking freely, planning on a recovery run tomorrow night and the blisters are at a minimum.
A HUGE thanks to all the volunteers, Wendy the RD, and to all the smiling faces out there on the course. I am still buzzing about the whole experience, and if I had the chance, id do it all over again this weekend!