I received positive reception to the format of my last race report, so I'll stick with that until it loses its novelty. (but, like, mostly because I was hallucinating so much that it'll be very difficult to for me to turn this into a continuous story of sorts.) Enjoy.
Flying into Kelowna, I couldn't recall why I even signed up for the 120 mile version of Fat Dog back in November. 192km in the middle of British Columbia with around 175m less elevation gain than that of climbing Everest is not a fun weekend for anyone, especially if my longest distance to date back then was 125km. Yes, it was a Hardrock qualifier, but that's not something you dream about yet if you haven't even broken 100 miles [at the time]. The race guide lists it as "More difficult than Cascade Crest, Big Horn, IMTUF, HURT, Bear 100 and Angeles Crest"--races I hadn't even dared entering. Competitor Magazine calls it one of North America's hardest races (#11) while Outside Magazine puts it as one of the nine toughest ultramarathons--sure discouragement for the inexperienced. The race website straight-up says it was not for beginners. It seemed like a good idea at the time, I guess--especially, as you'll read, for a lot of the field.
- Acclimatize! I flew into Kelowna and then drove out to Princeton via 97C then 5A because I wanted some extra time to acclimatize and not be stressed out about rushing to package pickup the next day.
- Find your bunny appendages! Avis gave me a white Elantra, which was the same car I got when I placed 3rd in my age group at Big Sur last year. I thought it was a good omen. (it turned out to be an Elantra GT. whatever.) the distinct lack of gas stations basically between West Kelowna and Princeton is a both a bit weird and tranquil. not to mention more than a few spots where guardrails would have been nice.
- EAT. It was also wings night at Brown Bridge Pub in Princeton, which is good for carb loading.
|a 1516, the Bridge Burger, a couple orders of 35 cent honey garlic wings and cigarettes. if you're there on Thursday night, they have 7.95 steak instead.|
- like pre-Lifetime Fitness Leadville, it's also nice to get a feel for the small town 'hosting' the race before the storm hits.
- Acclimatize, pt. II: This happened. I note that everything in that post would have worked if my meddling o-ring valve wasn't busted too.
- Pick your poison, kind of: the forecast at the Cathedral Lakes startline called for rain pretty much from start to nightfall, with 10.2mm around 2pm. better than mosquitoes and dry heat though?
- And then pick your battle: I planned to finish this race in 40h. I reasoned that a) this would technically be my second hundred-miler ever, b) I had run 100 miles only four weeks before, c) I had my WS100 qualifier already, d) all I was looking for from this race was a HRH qualifier which only takes race completion, and e) the elevation gain was stupid.
|I may have requested this big number. (thanks Julia!)|
- here's how I set up my loadout:
- Day pack: Salomon S-lab ADV Skin3 5Set with 2x750mL hydrapak flasks for electrolyte and 1.5L reservoir for water. contains salomon s-lab hybrid jacket M plus all other required day gear noted in race guide.
- Night pack: Salomon S-lab ADV Skin2 12Set with 2x500mL hydrapak flasks for electrolyte and 1.5L reservoir for water. contains salomon bonatti jacket and discovery half-zip plus all other required night gear noted in race guide. Petzl Tikka RXP for headlamp.
- Shoes: Salomon SpeedCross 3 to 85km, Salomon SpikeCross to 125km, Hoka One One Mafate Speed to finish.
- Crew kit: Massage roller, first-aid kit, spare shoes, dry ironic singlets, dry socks, a big jar of pickles, pepperoni sticks, EatMore bars, SaltSticks, gels, beer for some reason. the pickles were small enough to fit into a 148mL flask; I kept three of them in there at a time and kept refilling that with water until I swapped out the pickles at the same point as my shoes.
Leg 1: Cathedral. Starts in the parking lot at Lakeview Creek Campground Trailhead on Ashnola River Road (about 23 km from Keremeos). Lakeview Trail ascends to Cathedral Lakes area, and joins with Centennial, ascends Centennial briefly, then route descends on Centennial Trail to Wall Creek Bridge at Ashnola River Road. Equal ascent and descent. 29 km.
|Before the storm. (Thanks Matt!)|
- The start to a few races of this distance may be a smidge-anticlimatic. Everyone had to cross a bridge single-file at Lakeview Creek right after the start line. It was the slowest start I've ever experienced--solid 10min+/km pace for the first hour.
- To further the anticlimatics, the first 9km was an uphill grind. I am sure I hiked the entire way. I didn't mind half the field running by me on this leg, as I had popped two ginger Gravols and did not notice any effect whatsoever. I had assumed there would have been a dry heat for the entire race, so I had made up my mind a long time ago that I would take it easy from 10AM to 2PM, then go balls to the wall as soon as the temperature started dropping. Of course, going balls to the wall would be a little bit harder when it's 30°C+ and your IT bands are starting to cramp from the uphill.
|All aboard the pain train! (Thanks Alan!)|
- I'm sorry I don't have much more to say here about this leg. It seriously was that boring.
Leg 2: Trapper Lake. Most technical trail. At Ashnola River Road, leg 2 takes Centennial Trail to Trapper Aid at Easy Going Creek, then follows Trapper Lake Trail to Calcite Creek, down to Pasayten River (has current), cross river and follow bridge to Hwy #3. Travel south on the road to Upper Pasayten River Road near Manning Eastgate, cross Hwy #3 to Eastgate Road to Bonnevier Trail. Equal ascent and descent. 37 km.
- My cramping got so bad I couldn't run up Ashnola River Road, which was chockful of undulation. Fortunately it started to rain once I hit the Centennial Trail but there was still a bit of uphill from there to Easy Going Creek.
- This is where the infamous rainstorm and hailstorm hit. I had put the Hybrid M on before we crested the uphill into open ground, but it had also dropped 20°C+ in the span of minutes, rendering my soaked gloves ice-cold. I did, however, notice that my legs were starting to loosen up.
- Mother nature is a two-faced broad: On a good day, the juxtaposition of the burnt trees at Trapper Lake with alpine flowers at full bloom would just be fking amazing. On a day where an ocean is being dumped on you while you're listening to a symphony of God's farts--it'll seem like the place where unicorns go to die. Funny how that works.
- I'm not a big believer in running-karma, but: While still on Ashnola River Road I picked up a jacket someone accidentally dropped on the road. I was going to drop it off at Easy Going Creek, expecting a runner to be there waiting for it, but I ended up giving it to someone I passed who had no rain jacket because they sent theirs up to Calcite Creek instead (more than 20km away). I've never ever seen a man so excited to wear a ladies' fit running jacket.
- At Easy Going Creek I loitered there for five minutes or so, gorging myself on quesadillas (warm food is onomnomnom-delicious in the rain). I started to shiver so I excused myself--and then caught a second wind trying to stay warm. I must have passed at least 30 people blitzing through to Calcite Creek while lightning struck all around us. Looking on Strava I shaved around 90-120s off my kilometer splits in this section.
- There was a section getting up to the Flattop where we basically ended up above treeline, inside the actual cloud of the thunderstorm. If there wasn't any thunder and lightning it would have definitely passed off as part of the Scottish Highlands. I tried to clear the ascent as quickly as possible due to a roving infestation of carbon trekking poles in the vicinity, and then sent it back downhill into the trees en route to Calcite Creek while the rain slowed back down to a trickle.
- That feeling of wet waist-high brush caressing your cramping IT bands as you're speeding downhill in the rain--is most excellent.
- I met up with Travis Brown, 2nd dude/3rd place at Sinister 7, at Calcite Creek; this was where I realized this race was going to be biblicaly terrible. "What the shit are you still doing here?" I asked. He had gone hypothermic in the last section and had been warming up around a fire for the last 60-90 minutes; in fact, he had covered himself up with two survival blankets and then placed his jacket over top of both of them, like a giant baked potato (his words, not mine). I tried to get him to come with me but he would not leave his so-called pity party; however, he mentioned I was looking ridiculously fresh compared to everyone passing by, so I took that encouragement to continue chasing down everyone who passed me on leg 1.
- I passed Larry Kundrik shortly after that. He originally passed me on the opening leg 1 grind and was shooting for 38h but he knew I was on pace for faster at that point in time, so he encouraged me to make the most out of my second wind.
- The last Fenix 3 update from Garmin did something to fk up the battery life of the watch, and I barely cleared 9h of recording before the 15% battery life warning came up (vs. 21h at Sinister 7). I was roughly 5km away from my night pack, which contained a GoalZero Switch and my charging cable, so I kicked it up a notch.......until the final descent to Pasayten River, which was actually a river of mud itself. (Word is multiple arms were broken on this section from faceplanting.) I sidestepped my way down, took the rope, crossed the current, and then managed to clear the last 3k down the highway to Bonnevier in less than 18min. My watch had less than 5% left by the time I connected it to the Switch.
|"get the fk out of my way! I NEED MY JUICEEEE!" (thanks Kent!)|
- I really wish I could have stayed at the aid station on the other side of the Pasayten--it was situated on Don and family's lovely private property and run by the family themselves, much like that sheep farmer I ran into at Lysefjorden Inn in Norway.
- Bonnevier was where I first saw my crew chief Julia. We were both so eager to see each other--she hadn't seen any of her other runners yet, and I needed my night pack and stuff (and the hugs, duh).
|Changing shoes at a leisurely pace. (thanks Julia!)|
- By the time I left Bonnevier, I had over five hours on the cutoff. So much for closing this in 40h. A part of me wanted to get the colored belt buckle for Travis, to "uphold the honor of us young whippersnappers" as I had told him. Doing so would require closing this race in 36h.
Leg 3 Bonnevier: From aid station at Hwy 3, ascend Eastgate Road to Bonnevier Trail to junction at Heather Trail. Mainly ascent. Single track, views at the top, very few streams. Will take longer than you think. 19 km.
- This opened with another fking uphill. It was good though--the sprint to recharge my watch probably cost my legs some strength I could have used later in the race. The only problem was that I was noticing that I'd be leading runners downhill while they'd return the favor on the uphill--which got a little hilarious when we tried to have conversations.
- Trail-douchebag moment: during the early parts of the night up Eastgate Road, I hiked up with my headlight turned off as I was able to see with only the moonlight and others' headlamps guiding me. Unfortunately I also tend to move like a ninja, and was almost assaulted by a few delirious runners when I crept up beside them. Always approach delirious runners like they're a wounded animal.
- Eventually the treeline receded to reveal a thick pea soup of clouds and gales. Much like GDR--a fog rolled in, rendering visibility to be no more than 2 feet at times. (I'm not actually sure it was a fog--we could have been in a cloud.)
- If you start, you'll finish: Heather is the site of the now-infamous Hotel Hypothermia or Hypothermic Hotel. I got there and found a large crowd gathered under two tents barely hanging on in the wind. People were hiding under multiple survival blankets--I later learned that if you decided to drop here, you'd still have a 20mi hike ahead of you to vehicular egress.
- Heather Vestergaard-Mcintosh posted the above on Facebook. This was basically how it was when I got there--gales, sleet, rain, fog, sideways rain, and intense cold. They were understaffed because a few volunteers could only literally lend one hand when their other hand was holding sidewalls and tents from blowing into the wind. I learned after the race that the the RD was contemplating shutting the race down as the whole station was in the process of getting blown off the mountain, which was how it felt while I was there.
- I had to stop in excess of seven minutes to change out my Hybrid M to my midlayer and Bonatti due to the cold moisture. By the time I was finished I was bordering on hypothermia too due to being immobile, so I apologized to a volunteer in advance for being rude--but then demanded they give me three quesadillas, two slices of pizza and a shot of broth so I can get on my way and "concentrate on not dying".
Leg 4 Heather: At junction of Bonnevier and Heather, follow Heather Trail (outstanding views) to Nicomen Lake. Descend Grainger Creek and Hope Pass Trails to Cayuse Flats and Skagit Bluffs Trail, and on to Cascades parking lot. Undulating, streams, long descent. 40 km.
- The grind up to Nicomen Lake was essentially a repeat of the night section of GDR for me--blinding fog if you weren't using a hand torch, slippery mud and roots, and rolling hills. The fog was a little more dense on this side while the trail reflectors were spreading out further and further, which made for a twisted game of Where's Waldo except that if you can't find Waldo, you ended up scrambling on a cliff face.
- I met up with Dave Melanson from Project Talaria at Nicomen Lake. I originally met Dave at Georgia Sky to Summit last November, right after I signed up for this, and he was the one who told me I was going to be in a world of hurt based on his experience last year. He was only partly right at that point--my IT bands and medials had started to revolt from pushing it a little too hard, but mentally I was still in the game.
- I also met up with Greg Courtice at Nicomen--he too was having a bad day with stomach, feet and leg issues as well as hypothermia, and had called the DNF a little bit before I got there. Greg was the one who introduced me to this race, and I knew I was truly in for said world of hurt when I saw him there reheating himself.
- The descent to Cayuse was one of my slowest downhills ever. My IT bands and glutes were screaming at this point, so I found a nice wet moist pile of moss (I think), sat down and laid there for a good five minutes until "the next pain train arrived to take me to my destination". This was the only sleep I got during the whole race--and this is where the hallucinations started to kick in.
- The moss did shit all for my muscle issues. I ended up walking most of this section, partly aided by the fact that they only had water at Nicomen so I was riding on that and diluted Carbopro from Heather the whole time. I honestly contemplated floating the river down to Cayuse Flats at one point but knew there was rain scheduled in the forecast later that day so I should probably stay as dry as possible.
- I ran into Joanna Ford, who was second lady at Sinister 7, at Cayuse. She had spent 60mins elevating her feet there, which were suffering from misbehaving tendons. I was an hour behind her at Calcite Creek, so a part of me felt proud for clawing my way "up the field", but the other part of me was sorry to see her like that, and knew that my reckoning was waiting for me somewhere ahead too.
- Skagit Bluffs Trail was the stupidest five miles ever. You can see the #3 highway from Cayuse, you know Cascades is on said highway--and yet you're going to go uphill AWAY from the highway to get to Cascades, with the descent only appearing in the last mile. It was at this point where I knew the course designer was deranged like me and deserves a ton of gratitude.
- I got to Cascades at around 830am with Joanna 15-17 minutes behind me. I swapped out my night gear for my now-dried day gear, reloaded my Eatmores, rolled out my IT bands and jumped into my Hokas.
|those aren't donuts on your shirt anymore! (thanks Julia!)|
|changing shoes yet again. (thanks Julia!)|
- If you start, you'll finish, pt. II: They said that if you make it to Cascade, you finish the race (i.e. the DNF rate for people who make it to Cascade is fairly small). There is a strange truth to this unless you're basically missing a limb.
Leg 5 Skagit: From Cascades aid station at Hwy #3, trail heads into Dewdney Trail, then follows Hwy #3 south 3 km to Sumallo Grove day use area. Take Skagit Trail to Centennial Trail to Shawatum out and back and then continue on Centennial to Skyline out and back. Undulating, easiest terrain. 36 km.
- At Dewdney I met Gwen from North Van, who was going to pace a 120miler starting from there but had DNF'd. She asked if she could come pace me and I said yes but only if she could accomodate my rebellious IT bands as well as occassional crying. She agreed. We traded stories about the day before--she was part of a relay team--and compared the running culture on opposite sides of the Rockies. I noted we don't get this kind of rainforest running (HA!) on our side, so despite my whimpering I assured her I was actually enjoying my time here.
- The 50-milers blew by before Shawatum, with Eric Reyes (3rd dude/4th overall Sinister) giving me a solid pat on the back and Vincent Bouchard passing me about 2k out. Gwen and I were run-walking so it seemed like I was progressing at a snail's pace in the flat, undulating sections, but having her company made it go faster.
- The rain turned into yet another downpour after Shawatum. I had put my Hybrid M on back at Shawatum so was good to go, but it got to the point where I couldn't hear Gwen at certain points.
- This was also where I started blacking out. I'd blink, open my eyes, and then suddenly see darkness 1-2s later only to be woken up by one of my heavy strides. I know it wasn't a blink because I didn't see any of the lights associated with vitreous gel movements in a blink, and because it was total darkness--somehow darker than what you see when you close your eyelids. It also didn't help that I was still hallucinating. A good nap may have been better than pushing it along, in this case.
- We got to Skyline II at quarter to three. Gwen unfortunately did not anticipate the rainstorm and that I would be moving at a snail's pace, so she was drenched from head to toe with no dry clothes available and couldn't continue shepherding me to the finish line. She noted I was making good pace to close this in 36h and that target was realistic, and bid me adieu. With that I got the fk out of Skyline II in five minutes--the first time I didn't loiter at the aid stations (relatively speaking).
|all wet again. (thanks Julia!)|
Leg 6 Skyline: Take Skyline II to Camp Mowich to Skyline I and then Centennial to finish at Lightning Lake in Manning Park. Mainly a roller coaster climb with amazing views. 32 km.
- I knew that all the undulation in the last leg was hiding the fact the last 20miles was a shit-ton of false summits. My mind played games with me, as I now wanted that colored belt buckle bad--I was thinking that if I made it to Skyline 1 before I needed to turn my headlamp on, it would be doable.
- Being from the Rockies, I totally expected "false summits" to mean "actual hill above treeline close to the summit designed to fk with your head", not "there's most definitely a taller hill after this hill you climbed". I was so frustrated with my speed that when I heard a tree falling off one of the ridges, I didn't even bother looking up to see if there was any debris coming down onto the trail section I was on.
- I got to Camp Mowich and was in-and-out in 2 minutes. I met up with Mrs. Tabelev shortly thereafter coming the other way from the finish line. She had hiked from the finish line up to my position looking for Oleg, another runner from Calgary who I would say is infinitely more disciplined and stronger than I was (and ever will be). We ascertained neither of us had seen him on the way, which was strange given he was only 15-30mins ahead of me at Cascade, and she bid me good luck. I definitely feared for the worse now, and knew the Blerch too would catch up to me soon. (I found out after Oleg somehow managed to end up back at Skyline II after falling and messing up his shoulder.)
- The Blerch made my right medial pop out shortly after that and that made running extremely painful over long period of time. Not wanting to endure the slogfest of the last 20k of Sinister 7 again, and not wanting to succumb to the shitty-race monster either, I grabbed an arm warmer, and tied it twice over my lower quad with the double-knot sitting on top of my medial. Better-ish.
- I reached Sky Junction with my headlamp still turned off and in my pocket, but knew I was cutting it very close. Again, I was in-and-out in 2 minutes, but the voices in my head were starting to get the better of me. Two chutes over from Sky Junction, I ran into a stretch of steep uphill with no visible flagging for over 500m (whereas the intervals in prior sections was around 350m-400m). I made the mistake of doubting myself, and turning around to see if others had noticed--they did too but one of them was a 50miler who had run the race before and said I was originally on the right track. That's where I declared to myself that I gave up on the colored belt buckle--but I don't know if I had been just looking for a rationalization to do so and was unconsciously checked-out kilometers earlier already.
- To further the confusion--there was a lot of hesitation of going forward because I thought I was running in circles. My mind was just playing tricks on me though--I had forgot there were five climbs after Sky Junction. I was finally ceding my motivations to my unconscious; I was settling for "just good enough".
- The penultimate 3k was undulation to Lightning Lake, which was bullshit for my shitty legs. I did manage a faster jog but was still getting passed by runners (undoubtedly not 120miler but my slipping mental capacities were giving way to my more primal "OOOO SOMETHING TO CHASE" tendencies).
- There was a <1% uphill I just couldn't even walk up right before the lake, but once I turned a corner I saw a bunch of glowsticks moving synchroniously in the distance. Not wanting to have to deal with a bunch of imaginary venomous fireflies, I picked up the pace only to hear cheers--apparently Travis and his girlfriend Ashley Schiller had came out a mile from the finish line to cheer on incoming runners and were fking around with glowsticks hanging from a bridge. I couldn't see their faces, and they couldn't see mine with the headlamp light emanating from my forehead--but my mental faculties were well enough to recognize their voices.
"Who's that?! LEOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO?!?!?!?!! OMG ITS LEO!!!!!!!"
- I didn't stop but they kept pace with me. Travis was waiting for another friend to come in shortly after me so he returned to the glowsticks, but Ashley shepherded me in the whole way up to the finish line. She told me later she had trouble keeping up with my sub-6min/k pace around the lake at some points--and for someone who just racked on 190+km, it was magical to watch. (I really just wanted a finish-line burger.)
- As I finally pulled into the finish line runway lined with glowsticks on both sides, I saw the clock in the distance. 36:17........FK. FKING FK FK FK. I was the first person that day to receive an uncolored belt buckle. If I hadn't loitered at aid stations on Friday, if I hadn't given my life story to Mrs. T, if I ran faster like Gwen told me to....I would have not needed to buy a set of paint to color my belt buckle. Dejected, I turned off my headlamp before I crossed the finish line, just so I could quickly flip the bird towards Skyline without any cameras catching me and before the lights of the timing tent lit me up again. Motherfker.
- My dejection quickly disappeared as Ashley rejoined me on the other side of the finish line and told me that last mile was one of the most hilarious and surreal moments she'd ever seen. I thanked her for her kind words, but really it was just a quick sprint for a hamburger.
- Besides Ashley, there was no one else at the finish line. (Julia was out minding her other runners, now more than eight hours behind me.) Ashley ran back to Travis at the glowstick bridge so I was left alone with my thoughts of failing Travis and Greg and Oleg and everyone stronger than me who DNF'd during their quest for the colored belt buckle. I spent 60 minutes recollecting my car at Strawberry Flats and looking for my finish line dropbag, got my shit together and returned to the finish line where Alan Lam had finished his 70miler in 5th dude and 5th overall, and Larry who had indeed closed in 38h. I finally ate my burger as Tony Gordon finished his 50miler, and he shepherded me back to Princeton in a mostly hallucinogenic 48-minute drive.
I usually go see Dave Proctor after most of my races above 50miles and have him check my legs out for any issues so I know if I need to ratchet down my training and racing regime or not. He's never told me I've ever needed to do that, so maybe he's just really terrible at his job (I actually think he just wants me to injure myself racing so his clinic gets more billings--LOVE YOU TOO DAVE), but I do enjoy shooting the shit with him about running so I always look forward to these post-race appointments. Our discussion about the race and how this year is turning into a running "puberty year" for me did prompt a few questions still lingering in my mind--
- Why are you so sad? You should be more proud of this achievement! My low self esteem tells me this will be the only race where I outlasted or flat-out beat a ton of elites and previous podium finishers of other insane events. I have been rationalizing that while part of my placement was due to my execution of a "course-tourist" race strategy, I also know that most of it is due to others' misadventures. Colleagues have wondered why I seem dejected over finishing this race, especially as they think I have what it takes to become sponsored now (HA!)--and I think it's because I feel my high placement makes me a total schadenfreude; i.e. the fact that my placement is unearned, not my own doing and based off of the suffering and bad luck of others. I also do not know why I feel like I have failed all those stronger than me who DNF'd--I realize that these expectations exist only in my head but I am curious as to why I'm 'looking for suffering' like this.
- So does that mean you think this is a fluke? I like to think that there's only one way to find out. I'm signed up for Angeles Crest next year in the solo no crew/no pacer division and you can sure as hell bet that I'm throwing my name in for Hardrock now. Despite what I said previously, it definitely is a possiblity I've improved myself to 'post-grad' racing so we'll see how that plays out next year.
- Why are you so sad over an uncolored belt buckle? When I crossed that bridge at Lakeview, my A goal was still to close in 40h. I know that I let the colored buckle slip out of my grasp mid-race because the colored buckle entered my grasp mid-race and I was completely unprepared for it, but for some reason I'm having such a hard time processing that missed opportunity--I hilariously have felt better after being dumped by some ex-girlfriends. I think I'll move on when I move on to the next race.
- Are you a cold-weather runner? Again, only one way to find out. I'm signed up for the Big Bend 50 in January down by the Mexican border, so we'll see how that goes.
- Is your sweetspot above 100miles then? We'll see when I get into UTMB. Multi-day is also on the table as well, but only when I can afford a lavish enough lifestyle to do MDS.
- You know that running is supposed to make you the opposite of a sad sack, right? Yeah. Just give it time.
While at Sky Junction, someone mentioned that the finish line was just "down" from there, about 10km away. What they should have probably prefaced that with was that there was was about 3km more uphill to go--on some of the steepest and rockiest grade in the whole race. As I found my quads continuing to seize on the uphill and my right medial refused to get in line, I continued to curse while 50milers were passing me. I think I may have truly lost it when I started to ironically sing White Lies' 'Death' on repeat:
I love the quiet of the nighttime
When the sun is drowned in the deathly sea
I can feel my heart beating as I speed from
The sense of time catching up with me
The sky's set out like a pathway
But who decides which route we take
As people drift into a dreamworld
I close my eyes as my hands shake
And when I see a new day
Who’s driving this anyway
I picture my own grave,
'cause fear's got a hold on me
And that's when I remember why I signed up. You don't truly live until you risk dying. In that slow grind through those last 10k--I remembered that all this sillyness gives me life and a reason to breathe. The lingering cold, the poor visibility, the lack of cupcakes, the hallucinations--that's what gives you effervescence for life. Not the color of your belt buckle.
As soon as I crested with 7km to go, I told my IT bands to behave, leaned back and relaxed my quads, and sent it downhill. I've never felt so full of joy and spunk in my life.
-----By the numbers:
- placement: 35/179 starters
- time: 36:17:38
- DNF%: 54.18%
- Distance: 192km
- Elevation: 8673m
- Sign up when registration opens if you have the slightest interest in this. Even if you decide to DNS later, they don't charge you anything if someone on the waitlist takes your spot (until 30 June-ish). Said waitlist was fairly long this year.
- Practice running alone. Not as in running by yourself--but as in running in the middle of bumfk nowhere without seeing another human.
- There is no single terrain to train for. You will have to do them all--steep climbs, steep descents, gradual climbs, gradual descents, and undulations.
- Get some sleep leading up to the race. Bad things happen on the side of a mountain if you don't. (This too did not happen to me but it did happen to someone else.)
- If you're from the low country, come to town earlier to hike. Altitude will bitch slap you in the face if you don't.
- Have a crew. You can drop bag the shit out of the course but you can't predict when you need what shoe where because of inclement weather.
- Take care of your crew too and they will take care of you. (By 'take care', I mean Red Bull, a few choice IPAs and a few words of encouragement for them.)
- Study the course. You will run out of electrolytes between Heather and Cayuse Flats so stash some tabs at Heather.
- The opposite of everything this guy says. (Thanks again, Travis!)
- Mandatory gear is mandatory. When I first saw the mandatory gear list, I too thought it would have been silly to spend another $400-$500 on finding all these items for a race starting not far from the Okanagan desert. Once the forecast showed race-day rain on the Tuesday before the race, I knew that shit was about to get real. A ton of runners did not seem to think so and stashed the rain gear at Calcite Creek, and they paid dearly for that.
- Stash winter clothing in your finish line bag.
- Get your A goals and B goals in line. Remember why you're doing this and that you paid for this.
- Don't eat at Vermilion Fork on Thursday night. Just don't.
- Know when to quit. If you cross the start line, you will earn respect for either telling mother nature who's boss, or for listening to mother nature tell you who's boss.
- Consider calculating your splits ahead of time--but just know that it can mean shit-all in inclement weather.
- Run with poles. Just do it. Even if you don't train with them, you will need them when you have Gumby legs.
- I would imagine that if it's hot as balls and there's mosquitoes, you may need to practice your bathroom breaks ahead of time.
- No gels after dark. Take the solids instead.
- Be prepared to eat like you've never eaten before during the race through until well past one week after the race.
- They don't have IVs at the finish line. If you're going to pass out and go unresponsive, do it in close proximity to the medic. (This didn't happen to me, but it did happen to someone else.)
- Do not attempt to drive after the race. I had Tony 'pace' me back to Princeton, but I found myself slowing to a near-stop in the middle of the highway at certain points because I thought there was a semi-trailer blocking off all four lanes--one that would disappear as I got closer to it. Given the lack of guardrails on that stretch of the 3 as well, do yourself a favor and stay at Manning Park Resort.
- Patience. Your moment will come.
|I thought I was among my people at one point.|
|I think I just really wanted some frosted flakes? (NO TONY THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU)|
|I think this was because I saw a few DNFers waiting for rides at remote aid stations by napping with their survival blankets pulled up over their heads and with their feet exposed.|
|"EXPECTO PATRONUM! Oh wait this isn't a wand."|
|the one on the left.|
|the one on the right! on a fking treeswing!|
|definitely not Shamu.|
|how Gwen appeared to me at one point while conversing with someone at Shawatum.|
Shoutouts and such:
- Julia -- Thank you for crewing me, contending with drying my sweaty gear and sweaty hugs, and making this happen. I owe this finish all to you and for being at the aid stations when I got there, even while crewing other runners 4+ hours behind me. And also for being such a trooper--even I wasn't awake for as long as you were that weekend! (55 hours!!!! You animal! AND YOU PACED FOR 20 MILES?!) Anyone who gets you as a crew is truly blessed and owes their life to you. Stay awesome! xoxoxoxoxo.
- Tony -- Thanks for the company and for shepherding me after the race back to the hotel. I'm glad you took out the 50mi distance with ease and look forward to seeing you break 100k. Hope your ass is feeling better, lol.
- Jay -- Congrats and well done on 10th place! I'm very glad to see someone actually had a good race. Totally jealous you got paced by a celebrity holding a cattle prod. Keep it up--I can't wait to see where these silly events take you!
- Joanna -- You're one tough chick. Tony told me you were looking a little worse for wear when he passed you, so imagine my surprise when I actually heard you closed this out the following morning! (THAT TONY.) I'm sorry to see you're done racing this season but can't wait to see you open another can of whup-ass next year.
- Matthew -- WELCOME TO THE SUCK! I still can't believe you did that last 55km with Joanna, for a total of 71km--putting those cigarettes away and running ultras at the flip of a coin! Like I said before--you two are an awesome team, and seeing the love in your heart keep her warm and mobile through the night is just a-fking-mazing and enobling for the rest of us.
- Trashley -- Thank you for being there when Julia couldn't. I know you think I looked better and higher-spirited than everyone who you encountered, but that's all thanks to you. Seeing your familar faces was like a topical cream for my shattered mind. (Yeah, I know that's not how topical creams work.) Thank you for telling me I was doing awesome even when I was feeling like shit. I am however disappointed I didn't catch you at Dewdney with the quesadillas going though--I guess I'll have to run slower next time.
- Oleg -- Please don't retire because of this race; we still have some stupid shit to do together. You looked tough out there.
- Suzy -- SERIOUSLY I HAVE NO IDEA HOW I DIDN'T NOTICE YOU ON THE HIGHWAY. It's like a chronic condition for me--regardless of if I'm running downtown or in the middle of nowhere, I just seem to never notice passing my friends. Congrats on the finish!
- Fitzy and Liza -- thank you for your kind words and all your help at Cascade! Well done on shepherding Suzy through.
- Alan and Lourdes -- Congrats on your 70mile finishes as well! It was most definitely not a walk in the park for you either so I'm glad to see you both slay this beast too.
- Heather, Peter and the rest of the Mountain Madness gang -- You've created a monster. I am glad to see it go international and to see such a crowded, competitive field this year. Thank you for running such a tight ship--I have all the respect and gratitude for your volunteers for making sure the DNF rate was not any higher. This race is most definitely going to go places and I am eager to see your vision fully realized.
- Everyone else who has been along for the ride -- knowing you're following my shenanigans closely gives me strength to do my shenanigans. Thank you for all your kind words and support.
- Complete Triple Crown at Lost Soul.
- Switch to road running to prepare for Javelina. IT band strengthening. Resume trail running after Javelina.
- Enter lottery for Hardrock.
“What they had done, what they had seen, heard, felt, feared – the places, the sounds, the colors, the cold, the darkness, the emptiness, the bleakness, the beauty. Til they died, this stream of memory would set them apart, if imperceptibly to anyone but themselves, from everyone else. For they had crossed the mountains… “