Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A long way to go and a short time to get there: Part 1

Until 2011 every year in Squamish the STORMY! (Squamish Test Of Running Metal, Yeah!) race was held and a few hundred people got to run in the mountains.

Only a few days after joining PRR in 2009 I got to volunteer at the event and I got my first view of ultrarunning. Ross, Ed and Ellie were running the 80 km (50 mi) race, John, Terry and Susan were racing as the JeTS and three other club teams took part in the relay over the 80 km course. I was enthralled. I had heard about ultrarunners but never known one let alone seen a race. I had run 3 marathons by this point and thought I knew what pushing yourself was about, here were people doing practicaly double that distance over mountains! As I manned the PRR tent at the half way point, just before 9 Mile Hill, don't worry it is actually only 6 miles :), I saw people of every shape, size and ability come past. Maybe not all had a smile on their face, although most did, but all had the unmistakable shine of someone doing something amazing in their eyes. Ellie went on to win and Ross and Ed both finished their first 50 miler, and as for me, well I was hooked.

It took several more months before my friends got me out on the trails. I was nervous about venturing into the woods, I had images of rolling ankles, falling down hills and face planting into the mud, all of which has happened numerous times now, and this kept me from trying it out. At last Sukhi convinced me to try it out and I've never looked back, well I have done on occasion and that is normally when I trip, roll and smack into to things.

Over the next few months I learned on to be lighter on my feet down hill thanks to John, push harder on the up thanks to Susan and faster on the flat thanks to Terry. And as the summer of 2010 rolled around a competition was born. The JeTS would be racing STORMY again and Sarah, Barry and myself would challenge them as team BaDaSs. They had about 30+ years of trail running experience on their side we had a 10 year (+/-) lower average team age. We lost. Experience won out but as I saw Sukhi push across the line finishing the whole distance solo, I declared that as the race fell on my birthday in 2011 I would do the whole 80 km that year.

Months past and I did my first, second and third 50 km trail race with a sprinkling of marathons thrown in and I was getting ready for the STORMY challenge. Then the rumours started. STORMY wasn't going to be run that year. Eventually the official announcement came that permits could not be obtained and for 2011 STORMY was taking a break. I was frustrated. I was fit (ish) and ready to give this a go but it just wasn't going to happen.  I could have done other 80 km races but STORMY was special. It was a fun course, not to far from home and I knew I would have a ton of support from my friends and club members.

So again the months went by, I ran the Juan de Fuca trail on the Vancouver Island (a story for another day) and a and a few more marathons to keep me going and then the great news came out that the race was being reborn. Gary Robbins, local runner and top ultrarunner had some downtime and decided to fill it with organising a new and improved course. The race was aptly renamed the Squamish 50 (SQ50) and after a small amount of second guessing myself I signed up for my first ever 50 miler!

My training was varied at best. I took part in the Knee Knacker (another story for another day) and tied on to that some practice runs on the new sections of the SQ50 course. My fitness had slipped a little and when my scales asked if I remembered the weight I had previously lost because it was back and this time with reinforcements I knew that I could have done more to prepare. But never the less, race day was approaching and what I lack in training I make up for in stubbornness, which actually is a really good thing for ultras as no matter how fit you are at some point your body is going to ask the question "WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING TO ME?" and it is really nice if your brain can respond by going "LA, LA, LA I can't hear YOU!".

The final days ticked down and due to unfortunate timing we found out that Julia would be out of town for the weekend of the race. I know what your thinking, "Yeah, sure, UNFORTUNATE timing" but Julia assures me she was really looking forward to spending a day in the hot sun chasing round the mountains after me, picking up my sweaty gear as I swapped t-shirts and filling my hydration pack, all whilst listening to my whining and self doubt. This left me trying to find someone silly enough to take on the job. That narrowed the list down, add in being a good enough friend and that shortened it further still. Long story short (I know, I know) and a few glasses of wine later, Amber graciously, if a little slurry, offered to help out on the day.

Barry was also going to be running his first 50 miler and although he was guaranteed a PB agreed to still share a room the night before (there is a back story which may or may not come out at a later stage). This meant Amber not only got to crew both of us, who have wildly different paces ensuring that a moments rest would never be hers, she also got to spend the evening before picking up race bibs and listening to us obsess about the following day. Lucky girl. 

We were early enough to packet pick up to have little in the way of lines and had plenty of access to the complimentary Howe Sound Brewery beer keg. Ultrarunners tend to be a little more relaxed about drinking the night before a race. We grabbed our awesome race shirts, Gary and an co-race director Geoff had landed sponsorship from Arc'teryx, and headed off to sample a few more of Howe Sounds beers, oh and get some food too.

A mention hear must be made to Amber who was tee-total (ish) that weekend so she could drive Barry and I around and we could enjoy said beers without concern. She suffered for us that weekend.

A quick pint or two and some mac n' cheese to fill the carb loading quota and we headed off for an early night. Now I have heard some grumbling that I attempted to sabotage Barry's race by falling asleep first, snoring and keeping him awake. I maintain this was self defense as I have fell victim before to not hitting REM fast enough and having to listen to Barry's tone-full sleep pattern. Regardless, sleep was had and the morning arrived...

This was meant to be a single post race report about SQ50 but in my usual style I realise that I have somewhat rambled on. I do happen to feel that it is important for you to understand what led up to me choosing to do this race though. So to stop your eyes from bleeding out, I will stop this post here and split the actual race report into the next post. I can hear the baited breath. 

Until next time, auf wiedersehen.

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