Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hinde Sight

I climbed the Golden Hinde.  

The weather was perfect, I had a wide open schedule and the mountains were calling.  I needed to clear my head and figured a nice, long, solo 'walk about' in the mountains would be the best place to do it.  

And so, I packed my pack, planned my route and drove out to The Park for a grand finale summer adventure.  This would also be my very first solo overnight journey...


The Golden Hinde is the highest point on Vancouver Island at 2195m and sits in the heart of Strathcona Provincial Park.  Most people take 4-7 days to travel in and out to the peak from the Myra Falls mine but I have heard of FKT (fastest known time) peak baggers hammering the route in 16-20 hours.  I must say the thought was very tempting, once I knew it was humanly possible to get there an back in less than 24 hours... But now that I have travelled the route and experienced the pace of these ridges and mountains I know a speed record or fast pack is not truly the best way to reach the Hinde.  This is a magical place.  The magic is not only in the summit, or the 360 degree panoramic views or even the dynamic path under your feet.  The magic is in the moments...in the spaces... between the ridges and the valleys.  The magic is in the dawn and in the dusk.  The magic is not in the peak- but truly in the journey itself.  

The route to the Golden Hinde is approximately 60kms round trip and forces you up and down 4800 metres of elevation along the way.  This is NOT a walk in the Park.  This is NOT a trail.  This is a back country adventure in remote terrain that should be given the respect it deserves.  Although the majority of the route is well marked by cairns and a beat-in path, there is route finding and navigation along the way.  There is scrambling up and down chimneys, loose shale, root ladders and steep rock.  And the remoteness of the terrain exponentially increases the potential risk.  Back country experience, preparation and safety measures including emergency communication, are necessary to manage the risk.  If you are ready, however, it is a world class, spectacular adventure, sitting right in your back yard.

The journey from Phillips Ridge to the Hinde is a relentless route that taunts you down and up and down and up and down again.  It is a path that humbles you and makes you feel invincible all in the same day.  And it is a place that gives back as much as it takes (if not more).  It was just what I needed.

Myra Falls Mine to Golden Hinde via Phillips Ridge Route: 3 days, 26 hours on feet.

Sidebar: Oh the freaking irony of starting the most amazing wildlife journey IN a fully operational mine (that just dumped acid in Myra creek I might add), but alas...it is a massive scar that may serve to remind us WHY we must fight for our greenspaces.  

I hit the trailhead at 7am, tuned in, tuned out and began putting one foot in front of the other up the 80 plus switchbacks to Arnica Lake.  It took approximately 2.5 hours for me to reach the lake at a nice steady pace.  Loved having my hiking poles for this section.  Although my body and mind are used to travelling for hours and days, they are not accustomed to carrying a 35 pound pack.  My legs felt fantastic.  My body, however, was covered in hot spots and blisters from new levels of friction by the end of the trip.

The trail travels counterclockwise around Arnica lake and there are a few tent platforms at the north end.  From there, the trail pitches upwards again and climbs up to Phillips Ridge.  Time for a quick breakfast while overlooking the lake below.  Then it was Up Up Up...with a few bonus downs between each of course.

First view of the Hinde!  Seems pretty far away to me.  Better keep walking.

I stopped for another snack at around 11(in the spot above) once I got my first view of the Golden Hinde.  One of my last opportunities for shade over the next few hours.  It was smokin' hot but I loved it.  Anything is better than rain IMO.



 My little pack.  Less is more!  I had everything I needed for a 3-4 day trip in this little 28 litre pack including my giant bear spray, bear bangers, InReach comms, stove, cooking kit, food, tent, sleeping bag, pad, warmth, down jacket etc.   Light gear does help, but so does knowing what you need to be safe, warm, fed and as comfortable - and not bringing the kitchen sink. 


Once up on the Ridge the views were unstoppable.  The trail disappeared amongst the rock, but the cairns were always there to lead the way.  Trust the cairns.  Don't try and guess.  They are there if you look and will show you the way.


View of the Ridge as it heads north towards the Hinde.  '3 Humps' along the way.  Up down Up down Up down...oh my.  This aint' Flower Ridge people!  I'd say the 3 days of relentless up and down with a multi-day pack were just as hard as an ultramarathon.  Multi-day backpackers are tough and don't get enough credit!  Props to the group of three, 60+ year old men I met along the way who had just finished their mission of summitting every single mountain over 2000m on VI!  Those dudes are tough!  I see my future...


Chimney to scramble down along one of the 'humps' on the Ridge.  Somehow I managed to avoid having to climb back up this on the way home.  I realized there was more than one route to take on the way back!

 My destination for day one.  I was on my way to the first lake in the distance-Carter Lake.  Schjelderup would be another hour beyond and I wanted to get my pack off and camp set up sooner than later so I chose the smaller, closer of the two lakes.  I bumped into two tired boys who were nestled into a tiny patch of shade at this point on the Ridge.  They had just climbed up from Schjelderup and were beat from the smokin heat on the ridge.  They gave me a much better idea of the time frame and terrain ahead of me, en route to the lakes.  I had another hump to climb before I reached the low point on the Ridge.  Then I would be looking for a trail that dropped down through the bush to the lake.  Better keep moving...

 Time to drop down into this lovely bushy gully!   Steep!  Grab onto some trees and pick your way down.  My only wildlife spidey sense experience occured at the very bottom of this gulley.  Just as the trail reached a small creek (outflowing from Carter lake ), a series of big slabs of rock/boulders lined the trail.  I had been feasting on blue berries the entire drop down and suddenly got hit with a very strong odor of animal eating animal or such.  I looked down and saw a nice little animal den directly below my feet!  Had to hop right over it to continue on.  YO BEAR!  YO MR COUGAR!  Likely the critter wouldn't be back until a bit later in the season but the primal scent sure lit a fire under my butt.  When I got to the creek I had been out of water for nearly 2 hours and was desperate to fill my supply...but NO WAY could I crouch over and wait right there!  My spidey sense insisted that I move on and up out of the area, and get up to the lake.  Onward!
 Home, sweet home:). After a 9.5 hour day I reached my my little camp at Carter Lake... Not a soul in sight- so awesome to have it all to myself.  A quick wash in the lake then it was time to get settled before the sun dropped behind the Ridge.  Thanks to my buddies Gen and Kim for lending me a couple of very light pieces of gear for the trip!  They were awesome!  All settled in and enjoyed my Annies Mac & Cheese as the sun went down...


Preparing for darkness...I was given an awesome surprise...a giant moonrise!  Magic.


 Schjelderup Lake, just a short walk from my camp at the North end of Carter lake.  Took nearly an hour to travel to the far side via boulder scrambling and forest walking.

I slept in until 7 (well, you know how that is when you are lying on the ground with a 4mm foamy under you...let's say I got UP at 7) and planned to head out for a shorter day on the Ridge, walking towards the Hinde.  Maybe 4 hours on my feet.  Still recovering from the Squamish 50 mile run and our epic Tyax biking trip the weekend before, I didn't feel the need for anything too epic.  No intention or pressures to reach any specific spot...just wanted to get up high again and sit face to face with the mountain...do some thinkin...enjoy the energy on the Ridge.  I just started walking...and, well, it's hard to stop when you start sometimes...


Schjelderup Lake at about 9am...yes...it REALLY did look like that.  The water in these alpine lakes was breathtaking.  And not too chilly for a dip:)

From Schelderup, there was a short steep trek back up to Phillips Ridge, and the shoulder of Burman Mountain.  Ahhh...now I was getting closer.  It was right there!  I could see the remainder of the Ridge leading to the Hinde.  How long could that take?  Up down up down up down...



I stopped to chat with a couple who had just camped out at the very base of the Hinde beside 'Climbers Lake'.  Just below the scree slope in the image above.  There is a beautiful gem of a little lake hidden there.  What a spectacular spot to sleep over!  They told me they weren't planning to summit...but they managed to scramble up without too much difficulty the day before.  Said it took them 4 hours up and back from the little lake.  I started doing the math...  If I could get to the lake by 12, I decided, I would climb a little higher.  My 4 hour short day suddenly turned into a 'must turn around at 2pm to get back by dark, possible 12 hour day'... It was so close...how could I turn around now?


 After a very challenging drop down to the gulley at Burman Lake and then back UP to the Ridge I had arrived at Climbers Lake.  It was 11:30 and I had been walking since 8:00am.  It was go time.  The image above shows my view of the scree slope and south gulley approach.  I would never have guessed this to be the natural route but there was a little path in the scree, winding its way all the way up.  See the little gap on the right at the top of the scree (small saddle)?  That was my destination... Poles out, slide and step, slide and step and try not to destroy my shoes and legs on the sharp shale too badly...


Made it!  Just turning up the final bit of the scree slope and taking a breather before scrambling up the saddle.  The saddle was thick with vegetation and the pitch was getting steeper...hands and feet now...pick your way up...

nj
Up and over the saddle and then UP some more!  Look at Burman lake way down there now!  The Ridge in the distance is where I had just come from (see the big drop down to the gulley at the same elevation as the lake?  Brutal!).  This is the first photo I took after I returned from near the summit to catch my breath.  Above this point  I lost my ability to comfortably pull my camera out.  It got steep.  It got loose.  It got steeper.  It got looser.   I made it to the East gulley with a mini snow field - within 50 metres of the summit.  When I started slipping I called it good.  I was not comfortable going any higher on my own.  When my belly did it's first flip I said good enough.  What the heck was I doing up there anyway?  How did I get up there?  I was just planning on a little walk about lol.  The plan was always to turn around once it got too sketchy- and well, it got too sketchy.  And...I still had to get back down, safe and sound:).  It was 1pm and time to turn around.  I took it slow, sliding down the scree and trying not to release mini rock slides (not for fear of falling to my death but rather wounds due to impalement!).  I took my time, picked my way back down and spent a few minutes catching my breath once I returned to the spot in the image above.  Good enough for me! 
Down the south scree slope I went...returning to this lovely little Climbers Lake after a 2.5 hour adventure on the Hinde.  My feet were absolutely on fire from travelling in the hot scree for the last couple of hours.  I soaked my legs in the lake and was overcome with pure bliss.  Ohhhhhhh...did that ever feel amazing!  After my little break, it was time to return to my walk about...and back from the way I had come.  I knew exactly what was coming...every down would become an up...every up would become a down...


 It was a lovely walk back to my camp and I arrived by 5pm after about 2.5 hours from Climbers Lake.  I decided to move my camp to the other end of the lake so that I could enjoy a view of the Hinde...(see above!).  Made camp, enjoyed my supper on the lake and watched the sunset on the Hinde.  Once again...the moon surprised me as it rose over the Ridge above me...even bigger than the night before!  Magic.  Pure magic.

Day 3...I so wanted one more day in the mountains.  But, I was out of Annies Mac & Cheese;).  I had blisters on my heels. I had cuts on my hands that were covered in duct tape and hot spots from my pack on my hips, neck and shoulders.  I was sun burnt and my hair was in dreads.  After only 3 days, I was already being absorbed into the wilderness.  I absolutely loved it and wished I could stay forever.

I left camp at 8:30 under the burning aches and pains of my house on my back.  I walked slowly, taking it all in.  Repeating my steps inversely.  There were even more ups and downs on the way back out.  I swear.  The entire journey I had been immersed in the moment...but once I reached the high point on Phillips Ridge...it was all I could do to stop myself from running back home.  

I was suddenly obsessed with getting my hands on a grilled cheese and fries.  Yup.  Obsessed.  

I couldn't eat my snacks.  I just wanted that grilled cheese:).  I haven't had a grilled cheese in years!  I went from travelling without purpose on my magical walk-about to marching onward, one determined foot in front of the other.  I tell ya- time passes a heck of a lot slower when you are on a mission!  

I regrouped and worked hard to tune out the 'mission' and simply enjoy the last miles of my  journey.  Would I ever be here again?  Maybe not.  Would I ever experience something quite like this again?  Maybe not.  Would I ever have the chance to feel this magic again?  You never know.

I settled back in to my walk-about pace and enjoyed every last step.  I ate the blueberries.  I felt the rock.  I listened to the wind.  I smiled at the Hinde when I caught my last view (cheeky dude).  Then I turned down to Arnica Lake and let the grilled cheese pull me back down the 80+ switchbacks and all the way to my car.  Which...was filled with mouse shit when I opened the door.  Nice.  BONUS.

I cleaned up myself and cleaned out my car and made my way to Strathcona Park Lodge in search of that grilled cheese and fries.  They didn't have that, but they did have a wall filled with lovely salty snacks and cold drinks and organic ice cream sandwiches and such.  That did the trick:).  

The shock of a sudden transition from true wilderness back to the mainstream always catches me off guard.   Deer in headlights kind of thing.  Wondering how exactly I found myself driving when hours earlier I was building cairns and eating blueberries in the wind... I desperately wanted to go back.  But the pain of my blisters, the smell of my feet and the thought of sharing my tale with the love of my life sent me running madly back home.

There is magic in those mountains.  Between the peaks and valleys and cairns.  In the sun and in the moon and in the wind.  It's there... just waiting.   Go get some;)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Perseverance Trail Run: Less than two months to go!


Registration is filling up for the 10th anniversary of the Perseverance Trail Run on Sunday, October 26th!  


Image: Sharon Crowe

This years race will once again feature two classic Cumberland courses: a 3k Cross Country Romp and a 10k Mountain Run. Only 350 spots are available and they will go fast so don’t wait to sign up if you plan on joining the fun!  But, there is also very special news this year...

For the 10th anniversary, race organizers are taking their fundraising efforts for the Cumberland Community Forest Society to an entirely new level. This year, an anonymous donor will be matching 100% of all donations raised through the Perseverance Trail Run! For every dollar the race raises, two dollars will be donated to the CCFS. Race organizers have launched a special fundraising drive for the 2014 event and it is not limited to racers. Anyone can donate to the cause simply by visiting the Perseverance website at www.perseverancetrailrun.com so be sure to spread the word about this exciting opportunity to purchase more lands for protection in the Cumberland Forest.

 Image: Dave Prothero Photography

In addition, a special 10th Anniversary Perseverance post race after party is in the works complete with gourmet eats, craft beer and a raffle of epic proportions. Watch the Perseverance website for details on tickets and prizes which will be released shortly.
Racers can go to the Perseverance Trail Run website for free online training plans, maps of the course and to check out the list of community sponsors, photos and results from previous years. Be sure to sign up online for the Perseverance e-newsletter and 'like' Perseverance Trail Run on Facebook for all of the most up to date information.

Racers looking to improve their trail racing skills can join the ELM Perseverance Adventure Running Clinic and learn the course inside and out. The 8 week program, coached by Sarah Seads and her team of ELM 'Fearless Leaders' kicks off on Thursday, September 4th. Go to www.elmhealth.com for more information and to register for this training clinic.

 Image: Dave Prothero Photography

This race has sold out three years in a row so be sure to register early to avoid disappointment. There is no race day registration and when all 350 spots are gone...they are gone! Sign up for the Perseverance Trail Run online or head down to Extreme Runners, 436 5th st and get your registration in before September 26th to get the deal on Early Bird Race fees. 
  
Race Organizers
Sarah Seads & Lene Curts

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Press Release: Perseverance Adventure Running!

 
Equilibrium Lifestyle Management’s (ELM) next session of ‘Adventure TrailRunning

kicks off Thursday, September 4th with 8 weeks of fantastic fall trail running. This is the 3rd and final session of the 2014 ELM ‘Adventure Running’ series and the clinic will feature a specific training plan to prepare racers for the 'Perseverance 10k' Trail Run on October 26th in Cumberland.



ELM'Adventure Running' is a fun and challenging training clinic that combines trail running, hill climbing, speed play and navigation all into one great training session. The weekly coached clinic is led by Sarah Seads and her team of experienced run clinic leaders. Each session includes group coaching to improve trail running skills such as efficient technique, technical trail speed and hill climbing and descending.




This clinic is perfect for trail runners looking to ‘bust a gut’, adventure racers wanting to practice their navigation and road runners that want to push themselves to new 'heights'. Each week, pace groups will be available for novice (45/60mins) and experienced (75/90mins) runners.



 
All ELM running clinics include weekly coached group training sessions, a detailed weekly training program, ELM Running Clinic Manual and weekly education sessions from the coach! 
 
Go to  www.elmhealth.com for more information and to register!




Monday, August 18, 2014

Race Report: Squamish 50 Miler

Thinking about running a 50 miler?  READ THIS FIRST.

"I'm retiring!  That is IT.  I am DONE.  It is OVER.  Never EVER again.  I'm serious."

And I was.  I really, really was.

First of all, let me start by CONGRATULATING TEAM ELM for absolutely rocking their races at the Squamish 50 this weekend!  I have been completely filled with joy and inspiration by you all.  It was such an awesome experience to see you with BIG smiles on your faces and to hear your race tales.  You all followed your plans, raced smart and reached your goals.  Any low I may have experienced during my race, was replaced with sheer happiness at the sight of your smiles!!  So proud of you all!!!  Paula, Murray, Kim, Donna, Vicky, Marian, Deb, Chris and John...you ROCK.  Cheers to you my friends!

Squamish 50 Mile Race Report
*Warning: this race report is excessively long and there are no pictures (yet) to stimulate your eyes. It may keep you from doing your chores for the next hour...

Squamish 50, you really pissed me off.

And yet,  I have already begun to forget what exactly it was that you did to make me hate you so passionately a mere 48 hours ago.  Stupid humans.  Evolution has left us with some uber techy wiring that efficiently replaces memories of intense pain with lovely bubbles of joy.  I know there were some very bad times.  Yet the few moments of joy I experienced on Saturday somehow keep taking over my thoughts and magnifying themselves.  Stop that.  Part of me wants to remember the suffering so I will never do it again.  But part of me wants to let it evaporate so I will try it once more...

The stats:
50 miles/80kms
11,000 feet elevation gain
Highly technical terrain
11 hours 30? minutes.
Didn't exactly go as I had envisioned.
Rough day on the job.

The back story: Coming Soon
I'd like to say one 'wheel fell off' at about 65kms and the other 3 hit the ditch at 70kms.

But...

If I am to be truly honest, the driver never actually climbed in the bus for this one.  I have experienced some brand new thoughts, emotions and ideas over the past few days.  Watch for my Mental Musings blog post following this one with some deep thoughts...

Back to the Race Report:
10 Members of Team ELM made the big water crossing over to Squamish for the 50mile, 50k and 23k race courses this past weekend.  On Friday, a few of us helped out as volunteers to help the crew get set up for the big weekend ahead.  1000 racers had signed up for the 3 distances which were spread out over two days this year.  Chris and I were delegated water station set up and we spent the afternoon loading and unloading those giant blue water bottles in and out of the truck.  Perhaps not the smartest move, but what the heck.  If you are planning to run 80k I would think you could handle moving a few dozen bottles of water... Jumping 4 feet off the shipping/receiving dock onto concrete after sitting for 5 hours may have been pushing it, however.  I felt my right hamstring pull when I hit the ground.  "Oh shit.  That was dumb"...

It was fun to get out on the course and have a chance to visualize a few of the aid stations.  It finally started to make the race come alive in my minds eye.  I would be running through here after almost 50kms tomorrow- well over half way!  I couldn't resist leaving a few secret messages on flagging tape for myself at Aid 4 to cheer me on when I got there:)  'You can do it!'

We hit the Trails in Motion Film Festival on Friday night after my favourite pre-race meal of sushi. Again...perhaps sitting in a theatre until 9pm was not the best idea.  I would normally recommend laying low, getting organized and heading to bed early...but what the heck...I wasn't racing for gold or anything remotely close to it the next day and figured the films might inspire me a little.  After watching multiple rail thin uber ultra runners drag themselves suffering over mountains and across hundreds of miles I did feel a little shift in my perspective occur.  400 miles almost makes 50 miles seem easy.  

Race morning
I was up just before 4am to get ready for the 5:30am start down town Squamish.  I was staying with friends (who live right on the race course near the Smoke Bluffs), who let me borrow their car to get to the start.  I left just before 5, a bit behind schedule and when I turned the key...the car wouldn't start.  Um.  Try again.  Um.  Try again.  Don't panic.  Um.  Unfortunately I had to wake up my buddy but fortunately the car did start and I was off to the races so to speak.  Phew.  Close one.

I handed in my 2 drop bags, gave out quick hi 5s and well wishes to ELM athletes Paula and Murray (who were about to rock their first 50miler!) and took care of a few last minute things.  I was in the port a potty when I heard the "one minute until race start" call.  Um. Um.   I ran from the loo to the starting arch for my warm up and just kept on running as the race had started! 

I had penciled in some realistic times for each leg based on the distance, elevation and time into the course.  They were generous but would require me to maintain a steady pace throughout the day and if all went well I anticipated finishing in 11 hours and 15 minutes (ish lol).  I thought I would end up some where between 11 and 12 hours if I took it easy and raced smart.   My personal goal for the race was to feel strong at the finish by pacing myself early in the day.  First 1/3 embarrassingly slow.  Second 1/3 just right.  Final 1/3 a challenging push to the finish.  Little did I know how challenging it would be...

Leg 1: 10kms flat.  Goal 60 minutes.  Real Time 55 minutes.  1 fruit bar, 1 salt tab.
I should have seen the writing on the wall when my hair elastic fell out 10 minutes into the run.  There goes the race 'do. 

This leg was totally flat and a lovely way to warm up.  I ran a nice easy pace that I thought I could hold 'all day' and was nice to warm up, get into a rhythm and settle my mind.  Everyone around me seemed to be enjoying the exact same pace which was comforting in itself.   It was surprisingly dark with the low cloud cover and I had to watch my footing very carefully due to my terrible night vision.  I likely should have taken my super bright Magic Shine headlamp but I honestly didn't expect it to stay dark for so long.  All good and I arrived at the first aid station feeling relaxed, starting to wake up and warm up.  I grabbed a cup of water and carried on, planning to save my water fill up for Aid 3 and take advantage of the aid stations along the way.

Leg 2: 10kms with a moderate 400m climb to the radio tower above Alice Lake.  Goal 90 minutes.  Real Time 80 minutes. 3 cliff blocks (already unable to eat real food), 1 salt tab.
We had dropped our headlamps at aid 1 and I struggled to see for much of the first 30 minutes of this leg as the single track sections were still quite dark.  I had to walk through the rooty sections.  I remember thinking it was probably a good thing, as it would slow me down and keep my pace in check so early in the race.  Once the trail pitched upwards it was a steady climb with a mix of running and hiking to the top of the mini hill.  The humidity was unbelievable.  I was absolutely soaked with sweat and it was dripping off of me.  I am not a heavy sweater.  I could taste the salt on my lips less than 2 hours in.  Um...

We enjoyed the only real view we would get that day on the way up to the tower.  After that, we would either be in the clouds or in the dark forest, with no views to latch onto. It was likely better than 30 degree heat for most, but personally, I would take a stunning view over cooler weather any day.  I crave beautiful views, epic vistas and sweet summit celebrations to fill me up and keep me going.  Unfortunately, there would be none of these on the Squamish course that day.  Heading up the hill my goal was to stick to my 'first third' race plan: No burning legs, no heavy breathing and slower than I wanted to go.  I managed to stick to first two, but looking back I may have been trekking with a bit too much purpose for this point in the race.  I was feeling good and leading a small pack who did not wish to pass.  I was hiking more closely to my '2/3' effort - strong and steady...but it should have felt 'embarrasingly slow'.  Somewhere near the top I clued in and stepped aside and took it much easier to the summit. 

It was socked in at the top with no view to enjoy so I grabbed a snack and started down the road...looking forward to a relaxing descent after the first climb of the day.  It turned out to be quite a washed out road, littered with 'baby heads' (I hate that term but there you go) that required constant vigilance in order to hold a steady downhill speed and avoid a major spill.  For some strange reason, my quads felt tired.  Bizarrly tender to the impact of the descent.  Not a great sign, less than 2 hours into an all day run.  Um...

Into the single track and it was a nice steep drop down to the flat trails of Alice Lake.  I had run this little mountain many moons ago as part of a MOMAR Adventure Race and it was nice to know there were a few kms of flat trails ahead of me.  I continuously watched my intensity and made sure I was running my own pace.  Coming into Aid 2 at Alice Lake, I grabbed a couple of cups of water and carried on...I was feeling good.   

Leg 3: 8kms, mostly flat wide paths with a gradual climb via Bob Macintosh Trail, 'Dead End Loop' to the power lines.  Goal 60 minutes.  Real Time 60 minutes.  3 cliff blocks, 1 salt tab.
I was cruising along, taking it easy, working on staying light on my feet and relaxed.  I had my eye on the prize and was working hard on going easy so that I could finish strong at the end.  A few minutes into this leg a runner was coming towards me on the trail.  I asked if he was ok- he had a giant smile on his face and was jogging with ease.  He looked fresh and full of energy.  Was I going the wrong way?  "I'm dropping" he said with a smile and a laugh.  Bizarre.  Only 20k in.  It kind of ticked me off actually.  If you can laugh and smile and run...you should keep going.  But, I was not running in his shoes.  So many things can happen.  Who am I to judge?

 Something was burning.

"Ohhhh...this isn't going to end well", was my brilliant first thought.  I was in my tank top/pack combo...it had been tested...and tweaked to avoid rubbing in all the wrong places...but it wasn't working.  I could feel the friction and the little fire it was trying to build.  I have never experienced chaffing during a run.   It really does burn like they say it does.  But they are being kind.  It is actually more like a little red hot poker being held on your skin with salt pouring on the burn.  Ouch.  I had wondered if this might happen and had packed a short sleeve shirt in my drop bag.  My feet were feeling a bit cranky in my thin soled Speedcross shoes and so I made a mental note of switching both my shoes and my shirt when I got to my bag at the next Aid station.  Better safe than sorry.

I will admit that I was in a wee  bit of a mood from the start...read: Mental Musings when that blog post is finished for more on that.  I was one foot in and one foot out and I don't recommend doing the splits during an ultramarathon.  My usual, glass half full, living in the land of rainbows with rose coloured glasses self got a tad suffocated by some cranky broad with a bad attitude and a big mouth.  She only holds 'one seat' in the house and doesn't speak up very often.   And normally, when she does pipe up, the My Little Pony Party usually just zaps her with fairy dust and sunbeams and she goes back to her corner.  But she was persistent that day.  And so began one of the biggest 'good witch bad witch' battles my mind has ever entertained. 

The last time I was on these trails was in the BC Bike Race last summer and that started to tick me off too.  "This would be so much faster on a mountain bike. Soooo much more flowy and fun on a mountain bike. These trails are meant to be ridden on a mountain bike."  Bad witch.  I hit Cliff's Corners and my brain expected to rip around the turns and birms and whooohooo myself to the next aid station.  I pretended I was on my mountain bike by leaning into the corners and popping over the rollers...It was fun, but it wasn't quite the same.  I cranked up my pace and just went for it, cuz I wanted to feel some joy.  It made me smile and the guy behind me joined in on the fun;)    I came into Aid 3 (for the first time) and the volunteers were fantastic!  They called out my number and handed my drop bag to me, grabbed my bladder to fill up and asked what else they could do to help.  Wow.  Service with a smile.  I swapped socks and shoes and felt instant relief as my toes spread out and I shed a few grams with my Sense Ultra Salomon's.  But my shirt wasn't in there.  "Oh lord.  This is going to be a long run.  It is what it is.  I made this bed...time to lay down and get comfy in it;)...chafing, sad legs, bad witch and all"...HAHAHA mad grin..

Leg 4: Middle Third begins.  9kms, small ups and downs, mostly flat.  Goal 75 minutes.  Real Time 75 minutes. 3 Cliff Blocks, 1 salt tab.
It was an uneventful 9km loop on more of my old mountain bike race stomping grounds and I did what I set out to do: run steady at the 'just right pace'.  I honestly don't remember anything about this entire loop.  Just cruising past the same cheering squad on the way out and on the way back.  I ran up the final mellow 3km incline all the way back to Aid 3 for the second time.  It was nice to have a second look through our drop bags.  I had a swig of my lemon aid.  I had a swig of my vegetable broth.  And I grabbed my sushi stash for the road, from my cooler bag.

Leg 5: 11kms the BIG climb of the day.  Goal 2 hours 15 minutes.  Real Time 2 hours 5 minutes.  3 pieces of sushi, 1 salt tab, 1 ginger pill.
I left the aid station knowing the big climb of the day was ahead and looking forward to reaching the top.  But I wasn't feeling too hot as I plodded out of there.  I had already been turned off of my 'real food' selection of fruit bars, lara bars,  tamari almonds and chocolate.  I had already moved to my ' when you don't feel good eat this' back up plan of margarita Cliff Blocks.  And now, I was even completely turned off of those.  Those are normally my secret weapon.  I LOVE those margarita blocks.  But it had just taken me 45 minutes to gag down the last 3 and I wasn't going there again.   I was on the very bottom of fuel intake, eating only a minimal 100-120 calories per hour and gagging every bite of that down.  Why the heck was I feeling so sick to my stomach?  I had run back to back days of 5-9 hours and felt great and I was only 5 hours in.  What was up?  Um...sad face...

I stopped to take a ginger pill for the nausea, drank loads of water and walked for a few metres.  2 women jogged by me and looked very strong and determined - I wished them well as we all settled into the big climb with my eye on the prize. 

Something else was burning.

"Come on shorts.  Haven't I run up enough mountains with you this year?  Haven't we spent enough quality time together?  Aren't back to back 30-40k runs enough time to get to know each other?  Who are you and what have you done with my shorts???!!"  Um... HAHAHA mad grin.  "This is ridiculous".  If I was doing the splits at the start of the race, I was in full cirque du soleil mode by now... 

I was expecting quite a steep climb up to the top.  It wasn't bad at all!  I trucked along with a fast trek for the first third of the climb so that I could work away on my sushi snacks.  I managed to get it all down and was starting to feel much much better when the grade lessened and I could get back into my my easy running pace.  Baby steps and I was able to run all the way to the top.  I saw the creek and knew I had made it!  The biggest climb was behind me and it wasn't anything to write home about!  All of those steep climbs in the mountains had paid off.  A quick splash in the creek and I was renewed.  Let's go down!

A few moments later and I sucked my last drop of water out of my camel back.  I was only 1 hour into my 2.25hour leg.  Umm...grimmace face...

Down down down down down down.  Down down down.  I don't remember anything other than it was damn steep down and I was damn thirsty the entire way.  There was absolutely no way I could eat without any water to wash food down so I was beginning to run on E and fading fast as the leg dragged on.  3 pieces of sushi in nearly 2 hours of mountain running doesn't cut it.  I caught up to a friendly racer who was leaping with joy and a grin on the descent.  He asked how I was doing and I took a stab at it: "Well...I ran out of water 45 minutes ago..."  He graciously offered me some of his reserves and I squirted the liquid love back in a heart beat.  "I'm gonna live!" I yelled at the top of my lungs.  I was revived and we galloped down to aid 4 together...where my 12 giant water bottles and secret flagging tape notes were waiting for me...hee heee:).  About 4 of us came together at that aid station and it felt like I was there for quite a while.  I put back 5 cups of water and just couldn't get enough.  Soooooooo happy to have water again!  Filled up my bladder and headed down 'Word of Mouth' for a short 5km leg to Quest University.  In only 30 minutes and I would be 2/3s of the way!

Leg 6: 5kms, downhill, technical singletrack.  Goal 30 mins.  Real Time: 30 minutes.  No food, loads of water.  
Short and sweet.  I don't remember a thing other than arriving at Quest and jogging up the stairs to the aid station.  The crowd went wild and I was once again renewed!  It was awesome to have the support of the cheering crowd and yet another awesome aid station.  I passed off my bladder and looked in my drop bag for my shirt...it wasn't in there either!  It was on the floor back at my friends house...chafe on sister...

I knew that I needed to get some calories in but I couldn't think of anything I wanted to eat.  I perused the aid station buffet...watermelon, oranges, baby potatoes, chips, chocolate...ugh...all I wanted was liquid salt.  They didn't have any of that lol, so I grabbed my second sushi stash and trotted off down the hill, planning to eat it on the next climb.  

Leg 7: 8kms, surprisingly long 500metre climb.  Goal 90 minutes.  Real Time: 110 minutes.  3 pieces of sushi, 1 fruit bar, 1 salt tab.  The start of the slow decline...
After a short climb on the road, it was back into a section of classic Squamish mountain bike trails.  We started by climbing up Legacy, a fun flowy bike trail.  I walked the first fifty metres to work on my sushi and make sure it stayed down.  I was starting to feel pretty good and had another solid running climb, with only a few short strides of trekking along the way.  I was envisioning the top...it was so close...and then I would be heading down towards the final leg!  At (what I thought was) the top, a friendly volunteer directed me straight ahead saying: "Stay on the trail, don't take any turns, and I will see you back here in about 30 minutes".  SAY WHAT?  I was planning on being at the next aid station in about 30 minutes actually.  I had my mental map in a mess and failed to prepare mentally for the second half of this climb.  My heart sank.  My rhythm slowed.  My shoulders sagged. My steady uphill run degraded back to a trek.  I was in the deep dark woods with no views, no one to talk to and no inspiration.  Time to dig out my 'I need help' plan...iPod to the rescue!

I had planned to save my music for the final 10kms but that went out the window and I was grateful for the distraction of my magical beats.  I listened to the same 8 songs about 5 times from there to the finish line.  Dancing along to the rhythm...marching uphills to the beat...raising my hands in the air to the good ones...  Before I knew it I was back to the volunteer after the '35 not 30 minute loop' and galloping down a loamy section of single track...  My knees said hello for the very first time.  Normally I pass people on the downhills and drop back on the climbs.  But today, it was an inverse race world and I found myself slowly passing racers on the ups...while losing my ground on the downs.  My quads were getting close to toast and I started to lose a bit of confidence on the steep rocky descents.  Instead of leaping down the rock drops, I found myself using my arms to lower my weary legs and lessen the impact.  I could tune it out and let 'er fly on the flowy sections, but the bridges, rocks, logs and drops had their way with me for the very first time.  I guess that is what 11, 000 feet of elevation does to you.

Uh Oh.  I don't feel so good.

On the final 1/3 of this leg, I started struggling to get full breathes in.  I thought it was my chest strap on my pack so I loosened it off.  It didn't help.  I slowed down.  It didn't help.  I felt pressure building in my chest.  It took about 10 minutes but finally the light went on.  

Oh No.  Not...the...heart burn:(((((( 

Flash backs of the final 25kms of the  Canadian Death Race ripped through my mind and body.  During that event, after smugly running almost 100kms without one ache, pain or struggle I was knocked off my fragile pedestal and I met my match...I got heart burn for the first time and it nearly ended my race.  I thought I was having a heart attack.  Try breathing, let alone running 25kms with a softball lodged mere centimetres from your mouth.  That final 25kms took me 4 hours and was the absolute hardest thing I had ever done in my life.

But this time I was prepared!  I was never planning to live through that again and so I have had serious heart burn medication packed in my kit ever since that day.  I popped the magic pill and guzzled my water to get it going fast.  I was already starting to feel the pressure building in my chest and the lump was growing in my throat by the minute.  I had to walk.  I was going to lose my cookies.  

I am a barfaphobic.  Some people are terrified of spiders.  Others of dark, confined spaces.  Others of rats.  Or snakes.  Or flying on planes.  Nuff said.  I had to walk.  There was no other choice.

It took about 10 minutes but I was finally feeling confident that I could jog my way out to the next and final aid station.  I had another ginger pill to soothe the nausea and plodded past the Powerhouse, up the hill and to the final aid station.  I was going to make it.  I just knew it.

That Aid Station brought my spirits way back up.  The volunteers and cheerleaders were roaring for us as we ran up the hill to them.  They were offering us all sorts of goodies including a cold water dunk and ice for our bras;).  That cold shower was an absolute life safer.  "YES!"  Another female racer caught up with me after my little walk and we arrived together at the aid station.  We shared some words of support and she asked how I was feeling.  "Amazing!" I laughed with as much sarcasm as I could muster.  She said she thought I actually looked amazing and was running so steady.  I couldn't believe that was how I looked from the outside when I was suffering with the chafing, the knees, the nausea and now, the heart burn.  She must have been feeling the same or worse than me.  Then a random woman came up to us and started gushing that she had seen us come through every aid station and she thought we were AMAZING!  We had inspired her and she just had to come tell us.   She said she was going to be at the finish line waiting for us to wrap this thing up.  I am honestly getting goose bumps remembering how emotional her words were to us.  I was seriously touched.  I was SO thankful for that moment and it couldn't have come at a better time.  Well...actually...it could have...perhaps 20 minutes later...

Leg 8: 10kms, multiple wee climbs, including the evil Mountain of Phlegm to completely destroy your spirits a mere 5kms from the finish.  Goal: 75 minutes.  Real Time: 90 minutes.  1 piece watermelon, 1 GU gel, 1 more heartburn pill...
I was STOKED!  I was energized!  I only had 10kms left to go, I had saved my legs for this and they were ready to run!  I ran off to the lovely Fartherside Trail, knowing full well what I was getting into as every race I have ever done in Squamish seemed to end in this evil little forest of relentless ups and downs.  But I could do anything for 10k.  I had just run 70k!  Bring it on!

Oh No.  Oh No.  Oh No.  Not...the..heart burn...

It was back with avengance.  My elation turned to neutral and then to desperation as the softball of fire climbed into my throat.  There was nothing I could do but walk to keep it at bay.  Do you know how long it takes to walk 10kms?  A long freakin time.  

Time stood still as I walked through the grand finale of my epic ultramarathon.  The anticlimax was paralyzing.  I felt strong.  My last leg, secret weapon of GU was kicking in.  I had energy to burn but no way to light it up.   I could handle 2 or 3 steps of light running and then the softball moved up again and I would have to walk for 5 minutes to get it back down.  I chugged my water trying to force it down.  I took another magic pill.  I couldn't shake it.  It was a sad moment but I had to suck it up and accept my fate...I was going to have to walk all the way to the finish.  Sob story or what! 

One by one, they caught and passed me.   Some stopped to ask how I was doing.  No one was feeling like a rock star by then.  They had cramps, they had stomach issues, they moaned out loud at the uphills.  But they could all shuffle away and continue running the downs and flats.  We wished each other well.  I sent them any energy I had left.  I had to let them all go.  2 women...4, 5, 6? men...gone.

It was a long walk.  After the Mountain of Phlegm climb I knew I was on the final descent.  I tried to carefully lower myself down the steep and rocky trail to avoid jostling the softball.  When I came to 100 stairs (OK maybe that is an exaggeration but I didn't count them) my IT band threw in the towel.  I monkeyed down the stairs using my arms and when I got to the bottom it hit me...

I had no pain in my chest.  The freaking heart burn was gone. 

Oh sweet jayzus. Hallelujah!  "I CAN RUN AGAIN!" I yelled at the top of my lungs to the first racer I caught up to!  We ran ran ran together down through the smoke bluffs and past my friend Darcy's home - he was on the deck cheering me on!  I was yelling "NEVER AGAIN!  I RETIRE!" but he was still cheering me on " GO SEADS!"  On I went with the JOY of pain free running ripping through my body...

In mere moments I was running the final 50 metres to the finish!  I was so grateful to be able to run through the line.  And I was SO grateful to be finished.   That one leg that I had in the race, was totally, completely done.  The other one was laughing at me from the start line. 

And there, at the finish line was my ELM family.  

Big hugs caught me and it was a joy to see them all there waiting for me.  I gushed.  I told them it was brutal.  I told them I was NEVER doing that again.  I told them I was RETIRED.  I let it all out.   I couldn't have been more un-coach-like if I had tried.   I was too mentally beat to wear both hats.  At that moment, I was the athlete and they were MY support crew.  They lifted me up, sent me off for a shower, and celebrated with me at the pub.  I scared the pants off of them with my replay of the course.  They were set to run the 50k and 23k courses the next day and I wanted to make sure they expected the worst...because that is one sure way to lessen the impact.   I think it worked;)...they all did absolutely amazing.  They raced smart and finished strong and filled me up with inspiration.  

Will I do another ultramarathon?  Well... I got some tips about preventing and treating the heart burn...I DO love the training...I DO love the people...I really think I can do much better... I guess I may have to eat my finish line words...because life is sweet...and I can never say never...but you knew I would say that...

Looking back, it really didn't go as bad as I originally believed it had.  I was within my goal times even if I didn't smash them (as I secretly had hoped).  I didn't have any crashes, cramps or serious injuries.  So I had some chafing.  So I felt sick.  So I had to walk 8k.  It's an 80k run.  It's not supposed to be all roses, butterflies and lolipops.  I'll bet 50% of the racers on that course had worse issues to complain about.  In fact, if I look at it from the good witch's perspective- it was a pretty good day:)

Squamish 50:
  • Outstanding volunteers.
  • Brutal terrain- unrelenting technical descents right up until 4km from the finish line.
  • But don't take my word for it.  The only way to experience it, is to try it for yourself...
If you got this far, you must really have a lot of chores to do.  I am happy I got to help you procrastinate a little while longer;0

Happy Trails,
Sarah.

 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Videos: Weekend Film Fest! RUN!

This one is dedicated to the runners...to Team ELM who are heading over to Squamish this weekend for the Squamish 50mile, 50km or 23km race!  Woot Woot!  Run hard and race smart!

Enjoy;)

Trails in Motion Film Festival Teaser.  There is a Trail Running Film Fest this weekend as part of the SQ50 festivities.  Here is the festival teaser...I might just have to stay up late enough to go to the show...looks awesome.



For the love. A love letter to trail running.  This is an awesome little film about the single most important reason that we run...

 
for the love from luis peña on Vimeo.


Lavaredo Ultratrail 2014.  To help you visualize your first Euro race...one day...


Lavaredo Ultratrail 2014 from storyteller-labs on Vimeo.


Zion Traverse.  Ready to run 53 miles across Zion National Park?  Go!
 Thanks to the Adventure Blog for sharing this one!