I'll be honest, this race wasn't my first choice and I really only signed up because I was looking for a Hardrock qualifier, but now that I've participated in the race I feel like I should encourage others to do this incredibly well organized event as it is truly worthy of being a focus main event for anyone. It was nominated as "Most Scenic Race in Canada" and "One of the 9 toughest races in the world", the latter might be a bit of a stretch.
I'm pretty tempered when it comes to these events and stay relaxed when others tend to want to worry about every little detail and bump on the course profile. I didn't get on the course before the race and only quickly studied the maps before the race. I had read Mitch's excellent race report from the 2014 race: http://www.mitchleblanc.com/2014/08/2014-fat-dog-120-race-report/ and figured that would be enough. I looked at his splits and remembered his 85k mark time and the 100 mile mark time and figured I'd gauge off of that.
The check in happened at Manning Park Lodge, where we dropped our bags, took a photo and got my race shirt. Here, I also took part in the UBC study. Later in the day we were then shuttled to Princeton. Although most people found this to be a pain, it makes sense (for people without crews) because this enables people to leave their cars at the finish line. People with crews probably found this part annoying, but after seeing the mess I got into crewing and pacing at Western States I thought this was a nice touch and made things easier for me post race.
Once in Princeton we took part in the race briefing. The timing of this seemed odd to me; if they gave me any useful information it was too late for me to change the contents of my drop bags. So if I had to change one thing about the race it would be that drop bags could be accepted in Princeton that evening and perhaps even in the morning in order to give racers a chance to adjust their bags based on information heard in the briefing or for changes in weather. I didn't worry too much as I didn't learn much in the briefing. I was running Solo the whole race so I basically planned to carry night gear the whole race and not worry about the daytime VS nighttime mandatory gear differences. This would turn out to be the smartest thing a racer could have done.
I bunked with Georg Kunsfeld and had a very pleasant evening exchanging war stories. Turns out he knew my good friend Jodi Isenor as they had been at the Barkely Marathons earlier in the year. I had a nice big burger and a Guinness at the pub and strolled through town checking out the local attractions. We got our gear ready and got a good night sleep. In the morning we checked the weather and noticed a chance of thundershowers, but that it was supposed to clear by night. This forecast seemed pretty good to me as it meant it would be cooler than predicted. I lined up toward the front of the race and figured I'd go up at a good solid pace to get into a top 15 position so I could relax on the first descent and build on that position later in the race. I think I was closer to the front than that but it was hard to tell. After 30 minutes or so I was shoulder to shoulder with Nickademous Hollon so I took advantage and had a good chat for the next hour or so as we hiked up the hill. On the descent I slowed down a bit intentionally and just let a few folks by as I didn't want to wreck myself too early. Turns out the descent would be very gently slopped the whole way down and I probably could have pushed a bit more here without danger. I did have an uneasy stomach on the way down so I popped a few NUUN tabs into my water and changed from gels to shot blocks. The second climb felt much steeper. I felt pretty good, stomach was getting better, and caught Lindsay Hadoomi on this climb. We chatted a few minutes and he indicated his stomach wasn't enjoying the sugary stuff too much. I went through the Aid Station quickly and began the final ascent onto the exposed portion of the mountain when lightning struck. I was with a guy from Arizona and someone else and we just looked at each other pretty freaked out. Nick could be seen about 5 minutes ahead near the highest point on this ascent. The rain and hail started and the wind picked up and the temperature drop was immediately noticeable. The guy from Arizona indicated he was from Arizona and said he had to layer up so he let me by. About 5 mintues later I pulled over to do the same. I put my rain coat on and mitts. I ran across flatop mountain through the boggy section and was glad to start dropping elevation. The descent was once again very gently slopped, which I found very comforting. The rain was now full on and it looked like it was here to stay. I entered the Calcite aid station thinking that I was coming into Bonnevier...guess I should have done my homework. Ah well, no big deal. The Bannock bread here was fantastic!! I wish I would have taken a few more chunks. I quickly leave the aid station and head for the river crossing. Much of this is on logging road occasionally taking a short trail section through the woods. On the final section to the river the mud changed consistency and just coated my shoes for some reason. Must have had a high clay content. I fell on my arse a few times on my way to the river and had a few close calls with some trees but made it down safe. I rinsed off in the river and booted up the road with another runner. This guy had some running speed...christ! We chatted all the way to Bonnevier but man I had to work to keep up. The rain continued. At this point I was considering changing shoes cause mine were bugging me a bit, but I decided to just grab my light and my extra long sleeve shirt and go. I put the shirt in my dry ziplock hoping to change into it after the rain stopped. I left Bonnevier at 6pm sharp and was aiming to be at the Heather Aid Station before 10pm(Mitch's split for 85k). I figured I had lots of time to cover the 19k to Heather and figured I was in good shape. Funny enough I bumped into Mitch at Bonnevier and said hello. He said I looked good, and I said I felt good but that I knew things would get messy. Nick Hollon was in the aid station when I got there and he left just before me so I hurried up to see if I could catch him. I left with a grilled cheese in my hand so I reduced my speed in order to chew and figured I'd just take it easy. It was still very early in the race afterall. The eventual 3rd place finisher, Gabe caught me at this point and ran past me on the climb. He wasn't very chatty so he just went by. I would pass him back after getting on the single track during the steeper portion of the climb up to Heather. I got to Heather at 8:50pm we'll ahead of my 10pm target. It was now getting dark, the rain was still full on and now the winds were blowin hard. I left the aid station 10 mins back from Nick and an hour behind the leader. I found out here I was now in 3rd. I struggled to find the trail in the thick fog and followed many wrong paths to lookouts as I couldn't see far enough to catch the next marker. The next 20 miles was pretty much all downhill and I had no visibility due to my glasses. The fog was sticking to the lenses and nothing seemed to help. Eventually I reached the aid station at the bottom and I was able to see a bit better. I found out here Nick had caught the leader. I was now an hour back from nick and John? But feeling great. I did the next 8k stretch really well and found out John dropped so I was now in 2nd. I hit the hwy for a 3k that felt like 5. I changed my battery and was now about to enter the skagit section which I was looking forward to. The first 10 mile section took me way longer than I thought it should, something like 2:15 and I was beginning to wonder if I had gone past the aid station. Nope. I hadn't. As I'm leaving this station, summallo?, I see Gabe entering the out and back just 5 mins behind me. This surprised me as I was told I had an hour cushion just 2 hours ago. I picked it up and ran this next 10 miles very well, maybe 1:45 or so hitting the 100mile mark at 7:30am, about 1 hour ahead of target. I'm beat but I know I just have 20 miles left with one big climb and oh what a doozy. This bastard climb was steep and never ended. I reached camp mowatch and was just feeling wasted. My feet were frozen from the cold water sitting on the bushes. My mitts were wet so I wrapped my hands in a couple of buffs. I just wanted to be dry and warm. The volunteers told me my quads were huge which made me smile. They asked me if I needed anything and I said "new quads would be good". The girl offered hers indicating that they could use a workout. I grabbed a big handful of salt and vinegar chips and kept on trucking towards the final aid station. This next section went better than I expected. I finally got to skyline jct aid station and I chowed down on some pizza and cursed when I saw the hill leaving the aid station. I was told that once I hit the burnt forest it was all downhill from there. This last section was only 13k, how bad could it be. Dear mother of god it felt like I climbed to the top of Everest. People talked about false summits. Talk about false burnt forests. Jeez every time I saw a burnt area I thought I was gonna start to run downhill. Nope, not yet. Mentally that was the worst for me and then finally, it came, the last summit and the most beautiful downhill came. I ignored the pain in my quads, calves and feet and just hammered all the way down. I saw the lake and got excited. Then I saw iuli and the kids and got really excited. I now feel like I'm finally done. One more k she tells me. She also tells me to hurry as there are other runners nearby. I bolt around the lake and finish strong with a finish time of 27:16 good for second place. It is my best race to date.
Thinking about the race now it is the most brutal weather conditions I ever encountered during a race and because of this the visibility wasn't great and so the most scenic race in Canada was not so scenic, but despite this, it wasn't hard to tell that this would be a beautiful race. It is almost all singletrack. It is not very technical. The race has 4 very big climbs each harder than the last. The descents were long but quite gently sloped making the race easier than i expected...but it was still very hard. Under the conditions it was probably harder than UTMB, but on a good day it would be considered easier probably. What made this race exceptional was the organization and the volunteers. For a young event it is very well dialed and they have tremendous volunteers supporting the race in even the most remote segments. Anyone doing this race should know that the aid stations are far apart and that the course is ridiculously remote. No cell phone coverage for the entire course. I'd recommend this race to anyone looking for a tough 100+ mile race.
Marmot Essence Jacket (6.3 oz) - Wicked good jacket and super light.
Salomon SLAB XT12 vest - This is an old vest, but great for big races due to the big pockets under the armpits. One of the only packs I can easily reach into without removing it.
Fenix HL50 and a really big light, the Fenix was the better light
Mountain Hardware Mitts Waterproof - too small making it hard to put on and off when wet
Montrail FluidFlex ST - Best shoe out there!
2 long sleeve shirts - started with one, grabbed a second one at Bonnevier
Smartwool Socks - same pair whole race
Ran without poles this time but would recommend poles for this race.
Lube: Good ol Vaseline
Refresh Drink Mix
Cliff Gels and Shot Blocks from the course
Chips, Pizza, Quesadillas, Bacon, Grill Cheeses, and anything that looked good.