I've been given a fantastic opportunity to promote a new race in the east coast of canada near where I live, and I'm super excited. I first raced in Gaspesie in 2014 and have wanted to go back ever since. The Gaspesia 100, is an ultra trail event that starts in Perce, QC, home of the famous rock formation seen below.
The race is part of back to back weekends of races which include a Gran Fondo, a road Marathon, an MTB 100 mile race and the Ultra Trail race. The Ultra Trail offers a variety of distances from 6.4k to 157k. It is new this year, but appears to be primarily single track, with some technical sections and a few big climbs, although not overly mountainous based on the course profile. Much of the race is near the coast line however and is sure to be rugged. I'm going to try to make it up to scout the trail before the race at the end of August and will share some photos when I do. If you even remotely interested in one of the races that are part of the Gaspesia100 series, let me know as I can offer you a discount.
Just before running Boston, Kevin got a hold of me and wrote this piece.
Well...The hay is in the barn as they say. The bags are packed and I head to Boston later today. This will also be the first race of the season, so I'm feeling a little nervous about this weekends' race. Before each race I do I like to take a few moments to examine how things have gone in my training and so that's what this post is about.
The past 3 months have flown by, seeming to pass in an instant; the complete opposite of how each grueling workout felt, seeming to never end soon enough. This past training block was not hugely different than what I've done the past few years, but somehow the subtle adjustments I made seem to have made quite a difference. First, I incorporated strength training and cycling. Then I found a faster runner, Ryan O'Shea, to kick my butt on many of my long runs and a few of my shorter speed sessions. I also decided to follow the Hanson's Marathon Method, at least in part. Their method isn't that different from other approaches, but some of my key workouts and mileage targets were derived from their training plans so I'll give credit where it is due. I'll begin by sharing some stats of the training block:
Duration: 14 weeks
Time: 150+hrs of training
Distance: 1450kms (100k more than last year.
Peak weekly mileage: 127kms.
Lowest Weekly Mileage: 49k.
Longest Training Run: 38k
Number of 20+mile Runs: 7
Number of days off: 12 (4 due to illness)
Treadmill VS Outdoor: ~50/50
Weight Jan 1: 182lbs
Weight this week: 171lbs (would have liked to lose 3-4 more)
With the exception of 1 week where I had the flu, my training was very consistent and built me up slow and steady. In December my knee was bugging me quite a bit, but starting in January I had very few issues, a bit of soreness from time to time, but never enough to keep me from training. I intentionally kept my total mileage from creeping up too high, as that is my tendency, being accustomed to Ultramarathon training and I think that enabled me to recover properly between my hard workouts. I also added some nutrition supplements from Liv9 this year, a recovery blend that included BCAAs, turmeric and a multivitamin. Those definitely didn't hurt. All in all, I'm very pleased with how this training block played out, and I feel like I'm ready to run my best marathon. Time to find out. My previous best is 2:50, and this time my goal is sub 2:45.
Every once in a while I google myself to make sure I'm aware of what's out there about me. Normally I don't find anything, but this time I found this gem of an interview I did with CBC shortly after completing UTMB in 2013.
*Not sure if I ever shared this, but I wrote it a few months after the race took place.
Digging a hole and crawling back out
It took me a while to finally get around to writing about my experience running the Vermont 100, but after sharing my story with other runners over the past few months I think I'm finally at a point where I'm able to separate my pain and suffering from the facts and main plot line, so I've decided to share it more widely here on the NSAR blog.
The race was set to start at 4am on Saturday morning, July 16th, 2011, at the Silver Hill Meadow in eastern Vermont. This meadow was the site of all the pre and post race activities and also the racer and volunteer camping. Bernie Doucet and I drove up together from Fredericton, on Thursday afternoon, to give us plenty of time to get to the pre-race check-in activities that were kicking off on Friday morning around 9am. To add to the fun, three friends, Jodi, Mark and Karine as well as their pacers, Shawn, Kevin and Lori were coming down from Halifax to run the 100 mile event. Leaving at noon, Bernie and I drove most of the way on Thursday, taking us approximately 7-8 hours or so, but leaving us with only a short drive for Friday morning. That evening we went down to a local truckstop called "The Fort" in Lebanon, NH. It was a classic american dinner with some of the nicest looking muffins I've ever seen on display in the bakery area. The spaghetti I had was very average but the service was good and the portion sizes were generous. Bernie's Chicken Carbonera or whatever it was, looked pretty soupy so I was glad I ordered the tomato based sauce. We skipped desert and headed back to the hotel. It was now about 10pm, and our strategy of driving this far on Thursday was to keep our pre-event stress nice and low, and so keeping with this trend we decided to pre-pack our drop bags. Bernie messed with what he was gonna wear on race day, while I strategized on optimal drop bag placement and bag content selection. In the end I opted for 2 drop Bags, one at 10 Bear camp(47mi and 70mi), and the other at Bills (88mi) , the last weigh station. Camp 10 Bear made sense because we went by there twice, once after 47 miles, and a second time around the 70 mile mark and it was where people picked up their pacers. I was running without a pacer or a crew, so I stocked both my bags with lots of food and spare clothes and a head lamp in each. I also put a pair of Salomon XT wings in the bag at 10 Bear. I figured if things go well, I'd make it to the 88 mile mark before dark (<17 Hours) and would want to wait to this point before picking up my light, but in case things went wrong I figured it wouldn't hurt to be able to pick a light up at the 70 mile mark. The shoes we're also important, because I was planning on running in my Saucony Kinvara's which are a tad light for this distance. The extra comfort of the XT wings could come in handy after the half way point, or so went my thinking.
When we drove into the Silver Hill Meadow that Friday morning, the view of the hills below was a great preview of what was to come. It was sunny and still cool, but one could tell it was gonna get hot later in the day. The meadow was on a nice long slope, with the designated racer/volunteer camping area marked off at the very top of the hill. Below the camping, was a small man made pond, some temporary horse stables, and then a few large tents to host the banquet dinners and registration stations. We had arrived a bit early and were greeted by a very cheery young lady. We asked her about the registration process and somewhere in there she suggested, or perhaps recommended, we strip down for the weigh-in :) We'd later find out it was Julia Hutchinson, the Race Director. The stations weren't quite ready for us, but we hung around and played the Ginny pig role as the first ones being processed by the registration engine. We tested the two scales that were setup to weigh the racers and found that there was a 2lb difference so we opted for the one that showed the smallest number. We walked back up to the camping area to setup our tents and at that point I realized we were going to have an agonizing post race walk back to the tents; albeit probably not as painful as climbing down the stairs to the showers after the Vermont 50. We puttered around for a while longer and met up with the Halifax crew to hang out for while at their nice cozy resort. For lunch Bernie and I headed down to the Harpoon micro-brewerie where I had a very good black bean burger and a tasty pint of locally brewed beer. Following lunch, Bernie and I decided to hit up a grocery store and stock up on some pre and post race snacks and much needed fluids. We spent the afternoon trying to dodge the heat, lazing around in the shade of the forest near our tents. Bernie caught some sleep while I ate cherries and chips. We once again met up with the Halifax crew at the pre-race briefing and enjoyed an incredibly underated pasta dinner which offered something like 12 varieties of pastas, all kinds of salads, pulled pork and a large variety of desserts. Needless to say, we ate way too much to the point where I was worried that my guts would be all messed up for the race. We then slowly hiked up to our tents and went to bed.
At 3am sharp, "Eye of the Tiger" echoed through the field; I sat up in my sleeping bag, and just looked out of the tent and listened around me. Then came the lyrics: "...Risin’ up to the challenge of our rival..." It was an incredible experience. I've done a lot of long races(mostly adventure races), but the energy in that field was something I've never seen before. People were starting to pop out of their tents making their way through the tent city with their headlamps, many starting to line up at the one and only porta potty near the camping area. I quickly got dressed and ran out to the parking area about 750 meters away knowing no one would be at the porta potty that was placed in that area because of its distance from the camping area. I was right, no line up. Took care of business and a hurried quickly back to my tent to eat breakfast and get suited up for the run. I put on my sugoi piston shorts, a white north face tee that I got from the Wascally Wabbit 50 Miler, my new merino lightweight sox and a new pair of Saucony Kinvara shoes. I wore a home-assembled mini waist belt system, which was basically the small front pouch off a salomon waist pack on a bungee waist band. It allowed me to carry some gels, electrolytes, sunscreen and a bit of anti-chaffing cream but nothing heavy or the thing would bounce around quite a bit. I had one 700ml hand bottle with a small pouch in it, where I stored a few gels. I planned on keeping this in my hand the whole time. I took the time to lube my feet and other important areas, ate my instant oatmeal made with cold water, and then headed to the start line to take some photos with the Halifax crew.
My strategy for this race was to see how far I could push my body(ie,run with the lead pack for as long as I could) knowing that I was very likely to end up walking and possibly even blowing my first race. Sticking to the plan I started with the front pack of about 20 runners and just relaxed and followed. We were running quite quick, but I wasn't working hard, so I just settled in, drank regularly and just tried to mentally wander to my happy place. At first I wasn't very chatty, but once the sun came up I chatted with any runner that was willing to strike up a conversation. My first chat was with a guy named Jayson I believe. Turns out, this particular runner, had run with my Halifax friends a few weeks/months back and had also done some long adventure races and such, so we chatted about those, and I also asked him about his minimalist shoes, which he seemed to enjoy running in. Before I knew it, I came through the first aid station that had handler access. Over the past few miles I noticed that I had forgotten to tape my nipples (big mistake number 1), so I tried to apply tape to my wet body, but that didn't work, so I just sucked it up and kept going thinking that I could just remove my shirt if it got too bad. It started getting hilly and a bit more technical over the next bit and that's where I caught my next chatty runner. He was a young runner out of California, named Stephen. He was looking to break 18 hours I believe and had just run a 6:50 50-miler out in California. His mom lived in New-England so he came out east to visit her and decided he'd also try his hand at the 100 mile distance. At this point we were probably 25 miles in, and he was looking like he was working pretty hard, but to be fair we were running up some big hills. I was moving pretty effortlessly up the hills at this point, so I just kept on going. Shortly after a runner named Jim Sweeney caught up to me. He and I ran together for probably the next 3 miles. He ran Vermont 100 the previous year in under 18 on his first 100 mile attempt and was shooting for a sub-16 I believe. He was from New York, worked in a running store, and he was very passionate about running. He was pushing the pace quite a bit so after a while I wished him luck and let him go ahead. I came through the next Handler-Access aid station at mile 30 and saw some of the Halifax crew's crew. I said hello as she snapped a photo of me stuffing my face and off I went down the short paved section. As soon as we got off the paved road, a very large steep climb really took the wind out of me and zapped my legs. The next 17 miles to Camp 10 Bear had quite a few hills in it and I could feel my quads starting to tighten up quite a bit and my feet were taking a beating down the steep downhill sections. This was in part due to my loosely tied shoes but also because the shoes I chose were a bit underspec'd for the distance. I tightened the laces after a particularly steep downhill through a pasture and just kept plodding forward. The trail dumped us out to a pretty long paved section and a car went by asking me what position I was in. It was likely someones crew looking for a runner. I figured I was about 15th so that's what I said. Shortly after this, I came into Camp 10 Bear, mile 47. It was now 7 hours and 15 minutes into the run, at 11:15 am, and I was still feeling quite good although I knew the hottest part of the day was coming. Turns out I was 6th at this point in the race. I got on the scale, which was a new scale I hadn't seen before, and it weighed me at 172, 6lbs down from the weigh-in weight the day before. I had been drinking and eating quite a bit, so I thought it was a bit strange, but I followed orders and sat for 5-10 minutes to eat and drink. During this wait I didn't really need anything in my drop bag other than a few gels so I grabbed those and moved my drop bag to the 70 mile drop bag area on the other side of the aid station. I decided not to change any clothing items as nothing was nagging me in the last 10 miles. I consumed lots of watermelon, pop and pretzels and such and then headed up the hill out of the aid station. My quads were pretty soar now and running up hills was out of the question, so I walked all hills and ran the flats and downs. About a mile out of the aid station my stomach was not feeling well so I pulled off to the side of the road and emptied my guts. At this point each of the 5-10 heeves took a lot out of me, but after walking it off for a few minutes I felt better, so I just kept going, at a nice slow pace. I was quite scared to fail the next weigh in so I took my time going around this 23 mile loop being careful to drink plenty. Slightly before the 8 hour mark I crossed the half way point of the race, which I thought was pretty good. I took a few salt tabs, drank plenty of water and ate at every aid station I encountered.
Around the 60 mile mark, I was running downhill to an aid station and young gun Stephen from earlier came zipping past me along with another runner I had passed 30 miles earlier. Both made a quick stop at the aid station and continued to run at a good clip up the hill. He said he didn't know what happened but that he felt re-energized. To me, it looked like he had found a new pair of legs. My legs slowly got worse all the way back to 10 Bear, where I was practically reduced to a full time walk, whether I was going up, down or on flats. At 10 Bear, it was now about 4pm and I had 70 miles on the legs. I was weighed on a different scale that looked like the ones we used at registration. This time I weighed in at 178, indicating that I had regained all the weight I had lost. I was dumbfounded, as I had just run 23 miles through the hottest part of the day and after being sick no less. This seemed to indicate to me a problem with the scale they were using at the mile 47 weigh in. I didn't dwell on it, and was happy that I was back in a safe zone. weight-wise. Here I dug through my drop back looking for a gel flask refill and my head lamp. Sunset wasn't till about 8:30pm, but at this point, my personal estimate for the 18 miles to get to Bill's was far more than 4 and a half hours. An aid station volunteer who saw me digging out my headlamp stopped me and said "Are you crazy? You've got lots of time, don't worry about it.". I took her advice, grabbed my gels and hit the road. I started doing the math in my head and was essentially looking at a 50k death march from this point on. I didn't change my shoes or socks, didn't grab any advil and just sucked it up and kept on trucking. I figured if I could get to the next aid station, at roughly mile 75, I basically only had a marathon left and that gave me hope. I was still able to run a bit, but mostly walked from here on out. I was walking at about 4 miles per hour based on my trusty timex and the aid station signs. I figured this pace would still be enough to net myself a buckle so I was happy to finish the race walking. Oddly enough, this is essentially how I thought my strategy would play out, although I was hoping to be able to get a bit further before commencing operation death march. After a few hours of walking my stomach started acting up again. This time it was nature calling and not in a good way. I ducked into the woods and painfully took care of business. My stomach felt a bit better following this episode, but I was having a hard time taking solids in. I essentially lived off flat coke and gummy bears till the end of the race. After about 5 hours of walking I got to Bill's where I had stashed my super bright light. It was now quite dark out, and I made a wrong turn heading into the horse rest area before Bills losing about 10 minutes. Under tree cover it was quite dark, so I was glad to finally get a light. I weighed in at about 172, but this time 6lbs down wasn't a big concern for the staff as it was only about 3-4% of my weight and I only had 12 miles to go. I looked around in the garage and saw Stephen icing his knee on the picnic table. I chatted a few seconds with him and encouraged him to keep moving as he was too close to the end to quit now. I spent less than 3-4 minutes here and left with a runner who picked up his wife as a pacer. My feet at this point were causing me a great deal of pain. The blisters were getting worse by the mile and once again I hadn't grabbed any painkillers out of my drop bag at Bills. I was also wishing I had changed into my XT wings back at mile 70. After walking for 5-10minutes, the runner I left the aid station with asked his wife for the painkillers she was supposed to have grabbed back at the aid station. Turns out she forgot them. He sent her back to the aid station and before too long she came back. I thought to myself, hopefully she has a few extra. When she caught back up it turned out she only had enough for her husband. They continued on at a slow running pace and I continued my slow walk. My head was clear, I wasn't mentally tired, but I really wanted the pain in my feet to stop. I spent the next 3 hours chatting with a few runners and horse back riders that kept trading positions with me. When I got to the sign that indicated I had only 1 mile left I smiled, but alas, my feet and legs would not allow me to jog it in, so I just kept grinding away. As I got close to the finish area I could hear music and I was getting excited to be done. At about 400 meters from the finish line I got a bloody nose, so I stopped to take care of that, as I didn't want to come in all bloody. After 2-3 minutes the bleeding stopped and I walked into the meadow where the finish line was located and was greeted by a great little band and a crowd of people. I couldn't muster any more than a slow walk. I took my finishers medal and went to the medical tent. After 21 Hours and 13 minutes, I had finally reached the end.
Once inside the medical tent, I could see and smell some great food, and although I didn't feel great, I wanted a big plate of spaghetti that I could see the cook prepping for other racers. I asked for, and I received, such said plate of spaghetti, and made quick work of the whole plate. The volunteer suggested I grab a cot and hang out in the tent a bit, so I took her advice. Moments after trying to sit down, my stomach decided to reject the new food. I stumbled to the front of the tent and fertilized the lawn with some chopped spaghetti. At this point I was told to lay down and spend some time in the medical tent, so I got comfy, drank some broth and laid down. The volunteer also brought over the massage therapist and had her start working on my legs, which hurt like hell. This made me feel a bit uncomfortable as I smelt like a homeless person and knew it couldn't be very pleasant for her. While the masseuse was doing her thing, the volunteer proceeded to take my shoes and socks off, which was pretty gross. It was one thing to feel the bubbles on my toes but now I could see them. The smell also probably wasn't great. After 20 minutes of work on the legs I felt a bit better, but knew I was gonna be sore for a few days. I napped for another little while before I decided to make my way up to my tent. I looked around when I got up, but didn't see any familiar faces, so I put the shoes on and slowly walked to my tent. Once there I had a few doritos and water and then passed out. In the morning I woke up, and went to see how everyone else had made out throughout the night. Bernie had come in 4th in the 100k, and Jodi and Mark had finished not long after me, and we were all waiting for Karine to arrive as we heard she was on track to finish and should be there shortly. In the end, the whole crew from atlantic canada finished, with 3 of us taking home buckles. We enjoyed one of the best post race meals I've ever seen and watched the awards banquet. This was a great race and very well hosted and I'd recommend it to anyone who's looking to take the leap into the 100 miler world.
Last week I ran the 120 mile Fatdog event hosted by Mountain Madness in beautiful British Columbia. This race is often referred to as the Canadian Hardrock.
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.
Before I get into the long boring details of the race I should point out that a lot happens in the course of a 30 hour run. Emotional states change a million times over.
About 30 minutes before the race Iuli and I made our way to the start area to find a massive crowd. I'm too polite to push through to get near the front of the coral, so I just queued up near the back. In fact I wasn't even sure I was in the coral as many non-runners were hanging out in the area I was in. The music was blasting, the MC was trying to get the runners and the crowd fired up and I'd say it worked pretty well. I stayed calm and in the zone trying not to get frustrated by the long wait. Eventually the countdown came and we started to crawl forward. It probably took 10 minutes before I got to a jogging pace. Everyone was taking time to high five the spectators, myself included. I especially loved seeing the young kids get into it so I went out of my way to give them some high 5 attention. For the next 8k till we got to Les Houches things were crowded. Luckily we were on wide paths, even paved roads for small sections. Then came the first climb up to Col de Voza. That's when I started passing lots of people.
The trail up the first mountain is wide enough for 2 cars to pass side by side and it's so congested I'm finding myself ducking in and out of the trees and bushes to get around people. When a washed out section appears in the road and people scatter to avoid it, I blaze right up it and pass 10 more people. My cocky inner voice yells: "Take that noodle legs! " I feel great and having all these people in my way sucks. As I reach the highest point of this climb I start running and can feel that I've reached a position in the rankings that would give me a bit of freedom to run-as-I-pleased swinging my poles freely without having to worry I'm going to impale someone. I stuffed some mashed chocolate chip cookies in my mouth and remind myself of that sweet smell they made as they baked in the oven the night before. I gently made my way down the hill letting a few folks by as they trashed their quads going down the first hill. Then, about 3k from the Town of St. Gervais, my stomach began to rumble; t'was an urgent call from mother nature. I take a look around and I'm surrounded by nice houses and lots of spectators. I can not take the call. I continue down the trail, analyzing every patch of trees and shrubs like Terminator on a mission. Me and my modesty, what a bunch of no good baloney. I'm now bent over from the stomach cramps, staring at my shoes, and am still 400m from the aid station. People are staring at me wondering what I'm doing. Jeez, haven't you people ever seen a runner who needs to poop really bad? Apparently not.
As I get into the town of Saint Gervais the crowd was huge and very encouraging, however I was hardly in the mood to party with these fine folks. I got to the aid station, in the top 500 with a one track mind: Where's the @#$% @#$^ bathroom! After a few minutes I realized there was no bathroom at this aid station and I was about to explode. Luckily a volunteer came to my rescue and pulled me outside the fences and got me into a restroom. At first my business was pretty normal, then I got sick. My fever spiked, I got nauseous, and then I proceeded to vomit over and over and over. I heard knocking at the door and a voice asking if I was ok. By this point I was laying on the bathroom floor...I answered in a stutter: "yeah...I'll be ok...I think..." After 5-10 minutes I mustered up the strength to come out of the bathroom. I was covered in sweat from the fever, was a bit dizzy and just felt really really crappy. The volunteer asked me if he should get a doctor. I said no...at first. Then I changed my mind. I watched, then listened as runner after runner passed over the timing mat. The leaders were now at Contamines, 10k up the road. I was a mess, and that's when the doctors showed up. They took my vitals then asked me what was my biggest concern. I said: "I'm afraid to get away from the bathroom". He hands me a few pills, tells me they are like "immodium" and says: "they work very fast". I sat for 10 more minutes. I had lost about 1100 places, now sitting at close to 1600th position. I wasn't gonna let this end my race so I walked around the fence to the aid station, grabbed some crackers, waved to the doc and marched on. While runners passed me, I just kept telling myself that I'll feel better soon. My legs were weak, but I continued with one goal: "don't stop". This section seemed much hillier than the elevation profile chart had indicated. During this section it started getting dark. I'm not sure who taught these runners to pack their bags but they definitely haven't been to adventure racing school. I now know of at least one useful thing I learned during those races: pack your bag such that the things you'll need access to are accessible without stopping. For me this included: mittens, food, water and my headlamp as well as anti-chaffe cream. While I watched hordes of people pulled over emptying their packs to get at their "night running stuff", I just reached back, grabbed my torch, and put it on my head without slowing down. Every minute that you stop adds up so it is important to do what you can to eliminate useless breaks.
By the time I reached Les Contamines, near 30k into the race, I was feeling pretty good again. The doctors checked me and gave me the ok to continue. I was now heading up climb number two, Le Col du Bonhomme/Croix du Bonhomme. This was one of the largest climbs of the race. I reestablished a solid hike and started passing people, knowing that we'd hit singletrack after Le Balme which is about one third of the way up. I made up a few hundred spots. I kept my diet limited, consuming only plain water, bread and overstims cake with 1 glass of coke at each aid station. My stomach now felt great, but I had this horrible puky taste in my mouth that would remain for another 80k or so. It was pitch black and I was in a conga line of slow moving hikers up to the top. Looking up at the headlamps snaking up the mountain was a strange feeling. We reached the summit and I immediately accelerated to a run passing people who were busy adding layers of clothing. It got quite a bit colder between Balme and the top-out point at Croix du Bonhomme but winds were calme. I put my big skidoo mitts on and stayed in my t-shirt and shorts. I was probably the only person out there in a t-shirt; must be some built-in acclimatization to the Canadian winters. I reached the top here in 644th position and headed down to Lac Combal for 2 more climbs before reaching Courmayeur(just shy of the halfway point). At Les Chapieux(I think) we had a gear check and since my headlamp's batteries were getting run down I stopped just long enough to change those. I was feeling great, just bolted out of the aid station with a handful of food and made my way down a hill and back up to Arrete du Mont-Favre. I stopped just long enough to drink coke, grab some food and off I went, probably less than 3 minutes wasted. Part way down the hill to Courmayeur I noticed my lamp weakening again. I didn't want to stop so I just did the best I could down the dusty twisty single track. The whole way down I kept thinking how much fun this would be in the daytime. Eventually I reached the Sports Complex in Courmayeur, it was 5:30am, I felt incredible. The legs weren't sore or tired and the stomach was back under control and I knew the sun was about to come up giving me a full day to complete the next half of the race. I grabbed my stash bag from the volunteer, quickly took some gels out of it. I grabbed some coke, which I'd been drinking in every aid station since Contamines and ran out the door. I was in and out in 4 minutes and passed a bunch of runners who were hanging out in the aid station. I arrived here in 370th position and by the time I reached the Refuge Bertone, the next checkpoint, at the top of a big climb I was in 260th position. The funny thing was I didn't pass many runners on this climb, so I'd guess 60-80 runners were sitting at the aid station. At Refuge Bertone the sun was up, but it was cold. My hands were warm and toasty but during exposed passages my arms would get a bit chilly. I figured I made it through the coldest part of the race so I wasn't gonna put layers on now only to take them off in a few hours. The next section to Refuge Bonatti was beautiful, and flattish. I saw some mountain goats and took a few seconds to enjoy the views. I went through Bonatti in 245th place, and headed down quickly to Arnuva gaining another 5 spots before heading up the climb to Grand Col Ferret. This climb sucked the life out of me and felt like it dragged on forever. I reached the summit in 213th position, which I find odd cause I don't remember passing many people, but maybe I blocked it out. All I knew is that some people were hiking much better than I was and that made me feel weak and tired. The wind was brutal on the lower part of this climb but we eventually came out from under the shade of the opposing mountain range and things started heating up to the point where my shorts and t-shirt were more appropriate, and the mitts were no longer required. I felt exhausted at the top so I walked for a little while on the way down and eventually regained my running stride. This was one of the longest descents of the race and I loved it, although things started getting lonely. On my way to Champex-Lac, I didn't see many runners despite the fact that I moved up to 187th position. I was almost wondering if I was still on the right course. Then, out of nowhere I see Iuli and Sam waiting for me. What a wonderful feeling. I was in a bit of a low due to the loneliness of the last section. Iuli helped me get some food and coke and gave me a handful of gels. I took a bit of a long break here, probably 8 minutes or so, but it gave me a chance to have some pasta and a little more fluid than I was consuming in the other aid stations. It was getting hot out and my one bottle strategy was leaving me a bit parched between aid stations. I kissed my crew goodbye and headed up Bovine, the first of the last 3 climbs. This climb was the worst yet. I felt so bad at the summit that I sat down to eat a bar. I hadn't done that(sit) the entire race outside of an aid station. I regrouped myself and headed down to Trient. Somehow though I had moved up to 150th by the summit of Bovine. Once I got back down the hill to Trient, Iuli, my brother Toby and the kids were there to greet me. I was even slower here, taking 9 minutes. I had run out of water so I was taking time to down some extra coke and water. Each aid station was 14-16k apart and that seemed far to me, but I mentally braced myself for 2 more climbs like the one I just did. I headed up to Catogne, gaining another 6 spots, and ran down strong to Vallorcine, relishing in the thought of having only 1 more climb to complete. I arrived in Vallorcine in 143rd position feeling pretty good. It was 7pm and I knew I could do most of the last climb in the daylight and that made me very very very happy. I took another 7-8 minutes to rest and regroup and then began hiking to the start of the next climb. Quite a few runners passed me here, but somehow I reached the Tete aux Vents summit in 142nd position so I must have caught back up. It was now dark, but my legs felt really good and I was ready to hammer to the finish. Unfortunately, this section was very technical and slow, but I was moving well, alongside another runner named Alister. Together we ran into Flegere in 135th position. From there Alister fired up the lights and dropped me like a big sack of potatoes, making 5 minutes on me between here and the finish. I was running very well and knew the end was near. The last dirt road leading into Chamonix seemed really long compared to the hikes I had done the previous week and I just kept needing to remind myself that I was almost done and that I just needed to keep running and it would soon be over. I ran out onto the pave amazed at how well I was still able to run without pain. I ran into the first set of gates and started following the man made maze that covers every square inch of Chamonix turning a 200m straight line run into a 2k neverending gauntlet of spectators. It was 11pm so although there were quite a few people at the finish, the gauntlet was only lightly sprinkled with spectators. As I get within 200 meters of the finish mat I spot Sam and Iuli and I promply grab Sam's hand. My brother and Nico join in and we all run across the line together. I ended up finishing 134th overall in 30 hours and roughly 30 minutes, feeling fresh as a daisy and smiling from ear to ear. My amazing support crew quickly fetch me a mountain of pastries and a wicked large beer and I begin my recovery.
Brooks Cascadia 7 shoes
Salomon Short Sleeve T
Sugoi Piston Compression Short
Salomon Advanced Skin Lab 12 Pack
Komperdell Carbon poles
Huge Black Diamond Winter Mitts
Mountain Hardware Longsleeve(stayed in the pack)
OR Goretex shell(stayed in pack)
2 Petzl headlamps(basic ones)
North Face Cap
Overstims gels and bars