Stormy 100 & 50 Mile

Sunday August 8, 2010 (Race – 50mile relay)
Months ago I found the Stormy trail race, the timing of which fit into our planned travelling itinerary. They offered 100 mile & a 50 miles races as well the option of running the 50 miles event as a relay – perfect, I thought. The race was being held in Squamish, midway between Vancouver and Whistler. Hammer & I entered the 50 mile relay event.

As we approached Squamish the granite mountain peaks towering along the Sea to Sky Highway gave me knots in the pit of my stomach.The race is billed at a “test of your running metal” and the realisation dawned on me – I signed up to run a distance slightly less than the Six Foot Track Marathon in really mountainous country, on little preparation. And it also occurred to me that I do not learn from previous mistakes. At the time of entering, my training was going well and there was no reason to think that a half of 50 miles was not doable – it sounded like a lot less distance to cover than a half of 80 km! But injury forced me to have a 55 day taper. My hip has been feeling a lot better since the walk over the Chilkoot Trail and I could walk without pain. So apart from the time on the Yukon River and the fact that we were camping in parks in bear country, I had no excuse for not training for this run. We watched the start of the 100mile race on Saturday when a small field of 23 took off at 10am for two loops of the course. Being surrounded by fit and ready runners induced mild anxiety as I thought about the amount of training that these runners must have done before attempting this event.

I lined up on Sunday with about 90 others for the 6 am start. About half were doing the 50 mile solo run and the rest were doing the relay in teams of up to 7 runners.  Our relay exchange was going to be at Quest University at 35.5 km and Hammer drew the short straw and was to run the second leg at 44.5km. The first 5 km was fairly flat, then there was about 15km of gradual climbing before a longish downhill and then a short uphill to the exchange. Unfortunately for Hammer the bigger hills were in the second half of the course.  The starters gun was fired and we were off. I was soon very relieved to discover that my body remembered what to do: one foot in front of the other, relax, breathe, look up enjoy the scenery and then just keep repeating. I found my rhythm and arrived at the first checkpoint at 9km in 47 minutes feeling fresh. The first checkpoint had an espresso machine – nice, but no time to stop for coffee.

The day was overcast and cool but as soon as I got in amongst the trees it was surprisingly warm and very humid. The distance to the next checkpoint was only 6km but it was a more technical, single file track. The field had stretched out and I ran most of this section on the way to Alice Lake with one other runner in front me who had just started her leg of the relay. She was relieved that she was not alone in the woods as she was worried about the bears and the mountain cougars.  This made me feel better – I thought my fear of bears was irrational. The woods were lush and green – huge, towering moss covered trees and ferns and other dense shrubs forming the lower under-story. I arrived at checkpoint 2 in 43 minutes – 15kms in 90 minutes so far so good. The next leg went on for eternity as my lack of preparation and the difficult nature of the trail combined to almost bring me to a halt. My lower calves and feet were starting to cramp and I was reduced to walking breaks to relieve the cramping. I fell off a tree log which was bridging a section of the trail as my feet would just not do what my head was asking of them. Then to make things worse I was stung by a wasp. I knew it was going to be ugly from here and it was still a long way to the exchange. I took a salt stick and just moved forward doing a run/walk routine. The downhill section of the trail proved to be even more difficult as it was slippery, dusty and fairly steep in sections. This section seemed to go on for ever as I kept being overtaken by quite a few people who would quickly disappear out of view. I knew I was not lost as the course was very well marked, and from experience I knew that all things do come to an end. So I remembered to look up every now and then and take in the glorious silence of being ‘alone in the woods’.

Eventually the salt stick kicked in and I could start running again, arriving at Checkpoint 3 at 10.5km in 90 minutes – a total of 25km in 3 hours and only 10km to go. This last leg took me 80 minutes – I covered a total of 35.5km in 4hrs and 20 minutes and then it was Hammers turn. He had a good first half and like me found the descents more difficult especially as he had to run Nine Mile Hill up and then down. He did finish – taking around 6hrs and 35minutes to complete his 44.5km leg.  Fantastic atmosphere at the finish with family and friends turning out for the BBQ which was provided during the presentation of awards. We felt lucky to have had the privilege of participating in this friendly and extremely well organised event – on a gnarly trail which really did “test our metal”.